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Groggy last day in Paris

As people who read my twitterings will know, I was up late and kept up later by noisy neighbors. After deliberation (call the police, call the front desk, call in some members of a mob) I decided to call their room and explain exactly what I was going to have done to them if they didn’t shut up. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that they were more bloody stupid americans… Anyway, I had to get up ridiculously early this morning, and the late nights/early mornings/jet lag combination is really starting to tell, and I’m getting sick of milky French coffee — I really do wish I had been able to make the Italy trip! Well, no-matter how exhausted I may be, I am going to enjoy this last day in Paris!

I had a smashing day yesterday, even if I had to work essentially all of it. As I described in my last post, I had a most entertaining people watching stop-in at a café, and I do so love moments like those. While my afternoon was filled right up with work, things got far more interesting on the way back to my hotel. There was a woman in the metro stop playing the Bach Chaconne so well that I had to pause and gave her a 20Euro note (it was the only note I had on me) before my train arrived. I wonder if this can really be considered people watching? I know it falls under the description in that it involved watching people (or a person), but it somehow had the feel of a private concert, rather than a glimpse into another’s life. Anyway, I was put into a throughly good mood by this experience, and hardly cared that the man next to me on the metro smelled rather and had the tendency to talk to himself in completely incomprehensible French.

I got off at Saint-Michel (I do so enjoy a walk through the Quartier Latin) and headed back to my hotel. On the way I found myself behind a family of 3 — man, woman and child. The child was very young, I don’t imagine more than 5 or 6, and was clinging to the woman’s hand (though perhaps it would be more accurate to say that the woman was keeping a firm grip on the girl). The woman was holding hands with the man, and the entire family unit walked a ways as such. I followed them past Shakespeare & Co. and watched them turn left and cross to Notre Dame. What stood out to me was their complete silence; they never said a single word. This may not seem strange, and perhaps it isn’t, but at the time I was quite struck by it. It would seem that at least the little girl would have something to babble or whine about. I so often find that little kids are always going on about something, but this one was absolutely silent, not a single sound. And the two adults didn’t so much as look at each other.

As I continued to think about the family while on the way back to my hotel, I was struck not by the oddness of their silence, but the power of their togetherness. They were silent in that they didn’t need to make a sound. They were together, and enjoying the experience of being together, without the need for verbal communication. It was a remarkable glimpse into their lives, and I consider a highly successful episode of people watching.

Today was really quite lovely as well and I am looking forward to the rest of my evening. Even though I know that I will be leaving tomorrow, I am happy to have enjoyed the small trip, and am trying not to think about the time in Italy that now will not happen. More blogging will ensue.

Love Affairs

So, as I recently twittered, I had a highly entertaining people watching session this afternoon while at a café. I was on a lunch break between meetings and so thought I’d sit at one of those cafés in front of the Sorbonne (rather touristy, but fantastic for people watching). While I know that most people are highly against mobile phone use in public places (buses, airport terminals, standing in queues for theatre tickets) I have a very different view of the matter: I love the opportunity to get a one-sided glimpse into someone’s life. You see, a phone conversation allows for far more imaginative involvement than a face-to-face conversation. For example, if I were to hear two people talking about their plans to pick up something for Uncle Fred, I’d perhaps more easily understand that they were referring to a pound of steak. If on the other hand I were to hear only one side of the conversation, my imagination would allow me to fill in the missing details and I might arrive at the conclusion that some sort of illegal activity was about to take place. As you see, far more interesting.

Well anyway, while sipping my hot cocoa at the café, I tuned into the phone conversation being had by a rather middle-aged man sitting just back and to the left of me. His conversation was confusing, until I realised that he had to be talking to a lover about the difficulties he was running into with his wife! By the time I puzzled this out, I was thanking myself for being fluent in French, and working hard to commit the gist of the conversation to my memory. The man was essentially saying that his wife was getting much clingier, and that he was going to be having great difficulty in continuing to arrange time away from home for their little trysts. I had to wonder whether he was being honest, or if the infatuation had worn off and he was simply trying to get rid of the girl. I was also quite amazed that he would be talking like this in such a public place! But then again, the French are much less inhibited in the ways of love, aren’t they…

The chap continued for some time, both placating her (though then again, it could well have been a him as he used no name) and distancing himself. There were some particularly sick-making portions of the conversation that would have turned anyone’s stomach, but left me eager for more. I wish I had had a little recording device with me to capture the conversation for later transcription, but I realise that that might be a bit indiscreet, and perhaps not exactly an activity smiled upon by the eyes of the law. Oh well, paraphrasing is more blogable (is that a real word? it must be) anyway.

So, after I’d say about 10 or 15 minutes, (I was on my second hot cocoa by this time — really lovely stuff it was too!) when I was admittedly getting a titch bored, I heard the man mutter a quick goodbye and hang up. I looked around on the pretext that I’d been watching someone walk by, and saw that a woman had arrived at the table. She was quite pretty, though of the same middle-aged appearance as the man, and was dressed rather strikingly in a flowered dress of the sort I might expect to see on Grace Kelly. I rather rapidly arrived at the conclusion that this woman had to be that chap’s wife, and now I would get a better picture of the relationships going on.

The man greeted his wife and asked her if she would like anything, to which she replied that she would like some hot chocolate (I quickly decided to like the lady). They sat in silence for a while, and when the hot cocoa arrived, she sipped it. Finally he remarked on the fineness of the day (debatable as there was a chill, and a definitely drizzle in the air). From discussion of the weather (more of a monologue I suppose than a discussion), he suddenly turned the conversation to how lovely she (his wife) was, and how much he loved her. She asked him where this sudden outpouring of emotion had come from, and he (in the typical manner) asked why he should have to have a reason other than the fact that she was the most wonderful creature in existence and that he was the luckiest man ever to live, to be married to her.

Unfortunately at this point I discovered that I was going to be late for my next round of meetings and had to dash off. I will never know if the man was being sincere or not. What a pity. But it does leave room for the imagination to fill in the rest of the story, now doesn’t it, and as I’ve said, I do so love to have room for my imagination to work.

Until later then!

No Italy After All

Got in late, found message waiting from boss. Turns out a deal went through ahead of schedule and now there isn’t any reason for me to go to Milan. I’m admittedly a bit disappointed as I was really looking forward to returning to Italy (it has been rather a long time) and to the fantastic people watching I would be able to partake of. Oh well, I’ll just have to make do with 2 more days in Paris, though they will be insanely busy with work. Oh sod it! look at the time. Blast.

Good night Blogosphere

P.S. I saw the sweetest thing tonight, a young couple out on a date. Both dressed up beautifully, he with a flower at his lapel and she with a lovely bouquet of flowers. It is so lovely to see real, old-fashioned love.

Bloody Stupid Americans

Just popped in to grab something before heading out to some clubs. Had a smashing dinner, quite cleared the sour taste of Sunday afternoon business affairs and almost put me into holiday mode! But must not let myself think of this as some sort of a mini break, must continue with business as usual… Blahh.

Anyway, while waiting for the Maître d’hôtel to seat us, I had the most wonderful opportunity to observe typical obnoxious americans. I realise that this is not a particularly exciting or original first people watching post, but it is tried and true, and I have literally only 5min to waste before I have to head out again. It seemed to be a couple in their late 30s, maybe 40s or later, so hard to tell really. They were seated in what they had determined to be an unsuitable location in the dining room, and were explaining to the waiter the necessity of a move. The poor waiter was obviously not in a position to grant the couple’s wish, and seemed to be fighting back the only way he could think of; that is, he was slowly but surely acting more and more French, and loosing by the second his ability to comprehend English. It really was great fun to watch, and I was completely absorbed in it. I felt sad that I didn’t have a little spy camera with which to take pictures of the circus.

From what I could understand of the conversation, it seemed that the couple had heard about the restaurant  in some american travel journal or other, and the article in question had been particularly precise in its recommendation for acceptable seating arrangements. What I was completely unable to fathom (as neither apparently was the waiter) was exactly what the importance of location could have, considering that the dining area consisted of only a single room, and not a particularly large one at that. When Maître d’hôtel did turn his attention to the fuss being made, it seemed that even he could get no more reason from the couple (I might add that the primarily guilty party was the woman) then that they had read about it in the magazine article. To me this highlighted a rather unfortunate stereotype attached to americans. That is, their unbelievable, pig-headed stupidity. Having spent a rather large amount of time in the United States, I can attest that the majority of them are decidedly not stupid, but for some reason, it would seem that obnoxious travelers are almost always americans! I’m sure there are good reasons for why this is so; perhaps I’ll give it some more time later.

Oh blast, I do seem to have gotten a bit carried away here. I don’t even have time to proof-read. Oh well, maybe I’ll come back and tidy up later. It seems possible to do that.

Paris Day 2

Ahh, Paris. No matter how many times I visit I will never loose that joy I feel waking up to my first full day. No matter how clichéd it may seem, there really is something magical about Paris. I really haven’t had much time to blog, having been in meetings all day, and as am about to head out for the evening with a group of acquaintances I really don’t have time to say much now. What I will say is that knowing I plan to write my observations down has already added a touch of spice to my usual people watching activities. I’ve started taking a slightly more active role in my observing. There is something fantastic about looking at people and thinking to ones self — “what would that person and his/her activities look like in print?” I’ve collected some lovely stories, and even a couple candid pictures to share, but I’m afraid they will have to wait a bit until I have some more time. It really was too bad to have to have meetings on a Sunday! They weren’t really necessarily “official meetings”, really more informal than those silly things in rooms with long tables and white boards, but they were what you might call, “unavoidable group conversations with significant implications for the industry”. Oh bugger. But never mind, I have 3 lovely days here, and then it’s onto the train to Italia. I’ll definitely be able to write then.

And so it begins

So, I have started a blog. Shocking really, as it had never really occurred to me before to do such a thing. The idea came to me rather suddenly just a couple days ago. I was sitting in the Philadelphia airport waiting for a flight to Paris. Rather than reading the briefs I was supposed to be studying, I was partaking in that age-old tradition of persons finding themselves in public places: people watching. To be exact, I was watching people trying on Bose headphones. There is something fascinating about peoples’ attraction to Bose headphones, there really is. There was a constant stream of travelers pausing in their dashes between gates, to try on the bulky things, and try to convince themselves that they really should buy a pair. Really, if someone wanted to spread a deadly disease they wouldn’t do badly if they were to contaminate the demonstration headphones in airport Bose shops.

As I watched, I was overcome by an urge to talk about the people I was watching. I felt a desire to have a friend sitting next to me with whom I could gossip. The people were too entertaining for me to enjoy by myself. It was then that I had the sudden idea of starting a blog! And why not, what better a way to share the joy I take in people watching? And so here I am, starting just such a blog. I don’t know if people will find the subject enjoyable or not, only time will tell, but I do hope you take some pleasure in this blog, it is a labour of love, and I am looking forward to keeping you updated as to my people watching adventures.