Differences are starting to become noticeable. Even Elizabeth said last night, “I think we need to start eating later. All our neighbors are eating later than us.”
Meals and food seem to be the obvious difference. While, at first, the lines out the bakery every evening and busy markets every morning signaled that people are eating fresh food at their meals (put a mark in the plus column), what it signals to me now is the French buy groceries almost every day (a big check in the minus column). It seems people stop at the grocery store each day, purchasing one or two small bags of food. Because I don’t want be at the grocery store every day, it means we are the obvious American family, lugging bags brimming full of food all the way home and collapsing in chairs at the end of our mile jaunt, hands throbbing from the bags that have cut into our palms all the way home. A pretty picture, no?
A good difference is the fresh market food. We aren’t in the heart of the city, so our market doesn’t have marked up prices because of tourists or convenience. Just authentic butchers and bakers. Pretty flowers. Fresh eggs and cheese. I love unwrapping the crisp wax-lined paper to reveal my odd shaped chunk of sweet butter in the morning. So much more appealing than snapping off the plastic lid of “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter”.
Some of the other differences are not so much France vs. US but city vs. not. People don’t have yards and there aren’t big public pools with water slides. So when it reaches 100 degrees, as it did this past Saturday and Sunday, peoples’ feet are in the fountains. And public transportation? Well, everyone takes it and we love it. The Metro, buses, local trains, and Velib (the bike exchange program) aren’t just for moving foreigners and tourists. Business people, families, teens, and students pour out of the stations at every turn. So great.
Other differences we have noticed in our short time so far:
We miss public libraries! We had hoped to get library cards to the American Public Library in France. Um, not for 170 euros: yikes. The next time you step into a public library, give a quick thanks to Andrew Carnegie and all who continue to support this great national resource.
Since when did Paris move so far north??? I am the only one that just assumed it was further south than Wisconsin? Seriously, it is light until almost 10pm and we’re two months past the Summer Solstice. I’m gearing up for a dark winter.
No public restrooms. Well, not many. And not unless you pay. We force everyone into the bathroom (not at the same time) before we head out anywhere. The same goes for limited drinking fountains. Bring along water, people!
And you know what else? They say Paris is the city for dogs. But you really can’t take dogs into many of the parks, which is interesting. Yes, they are on the sidewalks and the trains, but my little pooch would love to settle down into some cool grass one of these afternoons. When we walk by the little sand pits on the sidewalks where dogs are supposed to stop, he does give us a look like, “You’re kidding me.”
Differences are good, though, right? This is why we are doing this, isn’t it? Live a little, learn a little? It will be interesting to see how our perspectives change during the next 10 months.
P.S. I miss my ice cold skim milk.