Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Perspectives on Paris

I took the train to Paris today for meetings. It was a quick 4 hour trip from Amsterdam on the train. Here are a few observations from the day....

1) I think I watched an attempted pickpocketing occur on the metro. A man snatched a woman's iPhone from her front pocket but she caught him and yelled at him. Then he just stood there nearby before going upstairs. When he got off at the next stop, he was carrying 2 phones....

2) Parts of the train stations smell like urine. I discovered later that there's an open urinal on the street for the taxi drivers (literally a ceramic wall out in the open) but I think the local homeless must be the culprits in other areas. In addition, as in Amsterdam - dog poo on the streets is common.

3) Unlike in Amsterdam, shop attendants aren't always happy to speak in English. I was approached by a woman in a shop today and when I told her I was sorry that I didn't speak French, she gave me a thin smile and turned and walked away.

4) At dinner tonight we had a large group (15 at least). Everything was pre-ordered, but one of our colleagues doesn't eat meat. He didn't know it would be a pre-ordered menu, so he didn't tell the organizer ahead of time. The main course was chicken. When he saw someone else eating fish down the table, he asked the waiter if he might also be able to get fish. The waiter's response: "It is NOT possible." When my colleague said "I can't get the same dish that woman has?" the waiter said "NO. It is not possible." When my colleague said "but I don't eat meat" the waiter agitatedly said "It's not my problem. It's not possible. Do you understand?" A few moments later a different colleague whispered the situation to our host, who promptly requested the fish and 5 minutes later, my co-worker got a meal he could eat. I understand that group dinners can really stress a kitchen but geez!

I was here 10 years ago and didn't have quite the same experiences. Maybe we just caught some folks on a bad day? The hotel staff was quite nice and our French hosts were great - so I'm holding out hope that these were isolated incidents. Regardless, Paris is a beautiful city - especially at night.

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