Finally…I made the trip to Paris. Last week, I flew across the Atlantic and took my daughter to visit her friend who moved with her family to the French Riviera. Being so close to Paris, I felt that I would be crazy to skip an opportunity to visit “The City of Lights”. I really wasn’t quite sure what to expect. I did learn in my planning that many people have very strong opinions about the French, especially Parisians. I’ll admit I was pretty intimidated. I heard the horror stories and hesitantly listened to all of the warnings. ”The French are rude”. ”French people HATE Americans”. ”You better speak at least a little French, OR ELSE…”. I was traveling with my daughter and speak just about zero French (actually, now I can say 2 words in French). Luckily, I did master saying hello and thank you in French before I arrived in Paris. But, the reality was that I was that I was heading to Paris with “American Tourist” stamped on my forehead. I hoped for the best, yet was prepared for the worst. I wouldn’t have ever told my daughter, but I was scared shitless. The last thing I wanted to do was feed my daughter to the wolves and make her afraid to ever travel again. So, we left the comfort of our amazing friends and hosts in Southern France, boarded a train, and set out to the jungle of Paris. I tried to stay open minded and armed and ready to use my smile (and 2 French words) as my only defense.
The attendant on the train was courteous, our cab driver was very informative, and my hotel check-in went very smoothly. I was starting to think that I just might survive Paris and was feeling pretty positive about not permanently damaging my daughter’s love for travel. The next couple of days continued to work in my favor and I was convinced that I was either very lucky or wrongly informed about Parisians. At that point, I realized that I really wasted quite a bit of energy worry about people possibly refusing to acknowledge me, giving me wrong directions, or spitting in my food. I actually spent quite a bit of time, while sitting in amazing cafes, thinking about my thoughts and ridiculous fears. I observed and watched. I began to better understand. Let’s face it, the French aren’t an overly warm culture. Heck, it pretty obvious that you’re not in a small village somewhere in Latin America mingling with the locals. But rude? No, not really. Different, yes. Waiters don’t rush you out to turn your table. The chance of you waiter having a quick smoke and chatting with a colleague, before bringing your bill is pretty likely. Plan on waiting while dining. On the other hand, I observed more people in 2 days give up seats on the bus to an elderly passenger or child than I have seen in the States in the last 10 years. The French are just more relaxed and not so hurried. This is a great thing and I quickly embraced the trait. It forced me to look around, visit a little more with my favorite little lady, and have that second glass of wine. I couldn’t have been happier that I was forced a bit to slow down and “smell the roses”. Paris is one of the most beautiful cities in the world, I am sure glad that I took the time to look around and embrace the culture. Enjoy the view, the wine, the culture and smile a lot. Cheers!