Excellent article from USA Today. Anyone have anything to add? http://www.usatoday.com/travel/destinations/2010-12-02-paris-like-a-local_N.htm?csp=34travel&utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+UsatodaycomTravel-TopStories+%28Travel+-+Top+Stories%29
$180 a night for a hotel room? That is a whole lot more than I would ever pay anywhere to sleep at night. I did think the comment about the white shoes was funny, especially because the photo at the top of the article, showing the French dining at their local cafe shows them wearing what else? White shoes. Ha!
My usual criticism of these kinds of articles- their experience is more based on an ideal of what they imagine Paris life should be rather than the real thing, and is unnecessarily condescending and self-righteous to those that don't embrace the same fantasy. The white sneaker comment is a dead give-away. I would be more impressed if she went shopping at C&A and Carrefour. Am I the only one left who doesn't see anything wrong with just being a typical tourist, rather than pretending you're something that you aren't?
I read the article this morning and my first thought was it was utter bull! Like Tom, I feel he is living out some idealized fantasy about what life should be like in Paris. The first giveaway is where he thinks he has to say "Bonjour" to his neighbor. Ugh, the neighbor now thinks he is a nutsy tourist. You don't Bonjour anyone unless you have a relationship with them. It took 6 months of living here before one of my neighbors spoke to me. There were also many other flaws to "living life as a Parisian". (I don't know a single Frenchperson who has sat in a private tasting with a cheese or chocolate maker) And Tom - I'm with you on seeing nothing wrong with going on vacation. I like hotels because I don't have to cook or clean while I'm there. That's a big part of what makes it my vacation! If you truly want to live like a French person, come stay with me for a week. You can be bewildered by the size of Carrefour and the chaos of a Saturday crowd there, experience customer non-service at my local Monoprix, walk back and forth to school 4x/day because kids can't eat in the cafeteria if they have a parent who doesn't work, stand in line at the bank, and best yet - suffer through some horrible French TV! (Hmmmmm...I wonder what I should charge for this authentic experience?) Better yet - be a tourist and enjoy it.
It's a bit like what RS tries to instill in travelers. Avoid the worst tourist dives and see more of the city and culture. But as everyone has noted, the idea that a tourist will "live like a local" is absurd. No local spends their day doing the things noted in the article and while these might be great ideas for a repeat visitor, any first timer must see Notre Dame and Tour Eiffel and the Louvre...
I got the same impression from the article. The list of restaurants, for example, would seldom see a local darken their door, except for a special occasion treat.
Youse guys quit knocking the darn Carrefour. I'd skinny myself away if it wasn't for them. Plus they don't stiff you for sacks and they sure beat Champion and everwhat the one with the red and green bird is.
No offense meant towards Carrefour... I've always found the food of surprisingly good quality. The non-food merchandise may consist of the type you would find at Kmart or Walmart but no complaints here about the groceries. Just using Carrefour as an example of a true "local" experience that the author could have included to lend the article some credibility. But obviously, a Walmart-style superstore didn't fit her preconception of French life.
I think many of you here are making the phrase "living like a local" mean something it was never meant to be in terms of travel. We like to stay in apartments and cottage rentals when we can because we enjoy the "flow" of life that comes from shopping for food at the market and making our own meals - doing the occasional load of laundry and hanging it out to dry. We like coming back to our "home" each evening and either settling in and relaxing or going for a late evening stroll nearby. It's the same sort of routine we would do on a day off at home (except we have less interesting things to see & do at home during the heart of the day). THAT is what living like a local means to me. It's not trying to copy how someone else who was born there lives. It's trying to live like I would live if I were a local and didn't have to go to work every day. It's also about shunning the nonsense of living like temporary royalty getting waited upon at every turn like a tourist willing to throw money at any intrusion of real life to make it go away for the duration of their 2-week escape.
Bets - Gesundheit!
For me going to Carrefour, Monoprix, and LaClerc is an experience...seeing the massive cheese selection is amazing. It's a good shopping experience. I like going to Carrefour and LaClerc, especially those I am familiar with in Nord Pas-de-Calais. And, I have been there on a Saturday morning too!
Carrefour has helped us with many things over the years, from my wife's bicycle at the Calais location (right in Cité Europe - way cheaper than the same bike in the UK) to a suitcase for extra stuff to bring home last year in Monaco. They also make some very good own label food and chocolates. For more up market we like Casino, particularly in the south.
Fred - for all those years we've driven past LaClerc. What's inside?
I think it's Leclerc (no 'a' and only one cap?). I've always had the idea that they were sort of independent since their stuff varies a bit from store to store - - unlike the predictable Piggly Wiggly where we redneck locals shop for hogs feet and turnip greens and such. Other than that, it's just one more hypermarket. Speaking of supermarkets, it's amazing the stuff that sneaks home when you aren't looking. My wife has left me again. As I was helping her lug stuff to the car, some of it was in one of those orange Sainsbury's totes. And, since I'm bacheloring for a couple of days, I was scrounging around for supper and wound up eating a can of store-brand Carrefour pate which is only half a step above Red Devil potted meat.
LeClerc was the first large supermarket in France after WW II, considered very innovative at the time. The company was developed by the present owner's grandfather and is still, I believe, family-owned. Older French people remember it that way, kinda like the first A & P in the States. Then in the 1970s Carrefour was the real eye-popper. Yes, the Monaco Carrefour (where sis-in-law shops) is like going to heaven. But, I'm with Dina about going to Carrefour on a Saturday with kids in tow-- it's like going to any local crowded US market but with tiny parking places, more fender benders, a little more aggression, forgotten coins so you have to innovate to get a shopping cart, nervousness at the check out bagging your own stuff unable to watch the prices....but oh to be able to buy fish soup in a jar, the cheese, the hams....
The trick with the Monaco Carrefour is to park just under the limit for free parking and remember what colour you are parked in (bigger than normal) . Also go around the corner for a quick bite at ZenZen. That's where we were watching the winter Olympics ladies figure skating.... happy days
Does anyone remember the two Carrefour hypermarkets in Philadelphia area circa 1990? The concept of the superstore hadn't taken hold in the US yet...Walmart wasn't a national (or even international) chain at the time. The UFCW was attempting to unionize the two stores, a union office was torched under very suspicious circumstances. The union and local politicans were calling for the Justice Dept. to charge Carrefour for RICO violations. Carrefour closed both stores, fled the country, and haven't been seen in the US since:) The rest was history of course....Walmart successfully copied the superstore concept....
The scoundrels must be doing something right. I've seen them in China, Japan, Argentina, Taiwan, Thailand..... and somplace else, maybe Singapore.
In terms of square footage, Carrefour is the largest retailer in the world. In profits they are third behind Walmart and Tesco. The only place I've been in a Carrefour is China: Bejing, Xian, and Harbin.
Auchan opened two stores in Houston many years ago. I used to drive an extra 20 minutes just to buy their bread. They must not have met company expectations since they both closed.
"Does anyone remember the two Carrefour hypermarkets in Philadelphia area circa 1990?" Yes, I do. I remember that some members of the staff traveled around the store on roller blades. I was disappointed the first time I went to one in France (the branch just outside of Amboise) and found the staff merely walking on normal feet! And a little shocked at all the porn they sold in the attached book shop...
For the record - I really like what I can get at Carrefour. I don't like shopping there on a Saturday, though! It's on my list of places I take people when they come visit, just because to me, it is very "French." My take: Carrefour is like Walmart, but on steroids and with some better food (and a fish and cheese market and bakery and appliances and....). Auchun is the Target to Carrefour's Walmart. Slightly higher quality of goods and a good place for some basic home stuff (like dishes). Best "Aisle of Shame" selection (in other words they have more foreign foods to make us ex-pats happy.) But the one closest to me has HORRIBLE produce. E.Leclerc seems to do good in the food stuff, but their other stuff is oftentimes cheap junk. I really only shop there when I'm traveling and can't get to one of the other two.
"It's also about shunning the nonsense of living like temporary royalty getting waited upon at every turn like a tourist willing to throw money at any intrusion of real life to make it go away for the duration of their 2-week escape. Anyone got a problem with that?" I see nothing wrong with someone doing what they want with their hard-earned vacation time. If they want to get waited on hand and foot and forget the world, and they're willing to pay for it, why should anyone else object or judge them? Once again, that's one of the biggest problems I have with this whole "like a local" stuff... the self righteousness and condescension of those who would do otherwise.
We are all judged on how we live our lives. To suggest that we could arrive at some kind of nirvana if we could only abandon judgement seems rather intellectually lazy to me and has it's own particular brand of self-righteousness.
The crux of the problem is that this woman is living a dream-vacation, paid for by her newspaper or as a tax write-off, but she's claiming this is how Parisians live. At the same time she's giving advice on how to fit in, with the subtext that you too will be able to live this life if you know the right color shoes to wear and the right people. If you don't have a vacation like hers, obviously you don't wear the right color shoes nor do you know the right people. The article is condescending and self-righteous. You need to have read the original article to follow the thread about living like a local. Most of us travel with a walk after a modest dinner enjoying the lights, which are free, not the fairy tale the article describes. Now let's go back to our memories of the delicious aisles of Carrefour.
Your're right...it's Leclerc, not spelled the way I had it above. Sorry, Ed. Nigel--To me Leclerc is a smaller version of Carrefore...either one I enjoy going there, Sat. morning or not.
Seems like most of us agree. The writer is clueless but thinks she's being clever. And Carrefour has an amazing cheese selection for a mid-level supermarket. BTW, their bakery and seafood sections are pretty good too. As for James' comment... I like living in the village (that's pretty much what Hüttenfeld is), but would gladly stay up in the castle if I could once in a while (well, maybe not the local castle- Starkenburg- it's now a youth hostel...).
All the article represents to me is a look at experiencing Paris in a manner other than the way tourists usually do in any city which is stay in a hotel and hit the high spots and eateries covered in guidebooks. I suppose one can quibble with the writer's style, but I found nothing offensive. I'm sure the piece was informative for a lot of people. As to Carrefour, the stores I've shopped in have been great; I wouldn't put the name in the same sentence with Walmart and Target without the words "no comparison" as to the extent of the quality food and wine selection.