Thank you all so much for your help and support when I was packing! One of you is even going to France soon herself, so maybe I can share the love and give some tips, too! It is so crazy being in such a different place, honestly, I got homesick halfway through. I missed my house and car and fiance, and the wealth of shopping options available for USD. Everything is so expensive there, particularly in Paris, that I was very thrifty with my Euros (the value went from $1.32 to 1€ to $1.27 to 1€ while I was there, so that was nice, but I was still losing money). I shopped at Franprix (cheaper than Monoprix or Carrefour, and than most of the markets for produce) and made a lot of my meals at home, although still felt the French influence on diet. I noticed a lot of meat in things at restaurants, and white flour everywhere, although the older generation still seems to have a healthier attitude about food. From what I've heard (Rick Steve's podcast interviews are fun!), they eat a small breakfast, a large lunch that takes about two hours (traditionally, I think most people today only take an hour), and if they eat dinner at all it's soup or something light at home. They also have pride in French products, and a lot of the random grocery items in packages are made in France--local food! Unfortunately these values are not shared by teens and younger people, who think American food is the coolest! It's quite sad how the American influence has spread. McDonald's is trendy, and is not as cheap as it is here. The McD restaurants are fancy, high-tech, slate tile floored cafes that look like a modern version of an American Starbucks.
I have to say, although I packed well, unfortunately the weather was awful the two weeks I was there (except when I was in Nice) and I wore about 1/4 of what I packed. Literally. I lived in my skinny jeans, riding boots, boyfriend cardigan, scarves, and the one long-sleeved tee I brought. I brought a cute springy trench which was just barely warm enough, so I borrowed a wool one from my friend a couple times! My timing was quite unfortunate since this week it's warm and sunny there! I felt like an idiot bringing home my huge suitcase of unworn items, particularly since I wish-wish-wished I'd brought a couple of the warmer sweaters I got out but put back. I was literally cold almost the entire time I was there, also since my friend's apartment is in an old building, of course, and had a cold tile floor! I drank a lot of tea.
Here are some more random thoughts and observations from my trip, and then enough talking, how about some pictures?
- The cashiers frown at you when you forget your reusable bag and have to pay for a plastic one, but people drink out of bottled water all the time and throw their magazines in the trash bags.
- Knobs, switches, levers, and handles are different there!
- There are a lot of super small cafes and restaurants, and tiny touristy shops. Where I come from, it takes a dedicated family or partnership to run a restaurant, and they have to deal with staff. Where are all the staff coming from for these places? I think cafes are subsidized by the French government (along with baguette and patisseries).
- The street performers and beggars on the Metro are dressed better than some of their generous audience members. They must do well playing sax and holding out their little paper cups.
- I don't understand how people can travel internationally without speaking the language. I speak enough French to communicate and understand signs and staff people, and it made me so much more comfortable, I would have freaked out if it were all gibberish! I don't know how Rick Steves does it.
View from the front of the Pantheon, onto a nice Paris street in the 5th:
Paris Museum Pass:
Here, too: the busiest room in the Louvre, or probably any museum anywhere...