Marie & David Wade are clients of A La Carte Paris. After their 4-week stay with us this year, they sent us a very kind thank you message which particularly piqued my interest:
“Thanks for making our stay so enjoyable. If Alex ever wants to hear about spending a week in Paris from the perspective of an American couple who love Paris, we would love to share”
I thought it would a great idea to hand over our blog and newsletter to a guest writer, and Marie & David agreed.
So today, I will now shut up and let Marie & David do the talking instead. 🙂
“Paris is a city that should be sipped and savored like fine wine, not guzzled like beer. Take your time to enjoy all the flavors and nuances of the city. Don’t just see the sights, but truly experience the rich culture, the neighborhoods, the people and their customs.
Having said that, it is really difficult to experience Paris if you are staying in an impersonal hotel room.
Our first trip to Paris was for only 4 days. Being typical tourists, we stayed in a hotel and tried to see all of Paris in 4 days. We literally ran from one iconic sight to another, snapping photographs and moving on. I fell completely in love with a city that I had seen but not really experienced. I needed to go back to Paris and live like a temporary resident. I wanted to be a Parisian, and not just a tourist.
A year later I convinced my husband that we needed to return to Paris for at least 2 weeks. I had seen enough of Paris to know I wanted to stay near the Eiffel Tower, and I began to explore the Internet for an apartment that would be suitable. I stumbled upon the A La Carte Paris website, and was intrigued with the Left Bank Eiffel apartment. The size, location, amenities and décor seemed great, and at a reasonable price! Since the apartment had high-speed WiFi and free international calls, we decided we could bring our laptop and work, enabling us to extend our stay from 2 weeks to a full month. I was wise enough to book the apartment months in advance to secure that length of stay. The apartment was everything I had hoped: warm and welcoming, cozy, but with enough space to be comfortable, even with the table set up as our desk. Our fantasy became a reality.
We felt like residents – getting to know our neighbors and the local merchants on a much more personal level. The 7th warmly welcomed us and made us feel at home. So close to Rue Cler, Rue St. Dominque, Invalides, the Trocadero, the Batobus stop, Firmin le Barbier (our pick as the best restaurant in Paris, see photo below) and of course the Eiffel Tower and Champ de Mars park.
Unless you have unlimited time to see everything, a good travel guide book can help you narrow your sightseeing options. It is more important to really experience a few sights in Paris than to race by too many. More importantly, a good travel guide book will include helpful information on the French culture and language. What Americans see as Parisians being rude is often that their cultural expectations are different than ours. Behave in a foreign country the way you would want foreigners to behave when they are in yours. A little research on what is culturally appropriate can make the difference between living out a fantasy and having a big disappointment.
Learn a few basic French phrases and greet Parisians in their own language. Even an awkward attempt at saying hello and goodbye in French will be appreciated.
The things some Americans find annoying about Paris are the very things we fell in love with. Americans are sometimes frantic, multi-tasking and businesslike – always in a rush with too much to do. My perception of Parisians is that they prefer to live in the moment and enjoy life and their city. There are cultural differences. Shopkeepers in Paris are accustomed to being warmly greeted by incoming customers. They see it as a sign of courtesy and respect. Americans tend to view shopkeepers less personally. It’s cultural. When in Paris we respected their culture and tried not to impose our own. It was always rewarded with a smile and good service.
Americans expect prompt and accommodating service from wait staff in restaurants. We want attention and expect the check as soon as the last bite is gone. It’s cultural. Parisians often linger over meals with quiet conversation. They consider wait staff who come around frequently to be intrusive, and a quickly produced bill appears to be an unwelcome invitation to leave. We loved taking the time to really savor an excellent French meal without frequent interruptions by the wait staff. And a polite request for the bill was all that was needed. French restaurants are almost always quiet and low key. One of the things I noticed when I got home was how noisy and energetic our casual dining restaurants are. We Americans love that. It’s cultural. But, when in Paris eateries, you might want to use your “inner” voice.
I had been told that the French people like their personal space, and are less likely to engage in conversation with strangers. I was surprised at how often Parisians initiated conversations with us when they heard us speaking English. They were open, friendly and curious. One of our most enjoyable memories was lunch at an outdoor café, engaged in conversation with the couple at the next table, using their limited English and my limited French. When we were leaving, they rose and kissed us both on both cheeks (faire la bise). We felt such acceptance!
But one of our best memories was spending several hours photographing and videoing the Eiffel Tower with the full moon beside it from the Trocadero. It was late at night and a really cold night late in May, and we were freezing by the time we were done. We stopped at the Bistro Tour Eiffel (on the corner near our apartment, where we had been having breakfast many mornings) and I asked for hot chocolate. The waiter knew us by then, and joked with us that it was too late for hot chocolate, but he might be able to make us some hot chocolate with brandy. It was the best hot chocolate I’ve ever had, and so special to be treated like a friend. It was just the experience I had hoped for, to become part of the neighborhood. I’m already beginning to brush up on my very poor French so I can at least converse at least a little with the locals.
It was the most enjoyable trip we’ve ever taken, and we’ve already booked the same Left Bank Eiffel apartment for our next extended stay, to continue where we left off. “
Marie & David Wade
I hope you enjoyed Marie & David’s account as much as I did and I would like to very warmly thank Marie & David for having taken the time to write us such a rich, thoughtful and moving account of their 4 weeks in Paris. I really couldn’t have better described the deep appeal and joy of taking the time to really enjoy an authentic slice of life in Paris.
What does Marie & David’s account inspire in you? Do you identify with them? Or perhaps you see things differently?
Either way, I would love to read your comments and counterpoints, so please do share using the comment function below. Thank you!