Have you missed me? I have just finished a four-week trip to Paris and Strasbourg. I started to write this newsletter three or four days ago in Strasbourg. At the outset, I meant to discuss the disgusting invasion of Ukraine by the gangster, Vladimir Putin. But, for such a difficult topic I need to be at home. Instead, you will get my reflection on four weeks in Paris and Strasbourg.
I do not have Trump issues. I like, hell no, I love racial and visible religious diversity. It enriches communities and strengthens the gene pool. Diversity should be celebrated and not suppressed.
I first visited Paris seventeen years ago. Since then, I have returned many times. It has changed. In 2011, I loved it. It was clean, bright, and just a fun place to be. This year I found a grungy, dirty city. Café awnings and storefronts looked uncared for. In almost three weeks, we saw one piece of street cleaning equipment.
I admire Annie Hildago’s fifteen-minute city ambition. I like the idea that liveable cities comprise of a network of communities interconnected by public transit. And, that the those communities should have shops, entertainment, places to work, and green spaces all within a fifteen-minute walk of the front door. However, street cleanliness has to come first. First elected mayor in 2014, Hildago has cut the street cleaning budget 80%.
I despair at the size of the homeless population in Canadian cities.At least visually, Paris is much worse. Tents and mattresses festoon doorways and gallerias everywhere. Our Québec politicians frequently use France as a glowing example of a country that has tough laws around religious symbols. Well, if you believe this kind of social discrimination brings cultural peace, walk around Paris. You can cut the racial and religious tension with a dull knife. I have been to the south of France, where it is even worse.
Almost every store and business advertises first in English. Often, French seems like an after-thought. Almost everyone seems to speak English. Not only do they speak English, but they want to speak English. A French playlist in a restaurant? The first place we went that had one was in Strasbourg on day 27 of a 28-day trip.
And the fries? les frites? You can still find the occasional place that hand-cuts but most are McCains. This New Brunswick company dominates the frozen fry business in France to the same level as Kleenex means facial tissue around the world.
Still, Paris remains a great city to visit:
It is cleaner than Paris, much cleaner! But, of course, it is a much smaller city and has everything close by. However, this city struggles with homelessness and vagrancy too, both to a much greater degree than is visible in Canada.
It is a cyclists’ city but to distraction. I have been to many European cities where cycling and scooters are dominant. However, I have never been anywhere where the cyclists are so careless and entitled. The cyclists can make the Strasbourg experience unenjoyable at times. Pedestrians, beware!
It was nice to get away. I needed a change of scenery but I am happy to be back! Sometimes the best gift a vacation provides is an appreciation of home.
Have you missed me? Because, I have missed you.
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