Sunday, March 23, 2014

Spring is here!

The pollution is gone. Thursday, the first day of spring, brought weather that very much seemed in tune with the season, with bright blue, sunny skies, warm temperatures, and a constant breeze that blew away all that nasty particulate pollution that had caused alerts on previous days. The weather has since veered towards cooler temperatures and a constant alternation between sunny skies and brief showers, which is typical for Paris at this time of year. The pollution has remained low, which is where it is most of the time.

Today there are elections in France, mostly municipal. As a foreigner, I can’t vote … but I’ve never voted anywhere, anyway. All candidates tend to be ambitious liars in any election, so it’s hard to distinguish among them, unless one of them is very obviously more evil than the others. As a result, voting is often just a roll of the dice. I don’t know who will become mayor of Paris, but hopefully it will be someone who won’t do too much damage to the city.

On the equinox (Thursday, that is), I spent about half an hour getting something to eat at lunchtime, and I took a few pictures of the area around the Champs, which is also the area where I work. The trees won’t be green for another month, but the weather was magnificent, and it was nice to see blue skies again, instead of a brown haze. In this post you can see a panoramic that I shot at around 3 pm on the side of the Arc de Triomphe opposite the Champs (the avenue de la Grande Armée). The nature of the pano shot distorted the moving cars a bit, but it’s still interesting.

I stopped at Marks & Spencer on the Champs to buy some lunch—specifically, some tikka masala. It wasn’t very good, especially given its €4.50 price tag. But then I noticed that it was the “low-fat” version, which people back at work told me was vastly inferior to the “regular” version, which I had somehow missed. Maybe I’ll try again sometime. The price is a bit high, though. Oddly enough, the food hall at M&S seems to be much more popular than any other part of this relatively small store. You wouldn’t expect French people to flock to a British food hall to buy their lunch, but that’s what seems to happen. Maybe it’s just snobbery. What I tasted did not impress me—I can get better tikka masala at Carrefour.

The Tiffany & Co. store on the Champs is still under construction. One wonders what exactly is being done to it that has required so much time. I could not be less interested in the types of merchandise sold by Tiffany, but I’m sure it will appeal more to all those nouveaux riches Third-World tourists than the fast-food restaurant that it replaces ever did.

I still see identically dressed hobos in front of Abercrombie & Fitch. Only they are not hobos, they are salespeople. They wear all wearing the same torn jeans the last time I passed. The tears were even in the same locations on each pair of jeans. And yet people buy stuff there. There’s a sucker born every minute.

It is said that Parisians themselves avoid the Champs like the plague, because it is considered to be just for tourists. That’s an exaggeration, though, since there are indeed Parisians on the avenue, including myself. They are hugely outnumbered by tourists, however. I’m on the avenue every weekday, in fact, but that’s mainly because of the proximity of my workplace … I doubt that I’d go out of my way to visit the area regularly were it not on my commuting route. There are some interesting stores on the street (such as the FNAC, traditionally one of my favorites, even if it’s slipping a bit nowadays), but a lot of tacky, overpriced tourist traps, too, like A&F, Banana Republic, Lacoste, Cartier, Louis Vuitton, and so on. I note that the parallel side streets show an increasing number of sketchy clubs and such; I’m not sure to which category of tourists they appeal, but I’m pretty sure that it’s a category I’d rather not encounter myself.

I learned a few days ago that Burger King is now going to come back to France, following the spectacular success of the store they reopened by the Saint Lazare train station. I’ve also learned that Chipotle has two stores in Paris, so one of these days I’m going to visit one of them and check it out. I still wish Dunkin’ Donuts or Krispy Kreme would come to Paris.

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