That’s how Paris felt to me. It may be easier to process as a tourist. I was almost jealous of the hotel-staying, English speaking, sightseeing crowd. Once the monuments are seen and the museums visited all that was left of the day was to enjoy a croissant or vin chaud. Not for them was the pleasure of buying groceries at night in the Monoprix, operating a French washing machine, tiptoeing up and down ancient stairs so as not to disturb neighbors, or navigating the city while scouring centuries of history stored in my mind behind a jumble of Frenglish.
No, for us it was an exhilarating, challenging and wonderful chance to be Parisian, not just see Paris. No lines, no English, no itineraries
So come with me, as we explore Paris.
Here we are: our apartment on Quai des grands Augustins. Standing at our front door, the Pont Neuf is to our left, Notre Dame to our right, the Seine directly in front of us and history all around us
Parisians are quite friendly, thank you very much. When planning our trip I came across quite a few warnings about the rudeness of Parisians, especially the waiters. I didn’t remember this from my last visit so I was dubious and I was right to be so-Parisians are quite friendly and personable. More so than the people of Boston. Which is not to say that Bostonians are rude (ahem) they are just into themselves whereas Parisians are into life.
I wasn’t impressed with the food.
There. I said it.
I heard a few gasps just then.
Everything was delicious, but there wasn’t much that I couldn’t enjoy here in Boston as well. What I enjoyed was the way the French eat: they sit down properly, and take their time. They eat everything we are told to fear: white bread, cream, real butter, cheese, and wine in the middle of the day. And I shall bestow upon you, free of charge, the secret behind the ‘French paradox’….ready? …Sit down, it will be a lot to process…hold on to your hat……
They eat LESS
Food is a serious business, it’s not to be rushed. No silly diets or fads. And unless otherwise advertised, the food is always French. No tex mex apps, oriental salads, or buffalo spices. We ate mostly in the brasserie, though. Although I grew a bit weary of croque monsieur I love that the menus are, for the most part, unadulterated.
We took a peek at the major sights of course
But the big sights needn’t be seen. Oh, to just wander in Paris! The city offers so much in her architecture and style that simply wandering through the streets is enough to get the experience of Paris. Every street was cobblestone, every building historic, every corner revealed an ancient church.
The Unexpected (The little differences that captured my attention)
Ou et le…..?:
I have an excellent sense of direction. And Mr Bebe is an actual expert in land navigation. So it came as quite a surprise to us when we found ourselves hopelessly lost on more than one occasion. At first it was a little concerning, standing stock-still on a Parisian street, map in hand, and absolutely no idea how to get where we were going. But I highly recommend it. You never find as much as you do when you are lost..
Let’s Not Get Physical
Since diet and exercise occupy much of my day, I found that spending time in a community that puts no thought into them at all was intriguing to say the least. So much extra time in the day! And they obviously know what they are doing: not everyone is thin, but no one is fat
Forget about water. The French just don’t drink it like we do. If you ask for water they will bring you a little bottle to share. So if you are, like me, the type that is very conscious of ‘eight glasses a day’ then you will find yourself parched. Drink more vin rouge to take care of the dehydration headaches. That’s what I did.
The pickpockets must make a decent living because they are out in droves and they do not even try to be subtle. Anywhere more than ten people may gather there will be a group of 20-something girls with crumpled papers approaching people for signatures. They were everywhere. Armies of them across the city, men and women,and we were warned by our Parisian friends that they can get very aggressive. The police won’t arrest them so they are free to grab jewelry and phones and run off. Its an interesting situation. For the most part we could simply rebuff them and they would move on but one man actually grabbed the hand of my 14yo daughter and got very close as his partner moved in. Fortunately I was right there and can give a quick slap like my Irish grandmother. Over here, these sorts of shenanigans would get you a pop on the nose. Lucky for him my husband wasn’t the one standing next to her.
People in this country would lose their minds if soldiers patrolled the streets. It would be viewed as a violation of civil rights, intimidation, and/or incitement. Personally, I like a
man person in uniform. But then again I don’t do anything wrong. Not in public, anyway.
You’re on your own
Of course I never noticed it much before, but we are rather catered to in this country. Signs are translated, grapes are seeded, showers have doors, stores honor their posted hours. But in France I noticed a more laissez faire attitude toward providing conveniences.
Nowhere was this more evident than when we were abandoned at Petite Trianon. Shuttles bring visitors back and from from Versailles as they are quite a distance apart. After a late day visit to the Queen’s humble abode, I stood in line for the return shuttle awaiting my children. I told Monsieur ticket taker that we would be four for the trip and he said nothing. It would have been a bit helpful if he mentioned that this was the last shuttle.He didn’t even glance back at me as he drove away
Children are nowhere to be found, the shuttle has gone and suddenly there is not a soul to be seen. And this is in the woods, there are no main streets where a cab might be hailed. So we walked, in the misty rain, no maps, darkness approaching, and only our wits to lead us in the right direction
It’s amusing, but I felt rather unimportant. Didn’t the staff wonder why we were still there, damp and confused? Not a single patrol car or security guard approached us to ask if we were lost. Apparently it mattered to no one but us that we were stuck in the middle of Versailles all alone. C’est le vie.
I enjoy a challenge anyway.
And I hope my readers do as well-coming up: what I wanted to see in Paris. But first: an important day trip.