Category Archives: paris

science with steph

I am sorry I have been absent from the blog for a week, but with guests in town and my attempt at some deep thought about French culture, I have been otherwise occupied.  That, and I was drinking wine and could not focus very well.

Science with Steph:  My Scientific Analysis of French Culture

I am not a scientist and therefore my skills for proper analysis are shabby, but that doesn’t stop me from trying.  I like to think of this as science for the everyman/woman.

I should not admit that I attempted to create a chart in Excel to give you some legitimate visual evidence with my analysis of French culture, but when I could not make Excel be simple enough, I chose to hand draw it instead. Be prepared to be impressed.  Either that, or be prepared to feel bad for me that I actually spent some time on this.

Here is my analysis in a nutshell, proving that I am neither a scientist nor very good at art (I even Instagramed it to make it look more like art):

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To consider modern-day France, you must first conjure of memories of the US in the 1970s.  Close your eyes and try to remember life before seatbelts and lawsuits…………………

Hypothesis:  When it comes to personal health and welfare in France, the motto is “You’re on Your Own, Bub.”

Supporting Evidence #1:

Remember those merry-go-rounds on the playgrounds of our youth on which a kid broke his/her arm on an annual basis?  The kind where, it you weren’t careful, you could actually get barfed on if your recess was after lunch?  Yes, they are still the hot playground accessory on all of the very few French playgrounds.  And the kids still gravitate to them like flies on shit.

Case in point:

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And the merry-go-round is just the tip of the iceberg on a French playground. Metal slides perfect for sliding fast while ripping your skin off in the heat? Got ’em.  Hammock-style swings with big wood bars on the ends perfect for noggin damage (as seen in the background behind the merry-go-round)? Yep.  See saw perfect for breaking your tailbone or your leg? Oh yes and the list goes on………………

Supporting Evidence #2:

Walk on to any cultural landmark in France and there is no disclaimer in sight. Not one: “Enter at Your Own Risk,” or “The Owners of this Property Cannot Be Held Liable for Any Type of Accident,” sign in view.  Rather, there are sheer cliffs without guard rails, almost tempting you to jump off or at least go close enough to the edge to look over it and subsequently fall off. I think that if you were to actually fall off, they would automatically check the box that says “American Tourist” on your death certificate because only a person who lives in the US, in a culture of fear/lawsuits, would be so fascinated by the lax safety rules of France to walk to the edge of a sheer cliff.  I know this for a fact.

Supporting Evidence #3:

Pools? I have never seen a “No Running Around the Edge of the Pool” sign. Nor a “No Diving” sign.  In fact, I’ve never even seen a sign of rules at a pool here. You must wear a speedo and swim cap, but other than that, you’re on your own.

Supporting Evidence #4:

Raw meat.  Tim gets steak tartare on a regular basis at the cafeteria at work.  It is truly a pile of raw hamburger on a plate with a raw egg cracked on top of it.  Can you say “botulism lawsuit” or at least “severe abdominal distress?”

Scientific Conclusion:

The hypothesis is correct.  The French attitude toward health & welfare is, “You’re on your own, Bub.”  This could also be called, the “We can’t save you from yourself,” style of living, popularized in the US in the 1970s.

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burrito black hole

I like cities enough.  I have no desire to live in one at this point in my life, but I love to visit for a day and then I am always more than happy to leave. My first visit to Paris didn’t really fit my typical “love a city visit for a day” mentality. After a full day in Paris, I was chomping at the bit to get out of there. It may have been the bus loads of tourists wearing visors crowding Notre Dame or the swindlers hanging around the Eiffel Tower (which my friend Louise has renamed the “Awful Tower”), but I was more than happy to get out of Paris to the refuge of our small town.  Frankly, my first trip there made me think about making it my last trip there – at least for a while.

In order reinvigorate my desire to return to Paris, I knew it would take some sort of big draw.  Would it be an art opening?  Or a music festival?  I wish I could say that it was something somewhat cultural, but if I said that I would be fibbing – actually, outright lying.  My desire to give Paris another chance could be boiled down to one factor:  the need for some good ethnic food.

Coming from Vermont, it might be easy to assume that I’m not used to getting good ethnic food.  Mais, non!  Vermont has great mix of ethnic food.  Ok, so do the burritos from Vermont make you think you’re in Mexico?  Maybe not, but a least you can buy them and they’re always tasty.

Need Thai, Vietnamese, Ethiopian, Middle Eastern, Indian or Chinese? Vermont’s got most of what you’re looking for. Fontainebleau on the other hand, has many cool things, but ethnic food (of any sort) is not one of them.  It’s like a curry black hole here.  I realized that to bust out of my ethnic food void, I would need to hop the train back to Paris.

I was planning to go by myself (while the kids were otherwise occupied), but at the last-minute Tim decided to join me.  I warned him that the purpose of this expedition was not cultural in any other way than the involvement of cultural food.

In preparation for the trip, I googled around on some of my favorite Paris blogs to get a sense of what was out there and where it was located.  After my googling, I had two things on my mind, a falafel and a burrito.  We jumped off the train, went the other way from the Eiffel Tower to a funky neighborhood where we sat in bliss with the best falafel in Paris.

By the time dinner rolled around I wasn’t even hungry, but since I had been in such an ethnic food void I couldn’t stop myself from completing my mission.  A long walk across town to another neighborhood and one burrito later, I was over filled and fulfilled.

And as always, an after dinner shot.  Not tequila – only espresso.

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For those of you planning to visit us, get your burrito fix at home. It’s easier than going to Paris.