Last week we finished our semester of school, next week we start some work-related summer travels, so this week we decided to become tourists in Paris. You know, the city that we live in but still don’t know much about. But in our attempt to become tourists we may have become a little more Parisian as well!
It started with the purchase of Navigo passes. These are the unlimited usage bus/metro/RER/tram passes that allow you to use public transit all over the city. We bought week passes, which require these nifty little cards that are carried by nearly all Parisians as they skip the lines of tourists trying to figure out which machine to slide their paper ticket though. With the card, you just walk by and wave it before the gate which picks up the signal, goes green with a beep, and lets you in. Much more convenient!
Once able to travel wherever we wanted without careful planning, we took it easy. We went to the east end of town and hopped on a bus that would cross the city and a lot of the major sights. JJ landed in a seat next to a happy talker, while I stood with Sawyer. From that position, JJ heard the life history including age, weight, number of children and grandchildren, and political views of her seat neighbor. She also was given commentary of the whole city and learned that [supposedly] 5 church buildings in a row that we passed were all named ‘St. Paul’s Cathedral’. Seeing our eye contact and occasional words (in French, bien sûr), the lady asked JJ if her husband (moi) is French. First time every mistaken for a national... bing bing bing!
After departing the bus, we found some great roads to roam around and enjoy. A totally unexpected pleasure was crossing paths with a little American shop called “McCoy’s Cafe.” Less café and more tiny boutique/exotic grocery, this shop carried all and only things American. We found and happily drank a Dr Pepper and Mt Dew (first Dew we’d seen anywhere in France), we gawked at the $10 Pancake Syrup and $8 bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips. We remembered the days of Pop-Tarts while browsing through $10 8-packs. And then we dreamed of the other horrendously expensive items that are simply not available in France, or most countries outside the US (ie Reese’s peanut butter cups, ranch / thousand island / honey mustard, mexican and buffalo hot sauces, yellow mustard, etc).
Back on the streets, we wandered through shops and restaurants. Paris being the most tourist-visited city in the world, and us actually being in the heart of Paris, most of the service-industry types here asked “English or Français?” We happily jumped into French out of choice and not necessity. Sitting down at a little Chinese restaurant, we sampled some fried rice, chicken, and shrimp. Sawyer, of course, dove into a pile of french fries.
Recently some friends of ours made their way through Paris and asked us to take them to a very French restaurant. Not a tourist spot. We found a place and sat down. Our table neighbors to our right were speaking French like, well, French. And our table neighbors to the left were speaking British English. Had we failed!? Argh! No. At any given time, nearly half of the population of urban Paris is made up of tourists. So what is truly Parisian has to have some tourists there, right?
In front of the Eiffel Tower there’s some nice areas to walk and play. We found some shade and enjoyed the afternoon like Parisians. In a touristy place. So we were like tourists. But that’s what the Parisians do. I’m so confused!