I spent a week in Paris – here’s what I learned…

Just spent a glorious week in Paris with Svetlana, and came back brimming with observations about one of the most beautiful cities in the world. For example,  about eating:

  • When ordering wine, there is no such thing as a bad choice.
  • Frog legs taste like chicken wings without the grease.
  • Parisians drink wine, love desserts, and eat large amounts of butter with baguettes, breads and croissants every meal, and they are not fat or super-sized.
  • Unless you don’t mind second hand smoke, take a table inside the restaurant, not on the patio.
  • Restaurants located right beside tourist attractions are more likely to offer mediocre food, poor service, and much higher prices.
  • Tim Hortons has not made it to Paris – however Starbucks is trying valiantly – their problem is people in Paris actually understand the mediocrity of their coffee.
  • It doesn’t matter how fancy or large the establishment, the public washrooms are tiny – often suited for only one patron at a time.

About fashion

  • Pretty or plain, most French women dress chic, have a sexy air, and smell nice.
  • Most men in Paris wear shoulder purses.
  • No one wears Levis or Wrangler jeans – only designer jeans are “allowed.”
  • You see for yourself why Paris is the fashion capital of the world.

About driving

  • Twelve (!) different roads intersect at the Arc de Triomphe.
  • There are no lane markings or traffic control in the roundabout at the Arc de Triomphe.
  • Driving around the Arc de Triomphe is therefore an act of courage and essentially a game of “chicken.”
  • Cars park on the streets impossibly close to each other in Paris. Twice I saw a ‘trapped’ driver simply bump and push the cars in front and behind until sufficient space opened up to leave his spot.
  • Traffic lights and pedestrian crosswalks are merely suggestions for most Parisians. Cross the street at your peril.

About taxis

  • Taxi drivers increase their prices 15% to 25% on Sundays and public holidays – as otherwise they prefer to take the day off and spend it with their families.
  • If you order a taxi in advance, the meter starts at 12 euro, rather than 3 euro when you hail a cab from the street.

About the subway system

  • There are sixteen different, connected rapid transit lines (the Metro) offering 384 stops!
  • It is virtually assured you will not find a seat when you get on the Metro, no matter what time of day, no matter what day.
  • In crowded subway cars, a busker will often set up his speaker and instrument and entertain the passengers whether they want it or not.

About street performers

  • Street musicians are generally very talented, and play violin, clarinet, saxophone, electric guitar, and other fine instruments.
  • In the Metro station at the Louvre, the violinist plays beautiful classical music – such as Concierto de Aranjuez by Joaquín Rodrigo.
  • On the steps at the base of the Sacré Coeur, the street musician Youri is famous for his haunting rendition of “Hallelujah”.

About shopping

  • In most fine stores, there are two entrance doors, electronically sealed. The first door must be closed behind you before they will open the second door, and you will first be greeted by security guards of course.
  • The Louis Vuitton store located at the corner of Avenue des Champs-Elysées and George V is so popular; there is a line up outside before it opens, and all day long, every day.
  • There are more pharmacies per capita than any other type of store.
  • Convenience stores do not exist – the rents would be way too high.
  • Seems like most people smoke cigarettes in Paris, but there are no places to buy cigarettes.

About attractions

  • The Musée du Louvre is 800 years old, and was originally a Royal Palace, before becoming the world’s most popular museum.
  • Relative to expectations, the Louvre is arguably the most disappointing museum in the world.
  • The Eiffel Tower is spectacular from a distance, and a fairly ugly iron monstrosity from close up.
  • The famous Moulin Rouge is located on a very seedy street in Montmartre – every third shop either sells sex toys or is a “gentleman’s club.”

About scams

  • Pickpockets and scam artists are rampant all over the city, especially in the tourist areas.
  • Someone tosses a brightly coloured object into the air, you turn to look, while his accomplice clips your handbag right off your shoulder.
  • Some grab flower bouquets from cemetery plots, and then sell the flowers individually to tourist couples dining on side walk patios.
  • Amazingly the streets of Paris seem to be covered with lost gold rings.  A kindly local “finds” a gold ring on the ground near where you stand, and asks if it is yours. If you are not careful, you will be parting with your money for this display of honesty and generosity. It’s not a gold ring of course, it’s a brass bushing.

About Paris

  • The City of Paris was first founded two thousand years ago. Take that North America!
  • The sight lines in Paris city centre are stunning – not many high rises or sky scrapers – seems like the older buildings maxed out at seven stories high. This is mainly because there is no room left in the core of the city – some two million people live in Paris itself, and another ten million live in the suburbs.
  • And all the buildings have that  charming European facade with wrought iron balconies bedecked with beautiful floral arrangements; and sculpted motifs etc.
  • The city attracts twenty six million tourists every year. Las Vegas attracts thirty six million each year. Both figures are arguable and self proclaimed. It does seem unanimous that France is the number one country destination for tourists, and the top five cities in the world are London, Singapore, Bangkok, Las Vegas, and Paris. New York and Hong Kong are not far behind.

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