another Sunday in Paris – the organic market at Raspail

Sunday Paris Oct 13th - 6th arr 030

Awoke this Sunday morning to temperatures of 6°C but the sun was shining out of a clear blue sky, so once again I grabbed my camera, jumped on the metro and crossed town to the fashionable 6th arrondissement. We have two long weekends next month: Friday November 1st and Monday November 11th are holidays. I’m taking two of my grandchildren to Bruges, Belgium, so follow this post.  Did I say grandchildren???  I meant godchildren!!  Geez, Juliet….

Sunday Paris Oct 13th - 6th arr 034

Plump free-range poulets. Very expensive. I cannot afford to live in the 6th arrondissement.

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Gorgeous goat cheese.

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Why am I following this woman?

Sunday Paris Oct 13th - 6th arr 009

Because something coveted is sticking out of her bag.

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Kale!   Impossibly difficult to find in France.

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This lovely couple from Brittany (above) make their own handcarved bowls, cutting boards, etc. from walnut, maple and cherry wood.

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Grated potato and onion galettes on the griddle, in Switzerland known as rösti. Delicious with a dollop of crème fraîche on top. But 2 euros 50?? I don’t think so.

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a Sunday stroll along the river Seine

I had every intention of going to the organic food market this morning – the one called Raspail in the 6th arrondissement – but it was cloudy and threatening rain, so I stayed indoors.  And then at 2 pm the sun came out, so I grabbed my camera and went out.  I took the metro to Champs Elysées Clemenceau then headed to the Pont Alexandre III, Paris’s most elegant bridge.

Paris Oct 6 2013 020Paris Oct 6 2013 019I keep running into brides while out on my walks.   From the bridge there are steps leading down to the quay.Paris Oct 6 2013 037Here’s how Parisians while away a Sunday afternoon. Is this how you spell “while”?Paris Oct 6 2013 060Paris Oct 6 2013 041Guess what they’re lining up for at this Airstream food truck?Paris Oct 6 2013 036Paris Oct 6 2013 040Cheeseburger and coleslaw 12 euros, chicken salad 12 euros, cheesecake 7 euros, cookie 6 euros.Paris Oct 6 2013 051Here’s another food stand further along.  Guess what they’re lining up for?Paris Oct 6 2013 053Hot dogs with fried onions. And below at this riverside restaurant appropriately named FLOW….what are they eating?  You got it…a big burger platter heaped with crispy fries. A neighbouring food truck was selling Chicago hot dogs. This is the new food fad in France – burgers, fries and hot dogs. Food that I ate throughout the 1970s and 80s in Canada has just come over here now.Paris Oct 6 2013 049Paris Oct 6 2013 048Another current food fad here is bagels.  For 20 years I couldn’t find a decent bagel in this city. Now they’re everywhere.  I took these photos to prove a point: the French are loving American-style food.Paris Oct 6 2013 063Paris Oct 6 2013 064And who the heck says that French kids dress better?  Here they’re as sloppily dressed as any self-respecting North American kid.Paris Oct 6 2013 066Paris Oct 6 2013 067The word for riverside or embankment in French is berge.Paris Oct 6 2013 058Paris Oct 6 2013 057

Paris Oct 6 2013 054

French exiles: the Emigration Generation

From the outside, France is perceived as an attractive place to live.  From the inside, however, it’s a whole different story.

Consider these current statistics:

  • The unemployment rate for young adults in France today is 25%,
  • 53% of French expatriates are under 35 years,
  • 27% of young adults said they plan to go abroad in order to attain a successful life; in 2012 that percentage was only 13%.  In the space of one year the number has doubled and illustrates the growing malaise among young people here,
  • 40% of French people working abroad do not want to return to France.

Young people no longer believe in the ability of France to offer them a better future. Despite having university degrees, they cannot find jobs.  Despite President Hollande’s promise to make youth and employment top priorities, he’s done nothing of consequence.  In the last four years, France has entered its third recession.  Disenchanted, French youths are leaving in droves.

“The dramatic cultural and economic changes currently shaking the globe are still often met in France with parochial, irrelevant conversations, a symptom of the insular intellectual bubble in which the country has been trapped for far too long.

Young French people need to go abroad, to work, to travel, to see how things work differently in cultures and countries that don’t play by the same old rules — and then come back to France, and reinject some of the energy and enthusiasm they’ve absorbed to help reconcile the broader population with the global reality that France has shunned for far too long.”

It’s true.  I’ve often said that the French live in a bubble.  I also refer to this country as Planet France.

An estimated 300,000 French are living in London and 200,000 in Belgium.  New York City, Miami, Montreal, Sydney and Singapore are other popular destinations.  Once installed, how do they view their native country from afar?

“depressed”, “neither values nor stimulates young workers”, “needs a serious change of mentality, including a new tax, social and political climate”, “a country that has it all and yet…..”, “sinking slowly into decline, division and pessimism”, “fiscal overkill”.

The two predominant complaints are “A country where the general environment is unfavorable to business creation.  Why would you want to kill entrepreneurship?” and “In everyday life, it’s the French mentality that is the least missed: the lack of service and aggressiveness in daily encounters.”  Those who move to Canada or the U.S.A. say the people are so much friendlier and helpful, there’s simply no comparison.

As a Canadian living in Paris, I do miss so very much the easy exchange and social banter that occurs between fellow citizens in my own country.  This doesn’t happen here. Formal and guarded, it’s as if the French are inherently suspicious. Or just downright unfriendly. Why? The only person in my building with whom I have friendly chats is the Moroccan concierge.  I also chat with my neighbour, a friendly Frenchman in his late 60s, but I must admit that his discourse is sometimes peppered with racist inferences which I don’t appreciate.

Frenchman Jacques Attali, well-known economist, writer and former advisor to President Mitterrand summed it up nicely.  Last month he organized a forum in Le Havre called Movement for a Positive Economy.  At a press conference he said that if France wants to solve its crippling problem of recession and unemployment, the economy – and the French themselves – must become more positive.

“The French are suspicious of anything and anyone,” he said at a press conference.  “They do not like each other and they are very pessimistic.  This leads to a lack of confidence in the future.”

A few years ago I was a private English coach. A student of mine, a pharmacist in her late 50s, wished to improve her English because her 27-year old son lived and worked in New York City.  She visited him frequently.  He had no intention of returning to France.  After a difficult beginning, he eventually secured for himself a high-paid managerial job in finance and was about to purchase an apartment in an upscale Brooklyn neighbourhood.

Maman,” he would say to his mother, “Never would I have been given such job responsibility at my age nor such a salary in Paris.  When I look at my contemporaries in France – struggling to find work or doing internships or stringing together short-term contracts – I feel sorry for them.”

And that’s what happens.  They leave Planet France and can’t believe their eyes. Relations are easier, attitudes are healthier, barriers are fewer, and they can progress in an infinitely shorter space of time.