Top Ten: French Indulgences

There are a few things the French are famous for (cheese, wine, bread, fashion, etc) that everyone raves about and says “I can’t wait to try/see/do _______ when I visit France!” Since my trip is starting to sneak up on me (I’ll be on a flight to Paris A WEEK FROM TODAY), I figured it would be appropriate for me to do a post on some of the most popular “French Indulgences” that I’m looking forward to… well, indulging in while I’m there. Some will definitely be obvious, and some might be a little more… on the “that exists?” side of the argument. My reasoning for some of the indulgences might be a little odd, but sometimes my reasons for why I do things are odd. I like to think it keeps me interesting.

#10 Dining En Plein Air
It might be a little colder in Paris than what I’m used to in Southern California (average temp in Paris for October is around 54 F), but with my cardigan, my scarves, and my long pants (I’ve got three pairs of corduroys on my packing list), I should be quite content. The weather is usually mild enough (not too much rain, no snow) that you’ll see most people dining at the cafés outside! Being outside means you get to do a lot more people watching, which used to be one of my favorite pastimes. It isn’t so much anymore… since I’m so glued to my smartphone. That’s another thing that gets to change. In France, especially when you’re eating with someone (which I plan to do, I’m not going to allow myself to be a loner), you put your phone away, and you talk to that person, or you watch the people around you, or the cars going by, etcetera. I’ll do my usual check-in on Facebook or Foursquare so people can see where I am and where I’ve been, but then the phone goes in my purse, and that’s it. After all, this is what voicemail is for. Another note on the actual dining, as hilarious as it is to visit a restaurant named after the “don’t walk on the grass” sign that is so plentiful in France, I really want to go visit La Pelouse Interdite!

#9 The Scenery
We all know how many great painters have either come out of France, or have done paintings in France, or done paintings of a French scene… it goes on and on. Though the colors of the fashion might be a little muted (by the way, my fashion consultant has told me the main color trend for French women’s fashion this fall are all DARK COLORS), the colors of nature most certainly aren’t. I’ve got a great camera in my possession, and I can’t wait to get some great pictures on it, then proudly display them on my Flickr and Facebook, and bring those pictures back to the camera shop I bought the camera at to get some professional prints done of the photos, since I promised the owner of the shop I’d do it.

#8 The Bizzare Pharmacy Finds
I wonder if French people take some of these gems for granted some times… Diane over at OuiinFrance did a great comprehensive post on some of her favorite items, and some of mine come from that list. How I have managed to live without things like Arnican Pocket (minor skin trauma healer), and tan-boosting pills (and how these things aren’t popular in America), I have no idea. If I could take out stock (meaning if I knew how to take out stock) in these things, I would, because I’m probably going to keep these companies in business single handedly. My mom has access to Biofreeze because of her job, and with all of my aches and pains (and the family’s), she’s become something like a crack dealer with the stuff. I feel like that’s what I’m going to become with some of these products.

#7 The Wine
I’m sure one of the first things college students Google when they get accepted to study abroad is “what’s the drinking age in _________” and they fill in the blank with whatever country they’re visiting. It’s no secret that underage drinking happens during college. There. I said it. It happens. It’s different when you can go somewhere and be legally allowed to order a glass of wine or a margarita with your meal. One of my roommates during my first year of college was from New Zealand, where the drinking age is 18. When we all went out to eat one night, she almost ordered a drink, and then remembered that she’s too young to do that in America. At any rate, the drinking age in France is 18. This means that should I feel so inclined, I can order a glass of wine with my meal at a restaurant. The big irony with the drinking age thing is that I come home from France and turn 21 right after Christmas, so in reality, I’m pretty much perpetually legal once I get to France… Now, bear in mind that I am NOT a drinker. I don’t like how I feel when I drink at all, so I don’t do it. On top of that, one of the conditions I have says that I shouldn’t be drinking much at all, and if I do, I should keep it to a minimum (like a one glass of wine with dinner and that’s it minimum). Then of course, if you watch Dr. Oz, you’ve probably heard that there’s some benefit (to your heart, specifically) to drinking a glass of red wine in moderation. I plan on making the trek out to Bourgogne to pick up a bottle of Beaujolais nouveau in November just to say I did it. I’ll have one glass, and be done with it. From what I’ve heard, picking up a good bottle of wine in France will not break the bank. An acceptable wine is usually found for under a Euro, but try to find the same wine in America, and you’re out $10-20. Some might say I’m a fool if I don’t take advantage of that, but like I said, I do have my health to think about (both sides of the coin).

#6 The People
I want to meet the person (or people) who decided that French people are rude, and give them a good kick in the crotch. At any rate, French people are NOT RUDE! They’re really nice! Time after time, I’ve heard of people telling me about this somewhat stranger they came across in France do something above and beyond for them, like teach them how to tell good wine from bad wine, or where the best foie gras is, or how their heater works in their flat, and they expected nothing in return. Not a thing. Rien. That’s actually how you say “you’re welcome” in French. Do rien actually means “it’s nothing.” If anyone’s rude, it’s US. Think about it, WE go up to French people, and ask them for help IN ENGLISH, and they smile, and try their best to help us. Go to New York, and don’t speak English, and that doesn’t happen. I was talking to a friend about how worried I was about potentially being placed in a flat. Her reaction: “Claire, some little French maman is going to see you and say ‘You have no host mother? Come here my child!’ and take you in.” Tell me that’s not precious. And I’m sure it’ll happen.

#5 The Manners
As I’ve griped about before, I like being polite, and I hate it when people aren’t. France has got to be one of the most polite places in the entire world. I’ll admit, getting the air-kiss greeting down will throw me off initially, but I can’t wait until the day I can officially report that I’ve mastered it. This article on how daunting the French Kiss really is is really quite funny. Sadly, I’m one of those people with the warped sense of humor that will play the game in the “solution” paragraph indefinitely. According to number 19 on this list, I should expect to be kissed twice, starting on the right cheek. I hope everyone in my life that gets to deal with me on a regular basis is ready to get air-kissed when I come back! France is also one of the few places that still puts a big emphasis on “respect your elders.” Students (at least in college [middle school] and lycée [high school]) still stand up when the teacher enters the room, and they don’t talk in class. In my high school classes, we usually didn’t talk during lectures, but I was in higher level (kids who really cared about their education) course. There was an instance when I had to make up a test I had missed, and my teacher had me take it in a colleague’s class that was in session during my lunch period. It was a “normal level” class, and I was placed at the back of the room to take my test. Not only were the students talking during the lecture, but I had unfortunately been sandwiched between two girls who were yelling expletives at the teacher just because they could. Garbage like that doesn’t happen in France, thank goodness. I’m looking forward to see how far the respect goes. I’m thinking I’ll fit in pretty well in this area.

#4 Visiting Le Marché aux Puces
Sound familiar? There are flea markets in Paris! There are plenty of open-air markets (both food and flower) as well. I’m sure they won’t be quite like the Farmer’s Markets I’m used to, but the idea is definitely appealing. I don’t know if I’ll actually buy anything at the flea market, though I do expect the quality of the items to be better than the stereotype that shrouds the flea markets in America. I love the idea of open-air markets. I get to shop, AND walk around at the same time! Two of my favorite things! Shopping and sort-of-exercise! By the way, did you know the French term for “window-shopping” is actually léche-vitrines (window-licking)? Gross!

#3 The Skincare
In America, there are nail salons everywhere. In France, there are spas or places you can get facials. French women get facials ALL THE TIME. The skincare routine focuses more on anti-aging from the get go. Around the age of 15, a mother will give her daughter her first anti-aging skin product as a sort of right of passage, whereas American women look in a mirror, say “oh dear, I look old” and buy their first anti-aging product. I’ve only had one facial in my life before, and I definitely enjoyed it. I wouldn’t mind getting a few more while I’m in France. There’s also a great deal of high-quality skincare lines in France that you either can’t find in America, or it’s really expensive, so I’m looking forward to playing around with some new products, especially since my acne is starting to come back as a result of some of the medication switch-ups I’ve been dealing with recently.

#2 Doing a Whole Lot of Walking
This great guide tells you what NOT to do in Paris (namely, how NOT to be a tourist), and one of things it says to do is to NOT take a cab everywhere (because you can’t just hail one off of the street)! I plan on taking the metro during the week in the essence of time to make sure I get to school when I’m supposed to, but walking is going to be a big thing while I’m not “on the clock,” so to speak. My college campus has a lot of hills, so much so that my calves got so muscle-y and defined, I had to give away a pair of black leather equestrian boots because my calves didn’t fit in them anymore! I LOVE walking, so strolling around Paris just to see what’s around is probably going to come up in a lot of these posts. That article even taught me a new French verb, flâner, meaning “to stroll,” somewhat aimlessly, I would assume. I already knew about faire une promenade meaning “to take a walk,” but flâner just takes it to a whole new level.

#1 Vacation Time
The French know how to relax. I’m not saying they’re lazy, because they aren’t, but they take their vacations seriously. A lot of places actually shut down during the month of August because the people that work there are on vacation! The French are more likely to answer their phones when someone calls them to ask them something about work and say “I’m relaxing, you’re bothering me” and hang up than they are to go figure out how to fix the work-related issue at hand. In another instance, an unemployed French woman said “not now, I’ve got to take care of my dog” when she was asked when she’d start looking for a new job! Of course, that’s for people and work, not people and school. When it comes to school, I should have a couple three-day breaks (you get three-day holidays for things like Armistice Day instead of a single day) as well as an entire week off, neglecting Christmas Break, which I don’t technically get because I’ll be heading back to America. I’m not sure what I’ll do with my time, but I’m hoping my host family (if I get one) will offer to have me go with them on their vacation, even if I have to pay my way. If not, maybe I’ll do some traveling outside Paris with friends. Who knows?

On ne peut désirer ce qu’on ne connaît pas. – Voltaire.

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