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Gobbling Up the Big Apple

The taxi slowed to a snail’s pace through neon-laden Times Square wall to wall with tourists gobbling up the Big Apple. Almost 44 million people visited New York City in 2006, a little more than 7 million of which were NOT Americans (305,000 were French), compared with 27 million visitors to Paris, 17 million of which were NOT French (1,634,700 were Americans).

Interesting statistics, don’t you think?…alluding to the fact that Paris is more of an international destination than New York. Any wonder…it’s no easy task to enter the U.S. of A. anymore. Thanks to a lost or stolen passport in 1994, I am still stopped at Passport Control EVERY SINGLE TIME and sent to a special office where both my time and the immigration officers’ is wasted. A freshly renewed passport doesn’t change Homeland Security’s mind about removing the lost passport off my record and protecting the homeland from little ol’ me.

Americans come to Paris to shop, celebrate, eat and get their cultural fix (according to a recent report from the Office de Tourisme). I’m doing the same in New York in reverse…which began with a breakfast in a classic New York diner of eggs, bacon and hash browns. I come to savor the sushi, too, where they make dozens of different creatively designer hand rolls far different from the cookie-cutter Japanese ‘cuisine’ in Paris.

Americans may come to Paris to stock up on perfumes, chocolate, wines and sexy stockings, but shopping is America’s finest pleasure. Not only is there every imaginable thing for sale at bargain prices in megastores on many levels, but the quality of customer service is so overwhelming that you will find yourself smiling broadly while having just spent your life’s savings on something you didn’t need. “Thank you for shopping at Bed, Bath and Beyond. Here, let me underline our Web site on your receipt should you have a problem with your purchase and we’d be very pleased if you’d complete a short survey to let us know how you found our customer service,” the young cashier said with a smile while handing over the three huge bags of what, I don’t even know…or care.

I left chuckling and making mental comparisons of what the same experience might have been like in France. They wouldn’t have worried about the c

ustomer service survey, but the final package would have been wrapped in pretty paper, tied artistically with a ribbon and secured down with a little label showing off its French aristocratic pride.

For a cultural fix, my daughter (the budding photographer) and I attended the “Slideluck Potshow” slide show and potluck (along with about another 500 people, mostly 25 to 34-year-olds) at Sandbox Studio on Hudson Street in West Soho (West Broadway is the dividing line between what is traditionally considered Soho and what some call “West Soho”). Slideluck Potshow is a non-profit organization for (mostly) the photography community to act as a forum for “exposing artists, curators and editors to new work, while infusing the arts community with a non-commercial vitality and refreshing exchange.”

Erica had submitted her slide show of photos from her India travels (http://www.EricaSimone.com), but was upstaged by an exposé of Bollywood that we both admitted was justifiably presented. She, on the other hand, can boast of her own showing in Paris on December 28th chez Grace Teshima, who regularly shows new artists’ work in her Montmartre spacious white-walled apartment. (Mark the date and stay tuned for more information coming soon.)

Being “bi-continental,” “bilingual” and “bi-cultural” won’t hurt her career, with one foot in the Big Apple and the other holding her firm in the City of Light. Unfortunately, Paris still can’t compare to New York for launching young talent…not until “Sarko” can loosen up what I think of as a rather “constipated” system that strangles the creative spirit with bureaucratic red tape and over taxation sometime soon. He is holding firm on the current transportation (and other) strikes is a sign that perhaps he will at least try.

Meanwhile, 97% of Americans who visit France say they intend to return and many end up living here, just like we did. They must have all gotten what I call “La Maladie,” (the bug). What they loved most?…the food, great public transportation, the history and heritage, which of course, the U.S. has only a fraction of.

The oldest building in Paris is reportedly the Nicolas Flamel house at 51 rue Montmorency in the 3rd arrondissement built in the year 1407 (although two others in Le Marais rival this claim). You’re going to love this little-known fact: the oldest building in the U.S. was actually constructed in France during the 15th-century and moved to it’s current location in 1964 stone by stone. It’s the St. Joan of Arc Chapel on the Marquette University campus located in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

I write you from the “Big Apple” where we will soon be eating “Pumpkin Pie”…

A la prochaine…  

Adrian Leeds
Editor, Parler Paris

P.S. For all you Anglophones, the city of Paris has just launched it’s own official Web site in English! For years I have referred to http://www.Paris.fr for EVERYTHING needed to know about what is going on in the city…and no doubt, it’s improved my French. Now finally, here can be found some of the most important information for visiting and resident Anglophones…in English. My ‘little birdie’ at the Hôtel de Ville wants to know what you think of it, so please have a look at http://www.paris.fr and email your comments to [email protected]

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