Lights, Lovers, Potatoes and an Ass Between Two Chairs …

Somehow it was already time to illuminate the Champs-Elysees with its holiday lights. Like each year, the mayor of Paris and a celebrity gathered with a crowd on the Champs-Elysee and pushed a giant button to illuminate the famous boulevard.

Actress Charlotte Gainsbourg and Paris Mayor Bertrand Delanoe with the Button

There are more than 1 million eco-friendly lights in over 400 trees covering 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) between the Place de la Concorde and the Arc de Triomphe.

Arc de Triomphe with an Illuminated Champs-Elysees

When I was leaving the ceremony and crossing the street, I caught a moment being shared between two lovers. Being the voyeur that I am, I couldn’t help but capture it.

Lovers on the Champs-Elysees

It was so real and beautiful that I gave the guy my card and told him to email me and I’d send him the photo (and yes, I did wait for the moment to end before talking to the guy!). The guy contacted me and said that this photo is the first one taken of him and the woman he loves and that he was happy to have that moment captured forever.

On a less romantic note, I had lunch at a small (and I mean small – 5 tables) organic restaurant in Montmartre this week. The food was fresh and healthy but frankly tasted like something that had been dug up from the ground, dirt included. (wait, aren’t those called vegetables?) But the interesting part of the meal was the older woman who runs the place. She literally does everything by herself – waiting on tables, preparing the meals, manning the cash register. There was an American couple eating at an adjacent table and when they had finished, the woman came to clear their plates. The American girl had eaten everything on her plate except a small serving of potatoes. Of course the woman asked if there was something wrong with the potatoes. The girl answered no but that she was allergic to them. Well, the woman would have none of that. She said in English “Well, it’s easy to say that uh” and “no one is allergic to potatoes”. She wasn’t intending on being mean but this potato conversation/inquisition went on for a few minutes, to the delight of the customers at the 3 other tables. The girl was a bit embarrassed but nothing serious.

A few minutes later, when the woman came to clear my plate, I told her that of course I was allergic to cabbage (especially the kind that tastes like crap!) and thankfully she laughed instead of grilling me. I tried to imagine this kind of interaction taking place back in California and it only seemed possible in very small towns between locals. What I really love about Paris is that it’s a major world capital that functions in many ways like a small town, especially in certain districts like Montmartre.

There’s a French expression that I like that describes someone who can’t decide between two options or is in a precarious position because they’re neither here nor there. The expression says someone has “le cul entre deux chaises” meaning, their ass between two chairs. My travels over the last couple of months, especially to Berlin and Rome, led me again to thinking about what I find frustrating about France. To me, France has its ass between two chairs. They have none of the efficiency, orderliness and organizational skills of the Anglo world (Americans, British, Germans) and at the same time, they don’t have the chaos, playfulness and “joy of living” of the Latin world (Italy, Spain). Does that make France a third world country? 😉

I’ve discussed this idea with a few of my French friends and so far all of them pretty much seem to agree. I’d be interested in hearing from anyone reading this if they have a take on this hypothesis.

Some photos of the week …

Christmas Trees

Rarity - An Ashkenazi Restaurant


One response to this post.

  1. Posted by Tracey Lelah on December 3, 2009 at 3:02 am

    David, you are not only an incredible photographer, but a great writer. I couldn’t stop laughing at the organic cafe experience. “As The World Turns”…….. and yes definitely as ass between two chairs, fully agree!!!!!! Keep enlightening me, I love it!!!


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