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Paris for the First Time

The last of our one week apartments was Paris. I've always heard horror stories about rude Parisians. We found Paris welcoming and the Parisians very helpful. Arriving in the late afternoon we stood in front of the metro station map trying to decide which exit would take us closest to the managing office for our apartment. A man so stereotypically French he could have been "the Frenchmen" in a Disney movie, walked us upstairs and pointed out where we needed to be on the roundabout and told us how much he liked visiting N.Y. That set the tone for our dealings with Parisians. Train officials, shop keepers, and uninterested people helped us, chatted with us and otherwise made our day, for seven days. None of them asked for anything in return. Our Paris apartment was just a block from the St. Martin Canal and near four groceries and two bakeries. We ate like kings and walked the Canal in the evenings. Paris weather was variable and cool while we were there which was a welcome relief from Italy. The metro was clean and extensive. Notre Dame, The Orsay, The Cluney, and the Eiffel Tower were the highlights of our stay. The Louvre we found mostly big. There are better museums in Paris. The Eiffel Tower we did at 10 pm with was the time slot I could reserve due to the down elevators. That was a happy accident. At night the view was spectacular. We will be back to Paris.

Posted by
8293 posts

Thanks for writing this... Loved reading it!

Posted by
1501 posts

Can you give details re the apartment? How do we rent it? Thank you so much for your trip report! We loved Paris too, and found the people much warmer than we'd been told to expect.

Posted by
209 posts

I will give you the apartment details is your really really want, just PM me. But although we loved the area, we really did not like the rental agency. HomeAway, and many other internet clearing houses will help you find an apartment. We stayed in four apartments in Europe this summer. Overall, it was a great experience. Buying groceries and cooking is cheap and fun. Food is great, different and much cheaper than restaurants.

Posted by
87 posts

Jenny, it's so nice to hear about your fun trip. And very good to once more hear how nice the people in Paris were.

Posted by
213 posts

Thanks for sharing your trip with us Jenny! It is so interesting to me how we all perceive places so differently. I love love love Paris and had a great time there (have been twice and would go back tomorrow). To me it is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Some friends we know just hated it and thought it was dirty, difficult and the people rude. Upon hearing this I just thought, were we both in the same place? lol Then, again, although I enjoyed my visit to Italy, it's not top of my list to return to and I know it's a huge favorite for so many. To each his own.... Thanks again for sharing your trip - happy traveling!!

Posted by
209 posts

Yes it is funny how much our perception changes things. France was not first on my list, because it's history doesn't resonate with me the way that that of Italy and Britain does and it isn't as exotic as say Spain. We went to because our children have been learning French for some years and because it was a logical stop between London and Italy. We found that we simply enjoyed Paris for itself. It is a beautiful city with many scattered green spaces. We were in need of green spaces by the time we arrived. We also found the French chivalrous. I don't mean hand kissing, and ostentatiously holding chairs. what I mean is that people stood up for older, pregnant, or crippled people on the metro, a thing I rarely see in U.S. big cities, not often in London, and never in Rome. We also found them to be teachers. Our broken Italian, German, or Spanish has never been met with a language lesson. Speak in broken French and you get a lesson in pronunciation and in the case of our local pastry chief, an explanation of why the pastry has that particular name. This is either fun or annoying depending upon how tired you are at the time.

Posted by
1 posts

My husband and I just returned from our first trip to Paris. Prior to our trip, when others would hear we were going there, we heard their opinions on the French. It seemed people either loved or hated them, nothing in between. Our experience was wonderful. The people were so friendly and welcoming. We are definitely going back.

Posted by
4 posts

Jenny, thank you for your report. I'll be in Paris for 4 days in June 2013 and wasn't looking forward to it. Your report has changed that! I have signed up for a "conversational French" class at a local college in preparation.

Posted by
71 posts

I'm glad you were able to appreciate how the French interact. In my limited experience, it's really about manners. The French, especially Parisians tend (I hate talking in generalities) to be less informal and "friendly" than what Americans are used to. There are exceptions, like the wonderfully garrulous artist we talked to for almost an hour and from whom I was granted my first double kiss. But most will not "warm up" to you immediately. You don't find waiters introducing themselves and offering to be your friend for the evening. It is a profession and they are mostly professionals, not students or aspiring actors. But most French prefer for strangers to be polite, this includes the obligatory "Bon Jour Madame" when starting any interaction, and a sense of place (quiet in museums and churches...) and respect for the other person. If you start out on the wrong foot, like just walking up to someone and asking them a question without a greeting, then you can find out how rude they can be back. Or be lectured on manners, as my wife was once when she didn't begin with a greeting and turned around to leave without thanking the person. They're also quite proud of their language, traditions and history and are more than willing to share it. I find that a wonderful part of travel and never off-putting, even when tired. Until I spent some time in France, I always believed I would prefer Italy, but now I'm not so sure. I loved my time in France, and the importance of both formal manners as well as individual pleasure (find food, wine, gardens, love...) really resonated with me. I'll have to go spend more time in Italy now to do a fair comparison. :-)

Posted by
1780 posts

Jenny,I love the way you refer to the French as "teachers". I think what some see as rudeness is their assumption that we would want to learn how to say something correctly. My oh-so-thoroughly-American has a love affair with the French, I think in part, because he really wants to speak French correctly.

Posted by
5 posts

We did Europe in 14 days: France, Germany, Switzerland, and Italy. I thought Switzerland would be the best. But I loved France and Italy. Wish that Rick had a combo tour of eastern France and Italy (Venice and Naples, or Venice and Florence).

Posted by
209 posts

Carol, Well now that you've done the guided tour, try it on your own. Rome to Paris or vis versa would be grand. You could do Paris and surrounds for a week, take the night train or a plane to Venice, do Sienna, Florence and Rome. It would make a lovely three or four weeks and be very easy to organize. Or spend less time in Paris and add a couple stops along the French Alps on the way to Venice from Paris.

Posted by
5 posts

Hi Jenny! we are thinking about doing that. The plane ride from Lyon to Venice is a little over an hour, but 13 hours by train. Rick's eastern France wine country tour in 2013 looks fantastic, but alas, we do want to visit a couple of cities in Italy again. I have to say that our tour group/guide/driver was the greatest. Everyone says that ;-). So there is something magical that happens on a Steves tour. It is a very nice way to learn the ropes of travelling in Europe and then take that next step of venturing out on your own the next trip. Happy travels!

Posted by
7605 posts

Jenny, looks like you found the same thing my parents did on their first trip to France. We weren't a Francophile family, I didn't grow up studying French, ended up here kind of by accident, and my parents of course came to visit. They thought, Oh well, we should take this opportunity. They never dreamed how much they'd love it or how welcoming people would be to them. I had this experience over and over with friends who came to visit, their parents, etc. etc. Judy -- I hope you'll have a great time in 2013. Your signing up to study French in the meantime will enrich your experience immeasurably!

Posted by
2 posts

I just got back from Paris from an unplanned, very short, first time trip. I also found no merit in the unfriendly Parisian stereotype. Since the trip was unplanned (flying standby, had to choose between Frankfurt and Paris, tough decision!) I didn't prepare by reading any of Steve's guidebooks. Didn't know about reservations at the Eiffel Tower and got into the wrong line - stairs instead of elevators. Bad idea since I am afraid of heights! Beautiful views though. My teenager wanted to go to the top, but the wait was too long - they stopped selling tickets. This was at dusk, when folks wanted to watch the sunset. Will do it next time. We had trouble with the Musee d'l'Armee closing early unexpectantly on their late opening night. Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, and river cruise were highlights as well as bakeries, coffee, and the Rue de Cler!

Posted by
41 posts

Glad to hear you had a good experience. We just got back from Paris and also had an apartment that we absolutely enjoyed. Our experience with the locals wasn't as pleasant. It was "hit and miss" some were nice and some were down right rude. Paris itself was awesome, though.