Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Le French Kiss

David Letterman pronounces his top ten list each evening. Here is mine:

“What are the top ten reasons for coming to Paris?”

#10 - The Louvre. It is certainly an experience within itself. Plan to spend several days in this former royal palace. When they say it’s big, they aren’t kidding. I once told my mom that it was the size of about nine shopping malls. So, bring some comfortable walking shoes while you are here. Believe me, you will be glad you did.

#09 - The Musee d’Orsay. This museum is certainly worth a visit. It holds the 19th century art that the Louvre doesn’t have. The building itself was a former train station and is a magnificent work in architecture.

#08 - Le Musee RodinThe house is a bit crowded, but absolutely make sure to check out the garden. Monsieur Rodin's larger works are outside and set amongst the lush greenery. Plus, it's only a couple of euros to enter the exterior.

#07 - Walking, walking, walking. Did I say walking? Explore the streets without the guidebook and find much more richness than you would otherwise. Perhaps you will come upon a fabulous street performer. Or maybe you will find the most spectacular pattiserie, displaying all its delectables. One never knows what will happen, but it most assuredly will be something good.

#06 - THE FOOD. There is a reason why I wrote that in caps. What can I say, the food is marvelous. From the cafes to the fine dining not to mention the bakeries and chocolatiers. I frankly can’t pass by a pattiserie without ordering one of the scrumptious items that are practically calling to me from the window display.

#05 - ...and speaking of window displays, that just happens to be number five on my list. Parisians turn window displays into the ultimate art form. Luscious colors and decadent placement actually making window shopping fun. There is a reason why the French call window shopping leche-vitrine, which literally translates as licking the windows. You will want to do so yourself.

#04 - The Eifel Tower. One can’t miss this icon that is known around the world. Check it out during the day and then make sure to look at it again in the evening. The lit tower against the dark sky is worth a glance or two.

#03 - Shopping like a Parisian. While supermarkets are an unfortunate side affect of modern-day Paris, why not step into a time machine and shop like a more traditionalist would. Buy cheese from the fromager (cheese shop); fruit from the fruitier (fruit shop), meat from the boucher (butcher), etc. They are the experts in each of their fields. So, leave the supermarket shopping at home and experience the decadence of shopping for the best of everything.

#02 - Notre Dame. Whether you are Catholic or not, come visit one of the most beautiful representations of Gothic architecture anywhere in the world. Spend time viewing the art or even be a rebel like me. I have been known to meditate during mass. What can I say, it's magnifique!

And the number one reason for coming to Paris…drum roll please…

#01 - Everyone kisses all over the place in Paris!

Seeing the amount of people making-out with each other here in public is a site upon itself. Parents drop off their kids at school and they kiss each other as the child goes into class. Visit any of the numerous parks and watch couples kissing. Take a stroll down the street and witness more people kissing. Even the French tutorial program on PBS, French in Action shows two people kissing on a bench during the credits.

Just last night on the train I sat in section of four chairs facing each other on the train and a young couple decided that facing me while only inches away was the perfect place for them to express their lust for each other. Admittedly my shock-ometer went off. I mean, my goodness it wasn’t a party! I am old enough to be their mother! My point is, they don’t care if you are there or not. The kissing is what is important for them. The French are Latins after all and there isn’t a puritanical bone in site.

Let’s face it they don’t call it a French kiss for nothing. After the initial shock wears off, one realizes it is nice that the French are so demonstrative in their public displays of affection. We Americans could learn a thing or two here. What makes public displays of affection taboo at home? Yes, people occasionally do it, but it’s more like they are getting away with something. The French express their natural inclination wherever they are without worrying what others think. There is nothing to worry about after all—it’s just a kiss.

That being said, I must admit that as an American I am a bit uncomfortable with the mandatory kissing of each cheek when you meet a friend or even if you are just meeting someone for the first time. After an introduction, expect their face lunging its way into your space for the mandatory two kisses—one on each cheek.

Indeed, I have been known to throw out my hand before some stranger I just met has an opportunity to lunge in for the double kiss. However, after a time, I decided to take my own advice. I am in France after all and this is their country. I am packing away the handshake greeting and the discomfort button of kissing a stranger while I am here and do as the French do. Double kissing—here I come. Vive la France!

If you plan to visit France and perhaps stay awhile, be prepared to do some kissing, whether it’s the romantic kind or the friendly kind they certainly do a lot of it here.

Thank you for reading and bonne journée!