Un Petit Voyage en France

It’s distressing to see all the destruction in Paris during the serial demonstrations and associated riots. We visited in October and walked streets now carpeted with shattered glass and illuminated by burning cars. As a respite from all this anger, here are is a little collection of photos we took on our rambles in Paris.

Before the visit, I learned that for Parisians nothing is “huge, fabulous, awesome, amazing or tremendous. In Paris, big is not beautiful.” Petit, in French, means “small” or “little.”  Parisians use petit to convey images of simplicity, moderation, and conviviality. It usually designates pleasurable activities.

Once cued to watch for petit, the word turned up regularly in the names of shops. Sheila was particularly good at pointing out petits, because I’m basically illiterate.

Most small shops and cafes are unselfconsciously picturesque, even the ones that don’t have petit in their name. Also a little red does stand out in an urban landscape.

I assume the contraction “p’tit” suggests small AND informal, but I welcome your interpretation.

Nothing petit about the smell of my breakfast Camembert.

Le Petit Prince was a cult hero in the 1960s, so it was interesting to discover he still merited a royal shop.

And after wandering the streets (the phone said we walked 70 km) it was time for un pt’it café. Or maybe a big beer.


The informant who I heard explaining the concept of petit was asked what was the opposite. He thought for a moment and said it was probably gros. What has been happening in Paris does appear to fall into that category.

About the author

Stephen Archibald

It’s Stephen Archibald doing the noticing. I’m a huge fan of Nova Scotia’s material culture and cultural landscapes. Twitter (@Cove17 ) made me realize I could share what attracted my attention (perfect for my very short attention) and I’m gratified when folks enjoy my content. Pleased to meet you on the internet.