Gluttony for Foie Gras, Champagne and Paris
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Dear Parler Paris Reader,
Christmas eve rained making for a messy evening with nary a taxi in sight, but creating a good reason to be indoors with friends popping the cork on bottles of champagne and spreading foie gras on toast (although it might have well been spread directly on the hips!).
The food fest didn’t stop as another huge meal ensued all afternoon on Christmas day, laying on even more guilt for being a glutton, but reminding us what pleasure the taste buds can afford us when the palette is teased with such delicacies. France is full of them of the highest caliber and therefore it would be blasphemy not to partake. Okay…so next week we diet, right?
(Normally, this day would have been spent at the movies and then in a Chinese restaurant for dinner…a Jewish idea of a traditional Christmas!)
Alfie, a friend’s West Highland White Terrier family pet, was given his Christmas gift wrapped in paper and to everyone’s amazement, jumped at it as if it were a fresh piece of meat. He tore open the paper bit by bit, until the Santa Squeaky Dog Toy was fully unwrapped and he could squeeze it, make noises and play tug-o’-war. I must admit, I’d never witnessed such a clever canine.
Saturday the streets and stores were shockingly empty. Stateside, the biggest shopping days of the year are the Friday after Thanksgiving, the day after Christmas and New Years Day. Not here. The Left Bank chic department store, Le Bon Marché, was positively ‘dead’ with the exception of its “Grande Epicerie” and even that was not breaking any records. Of course, the official “soldes” (sales) don’t start until Wednesday, January 6th (lasting through February 9th), encouraging would-be buyers to wait 10 days to save 50% and more.
You’d think French retailers would take notice of natural trends and ‘capitalize’ on the fact that an opportunity for sales is being missed, but alas, we learn that this is not the right word to use in France’s Social Democracy where the left wing party holds 32% of the seats in both the National Assembly and Senate and with 19% in the European Parliament. With American friends, we conclude that politically we mostly stand left on the U.S. side and right on the French side, always trying to maintain that balance between the two ideals that might actually make for a fair and just society.
Meanwhile, this weekend was the highest box office take in recent history, proven by the wall-to-wall crowds along the Champs-Elysées Sunday evening. My daughter was headed to see James Cameron’s “Avatar” in New York (which took the lead with $75 million the first week and $212.3 million the second week) just about the same time we were exiting
It’s always a lesson in cultural difference to go to an English language film in France with French subtitles. If you pay attention and read the French, you’ll discover how often a positive statement in English becomes a negative statement in French. In this case, even the name of the film is a perfect example of how “It’s Complicated” (positive statement) was retitled to “Pas Si Simple” (negative statement).
Can someone explain to me why this culture sees the glass half empty instead of half full? I’ve been trying to figure that one out for years, but accept it, it’s true, and once you put yourself in their negative shoes, dealing with the cultural differences can be easier. For example, if you invite someone to dinner and they respond with “pourquoi pas?” (why not?), don’t be insulted…it’s a compliment that they in effect, said “yes!”
Heading home on the Métro a cute little old lady sat next to me. Children were crying and we both chuckled under our breaths as the parents were trying to deal with their tantrums. I pulled out my trusty iPhone (which has become my camera, computer and phone of choice) to catch up on email and she became interested in the gadget, striking up a conversation. This in itself is unusual, as there is little discussion among strangers on the Métro, but she seemed to feel comfortable asking me questions — perhaps once we had shared the chuckle.
I proudly showed her all it could do, along with many of the photos that had taken on the Champs-Elysées that evening plus the phone message to which I could listen sent from the other side of the world as a “.wav” file attached to an email. She rationalized that she was too old to learn these new tricks, but was intrigued nonetheless and wondered if that would be her Christmas gift to herself next year.
The Métro was free from the Franklin D. Roosevelt station last night (for what reason I don’t know). All Métros, buses, trains and trams on the Ile-de-France will be free from 5 p.m. on December 31st through 12 noon on January 1st, for good reason! Don’t worry about getting home on New Year’s Eve…they run until 2:15 a.m. and then the night system takes over. Phone counselors can be reached up until 9 p.m. by dialing 3246 to ask how best to arrive at your destinations or visit their site at http://www.transport-idf.com (bookmark this page for future use!)
For what to do on New Year’s Eve in Paris, if you don’t have a party to attend, a search on the Internet will find you plenty of special offerings, but expect to pay top euro. Or…stop by your local “traiteur” (pre-prepared food boutique), pick up some foie gras, oysters and a bottle of champagne, have a picnic in and then head to the Champs-Elysées for a stroll to see the lights and welcome in the New Year. It’s tough to beat.
P.S. The Parler Parlor French-English Conversation Group will reopen on Saturday, January 2nd.
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“Gluttony for Foie Gras, Champagne and Paris”
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