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You Can’T Take Paris Out Of The Parisian

For one hundred euros I went to London for the weekend with Theo Robinson to help him take down his exhibit of drawings at a café called the “Box Bar” right at “Seven Dials” near Covent Garden. The Eurostar fares get cheap as dirt when you stay over the weekend and return on Monday, so we chose to do that and spend the extra night at my favorite B & B to reduce the train fare to half the price.

The Eurostar takes less than two-and-one-half-hours to take you from the Gare du Nord in Paris to Waterloo station in central London. It’s so simple and easy, it’s unbelievable. The train is quiet and smooth and before you can get to the dining car for a cup of coffee, you’re stepping off the train and into a London taxi.

London and Paris are worlds apart in spite of the short trip, so be prepared for a culture shock. It takes me about a day to stop speaking to the waiters and taxi drivers in French! I heard an awful lot of French spoken on the streets…and as one British friend said, “The Eurostar goes in both directions, you know.” How true — the French are taking advantage of visiting their neighboring European cities by TGV (Train à Grande Vitesse) just as much as the British, Dutch, Germans and Belgians are of Paris.

England hasn’t given in to the Euro currency yet and it’s hard to tell if they ever will. Many British are keen to maintain their financial independence. Prices in London are shocking, even for Parisians, given the rate of exchange. At first, you believe that the prices written in pounds seem right if they were euros — dinner for four in a moderate restaurant was more than £100, but then, do the calculation to discover it’s almost twice that in U.S. dollars (current exchange rate about 1.8 dollars to the pound). I wondered if England were to adopt the euro, would their prices go down or ours in Paris go up?

While London is certainly one of the world’s greatest cities, teeming with cultural arts — I enjoyed visits to the National Gallery, the National Portrait Gallery and the Tate Modern (thumbs up to the current Edward Hopper exhibit!); kettle drum bands performing outdoors all around Trafalgar Square and Leicester Square; and British theater is what some consider the best in the world — but, it just isn’t Paris.

Sure, it’s fun to ride on the top floor of their double-decker buses, hang out with the local pub crowd with a drink in your hand, people watch (nowhere are fashion statements more eclectic and eccentric!) and parlay with the friendly and dry-witted blokes of London…but it doesn’t touch my emotional nerves like Paris does. Even British friends agree.

No matter how many times I re-enter the City of Light and see the Eiffel Tower standing tall and proud over her beautiful sea of life below…no matter how many times I cross the Seine and stop on the bridge to watch a tourist barge glide under while hearing it broadcasting the story of the city in four or five languages…no matter how many times I stop in front of a “pâtisserie” window and ogle the pretty delicacies…I get a little pang, goose bumps climb up my arm and small tears form in my eyes.

I suppose you can take the Parisian out of Paris, but you can’t take Paris out of the Parisian.

A la prochaine…

Adrian Leeds
Editor, Parler Paris
E-mail: [email protected]

P.S. Don’t forget — Parler Parlor French-English Conversation Group is now meeting Tuesdays at Berlitz Opéra, 38 avenue de l’Opéra on the 4th floor. The space is quite chic! So, if you’re here and want to brush up on your French, now’s a good time to stop in. For more information, visit http://www.parlerparlor.com

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