Opera National de Paris Garnier (Opera House)
We had the opportunity to visit Paris, the City of Lights, recently and found it to be just as wonderful as predicted. Armed with the opinions from some people that the French would be snotty and rude, we found the opposite to be true. After an initial greeting of Bon Jour, we found that most Parasians switched right into English as soon as they realized we weren’t native born, a welcoming gesture on their part.
Some first thoughts on this beautiful city
- The street cafes are a great feature of the city, and should be instituted in cities around the world. In my mind, after watching so many movies taking place in Paris, I was expecting Cary Grant or someone equally as urbane sitting at the small round café tables, sipping an espresso. What I found was that the people sitting at the cafes were just like us, which raised our own personal elegance quotient a good bit! I never did figure out how to get a “regular” cup of coffee (even at McDo’s where they didn’t serve cream or milk either) and after being served espresso or a chocolate tasting drink a couple of times, I started ordering cappuccinos and tea and was very satisfied with that.
- Paris definitely has a serious problem with graffiti. We noticed the street artwork covering walls and buildings on our drive from the airport, and spotted it often during our travels, even defacing some of the beautiful monuments in places. What a crime.
- The city’s traffic patterns amazed us. Small cars (lots of Smart ones), scooters and bicycles shared the road without the assistance of painted lane signs. I thought that riding a bicycle in the middle of this chaos was a true testament to bravery, and I was always glad that I wasn’t behind the wheel of any type of vehicle.
The Metro system is a great, inexpensive way to get around the city, but you must be moving in high gear to keep up. People walk so quickly in the tunnels and on the steps into and out of the metro stops that it’s not a good idea to get in their way. I wondered how anyone who has even slight difficulty walking could use this system at all. It’s also a good idea to hold on tight when standing and riding the Metro cars. I learned this the hard way when the first car I was on jerked to a start and I started tripping backwards.
It would be wonderful to live in a city that has so much beauty in it. Turn any corner in the city and you are met with spectacular buildings and monuments that are still in service no matter that they were built hundreds of years ago. Unlike our society which tears things down when they are deemed no longer useful, the French have found a way to incorporate their ancient past into their modern lives. What a treat it would be to go to work in these gorgeous buildings.
- The French sense of high fashion was evident everywhere. As noted, the women do wear a lot of black, and scarves are de rigueur. Men were seen wearing cropped pants or “capris”. (Does anyone remember these being called peddle pushers?). There weren’t any shorts or baseball caps in evidence, and the only NFL sighting we had was for a Terry Bradshaw No. 12 jersey.
- We had glace (ice cream) several times and were interested to see how small the servings were. Even two scoops from a French vendor is smaller in size than one of our single scoops. No wonder they are all so thin! (Also, it is very hard to find places like our ubiquitous Sheetz or Stop ‘N Gos to pick up a bottle of water, snacks or fruit. We eventually ended up shopping with locals at street-side vendor carts which made us feel like we were getting the full Paris experience.)
- We were lucky enough to be able to take a tour of the Normandy coast to see the World War II sites of battle. This was very moving, and like our visits to Civil War battlefields and others, it was difficult to envision the tremendous loss of life during those battles on today’s quiet shores.
By Teresa K. Flatley