Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Smokey Paris

Bonjour from Paris, "The City of Light." Or more accurately, the city where everybody lights up.

Since I was last here four years ago the biggest change is that smoking has been banned in all restaurants, bars and inside all buildings open to the public. The most booming business in town is the one that prints all of those "defense de fumer" (no smoking) signs.

That has not gone over well in a city of 2.5 million nicotine-philes. Where is C. Everett Koop when you need him?

Parisian women are every bit as lovely as I remember them. If they'd only stop dangling those cigarettes from their lips.

The smoking ban has driven Parisians outdoors. Despite damp and cool weather, outside seating, where one can smoke, is the busiest section of any restaurant. As a result Paris sidewalks are hazier than any "coffee shop" in Amsterdam.

The hardest thing to find in Paris is good reasonably priced French food. I made the mistake of ordering "sausages and french fries" at a restaurant thinking I would get a mixture of meats and seasonings rolled in a casing. Instead I got boiled weiners. I've had better hot dogs at Le Costco.

At the bistro next to our hotel I was charged 4 Euros for a cafe au lait. That's 5 bucks! No wonder the most popular restaurant in Paris is the ubiquitous McDonalds. And no wonder the French seem to be constantly cheesed off at us.

My inability to accurately pronounce French words and phrases is a dead give away that they've got an "Americano" on their hands. More often than not, the result is a discernable change in attitude on the part of the person that you're dealing with.

Except for fashion (Parisians are always very stylish and beautifully turned out -especially in comparison to British men who, left to their own devices prefer to dress like soccer hooligans-) the reputation for French savoir-faire is a savoir-fairy tale.

One Santa Barbaran who seems to do very well here is Katy Perry. The Dos Pueblos High grad's song "Hot 'N Cold" is number 10 on the French pop charts and her picture is currently on the cover of at least one French magazine.

Well you know what they say, "50 million Frenchmen can't be wrong!"