So, I have completed my first full day in Paris. I woke up later than I would have liked. I had a quick stop at a brasserie for a cup of what passes for coffee here. And then I jumped on the metro to get to the far (western) side of Paris.
So let’s start with what I did, before moving onto some things I learned:
- I visited the La Défense Grande Arche. Impressive construction. I have no idea why someone would build that particular structure. Interesting, though.
- I visited l’Arc de Triomphe, which was definitely one of the things I was looking forward to.
- I looked for La Galerie Vivienne. It is obviously a hoax perpetrated on unsuspecting tourists, since I never found it.
- I bought things. Something for me to blend in with all the parisiens, and something for Kim which I can’t say here because she might be reading this. Ooh, and fresh fraises…
- I took lots of pictures.
- I ate. As normal, just lunch and dinner. Lunch was fabulous, with even a conversation all in French with a plus âge couple that were sitting next to me. They didn’t know English and I was unsuccessful asking them whether tipping is normal in France. Them and three other waitstaff later, they still had no idea what I meant by the word “tipping”. We did talk about other things though that were more within my French vocabulary, like other languages j’ai étudié 🙂
I did my best to speak only French while out and about in Paris. I caught myself a few times using English helping verbs at weird moments…grrr. Overall, I think it went rather well. They may have been laughinig at me when I wasn’t looking, but they covered it well.
- I Skyped with Kim and the kids. It was a great, as somewhere in my journey to find La Galerie Vivienne, I started missing them fiercely 😦
Okay, so now what I learned today:
- Language books really don’t do anyone justice when they gloss/define café as “coffee”.
- Drink the coffee and don’t complain.
- Trust itineraire-metro. I, for a single moment, doubted it, and ended up under a big, blocky “Arche” I hadn’t intended to visit. When it says “Grande Arche” on the metro, it does not mean l’Arc de Triomphe; stop at Charles de Gaulle Etoile, instead. Just sayin’. And if you do, since no one listens to me anyway, just get back on the metro going the other direction.
- You want to get to the Arc, correct? And it’s surrounded by traffic. Crazy, bewildering traffic. Huge buses and little tiny things that I can’t even think what to call them. Don’t cross (I didn’t try, trust me!)
Go almost to the Champs Elysées side of the Arc, and take the passage that leads under the road. There are no signs to tell you this. No, the stairs down to the metro will not get you there…
- Get a good map. Seriously.
- Read this, then dress appropriately (buying soon after arriving is fine…). It’s important. Americans already have a bad impression abroad, often enough. Let’s not help any bad stereotypes, ‘kay?
- Buy the strawberries. They’re awesome. Alors, don’t eat them all at once. Your mouth (and maybe your stomach) will regret it. But they still tasted sooo good.
- I wish I had read this before heading out this morning, or even before leaving South Carolina. Then again, it was a good conversation anyway. All I needed was the word for “tip”! Anyway… Yeah, tipping is not required, and not necessarily expected. The guy at Au Royal Couscous last night must have thought I was crazy, as I tend to be a slightly excessive tipper even by American standards… I chose to tip my waitress this evening (keeping to the €1 for every €20 or so), because she tolerated and worked with mes horribles français. And still laughed (“with me”, not “at me”) with a hearty smile (which for Paris is saying something).
- It is amazing what one can do without speech. My conversation with the monsieur and his femme gave me a front row seat to a show of great skill with body language and gestures. I was impressed.
- It is a really long way from l’Arc de Triomphe to Hôtel Beaumarchais. Google Maps says it is 5.9 kilometers à pied. But the way I backtracked and lost myself on side streets. I calculate that it was more like 9.3 kilometers. Lots of shops and restaurants were seen, but still. Better yet, just use the metro.
- Immersion works. It gets you thinking, and not just spouting, in the language.
- Teasing Kim can be fun. Careful, there; I won’t tolerate anyone else teasing her. Asking her if she wanted to see her gift, then showing her the bag it was in: priceless.
Well, tomorrow I intend to see Le Louvre. My feet hurt, so I think I’ll be taking the metro to the front door. Bonne nuit!