That’s right, gang. It’s June 15 which marks exactly one month since I arrived (May 15) and one month until I return (July 15). Pretty crazy, right?! Since I now have lived in two of the greatest nations’ capital cities, I present to you the following lists to commemorate this momentously bittersweet occasion.
Top Things Paris is doing better than DC
Step into any boulangerie and you’ll smell what I mean. Unless you go for the artesanal Harris Teeter Bakery loaves, most of the bread we eat in the States is square and comes in a colorful bag. Which is not to say that stuff doesn’t exist here because I guess some people make sandwiches out of it. The last bag of “pain de mie” we bought was actually called “American Sandwich” I kid you not. But that’s because the French have even perfected the sandwich beyond what we can handle in America. Take a look at the popular baguette sandwich. Compact, flavorful, hearty, everything I love in a sandwich plus the added benefit of being on a crusty, delicious baguette rather than sad squishy square bread slices. And a secondary thing Paris does better…Butter instead of Mayonnaise. Seriously. They serve sandwiches that are literally butter and ham on a baguette. Brilliant.
Seriously, take a look at these buildings in Paris and then compare them to ours…
I have two words for you, DC: Bling Bling.
Seriously though, sometimes I think that America is so obsessed with being “middle class” “real America” that we never let ourselves have any fun! The French are not like that. They take pride in being elitist and wealthy and that is why every park has the trees painstakingly pruned into squares, and all the domes are gilded in gold. Even the Eiffel Tower sparkles 4 times a night!
3) Public Transportation.
I am all about a good public transportation system. Unfortunately, DC’s is mediocre at best. The pricing is funky, the stops are far away from each other and don’t cover every part of DC, the infrastructure isn’t all that advanced… The Paris metro, on the other hand, basically takes the best things about DC’s metro (the cleanliness (usually), the special permanent cards, the name…) and combines it with the NY Subway (the frequency of stops, the hundreds of different lines, the character of the underground city, the frequency of trains, the flat-rate payment system, the ability to buy monthly or annual passes, etc) to create an awesome SUPER MÉTRO whose only fault is that it closes around 2am even on weekends. In a city where the sun doesn’t go down until 10:30, 1:30 feels early! Even Paris’s bike share program Vélib’ makes more sense and is more comprehensive than DC’s Capital Bikeshare.
I’m going to let these pictures tell that story…
I suppose this one is pretty unfair, since France was casually sipping wine and complaining about going grey when the United States was teething. But still, there’s nothing cooler than walking into a Palace or old Cathedral and realizing just how old these stones are.
7.5) Lax open container laws.
I don’t understand the point of picnicing in beautiful public parks if you can’t have some wine with your baguette sandwich. You really need to sort this one out, America!
Top Things DC is doing better than Paris
1) Phase-out of cigarettes.
2) 24 hour stores.
Because sometimes you just really need some chocolate at 1:30 am, but all the stores around you close at 9, so you can either go to a sit-down place that’s still open and hope they have good desserts on the menu or if you’re desperate, swipe into the Métro just to use the vending machines (which has indeed happened…)
The French have a bizarre habit of separating their toilet from the rest of the water-based appliances that we assume would go in a bathroom. Where in America we often judge the seediness of an establishment based on how tidy the bathroom is, here they’re all sort of awkwardly stuffed in horrifying closets with the sink across the hall. And while Americans tend to keep bathroom doors open to indicate when a bathroom is unoccupied, here doors are always kept shut, because who really wants to walk down the hall and see that?
The streets here have no lanes. The traffic lights are tiny and off to the side. Half the streets are one way but I have yet to see a sign indicator. You really have to search to find the street signs irregularly hung on the sides of buildings. Oh and also this:
That’s literally a convergence of 12 Avenues, the two biggest of which are 8 lanes wide…so like a million lanes of traffic in a giant free for all of death. Which all amounts to the reason I will never drive, but especially not in Paris.
5) Keeping things open on Sundays.
France rarely does this. Most grocery stores, bakeries, etc, are closed by noon, if they were even open at all. Makes it really difficult if you have no food because you haven’t had time to go grocery shopping because you’ve been working all week and your first day off is…you guessed it: Sunday.
6) FREE MUSEUMS.
Paris has some of the best museums in the WORLD…which I would have even more incentive to visit if I didn’t have to pay 3 euro every time… (They are really great about having reduced young person (usually age 12-25) prices almost everywhere, and many museums let students in for free, as long as you show your ID!)