From Paris to Berlin

July 23, 2010

.. well, not really, but close. From Paris to Dusseldorf, in fact, where Pa(s)risienne spent half her life!

Ooh yes, je pars en weekend, and like 1/4 Parisians I saw in the metro this morning, I have a small weekend bag on wheels to prove it (except mine was much fuller and heavier than everyone else’s because of my lack of decision-making skills when packing, sigh).

Honestly though, it felt kind of nice to finally be one of those people that comes to work on a Friday with their weekend bag. These people have what I would call The Summer Friday Look, the haha-I-may-be-in-a-suit-today-but-tomorrow-I’ll-be-poolside-and-you-won’t look that annoys the hell out of Parisians stuck in the city for the weekend. Today I went for the type of Summer Friday Look that says I’m-dressed-nice-enough-for-work-but-comfortable-enough-for-my-train-ride. I think I pulled it off pretty well.

So happy weekend everyone, Auf Wiedersehen until next week!

It’s almost August, which means Paris is emptying out weekend by weekend and… Paris Plages (Paris beach) has begun! Wooo!

Yes, yes, I’m being sarcastic. I mean, I love the concept of Paris Plages (which I will explain in a second), but I should have known better than to get all excited about it at work. As soon as I said “woo Paris Plages starts today, we should definitely check it out during lunch”, all I got was a bunch of snickers and eye rolls from my colleagues. One of them even said “typical, the non-Parisian knows more about what goes on in Paris than we do”. Thank you, I’ll take that as a compliment and go write about it on my blog.

Anyway, Paris Plages is a one month event where they shut down the traffic on a huge chunk of the road along the Seine in the very heart of Paris and transform it into a beach. Imagine deckchairs, sunbeds, sand, showers, ice cream vendors, beach volleyball, a mini pool and LOTS of kids… all in front of the Seine. These pictures will give you an idea of what it looks like:

So yeah, you get the idea. Although it’s not exactly a place where I would feel comfortable soaking up some rays in a bikini, it’s still a great place to go for Parisians to feel better about themselves that they’re not at on a real beach like all their postcard-sending friends. Or not yet anyway.

Much like in Italy, summer vacation is very, very important in France. Absolutely everyone takes some significant time off to jet off somewhere, anywhere, as long as it’s not near Paris. As natural as this may seem, I don’t think the Frenchies realise how lucky they are to be able to take so much time off, 2 weeks minimum, even in a junior position.

“Oh one week vacation is nothing”, I was told today. “You hardly get used to being on vacation and then you’re back in the office again.”

“Yes,” another girl agreed. “If I don’t have at least two consecutive weeks off I just don’t feel rested.”

Oh la la. Go tell that to your Japanese or American friends.

So yes, French people are spoiled when it comes to vacation, this is a well-known fact. But when will they ever realize the luck they have and stop whining about their lives? Everyone in the office who rolled their eyes about Paris Plages today complained it’s too crowded and hot. That very well may be, but how many cities organize these kinds of (very well-organized) month-long events just so that the citizens stuck in the office of the summer can have a breath of fresh air?

In the end, after lunch in the cafeteria, I convinced a few colleagues to take a stroll down Paris Plages, just to get a feel for it. Although there was “too much sun”, “too little sand” and “not enough potted palm trees”, I think we’re going back tomorrow. It took a foreigner to convince them to test it out.

Tastebuds

July 19, 2010

Via Hip Paris Blog

Hardly a week has gone by since the World Cup ended and it yet to me it feels like an eternity. Yesterday at a party a Frenchie asked me how I felt about Italy leaving after the first round and the feelings of anger and disappointment towards my team came back veeeery slowly, I really had to dig around for them. I’m not sure if it’s because I’m really good at erasing upsetting things from my memory or whether it’s because I felt relatively indifferent to the outcome of the World Cup once all my favourite teams got kicked out. Probably a little bit of both.

While the details of the World Cup may be slipping my mind little by little and other exciting summer activities are taking its place, one thing is standing the test of time: the World Cup soundbites. And no, I’m not talking about the vuvuzelas (although the commercial below is pretty funny)

Ever got a song stuck in your head and had no idea where it came from? You know, that catchy, hummable song that just doesn’t want to leave but you have no clue how it even got there in the first place? Well, then you may be one of the many, many victims of sonic branding. Case in point: Coca-Cola’s World Cup anthem.

(Excerpts from the article via BrandChannel.com, my latest Internet discovery)

“Coca-Cola took a risk by choosing a tune by a relatively unknown artist — K’Naan, who wasborn in Somalia and grew up in Canada — as its official song and crown jewel of its $300 million 2010 FIFA campaign.

According to soundlounge CEO Ruth Simmons, “Coke has used a technique we call audio watermarking. This is a popular and well-known trick that has been around for centuries and used by composers and producers to weave a sound/motif into a piece of music … watermarking acts like an ‘earworm’, which gets inside our brains and becomes so compulsive that we go around humming it as we walk down the street and not understanding why. We effectively become living, walking, singing commercials for Coke.”

As for Coca-Cola, Emmanuel Seuge, its group director of worldwide sports and entertainment marketing, told Billboard: “We wanted a song that embodied our campaign. It needed to be upbeat, it needed to be uplifting, it needed to be an invitation for people to celebrate.”

“By sneaking the Coke melody into an otherwise musically unbranded song,” notes Simmons, “they’ve seen incredible success in the charts. In our opinion, it’s a much more intelligent form of branding than paying artists to name-drop brands in their lyrics.”

Indeed, Coca-Cola’s announcement wrapping up its 2010 World Cup campign notes that the anthem reached number one on music charts in 17 countries and generated more than 800,000 download purchases. The video versions of the single amassed more than 87 million views on YouTube in addition to being the centerpiece of Coca-Cola’s World Cup trophy tour.”

So basically… we cannot escape brands. Liking a song on tv may lead you to buy the product that has sponsored it. Nobody is safe!

Here is video explaining the Coca-Cola sonic branding strategy, watch it at your own risk!

Mmm, so thirsty now.

Firemen and fiery hair

July 16, 2010

Dear French Republic,

Thank you for a lovely Quatorze Juillet this year.

First of all, it’s a great idea to open up the fire stations for big parties on the 13th. Thanks to the friendly firemen, I was able to skip the two hour line to get into the party to join my friends inside. And what a fantastic party atmosphere! A great DJ, charming decorations, cheap drinks, and a mixed crown of all ages make it a really fun night. And who doesn’t like to see men in uniform making absolute fools of themselves on the dancefloor?

I really hope there were no emergencies in Paris that night because the majority of firefighters weren’t able to walk in a straight line.

Anyway, speaking of fire, thanks for turning the heat on in the media by having Sarko invite the heads of state of 13 former African colonies  to the Bastille Day défilé on the 14th. That certainly caused a stir.

As did Cameroon’s first lady Chantal Biya, whose huge, fiery red coiffure (see where I’m going with these fire metaphors? Thank you, IB A1 English class) almost stole the show (Carla Bruni-Sarkozy being at the center of it, most of the time).

While we’re at it, thanks for showing us the fire (that was the last metaphor, I promise) between Carla and her amoureux (which is actually how she calls him, it’s not just me being obnoxious)

They make a very intriguing couple even though every day I become more and more convinced that Carla is, in fact, an alien.

So yes, Bastille Day was great, including being woken up by the dozens of military jets and helicopters fly over my house right before reaching the parade on the Champs Elysées. Impressive. Thanks for showing the world that the US isn’t the only country with a worrying military-industrial complex.

Also, thanks for ending the day with some nice fireworks under the Eiffel Tower. While they were less impressive thank last year (I’m told a smaller budget is to blame?) they still did the trick. The tourists were ooohing and aaahing on cue, and the day ended under a clear sky instead of with a thunderstorm like it started.

French Republic, I give you an A for the Bastille Day festivities this year. Now if you could only work on making the temperatures a bit more you know, July-like, that would be great too.

A la prochaine!

I am still recovering from the World Cup final. And no, I didn’t have too many beers (only one!), it’s just that after the interminable match I stopped to watch Spanish madness of the Champs Elysées. Although admittedly I didn’t care too much for either team, I was glad that Spain won because I knew the Parisian fans were going to give us something to watch on the Champs. And happiness is contagious, to the extent that I even caught myself singing along with a bunch of men going “yo soy español, español, español” (repeat to infinity). What can I say, sometimes it’s fun to party for absolutely no reason. So in the spirit of true sportsmanship, I put aside my bitterness and jealousy (wouldn’t it have been incredible if Italy had won again?) and pretended I was a Roja until it was time to snap back to reality and go to sleep.

Unsurprisingly, the media today is loaded with analyses and retrospectives of the first World Cup in Africa, and I’m having a hard time reading it all. Here are a few of my highlights:

* The New York Times notes that South Africa is not better off than before the World Cup came to town. What a surprise.

* Kickette gets all girlie and swoony over Iker Casillas’ post-match smooch with his sports reporter girlfriend. I give him ten points for spontaneity and charm!

* CNN reports on Sepp Blatter’s defence of Referee Web’s performance during the final. I thought he did great although the infamous chest kick probably deserved a red card!

* South African political cartoonist Zapiro gives us a few ideas for what to do with our vuvuzelas after the World Cup

Okay that’s all from me for now. Must get my beauty sleep in preparation for tomorrow night’s Bal des pompiers! The Bal des pompiers (literally, “the dance of the firemen”) are dances held in the inner courtyard’s of fire stations all over France on July 13 to celebrate la Fête Nationale on the 14th. According to this blog this dance is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Paris, with live orchestras,  DJs a fun crowd and great atmosphere. “Could you imagine this happening in London, New York or anywhere else in the world? No way!”

I see red, I see orange

July 10, 2010

Waka waka eh eh

So Klose

July 8, 2010

Paul the octopus was right….again!


*UPDATE* It’s official: Paul the Psychic Octopus is a real psychic”: Math genius Hamilton Nolan tells us the probability of Paul correctly guessing the results of all six matches is less than 2%.

Hup Oranje!

July 6, 2010

Just finished watching the great semifinal between Uruguay and The Netherlands. I have one word to say to you Uruguay: karma. Sometimes (though rarely), it bites.

As for tomorrow’s even more exciting semi opposing Germany and Spain, here’s something that might influence the choice in team you support:

Bon appetit everyone!!!

P.S. Even Paul the psychic octopus has some doubts over Germany. And Paul the psychic octopus is never wrong!

Choices, choices

July 6, 2010

The World Cup will be over in a week, and I just can’t (or don’t want to) believe it. Although my body will be better off without the chips and beer that football-themed evenings (and weekends!) have consisted of, I will definitely miss the anticipation, the excitement and let’s face it, the shenanigans. In fact, let me share two of my favourite Internet picks that characterise these shenanigans before the World Cup ends and it’s too late:

in reference to the uncounted goal in  England’s match against Germany



Ex US pres Bill Clinton with US Team captain Bocanegra, chilling in the changing rooms after the USA v. Algeria match. I will let the photo speak for itself.

But back to today, or rather tomorrow, and the big match that opposes Uruguay and The Netherlands. Two small countries, one ambition: to make it to the final. Not coming from either country nor having a particular affinity for one or the other, who to support?

Luckily, a Gawker writer helps us make such a difficult choice. Here are a few sample arguments for each team:

1. Uruguayans are surprisingly hot.

Check out star striker Diego Forlan, a ridiculous blond Adonis whose midriff isn’t so much a six-pack as a symphony-grade xylophone.

2. Cheering for villains is always perversely enjoyable.

Sure, sure-we all convinced ourselves that if Ghana made the semifinals, everyone would get their own personalized Nobel Peace Prize in the mail. Enter nasty Uruguay. Sinister Uruguay. As you may have heard, Uruguayan forward Luis Suarez “saved” a last-second Ghananian shot with a seventh-grade-girls-volleyball punch off the goal line. Some people now consider Suarez a war criminal for snuffing out Africa’s World Cup hopes. Meanwhile, the culprit and his mates areexquisitely unrepentant about the whole affair. You know what? Screw Ghana. Get into it.

3. They basically took a time machine to get here.
Uruguay won the first World Cup ever, in 1930. Uruguay also won the 1950 World Cup. Retro cool.

THE NETHERLANDS

1. They wear orange (and make it work).
Only the Dutch can pull off eye-bleeding orange, and make it seem totally appropriate.

2. Wesley Sneijder might secretly be the best player in the world.
Wesley Sneijder, the Netherland’s stubby, 5-foot-7-inch midfield generalissmo, is just bossing the scene. He just knocked in two goals to eliminate Brazil. He leads the World Cup’s only unbeaten, untied team. The dude is an undervalued stock.

3. They all look like World War II resistance fighters.
Shaved heads. Starved countenances. Overall, a steely approach coupled with some crafty, old-school Dutch flourish.

Hmm, this journalist definitely gave us something to mull over, and I think I’ve made my choice. Have you?

(p.s. I’m not trying to influence you or anything, but how great would a Germany v. The Netherlands final be??)