Those who have been to Paris and were expecting to see the beautiful, white lights along the Champs Elysees were generally disappointed unless they were visiting during the Christmas season.  Granted, the disappointment doesn't last for long. The Plane trees along the avenue may not be lit, but they are equally elegant when covered in their large sycamore-type leaves.  It's strange that they can both soften and add a sense of formality at the same time.  The tourists and locals seem focused and preoccupied, and are certainly more interested in the shops and restaurants than the park-like atmosphere provided by the trees.  It doesn't take long to be lured into the crowd and before long you find youself window shopping or walking, with the flow, towards the Arc de Triomphe.  It's somewhat surreal to see buildings, cross-streets and metro stations named for American statesmen and politicians.  One can't help but feel proud that a country as young as our USA had such a strong impact on the history of France, just as they had on us when they helped us fight the British for our independence.  We'll pretend that you don't see that McDonalds restaurant and breathe a sigh of relief that the Starbucks is inside a concourse rather than facing the sidewalk.  It's alot nicer to see our impact on the political history of the city rather than our impact on their cuisine choices.  I don't want to sound too good for fast food; nothing could be further from the truth. I love french fries too, but I prefer to eat them with a platter of garlic buttered clams and a glass of white wine at a brasserie right near the cinemas on the Champs Elysees.  I can catch a movie (American movies come out in Paris weeks and sometimes months before launching in the USA, and they're in english).  When I get ready for coffee, I'll take mine at any one of the hundreds of coffee shops or restaurants.  I'll leave the American restaurants for the Parisians to enjoy.  I must admit that one of my guilty pleasures is to sit near a window in one of the restaurants along the Champs Elysees and people-watch as I drink a double espresso and eat an outrageously good pastry or dark chocolate confection. Hey, It's a dirty job, but someone has to do it.  OK, so it's not at all a dirty job, and nobody "HAS" to do it, but who could resist?  I certainly can't...
M.
 


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