Archive for the ‘Trivia’ Category
If you’ve read Harry Potter, chances are you’ll remember the name Nicolas Flamel, friend of Dumbledore and possessor of the legendary Philosopher’s Stone. You might be pleasantly surprised to find out that he is not just the fantasy of Rowling’s mind; he indeed existed and he was considered one of the great alchemists of his time.
Part of the wealthy Parisian bourgeois from the mid-1300s to 1418, his official title was letter-writer and sworn-bookseller, but that didn’t explain the extent of his affluence. His marriage into wealth and real estate investments assured him a vast fortune; but rumors about its origins spread, and many suspected he used alchemy to create his riches. After his death he left behind several properties, and he gave considerable amounts of money to charities and churches. Because of the amounts he bequeathed, rumors about his dabbling in the metallurgical arts grew to legendary proportions.
One of his properties was a hostel at 51 rue de Montmorency, where he and his wife cared for the sick. Not only is this spot of interest because it belonged to one of Paris’ most mysterious denizens, it is also the oldest house in all of Paris, dating back to 1407. Nowadays there’s a pricey bistro on the premises, but one can still pass by to view this corner of Parisian history.
There are certain facial expressions you could say are uniquely French, such as the look of “frustration or general annoyance”: a duck-like face with lips pursed, blowing out. I would have to agree this journalist — the frustration face is probably the most common face I see here in Paris. And it’s contagious too; I find myself doing it whenever I have to take a morning commute on the dreaded 13 line. That subway is always packed to the gills with people making duck faces of general annoyance. If you’re visiting and you find yourself with the option of taking the 13 line or walking, opt for the latter. Or get yourself a Velib. Just my two cents.
The French face is what hands are to the Italians. It stretches and twists to express a wide range of expressions and emotions with the same elasticity of a rubber band. From disbelief to discontent, it can convey a message just as clearly as any grouping of words. Here’s a look at some recurrent French faces, and how to interpret their meaning:
When someone comes to you and says they are going to Paris for the first time, or when you are planning that first trip, there are certain visions that come to mind: modelesque Parisians in berets, people writing poetry and painting on street corners, cheese and wine of the highest caliber being served on sunny days with the Eiffel Tower always in view… Paris is where flowers bloom year round and everyone has a little pep in their step that is perfectly in rhythm with the soundtrack playing in the background.
Now imagine you get off the plane and step into this magical place. You check your passport and boarding pass to make sure it is correct because what you see is not what you expected. The food tastes nothing like you thought, the sky is cloudy, and the buildings lack that je ne sais quoi. The Paris natives are less-than-friendly and the Eiffel Tower sticks out like a sore thumb. You feel out of place, disillusioned, and utterly disappointed. This has happened often enough that psychiatrists have come up with a name for it: Paris Syndrome, or Syndrome de Paris. Japanese tourists especially have been known to suffer from it because of their highly idealized view of French culture; in fact, it was a Japanese doctor practicing in Paris who coined the term “Paris Syndrome” back in the 80s.
Paris Syndrome can be diagnosed by anyone aware of this condition, no hoity toity psychoanalyst necessary. Everything that has been romanticized and dramatized about Paris is no longer as it is on the big screen. Everything is different about Paris and you long for home, where, if nothing else, you know what to expect. Upon your arrival and during your stay feelings of depression and persecution may set in. No worries, there is help — at least if you’re Japanese: there’s a 24-hour hotline at the Japanese embassy to deal with this. For the rest of us, there’s a a long shower back in the hotel and the drone of the 24-hour news channel in the background to remind us that while Paris may not be all runway models and romance on every corner, it still is a great place to get away from it all.
On a related note, read this thread on TripAdvisor: a future visitor wants to know what Parisians dress like in order to blend in more. Another user posts these pictures of actual Parisians and Shock, Scandal! some Parisians dress pretty badly.