Paris - 1988
In the City of Lights
This was my first visit to Europe. To keep things simple, we stayed at one hotel the entire time and just used public transportation to get around. There is so much to do in Paris, so we didn't have any problem filling our days! We did take two trips outside of the city, once to Chartres and another to Versailles.
We stayed at the Hotel Montpensier on Rue Richelieu in the first arrondisement. It's a modest little hotel with a tiny elevator, but very convenient to the city center.
Our sightseeing included: Louvre, Notre Dame, Eiffel Tower, Sainte-Chapelle, L'Orangerie, the Pompidou Center, and LOTS of walking around the city.
At the Palace of Versailles we passed some construction workers who were renovating the Trianon. They were breaking for lunch. These men were sweaty and dirty from their work, but they proceeded to dine in style. While one fellow covered an old wooden spool with a table cloth, another opened a bottle of wine. Bon appetit!
I tried to learn some of the French language before our trip, but the only thing that the Parisians consistently understood was "Je ne parles pas Français." ("I don't speak any French.") One evening at dinner I strugged through the menu to place my order. After a few moments the waiter very kindly told me that he spoke English. Quite well, too.
Near the end of our trip Sarah returned to the Louvre while I sat across the street in the St. Germaine church courtyard, reading a book and watching the world go by. An old man came by, accompanied by his dog, with a bag of bread crumbs to feed the birds. The man showed me the apartment down the block where he and the dog lived. He asked my nationality. He told me all about his life. The funny part was that he spoke not a word of English, and I understood very little French, but that didn't bother him a bit.
Many of our friends in the US asked me if the Parisiennes are as rude as reputed. I didn't think they were, though we encountered plenty of Gallic indifference and that can be interpreted as impoliteness. There were only two truly rude people that we met. The first was a waiter at a café on the Champ-Elysées. He was busy, and he clearly was annoyed by the foreign customers who didn't speak French. The other rude person was an Englishman, a self-appointed tourguide at the cathedral at Chartres where he explained the art and architecture. He had a short temper at tip time.
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© 2004 Kermit Lancaster