Today walking down the street with Ella, she mentioned that during the day’s sports class her teacher had pointed out “someone famous” to the students.
“I think he works at Dior? You know, that fashion place? John something. Gallani?” John Galliano. My 10-year old charge had seen John Galliano working out in the jardin des Tuileries while she was there to run with her sports class.
Being 10, she was pretty thrilled to have seen a star of any kind, whether or not she’d have been able to recognize him on her own or given him a second thought before school today. I was maybe even more excited than she was.
“Galliano?! You saw John Galliano? In the Tuileries?!” I think it tickled her even more that my own reaction was so pronounced, and she was proud to be able to offer up a few more tidbits. He’d been there with his personal gym teacher and was doing “some kind of weird arm exercises.” That was good enough for me. Actually, just knowing that I live in the same city and work out in the same park as John Galliano was good enough for me.
Actually, I’m not surprised that Galliano works out in the neighborhood right around my building. Apparently in the Paris version of Monopoly, rue de la Paix is Boardwalk. Yep, I’m living in the blue corner of the Monopoly board – and I somehow got out of paying rent or owing luxury tax. So far anyway.
Even living in one of the poshest neighborhoods of Paris, I still have no evidence to prove the conception that Parisians are aloof, rude or stuck-up. Maybe I just haven’t met any of the mean ones yet – people are just nice to me here. Yes, Parisians tend to be reserved – but reserved doesn’t automatically translate into stuck-up. Everyday I meet more people to disprove the stereotypes.
This morning on my way to class, I was waiting to cross Quai Voltaire through the typical wild French traffic. The pedestrian light was green and beckoning me across the street, but the onrush of speeding vehicles was making both me and an older man waiting to cross from the other side hesitate. After a minute, he stepped into the street holding his arms out to the cars and smiling and nodding at each stopped driver as he went passed.
I smiled at him when he passed each other in the middle of the street, and he smiled back saying, “Avec un sourire, on peut reussir à tout.” (With a smile, one can succeed at anything). As nearly corny as the moment was, I felt that an inspirational message from a stranger was an excellent way to start my day, and I continued on to Sciences Po.
Sitting in my French politics class, I realized I have a mad crush on a classmate. He’s in a few of my classes, and I’ve technically never spoken to him. I think he’s actually from Washington, D.C., but he looks like such a Seattle boy that I want to run up and hug him whenever he walks into the room. Actually, he looks like an ex-cross country-running Seattle boy – which calls to me on two levels. He’s got the scraggly jeans, the hooded sweatshirts and baggy sweaters, the running shoes and the weird long cross-country boy hair with man headbands to pull it back. He’s just so comforting to look at – though once I’m actually back in Seattle, I’ll probably be desperate for a boy in tight pants and a man purse who’ll remind me of Paris.
My total beret tally for today was only two – but speaking of fashion trends, my T-Town sweatshirt has been quite a hit here. All these French boys who have clearly never seen the West Coast Choppers logo and have never heard of Tacoma, have fallen in love with my black sweatshirt. I lent it to one of them on Saturday (he was thrilled) and I have a list of orders to fill for them through my contacts (i.e. my mom) in Tacoma. The funny part is that they all want theirs to be the same size as mine – which I think looks goofily small on them. Just more proof that French boys like much tighter clothing than boys in the U.S.
•• This is a really interesting article.
In 1898, when the impressionist painter Camille Pissarro completed his haunting cityscapes of the Avenue de l’Opera in sun and rain, the street life he captured was a world of gracious boulevards, outdoor cafes with ranks of sidewalk tables and above all a sense of space. Urban, yes, but never crowded. There was plenty of room for ladies with parasols and men in top hats to wend their way across the avenues traversed by horse-drawn carriages and even more room to promenade on the broad sidewalks.
The Avenue de l’Opera today still has a gracious air, but it is crowded with cars that overwhelm the lungs with exhaust fumes and the ear with the sound of horns and the roar of engines. Motorcycles careen between cars and pedestrians, making crossing the street hazardous. The trees that once lined many of the avenues are gone, either killed off by pollution or removed as the streets were broadened to accommodate more cars, Leclerc said.
That’s my neighborhood, and it’s the same story throughout Paris. The streets are so crowded that people drive their motorcycles on the sidewalks to get around it. This in turn forces pedestrians into the actual streets (also due in part to the fact that Parisian sidewalks are old, and although wide and spacious in some parts of the city, they can be as narrow as two feet across in other areas), which halts traffic and just keeps the cycle moving along.