Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Musée d'Orsay

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

What You Need to Survive Paris

1.Paris Practique par Arrondissement-This is what you need to get around Paris. First off, remember Paris is actually quite small and despite not being on a grid-system, it is easy to get around if you plan and understand most small streets spur off and meet at larger ones. If you can navigate with a Mapsco, you will find this reference even easier. It is the same principle, but more concentrated. The Paris Practique also has the complete metro and bus systems, so no need to walk around with those big awful maps. The P.P. comes in a number of small sizes to fit in your pocket, plus Parisians use it, so you won't look out of place with yours. Make it the first purchase you make after landing, if you don't get it before leaving the States.

2.Simple French Language Book-You might not need to use it much, depending on where you are, but a few words go a long way. This is said over and over and yet I hear people constantly ignoring this advice. French is a beautiful language, but you don't have to expect yourself to be perfect when ordering a café. Simple requests and questions in French will usually give you an answer in English. Most French people are sympathetic to non-french speakers and believe me, they are just as self-conscious about speaking English, but if they can, they usually try and so should you. I go to school to learn and struggle enormously. You don't have to pressure yourself. Say "Bonjour" when you enter a store, pass a nice person on the street, entering a cafe and addressing anyone for anything. "Au revoir" or better yet "Bon Journé" when leaving makes you sound more relaxed. Actually understanding just a few words in french and you will feel more relaxed.

3.Patience-This is not just for Paris, but for traveling in general. It has become more difficult and trying to travel these days. Due to strict security checks, higher rates and rising and falling money exchange rates...it makes you want to just stay home. Coming to Paris takes a lot. The flight is long and usually full every time. You are dealing with a language difference and not always sure what to expect if you have never been here before. This said, Paris has a lot of tourists, just like you. The streets are usually much smaller than those in the US. For a city that benefits it's people who walk, it can be frustrating with all the congestion of others. Many people walk slow, talk on their phones and could not be bothered to consider you are behind them and wanting to pass. When shopping, sales people don't come to you, you must go to them if you want something. Not all waiters and waitresses are attentive. I have spent many many dinners with french people who are continually ignored by the server...it is not because you are a tourist that you are being ignored or overlooked, it seems to be part of a game. Just play along even if you do not know what it means. Watch out for traffic! Everyone jay-walks, but do so at your own risk. The French seem to be great drivers who can stop on a dime, but why risk it? Wait for the little man to turn green or walk and it will be much safer. Know that many public toilettes are ''squat-toilets'', although many restaurants have to regular type. The little "cabine" you see on the streets are not quite "squat" but close. They are self cleaning and if you are a woman who can handle it, feel free. They clean themselves automatically after every user. You can hear them. They sound like a car wash. Don't always rush around without noticing where you are. Notice you are on the Pont Alexandre III. Notice you are standing in front of the Opéra Garnier. Notice you are standing in dog droppings!!! Affectionately called "crotte de chien", some people consider stepping in it good luck...I don't, but don't worry it washes off. Everything requires patience and Paris is no different.
4.Enough Metro Tickets-As much as you will want to walk around Paris, (and I highly encourage this) you will get tired, you will want to rest and in the end, you might find your hotel pretty far away. Get a few tickets for the metro. This comes in handy because you will inevitably go to buy some at the automatic machine and there will be a long line, usually the hold up is because there is someone without a clue how to operate the darn thing. At the same time, the ticket window could be closed or backed up as well. When you get a chance, buy as many as 10 tickets, believe me, you will use them.
5.Loving P.D.A.-People in Paris kiss. They kiss all the time and they kiss everywhere. They kiss in the middle of the street. They kiss in the middle of a café. They kiss in the middle of an elevator packed with people. They kiss at the stepping off point of an escalator. People in Paris hold hands. You might not be able to pass a slow walking couple on the street because they are holding hands and can not bare to be separated. I am a romantic at heart, but I have had the "BAH" bug bite me when I see a couple groping for for dear life while next to me on the metro. I am not embarrassed, but more just annoyed if they are in the way of me getting to where I want to be. Think of it as a sweet and stereotypically correct moment. If you dare, join in...and if you do, let me know the outcome.
6.A French Friend-From MySpace to Facebook, people are making friends and doing social networking like never before. Why not use this as a way to make a friend living in Paris? As much of an adventure it can be to roam Paris on your own, it is quite another thing to share the experience with someone else, especially someone who knows the city. A native can tell you when the right time is to go to museums (I find Thursdays, early afternoons good) and which really good cheap restaurants are worth the extra metro stops. A French friend can accompany you to a concert or invite you to a party. They can help explain some local customs and help you tie that scarf the right way. They can stop you from buying that touristy beret with "Paris" in rhinestones and frown judgingly when you speak too loudly about being "sooo drunk!" the night before. A French friend will introduce you to other French people. A French friend will keep you from smoking alone on the street. While in Paris, your new French friend will be you best friend for life.

This concludes the first volume. There will be more volumes and I appreciate your comments and suggestions. I hope these suggestions help.

Monday, November 10, 2008

The Paris Eye

The Paris Eye-
focusing on the beauty that is a city
Next posting- What you need to survive a Paris trip. VOL.I

The Republic at the Tuileries

Friday, November 7, 2008

The Blue Hour

Thursday, November 6, 2008

No Matter Where You Are, This Is Something

Just a quick note.

I have purposefully decided, from the beginning, to keep much of my personal life out of this blog. This might fly contrary to what most blogs are about, but this was my decision. I do not go in depth on my personal life and the people in it. I do not express my feelings about family, religion or (ahem) politics. For me this blog is about information and sharing. It is also about educating a traveler and hopefully, enticing more travelers to discover this extraordinary city called Paris. That said, I can not go without expressing the incredible events of my native United States of America and it's landmark decision to vote Barack Obama as President. This election has been on the minds of the French and they have embraced President-Elect Obama with warm hearts. Before the election, I feel the French did not believe the U.S. respected and embraced Barack Obama as they did. Till the very end there seemed to be doubts among many French that Mr. Obama could win. Since the election the news has run non-stop with coverage of his victory and magazine have run his face on covers. The French seemed surprised, delight and some overjoyed. This decision has not only effected the United States, but it has sounded all over the world. No matter your political affiliation, you have to admit this is a momentous occasion and the beginning of a new era.