…you get used to seeing dogs in restaurants / shops / public transport

As anyone who has spent some time in Paris will know, dogs have a special place in Parisian society.  Most striking is the way that dogs accompany their owners to places usually exclusively reserved for humans, such as restaurants, shops and public transport.

Sure, we have all seen the exaggerated version of this cliché in films and TV shows, but there is a difference between seeing Carrie Bradshaw propped up beside a drooling Mastiff in a fancy tea salon and actually seeing how Parisian dogs trot about town on a daily basis.

SATC
Excuse me, but I believe this is a non-smoking area?                  (Photo credit: HBO)

Popular dog varieties in Paris seem to include little scruffy terrier varieties (Jack Russels, Yorkshires, etc.), pugs (carlins), dachshunds (teckels, particularly the wired-haired variety, teckel à poil dur), bull-dogs (bouledogues – apparently the Academie Française was not feeling particularly creative that day) and, of course, poodles (caniches). 

When you see a dog attablé in a restaurant for the first time (note: I recently acquired the fabulous verb attabler, meaning to be seated at a table), it may come as a bit of a surprise.  Like this little guy (an adorable teckel à poil dur), who I spotted just casually sitting up after dinner at the super cute Bistro Ernest:

Dog resto 1
Qui prend un digestif ?

Far from his usual hobbies of chasing wild boars (sangliers) and digging holes but seemingly not bothered by it, this little teckel was more interested in deciding whether to have a dessert or just take the café gourmand (“C’est plus léger, non ?”).  This was a truly Parisian dog.

Where I come from, dogs are not allowed in restaurants.  When I was home in Melbourne for Christmas recently, I was shocked that a café would not even let my dog sit on the terrasse out front of the restaurant, citing “Health and Safety regulations”.  Instead my poor pooch, much to his horror, had to be tied up on the other side of the footpath.

Rory coffee
Sorry, but I actually ordered a soy latté?

Why are things different in Paris?  One reason for the heightened canine presence (and acceptance) might be the size of peoples’ apartments.  When your doggy is cooped up in a 30m2 apartment all day (and with no backyard), it’s only natural that you would want to take him out and show him the town.  Hence the presence of pooches in shops, offices, hair/nail salons, and everywhere in between.

dog colette
Which way to the ladies’ shoe department?
nails
I’m a gonna get my nails did

But dogs don’t have free rein over the city, either.  Rather, as I learned from chatting with a dog-owner recently, dogs are, somewhat ironically, banned from a majority of the city’s parks and green spaces.  This might be another reason why they are allowed just about everywhere else.

Panneau
NO happily jaunting with your dog, NO feeding the ducks and NO walking on the grass (can’t you see it is sleeping for the Winter, YOU IMBECILE?!)

Why the ban in parks?  Well, from the dog-owners I have spoken to it seems to be the related to the petit problème of dogs doing their business.  This seems like a plausible explanation.  Parisian gardens are so beautiful, perfectly symmetrical and aesthetically pleasing, I can well imagine the authorities not wanting to tarnish that image with unsightly crottes de chien.

And let there be no doubt, the Parisian authorities feel strongly about this. The fine for not picking up after your pup, at least in theory, is up to 450 euro.  To put that into perspective, that is ten times the fine for not having a valid metro ticket and nearly thirty times the fine for parking your car illegally (at the moment you face a fine of only 17 euro; this is set to rise, but apparently now not until after the next Presidential election, #France).

So the incentive is there (at least when it comes to poop scooping), but do Parisians actually respect the rules?  Well, judging by the amount of crottes that litter the footpaths it seems not.  And you do occasionally see dogs in the parks where they are supposed to be banned, like this adorable little rule-breaker Henri who I saw out strolling in the Place des Vosges:

Henri
#thuglife

I was told by Henri’s owner that if you break the rules and walk your dog in a garden where they are banned, you usually have around 7-10 minutes before the gardien (caretaker) of the garden comes and kicks you out.  In theory you could also face a fine but, like lots of good French rules, it seems that this is rarely enforced.

As for public transport, Parisian dogs are allowed to travel on the metro if they pass the basket test.  Basically, if you can fit your dog into a small bag or basket (panier) then he can travel with you.  Just ask this little panier-sized guy, out for his morning commute in his raincoat:

Dog in metro
Métro-Boulot-Dodo

Or this little one out riding the rails on a Saturday afternoon:

metro
If you’re gonna put me in a basket it had better be pink!

The basket test also applies for SNCF trains outside of Paris, except the dog must also weigh 6kg or less (otherwise he has to be on a lead, muzzled and pay half the price of a regular ticket).  A similar rule applies for Air France flights (the dog must weigh 8kg or less to travel in the cabin with you).

Now the French are famously tetchy when it comes to privacy and droit à l’image generally (literally, the right to control your “image”) – just ask the guy who is being sued by Jean-Marie Le Pen after snapping a selfie with him while he was snoozing on a flight from Paris to Nice.  But not so when it comes to Parisians and their dogs.  They are only too happy to have their pooches photographed and to parade them around until you get the perfect shot, as I discovered on a recent balade in the marais.  After their posing efforts, it would be entirely remiss of me not to include them all here (and also they are just too damned cute not to be shared), so here we go: 

ChichuauaYorkshireShiaszuJack russelSausage dogIMG_1733IMG_1734White dogSt bernardNapoMaraiscavoodleBull dogpuppyPuppy2

All of this leads me to believe that my very photogenic dog Rory (pictured above avec latté), who is currently living in Melbourne, would love to live in Paris.  He loves nothing more than sitting up at the table for the chats after a meal.  He does not tolerate the company of other dogs, but instead prefers to hang with the human folk.

So there is no doubt in my mind that Rory would love la vie parisienne.  He just needs to lose a few kg’s so he can fit into a small basket.

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…#pfw affects your daily life

A few years ago I’m pretty sure I didn’t know that “pfw” stood for Paris Fashion Week.  I had plenty of acronyms in my life but “pfw” (or indeed “fw” of any kind) just wasn’t one of them.

When you live in Paris for a while, this starts to change and you don’t really have any choice in the matter.  Apparently the official “pfw” (Women’s Ready-to-Wear) takes place twice a year: once in February/March for the autumn/winter (A/W) collections and once in September/October for the spring/summer (S/S) collections.  But then there’s men’s fashion week, haute couture fashion week and, as far as I can tell, a ton of other “fw”s in between.

All I know is that a fashion week of some kind or another seems to roll around surprisingly often and I usually don’t have any idea it has arrived until I start to notice the telltale signs.

spongebob
This #ootd can only mean one thing: #pfw is here

At the outset I’d like to clarify that I do not claim to be a fashionista by any stretch.  Quite the contrary: I’m more into the practical and the comfortable than the aesthetics (or “ze look“), which is entirely un-Parisian of me.  For example, when it comes to footwear I have no shame shopping at Mephisto (hello Hush Puppies and Naturalizers), I wear compression stockings when I fly long distances and you’re more likely to find me discussing the virtues of comfortable shoes with ladies twice my age than shopping for Louboutins.

Another case in point: I recently bought a dress after trying it out in the store, showing it to the (clearly disinterested) shop assistant and thinking I looked just great in it.  But when I got it home and saw it on the website I realized that I’d tried it on backwards in the store (à la Sisters).

sisters cropped
The only difference was that I actually bought the outfit #fashionfail (Photo Credit: Universal Pictures)

So all of that to say I do not consider myself to have any particular sartorial prowess.   Also, I certainly don’t claim to know the ins and outs of the fashion industry (so my apologies in advance for any errors in this post).

But that does not mean I can’t spot the arrival of the pfw crowd a mile away.

First, you start to notice a sprinkling of tall, pale, Bambi-like girls in the metro or wandering the streets looking lost, presumably on their way to their next “go-see” (yes, I learnt this lingo from many well-spent years watching America’s Next Top Model – thank you mum and dad for the Foxtel subscription).  I was surprised to learn at a dinner party recently that these go-sees (or “castings” as they seem to be called outside Tyra Banks’s kingdom) only take place a day or two before the show.  The designer I spoke to told me that for her show they cast the models on the Monday for a show on the Wednesday.  Why?  Because before that the models are in Milan, before that London, before that New York, and so the merry-go-round of fashion weeks continues.

Next, you see the fashion “people” jaunting about town – the ones who are clearly not models but are part of the weird and wonderful fashion world (buyers, designers, publicists, etc.).  They can often be observed flouncing around in the fancier arrondisements for fashion shows (popular locations include the Jardin des Tuilieries, the Louvre, Place Vendôme, Palais Royale and the Grand Palais), always with smart phone in hand, frequently in sunglasses and usually in black (but with some exceptions – cf. Spongebob Squarepants, above).

 

Rue st Honoré
Fashion people gotta eat

They can also be spotted in the marais or Canal Saint Martin area for “showrooms”.  From what I gather from discussing this with the same designer, “showrooming” involves renting a space, displaying the collection and arranging times for buyers to come by and pick pieces that they like (and then negotiating about cost, orders, mark-ups, mark-downs, etc.).  I was told it was actually a very un-glamorous exercise but, although I wanted to believe her, it still sounded glamorous compared to my day job.

IMG_0747
We be showroomin’

Observing these trendy types generally, it seems that it is still unfashionable to actually put your arms through the sleeves of your coat (even in winter).  Instead your coat should be draped over your shoulders so that it flaps like a cape (see below).  I find this puzzling: do they not get cold?  Does the coat not fly off in strong wind?

place vendome
Using arm holes is sah 2010 

Also we can note from the above that this year cropped pants seem to be all the rage with the fashion set (and the hipster set for that matter), but importantly with NO socks, or, if deemed absolutely necessary, VERY short socks ONLY.  Again, this rule applies even in winter.  I also find puzzling: do they not get cold ankles?

BCON50I

Once you start noticing these fashion folk swanking about town, you brace yourself for all the things that inevitably come along with them.

First, the traffic gets worse.  Uber goes into surge pricing, even at usually non-peak hours like 9.30am on a Wednesday (a perfectly reasonable time to head to the office, or so I like to think).

uber
Uber uncool 

Second, your regular running route through the Tuilieries/Louvre/Palais Royale is blocked because there is a fashion parade (défilé) on there.

tuileries.jpg
When your running track turns into a runway

Third, your usual haunts (or at least the cool places you like to try to go to from time to time to feel cool) are suddenly full of fabulous fashion folk.  Good luck getting a table at colette water bar during pfw, which is jam-packed with “ze people” sampling the 60+ types of mineral water on offer even at the best of times.

Colette water bar
Fashion people gotta drink artesian water

Likewise, be prepared to wait extra long for your maki roll at Bob’s Juice Bar due to the influx of pfw’ers getting their acai bowl hit.  And don’t even think about trying to get into the members-only and already über-difficult to get into Silencio on a Saturday night during pfw  (see below).

silencio
Silenci-no gonna happen tonight. (Note also the lack of arm-hole use in the beige coat in the foreground)

Having said all of that, it’s also kind of awesome when the pfw circus rolls into town.  It’s fun to see the crazy outfits go by in the street and to do the odd bit of celebrity spotting.  It’s also cool to see how the big fashion houses dress up some of the monuments you’re used to seeing every day (my favourite being when Dior built a mound of bluebells in the Louvre courtyard last year).  So all in all, pfw aint that bad.  I’ve just got to work out how to wear my coat on my shoulders without it falling off.

*Credit for this blog idea to my friend Chris who is regularly inconvenienced by pfw but is not displeased by the presence of the Bambi-like models

…your wardrobe becomes almost entirely black

I’m certainly not the first person to muse about this (nor will I be the last), but Parisians have a thing about black.  Or, more precisely, they have a thing about not wearing too much colour.

I first learnt this from my former housemate (a lovely Parisian) who told me that you should not wear more than two colours at a time.  So, me wearing a pink and grey chequered dress with a gold scarf and purple ballerina flats, “ça va pas quoi”.  “You have to take off at least one colour before you leave the house,” I was told (in the nicest possible way).

This does not come naturally to me – I come from a country of bright colours and sunny prints (mister zimi being my favourite) where it is socially acceptable to wear clashing fluoro “active wear” almost all of the time (click here if you do not believe me).

But slowly, over the course of the years, I have found myself toning it down a notch.  When I showed my purchases from the recent soldes to a girlfriend she commented that everything I had bought was black.  “You’ve changed!” she said.  Sure, it has something to do with the fact that we’re in winter at the moment (and it’s true that, even in Melbourne, people tend to wear darker colours in the colder months) but there’s got to be more to it than that.

So why is it that Parisians wear so much black?  There are lots of theories – black is chic, timeless, slimming – all important things for Paris-folk.  But it may come down to something about fitting in with the crowd.  Parisians are not naturally extroverted when it comes to fashion.  It is almost better to conform than to se faire remarquer (to be noticed).  As one Parisian explained to me recently, there is comfort in wearing the same thing as everyone else – at least that way you know you’re not “Has-been”  (an English phrase the French love to use, which is another blog post in itself).

Nouveau chic
Le not-so nouveau chic ?

There are, of course, exceptions to the rule.  The most obvious (and my favourite)  is the “red pants on Fridays” rule chez les mecs (for guys).  At my office, on Fridays even the most conservative French males will wear red pants to signify the coming week-end.  It’s like they’ve got one foot in the office and one foot in their country house (à la campagne), pastis in hand and ready for the first round of pétanque.  It’s defiant, but then again it’s not that defiant, because everyone else is doing it.

Another example: we went to a beautiful country wedding of a dear Parisian friend a while ago.  After a raucous, napkin-waving marquee reception on the Saturday night we were all invited back for a brunch on the Sunday morning.  There was no official dress code.  “What to wear?” my non-Parisian better half asked me.  “Easy,” I said – “Coloured pants and a white collared shirt.”  And boy was I right.  We arrived to a sea of coloured slacks in every shade of the rainbow – red, pink, green, mustard, blue, you name it.  Once again, the Parisians had nailed it – fitting in, but with just the right amount of colour to look at once chic and effortlessly décontracté (relaxed).

There are other signs of change in the air.  The recent surge in popularity of  CrossFit (I go to Reebok Crossfit Louvre and highly recommend it), competitive/social running groups (e.g. Boost Pigalle), boot camps (e.g. CYD) and outdoor exercising generally (vale the passing of La Gym Suédoise (Swedish Gym) and Aqua Biking, two exercise concepts that Parisians love but I never fully understood) has meant the active wear phenomenon has hit Paris with a vengeance.  I was recently super excited to see that Lululemon – the cult Vancouver-based yoga and active wear company – has even opened its first showroom in the Marais.   I was thus not surprised to see this shop window on my walk to work a few days ago:

Oysho
Active wear, active wear, eating croissants in my active wear

Fluoro colours! Clashing colours!  More than two colours!  This was all good news for me.  Only time will tell if the colour/fitness trend will suffer the same fate as the Dukan Diet and Minitel, or become a part of French life, even after it goes out of fashion in the rest of the world (ahem, rollerblading and razor scooters).   For my sake and for the sake of all colour-loving expats in France, I sincerely hope for the latter.

*Credit for this blog idea to my friend Blake, a fellow colour-loving nearly-Parisian