Friday, February 25, 2011

Paris Syndrome

The Parisians are legendary for their rudeness. I, of course, knew that before moving here. However, the severity of the situation did not hit me until I was living amongst them. It took me about a year to fully experience the totality of the Parisian rudeness and I can personally attest to the fact that it is much worse than I could ever have imagined. I am a strong willed, bossy broad who does not rattle easily so the idea of moving to a city populated with rude people did not worry me in the least. Plus, I speak the language so I was confident I could give at least as good as I got. However, when your daily interactions are only with people who are nasty and mean, it can become rather stressful. This post is about the weirdest thing I’ve ever heard about this city: that it causes people to literally lose their mind.

“Around a dozen Japanese tourists a year need psychological treatment after visiting Paris as the reality of unfriendly locals and scruffy streets clashes with their expectations. A third of patients get better immediately, a third suffer relapses and the rest have psychoses," Yousef Mahmoudia, a psychologist at the Hotel-Dieu hospital, next to Notre Dame cathedral, told the newspaper Journal du Dimanche. Already this year, Japan's embassy in Paris has had to repatriate at least four visitors -- including two women who believed their hotel room was being bugged and there was a plot against them. Previous cases include a man convinced he was the French "Sun King", Louis XIV, and a woman who believed she was being attacked with microwaves. "Fragile travelers can lose their bearings. When the idea they have of Paris bumps up against the reality of what they discover, it can provoke a crisis," says psychologist Herve Benhamou. The phenomenon, which has been dubbbed "Paris Syndrome", was first detailed in the psychiatric journal Nervure in 2004. Bernard Delage of Jeunes Japon, an association that helps Japanese families settle in France, says: "In Japanese shops, the customer is king, whereas here assistants hardly look at them ... People using public transport all look stern, and handbag snatchers increase the ill feeling." A Japanese national named Hiromi put it this way: "For us, Paris is a dream city. All the French are beautiful and elegant ... And then, when they arrive, the Japanese find the French character is the complete opposite of their expectations."

You can say that again, sister! I wonder if one of the ‘scruffy’ streets they describe includes men urinating into the gutter? That nearly made me lose my mind. Honestly, if you’ve never lived in Paris I’m sure you couldn't possibly imagine that living here could cause psychosis, but I can personally attest that it does. I once saw a person do something so horrific on a bench outside my building that I still have nightmares about it.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

VIP Treatment

Although,once, something magical did happen to me at the Ritz. I was headed there to meet a friend of mine for afternoon tea. As my taxi sailed along rue Royale headed to the 1st arrondissement it started to rain. I dreaded having to get out of the taxi because I had spent a long time getting my hair just right and I knew that as soon as the rain touched my head, it would start to curl and frizz. Au revoir perfect chignon. However, upon our arrival in front of the Ritz, something magical happened. A group of hotel employees holding umbrellas came jogging out to meet my taxi. They formed a long line which shielded me from the downpour as I made my way across the wide sidewalk up the stairs to the front door. Not a single drop of rain touched me as I sailed along that long line of smiling men holding out umbrellas. Talk about VIP service. What gal could resist that?

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Drinks but no dinner

So, our friends Brian and Julie have been bugging us for months to join them for a drink at the famous Hemingway Bar at the Ritz Hotel Place Vendôme and we’ve been resisting (for months) mainly because I had heard how pricey the drinks there are (30- 50 euros each!). Although, now that they are leaving Paris we finally had to relent. I’ve always enjoyed a visit to the Ritz. I love the walk down the long corridor lined with luxury brand display cases and the feel of the richly appointed carpet beneath my feet. It is so thick that your heels sink in and you feel as if you are walking in sand at the beach (but without getting any annoying sand in your shoes). Since my birthday is coming up I stopped whenever I saw a particularly gorgeous item on display and informed Dear Hubby that it was a potential birthday gift. He said nothing, simply rolled his eyes and kept walking. The main draw of the Hemingway Bar is the head bartender named Colin Field who has been given the ‘Best Bartender in the World’ award numerous times. Mixing cocktails is supposedly a craft. So, for our first round of drinks we decided to test Colin’s abilities as a mixologist. Supposedly by asking each patron just a few questions about their likes and dislikes, Colin, the world famous bartender can create a drink that you will absolutely love. He interviewed each of us for about 10 seconds and then we sat down to munch on some warm, mixed nuts while Colin worked his magic behind the bar. Within a few minutes he arrived at our table with four different beverages tailored to each of our particular tastes. Were they good? Sure. Were they worth 30 euros each? Non. But our friends were absolutely enthralled and ordered another round of drinks, asking Colin to once again make a drink tailored to each of us. After round 3 we pretty much forgot about dinner we were having such a good time chatting amongst ourselves. And it’s too bad because dinner would have most certainly cost less than the bar bill! It came to a whopping, are you ready for this? 275 euros! Dear Hubby nearly lost his mind when he saw it! “We didn’t even eat anything!” he exclaimed. So, to sum up: the Hemingway bar is a nice place to have drink if you are in the area and have the coin but don’t expect a magical experience. Oh, and don’t go there and make the mistake of ordering something so pedestrian as a beer or a gin and tonic. The disgust on Mr. Field’s face was evident when a loud Texan woman ordered a margarita.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

One Mom's (Creepy) Imagination

I appreciate what this woman is trying to do in these photos, but I still find them extremely creepy. She is a computer specialist from Helsinki, Finland, who, while enjoying SIX months of paid maternity leave, apparently got bored and started to do this shit to her child. She states that her inspiration was the fact that she wondered what her baby was dreaming about. Uh-huh. These pictures remind me of the photos people used to take years ago of dead loved ones. I mean, would it have been that difficult to capture the same shot of this kid with her eyes open? Anne Geddes does it. I find the picture of the baby dressed as Red Riding Hood and the wolf with his tongue hanging out particularly disturbing.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Where's The Beef? (or more accurately, what's wrong with this beef?)

So, I noticed something about the beef here in France. Its definitely not as tasty as it is in the United States and this includes all forms of beef: steak, hamburger, etc. It has this odd aftertaste that at first, I couldn't place. Then we had a visit from my brother in law, Randy, a vet with the WHO (that's the World Health Organization people, not the rock group) and he clued me in to this fact: cows in Europe are mostly grass fed, while cows in the United States are mostly grain fed. In fact, I have an American friend here whose father in law is a cattle farmer and he remarked to her once that he could not believe Americans grow corn, just to feed to animals that are going to be slaughtered. But I digress. Anyways, after Randy's visit, I could finally describe what the weird aftertaste of my beef was. In short, it tasted like, grass. Really. So, it would seem the old adage 'you are what you eat' is true. Now whenever DH goes to do the big comissary shop in Belgium, he stocks up on hamburger. I'll use locally purchased beef for stews and dishes with sauce on them, but if I want a big, juicy burger, I'll use the American beef we keep in our freezer. It just tastes better.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Doctors in Paris Make House Calls

Yes, a practice that disappeared in the United States more than fifty years ago is still alive and well in France. You simply dial up an agency called SOS Médécins, tell them who the patient is and what their problem is, and within an hour or so (depending on the time of day) a general practitioner will show up at your door ready to evaluate the patient. He (or she) will also write prescriptions for any medicines needed and it all costs just fifty-five Euros. This service is available twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week and I LOVE it!