To which 89% of the French people surveyed responded "non merci."
Somewhat encouragingly, however, only 65% of Franciliens (residents of the province of Île de France, in which we find Paris) said no.
I can think of a lot of Americans who'd answer that question with a resounding "oui s'il vous plaît." Because to us, Paris is a dream. Unlike New York, however, which for many Americans is a nightmare. The Brits and Japanese would probably say the same, respectively, of London and Tokyo as well. It makes sense. Life in the big cities has always been synonymous with expense, overcrowding, stress, pollution, grime, crime, and -- in the case of the really fun places -- decadence, low morals, synthetic underwear, vice, candy before breakfast, etc.
Truthfully, I also would say "non merci" to New York, even though I miss it almost every day. I managed six good years there, and I am satisfied with that. Nowadays, it's "too-ness" wears hard on me: too cold; too hot; too dirty; too expensive. And too much upping-of-the-ante in the new go-go climate that seems to prevail: too many super-luxury apartments being built; too many Whole Foods stores; too many old, faded things that seem doomed to be razed and replaced by luxury apartments and Whole Foods stores. But I certainly love to visit, and am always sorry to leave. (Unlike those who are thrilled to visit, and grateful to leave.**)
Paris can be "too-" too. Too many people, always. And as summer approaches, it gets worserer. The solution is to alter -- when you can, anyway -- your routes across town, and sometimes even change your destinations, in order to keep your head and preserve a little space for yourself.
Paris, too, is too expensive, and getting worse for me courtesy of the ever-sliding dollar. They describe the Paris real estate market -- buying or renting -- as a "flambée." No need to translate, I am sure. (Which reminds me: in many ways I will always be grateful to Los Angeles for the favor it granted me: my home. I could not afford a one-bedroom/775 sq ft apartment here (nor in New York, nor in San Francisco) comparable to the one I purchased there three years ago. Not only that, but here, they don't even have one-bedroom apartments that big. Not for working stiffs like us. The average Parisian "deux pièce" is half that size.)
Sheets and towels and electronics can be expensive here, also, but that seems to go down all the time as more and more Indian- and Chinese-made goods trickle in. Clothes can be expensive but they don't have to be. With some intelligence applied to the problem there seem to be ways around that. And I find it civilized and wonderful that children's clothing -- and cute clothing at that -- can be found at a very reasonable price and in just about every neighborhood I can think of. Funnily enough, soap is inexpensive, though shampoo tends not to be. They haven't caught onto the beauty of the 99¢ store yet. But I have high hopes for them.
In Paris' favor, however -- in terms of value-per-sinking-dollar -- it is possible to maintain a very pleasant standard of living here. For instance:
- Basket of raspberries (see above): $1.89
- Glass of Côtes du Rhone-Villages on a café terrace: $3.60
- Metro tickets: 10 for $13.75
- Three ripe avocadoes: $2.50
- Peonies: five for $7.40
- Discount Pass for national cinema chain: five admissions for $32
- Admission to the Louvre: $10.60
- Walking through the Tuileries: free.
- Baguette from my favorite baker: $1.25
- G. Lalo notecards w/lined envelopes: 10 for $6.25
- Strolling at night, unescorted and unafraid: free, and worth my weight in gold
*Telephone poll by France Europe Express/France Info in May 2006. The poll was conducted in anticipation of Mayor Bertrand Delanoë's appearance on the tv show "France Europe Express." In the end, he didn't show. I don't blame him.
bitterness from me on the subject. I spent Christmas week 2004 in New
York. The sidewalks teemed with families -- Mom, Dad, Sis, and Skip --from the
suburbs. Vacationing in the metropolis, they were enjoying treats
unavailable to them back home -- spicy food, buildings taller than
eight stories, theater, glamour, art, sex, eating in restaurants after
9:30p.m., gender ambiguity, and pulse-accelerating face-to-face
encounters with "weird" people. Now, the very existence of all these things, in fact, is very much attributeable to the urban values of equality, opportunity,
diversity, freedom, the right to privacy, and good public
And though these good people were there to enjoy such cultural richness -- so many tingly sensations! -- they were unwilling, or unable, to cast votes that November that actually supported those values that made them possible.
Ironic. Although writing it out, I realize I am less bitter about it now. They can't help it if they are afraid. (Compassion, I tell you, is a real mother.)