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Paris

Bill Bryson on Paris....extract from 'Neither Here Nor There'

Hmmm. I hope it won't be like this...

On Paris...
"You would go into a bakery and be greeted by some slug-like creature with a look that told you you would never be friends. In halting french you would ask for a small loaf of bread. The woman would give you a long, cold stare and then put a dead beaver on the counter.
'No, no', you would say, hands aflutter, 'not a dead beaver, a loaf of bread.'
The slug-like creature would stare at you in patent disbelief, and then turn to the other customers and address them at much too high a speed for you to follow, but the drift of which clearly was that this person here, this American tourist, had come in and asked for a dead beaver and she had given him a dead beaver and now he was saying that he didn't want a dead beaver after all, he wanted a loaf of bread. The other customers would look at you as if you has just tried to fart in their handbags, and you would have no choice but to slink away and console yourself with the thought that in another four days you would be in Brussels and probably able to eat again.

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The other thing I never understood about the French is why they are so ungrateful. I've always felt that, since it was us that liberated them - and let's face it, the French Army couldn't beat a girls hockey team - they ought to give all Allied visitors to the country a book of coupons good for free drinks in Pigalle and a ride to the top of the Eiffel Tower. But they never thank you. I have had Belgians and Dutch people hug me round the knees and ket them drag them down the street in gratitude to me for liberating their country, even after I have pointed out to them that I wasn't even sperm in 1945, but this is not an experience that is ever likely to happen to anyone in France.

This is from 'Down Under', so it's not about Paris, it's actually about Sydney, but it's relevant perhaps considering my by now confessed inability to stay awake on any form of transport other than foot <smiles>. I'm not this bad, Stephen, I swear it! But it's a funny thought <laughs>. This is Bryson submitting to jetlag during a guided car tour of Sydney with his Australian hosts...
I am not, I regret to say, a discreet or fetching sleeper. Most people when they nod off look as if they could do with a blanket; I look as if I could do with medical attention. I sleep as if injected with a poerful experimental muscle relaxant. My legs fall open in a grotesque come-hither manner; my knuckles brush the floor. Whatever is inside - tongue, uvula, moist bubbles of intestinal air - decides to leak out. From time to time, like one of those nodding duck toys, my head tips forward to empty a quart or so of viscous drool onto my lap, then falls back to begin loading again with a noise like a toilet cistern filling. And I snore, hugely and helplessly, like a cartoon character, with rubbery flapping lips and prolonged steam-valve exhalation. For long periods I grow unnaturally still, in a way that incline onlookers to exchange glances and lean forward in concern, then dramatically I stiffen and, after a tantilizing pause, begine to bounce and jostle in a series of whole-body spasms of the sort that bring to mind an electric chair when the switch is thrown. Then I shriek once or twice in a piercing and effeminate manner and wake up to find that all motion within 500 feet has stopped and all children under eight are clutching their mother's hems. It is a terrible burden to bear.