To prepare for my trip to France I did what all 18 year old females with an interest in foreign films would do and watched Amelie for probably about the 4th time. That, and the dozen other French films I’ve seen is basically my only idea of French culture.
My mom and sisters flight to Paris ended up getting cancelled and so they didn’t get there until Easter Sunday morning. That left me in Paris alone for a day and a half. It was awesome.
We used airbnb which I whole heartedly recommend and stayed in someone’s flat in the Latin Quarter. It was a dream come true. By the time my mom and sister got there I felt like they were there to visit me in my flat in Paris. It was so homely. I recommend airbnb because you get to see how someone lives and you get to get away from the touristy areas and stay in a neighbourhood. It’s authentic and cheap, depending on where you stay of course.
While alone in Paris, I navigated the metro to the Eiffel Tower. Walking up the steps of the metro and having the Eiffel Tower and all its glory right in front of you was a very rewarding feeling. I also accidentally walked the 45 minute walk to the Louvre. I didn’t intend to walk there, but it happened. Needless to say, I found it easy to get around!
The first thing I noticed was how packed it was. Not only is it the Eiffel Tower, but it’s the Eiffel Tower on a Saturday, and not just any Saturday, but the day before Easter. Needless to say, I didn’t stand in the massive queue to get into the tower, however instead I appreciated it from afar. When you think of the Eiffel Tower, you think of your idea of classic Paris. Romantic, sunny, bikes, baguettes, the whole stereotype. What you don’t think of is the fact that it’s the Eiffel Tower. It’s an extremely famous landmark so there’s bound to be an enormous amount of tourists. It can’t be like the Eiffel Tower in an old French film because it’s too famous. So it’s crowded, a bit dirty, there’s people asking for money everywhere, and now in 2015, there’s selfie sticks everywhere. But it’s still the Eiffel Tower. It’s beautiful, satisfying, and I loved being there. All in all, before you travel somewhere, ditch your idea of what it will be like. It’ll be different from what you think, whether that be good or bad.
The night before my mom and sister arrived, I walked down a popular nightlife street near the flat. All of a sudden a man ran up to me and asked if he should shave his beard. I said “do what you want to do.” He asked again, I gave it a thought, and replied “uh yeah you should” (let’s be honest, it was patchy). I saw him later on while walking back to the flat and a little bit into the conversation he asked “are you alone in Paris?” and I said “no my mom and sister are with me.” I lied (gotta do what you gotta do). And he replied with “so are you alone then?” And I said “no…my mom and sister are here” a little bit confused as I had already answered his question, but he continued and said “no…I don’t think you understand the question. Are you alone?” Frustrated as I honestly didn’t get it, I said “no, I understand your question. I’m not alone. My mom and sister are here.” And then he said bye and walked off towards the metro. Four hours later I realised he was asking if I was single. This just highlights the extent of my flirting skills.
Besides that fail of an interaction, I got by easily without having to speak and butcher the French language. I went to the grocery store on two occasions and didn’t say a single word to anyone. It was nice.
Next we took the train to a town in France near Switzerland and popular among Swiss tourists, Annecy. The town was beautiful. To me it looked like a mixture of Disneyland, Santiago, and Amsterdam, the best of all worlds. During our stay in Annecy, we did a boat tour of the lake, had a picnic in the park, and explored the town.
One of the weirdest things that I’ve never had to deal with was eating and when. In Paris, but also in Annecy, it was hard to find a restaurant that was serving food when we wanted to eat. Everyone was at the restaurants, but drinking wine, beer, or espresso. They seem to drink at any hour of the day, but eat at exclusive times. I knew French culture is different in that sense but it was strange to experience it.
All in all, my time spent in France was wonderful! The wine, cheese, and the croissants really are the shit. If you go to Paris, hop on a train and check out other towns and cities in France as well. If you’re already there, why not?
Au revoir! Italy is next.