1.Meat and American teenagers
James and her family stayed in Italy for the summer before moving to Paris, stopping along the way to visit friends who live in Cigliano, Italy, for an overnight stay. James' teenage son was less than thrilled. "The farmhouse had hooks over the beds to hang drying herbs and sausages," James wrote. "Showing no respect for tradition, Luca freaked out at the 'meat hooks' and begged to be allowed to sleep in the car. We managed to keep from our friends his belief that their beloved house was really a charnel."
Italian school in Paris
James' son Luca and daughter Anna were set to attend an Italian school in the city, since both he and his sister are bilingual. Luca "came home from his first day of school with a shellshocked expression," James wrote. "He's expected to do 'architectural drawing' (whatever that is), Latin-to-Italian translation, and a kind of math he can't identify. We think it must be advanced geometry."
Walking on the sidewalk
James said she and her husband Alessandro had to get used to the leisurely walking pace of the Parisians. "They amble down the street, meet friends and spend two minutes kissing, then plant themselves, chatting as if the day were created for this moment," James wrote. "My husband and I walk like New Yorkers: fast, dodging obstacles, glancing at windows, going places. It's taken a few months... but I now keep thinking: Where am I going that's so urgent, when all these French people don't agree?"
Christmas in Paris (in Italian)
James and her husband attended the Christmas concert at their daughter's Italian school, which included their daughter Anna singing with the chorus. "Anna revealed that she knew only the first line of every carol in Italian," James wrote. "After that she planned to switch to English. To all appearances, no one noticed. My favorite moment was when the entire school sang, in thick Italian accents, 'Last Chreestmas, I gave you my 'eart...'"
Sales in Paris
After seeing well-dressed Parisian women everywhere, James made a New Year's resolution to dress like a native and decided to hit the biannual sale in Paris department stores as well as those that are a little more high-end. The sales are regulated by the government, which only allows the two a year. "Have you seen the Filene's basement wedding-dress event on television?" James wrote of her experience at the sale. "Add the security guards from Walmart's 'Black Friday' sales, keeping back the hordes so that innocent salespeople aren't literally trampled to death. I aged five years in Galeries Lafayette."
Order vs. chaos
James marveled at the difference between Parisian residents driving versus engaging in any other activity. "Parisians stand to the side of an opening train door, waiting for passengers to exit, rather than elbowing their way on," she wrote. "They form neat lines at the grocery store. I seem to be the only jaywalker in the city. But let one of them behind a steering wheel... everything changes. Held up in traffic for more than thirty seconds, a Parisian goes berserk and honks until the surrounding buildings shake."
Surprising lack of poodles
James and her family visited several pet shops along the Seine, but she says there was a surprising lack of the most culturally known French pet. "We have visited every shop on two occasions, and haven't seen a single poodle," she wrote. "As in Italy, chipmunks are popular pets. They look (to me) quite dismal, but perhaps Brazilians seeing parrots in cages rather than flashing through trees feel the same."
Tailoring and French women
James, who closely studied the fashion habits of French women while in Paris, discovered one secret: having clothes adjusted so they fit the wearer as perfectly as possible. "Take a look down any street in Paris and you'll almost certainly see a sign for a tailor," she wrote. "That's because it is routine to take new clothing to the tailor and have it fitted. I once had a French academic look at me as if I were out of my mind when I confessed to entering a tailor's shop only if a hem dragged behind me like a Renaissance cape."