Saturday, April 11, 2015

France: Day off

I slept in today until 10:30. Then I did laundry and not much else. It was glorious. My body is tired and I am letting it rest. I might go out later for a coffee or a meal, but if I do or if I don't is alright with me. 

Today's blog is going to cover a few general topics.

First, I'd like to start with smiling. I'm a smiler. I like to smile at people as I walk by. It might be just the thing they need to cheer up their day and their return smile always makes me happy. But when you're traveling in a big city or on a subway, smiling can be seen as a sign of weakness or vulnerability. It gives charming scam artists or pickpockets a way in. You smile, they smile and then your guard is down. So, I naturally reserve my smiles for safer situations, but smile or not, when I'm travelling I am happy. And if a little kid is crying or a woman needs help with her bag or her subway seat, I'll send out a smile to help every body's mood. I try to make sure I don't judge a city on the smiles or lack there of while walking around. People who live in a city known for pickpockets should keep their wits about them and a straight face is culturally responsible. When two people who know each other meet on the street, genuine smiles are there and it's wonderful to see. So, go ahead and keep that straight face, Paris. I know you are happy with your baguettes and your gardens. I know you are secretly thrilled to be meeting your friends for dinner after a subway ride. How could you not be happy? You're in one of the most amazing cities I've ever seen, with your coordinated architecture and your delicious food, with your convenient public transportation and your cultural diversity (I've seriously never seen so many different kinds of people anywhere else and Australia is pretty damn diverse). 

Next I'd like to quickly hit up the subject of smells. For anyone who has ever heard or said that French people smell, which is something that is the butt of a joke or two in America, I say this, "shut up." First of all, that's just rude. Secondly, I think you might believe that because you'd never taken public transportation in your life until your vacation to France. Ride a subway or a bus in any city anywhere. People smell. Especially people who work hard all day, or who ride a bike and then get in a small, hot, enclosed space. The only time I noticed any body odor was while on a train during rush hour and, even then, I wasn't sure if it wasn't my own because I had been walking for 5 hours. I did stand in a tight crowd on the train the other day and couldn't figure out which person smelled amazing. Seriously, it was the best cologne I'd ever smelled. I wanted to sniff people, but thought that might be odd. But then the subway went through an underground rotten egg factory...seriously, I'm glad the window was open, because the cool air is nice, but there is some kind of nasty fuel odor that overwhelms occasionally. 

Ok, next topic: Coffee. When I was between 16-20 years old, I was living in America drinking black coffee. I'd have the occasional Starbucks Mocha, but you'll have to forgive me for that because Starbucks was new (I may not be young). While living in Australia, I settled on soy cappuccinos. Australia is proud of their coffee culture. They have flat whites, long blacks, caps, lattes, etc. They make good coffee drinks that are mostly milk with medium to strong flavored coffee in them. When I traveled to the US in March, I wanted to find a good coffee, but decided to stick to my soy cappuccino (as I'd grown to love in Australia). I think this was a mistake. The US is not good at making cappuccinos and they certainly don't know anything about soy milk. Seriously, it froths like bubble bath and that's just not right. Needless to say, I did not find a "good coffee" in America, though Seattle did have the closest thing. But this was my fault. I wasn't having the type of coffee that they're known for or good at. America is very focused on the coffee bean for "drip coffee"or black coffee. And this is what I should have been trying. When I got to France, I learned that if you order "un café" or "a coffee" they will bring you an espresso in a small mug with 1 sugar packet on the side. This is their drink and damn it, it's good. They know what they're good at. You don't even have to specify, "I'd like an espresso, please". Nope. Just say "coffee" and they know you want the good stuff. So, now that I've figured out I need to have what the locals have, I might get back to my cappuccinos after all when I'm in Italy on April 24th. I'll let you know.

I guess I'd like to extend that last coffee rant to food as well. To summarize, "Have what the locals are having." Chances are if they're ALL having it, it's good. (I reserve veto rights. No, I did not have haggis in Scotland, nor did I have tripe in France when offered.)

Ok, I think that's all for now. À tout à l'heure.

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