Observations from a First Time Visitor to Paris (Barb Hyre)
All the things we expected as a part of travel happened (long layovers, small airline seats, jet lag) and some unexpected things as well (a hassle with all the roads leading to the airport, a near-crisis with our passports that thankfully didn’t materialize, an unexpectedly quick turnaround for a plane change in Atlanta), but in the end, we all arrived in Paris, safe and sound. In our 3 days so far, here are some things I’ve noticed:
**To properly take part in the café scene, put your back to the café and face out, so that you can people watch. No need to be coy about it - that’s what everyone is doing!
**French people don’t wear what Americans call tennis shoes at all, but Converse shoes are a huge hit.
**Everyone, male and female, wears decorative, rayon scarves (maybe this is because it’s been cool since we’ve been here?). Also (again maybe due to the weather), dark clothes are de rigur. B sticks out like a sore thumb in her pink coat!
**Parisians love their dogs, and generally take a much more enlightened approach to our four legged friends than we Americans. Dogs in shops, dogs in cafés, dogs on the subway - all OK.
**The Paris subway system is a challenge. Would it have killed our guidebook to mention that the RER serves the suburbs and the metro serves the city proper? Just that one sentence would have made getting from the airport to the hotel in Marais much easier!
**The French are better at saving electricity. All the lights go off automatically in the hotel if no one is moving around. This can make finding your way around an old hotel’s byzantine floor plan a neat trick. Motivation to learn where that light switch is! Americans are better at recycling - you can’t find a place other than a trash can to toss that empty water bottle to save yourself.
**I know this will sound cliché, but there is no comparison between French butter and chocolate and their American counterparts.
**Downward pointing arrows do not mean the same thing to the French that they mean to us Americans. A French arrow pointing down means “right here”. Can’t tell you how many boondoggle trips down stairs and elevators and ramps we took before that light bulb went off.
**Getting into the subway doesn’t mean you can get out. On the trip to Vaux, D, B, and K took the Metro, and the RER, and discovered that a) if you don’t have the right ticket, the subway won’t let you out, and b) bored and harassed subway personnel, confronted by a panicked and persistent tourist, will eventually just give you the right dang tickets to get you out of their face. -BHyre