Impressions of Paris
Let’s just say I was underwhelmed.
My almost-nonexistent French wasn’t as much of a problem as I had feared. I do know how to say good morning, good evening, please, thank you, pardon me, yes, no, I don’t speak French, do you speak English or Italian, and red wine — which got me most everything I needed. And the people were, on the whole, fairly friendly and willing to put up with my lack of French. The hotel was comfortable and quiet, and my only complaint (thankyouverymuch, Jesmond Travel) was that it was just over a mile from the conference center.
I had no time for sightseeing, as I am on a student budget and didn’t add any days to my trip. I did see the Eiffel Tower from a distance and the Arc du Triomphe fairly close up, both from the airport shuttle. The Arc is very similar to the gazillion such arcs I’ve seen in Rome.
Restaurants are VERY expensive. I’m told it’s because they pay their staff a living wage and don’t expect them to eke out their wages with tips. But the prices were higher than what I would expect of normal prices plus 20% tip. (i.e., they were higher than in Rome.)
Upshot: Even though Paris has a mystique about it, I’d still rather be in Rome. I speak the language, the prices are somewhat lower, and I like the food better.
A few things of interest
On my walk to the conference center from my hotel, I passed three (three!) veterinary clinics. I guess the reason Paris has so many vets is that they have so many dogs. I even saw a sign on the sidewalk indicating that an urban dog park was across the street.
I also noticed that “entrée” doesn’t mean “main dish” as used in the US; it means “appetizer” or “starter”. This makes perfect sense, when you think about it. Sigh. Yet another thing we got wrong in adopting words from other languages. Since I’m so adamant about not calling “caffè latte” just “latte” (which means “milk”), I’ll have to be consistent and not use “entrée” for main dish. Which means not using it at all.
Also, French mayonnaise is a damn sight better than English mayonnaise!
Everybody who checked my passport and bording pass at the airport asked me where I was going. When I said “Newcastle” they relaxed. I suspect they saw my US passport and wanted to verify that I was in the right place, as most flights to the US leave from a different terminal. My boarding pass did say Newcastle, but as it was an electronic one the destination wasn’t as prominent as on paper ones.
A really funny thing happened as I approached security. I was in line with a group of Koreans, and we were all surprised to find that the tall African gentleman who was directing us to the security lanes spoke Korean. He greeted the ones in front of me in Korean, and they greeted him back. Then he said the same thing to me, and the ones behind me chuckled. Then he said, “How do you do?” I replied, “Fine, thank you; how do you do?” He said “Fine, thank you. God save the Queen!” I replied “God save President Obama!” To which he apologized. :-)