Monday, February 26, 2007

Smoked out of Paris - and I only just got here

So welcome to the final leg of AW0708. Sadly my first Paris report has not been inspired by some fabulous Gallic fashion find. It's the smoke. After New York, London and even Milan, arriving in any Paris cafe or restaurant is like walking into a humidor. If there was ever a town out of which I was at grave risk of being smoked, I fear it could be this one.

I am sitting in a cafe near the Place du Chatelet.

Now you might think that I only have myself to blame since the name of this joint is the Tabac du Chatelet. But look, I've already walked out of one smoke-clogged cafe because I couldn't bear it and have concluded that it doesn't make much difference where I go.

It also appears to mean diddly squat if you sequester yourself in the cafes' 'non smoking' areas. This basically means a few chairs on one side of the room where the smoke reaches you anyway.

In this cafe a tobacconist's shop is located immediately inside the door flogging what I do believe may the biggest variety of cancer sticks known to man. There are display cabinets full of exotic cigars as well. All boast lovely little "Smoking kills" and "Smoking harms your health and that of your companions" stickers. But of course that all counts for nought and the bird behind the counter is doing a roaring trade. There's a line about 10-deep stretching through the door and onto the footpath.

All around me are people smoking. Including a couple with a small child about eight years old. Clearly they don't have any issue clogging his lungs as well. It's probably only a matter of time before he joins them anyway - at the moment he's playing with dad's ciggie lighter.

In order to survive lunch, I am wearing the turtleneck section of my bf's black Chiodo hoodie up over my nose. Yes it makes my grand creme and sandwich camembert a tad difficult to negotiate and me look like a complete twat but hell, I really don't care. They want to smoke themselves to death and take everybody with them, fine. By the same token I am at liberty to register my disgust - not to mention protect myself from their putrid exhaust - by shrouding myself like a ninja.

I should point out that this is not the first time I have been to Paris.

I once lived here for three years. But that was quite some time ago, when smokers ruled the world - on planes, in cinemas, at work. Now that they don't, non smokers really do notice things. We're sensitive creatures. This also happens to be my third Paris visit in twelve months. For some reason however it's really bugging me this time.

I should also add that while the relatively recent ban in Italy has meant that cafes and restaurants are now gloriously smoke-free, things can still get tricky.

In Milanese taxis and fashion media shuttle buses for example. You're not allowed to smoke in either however the reality is - you don't have to. The drivers of both take advantage of any downtime by smoking up a storm inside their vehicles, with all the windows wound down. When hapless hacks and customers turn up, they can hardly breathe.

That's it. A Chiodo hoodie can only do so much.

France has just introduced a smoking ban for public areas. As I go to pay I ask the waiter when any fullon ban is likely to be implemented. It's very good news: February 2008. Bring on AW0809.

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