Sunday, August 15, 2010

Paris

My favorite place in the entire world is Paris. We took our children with us there a few years ago, and although they didn't appreciate it, I was like a drooling moron looking at everything. Everything fascinated me. The streets, the street signs, the shops, the buildings, the art, the different areas of Paris, the big "N" on all the bridges signifying Napoleon, it all captivated me. I hope to retire there when all of my children are either out of college or in graduate school. I've already looked into teaching there, and I would do it right now if I could.

If you've heard that the French are rude, I can honestly say that every single French person we met was beyond polite and helpful. One waiter sat down with us at our table and gave us a quick lesson in how to deal with waiters in Paris. Believe it or not, this is a very valuable lesson. He should charge. The people who worked the desk in our hotel (we always use local instead of chain hotels or we rent apartments when we travel.) was so helpful that she headed off a total meltdown by copying our passport photos for our Metro passes. The stupid photo booths in the metro tunnels DON'T WORK. The staff was always ready to recommend restaurants, and any other thing we needed. Somehow, we still managed to walk into a street riot and get tear gassed, but that's another story. It was an experience I remember every single day, and I cannot wait to go back. And believe me, I shall go back. WALLY. I will. Even if I must go alone, I shall go. I felt (as stupid and cheesy as this sounds), at HOME there.

If you get the opportunity to go to France, take it. I do speak French, so that helped a lot, but none of the rest of my family speaks a word of it. The learned the word "Pardon" because yes, that is just how polite the people were. That was the most often uttered word we heard on the Metro and everywhere else. Plus, where else can you go and watch a very bizarre impromptu puppet show on a subway car? Seriously, the two dudes had clothesline to string across the car, a sheet to hand on the clothesline, puppets, and music. They put on a show. The only people who seemed to watch was my family. We were amazed, enthralled and cracked up .
If you wish to communicate with the locals, try and brush up on some rudimentary French phrases. Learn how to say, "How much is this?" and "Can you please tell me where the rest room is?" Learn how to order off a French menu...learn the names of French food. Learn how to take directions in French. It's not difficult, I promise. If you want to practice, go to the BBC language school website. It's a fabulous resource for usable phrases and words. If you took the usual French in high school in the US, go to that site and brush up. It's worth it.
Advice: Do NOT under any circumstances yell in German at people in Paris. They don't like it. Neither do I, but then I wasn't occupied by the Nazis. My husband speaks no French, but can bark out military orders in German having been stationed in Germany when he was in the US Army. (He is American, amazingly enough). When I got fed up with him telling me I was wrong, I refused to translate, and he would bust out his loud guttural German and it didn't work too well. No matter WHAT he claims, it was not met with cooperation.
Actually, anywhere you travel, make an effort to learn at least SOME of the local language. I have found that America is one of the only countries in the world where being multi-lingual isn't the norm. It should be. Many people in France speak some English, or are fluent. However, if you are in their home, you should at least attempt to speak their language. The same goes for any Spanish speaking country, Italy, Germany...anywhere. Not everyone in the world speaks English, and speaking it LOUDLY and SLOOOOWLY doesn't help. Anyhow, I will list some sites I love about France because I'm selfish, and because I beleive everyone loves what I love, which is a trait common on self-absorbed people.

Avoir un merveilleux week-end , tout le monde !

1 comment:

Shelli @ Style Ingenuity said...

Hi Helen,

I just finished reading your post and loved it! As you can tell on my blog I hope to someday go to Paris and take my husband as well as my children. I speak a little French but I am trying to improve from my school lessons in high school and college.

I think these tips are very, very helpful! Do you travel a lot? You should give more tips on traveling abroad! Looking forward to reading more of your posts!

- Shelli

www.styleingenuity.com
http://EtiquetteEnVogue.blogspot.com