Thursday, January 08, 2009

Paris on Ice

It snowed here in Paris on Monday. Not much, just enough to coat trees, grass and cars and stick here and there to the shady parts of the sidewalk, but temperatures promptly dropped well below freezing and welded it all into an icy mess.

On Tuesday morning I missed my bus and decided that instead of waiting in the cold for twenty minutes I'd walk the rest of the way to work. I was wearing chic knee-high leather boots and within a block I could feel the smooth soles skidding dangerously on the unavoidable patches of ice. Tightly holding my brand-new Sony Walkman MP3-player in one hand and my gloves in the other, I carefully made my way down the sidewalk. I felt like an idiot for being so unprepared, but all the other people I passed were advancing just as slowly and wearing just as impractical footwear.

Ah, Parisians. We don't do winter.

I eventually slipped and fell and landed on my rear in a drift of snow at the foot of a plane tree. Then I had a bright idea. Why hadn't it occurred to me before? I was carrying a backpack of running stuff in the vain hope of escaping outside for a run during lunch. I took out my running shoes, took off my stylish boots, and walked the rest of the way with ease.

I didn't change back into the boots until I was at my desk, secretly hoping that my colleagues would comment on my exchange of stylishness for surefootedness. But to my disappointment, nobody noticed.

Today was clear and the sky was a crystalline blue, and the sun worked as hard as it could at melting the ice. But temperatures are still firmly negative and instead of disappearing, the snow is turning into the kind of slushy, muddy, half-frozen mess I remember fondly from March in Boston.

I wore a pair of discreet black sneakers to work and took the bus this morning, just in case.


Isabelle said...

Yes, all the sidewalks are like ice rings, this means that peole are walking on the roads, so it gets pretty dangerous for drivers (on top of the unusual driving conditions)!

We had a lot of snow where I live.
That shows how warmer Paris and the closest suburbs are compared to the further suburbs 30 minutes away or so...

Anonymous said...

It snowed when I was in Paris. I remember that everyone seemed so excited. A waiter ran into a cafe and threw a snowball. People were scraping cars off with credit cards. It was beautiful and amazing, but I was a tourist, not a commuter in fashionable knee high boots.
This weekend was Grace's 3rd birthday. She and le Petit are growing so quickly.
- Stephanie

Ruth said...

As someone who is still living in Seattle, I laughed and laughed at your post! We are so the opposite here with our shoewear! When in Italy I actually caught a woman snarling at my 'trainers' worn in a museum! All the Italians were in gorgeous leather heels, but it was pouring rain, and I reverted to my native state. In our recent big storm here, I've been wearing my white suede, fur trimmed boots everywhere--what is the appropriate French expression for such a misdeed?

Parisienne Mais Presque said...

@Stephanie, yes, people enjoy the novelty of the snow, but Parisians also love to complain! And alas, neither the road maintenance equipment nor the historic plumbing systems of this city are equipped to deal with sub-freezing temperatures.

And yeah, Grace is three years old, and le Petit 18 months on Monday. Whoa!

@Ruth, the first time I went to Italy, for a long weekend in Rome, I decided I'd wear brand-new stylish shoes because I'd heard that that was what Italian women did. What followed was three days of agonizing pain, worse than what I experienced after running the Paris Marathon. So now if I'm doing walking tourism, I'm all about comfort.

Besides, it's not as if I'm not doing or wearing five other things that identify me as a tourist from ten meters away. And if they say anything to me in Italian, I don't even have to pretend to not understand.