Saturday, March 21, 2015

Lincoln et Rachel a Paris un jour (Friday)

Today marks the fourth anniversary of Rachel and my first date and out second year of marking the occasion with a vacation overseas -- this year it is a week in Paris, France.

Last year's trip was to London and I loved every minute of it. (Honestly, I could see myself living there and it quickly displaced Manhattan (NYC) as my #1 "If I could live anywhere and money was no object..." -- this year, leading up to our departure I was more than a little nervous, largely owing to my complete lack of proficiency with French (or any language other than English for that matter).

Despite having taken a year of French in High School and two or three semesters of French in college, 'Excusez-moi, je ne parle pas bein francais" remains the only coherent sentence I can form in French... and to be honest, I feel like a bit of will suffice... for heading to a foreign country not being able to speak or understand the language. And I was getting myself psyched out with all of the "What ifs" ("How do I deal with Customs?")

Notre-Dame Cathedral, our first
major tourism stop
Rachel and I had an uneventful trip from the Cleveland to Charles de Gualle via Chicago -- although I had a horrible time falling asleep on the trans-Atlantic flight -- arriving at about 10am Paris time Friday morning.

My biggest concern with customs quickly passed when I approached the booth, said "Bonjour" and the immigration officer didn't even look at me and barely looked at my passport before stamping it and handing it back to me without uttering so much as a word to me. Passing immigration we made our way to baggage claim, where our bags were promptly delivered and we exited the terminal to board the first of three trains to our hotel -- without encountering another official along the way. Someone had told me that it was easier for an Americ
an to get into France than it was to get back into the United States and thus far I concur whole heatedly -- without even having to fill out a customs form, I think it was easier and faster (including waiting for luggage) to get out of Charles de Gaulle than the last time I landed at Cleveland Hopkins.

Arriving at the airport train station Rachel handled purchasing our rail passes and we were on our way into metropolitan Paris. We had some fun when we transferred to a train going the wrong direction but after a quick correction we found ourselves at Cint, a shopping center our hotel is attached to. However, finding the hotel was slightly more challenging.

Spotting an information desk, I approached -- "Bonjour" "Bonjour..." Ok, High School french, how do I ask for the Hilton. I panicked "Parle-vois anglais?" "Yes" she smiled. "Where is the Hilton?" "Through the Tunnel" "Merci" "You're welcome."

Arriving at the hotel's front desk, a similar experience though realizing I had not a chance at asking for an early checkin in French -- "Bonjour, Monsieur." "Bonjour, parle-vous anglias?" "Yes" and off we were.

After freshening up for a bit and relaxing -- but resisting the temptation to sleep -- in the room, Rachel and I headed out to visit Notre Dame cathedral -- a beautiful edifice, and we happened to be inside during the processional and beginning of a 3pm mass. Our visit to Notre Dame, and our mass atteandance, complete we set off for an early dinner. One of Rachel's coworkers had recommended a resturant near by, however after checking out the menu nothing seemed to my (picky) taste... Luckily two doors down we found a delightful and tiny restaurant with a menu a bit more to my taste.

"Bonjour" "Bonjour... would you like to eat or to drink?" and from that point our restaurateur spoke entirely in English (even answering "Merci" with you're welcome) -- the food was good and in conversation our waiter mentioned that he was happy to speak English because "you learn it in school and have to practice it" and he doesn't want patrons to feel obligated. I'm becoming convinced that the stereotype of the Parisian that refuses to speak English is entirely outmoded."

After dinner we walked along the Seine for a bit before returning to our room and falling asleep relatively early.


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