Thursday, June 9, 2016

Paris Primer

A few years ago, after living (living sounds so much more enchanting than visiting) in Paris, I learned my friend's daughter would be living (really living) in Paris for the summer. I compiled a list of tips--but they were never needed. Never asked for. Is it that we need to make our own discoveries? Do we reject another's experience in quest of our own? Think of all the steps taken into unchartered territory. All the risky voyages made in the name of "First." Think how we feel when someone gives us advice into the forays of life: marriage, child rearing, etc. Do we ever listen?

Perhaps we only make lists for ourselves. Perhaps we only give advice to others because we are listening.

If you care to listen:

1. Learn how to bike in Paris. Observe on a busy corner how the Parisians bike. There is order and flow and specific paths that are well marked. Download the Velo app so you can access Velo locations. For about 8 euro a week bikes are always accessible. Learn to test it before you take it out. Kick the tires, check the seat, make sure the chain is on and that it has two pedals. If you drop your bike off at a location at the top of a hill, you earn extra time.

2. Speak French and ask for help. My best lessons have come when I've asked a Parisian how to pronounce a word or what is the correct comment or response.

3. Don't overplan. Take time to just sit in the park. Just sit outside Notre Dame.

4. Definitely climb Sacre Coeur and Notre Dame.

5. Vivaldi quartet at St. Chappell is a must see. Don't pay for the organ concert in Notre Dame. Catch a free audition or go to the free one on Sunday at St. Sulpice.

6. Not all boulangeries are created equal. Paris is a city of immigrants and you want an authentic French patisserie or bakery.

7. You can eat cheaply in Paris.

8. Practice stock phrases for those moments when you're accosted by beggars or restauranteurs who try to lure you in. "J'nai pas d'argent." I don't have money. "J'ai deja mange." I've already eaten. Perfect a firm nasal "Non," for the con artists who notice your obvious American looking self.

9. Smile

10. Bring the right shoes for exploring. Make sure they match. Yes, one year I brought two right tennis shoes and my first explore of the trip was in mismatched shoes.

11. Explore. Be open to the unexpected. We actually don't have an agenda. Taking a book to Luxembourg Park is a favorite memory.

12. Know that half the city is waiting to rob or con you especially if you take the train in from the airport and carry an open purse or have a bulge in your back pocket-- expect it, be prepared, don't let it ruin your trip--it's part of the adventure.

13. Google all the con artist tricks so when it actually happens you will laugh and enjoy the moment.

14. Buy a French kitchen gadget--one you will use. Every time you stir, or cut, or twirl, you'll remember the shop, the street, the Parisian moment.

15. If you must, visit the tourist hotspots, but make it your mission to resist, to forgo the crowds and lines. Once you've visited the Louvre, be brave and skip it. Instead, sit outside the Louvre at the pond with the children racing their boats.

16. Go to church in Paris. Not just a visit to a cathedral, but real church attendance.

17. Find the out-of-the-way museums. Sit and enjoy the Monets at L'Orangerie.

18. Use Yelp, Trip Advisor, Urban Spoon for good food recommendations.

19. Find the restaurant that serves only souffles.

20. Each day, look heavenward and offer your heartfelt gratitude that you're in Paris.