Saturday, January 12, 2008

On the Road Again

The hotel's not very central, but nice. There's free WiFi. The bathroom is huge. It's clean as all hell. It's comfortable enough for me to get some rest before a couple of days of meetings.

And did I happen to mention that I'm in Paris?

Oui, mes amis, I'm in Paris again, although this time on business. I've got two days of meetings at my company's headquarters, so this is a brief sojourn, but I've got a weekend to kill ahead of the actual business part. And this time, it feels different. Besides the spectre of actually having to do work in an actual office while abroad (none of this desperately-seeking-WiFi stuff like in Japan), this is one of those cities that I've already touristed to death.

So despite it being a chilly 35ºF outside, I've got the windows wide open so I can hear the hubbub on busy Rue Général Leclerc below. The green grocer across the street is making some noise shuffling boxes of fruit and veg in front of his store. I can hear children talking their baby-talk as their parents go in and out of the boulangerie-pâtisserie at the corner. The calm of Saturday evening suburban humdrum is occasionally broken by somebody yelling, a siren wailing, or horns honking.

Indeed, it's Saturday night and I'm just sitting in my little hotel room, enjoying the ambience, and relaxing.

Not to say that it hasn't been a full day. After a comfortable but entirely sleepless 11-hour flight from San Francisco, my friend and colleague Julien - who just happened to be in Paris - picked me up and we went to drop my stuff off in the 17e. This is the neighborhood I stayed in last time, and I love it. Away from the touristy masses, but intoxicatingly Paris just the same.

We went toward l'Opera area (here's my favorite photo from that quartier the last trip) and met up with his cousin for lunch at Le Pain Quotidien. Yes, I actually voluntarily decided to forgo steak frites and other such artery-clogging French delights for a tropical shrimp salad at this organic/all-natural Belgian... *gulp* CHAIN. And it was good. Damn good. God, even the chains here are better than stuff at home.

That was followed by a jaunt to the crazy retail area (home to the Galleries Lafayette, etc.) to pick some stuff up for Alannah. And when I say crazy, I mean batshit, balls-to-the-wall insane. Right now is the time for soldes, the twice-annual sale period that makes America's Black Friday look like a walk in the park. You see, there are only two periods where stores can legally have a sale (this prevents back-handed markdown practices), and with savings up to 50%, people go nuts. Whacko. As in "I'd rather just stay inside than brave those crowds to bar any potential claustrophobia" crazy.

And I'm doing exactly that. I've checked into my hotel. I'm hanging out in my skivvies despite the freezing cold. And I'm taking it all in.

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