Mr. Butler Goes to Paris – Part V

by Geoffrey Butler, AIA

Random Observations

I am back home now. Exhausting trip. Three days traveling and only two days there. I would not recommend that schedule for anyone. The jet lag both ways messes you up and you can’t get sleep when you need to.

Here are some random observations I made throughout the trip:

  • It must be difficult to make ice over there. You have to ask for it to ever see an ice cube. When I asked for a whiskey on the rocks, I received one (small) shot and one tiny ice cube. When I ask for a lot of ice, I get two cubes.
  • They have mastered the ‘short pour.’ A ‘shot’ looks like two tablespoons in the bottom of the glass. At least they could give you a smaller glass so it would look more substantial (particularly when it costs 14 Euros!). Of course, Flo’s brother’s cocktail lounge we visited was the exception. The pours were generous but not cheap.
  • They don’t use tap water anywhere. Water is ‘still’ or ‘bubbly’ and served in bottles (Evian or Perrier) – I assume due to an excellent marketing program so they can sell you bottled tap water – Four Euros!
  • Meals take forever. Fast food does not exist. Our lunch at the Symposium Friday had all the presenters and sponsors in a room and it took two hours, despite the fact that the program was running behind schedule. The afternoon program started at 3 p.m., but was scheduled to start at 2 p.m. as a result.
  • The food is very good except for breakfast. They don’t know how to cook bacon. It is half cooked and soggy. No crunch.
  • I still like the idea of a master switch by the door of the hotel room. You put your card key in the slot and it energized all the lights and systems. When you leave, your key is right there (you don’t have to hunt for it), and you take it and all the lights and stuff goes off. Great energy saver. We need to look at doing that here.
  • They like MR16 halogen lamps. The majority of the ceiling lights are these 120V 50W lamps. The lights are pretty intense but are fine for most places. In the bathroom they fall short as you get strong shadows on your face and shaving is a challenge. I am not sure how a woman could do makeup in that type of light.
  • No A/C in the hotel rooms. They just have big French doors that open up and use fresh air. Not sure how that works in the summer.
  • I already complained about the lack of convenient outlets. They hardwire all their lamps. Odd.
  • In one hotel, they put the toilet in its own closet around the corner from the bath and vanity. Not sure if that’s a plus or not.
  • I was told that the Enghien’s area has fewer smokers, but that Central Paris is still a still a smoker’s haven everywhere. There were more smokers in Paris but they have banned it in restaurants and bars. That explains why the outside Bistro seats were all jam packed. Everyone was out there smoking and drinking their coffee, wine or beer. But it was better than I remembered in 2000 when Buffy and I were there.
  • The Metro is fabulous. Easy to get around, reasonable priced, fast and efficient. Paris streets are not laid out in any sort of a system and you can get lost just walking two blocks. The Metro is the savior since all you do is walk anywhere you want and then go down to the Metro and ride it back to your nearest station. Sweet.
  • Elevators are tiny. The one in my hotel in Enghiens was 4′ x 5′ and it says maximum occupancy of eight, but it would have to be eight tiny people. You cannot put eight Americans in there without a shoe horn and they better be friends. The elevator at the hotel in Paris was only 2′ x 5′!
  • They really like their healthcare system but they do not know what it costs them. They pay about 40% of their salary to the government and the government provides healthcare for everyone. They think that the level of is great (with nothing to compare it to) and they will debate their system’s merits over our dysfunctional system at the drop of a hat. Of course, since dinners take so long, they jump at the chance to do that and then they can drink more wine and stretch the meal out more!

The really neat part about a trip like this is that you have time to see another culture and learn from them. I am not sure that everything they do makes sense to us, but they seem to have adapted to their environment and responded in a way that works for them. People watching is always fun and a great way to pass time while you sit on a park bench and smoke your cigar.