Thursday, September 24, 2009

Vous êtes américain?

I went to McDonald’s this morning to get on their free wireless since our hotel’s wireless is “en panne” (broken). As we walked to our table an elderly lady asked us “Vous êtes américain?” - “You are Americans?”. I said “oui” and she gave us both a big thumbs-up. This was just one example of how welcome I have always felt in France.

Yesterday, while we were in a bistro down the road from our hotel we made a little mistake at our table during ordering and I said to the waiter in French “Nous sommes américain” – We are Americans – as a way to poke fun at the mistake we just made. The waiter, with a huge grin on his face, replied in French “Oui, j’ai vu” - “I noticed”. Talk about funny.

My point is simply that by using a few words of French and remembering that I’m in a different country and therefore everyday customs may be different has really made my trips to France delightful. Here’s a concrete example of remembering that customs can be different…

Je vous ecoute! I’m listening to you!

A few times I have been in a shop or the bakery and the person serving me looks at me and says “Je vous ecoute!” If you directly translate this into English you get: I am listening to you. Now, the first time I heard this, I was a little bit surprised and mildly insulted. In all honesty, I felt that if I was in the US and someone in a shop addressed me in this way I would walk out. However, I noted it happening to French people – not just me the American – and it happened in different situations to me around Paris. I finally realized that the literal translation was not really accurate. What the person was really communicating was: “I am at your service – you have my attention”. The fact that I was being addressed formally (“vous”) is what started to tip me off. In French, you are normally addressed formally if you are a parent (by your children), someone you have recently met, if you are older than the person that is talking to you or if you are being served by someone. My light bulb moment was realizing that rather than the person being surly they were actually being formal with me.

My “bad” experiences in Paris have been no different than my “bad” experiences in Manhattan but they are experiences nonetheless!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Windows Café to build buzz in Paris

Well, there you have it! Microsoft is building a café in Paris. Guess where?
Windows Café will open on Oct. 22, the Windows 7 launch date. One report said it will be in the crowded Châtelet-Les Halles metro station.
If you've been to Les Halles you know it is a very crowded metro station. The article doesn't quite explain if the café is on the metro platform itself, up the escalators or in the Les Halles shopping center. If you've been to Les Halles you know they already have a very busy Starbucks right beside the UGC cinemas (Cine Cite Les Halles) so they might have some competition. That said, I guess this is all about trying out Windows7 versus having a coffee.

I wonder how long Microsoft plans to run the café? Maybe if I could get that gig I'd consider moving back to Microsoft! Paris here I come?!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Sunday Market Entertainment

This mime was entertaining the crowd at the Sunday market on rue Poncelet in the 17th in Paris on Sunday. I've always enjoyed visiting - and buying things - at these markets as everything is so fresh. Having the additional entertainment is always a bonus especially for the little kiddies who are tagging along with their parents.

This market has a very famous cheese shop on it - Alléosse, the only Parisian cheese maker to own his cheese-aging cellars in Paris’s underground. This is my friend Stephen's favorite cheese shop - the one he took us to during his visit in April. Turns out the hotel I am at this week for business is literally around the corner from this market - a nice coincedence.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Spice search

While we were in Paris we came across a variety of spices in spice shops and at the local supermarkets.

Bouquet de Provence is a favorite that we added to vegetables and other dishes to give a different yet unique flavoring. Yesterday I managed to find some more at the Franprix and added it to my supplies to bring back home. It's just one of the many things on my re-supply shopping list. Too bad I can't bring back a few cases of wine!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Je suis retourné à Paris!

I have returned to Paris! Just for a week - on business - and without Kathie (pauvre Kathie). She's enjoying the +30C weather in southern California with our son Jake. I'm staying at a nice hotel just down from the Arc de Triomphe in the 8th district.

I'm looking forward to a walk around the quartier this evening and a croissant and café crème tomorrow morning. It's great to be back!