Wednesday, December 21, 2011

First impressions of Paris after a transatlantic red-eye.

As the airplane approaches, we see mostly darkness, punctuated by village and highway lights. In the distance, the City of Lights: a beneath a light veil-like cloud, a large cluster of dense, very bright lights, whose reflection in the dark gives the cloud a yellowish, almost golden appearance. I am musing on how funny it is that the cloud picked precisely Paris to hand over, not the surrounding countryside; I note that the cloud is much lighter than the occasional black clouds between us and the land down below. Then it hits me: it's smog!

Paris is choking in air pollution.

In the airport hallway, large signs on the sides advertised Paris. The first sign: Eiffel tower, Champs-Elysees,... Parisian monuments. The second sign: Opera, jazz, ... (meanwhile background music had Edith Piaf and then accordeon music). The third sign: strolls along the river, romantic scenery, used book shops by Notre Dame,... That was it. This is Paris! Nothing about La Defense, about businesses, or about the people living and working there. It looked like a pure tourist destination and nothing else.

Paris markets itself as merely a more authentic version of Disneyland.

At 8am in Paris, the subways were full of people standing close to one another, some fraction of them sniffing, sneezing or coughing. Colds and minor epidemics plague Parisians all winter long, in ways unknown to Rhode Islanders.

Paris is the Kingdom of Kleenex.

I had the usual hassles with unhelpful staff and buggy official information, no big deal but annoying and a waste of time.

In Paris, when something works right and easily at the first attempt, you stop in wonder and give thanks to God for that small miracle.


  1. In the US, men can dress well too and it doesn't imply anything about their sexual orientation. Sheesh!

  2. Yes, Anonymous, I decided to remove that paragraph. I would need to first vet it with friends to check whether it might be offensive. No one appropriately sensitive to such issues at hand with whom to discuss it, so it's safer to remove it. Sorry about that!

  3. When landing in Toronto you are greeted by the official slogan "Ontario: open for business" and countless advertisments from HSBC. This may not be the right be place for a Disneyland, though.

  4. Yes, something like that is missing in the Roissy airport. Ads for perfume and haute couture and porcelain and tires and nails and nuclear power plants, for example... "Welcome to Paris, the city of lights. Most of our electricity for lighting comes from nuclear power. French nuclear power is the safest in the world. We have the best engineers in the world. We trust nuclear power. The proof? Our closest nuclear power plant is only 50 miles from Paris! Welcome to the country of nuclear power!"


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