We'll always have Paris
I am spending two days in Paris as a tourist, finishing up my several-week, several-continent trip. I hesitate to say “taking it easy,” since I am feeling exhausted from a round of walking tours and the hot weather, with the temperature actually over 90 degrees. But I am obviously not complaining. The periodic outbursts of anti-French sentiment in the United States have always struck me as small-minded: Paris remains the best example of urban beauty in the world.
Despite the world’s many economic problems, tourists in Paris seem to be on a buying binge. Symbolic of this, the big sign of the offices of Accenture, the IT consulting firm, at the prestigious corner of the Champs-Elysees and Avenue George V, has disappeared since my last trip, replaced by a giant Louis Vuitton store, with what seems like 30 feet ceilings. The store actually regulates the number of people allowed to enter, meaning that there is typically a line of people, generally quite young, waiting to get in. (This is perhaps so the store isn’t too crowded and perhaps to keep window-shoppers away.) Many of the people waiting in line, especially the young Asian tourists, take pictures of each other outside the store. On the other side of the street, a few blocks down, a Disney Store is also very crowded, with long lines – only about half of those buying are families with children, as Disney has a following among adults in a number of cultures.
The Champs-Elysees is home to a number of enormous stores besides Louis Vuitton. Within a stone’s throw of Louis Vuitton is a humongous Boss outlet, and next door is a giant “Nespresso Gallery,” selling various equipment for Nestle’s successful coffee machines. A block away in the other direction is a giant Haagen Dazs, easily ten times the size of a typical stateside store stateside. In another part of town, the Galeries Lafayette department store takes up about four buildings on two city blocks; when I went inside, there were so many people milling around that it was literally impossible to walk unimpeded.
Incidentally, even at the euro’s current bargain-basement price of under $1.25, Paris is still quite expensive: I ended up paying about $55 for dinner tonight (for just me) at one of the bistros that are becoming increasingly popular among tourists because they are so “reasonably” priced compared with the astronomical “gastronomical” Michelin starred places.
French restaurants still have sections for smokers, and they have seemed heavily used, including by young people; when one passes by office buildings, one also always sees a gang of people outside smoking.
Best July 4th wishes to all US blog readers. Will be back with my blog after the holiday.
Posted on Jul 02, 2010 at 12:08 PM