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Facing Fears About the French in Five Days

Has anyone tried this company's service: http://paris.conciergerie.com/pass/paris_combo_pass_premium.php#DetailedInfo and if so, would you recommend it (and why)? Also, in 5 days in Paris, what have you found is utterly delightful and makes the entire trip worthwhile? Also, my big fear: how important is it that one be able to speak the language fluently? My French.... is not great, but is passable, sort of. Is the Metro trés difficile?? I have lived in fear of the French long enough; I thought I'd have my 52nd birthday there, and face my fears. :-0 Milles merci, en avance! (Je pratique!)

Posted by
1986 posts

Unforgettable sights: The gorgeous windows in St Chappelle, and the view down the Montmartre steps from in front of Sacre Couer. Affter all my visits, those are what I remember most. Plus wandering on the two islands, a different world My French is non-existant but I try, and get by fine. So you will do a lot better than me. As long as you can decipher written directions in Metro etc you will be OK I also was amazed to find how helpful the police were, and little old ladies who could not speak a word of English

Posted by
12040 posts

Relax, relax, relax. You'll only be like the 100th million visitor to Paris who hasn't spoke the language fluently, and the vast majority of them have thoroughly enjoyed their trip. If you can navigate through a shopping mall, the Paris metro will pose no problems at all. Once again... relax and enjoy your trip.

Posted by
37 posts

That's so interesting; I was literally just now looking at pictures of Ste Chapelle at night. Thanks for those recommendations; I'm going to write down everything that sounds do-able in five days, because we have a tendency to just wander obliviously. This time I'd like to have more of a plan. I also saw, on another thread, the information about the museum passes, and also someone brilliant mentioned the archaeological crypts, which sound quite interesting. Très intéressant! I'm going to get annoying with this French stuff, I just know it. ;-)

Posted by
79 posts

Other than the obvious ones (Eiffel Tower at night), Notre Dame, taking a Seine dinner cruise, etc...my favorite Paris moments are: Standing in Monet's Water Lilly room in the Orangerie The view from the top of the ferris wheel near the Louvre Any time I was eating Berthold's ice cream - any flavor Walking Rue Mouftard on market day Standing in San Chapelle admiring the beautiful stained glass
Enjoying wine or coffee at any street side bistro in the 5th Don't waste your energy being afraid of the French. I can only say a few phrases in French, but made sure to learn "Je suis desole, je ne parle pas Francais" and have never had any problem in France that I haven't had in any other country.

Posted by
2788 posts

Do you have RS Paris Guide book yet? If so, great. If not, I suggest you get it and read it as it has lots of good information for you that we used in planning our several trips to Paris/France.

Posted by
1976 posts

Hi Alison. Your French will be fine. If you have a textbook or language CDs, you could read or listen to brush up on your knowledge - it's amazing how fast language comes back. The Metro is very easy. What really helped me was to print a map of the system (in color) so that I could study it and figure out my route before I even bought my tickets.

Posted by
9423 posts

My three favorites in Paris are the Luxembourg Gardens, walking around Ile Saint Louis (little island east of Notre Dame) and the island where Notre Dame is (Ile de la Cite). Paris is my favorite place in the world and the French, and Parisians, are wonderful. Scroll down to the thread titled "Are the French Rude" on 5/21. It'll help you feel better and enjoy your trip.

Posted by
222 posts

Someone or something has caused you to be way too over-awed by the French. All you need to know are a few polite phrases. It helps if you say Bonjour, Madame and/or Au revoir, Monsieur when you enter and leave a store. The French are more formal but you sound like a polite person (not an ugly American) and you will be fine. Paris and France are just too beautiful to allow these anxieties to interfere with your enjoyment of these places. Enjoy, and keep a sense of humor about the French!

Posted by
32225 posts

Alison, I agree with Charlie - it would be a really good idea to pack along a copy of the Paris Guidebook (or the France book if you'll be visiting other locations in the country). The books provide LOTS of good tips on things like opening & closing hours for Museums, ways to beat the queues, good restaurants and sightseeing options. Given your location, it would be VERY easy for you to stop at ETBD in Edmonds and pick up one of the Guidebooks there. That would also give you an opportunity to speak with Rick's staff about any other questions you might have. If you're planning to visit any of the Museums, you might consider a Paris Museum Pass (perhaps the two-day version). You'll be fine with "passable" French. From what you've said, you probably have better abilities than most of us that just struggle along with a Phrasebook and a few of the polite words. Bon Voyage!

Posted by
1 posts

I just got back from 10 days in Paris - with almost no French. I think you'll have no problem. The metro is easy, the maps are easy to read and every ticket office has the larger tourist version available for free. If you make Sainte-Chapelle check the fliers on the way out for concerts. That's how I found the concert I attended there, Bertrand Cervera, violin solo and director of Orchestre Paris Classik. It was by far the highlight of my trip. If you find yourself on Rue de Passy there's a great pair of boots still in the window of one of the shops, though I was tempted to buy them just for their beauty. Have fun!

Posted by
233 posts

My favorite thing about France is probably getting to practice my passable French :) You'll be amazed how far a little French goes. I still remember several people I've met and conversed with over the years in Europe in basic French (a Brazilian woman and Frenchman in Bruges, a West African man in Lisbon, an old man in Eze). Remember, too, that Paris is one of the top tourist attractions in the world. People from all over the world, many speaking no French at all, arrive every minute. You'll have a great time. Bonne anniversaire!

Posted by
12040 posts

"Unless you plan on wearing a veil to cover your face, you have nothing to fear..." With all the silly arguments about shorts, this is one clothing article that gets overlooked about what absolutely NOT to wear in Paris. Brilliant, James.

Posted by
34 posts

Just came back from 3 wks in Belgium' Germany,Paris & Ireland. My only foreign langiage is a poor smattering of French from college 20 yrs ago. Not a problem in any of these places. We simply asked ppl if they spoke English. Most of them downplayed their fluency. In Belgium & Germany the staff who had some English wld show up at our table to converse (practice) with us. Met some very interesting ppl. The Parisians kept to themselves, but are perfectly capable of conducting various transactions in a mix of English & French. Go see St Chappelle. You can by the museum pass there. The pass is a great deal if you're going to see at least 4 museums in 2 days. But it also has a 2nd advantage- skipping to the head of the line. This alone will save you at least two hours of time ( for 4 popular museums). Also go to the Effiel Tower. If the 3rd level is closed when you,re buying tickets, ck when you get to the 2nd level. They have a ticket booth there for the 3rd level. They now sell champge on the 3rd level. €15/tiny glass. You,re better off savi.g the money for champagne later.

Posted by
425 posts

The main thing about travelling on the metro is to know the station at the END of the line that you are travelling on. That's what all the signs indicate. Not east or west etc, just where the train is heading. Once you get the hang of that it's easy.
Roger

Posted by
525 posts

Utterly delightful? One word...cheese! Like none you have ever had before.

Posted by
313 posts

Just like Rick Steves' books say about every country your visit -- learn enough local words to be polite and don't convery the attitude that everyone should speak your language. I've been to Paris a few times, and the sights are world class -- museums, galleries, monuments, everything. I could pick a few favorites, but won't take the space. But what my fondest memories of Paris are made up of is everyday life. Sitting at any sidewalk cafe, enjoying the food -- just about all of it, and enjoying the beauty of the city. There are many places to sit and watch what's happening around you -- parks, leaning on the railing over the Seine, strolling the two islands. Also take note of the French family life -- such a closeness and sweetness in how they raise their children.

Posted by
37 posts

I will have to look at how to change my current location, because I'm actually in Sweden until August, then back in Seattle, and then ? not sure right now. That's partially why I'm asking for everyone's input, since books in English in the town I'm in are not plentiful. I am so glad to hear about everyone's wonderful Paris memories. I think it's the memories, the little moments, the glimpses of things that you saw and encountered that make the trip worthwhile. Otherwise, it's just an itinerary, and that's pretty boring, not to mention one of those things you have to live up to. When you think of Paris, then, one hopes you think of the quality of the light, the beignets, the little cafés, and not "did we make it to the top of the Eiffel tower with enough time to spare to make it to the Louvre???" ;-)

Posted by
120 posts

Bonsoir Alison, as a private owner I welcome about 95% English speaking guests and about 80% of them don't speak French (except bonjour and merci) and even in Dijon they can manage perfectly well and I'm sure a lot less people speak English there than in Paris. Have a great trip!

Posted by
39 posts

Go with the basics: Hello - Bon jour Goodbye - Au revoir Please - S'il vous plait Thank you - merci Also, "I would like..." - Je voudrais (vood-ray) followed by pointing is always a good one. Lastly, a crucial one!
Where is the bathroom? - Ou sont les toilettes (oo sont lay toy-let?) If you work with JUST these, you'll make things a TON more enjoyable for yourself. Don't worry about sounding silly - your clothing/hair style will point you out as an American before you open your mouth so, if anything, your ATTEMPT to speak French will be appreciated and sometimes even rewarded (I have had waiters in Paris buy me drinks in the past!).

Posted by
37 posts

After seven+ years of French and being duly chastised by my teachers, (including badly translating good French literature) I have been primarily concerned with the attitude Parisians have toward non-native French speakers. ;-) Plus my best friend is half-French, and he is merciless about my mistakes. ;-)

Posted by
977 posts

Just go and soak up the sights, sounds and everything else that goes with Paris. I have found the French people I have encountered on my three trips to Paris on a par with every other city in Europe. In the main they are just like the people you meet back home. Having said that, Parisians, in particular can be a bit 'haughty'. You won't be sent to the guillotine if your French is below par!!!!

Posted by
331 posts

Other phrases which are especially useful when you have inadvertently parked in a Parisians parking space are; Gardez la chemise sur - keep your shirt on, and Gardez les cheveux sur - keep you hair on
(or is it keep your horses on, I always get them muddled up?) either way it always leaves them speechless.

Posted by
9423 posts

Shoni, How do you say those phrases in German? Just wondering for the next time I encounter a rude German.

Posted by
120 posts

Shoni I'm sorry but what do you mean exactly?
Keep your shirt on is "gardez votre chemise sur vous" but why? I don't get it sorry! :)

Posted by
331 posts

Susan, for Germans that need to calm down you could try: Reg dich nicht so auf! (Don't get yourself so excited) - very rude as you are using the familiar 'Du' form if they are strangers, so only to be used if you have a means of escape. or Halt den Ball mal flach (means something like 'keep the ball steady') Coco......I'm sorry, I was being silly, I am not surprised you 'didn't get it'. It was franglais and a bad example of Brits speaking French. As far as I am aware in French you do not finish a sentence using a preposition and so when you translate word for word from English to French the whole sentence just ends up as nonsense. It appeals to my sense of humour and is probably best ignored.

Posted by
37 posts

Yes, I won't be telling off the French (or the Germans, for that matter). Nor will I be renting a car while there. You guys are way more adventurous than I am. ;-) Any other suggestions of wonderful things to do? I think people got a little focused on the language issue...

Posted by
32935 posts

I thought silly season didn't start until late summer.