Où le Starbucks?

Paris is all about "café culture."  You order a tiny espresso, chain smoke, and read a book or chat with friends for hours in the café.  Getting coffee is an activity, not an errand.  Carrying a plastic cup of the hot beverage (forget iced coffee, that doesn’t exist outside of Starbucks here) down the street is practically barbaric.  Coffee in France is a verb, not a noun, it’s something you do, not merely something you drink. While I adore the café culture, and it may be one of my favorite things about Paris, I cannot, and will not, give up my green plastic straw.

Therefore, on a street dotted with adorable cafés and boulangeries and patisseries, I shamefully write this from a Starbucks.

French baristas call out “bonjour” in a sing-songy voice each time a new patron walks in the door.  You place your order and chat a bit while they make one of the three overpriced menu items. I don’t know how to order iced coffee in French, and I’m far too embarrassed to ask for a mocha “not hot” so I’ve had to stick to Frappuccinos, as there is no translation. Being an American in Paris is rough.

I spent Saturday morning much like any Saturday in the city: slept in, walked down to the farmers’ market, did some light shopping, and made myself cozy in Starbucks to write and catch up on work.  It’s actually amazing how thousands of miles away from home I can still lead the same daily routine! It’s also incredibly sad.  #Americanization.


But daily routines have not been my Parisian experience.

So far, nothing has gone as planned, and I’ve loved every moment of it.

I guess this is similar to a summer in New York City, but in Paris, I never know where my day will take me and where my night will take me and who I’ll meet and what we’ll talk about.  On a quiet night on which I planned to watch a movie in bed I ended up on the roof of the Maison, drinking wine and being convinced to eat “tofu” sausage by a bunch of vegetarian-hating Parisian students. You think you’re headed one place with friends, and suddenly you stumble upon an even better destination.  The impulsive unpredictability makes every night so unique and fun!

Americans think of Europeans as being very chic.  At least, I do.  This, it turns out, is not the case in many situations.

Last night, after dinner at a delicious Italian restaurant in the Marais and a quick visit to a bar playing The L Word  and Robyn simultaneously (seriously?), I ended up at an American bar/club with a group of Spanish students. The bar was covered in ads for PBR and Alabama Slammers and other things Americans presumably like.  “Who Let the Dogs Out” was blasting on the speakers.  Everyone was attempting to speak very poor English.  The dance cave in the basement really topped it off.  I could mention that I was proposed to, and if it weren’t for my excellent moral judgment, I could very well be engaged right now, but that’s not part relevant to American culture…

Walking home past the Sorbonne at dawn, laughing about our cultural exchange, I was glad for another unpredictable night in Pareee.