Aero: Jason Palmer – France 2015 – City Life
Aero: Jason Palmer – France 2015 – City Life
France is much different than the United States. In Paris in particular, most of the residents either rode bicycles or drove mopeds. This was very common. The metro, their version of the subway was widely used to maneuver throughout the city. This is much the same way that it is in major cities here in the United States. Often times, roads were narrow and facilitated riding mopeds or bicycles to navigate. It fit perfectly for what I had envisioned Paris to be all about. The tickets from the metro littered the streets like confetti often does after a large celebration. I particularly enjoyed the convenience of having different storefronts in close proximity to one another. From Boulangeries, fresh breads, particularly baguettes, croissants, pain au chocolat to name a few could be purchased. Patisseries, were another staple, you could purchase pastries and desserts. Creperies offered either sweet crepes, or galettes, which were savory. The Best Western, where we stayed while in Paris, was centrally located. Anything you could want was a mere block or two away. The metro stop was just across the street as well as cafes where I could stop for an early café before we headed out for the day.
Another thing that I found very different, were that the taxicabs were mostly Mercedes Benz and BMW’s. These were economy cars. I have yet to see an entire city of Mercedes being utilized for taxicabs other than in Paris. The hotel rooms were modern and adequate. The size of the rooms, were small in comparison to what we are accustomed to. Like I have mentioned before, the hotel is there to crash, that’s about it. Approximately three blocks away, a vast selection of restaurants could be chosen from. Any type of cuisine could be found with very little effort. Many of these restaurants offered dinners on a tier priced basis in addition to a la carte. For a modest fee, a salad, entrée and dessert could be purchased anywhere from thirteen to twenty euros. I thought that was a pretty good deal. I tried to base my selections on what I could not get here in the U.S. France is recognized for their food, and I wasn’t going to be the one to shy away from anything outside of the norm. When in France…
Amidst my travels around the city, I did realize that almost every single person that I encountered were extremely friendly. I noticed that the shop owners appreciated my attempt to use their native tongue, however bad I butchered it when placing my orders. On one instance in particular, everyone else was in bed, and I was not ready to shut down for the evening. I put on my jacket and headed out for dinner, it was a solo mission. I heard from my fellow classmates how good the sweet crepes were, and wanted to try for myself. I walked up to the restaurant district and found a creperie that offered sandwiches, on baguettes on course. The sandwich that caught my eye consisted of fresh mozzarella, prosciutto and roasted red peppers, you cannot go wrong with that combination. I ordered in my version of French. The shopkeeper smiled and understood what I was saying. I was almost done with my dinner when he brought over a sweet crepe filled with Nutella. He said “for you”. I think it was his way of thanking me for at least trying to speak in his native tongue. It was very nice of him, and saved me from ordering one when I left, which was my intention all along. I told him in French how good my dinner was, and thank you very much. I made it a point to visit him another day, not looking for any freebies, simply because it made an impression on me. This was very similar to the café that I would go to in the early morning. It only took a day or two for the barista to recognize me, and I barely had to order what I wanted. Every morning, he tried to give croissants and pain au chocolat my way, when all I was looking for was a little coffee to get the day going. When I say coffee, I mean espresso. On one of the many mornings that I hung out with my journal in the morning, watching people walk by while enjoying my little cup of powerful Joe, I watched two gentleman exit the café with a tray full of at least twelve individual espressos. They sat down at the table across from me and started in on them like tequila shooters. One after another until the tray was empty. I was in amazement.
The one thing that I realized no matter where I went in France was that there was no sense of hurry. You could sit at the café for hours, like I usually did and enjoy your coffee, read a book, or even write in your journal. Nobody looked at you strangely for sitting there for as long as you would like. The waiters, or waitresses would not hurry you along looking for table turnover like here in the states. You simply had to ask your server for the check when you were finished. You didn’t even have to tip them due to the fact that most of them were salaried employees. It was nice and relaxing to be able to sit, relax and enjoy yourself. This was true in all establishments that we visited and felt kind of odd to begin with. We naturally get the check as soon as we tell our server that we are finished and are expected to pay and leave. This was quite the contrary in France. Even though Paris is a large city similar to New York, the level of stress that I felt seemed small in comparison. Maybe it was due to only staying there for a week.
The first thing that I noticed in Paris was that all of the buildings looked similar. They were no taller than six stories and all had the same architecture and color. Many of the buildings had little porches that overlooked the street. These were lined with assorted flowers. The windows did not have screens attached to them. The flowers were utilized as natural bug repellent. It was quite beautiful. When you consider how young our country is, the age of the buildings in France is phenomenal. It is common for buildings to be four to five to six hundred years old. We even went to a church where the bell tower was over 1,000 years old. The original bell tower that still stood was around for more than five hundred years before Columbus sailed to the new world. The age and history that was all around us while we were there is hard to put into words. It really makes you feel small when you think of the things that have occurred in our world, while these buildings were standing.
Everywhere we turned there was construction. Cranes rose up far in the sky, as buildings were being renovated and built all around. This was especially so in Rennes. It felt as if the entire city was under construction at the same time. Everywhere you looked there were cranes and construction sites. As I walked, the skyline looked familiar on all sides. I was informed that much of the construction was being done to accommodate the new high-speed train and its station. This would enable people to live in the quiet, highly manageable city of Rennes and work in Paris. The train ride would only be one hour long. This city was up and coming. I enjoyed both cities that I had the fortune of staying in while in France. I could see myself living in Rennes.