Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Paris: A dummy's guide

It all started with a simple dinner with my girlfriends, Ms. J and Ms. M. An unpremeditated rendezvous   which we thought, could  make us shortlively  forget our steady and vapid  days. Talks about work , parenting issues ( theirs) and husbands who annoyingly hates going with us shopping ( everyones!) goes on and on and on over paella and calamari dinner. Ms.M, who was still very tan from her  week-long trip to Lanzarote had the least complain, although (window) shopping with her husband do not top her chart of fun activities too . Ms.J who's color is starting to return to its usual palor since her last 2 weeks  summer holiday in North Italy was blurting out  her issues as well , diet and expanding waistline long forgotten as she scoops mushy fries and slather it with  some heavy turkey gravy . And there I was, pallest of them all, holiday---less  and had the least Vit. D synthesis, thanks to Germany's short summers!. With three of us talking and  none seems listening, words like Bodensee!,niiiice, uhmmm,  Berlin! yeah, train, yeah, of course,  Milan!, good idea , Prag! , yesss , echoes from our table. Then somebody , I have honestly no idea which among us three , uttered ''Paris!''. Our table was silent for a minute. Then we looked at each other,  giggling  mischievously, uncertainly, nervously. ''Should we? Do we dare? When's your next day off from work?!'' Event calendars/organizers were whisk out from our granny bags and we scrammed our eyes over the month of September.With husbands back home and kids, their school ,homeworks and  activities as well as our own work schedules to consider , we kept our fingers crossed and  looked for a comnon  free date and  oh la la, we found it!

''I'll get us the tickets'', squeaked, Ms. M. ''I'll look for a hotel!'', I exclaimed. ''Find us a  hotel near the Eiffel tower , okey?!, I always wanted to see it! says, Ms.J who could also barely contain her excitement. Then I asked, ''No kids and husbands in tow?'' Ms. J and Ms. M. ''No!.''  And so it was settled.

We went home, still giddy and told our surprised spouses: We are off to a holiday and you are not coming with us, no sir!

Parisians could be rude sometimes, you know, blurted  FF. They don't like to speak English. What if you get lost?  Paris is big! There's a lot of scums and pickpocketers all over the city! Even our common Filipino friend says. Ms. J's husband told her that Paris is a very very expensive city. Food is quite  expensive, taxis are expensive,shopping's expensive. We had our doubts since we don't speak a word in french and since this was an  unexpected trip,  our pockets were not quite as ready as we are. Gulp! 
 But to Paris we want to go so Paris we went. Here's a thing a two we learned along the way and I hope it will help some travellers too.


                     The Parisians and their language

With an ilonggo, bisaya and tagalog women that could converse competently not only in their own dialect but in English and German as well, going to France without knowledge in le franchias appears to be a bit of a problem. Parisians are undeniably proud of their city and of their language. Coming up to them on the street and impertinently and asking them, ''Do you speak English?!''  elicits mostly nothing but icy glare. I guess, we Pinoy will not be equally amuse if a foreigner comes up to us and ask us the same question. You see, most Parisian do speak english. That goes without saying  since the city is filled with good  schools and universities  and Paris  being one the most sought after holiday destination in the world. Getting them to speak in english language is actually the real challenge. Here's my dummy tip, based on our own experience, try to learn a word or two in french. You will be surprise, how far, ''  parlez vous l'anglaise?: Do you speak English?, is going to take you. Throw in,'' Pardonnez-moi, Madame/monsiuer'' or  excuse me ma'am ,sir and  no matter how rough your accent is, you will almost, always give a hesistant Parisian a reason to smile and yes give you a decent  reply. Your effort alone, gives a good  impression . If you try to reach out to these locals, most of them are going to meet you halfway.  Also, saying ''Bonjour!" when entering a shop , restaurant or any premises would not hurt, it's like acknowledging the presence of the people working there and yes give them a reason to acknowldge you and pay   attention to you in return.They are not snobs, well not everyone.  Naturally, saying ''Merci'' or thank you when circumstance calls  for it is just a polite thing to do.                                                    

      The  City and its way in and out

Paris is big and compact creating an impression of crowdiness and sometimes, orderly chaos to visitors. You might end up stepping into a street filled with people and asked yourself , where I am? Don't be intimidated.  If you are in Paris for a short visit, plan your trip ahead. Know the important sites and spots you wanted to visit.You don't have and can not discover every nook and carries of the city in five days least three. Know your interest, do you like museums, old religious relics, cathedrals/churces, chateaux, shopping,theater or operas, botanical parks? Find out how you will get there. Paris has an excellent, efficient and yes cheap transportation option. Their city railway/subways, Metro and RER, will bring you almost everywhere . For 1,70 Euros you could be travelling from one side of Paris to another. Buses are abundant, know which Bus is nearest you and which way it is heading, you don't need any taxis, save that money for a nice cozy french breakfast instead! If you want a hustle free journey, Paris offers different tours options which both covers land and waters. The L'open Tours offers passengers, a hop on hop off options with 4 routes and 50 stops. You could get on these  open top ,two decker buses and get down at any station you want, explore the area and  wait for the next bus that could bring you farther to the other tourist site. A Two-day fare cost over 30 euros and honestly, 50 stops are way too many and you probably won't be able to discover every single area since there's too much to see! If you want to explose Paris in your own pace, all you need is a good and comfortable shoe and yes a map. Some Iphone apps also offers navigation options that would direct you to some interesting sites.


Food and Dining

Paris is indeed an expensive place to live.    But even Parisians don't go out L'atelier de Joel Robuchon a Galerie for lunch and dinner at Ritz Carlton all the time. If you are willing to fish out 100 Euros fo lunch , you certainly have plenty of haute cuisine restaurants to choose from. You could however, enjoy a good meal without spending a fortune. Dummy's tip:
  • Know your surroundings, look around ,ask if necessary. Do you have a nice but cheap patisserie near your hotel? They might offer a much better breakfast option. How much? A can of soda on a cafe might cost you half, compare to its neighboring competitors. We did pay 4 euros for a glass of Coca Cola on our very first meal in Paris, only to discover that it usually cost only 2 at a block away. Peck!
  • If you want to splurge on food,it helps to know when to do it. Do in during lunch, it's cheaper! Portions might be a bit less compared to dinner but eating the same dish at when the sun is down cost almost double. 
  • Look for set lunches , most restaurants offers an entree, main dish and a dessert for a fix price or prix fixe.If you manage to avoid tourist traps, a decent three course meal would cost you about 20 bucks or less.
  • Go where locals go. If restaurants' full of Parisian, it's eaither it's  good ( they do  enjoy good food) or it's reasonably priced. If you don't speak/read/understand la franchias and scared of ordering yalks eye balls or worst balls ( depending on how you look at things) by mistake, a pocket foodie's dictionary is handy. If you have an iphone, try downloading ''Escargo'' app for just less than 2 euros. Type in the menu and wa-lah an english counterpart appears. So no balls for le petit mademoiselle, thank you very much!
  • If you are on a budget, grab some good  but reasonably priced sandwiches/ baguette  or pastries at the local patisserie have it packed and eat at the nice park, picnic style. Many locals do that during lunch breaks.
  • If you're not into french food, there's a lot of international fastfood chains scattered around. McDonald, KFC, Burger King, Pizza Hut are just a few, a cheap stop and go alternative.
  • Paris is like a cultural melting pot. It means there's enough culinary options that will suit everybody's taste. We're from the south east of Asia and thankfully they have enough hole in the wall Asian bistros that would cater our palates. These asian restos  do have a unique dining options. Foods are laid out buffet style at the counter, which looks similar to Pinoy karinderya. You choose your dish, they will put it in a  thin  transparent plastic boxes and weigh it. Prices ranges from 1,80 euro per  100 grams. I reckon, you could have a rice and have as much as 3 other dishes for less than 10 bucks.Just tell the person how much you want then they will reheat the food for you and serve it to you pipping hot. Tastewise well, you tasted one, you tasted them all, nothing to shout about but good enough for  us anyway.

Shopping what and where

  • Paris is a shopper's paradise. The whole place is filled with fabulous things, beautiful people and stylish anc chic garbs .Everything at a price. If you are into high end fashion names and happen to be Karl Lagerfeld  or Mark Jacobs ' silent worshipper, you are in the right place. The Ave. des Champ Elysees  is a long  and wide  shopper's street  that stretches  out from the Arc de Triompf until  Place de la Concorde at the mouth of the Musee de Louvre. Is it far? Oh hell-ow yeah! Thats a long road filled with shops and brand names that would make you Victoria Beckham's new best friend. You can shop  or at least window shop until you drop. You can spend an entire day getting in and out of the different shops.

  • If you want to have all those  in the comfort of a nice and  posh surrounding without getting distracted by the honking of irate drivers on the street, you could visit the Galerie LaFayette  at Metro station Chaussee d' Antin. A shopping mall  so beautiful, the place itself is worth the visit. From accessoires to beauty products, high end names to local products, the La Fayette has it all. Make a reservations for special Friday afternoon and watch a  runway fashion show for free!

  • Some people's trash are other people's treasure. I don't know if many Parisians simple hate the idea of throwing away used things or maybe because it's Sunday, but we past by a lot of Flea Market that day. One of the longest we saw was on Montmatre which stretches out from Metro station Anvers of Line 2 down to station Blache which direct passenger right infront of Moulin Rouge. Books, toys, clothes, shoes and all things imaginable are laid out for prospect buyers and curious onlookers. All for just an euro or a bit more.

  • Souvenir shops are all over the place and miniature Eiffel towers in different colors and sizes are sold by (illegal?) hawkers everywhere. Beat down few cents  and try to polish your haggling prowress. Look at some of my loot.

                       How did we thrive in Paris? Well, not bad..not bad at all!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...