Paris is a wonderful city – every time I visit, I’m once again awed by its beautiful and decadent architecture, inspired by Parisians’ sense of style, and kid-in-a-candy-store freaking out inside each boulangerie. And this time, it was no different.
However, despite all of the city’s beauty and the wealth of international travelers that visit, I never exactly feel at peace with the city’s residents. Perhaps it’s just the abundance of warnings I get from friends and family that have visited in the past, but I’m extremely wary of what I say and very observant of the responses I get when interacting with French people, which generally seem to be fairly cold. Perhaps it’s because of my very limited grasp of the French language, or because I’m an ignorant American, or simply because I’m not white (I’ve heard of a distaste for foreigners), but after speaking with friends who are studying there who’ve had similar experiences, it seems to be combination of all three. Obviously I’m not pointing fingers at all French people (I know plenty of French people who are some of the nicest and coolest people I’ve ever met), nor even all Parisians, but I did have a few experiences (impolite comments/responses from shop owners, people at bars, randos on streets, etc.) with some of the city’s locals that implied that there was at least a portion of the population that shared a general negative attitude towards outsiders, which dampened my three-day trip to the city.
HOWEVER, I did have one interesting experience that I believe shed some insight as to why at least some of their people acted this way. Note that I took four years of French in high school, managed to forget the majority of it (yes I know 😅), but am still able to communicate at the most basic level. However, most of the time I just spoke in English because I was embarrassed of my heavy American accent 😁
Anyway, one afternoon, I decided to get a haircut, and picked a place on Yelp that seemed to be frequented mostly by French people, with no reviews by Americans. I made a reservation anyway after seeing the great reviews, and got there a little early. The person who greeted me seemed a little peeved that I didn’t speak French, but told me to have a seat as I awaited my 5pm reservation. 5pm rolled around, and none of the stylists came to help me, even as people who arrived after me were helped. 5:30 hits, I’m getting very annoyed, and a woman finally grudgingly comes over. After speaking rapid French and getting a blank stare from me, she realizes I don’t speak French, and seems even more annoyed, and barks at me to “Sit!”, pointing to a chair, prompting another customer to laugh and note that I’m being treated like a large dog (they don’t realize I at least understood some of what they’re saying). After having my hair washed, I walk back over to the chair and take a seat. An old woman looks at me, shakes her head and loudly mutters, “Merci?”, publicly critical of the fact that I didn’t say thank you when sitting down, even though NO ONE HELPED ME SIT DOWN. a;sdklfjas;djfpdiasj really pissed off at this point.
Despite all of this, woman proceeds to give me a great haircut (very fond of it rn), and I decide to try speaking at least some French, so at the end I complimented the haircut and expressed my gratitude. A little surprised, she asks me if I can speak French, to which I respond “un petit peu” (just a little). At this point, the attitude of everyone in the room seemed to change, and I was asked questions about how I learned, where I lived, and stylists very willingly helped me and made jokes with me. By the time I left, everyone cheerfully yelled goodbye. [happy ending]
Anyway, the point of this little anecdote was that I think the French are really proud of their language and culture, and having people show up and prance around without regard or interest in learning their language hurts their egos a bit, which makes sense. If I was in America and some rando walked up to me and started speaking German, I’d be shocked and perhaps just a little bit annoyed. The point is, every time you go somewhere new, take the time to research and learn about the place’s language and culture, to show some them some respect. Obviously, this still doesn’t address some of the racial issues in France, but it was still a good learning lesson and a rule of thumb to remember.
Anyway, I still had a great time and got to do [almost all] of the things I had on my list! I got there on Friday afternoon, and did a little exploring around my hostel before meeting up with some Cornell students studying in Paris for dinner. BTW the hostel I booked was awesome: it’s called the BVJ Opera Youth Hostel, and is an old Opera building converted into a hostel (the inside is beautiful), with a delicious free breakfast in the mornings. It’s a five minute walk to the Galeries Lafayette and a bunch of other shopping centers and restaurants on that and neighboring streets. However, it is located in Montmartre, which is one of the more dangerous areas of Paris, which is something to be wary of (even though I personally didn’t encounter any problems).
I met up with my friends at La Cave Gourmande and had a very fulfilling “Boeuf Bourguignonne” (place is known for it) and apple tart with ice cream, along with some great conversation.
Afterwards we (kind of) went bar hopping, visited the Moulin Rouge (where I found out it costs 180 EUROS for a visit wtf), and landed in this pretty nice bar where I ordered some kind of a cocktail.
Next morning, I did a little shopping because (as I found out) all stores are closed on Sunday. There are a lot of clothing brands that are French-based, so they were a lot cheaper in Paris than in the U.S. So. Much. Browsing.
At the Galeries Lafayette, I accidentally wandered my way to the rooftop, which I thought had a very unique view of Paris that you don’t normally see.
Afterwards, in the afternoon, I figured out the subway system and went to the Eiffel Tower and nearby tourist attractions. It was a little chilly since it was early February, but there weren’t as many tourists as there are in the summer, which was perfect for me – loved the peace and quiet. I crossed the river to the Palais de Chaillot, then turned around to the Paris Military School, which is a beautiful building across from the Eiffel Tower. I really wanted a portrait of myself done, but was surprised to find no starving artists in the vicinity 😔
The entire day I was surviving on pastries that I’d find at random patisseries and cafes along my route. No regrets.
After this excursion, I went to get my haircut. Post haircut, I went on a nighttime boat cruise on the Seine River – I thought it’d be unique doing it at night. Really beautiful (but cold ❄️). Got a Nutella-banana crepe right before the ride – was disappointed. Do not eat these near tourist attractions.
Next day, I woke up early, packed my bags, and went to the Louvre (it was only a 25 min walk from my hostel!). I had no idea that entrance was free on the first Sunday of each month, so that was a pleasant surprise, although the line was so long – I think I waited around 1.5 hours.
Although the line was so long, I was able to take some time and appreciate the architecture of the Louvre. Additionally, I realized I brought along my copy of The Da Vinci Code and read it as I waited in line – pretty cool reading it as I stood in the book’s main setting.
However, after Annie went inside, she saw a giant “Carousel de Louvre” sign, and thought: “WOW a carousel inside a museum??” and walked that way. Turns out it’s a shopping center and separate from the actual museum, and she had to wait another 45 mins in line to get back in…
But she tried some delightful French food in the cafeteria/cafe before she went back in.
Anyways, the line was worth the wait. I’ve been before, but with family and friends so I didn’t get to spend enough time looking at my favorite paintings.
Afterwards, I had some time to kill before my flight, so I explored some of the cafes around the Louvre, and had some last minute pastries. I stopped at a cupcake shop (with an incredibly rude owner), and then found a Middle Eastern-themed pastry shop, where I got Strawberry, Mango, and Pistachio flavored pastries and lemonade. Really unique flavors.
…and then I made my flight! Last but not least, went a little bougie and got Lauduree Macarons at the airport hehe but a few broke during the flight 😦
Great weekend, great food, great friends. Can’t wait to visit again!