Archive for January 2011
It’s hard not to like Paris. A large cosmopolitan city in the heart of Europe, it is a city that blends the old and the new seamlessly together, creating a place that’s mindful of the past, but also looking to the future. Every arrondissement is a self-sufficient town in and of itself, making you feel like you’re in a small village, with its patisserie, brasserie, and market all side by side. Much like other Parisians, every morning we went to our neighborhood café for some expresso and croissants. We never got a chance to find out why they call it expresso instead of espresso, but I guess that’s for another time. Starbucks, or the concept of coffee to-go, is scarce in this place. Sitting down and ordering in before heading out for the day seems to be very much a part of what it means to be French.
We surveyed many of the historic sites, from the 900 year-old Notre Dame cathedral to the once magnificent palace now turned museum Le Louvre. We marveled (along with a throng of other tourists) at perhaps one of the greatest paintings in the world, La Joconde. We studied the history of the impressionist movement at the Musée d’Orsay, appreciating the works of the masters Manet, Monet, and Van Gogh. We visited the Chateau Versailles, the envy of every European monarch, and the rightful home of Louis XIV.
Four years of high school French have long been forgotten, and too many trips to Peru and living in California have compounded our language barriers, often mistakenly and subconsciously replying with si, gracias, and como. Most of the locals were probably confused to see two Asians speaking broken Spanish in reply to them. “Donde el bano?” rolls off our tongues so much easier than ou est… I don’t even know what bano is in French. La Toilette? Most Parisians were gracious enough to offer their help in English, and we’ve reciprocated it with a hearty merci beaucoup.
To say that Paris is a romantic city is quite the understatement. There are lovers everywhere, taking quiet strolls on the banks of the Seine River, sitting on top of the other’s lap in the metro stations, and of course, French kissing right in the open. Not to be outdone by the locals, we also took to kissing whenever we had the chance. But alas, our Asian sensibilities got the best of us and what started off in our minds la grande romance often diminished to a petit Asian kiss (as informed by Glee).
Every meal we had was accompanied by wine (do as the Romans do, they say), and there was plenty of pain au chocolat, croissants, and baguettes to be had. Macarons at Laduree were simply heavenly, warranting a second visit. On New Years Eve, we brought a bottle of champagne and two glasses with us, and paraded down the Champs-Elysees with the rest of the Parisians. The entire boulevard was shut down so that the people can overtake it. Everyone was in a festive mood; lovers, friends, families, all with champagne in tote, waiting for the countdown to begin. As soon as the clock struck twelve, there was a chorus of bottles popping open, toasts being made, and kisses (the French kind!) performed. With the Arc du Triomphe in the background and glasses raised, we ushered in a new year the Parisian way. Bonne Année!