Wednesday, May 23, 2007

05.22.07 Some new, Some old

As you may know, I studied architecture in Versailles, just outside of Paris, for one year in 1995-96. I have also been back to Paris several times since then, but is has been 8 years since I was here last. Some things have changed, some have not.

The New:
I was a bit surprised and sad to see a Starbucks on every corner (just about). I don’t know why this was a surprise to me. I guess that I associate Paris with the place that I developed my life-long addiction to coffee, and it saddens me to see coffee in Paris Americanized like everything else. For me, Paris is the quintessential cafĂ© city, and it doesn’t need Starbucks. I am even sadder to report that I stopped at one for a chocolate donut this morning. … oops. It was a moment of weakness after an all night international flight.

The other obvious new thing in the past 8 years is the changes in technology. I have already sent emails, posted on my blog, and I made a cell phone call from the Pont des Arts to my wife back in suburban Chicago that was clear as a bell. Ironically, the connection cell connection from Paris 4000 miles away was far better than when I try to call home from the college that I work at just 22 miles from my house. The last time I was here it was a telephone card and a payphone….those days are happily gone.

The Old:
Paris still smells the same. It is hard to describe, but it is a uniquely Paris mixture of diesel fuel pollution, cigarette smoke, and a hint of urine. Strangely enough I love the smell of Paris.

I guess a number of other things make this still the same old Paris. There is still dog poop on the sidewalk, my favorite tourist trap…. the hordes of tourists are still here, and the city is as alive and vibrant as ever. The other thing that hasn’t changed is that Paris still has some of the best urban spaces in the world. As I walked around the city today, It felt great to revisit some of my old favorite places. It is good to be back in Paris!


  1. In the land of pain au chocolat, you got a chocolate donut???!!! Only severe delusional jetlag could possibly explain that. We better hear some blogging about REAL french food, like french fries and french toast next!

    Julie and Brian

  2. ...or french dressing.

    although my first meal in Paris last time I was there was a grec frite, but that's parisian dammit...well, sorta:D

    hey, le violin dingue is still there too, on that one street by the Pantheon if yer jonesin for some more reliving of the golden days.

  3. yeah - we walked by the crazy violin, and lso ate at tuti gusti in Versailles..... no nore starbucks, I promise!

  4. I find it perfectly ecceptable that you stopped in Starbucks. One of the students I studied with this past year, in Versailles, not only had all the Starbucks memorized, but knew how many electrical sockets each one had. I don't know what was sadder being American and craving Starbucks or being overworked and needing to know where electrical sockets are available.

    I think you hit the description of the Parisian smell right on the head.