Monday, January 14, 2008

A Hard Day's Night

I should be sleeping like a log...

Actually, I will be soon. I didn't sleep all that well last night, largely due to the fact that I cranked the heater too much - this room's great at retaining heat. But it was too damn cold outside to open the windows and air it out. All groggy, I snoozed through my THREE freakin' alarms and ended up getting up an hour later than planned.

But I was motivated.

'Cuz dammit, there was more of that yogurt to be had down in the salle de petit dejeuner. Despite being on the verge of being late for my day at the Mothership, I sat and savored it. And the office is so close, I made it in at exactly 9:00 anyway. Note to self: set the alarm a bit later tonight.

I'm glad I had a good feed in the morning, because I was at the office until 8:00. As in P.M.

Whatever you've heard about the 35-hour work week in France, my company obviously hasn't heard of it. Either that or they only work three days a week. It struck me when I was told that I had one of my meetings scheduled at 6:00 that this is definitely a business trip.

But I have to say, the French know how to do business. When you're in meetings for an ungodly amount of time, languishing over a long lunch is fully justified. We hopped down to the local bistro (known as the official restaurant of my company's executive management - a handful of others showed up there) where I shared a charcuterie platter with our new marketing honcho. Next thing I knew, my mouth was full of tongue.

Umm, that'd be braised beef tongue. Opting yet again out of my usual steak frites, I went instead with the other special of the day: a French kiss from a bovine. Served up in an awesomely meaty gravy and a side of pureed potatoes, it was the perfect, hearty fuel for a cold day full of meetings.

Our Paris office is remarkably different than back in the Bay Area. Most notably in how quiet it is. While we spend a lot of time joking around and cranking silly songs, people have got their noses buried in their work here. Of course, here they take two hour lunches and 364 days of vacation and/or strike time. In the end, we all get our work done.

Of course, 8:00 didn't mark the end of the work day. Back at my hotel, I decided to check in with the office back home - as it's still early in the day there - and had more work to do. So once again, my chances at a decent dinner went up in smoke. Or up in a cup of convenience-store chocolate pudding I'd kept chilling on the windowsill. I tried once again to forage up some dinner at a late hour, but this is the suburbs, where fluorescent lighting and cheap formica tables rule. And at our horrendous exchange rate, I'm not about to pony up $30 for an Applebee's-level experience.

Yeah, this trip isn't as glamorous as it could be. I've yet to see the Seine or even be within clear viewing distance of the Eiffel Tower. I've snapped only a handful of photos, and I've become intimately familiar with the Canal+ cable programming lineup.

But I knew going in that this wasn't going to be a free vacation. No corporate junket here. And in the spirit of discovery, I'm getting a good, close look at everyday work life in another country - something you won't find in any guidebook. So take that, Lonely Planet.

1 comment:

  1. Mmmm. Tongue.

    Growing up, we ate it regularly -- not sure why, a holdover from the old county, Jewish poverty cuisine I suppose. My favorite was slices from the front half. Towards the back, there was more fat in the meat, and I didn't like the texture as much.

    I haven't had a good piece in years, come to think of it. I'm not even sure where I'd go looking for tongue out here.