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.