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What New York Has that Paris Lacks?

Tomorrow I leave U.S. soil for the city that has my heart — Paris.

New Yorkers, I know you love New York with as much passion as I love Paris, but I haven’t yet discovered the same beauty in it…with a couple of exceptions.

1. The men. I must admit, there is no shortage of well heeled good looking men, who I believe are heterosexual (my kind of man). Unfortunately, they don’t ogle or flirt like French men, so it seems one can never get close to actually meeting any of them.

2. The sushi. I may turn into one if I don’t stop tasting the sushi, available at every step, of the widest variety of fresh fish concoctions. The French have a lot to learn about creatively making sushi, which in France seems like factory-produced with no variation on the theme.

3. The shopping. Let’s face it. The U.S. is a Mecca for cheap goods. At Bed, Bath and Beyond on 6th Avenue (there are four in Manhattan alone), I loaded up on bright red towels (a color that isn’t available in France) for one-fifth of what they would have cost in Paris. (By the way, linens of all kinds are some of those things you will want to bring over to stock your Paris pied-à-terre.)

Meanwhile, culture shock sets in every time and after a week in the Big Apple, I’m more than ready to see the soft romantic lights along the Seine.

Maybe it was just a “bad-New-York-day,” but yesterday in the freezing rain, not a bus or taxi was to be had for more than 45 minutes making me yearn for the efficient Paris transportation system. The morning before at Starbucks, the U.S.’s idea of a “café,” I tried to quietly work on the laptop, but couldn’t get a WiFi signal without paying for it (hurrah for Paris’ new WiFi-for-all system!) and the woman next to meet wouldn’t stop speaking loudly at her three-year-old so that everyone in the place would know she was a “mother” (you know the kind, right? — she’s the only one on earth who has given birth!).

Last night we watched the Clinton-Obama debate on a big flat-screen TV chez a New Yorker who spends as much time as she can in her Paris pied-à-terre in Le Marais. She and her man-friend of many years have a strongly held opinion as to which of those two candidates should get the Democratic nomination.

I watched and listened with earnest throughout the debate and the post commentary, feeling more like a foreigner than an American, with a more ‘on-the-sidelines’ point of view. Still, my opinion hadn’t changed — either candidate will make a fine representative of Democratic values, but with Clinton there are no surprises, and with Obama, either the surprises are good or bad, but unpredictable. As a woman, I certainly wouldn’t mind seeing one running the show in the White House, but from the recent coming-out of daughter Chelsea, she may be the more appealing of the Clinton ladies having inherited Bill’s charm which Hillary lacks.

The U.S. dollar has hit an all time low, having broken the $1.50 to the 1€ mark just yesterday, but it didn’t seem to stop Americans from coming to France in 2007. In fact, according to the official tourist Web site of Paris Ile-de-France for the first nine months of 2007, no single group of foreigners to arrive at a Paris airport came close in numbers to the Americans who made up 15% of the total…followed by Italians with 9%. A majority had been to Paris before, but surprisingly, 44% had visited Paris for the very first time. Almost one-third caught what I affectionately call “la maladie” (“the bug”) assuming to return within a year.

The numbers are impressive given the limited number of passports held by Americans. While there is no official government-reported number, a reasonable estimate found on the Web based on the number of issued passports each year, was calculated at just under one-fifth of Americans to hold a passport. There may be many reasons for that, but I wondered if a passport were considered a mandatory I.D., issued free of charge and required for everyone over the age of 18, would it make a difference to broadening Americans’ travel destinations and therefore their viewpoint of the world?

And if it did, would Americans take some lessons from their friends in France having a willingness to pay for universal health care, well-run public transportation, free college education and a better social safety net?

Well, at least there is great sushi. You can’t have everything.

A la prochaine…

Adrian Leeds
Editor, Parler Paris

P.S. Today my daughter and I will visit the soon-to-be-our West Village apartment for another look and Friday I return to a newly renovated Marais apartment sure to be full of surprises. Stay tuned for Monday’s report on our discoveries.


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