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Deja vu

Hey, guess who's sick again? That's right, me! Tired and low energy, then dribbling nose, then sore throat today. So I haven't done much besides explore the neighborhood on foot, somewhat. Still, I've got some stories.

Two days ago, I wake up. "It's dark. Crap, I haven't slept enough. Hmm, it's 7am. Crap, the sun went out. Wait."

Actually, despite being roughly due south of England, France and most of Spain are crammed into the same time zone as Germany. So it was really 6am in normal people time -- or 5am without DST -- which is a perfectly fine time to be dark at this latitude in October, when the equinox has passed and the days are probably getting rapidly shorter.

The Other White People

If you know your US history the way I do, you may be able to think of the major European migrations to the US and even roughly date them. English, Scots/Scots-Irish, Germans, a probably swamped sprinkling of Dutch in New Amsterdam, Scandinavians, actual Irish, Poles and Italians, Russians, Jews.

Notably missing: French or Spanish. Spanish people of course got here first, but mostly to the south, and mostly well mixed with the natives. French went to Quebec and New Orleans, with maybe some spillover into New Hampshire, but you generally don't find French neighborhoods in our cities. So, I figure the US conception of what white people look like, derived mostly from looking at ourselves, has a big hole in it. I'd heard of "Gallic faces" before, and knew a girl at IU who was rather distinctive, and here in Paris... yeah. Oh, plus that Belgian restaurant I mentioned seeing in King's Cross a couple months ago.


So there's this neighborhood. I haven't read much about it, but I could tell it was big from the airbnb postings bragging about being in it. Or near it. My hostess marked it on a map. So yesterday I trudged over. In short, lots of restaurants and art galleries, on top of a hill, next to the basilica of the sacred heart which has perpetual prayers. Also, tiny blocks and windy streets. Basically your super-pedestrian artsy neighborhood, I guess.

But that came later. I first ran into the Square Louise Michel, a small park at the foot of steep steps going up to what turned out to be the basilica, and I checked it out... to be immediately accosted by an African grabbing my hand and twining colored string around my fingers. He had what seemed like good English, but he did not use it on "Please" or "May I" or answering my "what are you doing?" but on "Don't worry", "African tradition", and "where are you from". My traditions involve not being manhandled by strangers, and despite his strong grip I managed to break free and escape, somewhat freaked out. Then it happened again on the other side, and I fled the square.

I wondered if there was some real tradition I was breaking, but the one mention I found online later was http://filharmonica.com/?p=63

sidestepping the French African youths who’ve cornered the market of peddling hand woven thread bracelets to tourists by looping the exposed fingers of the unwitting as they pass, and holding them hostage until the bracelet is completed and the mark feels obligated to pay for it. After our last experience in Paris, when one these guys came just shy of chest bumping Phil and using threatening body language to cow us into submission (it didn’t work), we knew enough to make use of alternate routes and withering stares.

Seems my instincts were good.


Restaurant prices seemed high to me, though I just learned that they include not just sales tax but a 15% mandatory service charge, so they're complete prices unlike the UK or US. Still, I've been eating in, and probably will eat in a lot. I've seen a few of Super Marche, supermarkets, but only one has been close to a US/UK one; another seemed like a hole in the wall convenience store, lined with liquor bottles and bananas, like I kept seeing in the UK. The bread and cheese selections weren't that great; then again, boulangeries, or bakeries, are nigh-ubiquitous, so I guess you go to those. Cheese shops would make sense too but I haven't noticed one. Even the best market selection I saw though... there *are* a bunch of varieties, but they're brands of Camembert, or blue, or washed-rind soft cheeses. I've seen one instance of hard cheese, parmesan, and none of cheddar.

I did get Tropicana OJ. "Maxi Size!" at 3 liters, about the same as 64 ounces. Largest I saw in the UK was 1.5 L.


( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 7th, 2010 04:53 pm (UTC)
Ha, I pity you - never liked France :)

Good luck finding cheddar ... But I recommend trying some of the french soft cheeses - they are usually very good on fresh baguette, especially the ones with herbs and garlic mixed in.

Also while you are there, enjoy some Croissants and some pain au chocolat.
Oct. 7th, 2010 05:11 pm (UTC)
It's not that I particularly want cheddar, I just note its absence. Ghetto!Kroger has more variety of *classes* of cheese than I've seen.

I'm halfway through some Camembert, and got some Forme d'Ambert, an incredibly mild blue cheese. And yeah, croissants, though also a couple of boulangerie loaves. I'm reminded I should probably have crepes here.

Edited at 2010-10-07 09:34 pm (UTC)
Oct. 7th, 2010 07:20 pm (UTC)
The crepes are honestly better towards the seaside - especially in the Bretagne and Normandie. I am sorta surprised about the bad cheese selection. In my experience with french supermarkets, the especially excelled in fish and cheese selection compared to home. Definitely better than GhettoKroger. Might be the factor of being downtown paris - maybe there are specialty shops? Might be worth asking some of your hosts. I love camembert - try it hot with some lingonberries - its awesome :)
Oct. 7th, 2010 07:41 pm (UTC)
A while ago, when my mom was visiting the Dominican Republic, a woman took hold of a piece of her hair and said "hold still". My mom did just that, supposing that maybe the woman was picking a bug out of her hair or something. Instead, she wove some beads into my mom's hair, after which she demanded payment. Sounds like a similar situation.
Oct. 7th, 2010 07:55 pm (UTC)
Oh, I forgot my analogy, that they're like the Nice Guys(TM) of commerce. "I've done something for you, now you owe me, even though you didn't want it."

Probably not a very good analogy.
Oct. 7th, 2010 08:26 pm (UTC)
the french in my gene pool came from that pesky fur trader who married Indian.
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )


Damien Sullivan

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