Archive for August, 2007

What do I do in Paris?

Thursday, August 30th, 2007

Until I retired I never would have imagined that I would someday be living in Paris, the city of light. I did not believe it could really happen even when Pam and I began making plans about a year before I retired go live in Paris for 12 to 15 months. But it all happened, we did come to Paris and now we have been here for more than two years.

People who have come to visit us and other Americans we have met who work here have on occasion asked me what I do here. It is a good question, but it is the wrong question. The better question is: What is it like, Jim, to be here? And the answer to what is it like to be here is that it is simply wonderful!

Paris is a delight to the senses. It is beautiful to see, it is wonderful to smell, and it’s sounds(?) well, they are like the sounds of any great, dynamic, full of life city. It touches me, too. Its warm summer and crisp winter air on my skin, its streets on the soles of my feet, its kilometers on my leg muscles. All of this bathes me in wonder.

And Paris is constantly new. I continue to see things that I have not noticed before, learn words I did not know before (ok, that’s no surprise since the language is totally new to me). I meet so many wonderful Americans and so many wonderful Europeans, including, of course, French people.

It is simply not true, by the way, that the French are rude. Oh, some are, but most are not, particularly the young people. And it is not true that the French are lazy. I understand that France has the fifth largest economy in the world, and it is a country about the size of Texas. Productivity studies have shown, so I read, that French workers are more productive, per hour, than just about any other workers in the world, including American workers. But the French worker does not work the number of hours per year as workers in America do. Maybe that is why they are more productive.

France, like all countries, has its unique problems. High unemployment is one of them and the cost of its social services is becoming more difficult to sustain. But here is an important thing to consider: it will be far less painful on France and the French to fix these problems than it will be on America and Americans to fix Americas growing problems. I say these things because just this morning there was a George Will column in the US papers critical of France and its problems. Yet, the truth is that, even with its problems, France is way ahead of many countries in important areas.

For instance, the French enjoy, according to the World Health Organization, the most cost efficient health care system in the world. America isn’t even in the running, it places something like 35th or so. Public transportation in France (and Europe in general) is superb. High speed trains can take you all over France and Europe at reasonable fares. Paris arguably has the finest city-wide transportation system in the world, and its cost is low.

I could go on, but I will not. I will, instead, come back to the question as to what do I do in Paris. There is an answer to this question that I have already alluded to: I live in wonder, that is what I do in Paris. And I do the trivial. I vacuum our apartment and mop the kitchen and bathroom floors once a week. I feed our cat, Maggie, and dog, Chablis, and keep their dry croquette food on hand. I wash the dishes, by hand, at least twice and sometimes three times a day in our petite cuisine (little kitchen). I watch American and French television and read the International Harold Tribune and a few articles in French magazines. Pam and I go together to the cinema to see a film once or twice a week and I go even more often some weeks. Most American films are shown in Version Originale (i.e., in English) with French sous-titre (subtitles).

We live seven minutes (walking) from the Notre Dame cathedral. Today, for the first time, I went with some friends to the top of the cathedral bell towers. From the towers, which are at the center of Paris, I could look out over this city of wonder and marvel at its beauty.Paris From Notre Dame Tower 

I have seen the city from the top of the Eiffel Tower and from the top of the Pompidou Center, and the city is impressive when seen from these places, but the view from the Notre Dame towers was the most glorious that I have seen. My friends agreed. As I said, Paris is constantly new.

Seine From Tower

And now I must do one of those multiple of things that I do in Paris; run the vacuum cleaner.

The beautiful Chateau Andelot

Thursday, August 16th, 2007

p1010948.JPGChateau Andelot,  a 12th century castle remotely nestled near St. Amour in the French Comte, served as our summer Bonnes Vacances location. We stayed two nights, overlooking the Jura Mountains and on a clear day Mont Blanc in the French Alps can be seen in the distance. Check out Chateau Andelot at www.chateauandelot.com.  We stayed in the Dupont suite. Anne and Michael Droley, a young American couple from Denver operate the inn, but that’s another story I plan to sell to a magazine or newspaper.p1010918.JPGp1010934.JPG

We rented a car and drove to Annecy, about an hour and a half  from the Chateau through little towns and villages and mountains, another reminder of North Carolina. Annecy with its lake and river canals is a great place to visit. Google it for a good look.

The Paris weather continues to be more like October than summer but who’s complaining. It’s better than living sans air conditioning, sitting in front of fans in damp underwear!

Next time-our weekly art classes and William the Conquerer hiking trip, planned for September in Normandy.

And Jim promises to answer the question ”what do you do all day in Paris?” 

My first blog from Paris!

Friday, August 3rd, 2007

Jim and I just returned from helping cook and serve 65 men, women and children at the American Cathedral Mission Lunch, an every Friday event with table service and a three-course meal including French cheese and green salad, served French-style of couse between the plat du jour and dessert. College students from my home state of Georgia helped prepare and serve today. I debated with another Savannah native, my hometown, which Savannah southern cooking restaurant is the best, Mrs. Wilkes or Paula Deen’s Lady & Sons. We both agreed Mrs. Wilkes, with that boarding house reach, reigns as a sentimental favorite.

The weather continues to be beautiful here, a perfect Florida early spring day and North Carolina summer. Monday we take the TGV fast train south to Bourg-en-Bresse for a two-night stay at Chateau Andelot, about 1.5 hours either way to Annecy and Lyon. Hiking, enjoying our rental car in the country, a day in Annecy overlooking the Alps and Lake Geneva, can’t wait!

I am finishing the “Diana Chronicles” by Tina Brown, a good read. The hospital where Diana died is near us so I will write more about the 10th anniversary date here.

While this blog will be a regular publication, next week we hope to have my annual report newsletter up with photos.

Jim will  soon blog to his most frequently asked question “what do you do all day in Paris?”

Loving Paris, Pam