Blog by VONNIE DAVIS -- International, Award-Winning Romance Author: Adventurous...Humorous...Amorous.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Some Cultural Differences

We have rules governing sidewalks here in America. We tend to hold them sacred. They are for pedestrians, whether on foot or in a wheelchair, and their dogs. We tend to smile at tykes riding their tricycles, but frown on grown-ups on bicycles and teens on roller blades or skateboards on our cement walkways. I'm beginning to think our sanctity of sidewalks is an American mindset.

From the time our taxi driver pulled away from the curb at Charles De Gaulle airport until he made a sweeping U-turn in front of our apartment on rue Bertholet in the Latin Quarter, we'd been on the sidewalk four times. Not that I wasn't counting or saying a few prayers. We weren't the only ones either. Other cars, horns blaring to jar pedestrians out of the way, and motor bikes, buzzing through traffic like bumblebees on steroids, also made several detours onto the sidewalks. Pedestrians didn't react with outrage, but did scurry out of the way.

Traffic in Paris is not for the faint of heart. For one, there are no lines painted on most of the streets, or rues. I mean, really, why bother when no one cares what lane they're in? At one point during our initial taxi ride, four cars braked sharply, their noses angled inward to vie for a certain spot. There we sat, hood to hood, eyes locked in challenge, horns blaring and hands gesturing to the "Parisian God of Traffic".

Even so, as we drove--gee, that's too lame of a word. As we ping-ponged through traffic, we saw the Eiffel tower standing majestically when we crossed the Seine. As always, I marveled at the beauty of the architecture. Has there ever been a city as pretty as Paris? We passed Calvin's favorite writing café on Boulevard Saint Germain, when he was here on sabbatical for a year in 1968. Like a child with his nose pressed to the glass, he craned to study every angle, murmuring, "I remember...I remember." We also passed the Hotel Madison where I'd set a couple scenes in my MONA LISA'S ROOM. Although I'd never been inside, their website provided enough photos for me to add some accurate description.

In the past, we'd used AAA's to make our overseas reservations. Parisian hotel rooms are often small. This time, we wanted a different experience, a more Parisian experience. Plus, now that we're both diabetic, we thought we'd like to cook some of our meals to keep our glucose readings in tolerance. After checking several online rental agencies, we settled on Vacation in Paris LLC, located in New Jersey. We liked the idea of speaking with representatives here in the States. Plus, we were impressed by what we'd read after googling their company. Folks, they've been a dream to work with. Not only did our apartment keys arrive at our home a month before we left for our trip, but the rental company also emailed us a wonderfully informative packet with detailed apartment information, tourist tips and safety hints--things a nervous traveler would greatly appreciate knowing. I know we did. And when we stepped into our little Paris flat, we both breathed a sigh of relief. Everything was as pictured on Vacation in Paris' website. We had no surprises.
All of their pictures were accurate.

We're on the third floor American, second floor European. Here's a picture I took of our living room while I was at the dining room table, writing this blog. By the books on the shelves in both the living room and bedroom, the owner is English speaking. He or she likes Stephen King and Danielle Steele and is an adventurous cook by the number of cookbooks displayed. We brought along copies of our books to leave as gifts.

How lovely that in Paris, your seat at a café table is secured for as long as you wish. In America, you are typically besieged by the wait staff until you move on. We tend to look on a meal as another item in our daily "to do" list. The French look on meal time or a respite for coffee or wine as a time to be savored--slowly. A time to share experiences and express one's beliefs. I watch as animated eyebrows or the jerk of the head or the negligent shrug voice more eloquently than words their underlying emotional meanings. Watching is an education in human communication. There is no frenzy, no glancing at the wristwatch or inhaling of food. There is only the enjoyment of the moment and whomever you happen to be sharing it with.

Until the next time, you'll find us wandering the streets of Paris with no destination in mind, stopping for a cup of whatever to watch humanity stream by. I'll be journaling my every impression, sight and smell of my second journey to the City of Light. I'll share more with you the next time around


Liz Flaherty said...

What fun!!!! Have a cup of...something...for me.

Chrys Fey said...

The traffic sounds terrifying! But I love this phrase: "As we ping-ponged through traffic..."

I am envying your trip to Paris right now. Don't forget to post pictures of the beautiful places you see, so I can live vicariously through you. lol

Looking forward to your next post. :)

Vonnie Davis ~ Romance Author said...

Thanks, Liz. I will. This is a fabulous city that whispers and chants to my creative spirit.

Vonnie Davis ~ Romance Author said...

Don't worry, Chrys, I'll have lots of photos to share.

Patricia said...

I love this tour you're giving us, Vonnie. I feel like I'm there, sipping a latte on one of the "rues". Looking forward to more tales.

Angela Adams said...

Thanks so much for the tour, Vonnie. Have a fun vacation!!

Linn B Halton said...

I laughed when I read this! Every time we visit (and France is only a couple of hours drive from the UK, through the channel tunnel)we go into Paris by train from the outskirts. Even crossing the road you have to have your eyes everywhere! Not for the faint-hearted indeed ... but still fabulous fun.