Exciting news! - I've discovered how to insert accents in my blog posts (you just hold down the key and a little popup menu appears with the different accent options for that letter). I'll try to be correct about accents in French words, but I warn you all that I'm not particularly good at diacriticals (that and pronoun genders...)
Today started in a leisurely sort of way, sleeping in then puttering around, and by the time I left the apartment, it was time for lunch -- a croque monsieur at the corner cafe (Cafe de Flore). It was pretty mediocre, just a sort of fast-food croque (though not at fast-food prices -- it cost 8E) -- but what really chapped my hide is that when I ordered thé glâcé, they brought me a tiny (,25l) bottle of Lipton's sweetened tea (a.k.a. "sugar water"), and they charged me 5,5E for it! (that's a little over $7 if you didn't know.) I don't mind that they don't have actual iced tea, but just tell me you don't have iced tea! (I know, I know, that's what they think iced tea is. And my mistake for not checking the menu for the price, but honestly.) Anyway, there are a billion other cafes, so I think I can safely skip that one next time.
One of my goals is to visit some neighborhoods in Paris that I've never had the opportunity to visit when I was here for shorter periods of time. Today, I picked La Défense (walking tour #15 in the Insight Guides Explore Paris). I rode the Métro to Les Halles and took the RER A out to La Défense -- you can also take the Métro out there, but the RER is faster and air conditioned.
I wandered around Quatre Temps for a while -- it's a ginormous shopping mall (139,400 sq. m. -- by way of comparison, that's twice as big as the Columbia Mall, a little over half as big as the Mall of America, but only 1/5 as big as the New South China Mall, which Wikipedia claims is the biggest shopping mall in the world). Most of the stores are the same stores you'd see in the Columbia Mall, which just goes to show that globalization is real. But the prices are mostly 1.5 to twice as much, which just goes to show that Paris is expensive.
After that, I wandered out to look at the Grande Arche and stroll down along l'esplanade du Général-de-Gaulle, taking lots of pictures along the way. Gorgeous day for a stroll. Unfortunately the museé de la Défense is closed until next year. Tant pis.
I took the Métro back "home" and decided to try watching a French-language movie. It was an interesting experience and reminded me that my French really is not that good. I can understand written French quite a bit better than spoken French, but if people speak slowly and clearly enough, I can follow most daily conversational French. Rapid-fire French with medical jargon was definitely way beyond my abilities -- I understood maybe 10% of the dialogue, and was so proud of myself when I figured out that they said somebody's blood pressure was 180/120 (dix-huit douze in French, since they apparently divide by ten). But the movie (Hippocrate) seemed like it would be good if you understood it. I'd like to see it again in English some day. Next time I go to a movie, I'll try to pick one with at least some spoken English (there was a preview for Gemma Bovery, which seemed like it would be more my speed).
After the movie, I stopped at Monoprix and picked up dish soap and a sponge (finally, clean dishes!) and a few things for a pique-nique tomorrow. For dinner, I reheated the rest of the moules dijonnaise and pommes frites from Leon de Bruxell, supplemented with a baguette and an avocado. (By the way, I hadn't realized just how weird I would seem when I asked to take the rest of the mussels with me. The waiter looked perplexed, left and sent the manager over, who asked if there was a problem. I said that I would like to take the rest of the mussels with me (there was no way) that one person, even an American, could have finished the mussels in one sitting -- there must have been four dozen). He explained that he was tres désolé, but he would have to charge me three Euros -- but that would he would throw in some fresh pommes frites. Uh... okay, ça va bien... Do they really just always throw away all of the leftover food in French restaurants? What a waste. It's not often that I think the French are less enlightened than Americans, but this was definitely one of those moments!)
Other interesting things I learned today: in Paris, when you go to a movie, you have to stand around outside until some magical time when people seem to know it's OK to go into the theater (maybe 5-10 minutes before the movie starts, not before). Parisian theaters (or at least this one) don't sell popcorn, boo-hoo. On the other hand, they show even more movie trailers than in the U.S. (I lost track around the 8th or 9th one.) The French (or I guess some of them) pride themselves on their disdain for monogamy so much that there are prominent advertisements in the Métro for Gleeden, "an extramarital dating site." There are a lot of dogs in Paris (which I knew), and nobody picks up after their dog's business (at least not that I ever saw).
It's no longer the case that everybody in France smokes constantly. But it is true that a lot of people smoke. I was actually startled to find that the lung cancer death rate in the U.S. is still higher than it is in France (35.4 deaths per 100,000 people in the U.S. vs. 29.6 in France) -- but less surprised to learn that over time, France is closing in on the U.S. (especially among French women) and will probably surpass us soon if the smoking differential keeps up. Hope things start to change here faster than they have been. It's pleasant being able to occasionally get a breath of fresh air in a bistro or park, and would be nice to have even more fresh air, but saving people's lives is even more important...
Not sure what my plans are for tomorrow, but I need to spend at least some time doing work, since I played hooky today! (Nicer to sightsee during the week and avoid the crowds.)