There is an old b&w photo of my father and some other GIs standing
in front of the Arc de Triomphe. They
are happy to be in Paris, even though it is cold and wet. I understand.
There is something about being in Paris that transcends all else; can
you imagine Count Basie recording an album called "April In Lyon"?
Can you imagine Julia Child writing a book called "Mastering the Art
of Hungarian Cooking"? Could the Mona Lisa hang anywhere but the Louvre?
So, on one level, there is really no sense in writing a "travelogue"
of Paris. For any other city one needs facts but not Paris; Just go
there and experience it for yourself. UNLESS you are an obsessive-
compulsive, romantic cynic who simply must communicate the results of your
travel experiment to as many people as possible--hence this homepage.
Many travelers had told me that they liked France least of all European
countries because the people were generally rude and hostile. Still others said
they had a wonderful time (the theory is that once you get out of Paris people are nice), and one in particular goes only to France!
So, I was interested to see for myself. Let me illustrate my findings!
- Few Parisians will admit to speaking English. However, I suspect they know
what you are saying and by forcing you to use your stupid high school French
from 1962, they are in complete control of the situation, and you feel like the
uncultured hick! I must admit that this perceived trait can be both positive and
negative. The haughty and obnoxious Maitre'D of a bistro allowed me to order a
dinner for four people--after my wife had ordered her dinner. I figured out what
happened and knowing they were watching to see my reaction, I gave them perhaps
too much of what they expected: I scarfed-down the twenty pounds of food as if just a normal meal, and left
without leaving a tip! It's nice to know that you can contribute to a legend.
Now, on the positive side, we were eating at another bistro and the waiter, of
course, couldnt understand our English or preschool-level French.
The guy at the next table, siping a glass of red wine, smoking a fat Galois,
reading a newspaper in that jaunty, cross-legged, French manner, motioned the
waiter over and told him in the most elegant French exactly what we were trying
to order! All without once looking at or talking with us!. Our "merci beaucoup"s
were completely ignored. Now this was the Paris I liked!
- The French National Railway, SNCC, has the world's fastest, most technologically-
advanced train, the TGV, which resides at the Gar du Nord. Here, we departed Paris for Calais
on a less sophisticated train crowded to the gills with schoolkids from all over
France who were headed to England on some sort of Holiday. Now our Eurail passes
allowed us to ride in First, but only if there is an open car, so to be safe, we
paid for additional First Class reservations. Unfortunately, after walking the
entire length of the train looking for our car, we were informed by a non English-
speaking conductor that our car (#25) had been cancelled! He was a fairly decent
fellow and wrote on the back of our reservation slips that we should be refunded
our money at the Calais Train Station Office. Here, we were extremely lucky to meet
another very nice Frenchman in an unreserved First Class car near the front of the train.
He conversed with us at length in English and we discussed our mutual trips to
Montreal. Fortunately for us he also translated the continuous announcement over
the speaker that the first nine cars were going one way and the remaining fifteen
cars were going to Calais! We bid adieu and carrying our eight bags walked, squeezed,
stepped over, and around the kids sitting in the aisles. We did get lots of practice
saying "pardon moi" and "excuse moi." When we made it past the cars not going to
Calais--in the nick of time--we discovered on our journey to the end of the train
that there were no seats available, even though many rude French kids were lying across
two seats asleep. So, we rode to Calais standing in the accordian space between two
cars with what appeared to be a group of 14-years olds. Was it just a coincidence that
our worst train experience (by far) was in France? Anyway, to the rescue came very
decent Frenchguy (who could speak English) number three: a leather-jacketed, scraggly-haired guy you wouldn't want
to meet in a dark alley, gave his seat to my wife! Don't judge a book by its cover!
My faith in France was restored. Unfortunately, we discovered that the Calais Train Station
where we were to be reimbursed was miles away from the Calais Port Terminal where we
were scheduled to depart on the jetboat (again, we had reservations). Unfortunately,
we couldn't find anyone who could speak English to help us find the jetboat, so we departed on the less expensive
ferry. I suspect we lost about 40 or 50 dollars on these reservation snafus, but we wanted to
get the hell back to England so we lumped it! The silver lining in the cloud here was the
wonderful bistro on board the ferry (there was also a MacDonalds where most of the
passengers went), great views of the white cliffs of Dover, and it didn't take long to get to Jolly Old.
- Yes, the food and wine in Paris are the world's best.
- Yes, the coffee in Paris is the world's best but very expensive. We paid about six dollars
for two 4 oz. cups at a bistro near Notre Dame. However, the coffee at MacDonald's is
extraordinary and is relatively cheap (this is the only time we went into an American Fast
Food Restaurant in Europe).
- Yes, have your cameras at the ready when you tour the Louvre. The signs which show a camera
with a slash through it are recommendations only--they are asking your assistance in not ruining
the irreplaceable masterworks such as the Mona Lisa by showering them with intense light from
your flashgun. Having been yelled at by the guard at the Met in NY for shooting in the Egypt
room, I dutifully put away all my camera equipment. You can imagine then my surprise and chagrine
when the mob of about 200 around the Mona took about 50 flash photos each!!!! So, using only
our 8 mm video with NO flash we spent hours taking pictures. It was a truly wonderful experience
seeing the city of lights in the fading sunset from the window of the
- Yes, you must go to Paris so that you can walk down the Champs e'lysee, see the Seine,
marvel at the Tour Eiffel, and have your picture made at the very spot by the Arc de Triomphe
where my father stood in 1945.
Brasserie de L'Est Restaurant on Boulevard de Strasbourg!!!!!
MAIN, EUROPE, LONDON, BERLIN, AMSTERDAM, BRUGES, MUNCHEN, NURNBERG, SALZBURG, GARMISCH