I’ll admit, I’ve been procrastinating on this post for a while (okay – it’s been three months!), mainly because reminiscing about my sweet-and-too-short vacation last month makes me slightly depressed that I’m back in the States (I’ll also admit that I’m trying not to confuse the audience with a first-person entry interjected every once in a while).
So what is that certain je ne sais quoi Paris and London have that L.A. lacks (at least from a visitor’s point of view)?
For starters, the public transportation is amazing. If our subways took a hint from their French counterparts, it would make no difference if you missed the Red line from Hollywood to Downtown – there’d be another one on the way in less than two minutes. Metro entertainment would come in the form of violinists, accordionists and sometimes, opera-grade singers. Though travel guides warn foreigners of pickpockets galore in Paris’ subways, elevators and tourist hot spots, we had no problems defending our wallets (we found the key was to blend in with the crowd, dress like the natives and avoid looking like an oblivious American. That means no cargo pants paired with loud Hawaiian-print shirts and a fanny pack.).
The jardins and parks of Paris are simply stunning. Rarely were there patches of dirt in the midst of beautiful green, and there were statues to be admired in many spots. And parks aren’t just the ideal spot for parents to let the children go wild with a soccer ball – they’re also a place where the young and old sit back, relax and people-watch on the many chairs and benches provided by the city. And at cafes, chairs face towards the streets and sidewalks so patrons can drink an espresso and observe passersby. Here, it could be called voyeurism, but in France, it’s part of the culture to enjoy the scenery in front of you.
And in London, any beer enthusiast would love the plentiful number of pubs that seem to be a prerequisite for every block. Want a Guinness with your eggs and portabella mushrooms for breakfast? The English would tell you to go for it. In the States, we might call that alcoholism and a recommendation for AA.
And the burning question…Why are Europeans so thin (Here are a few mention-worthy explanations from NatGeo and AlmostFit)? We definitely took note of the skinny Parisians as we walked the streets of the City of Lights. Supposedly, there’s a Metro station within less than half a mile of every building in the city. Driving would be a hassle unless you’re going out of the city, so most people ride the subway and walk. But following the French isn’t as easy as it seems for Angelenos – with our numerous freeways and car-friendly culture (and as mentioned before, our not-so-incomparable public transit), it’s just not possible to walk from Westwood to Hollywood.
What we can do is take a tip from Europeans and stop to smell the roses once in a while. Forget McDonald’s (they call it McDo in France); support a local mom-and-pop cafe, sit outside and watch the cars and crowds go by (Check out this chart at Good Magazine explaining different countries’ obesity rates with the time their people spend eating a day. Notice anything?). Try and spend a car-free day and take a day trip off the Red Line; it’s hard to make several pit stops in a car, so hop on the subway and see how easy it is to get from Hollywood & Highland to Olvera Street in downtown. Make use of L.A.’s public parks, where you can literally smell some roses, such as at Exposition Park’s rose garden.