Sunday, December 14, 2008

A Day in Paris, Cleverly Presented in Bullets

(skip to the end for the important part)

- I love the RER E. I love the fact that it takes me somewhere totally different than the other metro lines that run through Gare du Nord. Instead of mindlessly hopping on the 4 or the RER B to Chatelet, or the 5 (I hate the 5 because I have to take it to my horrible specialist doctor at that horrible hospital), I can get off in the 2nd Arrondissement, which I love.

- Eiffel Tower key chains have really come down in price. I remember when they tried to sell them to you for a whole euro. Now 50 cents is almost a rip off.

- Stay far, far away from Rue St Denis. I took it as a shortcut to get from Boulevard de Bonne Nouvelle to Chatelet. Imagine my surprise when I realized the "store owners" who were all wearing fur coats and standing in doorways were actually hookers! Yes, I am naive and innocent enough that I was completely shocked and definitely made some kind of totally surprised face when I realized I was in Hooker Central, in broad daylight, on a Saturday afternoon. It was just so unexpected. So I put on my best "don"t f*%$ with me" face and kept going, hoping I would be safe when I crossed over Etienne Marcel. Nope. I had crossed over to the the sex shop and pornographic movie theater strip of St Denis.

- I wish I were less socially awkward. I shared a table at Starbucks with two girls who are law students in Paris and it would have been so cool to be friends with them, but I of course let that opportunity to actually have friends in this country slip right on by. Not that we would have become real friends or anything, but it was a reminder of the fact that I just don't meet people, although I really am trying!

- I really dislike the underbelly of the Gare du Nord, you know, where the RERs B and D arrive and depart from? This is probably close to hatred, but it's really more like self-hatred because I know my anger towards the station is displaced anger towards myself for always managing to get lost in there! It's so stupid because really, all you have to do is follow the signs and get on the escalator to get back up to the main train station. Not that hard, right? And yet I still manage to get totally confused and lost and turned around and wandering around the bus station. Sometimes I am so kinder.

- Kinder, if you are wondering, is a French candy that the kids love. It's milk chocolate filled with some kind of white, milky interior. I just had one for the first time the other day, it's okay, I'd still rather have American candy. But apparently kinder can also be used in slang when referring to brunettes who have blonde moments. Get it? Because the kinder is brown on the outside but white on the inside, like you have brown hair but the brain is all blonde... Well, I thought it was cute and clever, in any case.

Special note regarding the use of kinder: this may be an obscure slang term only used in Picardie. Use with care.

- I think the Gare du Nord in general is a crappy train station. We don't have good food vendors. I would love a Brioche Dorée there. Instead we have the train station food company and Paul. I'm not a huge Paul fan, don't really like their veggie sandwich. So basically, I'm a picky eater and I'm taking it out on the Gare du Nord. Poor Gare du Nord, it is the scapegoat for all of my various issues.

- I think my town exists in a snow-free alternate universe. How else can I explain the fact that in all the other towns on the way back they had snow sticking to the ground, and when I got back to my town it was slushing/hailing/sleeting/raining with the occasional snow flake. Not fair!

- I love that I can complain about these totally meaningless, mundane things. Because that means I don't have any real problems right now (knock on wood). Contrary to how I may have sounded in this post, I'm actually quite content right now. I'm making snowmen in my classes this week. Winter vacation starts on Friday. I'm leaving on Sunday for the US where I will get my fill of Christmas decorations and music and (hopefully) snow. Hanukkah starts on Sunday night and we'll light the candles, eat fried potato pancakes, and get presents for eight nights. My mom will cook me yummy food for two whole weeks. Life is good.


shannon said...

Ahh... Rue St Denis. Yes, not a fun street... well, unless you want a hooker.

The Gare du Nord is like the most confusing train station ever. The Gare de Lyon is not that bad... okay, except I usually get confused there when trying to hop on the correct RER. No matter how many times I do it, I still have a "What the hell?" moment every single time. And I agree about the food there. Now, I usually just leave the station if I want something to eat, because there's a few sandwich vendors nearby that sell yummy cheese paninis which is my sandwich of choice.

Kinder... never heard it used that way. Will have to ask my students. Then again, words in Picardie are sometimes even contained to an even smaller area or groups of people or whatever. There were words that one person would teach us that another wouldn't even know. So strange!

We have yet to have snow accumulation in Chauny. Just enough gunk on the ground to make me almost fall and make a fool of myself. Yep, I'm so talented.

Have a fun and safe trip home!! I'm happy that Hanukkah falls over the time you'll be at home. That'll be really nice for you!

And now, I realize that I just typed up a super long comment for you, so I will stop now.

P.S. We should hang for reals once we're back from vacation. K?

Andromeda said...

Lol I like that kinder thing.

Hurray for being content!

David said...

Do you know that rue St-Denis is the historical red light district ? There has been hookers there almost since the Middle Ages, and it's also where the "cour des miracles" used to be based (well, right behind the street to be more precise). And don't worry, even if it's population can be quite disconcerting, it's a very safe street.
And as such, I'd never tell anybody to stay far from it, but instead to go see it as it's an important part of Paris history and culture.

Concerning Kinder, I never heard the term used as slang. It's gotta be a Picardie thing, or something used by younger generations (you must have noticed that slang is very generational, you can tell somebody's age in France just by the slang they use, even more so than in English).
Also Kinder are not French but either German or Italian, but they've been European for so long now... And why didn't you mention the surprise. The whole interest of Kinder and the reason why little (and not so little?) kids all over Europe are obsessed with them is because of the surprise they contain.

au soleil levant said...

Wow, David, you are a font of knowledge! I didn't know any of that. So now I can rewrite the experience as an important part of my historical education. But if that's where the cour des miracles was, Disney lied to me in the cartoon of The Hunchback of Notre Dame. I feel like they showed it being on the Left Bank. I want my money back!

Andromeda, I know, I love kinder. And how's this for region specific slang - when I was in middle school our middle school had it's own very popular slang word (with accompanying gesture!) that no one else in the city (or the country, to my knowledge) ever used. Ever.

Shannon, you are going to have to fill me in on these cheese panini vendors. I would much prefer that. And yes, we do have to see each other when we get back, for real, which means you have to put your butt on a bus and come down here because there's a lot more to do here!

Leesa said...


Happy Chanukkah to you!! I think I'll make some ladkes!!!

au soleil levant said...

Thanks Leesa! Latkes are always a good idea, you should definitely make some!

Anonymous said...

No need to be fearful of prostitutes, they are just women making a living the only way they can (a lot of prostitutes are migrants or women with mental illness who are unable to find or hold down a job). Prostitutes aren't dangerous people and are unlikely to attack anyone. It's unfortunate that prostitution was made illegal in France and they are forced to meet men on the streets rather than in the safety of legal brothels and escort services.

David said...

Rochelle, prostitution is not illegal in France -if it was, they couldn't hang out in the streets- it's brothels that are (escort services are not either).
Also, it's not the banning of brothels that put prostitutes in the streets, they were there before two.

There used to be two kinds of prostitutes: the ones in the streets and the ones in brothels.
And today there are two kinds of prostitutes: the ones in the streets and escort girls.

au soleil levant said...

It's not the prostitutes I was worried about, more their pimps who were obviously hanging around somewhere (maybe those sketchy guys lounging against the wall on the other side of the street), and the fact that normally prostitutes hang out in areas that are filled with crime (purse stealers, assaults, etc). Normally areas with prostitutes aren't lauded as being safe and free of crime. But according to David, Rue St Denis is very safe.

Leesa said...

I grew up with pimps and hos on my street-- Sunset Blvd... I HATED it.... I hated the guys that drove by in their cars... saying, "How much, baby!" Idiots... That's Hollywood for you... I was 15-17 and on my way to school with an armful of books in my hands... I'm sure Hollywood (was) and still is MUCH more dangerous than a lot of places in Paris...