Saturday, February 12, 2011

Cleanliness is Next to Godliness/Being French

Real French Fact #9: One of the reasons major cities look so picturesque and pretty in France so often is because they clean everything, all the time.

[Editors note: Marseille is exempt from this French Fact. Marseille is widely held to be, in the scientific term, “icky.” ]

Paying for the gold coating on a long-dead emperor's tomb? Right up there on the list of French priorities, along with obtaining the new metallic gold handbag. 

          French taxpayers pay a huge amount for street sweepers, sidewalk cleaning, and building cleanings sometimes daily or every few days, depending on how much pedestrian traffic is in the area. In fall, every day I saw a staff of workers collecting the newly fallen leaves on the major road by my apartment. Each afternoon, when I wait for the bus at 3 in Place Bellecour, the street sweeper comes by, mainly to scoop up all the cigarette butts that would otherwise accumulate into a massive pile of crap like something out of the WALL-E movie. Everything is pristine, manicured and often even decorated, like the tasteful white Christmas lights hanging from ramrod-straight rows of trees. One of the best examples is that Paris inhabitants pay out the wazoo for Napoleon’s tomb, Hotel des Invalides, to be reguilded in gold every few years. The French are an aesthetic culture, bien sûr. They want to make sure that their surroundings are given as much meticulous, fashionable care as the people give themselves.

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