We’ve probably all heard stereotypes of Paris snobbery – that if you don’t speak French or you don’t measure up to their standards of behaviour, you should be prepared to get snubbed. Thankfully, my traveling companion still maintained a relatively decent grasp of the French we learned back in high school. Unfortunately for me, my French fluency had, by this time, mostly drained away. I was surprised to find that I was still able to understand a lot of what was being said, but the ability to cobble together coherent sentences under pressure eluded me.
The people in Paris were unexpectedly polite.
Most people we passed by at night bid us ‘bonsoir,’ and many people, even in the crowded metro, would say ‘pardon,’ as opposed to simply pushing past. They certainly did prefer it if we first attempted to approach them in French and upon realizing that we were tourists, many of them didn’t use particularly complicated language or speak too quickly. Some people were very patient and encouraged us to use the French we knew, and when it seemed like we were truly struggling, they would switch to English willingly. This may also have something to do with the fact that we were mostly in tourist areas, where the staff found attempts to speak their language refreshing.
Similar to London, I did tend to get some looks because I’m so obviously a tourist. On the whole, however, people were much less aggressive. At one point , when I was enjoying some amazing French pastries on a park bench, a man walked by and said ‘itadakimasu.’ I doubt he meant any ill by it, seeing as he was completely friendly, but it was an indication of the sort of casual racial discrimination that is difficult to call out because there’s no harm meant by it. Once again , I was mistaken for Japanese. Later that day, someone again said ‘konnichiwa’ to me as I walked by.
The following is that my week looked like:
Day One (June 15, 2015)
Our train from London was delayed by 90 minutes, so by the time we got there, it was quite late but we managed to make it to the Champs-Elysees and l’Arc de Triomphe.
We had dinner at a restaurant aimed at locals. The whole menu was in French. We had an excellent conversation with the waiter and upon hearing I was from Vancouver, he said, “Paris has good weed too, I’ll give you some.” And he actually did. It was pretty funny! French hospitality.
We went to Versailles, which was absolutely and completely amazing. It was the very definition of extravagance.
On way way back to the city, our train broke down conveniently at the stop for the Eiffel Tower, so we decided to head up it.
The Eiffel Tower was … anticlimactic. It was swarming with people and was not worth the intensely long wait times going both up and down. Still, it was a breathtaking view and an iconic moment.
In totally, we walked over 25000 steps that day!
We went to the Louvre, which basically took the whole day. It was an enjoyable experience, despite the massive swarms of people fighting to get a picture with the Mona Lisa. My favorite part was finally getting to see “Liberty Leading the People” in real life.
We went to the Notre Dame before doing some shopping.
We visited the iconic Chanel flagship on Rue Cambon and nearly wept with the beauty of it all. My friend reminded me that making glorious hats did not excuse Coco Chanel for being a Nazi.
Finally, we also visited the Musee d’Orsay.
We visited the catacombs – there was something quite morbid about the experience. It was certainly different from every other tourist attraction.
Overall, I really enjoyed my time in Paris. We fulfilled all the typical Paris goals – tried a new patisserie everyday (I highly recommend la Pâtisserie Cyril Lignac), had our fill of crepes and croissants, took in all the culture, and saw lots of beautiful/fashionable people. While we managed to make it to many areas that are meant for locals, the next time I visit, I want to take my time to explore more of the city rather than focusing on seeing all of the tourist attractions.
Now for my next stop, Amsterdam!