Any trip, be it abroad or to the next state over, comes with certain expectations.
I was highly aware of the stereotypes accompanying France when I boarded the plane to Paris. The most looming was the notion that French people are mean, particularly to Americans. Those kinds of negative assumptions tend to be self fulfilling prophecies. If you believe the French will be rude, you will not only attract rudeness, but you will likely interpret any cultural difference or language barrier as negative.
I boarded the plane with positivity, hoping to absorb as much of the culture as possible in three days. My experience in France was somewhat mixed…
After checking into our hotel, we wandered to find a nice cafe to eat lunch. Jacqueline, who took French in high school, prepped us on a few key French sayings: thank you, please, excuse me, how much does this cost, etc. Without even realizing it, we all responded to our waitress with “Si” rather than “Oui”, “Gracias” instead of “Merci”, and “Por Favor” in place of “Si vous plait”. Our waitress was extremely sweet and explained that while she knew no English, she spoke Spanish…so instead of the normal Spanglish we speak, we opted for Franish…or Sprench. Either way, it worked out.
Two of my roommates were psyched that the menu had pancakes. I opted for the French onion soup. After the waitress brought out two plates of pancakes that consisted of two cold silver dollar pancakes, I knew I chose right. As much as I dig on Campbell’s french onion, I can never eat it again after enjoying the best French onion perfection. Oh well.
After strolling around Paris, we made our way to the Eiffel Tower. We decided to make a picnic out of it. We went and picked up a few bottles of wine. Another group of girls met up with us, and we told them to pick up some baguettes and cheee, therefore completing the perfect French picnic.
First off, the Eiffel Tower is gorgeous. I don’t know what exactly I expected, but those expectations were highly exceeded. I didn’t realized that there would be a gorgeous park surrounding it. The leaves were starting to change, and it was the perfect fall day. The weather was cool. Alright, it was freezing for my standards, but I was in my new coat and gloves so I was happy. Anyways….it was cool and there was a slight breeze. The orange leaves swirled around, hovering right above the ground. The air was brisk and clean.
We found the perfect patch of grass to begin sit down and enjoy our picnic. We poured some glasses of wine (in the handy plastic wine glasses I found at the market), and enjoyed the view. The girls from Florence showed up a little while later, baguettes in hand. Then Nikki pulled out the cheese…Well, I don’t know if you could even qualify it as French cheese. It was essentially Kraft singles. She bought Kraft singles in France. This is not a joke.
We left the slightly melted square slices in the plastic wrap and stuck to the freshly baked baguettes and wine. We stayed until the Eiffel Tower lit up, a gorgeous sight. We had to make our way to Musee du Louvre to meet up with our program, so we said good bye to the Eiffel Tower.
In case anyone has been living under a brick lately, you should know that there have been terrorist threats all over Europe. Security in France was extremely tight. There were police officers everywhere, machine guns in hand. Considering the Louvre is kind of a big deal, we had to go through a metal detector and put our bags through the security scanner thing; not a big deal.
As we’re standing in line, I realize I still have a full bottle of wine and a wine bottle opener in my purse. The bottle opener was essentially a shank…just a corkscrew with a handle. I start trying to think of ways to explain how I’m not a terrorist, just an American student looking to get tipsy at the Eiffel Tower. (I don’t which they would’ve preferred)
I put my bag through and walk through the metal detector…nothing. No security man says anything. I just take my bag and head on in. In what world is bringing a metal shank into the most visited / most famous museum okay??? Gotta love the French.
We made our way around the Louvre, saying hi to The Seated Scribe (cerca 2600 BC by the way), Venus de Milo, the Nike of Samothrace, and of course the Mona Lisa.
Unfortunately, rain decided to join us in Paris for the next few days. The temperature dropped, the wind picked up, and I just prayed my trench coat would do its job. Luckily it did. Nothing really interferes with the beauty of Paris.
After seeing the Eiffel and the Louvre, I had no idea how the next few days could possibly compare. Then the Notre Dame Cathedral decided to show up. It is hands down the most beautiful church I’ve ever seen….Have I mentioned I’ve been to St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City??
Notre Dame was built in the 12th century. THE 12th CENTURY! I stood in a church that was built 300 years before we discovered America. Talk about overwhelming. The church is incredibly dark inside, but contrasting the dark are gorgeous stained glass windows. The church was spiritual. I guess that’s an oxy moron, but I think we’ve all be in churches that aren’t exactly spiritual…just buildings. Not the Notre Dame. Unfortunately I don’t have the vocabularly to explain the Notre Dame any further, but I loved it.
Paris was a wonderful, wonderful weekend. I mean, I did almost get intentionally run over by an angry French man (not exaggerating) and got scolded multiple times for not speaking French, but those stories aren’t worthwhile. Just know that if you go to France, learn a few phrases and speak English very, very quietly in public. Oh, and leave the Kraft singles behind.