is the city of lights, the city of love, and most importantly to note if you’re traveling there, a city full of people who speak french. I do not speak french. In school I took about eight years of , resulting in my ability to say I love and asking where is the library, which would not help me (much) in and did me no good in . However, my thoughts on the matter were, how bad could it be? People from all over the to Paris every year without speaking the language and they get on just fine. I forgot that those people are not neurotic me and that I personally had never traveled to anywhere that was not the primary language. What ensued was, to put it gently, a “memorable” trip to one of the greatest cities in the world and the realization that I should have learned some French (or at least bought an English to French dictionary) before venturing to France. Here are five reasons why you to might want to learn a little French before you hop across the pond…
5. You might wind up at a hotel in the sex district. I kid you not our hotel, as nice as it was, was located in the outskirts of a sex district. There were two adult shops in the same block as the hotel and to get to the metro we had to walk past what I assume was a strip club with a barker outside like an old style carnival trying to convince people to come into the freak show. He was out there all hours of the day, no matter how early in the morning we headed out or how late we came home. Strangely enough he spoke some English, and enjoyed trying to speak to us each day as we passed. I was traveling with a guy friend and his girlfriend. Everyday my friend told the guy the same thing, that he already had two girls, and this crazy french guy would tell him “they come too!”
4. The Metro. Oh the metro. It is an absolutely wonderful way to get around and incredibly efficient, but navigating it can be very difficult if you can’t read french. And the metro waits for no one. It’s not quite as bad a London where the doors have barely opened and the train is already taking off, but it’s pretty rough.
3. And along the same vein, you may get very very lost. All three of us, pardon my french, sucked at map reading. I would not be surprised if we spent more time reading maps than we did sightseeing. You can try asking people until you get lucky and find someone that speaks some semblance of English, but that can be like finding a needle in a haystack. And the later in the day it gets the harder it gets to find someone who not only knows some english, but is also not intoxicated and able to communicate. One night in particular after a few bottles of wine we realized we had no idea how we got to where we were or how to get back to the hotel. Anyone we encountered seemed to have had even more wine than we did and was absolutely no help. I would tell you how we made it back to the hotel if I could remember.
2. Ordering food. I am a picky eater, who was accompanied by another picky eater and a vegetarian. We signed up for this touristy dinner at the Eiffel Tower and had to go to the tourist office to check in earlier in the day and confirm the reservation. When we got there we had to pick which meal we wanted ahead of time, and this my friends was an incident I will never forget. The girl at the counter spoke NO english. She called out her manager who spoke maybe ten words of english. The two of them tried to explain to us the food in the different meals through gestures and drawings. It was like something out of Mr. Bean and extremely ridiculous. My friend asked if they had a vegetarian meal to which the manger replied, “What religion?” My friend said, “No religion. Vegetarian.” The manager replied again, “What religion?” My friend again said, “No religion. Vegetarian.” The manager looked up as if contemplating something and than back to my friend, “Jewish?” My friend shook his head and said, “No, vegetarian.” The manager furrowed his brow, “Muslim?” At this point my friend’s girlfriend and I were ready to fall down laughing. It was hard to control ourselves considering how many “is this really happening?” situations we had already gotten into. My friend thought for a minute, and then replied “Hindu.”
The manger’s furrowed brow turned into a huge smile. “Yes, Hindu.” He said nodding excitingly. One crisis averted, my friend would get his vegetarian meal. Now it was my turn. From what I deciphered I was getting a chicken appetizer and some sort of cake for dessert, but I could not figure out what was for dinner. The girl at the counter then drew a picture of a clam and handed it to me. I had never had clams, but figured why not give it a try. My friend’s girlfriend decided to do the same and we thought we were all set… until they served us dinner. We were starving, since we had been running around all day and ate a small lunch in preparation for our big fancy dinner at the Eiffel Tower. Although my friend did just find with his Hindu meal, we were served a fried fish cake shaped like a clam. I’m not talking fried fish like fish and chips. This was like the consistency of tuna fish in the inside and smelled like a can of cat food. Needless to say, we wish we had been able to speak french that day.
1. So you don’t look like an ignorant tourist. I cannot tell you how embarrassing it was to have to accost people on the street and beg them to help us. Although almost everyone we encountered was extremely nice, even if they could not help, it still was awkward and I’m sure bothersome to at least some of them.We didn’t plan our trip to well, it was a last minute jaunt from London, but we should have at least bought a dictionary or a guide book, or something.