When I came to write this I realised that I had not written a Winter update, that’s how fast time seems to be flying! So I’ll combine the two here since there isn’t much to update on anyways.
First of all, let’s address the one constant in all our lives since 2019. CO-VID! My little family and I have so far been unscathed, between the three of us no one has ever had a positive test result. I’m sure we’ve all had it at some point, but we’ve never had to quarantine or anything like that. After February 2nd it was no longer required to wear masks outside, and May 11th was the day they were no longer needed in transport. It’s so strange to think that after three years of having random masks stuffed in bags and pockets I no longer need them.
On Valentines Day I hosted my first History Pub quiz at one of my favorite Paris pubs, The Pomme d’Eve, which also happens to be a gothic cellar once part of a monastery. Obviously the theme was Medieval Love and Romance and things got a little raunchy (as they often do with me) but it was a blast. There was a nice turn out and I hope to be able to do it again in the fall!
Of course I did a little time traveling partying between the early 20th century at one of the Baron de Paname’s famous parties at the Coupole and the 15th century at Les Caves Saint Sabin. These parties happen once a month and are my favorite regular event to participate in. Both are very different, but I find the medieval parties to be more festive, especially when the dancemaster gets everyone moving!
In April my daughter and I met some of my family in Florida to do the whole Disneyland Shabang. Everyone knew we were coming except my mom, so surprising her in the airport upon their arrival was the best part. I’m not a huge Disney fan and the last time I was there was maybe in 2001, but I really wanted my daughter to have the experience and six years old is the perfect age for it. We made a ton of memories, met so many characters, did a bunch of rides, and of course spent way too much money. Mickey sure knows how to empty your pockets!
And the cerise sur la gateau was running into two celebrities in one weekend. Bruno Gouery (Luke from Emily in Paris) was just strolling along Boulevard Saint Germain with an ice cream and I spotted him from a mile away. I discreetly asked for a quick photo and he nicely obliged. He even complimented my Milwaukee Brewers hat. Who knew he liked baseball?! And of course, my History Hero- Lorant Deutch. I’m not sure there is anyone I wanted to meet more. This is the guy responsible for my life of history and who I aspire to be like. Before anyone starts moaning about how he is often wrong or embellishes too much- get over it! That’s precisely WHY I admire Lorant. He is making history accessible to everyone by making it fun and relatable. I don’t want to listen to some robot preach about dates and events in front of his diplomas, I want to learn about history from someone who is as passionate about it as I am! Despite wearing a hat and glasses, when I crossed his path on Rue Saint André des Arts I immediately knew it was him. He was giving a tour to some children so I didn’t disrupt him too much, but I was able to tell him how much of a fan I was. I know I’ll see him again someday, hopefully with Stéphane Bern!
What’s Up Next? .. A new job, my first wedding at a French chateau, and a trip back to Wisconsin for summer vacation!
So you are fed up with relaxing all inclusive Caribbean resorts and ready to visit Paris eh?
Trading in those sexy sandals for practical orthopedics is just one of the many obligations I really must insist you adhere to before you are allowed entry into the world’s most meticulously detail-oriented city.
The days of serendipitous travel to foreign lands where local customs are learned through meaningful interaction and trial and error are over; the average full-blooded French citizen of 2022 no longer tolerates naive ignorance and the repercussions can be severe. (Just look what happened to their Royal Family if you don’t believe me!) Prepare yourself for total assimilation by reading the following conclusive and totally indisputable list of Paris Do’s and Do Not Even Think About It’s!
1. DON’T REQUEST KETCHUP You may have heard the controversy surrounding the derogatory “YO GARCON!” old school method of calling attention to your server, but the resulting anger that may result is just a fraction of the wrath you will incur compared to if you dare request a ketchup accompaniment with your meal. The only accepted dipping sauces are mustard (pronounced MOO-TARDE), mayonnaise, or occasionally that green garlic butter sauce your escargot has been boiled alive in. I could dip my shoe in that savory shit and eat it!
2. DO Tip Historically, this is the most controversial question that Paris tourists face, especially the generous American ones when they inevitably ask themselves what to leave as a gratuity when faced with the terminal phase of a French Restaurant meal. According to legend, the whole misconception began during the American Revolutionary War when Governor Patrick Henry famously declared “Give me Liberty or Give Me Death!” to the second Virginia Convention in 1775. Word spread quickly with everyone more or less understanding the message until the heroic (and not as fluent in English as most would believe) French General the Marquis de LaFayette caught wind of it at the end of a meal at his local tavern bar. He misunderstood the whole thing and thought the whole liberty notion Henry spoke of was a broader term to include liberty from the obligation to include a 15-20% gratuity following a meal in addition to liberty from British rule.
It didn’t help matters that across the bar and at the pool table about to pocket the winning 8 ball, Paul Revere overhead the whole thing and hastily added it to the whole OH SHIT THE BRITISH ARE COMING Midnight Ride Speech which spread word faster back to France than the American Government would displace native american tribes from their ancestral homelands in 1831. Ultimately, this could be complete historical bullshit, so I’ll leave you with the shocking result of the following indisputable scientific study recently conducted over eight years through Harverd University.
According to 100% of Parisian servers, a tip is appreciated following a meal.
3. DON’T Fondle the Fruit Remember that scene in the 1992 Disney film “Aladdin” when the naive Princess Jasmine plays palace hooky and swipes an apple on behalf of a hungry peasant child only to learn that in the real world outside the royal walls of her pampered daily life, monetary compensation is required for the acquisition of a good? Just like their Middle Eastern counterparts, burly Parisian market vendors won’t hesitate to chop off an appendage with a quick swipe of their machete if you are caught groping any melons. This is especially true at the organic markets like the one found on Boulevard Raspail where the blood curdling screams of tourists can be frequently heard as they frantically attempt to reclaim their detached fingers after they rolled away under the pesticide free grapes (pronounced des raisins) as a result of picking up an orange and sniffing it for freshness. Thank God Emergency Medical care is affordable in France!
4. DON’T Climb the Eiffel Tower If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a million times. Don’t be tempted to scale the 1887 relic that once served as a big fancy door to the 1889 World’s Fair. Look, I get it: I’m empathetic to the struggle thousands of tourists face daily when they realize tickets to the tower are sold out weeks in advance and the lines to get up the Iron Lady sans une réservation are as alarming as seeing an erect dolphin’s penis with your kids at Sea World. What your Rick Steve’s guidebook doesn’t tell you is that each night dozens of foolish tourists are peeled off the tower scaffolding like mice stranded in peanut butter after they made the poor decision to get up to the summit and indulge in a 15 euro glass of champagne with or without a ticket. I’ll spare you the grim details, but these are the lucky ones. If you are really set on an Instagram worthy view of Paris from above, I urge you to consider the Montparnasse Tower. Compared to the 300 meters (1083 feet) of the ET, the MT has a more realistic 210 meter (689 feet) height attainable for even the most mediocre Spiderman impersonators.
5. DO Witness a PSG VS Marseilles Match Ici c’est Paris! Sure the budget of the capital city’s home team is at least twice that of their competitors, but ultimately talent has far more worth when compared to the pockets of billionaire PSG owner and Quatar ruler Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani. Introduce your soccer lovin’ youngins (Watch out! It’s called le foot in France!) to a little family friendly match between bestie rivals Paris Saint Germain and Olympique de Marseille. These heart-warming games put even the twinkling lights of the Eiffel Tower to shame with their passionate raging fires that burn brightly from the stands, accompanied by the unexpected heart stopping explosions from home-made mazel tov cocktails as they are sent hurtling onto the field to the delight of spectators, the team, and law enforcement officers present. Don’t forget your face guards and flame retardant apparel!
6.DON’T Consume Food On The Go Paris might not be known as the friendliest place to visit, but this is just because they have more manners than you, it’s not their fault. In addition to loud noises, fun, and deodorant, French people are easily offended by witnessing food consumption that is done anywhere that is not on a chair, so think twice before you stuff your face without discretion while out and about. Originating back to the French Revolutionary War when soaring bread prices made the desperately starving citoyens viciously attack anyone seen carrying any form of edible nourishment in the street, Parisians today have an uncontrollable impulse to roll their eyes or grunt in disgust at the sight of anyone eating while not passively relaxing. Don’t be mistaken by the wide availability of food to ‘manger sur la pouce’ (literally eat on your thumb, AKA to go), this is meant to be eaten at home, or on rare exceptions in a park on a park bench. If you are unable to control your hunger pains, do what the Parisians do and light up a cigarette.
7. DON’T Wear Shorts Closely following eating in public on the go, (see above) exposing your naked legs while wearing shorts comes in second on the unofficial list of How to Piss off a Parisian. You might be thinking, “Why are legs accompanied by shorts bothersome when the French culture embraces naked boobies at the beach or public advertising with nudity?” The answer is not so black and white and may surprise you. The delicate curves of a female breast or the coy glimpse of a male derrière are respected artistically in French culture. The problem lies in your knees. Yes, your wrinkly squishy knees are as repulsive to the French as margarine and Cheese Whiz. Which is probably why you have never seen a bare set on a Parisian in real life before. As a culture they have gone far to eradicate this grotesque feature from sight, including cropping Leonardo Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa masterpiece (to be fair her knees were disturbing) and ordering French sculptor Auguste Bartholdi to lengthen the robe on his original design of the Statue of Liberty before he handed her over to New York. It is important to acknowledge that some efforts are being made to challenge this rather old-fashioned notion in 2022. Shorts (denim or otherwise) are more noticeably tolerated when worn with hosiery.
The following series of bluntly honest posts might trigger people nicer than myself but I’m not going to sugarcoat this harsh reality as the gates to Paris tourism reopen this summer. Pickpocketing in Paris is out of control and the thieves are in control. Nothing pisses me off more than seeing tourists fall into traps that ruin their trip because they are in awe of this beautiful city and not paying attention to their surroundings. Here are some tips to follow to avoid being a statistic.
DON’T SIGN THE CLIPBOARD I see this all the time around Paris landmarks. Young women brandishing clipboards approach tourists and ask them if they speak English. Once you say yes, they thrust the clipboard and a pen in your face and ask you to pledge money to support deaf children. You sign to get rid of them, or maybe you give them money. If you are lucky; you lost a few euro. If you are unlucky and a victim of this common scam, you notice your cellphone or wallet are missing a few minutes later. While the clipboard was distracting you (and strategically placed under your line of vision) one of the young women was busy exploring your pockets. Sounds obvious right? I was a victim of this very scam a few years ago by two very young girls who were a lot slicker than they appeared. I shouldn’t have even let them approach my café terrace table but how can you tell off innocent little girls? PLOT TWIST : You can! All you jolly Americans out there who struggle with not smiling at every person they cross, this is for you because you are a target. You can avoid 99% of all scams if you just totally ignore any stranger that tries to engage with you. The easiest thing to do is to pretend you don’t speak English and keep walking.
PUTTING YOUR GUARD DOWN IN FRONT OF KIDS I love kids. I really do. I made one. But some of the kids you see in the streets of Paris are not innocent and they do not deserve your pity enough to justify stealing from you. They are usually pre-teen or teenager age. and usually in small groups. The moment you feel sorry for them is when they pounce. They are quick, and their skilled hands can effortlessly swipe your wallet or phone. Don’t let them approach you and don’t be afraid to gently push them away if they get too close.
KNOW WHAT’S A THREAT AND WHAT ISN’T There are two types of thieves to watch out for; mobile thieves and non-mobile ones. The mobile ones are the pickpockets with the clipboards or other tricks that roam the streets or metro all day. Unless you know what to look for, they aren’t obvious to the untrained eye but often these are young children and women in small groups of 2-4 carrying clipboards; often around landmarks and in the metro. The non-mobile ones are less of a threat because they don’t move much. They usually occupy the same spots in the same neighborhoods day after day begging for money with their various accessories including cute animals, sleeping babies, and small children, (Who are frequently drugged. If you don’t believe me look it up or pay attention next time you see one. They are ALWAYS asleep) Watch out for the coffee cups with small amounts of change on the sidewalk directly in your path. These are put there purposely so you trip over it and feel bad enough to give them money for the trouble.
pLaY StUpID gAmES, WIN STuPiD PrIzEs!
Don’t fall for these easy to spot scams!
Bracelets – I’ve only see this one in the Montmartre/Sacre Coeur neighborhood of Paris. If you see anyone coming towards you with an arm full of bracelets, don’t acknowledge them. What they will do is quickly tie a bracelet on your arm just tight enough that you can’t get it off, and then demand money in return.
Fake Ring – This hasn’t happened to me yet, but I fantasize about the day it will! If you happened to be approached by someone claiming to have found the ring you dropped, keep walking. They will pretend to be doing you a big favor by returning it to you, but when you reveal its not your ring, they will offer to give it to you anyways in exchange for cash. Of course the ring is worthless!
The Cup Game – This is a classic scam I see from time to time (especially near the Eiffel Tower or on bridges) and I am bewildered by the people who actually believe they will win. How it works is that someone will have three cups and a ball on a map, if you guess which cup they hide the ball in, you win the cash. You might observe for awhile and notice other people winning, so you feel it must be legit. However these “winners” are actually decoys who are apart of the game.
FOR GODS SAKE LADIES carry a purse that has a GOD DAMN ZIPPER. Keeping your valuables in an open bag is an invitation to a pick pocket. Cross body bags are great so your arms can be free, but I usually stick with a backpack and have no problems. Keep the zipper at the top, its harder to sneak into. You really don’t need special anti-theft bags or devices (in fact these will just further acknowledge you are a tourist and an easy target).
MEN- Wallets go in FRONT POCKETS HORIZONTALLY and placed DOWNWARD. This makes it much harder and less of a target for someone with sticky fingers. Also avoid having a lot of cash in your wallet. If you got a bulge in the front of your trousers, its for 2 reasons. Your wallet is full of cash, or you have an erection. A pick pocket knows the difference.
DON’T CARRY A LOT OF CASH there are ATMS all over Paris and they are free. (although your home bank will probably charge you) Use them but be aware of your surroundings. It is not uncommon to get jumped by an ATM in broad daylight. Go inside the bank if possible to use the ATM.
During peak tourist season (June through September and around the holidays) thieves are out in full force. So if you’re traveling at this time, you’ll want to be extra vigilant.
Pick pockets love the metros that are crowded but not too crowded so that they can be close enough to smell your deodorant or bump into you without being suspicious. Line 1 is probably the worst because it goes right through the heart of Paris and hits several big tourist stops. If you find yourself in a crowded metro, do your best to get your back against a wall. Move your bag or briefcase so that you are hugging it. If you can sit down, even better.
DO NOT TAKE OUT YOUR PHONE ON THE METRO! I know its tempting, but avoid this at all costs. It takes one second for that door to be shut and one second more to realize you are no longer playing Candy Crush because your phone was swiped just as the door was closing.
Do You Have Victim Potential?
You think a pickpocket won’t target you because you have a baby in a carrier attached to your chest and a 2 year old holding your hand? You are a target. You are wearing stilettos or carrying lots of bags? You are a target. You’re wearing valuable jewelry? You are a stupid target. (I once saw an older woman get her diamond necklace ripped off her neck on the metro as the doors were closing.)
I don’t see many thorough, bluntly honest anti-theft guides for tourists that include all this information. I wish someone had told me these details when I arrived here 8 years ago with stars in my naive eyes. Don’t make the same mistakes that costed me a few valuables.
And most importantly, don’t let the threat of being robbed stop you from visiting Paris. Like any other large city, its just one negative among many positives that are a part of daily life. If you follow these tips and are always aware of your surroundings, your chances of being a victim are minuscule.
A Mostly Accurate Guide of Overlooked and Irrelevant Details for First Time Visitors
From a small town in Midwest ‘Merica to Franceland, when I first arrived in Paris 9 years ago I was prepared for the notorious cultural differences I would inevitably encounter. I knew to tip only small change, eat with a fork and knife SIMULTANEOUSLY, not go out in public in anything that could be considered pajamas, and greet people with two intimate kisses on each cheek, etc. But what surprised me the most were the small details that no one really bothers to tell you about because they aren’t significantly important- despite how peculiar they seem to someone with humble origins who never had a passport until age 18.
What surprised you the most about your trip to Paris? Please share below in the comments!
YES, EAT THE ENTIRE PIZZA
You might not be aware of this, but cuisine in France is no longer known exclusively for classics such as snails and macarons. I’ve eaten some of the best Italian food in my life in here, like the delicious pizzas from the popular chain Big Momma that rolled in like a big sexy meatball a few years ago. Pizza in Europe is like the adult sized equivalent to those cute personal pan pizzas you got by scamming Pizza Hut every month when you claimed to have read a book with your parents at night. ITS ALL YOURS! Yes its huge and you might not finish it, but as long as you’ve given up your fat American constant snacking habits you should be able to demolish an entire pizza while maintaining your dignity that you would have lost otherwise by trying to share a pizza. Warning:Don’t be surprised if the pizza arrives uncut. Use your damn fork and knife you unsophisticated sloth.
MONTH AND DATE FORMAT
Even after eight years this one still throws me off. In France the day and the month are swapped, so February 01, 2022 is written as 01/02/2022. Also, days and months are not capitalized.
DOCTOR VISIT STRIP TEASE
I had a physical exam with a gynecologist a few months after I arrived to Paris in 2013 and was horrified to discover that topless sunbathing and Moulin Rouge Cabaret dancers are not the French limit to public nudity; they get undressed in front of their doctor without shame too. Don’t bother looking around for a curtained corner or waiting for the doctor to step out, in socialized publicly funded health care, modesty is a luxury- not a right. No doctor has the patience for you to discreetly disrobe at your convenience, so put on your big boy/girl pants, and then immediately take them off. I’ve learned my lesson and avoid skinny jeans when I visit my doctor least he witness me struggle to remove them with only the aid of an unstable plastic chair back to hold onto. Warning: If you get a pap smear done, don’t be surprised if the doctor hands you back the tube of your cervical juice to send off to the lab yourself. Hey, at least its free!
Nothing is sacred, not even the size of sheet paper. A standard paper in France is A4 so slightly thinner and taller compared to the wider American Letter size. Of course this means nothing until you find yourself trying to stuff your Wisconsin birth certificate in a French sized plastic sleeve, much like how you stuff yourself in your jeans after living in France and gorging on baguettes at every meal.
You are having lunch at a Parisian café and need to use the les toilettes (never ask to use the salle de bain, the server will wonder why you want to take a bath) however when you arrive at the bottom of the stairs in the basement, you discover there is a urinal and a door. You think to yourself, “am I in the men’s bathroom?” Nope, you are in the right place. Lack of space and installing a toilet in a cave dating from antiquity means most restrooms are minuscule and unisex. Don’t be surprised if you are forced to pass behind a man taking a piss as you head to the toilet door, this is France and French Men are comfortable peeing anywhere in the presence of anyone. PLOT TWIST If there is no toilet seat, SQUAT!
MCDONALDS SERVES BEER
Before all you perfectly assimilated American Expats that have renounced classic nostalgic culinary delights like Oreos and Hamburger Helper come after me for even entertaining the suggestion that your compatriots need a reason to step into fast food purgatory of French McDo, can we all just unite over the fact that at least you can get a beer with your value meal? Can’t we find peace and solidarity in that? Also, because of stricter food safety laws, French McDonalds is just better.
BEING OVERLY FRIENDLY
The French aren’t mean, you are just too nice. It’s true! Americans are super duper friendly to everyone, and you can always differentiate an American person from a French one because the American is just awkwardly smiling and showing off his impeccably straight white teeth and the French person is intently staring at nothing muttering to himself as he takes a drag from his cigarette. That being said, let’s not confuse friendliness with politeness. You must always say Bonjour anytime you greet anyone. A smile with eye contact won’t cut it, neither will saying excuse me. If you learn just one french word, this is it, and it will make or break your experience just about anywhere. I see this a lot in bars for some reason. Americans walk up to the bar and say “I’ll take a pint of beer please!” and don’t even realize the faux pas they are committing by not greeting the bartender with a bonjour first. I have a strong belief that the “Rude French Waiter” stereotype was created because too many smiling Americans got butt hurt after their hearty HELLOs! were met with a grunt and a frown from offended servers. Saying Bonjour isn’t just a polite greeting, its a way of asking permission to start an interaction and its probably the most important rule for foreigners visiting France.
PUSH THE BUTTON
To enter or leave most Parisian buildings, you’ll need to push a button. On the outside of the door in the street, you’ll enter a code on a device called a DIGICODE that unlocks the door. To go back out, you’ll usually have to find a button or switch labeled PORTE. I calculated the number of buttons I press every day on average between building entrances and exits, elevators, buses, and even my bank- it came to 22.
APARTMENT AND BANK CATCH 22
Renting an apartment is by far the most complicated hurdle to accomplish in Paris. Laws that favor tenant’s rights mean owners are extremely cautionary to who they rent to. Lack of apartment availability (thanks AirBnB) and affordable prices mean your dream of living in Picture Perfect Paris will be a nightmare to accomplish. If you can get around the standard pain in the ass requirements (like making 3x whatever the rent is, having a French job with a long term contract, and a French guarantor to back you up), good luck with the Catch 22 of not being able to open a French bank account without an address, and not being able to rent an apartment and obtain an address, without a bank account.
It doesn’t really exist, especially not between strangers. If you get on a crowded metro during rush hour, you’ll be surprised by how quiet it is. The French don’t really interact with each other unless they have a reason to where Americans like to chat with anyone just for the hell of it, especially if you are in close proximity, like in an elevator. Other than saying BONJOUR, you aren’t expected to do anything else. So if some little old lady is standing underneath you with her head in your armpit because the Line 13 metro is packed asses to ankles at 6pm; don’t expect her to make small talk just because her head hairs are intertwined with your underarm ones.
ACCIDENTAL CHARITABLE DONATIONS
You are first time Paris tourist living your own Emily in Paris experience as you promenade along the iconic Boulevard Saint Germain, pausing briefly to admire boutique windows and raising your nose to inhale the odor of freshly baked croissant when FLKJOEZINOPEIZFO!!!! you’ve tripped over something and look down to see an overturned flimsy plastic cup in the middle of the sidewalk with the aftermath of a copper and gold money tsunami spilled before you. What the hell? A person who appears to be homeless starts to yell at you for knocking over their donation cup, and you are compelled to not only help them pick up the change, but contribute to it for the trouble. By all means, add to it and fight to end poverty, but don’t feel like the world’s biggest jerk for falling for the same trick hundreds of other unsuspecting, distracted tourists do each day.
PAPER OR PLASTIC
If you visit a local grocery store chain like Monoprix or Franprix, don’t expect anyone to bag your groceries. Think of it like Aldi (which exists here too), you are responsible for putting your own shit in your own bag Peasant. Yes the cashier will sit there and do nothing to help you, even if they have finished scanning. However, don’t let your nice American natural tendencies shake you up here. Take your time to load up your haul, the slower the better. You waited in line, now it is your turn to shine and bask in the glory of having earned it. PLOT TWISTif you arrive at the checkout with some lovely pesticide free apples and are scowled by the cashier, it’s probably because you forgot to weight them. Disguise your embarrassment with a sigh that says “well fine, its not like I am in a hurry anyways” and go retrieve the sticker from the digital scale located in some vague corner near the produce section. Also, be prepared to pay for a bag if you don’t have one.
PRIORITE A DROIT
France has this asinine driving law no one seems to be able to make sense of that will keep you on your toes (and your foot on the brake) called Priority to the Right. What this means is that unless otherwise marked, anything coming at you from the right (cars, trucks, bikers, electric scooters, hover boards, motorbikes, horse cops) has the right of way to cut in front of you. Apparently this is done to control traffic, but I secretly think its just for population control. And here you thought driving in France was easy because they are on the same side of the road, ha!
ALWAYS STAND TO THE RIGHT
To avoid being mowed down by grumpy Parisians in a hurry, always stand to the right of the escalator if you aren’t actively moving. This is especially true in the metro.
COMMON VOCABULARY AND PRONUNCIATION
When referring to furniture, Armoire is a synonym for No Closet
Je suis chaude is not “I”m hot”, its “I’m horny”
Ce n’est pas possible may be translated to “It’s impossible” but it really means “try harder”
“J’ai envie de toi” is not “I’m envious of you” its “I’m horny for you”
The city of Reims (Champagne capital!) is pronounced RHANSE
When referring to an apartment location, walk up is synonym to No Elevator
Je suis excité is not “I’m excited!” its “I’m horny”
ODD FOOD SHAPES
Sometimes the grapes and radishes are oblong.
DON’T BRING YOUR AMERICAN HAIR STYLING DEVICES
Even if you have an adapter or a transformer, DON’T DO IT. Electricity is a finicky bitch here so unless you want to break your blow dryer, blow a fuse in your 300 year old apartment, or melt your CHI straightener, don’t risk it.
READ BETWEEN THE LINES
You don’t appreciate the clean spacing between the lines of a wide ruled notebook until you buy a traditional French cahier and are horrified to discover its full of tiny boxes and varying uneven lines.
Lack of Garbage Disposals
There are none. NONE. I don’t have an explanation for this.
Air Conditioning Disease
Many tourists visit Paris in summer expecting to stroll along Paris boulevards with an ice cold beverage and breezy summer apparel. What they find is that ice cubs are almost as non-existent as garbage disposals and proper air conditioned buildings are rare. Why? In general, the French strongly believe that the recirculated air from AC units will make you sick and they will prefer to suffer and possibly die from heat stroke rather than subject themselves to the glorious chilly air currents when its 100 degrees outside.
If you are visiting France and have an urge to pound through a 30 pack of Natty Light, you’re out of luck. Bud Light, Busch Light, Miller Light, and any other low calorie beer that makes your butt leak – LIGHT isn’t available in beer form in France. Your closest option will be to ask for a blonde like 1664 or Kronenbourg. If you value your masculinity, always order a pint.
Toilets in France are like individual rooms compared to the more social typical American toilet stalls with their half inch opening between the frame and door. The Good? No echoing poop splash to reveal your defecation status in France! The Bad? No one to play battle shits with or to pass you toilet paper if your dispenser is empty.
The Holy Trinity
As a culture, the French believe in three remedies 99 percent effective in resolving all problems. If bleach, mild painkillers, and orgasms can’t fix your problem, it was never a problem to begin with.
L’eau de Javel
Forget guns and freedom of speech; you know what makes America great? We have a million salad dressing choices. Ranch, French, Thousand Island, Cesear, the list goes on and on. You can even dictate WHERE you want your glob of Honey Mustard to go other than directly on the lettuce. Forget these forsaken liberties when you come to France- you have no say in the matter. You get whatever vinigrette comes with your greens, usually an oil based mix of vinegar and mustard. God help you if you ask for it on the side.
Lack of Swingers
Get your mind outta the gutter, I don’t mean THOSE swingers. I’m referring to the swings you typically find at parks where children are required to pump their legs to gain momentum before gleefully soaring in the air and landing knee first on a pile of woodchips. However, like garbage disposals and root beer, finding a real swing in Paris is rare. Sure, the French have their own version of a swing, le balançoire– which is similar to how you would imagine a French version of the series Friends. The One Where Phoebe would be constantly chain smoking and participating in strikes that have nothing to do with her and despite graduating from the elite Sciences-Po Ross finds himself at the Pole Emploi fighting with civil servents every week. French Swings go through the motions, but lack authenticity- namely physical exertion since you basically just sit in a cage while being pushed back and forth by your parents. Oh, and did I mention you have to PAY for this privilege?
Now that we got that out of the way… its true that Paris can take a toll on your pocket book. But that doesn’t mean you have to pay for the most important element to sustaining human life. DRINKING WATER! For over a decade, the city of Paris has fought against plastic waste by making more than 1, 200 free water distribution locations throughout the city. You can find the interactive map here. http://www.eaudeparis.fr/nc/carte-des-fontaines/
However having access to clean and free drinking water is a relatively recent development. Only about 150 years ago, water was not easy to come by until one British man made water more accessible than ever to Parisians. Have you ever noticed these emerald gems steadily delivering a stream of cold water during a flanny little stroll in Paris?
Known as the Wallace Fountains, these guys (or four buff ladies if I’m being anatomically correct) are the creation of British philanthropist Sir Richard Wallace during the 1870’s.
Paris during this time was a disaster. The Franco-Prussian war had just ended leaving Parisians to pick up the pieces and rebuild their glorious city. This wasn’t easy to do because after surviving the Prussian’s siege of Paris, much of the population was sick and starving. (So hungry that Parisians slaughtered anything they could get their hands on to eat- including domestic and zoo animals, even rats!)
To make matters worse, many aqueducts that brought water to the city were damaged during the siege, making clean water expensive and hard to obtain.
But thanks to a certain British fellow with a large heart (and even larger wallet to finance their construction) 50 of these fountains were placed around Paris to provide fresh water for anyone who wanted it.
There were a few rules when it come to building a Wallace fountain.
They were to be made of cast iron and they had to be painted dark green to blend in with nearby parks and tree lined boulevards. Today you can find them in a variety of colors.
They had to be tall enough to seen from a distance, yet not impede on the views around it.
They needed to be placed in a practical manner (often at the point where intersections meet) that was accessible for everyone.
If you look closely at a fountain, you see four caryatids (an architectural column which takes the form of a standing female figure) each representing kindness, simplicity, charity and sobriety. (Sobriety because there were many alcoholics during this era when alcohol was cheaper and easier to find than clean drinking water. Oddly enough, in most cafes a glass of wine is cheaper than a bottle of water!)
The distance between each caryatid was calculated so horses couldn’t stick their heads inside but you could still get your hand in with a cup to fill up whatever you needed to. Two metal cups were hung at each fountain until 1952 when they were removed for hygienic reasons.
Today there are about 120 Wallace fountains throughout Paris and you can see that they are appreciated by everyone from the ultra chic with their Eco friendly BPA free glass bottles, to the homeless refilling a former bottle of wine, and to the sweaty city joggers after a long run.
So next time you see one of these historic works of art- pay homage to Sir Richard Wallace and take a drink!