What do I do in Paris?

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.

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