vendredi, septembre 15, 2006

Luis does IKEA (and suburbs)

OK, so the preceding part of the day was mostly unexciting, so let's get it out of the way:

Although I don't usually work on Fridays, I went in to the office to arrange for a parcel to be sent out with the busted battery of my UofC laptop (as opposed to my personal laptop). Apple replaced it, but sent it to Chicago, so now the IT dept in Chicago has to do a complex swap-by-mail to get the defective battery back to Apple within their delivery window. I got up and headed towards work, stopping at my boulangerie to get a pain au chocolat and a sandwich jambon-fromage (ham & cheese sandwich--prounounced sahndwEEsh). I was again amazed at how fantastic croissants and their many derivatives (pain au chocolat, chausson, oranais, etc.) can be when they're fresh out of the oven. Mmm! The chocolate inside was still warm and gooey. For lunch (yes, I actually ate lunch today!) I ate the sandwich, which was fantastic. Keep in mind that the French version of a sandwich is all about the bread. It's half a baguette, cut into a sandwich, and given a thin layer of filling. The texture is completely different from a New York Deli-style sandwich. It's almost like a grilled cheese sandwich, where the filling is not melted.

But the big event of the day was going to IKEA! I had a bunch of little things that I knew I could get well and cheaply at IKEA (storage boxes, tabletop shelves, etc). However, as most of you probably know, IKEA must operate in a large, large building. The result for Paris is that all of its locations (and there are about 6) are really far away. Most of them are in the distant burbs—at least 45 minutes by transit for the closest one. So I headed out to the Roissy-Parc des Expositions location on the RER B and then took the bus connection over to the "centre commercial." It was, effectively, a cluster of industrial parks, with a large strip mall in the middle. My first view of the place was this:Do you see the name of the store? Castorama. Now, I don't know if there's another explanation, but castor is the french word for "beaver." So this store is "beaver-rama." But here's the best part: it's a HARDware store.

Behind me in this mall was this odd restaurant, which seemed to serve everything under the sun. Look at the signs on the building:You may have to click on the picture for the zoom-in. It lists: Pizzeria, Take-Out, Crêpes, Grill, Vietnamese, Couscous (a synecdoche for N. African food), and there are partially-obstructed signs for Chinese food and a café. is this the French equivalent of a food court?

Finally, here's the IKEA, shot from over a scenic hedge:Ah, familiarity! IKEA in France was both similar and different from North American locations in a creepy way. It wasn't creepy in a twilight-zone sort of way, but rather in a this-is-just-like-home-but-WAIT! sort of way. Everything that I expected was there and laid out in a similar sort of way, but there were slight differences in product lines (often more/brighter colours available here). Also, they didn't give out plastic bags at checkout. Instead, you either bought/brought one of those blue IKEA shopping bags, or you buy some of their recyclable brown paper bags at 0.20€ apiece (the bags are HUGE, tho). I wandered around, trying to suppress the urge to buy everything. Thankfully, the prospect of getting everything home on public transit kept my shopping impulse in check (mostly) and I left with two large paper bags and a wooden shoe rack under my arm.

Since I head eaten rather well for breakfast and lunch, I decided to finally try McDonalds in France. It was the only resto nearby, and I had always been very good about avoiding MacDo in France. When I got my Big Mac meal, it was rather expensive (6.20€=$7.84US=$8.77CDN), so i presumed that maybe French food-quality laws (or consumer disdain) forced McDonalds over here to be of a higher quality. But no. It was the same paper-thin leather patties, with wilted vegetable filling, soggy bread and it was stacked in a haphazard way that was all too familiar. Thankfully, my disappointment was mitigated by a scene that I was witness to in the McDonalds dining area. There was a couple in their 50s with what must've been their grandchild (looking to be about 2 years old). The three of them put on a wonderful demonstration of mirroring dynamics. The boy was transfixed by his grandparents, especially their faces, and would mirror their facial expressions and gestures. In turn, the grandparents would mirror his affect. They would smile, he would smile. he would burst out laughing, they would laugh with him. Whenever he succeeded in putting food into his mouth (and not on himself), the grandparents would clap vigorously and cheer for him. He would then, with his mouth full, cheer back and clap his grubby hands and smile. I don't know if he was aware that the applause was to congratulate him, but the "eat food" = "happy time" connection seemed to be well in place. So cute!

With that over with, I put the Paris suburbs behind me and got back on the RER...which SUCKED. Keep in mind that, although the RER is a commuter train system that intertwines with the métro, Parisians treat it and use it like the métro. This means that the same understanding of "full" applies here, as well as traffic volumes. The train wasn't very full when I got on, but as we approached Paris, more and more people got on, until it was just like being on the métro during rush hour. Through all of this, I had two HUGE bags of IKEA crap, plus a wooden shoe rack that was unwieldly to say the least. The good thing was nobody shot me dirty looks for riding the train with packages. The bad thing was they also blithely kicked and stepped on my stuff. I got home with my stuff intact, but my mood was not. Nothing a bit of IKEA bricolage can't fix! My apartment is now a bit more comfortable and a bit more organized; yay!

Epilogue

So, I'm on the platform for the RER B heading to IKEA, and I see this T-Shirt:Do you see what it says? Nietzsche. That's right. Someone, somewhere, has made a Nietzsche t-shirt. What would he say? I actually have no idea whether he would've liked or hated it. I wish, I wish, I wish I could've offered you a better shot, but I had to take this hastily and incognito—pretending to "fix" my camera—since the platform was busy I had no good reason to be taking pictures of an RER platform.

4 commentaires:

Mark a dit…

I was wondering how long it would take before you bought your first ham & cheese sandwich. I must have eaten two each day I was in Paris, sometimes settling for ham & butter sandwich instead. (Sometimes it was hard to tell which was which.)

A mission for you, sir: Why does European bread taste better than bread here? Is it just because it's made more often = more likely fresh? Or is there a "bread technology gap" that's being propogated by terrorist groups intent on keeping Americans malnourished from conspicuous consumption of Wonder bread?

Mark a dit…

BTW, my verification password was suspiciously close to fhqwhgads.

Travis a dit…

you know, I'd pay good money for a shirt that read Merleau-Ponty. and perhaps even more the words were positioned near a steaming bit of fresh-from-the-oven bread....

LMGM a dit…

hmmm. duly noted. would the Merleau-Ponty be on the front or the back?

Mark: I don't know about the bread issue, although it is also of great importance to me. I'm sure part of it is that there seems to be a new batch of bread in the oven at all times, but I also think that there's also a great deal more artisanship. I suppose also part of the difference is that a cheap-o neighborhood boulangerie here uses the same techniques and ingredients that a gourmet bakery would in N. America. That much being said, I don't know how they keep the prices low. I've heard that the gov't here subsidizes independently-owned boulangeries.

verfication password:fyhsnh