…Paris. Le sigh.
The truth is I have been lucky enough to visit Paris before and I’ll be there again this weekend, but my excitement for this city simply does not wane. The best parts of Paris never change–the architecture, the joie de vivre, the sophistication–while the rest evolves swiftly–the restaurants, the fashion, the politics.
Paris may be the cilantro of cities to Americans (you love it or you hate it), but I believe it should be on every traveler’s must-see list…for its vast collection of art alone.
The Louvre and the Mona Lisa get all the hype, but I personally love Museé D’Orsay (where Van Gogh’s “Starry Night over the Rhone” resides) and the Museé Rodin. I’ve never been to the Museé Picasso which recently reopened after a five-year renovation project.
That said, the most pressing reason to visit Paris is to fully comprehend the Parisian lifestyle. The French put leisure first, therefore, they really excel at living well. The French can linger. Over one glass of wine. For hours.
Professional traveler Anthony Bourdain says “The vacation gone wrong in Paris is almost always because people try to do too many things.”
When a friend tells me they did not get along with the Parisians, I wince a little. Americans believe Parisians are rude and Parisians believe Americans are rude–it’s a vicious cycle–all because they do not understand the other’s customs. A few tips:
- Always say “Bonjour!” when you enter a restaurant, bakery, shop, museum. Even when you purchase a metro ticket. Always. It is considered rude to not acknowledge someone in their place of business and sets a bad precedence. Say “Bonjour Madame!” or “Bonjour Monsieur!” if the person is older. When you leave, say “Merci, au revoir.”
- Waiters are not ignoring you, they are letting you dine in peace. While servers in the U.S. are by the table every three minutes checking if you need more water, the French believe that diners should not be bothered. Simply say “monsieur!” or “madame!” and put your hand up if you need something.
- You are expected to seat yourself at a cafe. Again, say “bonjour” to the server and make your way to a table. A server may ask “dejeuner?” or “diner?” if it is a mealtime–indicating that there is an area for people who are just having a drink and an area for those who are dining.
- Try to keep the volume down in public. Americans…we’re uh…more boisterous than the French. Take notice of the volume of those around you and match it.
- Try to speak French. Even just “Bonjour!…s’il vous plait…merci.” The gesture will be appreciated. You would not be expected to speak fluent French at your office should a Frenchman come in, would you? Practice with this great language app.
For me, this time in Paris will be different because I’ve never been with my husband, I’ve never been in the winter and I’m actually trying not to plan very much. Since we will be there for about 40 hours or so, we’re looking forward to wandering around, having “un petit renversé” in a cafe and feeling Saint Valentine in the air.
As far as what I’m packing for Paris…my dream outfit would be something like this:
But I will have to be more sensible, since it is 40 degrees and raining all weekend! No complaints here. I’m going to remember what Owen Wilson’s character said in “Midnight in Paris”: “Can you picture how drop dead gorgeous this city is in the rain?” So, instead I’ll be packing:
Dreaming of Paris? My favorite films set in the City of Lights (besides “Midnight in Paris“):