In the interests of boredom (on my part, not yours) I’m going to do this Paris Wrap-up in bulletpoints, because I’m into the whole brevity thing (who doesn’t love a Big Lebowski quote at the top of a blog post? Losers, that’s who)
- Food is fantastic. Its quick, honest and flavoursome. If I’m totally honest, it is a bit too rich, but that’s hardly a crime. I have a new appreciation for crème brulee, fois gras and escargot. Petit dejuener la Francaise (French Breakfast) is a great way to start the day – small coffee, orange juice, 2 fried eggs and a croissant – c’est bon.
- Everyone said it would be expensive – this was not my experience. Sure, if you’re stupid enough to eat at the brasseries in the touristy areas, you will pay more, but it’s really not necessary. The charcuteries and markets offer cheap feeds – you can’t go wrong with a slice of quiche Lorraine or lasagne for 3 Euros. And alcohol is available in the supermarkets – I grew quite fond of 1664 beer, which was €6 for a 6 pack. I did however indulge in champers when Tina was in town –Taittinger for 30 Euro-holler!
- July is sales time, and the sales are decent – 50% off in many cases. Bring a big suitcase.
- Seasoned European travellers will be aware, but the architecture and buildings are fantastic. Every square centimetre of the city is pure creativity and history. The place is littered with monuments, most of them free – Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, Notre Dame, Sacre Coeur, Trocadero, to name a few.
- Speaking of litter – its everywhere. A downfall of Paris is it is a bit dirty. I think its part of the people’s culture – despite rubbish bins being installed everywhere, people just leave their trash where they sit. The city does its best (garbage is collected daily) but still; I don’t care how old and beautiful a building is, the sight of a man pissing on it or a dog pinching a loaf in front of it is mingin’
- A feast for art lovers – there are approximately 70 museums in Paris. If you’re really an art buff, it would be wise to invest in a museum pass – its cheaper and you skip the queues. Must-see the Louvre and d’Orsay.
- The metro is easy to navigate and very accessible – there are literally hundreds of stations, and there are probably 2 or 3 stations to choose from at any one point in Paris. Buy a 5-day ticket for unlimited use and get out there.
- Europe is small – the apartments are small, as are the elevators. Get over it, that’s just how they roll, and it’s charming.
- The people are beautiful. Full hair, clean skin, well groomed, clean, tailored clothes. Men usually wear suits in a navy or charcoal, and anyone looks good in that colour palette, whatever their nationality. Women also stick to blue/white colour , with maybe a metallic/neutral accessory to highlight. (Whether the allegiance to the colour of their flag is a show of subconscious patrioticism, or just a manifestation of the fact that Europe is predominantly winter and so the colour scheme is an extension of the season is anyone’s guess).
- Charmingly, they also wear the nautical stripes alot – I honestly thought that was a stereotype, the same way people think all Aussies wear Akubra’s. There is also a hint of arrogance – they know they are French, they know what that means to the world, and they love it. Its confidence, but borderline arrogance. I adored it, but I can see how other people would get the shits with it.
- About 1 in 10 people speak English, and that’s if you’re lucky, and even then, they only know a few words here and there. Do a bit of research and know a few words:
o Bonjour – good day
o Bonsoir – good evening
o Pardon – same as English. Used if you want to navigate around someone, on the Metro for example.
o Excuse moi –excuse me. Used if you want to catch someone’s attention
o L’menu sil vout plait – the menu, please
o L’addition sil vou plait – the bill, please (for restaurants)
o Je parle un tre peu le francaise – I speak very little French.
o Desolee - sorry
o C’est combien – how much?
o Merci bien –thanks a lot
o De rien – you’re welcome
o Je voudrais – I would like
o Je peux essayer dans un trente-neuf – Can I try this in a 39 – that’s probably localised to me, when I was in the shoe boutique.
o Ca va – ok
- Personal space – in Australia it’s pretty much considered that an arm length is good distance to stand away from people. In paris, it’s about half – people get up in your grill. Especially on crowded metro’s, everyone becomes good friends.
- The men, as aforementioned, are smoking hot. I have heard people say that France is a bit sleazy, and I guess it’s a matter of opinion. Sure, they do say hello when you walk past a cafe, and I did get a bit of a thrill when a man said to me “vous et jolie, vraiment’. It is an appreciation – French men like good clothes, good food and good women. It’s the same way I pass by a clothing store, and feel the fabrics – just an appreciation.
- A few dodgy characters – organised gypsies and lots of homeless. If you’re firm and say no, they let you pass by easily. Don’t be moronic and fall for their ploys – no, you didn’t just drop this wedding ring, and no, I don’t want to donate to your dodgy ‘charity’.
- Traffic is kind of mental – scooters and bikes whizzing around, the green walk sign is just a suggestion, as is the red light –watch where you step and be aware they drive on the left hand side of the road.
- It is a city that encourages what marketers call incidental exercise – you can’t not walk around everywhere, and with the ubiquitous metro and hire bike scheme I would expect the majority of people wouldn’t be yearning for their own car.