Travel

May 27

A reader recently wrote to say I wasn't giving an authentic picture of Paris, that if you live here, as opposed to being a tourist, you know there are problems. I take his point. I don't see a lot of the ugliness that haunts Paris because of where I live, but there are still annoyances. These are superficial, I realize, but, let's face it, I'm still really only a tourist here.

• Clothes sizing, which is geared to small people. I'm an 8 but always have to try on the biggest sizes in stores, which pains me. Still, Parisians aren't uniformly slim. I wonder where the beefier among them are getting their clothes.

• Paying most of a 20 euro bill every time I go to my neighborhood fruit and vegetable store. I know there are cheaper places to buy asparagus, even if it's white asparagus, which Parisians particularly like. But they are far, so I pay the price.

• Bureaucracy, which rears its ugly head even at the post office. When I first got here, in order to pick up a package I had to get a fax from my landlord confirming that I lived in my apartment. After that, though, I learned to love La Poste, which is far more efficient than mail service in America. You just have to learn how to do things they way they want.

• The dog waste on the street, which, amazingly, I haven't yet walked into. I've come to think of it as a metaphor. Some Americans put their feet in it and hate Paris; others don't.

• The need to get your ticket stamped before you board a train. I always forget to do it, so when the conductor comes around I act very stupid and say I'm just a tourist, resulting in a tolerant acceptance of my error.

As for the homeless and beggars, they tug at my heart but don't bother me. A homeless man used to sleep on the street where I lived in New York. I wondered how he got there and sometimes gave him money. But my role is not to right wrongs but to tell people what is wonderful about living on the planet Earth. The 7th arrondissement of Paris is way up there.

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