Spend more than just a couple...
Spend more than just a couple days. There's so much to see and do. Take a dinner cruise on the Seine. You'll get to see this wonderful filigree and bronze castings on one of the many bridges you go under. Here's a picture. Our first view of Paris stepping up & out of the Metro in the Bastille and walking the short 2 blocks to our hotel. It was about 8pm and we had just stumbled into one of the most 'Happenin' areas of the city. Such a vibrant mix of activities, my wife said it was so much like the French Quarter in New Orleans (I then suggested that it may actually be the other way around - New Orleans was actually so much like this).
we spent next day walking from our hotel all the way across town to the Eiffel Tower, taking in the I'le de la Cite along the way.
You must have a subwaymap....
You must have a subwaymap. Here I provide you with one :o) I hope it is any use. All the important spots are on it. Remember pick the one coloured line where the place you want to be is on. The good subway you have to take shows the beginning or the end spot of the coloured line you have to take. An example: You have to be at point X. You can find it on the blue subwayline. The place where the line begins is called 'Y', the place where the line ends is called 'Z'. You have to take the subway line blue with destination 'Z'.
People ask me why I get such great service in restaurants. I get seated in the nicer parts of the restaurants where the French people usually sit instead of being relegated to "Siberia" where the Americans sit. I suspect the reason for this is that I:
a) make every effort to speak French & I try to pronounce it as best I can; if I butcher a word or phrase I laugh about it & ask for help.
b) call ahead & make my own reservations. Several I've made from the US. Sometimes it's difficult to convey in French what I'm looking for over the phone; however, it's a lot easier to communicate with someone in person because you have the added nuances of hand gestures, body language & facial expressions. If after a few attempts I find I'm having difficulty then I politely ask if someone speaks English. Usually, there is someone who can speak English, then I communicate my needs.
BUT always use nice French phrases such as
Merci (thank you)
Au Revoir (good-bye)
De rien (you're welcome)
French people graciously & genuinely appreciate any attempts at speaking their language.
c) I think they remember someone calling from overseas to make a reservation & doing it a few weeks in advance. Maybe they feel that the restaurant must be important enough for one to make that much of an effort? Consequently, they usually remember me & recall our phone conversation.
For example, when I arrived at Bofinger I stated I had a reservation at 10pm & introduced myself. The maître d’ said something to the effect that at last we were able to meet and we both laughed! OK, you've decided to make transatlantic reservations; you'll want to practice a bit first. Speak clearly & slowly so they may understand you.
First you'll say:
"Bonjour, comment allez-vous?"
(Hello, how are you?; pronounced "kuh-mahn-tahl-ay voo")
"Je m'appelle ..."
(my name is ...; "zhuh mahpell ...)
"Je voudrais une réservation"
(I would like a reservation; "zhuh voo-dray ewn rez-airvay-shon"
"Pour... (Lundi, Mardi, Mercredi, Jeudi, Vendredi, Samedi, Dimanche)
(For...Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday; "pour...luhn-dee, mahr-dee, mair-kruh-dee, zhuh-dee, vawn-druh-dee, sahm-dee, dee-mahnsh)
Then give the date. The day first, month second. You can use the French vocabulary section of Fodor's Paris Gold Guide (near the back) for help with pronunciation on the months & days).
Then you can give the time:
*vingt heures (8pm) (vehn urrh)
*vingt heures trente (8:30pm) (vehn urrh trahnt)
*vingt heures quarante-cinq (8:45pm) (vehn urrh ka-rahnt sank)
*huit (wheet) heure et demi ("du soir" for in the evening) for 8:30pm
At this point I think you could then safely ask "Parlez-vous anglais?" if the conversation gets stuck!
Photo: April 2003
Parles vous Francais!? Oui?...
Parles vous Francais!? Oui? Bon! Non? Learn some! Most people speak a little English in Paris but some don't and all will treat you better if you at least try to speak some French! At least learn 'Parles vous anglais?' (Do you speak English?) or 'Je ne comprends pas' (I don't understand). Here is a very useful online guide to starting with French and other languages: Travelang.
The Very Vibrant Versailles
Versailles is a neat place. It's not only historical, but it can also be a fun place to spend time with those you're with. I would suggest that this be one of the first places you visit in Paris. This was the first place I went to in Europe, and there were people from all over the world, all speaking different languages. It was a neat feeling to know that Versailles was a place that all of these different people wanted to experience along with me!
Versailles contains 700 rooms- wow! I mean, who would need that many rooms? Even a King doesn't need that many rooms! Well, you probably won't get to all of them, especially if there's a crowd. It's easy to get caught in a "human traffic jam", so just enjoy the room you're stuck in at the time. My favorite part were the outside gardens, which were huge! There are fish in the pond, so watch for them to jump out! You can also take a ride in a boat on the pond. Get to Versailles, even if just to a couple of rooms and a part of the gardens. Pick up some brochures (which come in a variety of languages) to learn the history behind the amazing Versailles. You have to experience it for yourself!