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Two Eyes and a Chinese Laundry

Part I: Two Eyes on Paris

House Hunters International - Californians sell their Vineyard-HHINT-7006H-WSiteHouse Hunters International – Californians sell their VineyardAfter viewing Monday’s House Hunters International episode (“Californians sell their Vineyard to Afford a Summer Home on the Costly Côte d’Azur” – Episode HHINT-7006H) a few people wrote in asking where I got my eyeglasses or what brand they are. Not everyone is observant enough to see that one side is oval and the other square, but every now and then someone looks up and suddenly realizes they are asymmetrical, being taken a bit aback and stopping any other thoughts they had in their head. It’s pretty amusing. One person even said they disturbed her equilibrium!

You can’t buy these in just any old optical shop. In fact, there’s only one that I know of as they were made specifically for me by “Sabine” at her tiny shop on rue Saint-Antoine called Optique des Vosges (12, rue Saint-Antoine, 75004 Paris, France; phone: +33 1 42 72 66 17). Sabine is the the ‘master’ (or should I say ‘mistress?’) at determining what frames work on your face with your hair color, skin color, shape of face, etc. The first time entering the shop, she wouldn’t let me choose or look myself until she had chosen the frames for me, and with my friend, they decided which were best. She hooked me then and that was many, many moons and a few different frames ago.

Optique des Vosges - Paris, FranceOptique des VosgesOptique des Vosges makes these themselves. Sabine designs every aspect of them — the shapes, the sizes and the arrangement of colors, all to fit your own face and style. They are not any more expensive than designer frames, but the lenses in France are a small fortune, yet well worth it. No one makes better lenses than the French for providing perfect vision — and mine have three different visions all in one lens. (If you want to learn why …  gifo.org/eng/optique)

So, take your prescription to Sabine, splurge on something as important as your eyesight and your look, then enjoy them the rest of your days. Be sure to tell Sabine I sent you! (This is not an advertisement and she has no idea I’m giving away my secret!)

Part II: A Chinese Laundry in Paris

(Photo by NY Times)(Photo by NY Times)A few days ago, an article ran in the New York Times titled “Chinese Tourists Find a Movable Feast Best Left Behind” by Dan Bilefsky.

Yes, Paris is the number one destination for Chinese tourists, but according to Bilefsky, they’re not having such a great time once they get here — the land of “An American in Paris,” and “Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amelie Poulain.” Their expectations of ‘romantic Paris’ are being shattered by being the targets of pickpockets and thieves and falling into the cultural divide, by which even we Westerners can be trapped. Imagine how distinctly different their own cultural defaults can be from the French?!

The bottom line: the cultural gap may be just a bit too wide and I’d say the Parisians don’t know what to make of them, either. I heard a story about Chinese tourists in a rental apartment in Le Marais draping their wet laundry to dry on the shrubbery in the 18th-century courtyard, much to the shock of the residents — as it is illegal to hang your laundry outside at all in Paris, much less in one’s courtyard!

(Photo by China Travel Trends)(Photo by China Travel Trends)But, the Chinese are no strangers to Paris — the Chinese community here is vast and old — beginning during World War I when the French brought workers from Zhejiang to work in the war efforts. The 2010 census counted 58,329 Chinese living in the Paris region. In Paris, there are four communities in which they mostly live, Le Marais being one of them. Anyone who has visited Le Marais sees immediately that the wholesale trade is now dominated by the Chinese, once dominated by the Jewish community prior to World War II.

The Mayor of the 3rd arrondissement, Pierre Aidenbaum, once said the Chinese were the largest ethnic group of the district — which I believe based on what I see, but have no proof of…and I can tell you that they don’t hang their laundry out to dry!

For a fascinating in-depth look at the Chinese community in Paris, download the article “Wholesale as a Social Problem? Conflicts and Narratives Surrounding Chinese Quarters in and around Paris” by Anne-Christine Trémon in PDF form.

A la prochaine…

Adrian Leeds, The Adrian Leeds Group Inc - Asymetrical glassesAdrian Leeds

Editor, Parler Paris & The Adrian Leeds Group

(asymetrical eyewear)

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