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April in Paris: Part One
Tevere MacFadyen
May, 2017

I spent a week in April in Paris with my family, marveling anew at how profound the cultural differences are between even our two highly globalized and westernized societies. There’s the food, of course, and not just fine dining, which we didn’t indulge in; or the rotating roster of neighborhood street markets, for which the Mairie de Paris – city hall – provides set up and knockdown of the vendor stalls as a basic service; or even the topnotch bakeries on every corner. What was more striking, in an odd way, was the quality and variety of food available at the corner convenience store just down the block from our apartment: impeccably fresh produce, thoughtfully sourced and butchered cuts of meat, carefully chosen perfectly ripe cheeses, delicious locally made yogurt in little glass jars. The baseline assumption about what constitutes “normal” in Paris is simply entirely different from what it is here.

So too, and even more impressively, in the city’s public parks and gardens. From the grand and formal Tuileries, mobbed during Easter week, and the vast, almost encyclopedic Jardin des Plantes, to the tiniest planting bed tucked into an empty spot midway down a residential street, the gardens were well kept and astonishingly neat and clean. The plantings were varied and intelligently and creatively designed – actual gardens, not simply blankets of garishly colored blooming annuals plugged in and left to fade. And they were the evident recipients of real and consistent care, individual attention by trained and talented gardeners who took pride in their work, who weeded and deadheaded and clipped and trimmed and cleaned up after themselves when they were done. Where I live, it’s rare to see that level of effort or quality of work in any public park, much less in a modest neighborhood garden. In Paris, it’s the norm.

Next month, a nearly perfect museum…