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Day 193: Be a Voyeur.


After yesterday's mini-Gainsbourg tour, I decided to continue my little rive gauche vacation since I'm never on this side of town for pleasure and hunt down a glass of wine and something to nibble on to curb my hunger before dinner. I have a habit of staying in my nook of the 3rd, 4th and 11th and neglecting what this city has to offer outside of "Boboland".

I was planning to go to one of my favorite left bank haunts, Les Editeurs, when I walked by the darling little wine and cheese shop La Crèmerie that was just begging me to come in. I couldn't resist, I had always wanted to go here back when I was frequenting this neighborhood but was too shy to take on what seemed like an authentic French establishment and feared that my communication skills would have been inadequate.

I walked in and was practically hit in the face by the delicious smell of fresh, farm-raised, unpasteurized cheese and nestled in the only available table in between two groups of American tourists who also had the same idea of a late-afternoon snack. 

I was enjoying a festive glass of beaujolais nouveau and a goat cheese plate drizzled in seasoned olive oil and being alone, I couldn't help but listen in on the conversations of my neighbors. I miss the days when Paris through my fresh eyes was exciting, funny, weird and exhilarating, so I enjoy the observations of visitors.

I'd like to say that this is my first time eavesdropping on American tourists but having spent a lot of time alone here and having an addiction to coffee, wine and books, I have done this before where without fail there are very specific profiles mixed in with your everyday traveler.

There's the pretentious one traveling with his thirty-something group of friends and who took French in high school or perhaps studied abroad his sophomore year of college. He insists on upstaging his friends by speaking in broken and out-dated French while they carry on efficiently with the server who is fluent in English. 

There's the loudmouth who speaks octaves above everyone else who compares everything to back home; the service, the prices, the decor. These people are typically New Yorkers where the comment "If we were in New York, this guy would have been fired!" always manages to come up in reference to the slower service. 

There's the teenager who is tapping away on his iPhone and would rather be playing Call of Duty on Playstation than enjoying a cultural vacation with his parents who have maps, cameras and tour books sprawled out on the table. He's usually with his sister who is wearing pounds of make-up and wants pictures of herself taken in front of the Chanel store to be uploaded immediately as her facebook profile pic. 

There's the single girl who seems terrified of the menu and the waitstaff and fears that if she doesn't speak perfect French then she will be slaughtered alive. She speaks in whispers so no one knows that she's a tourist which then makes the exchange even more uncomfortable when she has to repeat herself. This profile used to be me and sometimes still is. 

And then my favorite, the boyfriend who is taking his girlfriend to Paris as a romantic gesture because she's always wanted to come here. He's too big for the teeny brasserie chairs and has the expression on his face reads: "I don't get what the big deal is with this place. Everything is small, we keep getting lost, I'm still hungry after we eat and all the dudes here seem gay." 

Like all places, after a couple of years, Paris has become my home, part of the norm where I'm desensitized by the town's little nuances. Lately I have been reminiscing about my early days where this place could do no wrong and everyday was an adventure not a struggle. 

Séb recently asked me if I regretted leaving my stable life of a good job, salary and apartment in New York to coming here, learning another language and taking many steps back. I admit that I find myself asking this question from time to time and more often than not, the answer is no, not at all. This experience has added another facet of who I am. Like the Fellini quote "A different language is a different vision of life."

9, rue des Quatre Vents
75006 Paris

7 comments:

  1. I did loads and loads of dropping eaves as well and I am always careful to not open my mouth one bit so they never guess that I'm an American as well!
    And cheers to taking many steps back! Im thoroughly convinced that we'll end up ahead in the long run!

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  2. Hi,
    from another expat in Paris - language assistant. I often find myself being asked for directions by tourists, most of the time when I'm doing tourist things myself! Must have a friendly face. I've recently just found your blog and love it!
    V

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  3. @Sarah Louise - Ok, so I'm not the only one who listens in on 'our people'! Phew! I guess it's sort of a vacation for our ears to hear our own language that we can't help it!

    @Victoria - Thank you!! I just discovered your blog as well and I'm enjoying it! : )

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  4. I love this post! La Crèmerie sounds great. It's always nice to check out another part of town every once-in-a-while. Harder to do that in Grenoble because it's much smaller, but there are def some parts I don't know so well. It's bigger than I realize.

    Your descriptions of American tourists are very good! I have not been here long enough (nor live in a touristy town) to be able to eavesdrop like so, but I would totally do the same if I was you! How can one resist? Anytime I see an American at a cafe I automatically eavesdrop. Once it was someone I recognized from a website and I went up to talk to her and we're friends now. :-) haha

    I love the Fellini quote!!! I feel it's definitely worth it, in most cases, to take a few steps back in order to experience life abroad (and learn a new langue!) if one's able to do so. Sometimes you have to just go for it, even if it seems loco, to live a fruitful life where you're not regretting 'not going for it'. If you didn't come to Paris you would have perhaps forever wondered what life would be like if you did! I know that's definitely my case. Courage. No regrets!

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  5. @Dana - Thanks! I'm glad you liked it! I like poking fun at Americans (myself included!).

    Nooooon, je ne regrette rien!! It taking risks and facing challenges that make us stronger...saying that, I think I've got my fill of challenges this year. I'm ready for the good stuff now! I welcome it with open arms!!

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  6. Loved this post - I am definitely the single girl speaking softly! Your descriptions of tourists are spot on, and I love the Fellini quote - I'll make sure to remember that when I struggle with my French next time!

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  7. @Meg - Thanks! I love tourists because there is always one of these in a group!! Entertaining stuff.
    : )

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