Paris: Lessons Learned So Far

As I awoke to our second day in Paris, I was a little dazed and confused. My sister was alarmed that she had to wake me up since I had slept almost ten and a half hours. I could see the jealousy seething through her eyes as she broke down her sleeping schedule of the previous night: fell asleep around midnight, woke up at 3 am, went back to sleep at 6 am, woke up again at 9 am–all with the help (or lack thereof) of Ambien.

ImageThere’s only so much pills can do after all…

After a quick shower and directions from the hotel staff, we were off down the Champs to a popular supermarket (Monoprix) which is something I did not think existed in Europe.

Lesson #1: Be Careful What You Buy

I am happy to report that almost everything we purchased from the market was a complete and delicious success. For some unexplainable reason, I did not think fresh fruit existed in Europe…so you can imagine my utter shock and complete happiness when I found oodles of yellow peaches and bananas (my two favorite fruits). I didn’t start dubbing the Monoprix my favorite (and thus far only) European market that I had been to until I saw that they had hummus and rice cakes–my dietary staples. Peanut Butter was unfortunately the only fallen soldier missing from the aisle lines, but Nutella happily took its place. The peaches were juicy, the baguette was soft and fresh, the wine from Bordeaux was fragrant (and cheap—as was the cheese..surprise, surprise!). However we made one major fumble in our shopping experience in that we did not pay attention to labels, particularly on what type of water bottles we purchased.

Perhaps we can blame the jet-lagged, dazed and confused meandering through the grocery store or the eagerness to get out of the market and start our day touring Paris, but we somehow completely missed the ‘Magnesium Enriched’ text displayed across the entire water bottle’s sticker. Unfortunately, they came in a pack of six and we did not realize how god awful it tasted until the next day when we cracked one open and noticed the not-so-subtle aftertaste of metal. Touche Paris….you win this round.

Lesson #2: Never Trust the Weatherman (or weather.com)

Every day that we have been to Paris, it has rained. As each day continued on, the rain went from a random, light drizzle in the afternoon for a brief five minutes, to a more constant rain for half an hour, to an outright downpour that has lasted a few hours. Mind you–each day weather.com informed us that there was only a 10%-20% chance of rain the late afternoon. Lies, Lies, Lies. In truth, shame on us for going the third day and not bringing an umbrella, especially since my sister and I both have one and they weigh about one pound. The frustration only continued as we would wait in lines for different museums and be surrounded by umbrellas, as well as creepy older men trying to sell us umbrellas because I was the only putz in line that was wet.

My wetness is difficult to see, though my fury isn’t.

Lesson #3: When Nature Calls…Don’t Answer Until You Get To The Hotel

If I had a dollar (or Euro) for every public restroom I saw so far on this trip, I would have maybe $3.50 (the 0.50 is in reference to all public shrubbery that is available depending on the desperation of your situation). With that said, I’m pretty sure I have yet to see a Parisian drink a glass of water. I have also only seen ONE public drinking fountain in all of Paris. If one is thirsty, have coffee, a cocktail, or some wine. How no one passes out from dehydration is beyond me since I need at least 5 glasses just to make it through the day without having cottonmouth or a near-fainting experience. *Mini lesson learned: If you order water, the assumption will be that you want bottled water, so make sure to specify you want tap unless you want to be charged the extra Euros!

Lesson #4: Poker Face→Paris Face

My favorite new game is to see how long I can go into a conversation with a Parisian (or really anyone who speaks French) until they realize I am an American and begin speaking English to me.

Ways to win

  • Dress the Part: the second you are not wearing some trendy and/or hipster outfit, or a trendy/chic  hairstyle and purse–the game is over and you will be instantly greeted with English and a capital ‘T’ on your forehead for Tourist—in which case, congrats! You’ve done the bare minimum and are condemned to Tourist Level. You might as well  hold a rifle, stuff your mouth with McDonald’s, and wear a George W. Bush t-shirt. (No offense to any gun-wielding, Bush supporters, who routinely eat Micky D’s and/or any other fast foods).
  • Subtlety is key: Over-gesticulating? Talking louder than normal? Mispronunciation? Eyes darting in every which direction hoping there is a Google translate screen on the menu, the table, or on the waiter? Nice try, but these are clear warning signs that you are encroaching on T-level territory. Keep your cool, take a breathe, and when in doubt, just pepper in some English for the words you don’t know. At least this way you may be a Tourist, but dammit you’re a dedicated tourist! Welcome to DT level.
  • Keep it brief: Speaking from personal experience, it is really only possible to reach Parisian Level when the interaction is as brief as humanely possible. The second real questions are ask, just smile and get the hell out of there–sprinting is always a realistic option.

Best case scenario: They think you’re a real life French superhero!

Worst Case Scenario: They think you have the bathroom practices of a toddler, but that you are definitely French!

Lesson #5: Get a Paris Pass

The only reason this is not listed as number 1 is because I thought of it last and was too lazy to change everything. Don’t let my inadequate numbering fool you–this is the golden ticket. No, it’s better than the golden ticket because you would only be able to tour the Willy Wonka Chocolate Factory with a golden ticket. A Paris Pass, however, has phenomenal opportunities that are provided for you, including: free admission to almost every museum in Paris, free entry to Paris’ best attractions (Versailles, a Seine River Cruise, Musée Grévin, Tour Montparnasse and a wine tasting), 6 day metro passes, 2 day hop-on/hop-off bus tours throughout Paris, etc. etc. We’ve only been in Paris for 3 days, and are constantly using the passes. A truly incredible deal that everyone visiting Paris should take advantage of!

 

 

 

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