Five and one-half weeks to go. The excitement is building. I leave for Paris on May 5. Flying American Airlines from Seattle to Chicago, then on to Paris without changing planes. I was able to use miles this time and had enough for business class - one way - so looking forward to some comfort during the 14+ hours of the route.
My very good friend, Kathy, who I worked with for several years, is flying from LA and arrives the day before me. We will meet at the Sheraton CDG and taxi into central Paris together.
We have rented a one-bedroom apartment through Cobblestone Paris Rentals - the same agency I used in 2013. This apartment is 2 or 3 blocks from where I stayed before, so I am somewhat familiar with the neighborhood.
We haven't done a lot of planning. Both Kathy and I have been to Paris before, so have seen all of the "big" sights. We plan to pretty much play things by ear and just soak up Paris. There are always a few things I always want to do or see, and there are several things I didn't see when I was last there, so want to catch up on some of those.
Reading the Trip Advisor Paris Forum, there is always a lot of discussion about what to wear in Paris. The main point seems to be that people, specifically women, want to blend in with the locals. But, when I've been to Paris, I've noticed that the locals really have no specific look. Everyone dresses pretty much like they do here. Lots of jeans and over-size jackets. I didn't see a lot of white athletic shoes, but I did see a lot of colored athletic shoes on young men. The main fashion accessory that seems to set Parisians apart from everyone else is a scarf. Everyone seems to wear one. Apart from that, many Parisians seem to prefer dark clothing, especially black. I have my wardrobe sorted out and it consists mainly of black slacks, black & white print tops, black cardigan, black raincoat, and black shoes. Will I "blend in" with the locals? Probably not. There's something about most Americans that screams "tourist," which isn't necessarily a bad thing.
I have been practicing my French for nearly a year. I am no way fluent, but can get by with the basic pleasantries and asking for what I need or want. The French have a high standard for what they consider to be polite (or, a low tolerance for what they consider to be rude). So, knowing how to approach a French person is really important. All contact with the French must begin with "Bonjour" - before anything else is said - and end with "Merci." Personally, in my 6 previous trips to France, I've never run into what many Americans consider to be the rudeness of the French. I have always been treated with respect and kindness. Any attempt at speaking French is appreciated, even if they immediately start speaking English upon hearing my French. However, I've been told that my French is very good, though I always suspect that they silently add "for an English speaker."
I wouldn't expect to have many long conversations with a local; however, I have found that speaking some French has really helped me connect with the locals. This was especially true when traveling outside of Paris where locals occasionally did strike up a conversation with me. It seemed that just a few words of French from me would open the flood gates on their end. I understood little of what they said, but smiled, nodded vigorously, and uttered "oui, oui," which seemed to satisfy them as they rattled on.
I'm looking forward to another trip to Paris and I hope you will enjoy following along with my blog. If you are interested in my other French blogs, they may be found at: www.cjtparis2013.blogspot.com and http://daytripper-franceadventure2010.blogspot.com/