Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Cautions and Compliments

The whirlwind I’ve been in since I returned from France is finally sputtering itself out, so I have some moments to mentally return to France. Here are some afterthoughts.

Attention! Watch out!
À la gare:
  • Pigeons strut around your ankles and swoop just above your head in railroad stations.
  • Masses of Parisian Métro riders pour out train doors and stream through Métro stations’ winding halls. No one stops or steps aside, so you have to charge straight ahead, too—or be trampled by the throngs. Somehow, this weaving, flowing people-braid works, though the death-defying intensity leaves you breathless when you’ve reached your destination. Maybe this happens in any big city, but I'm not used to it.
  • The booth with the little i logo on it may seem like a godsend when you feel confused about the right train connections or which ticket window to go to—but beware. No matter how earnest, confident, or helpful the information agent seems, know that you may get correct information, but you may not. In the same vein, know that printed train schedules may not jibe with times posted on the electronic arrival/departure boards. Sometimes, you just have to be cool with confusion.
Sur le trottoir:
  • Even on relatively flat sidewalks, pavement bricks are sometimes missing.
  • Firmest footing on cobblestone is center of the top.
  • Dogs trot off-leash, usually not far from their masters. If a dog is chasing tumbleweed-trash, it doesn’t care who it trips.
  • The espresso-brown smears on the sidewalk are not espresso.
  • Watch for broken glass.
  • Pedestrianized areas are quiet, safe havens only until the next scooter buzzes inches from you.
Les Idées Brilliantes! Brilliant Ideas!
  • French train head rests actually support your head. They do not flop to the side.
  • Train seats “recline” by pushing forward the seat rather than slanting back into the person behind you.
  • Public restroom and hallway lights are off until a person enters. And if the WC lights aren’t on a sensor, they are off until you turn them on. It’s your responsibility to hit the “off” switch when you leave.
  • Often a toilet's flush button has two segments. You push one part to conserve water when not much needs to go down. You push the other part only when you have more to flush.
  • One of our hotels offered guests a clothesline, and another had a clothes-drying rack on the balcony.
  • Although the French make the purest perfumes, they don't try to perfume every square inch of themselves, their homes, and their businesses, as Americans seem to do. How refreshing to climb into a hotel bed with crisp white sheets that smell of ~ nothing!
  • Also refreshing is evidence of lack of perfectionism in some areas. While I ~ and the whole world ~ appreciate French culinary perfectionism, I also appreciate what seems to be an only-when-the-budget-allows approach to repairs and redecorating. That missing pavement brick just is what it is. Walk around it.
  • Most shops in France are closed on Sundays. After your what-will-I-do panic attack subsides, you relax and rest. What a concept!