We’ve been back home for a week and I’ve finally sorted through and posted some pictures. I’ll post a few here and you can see the rest on Flickr.
The trip was wonderful. Renting an apartment was much nicer than staying in a hotel, and I think this is going to be our first choice for accommodations from now on. The apartment was tiny, maybe 400 square feet (if that) but just fine for a short stay like ours. The privacy was nice, as was being able to do laundry at home, but the best part was the kitchen. Eating out every day when traveling gets really tired so it was good to be able to do our own cooking. We mostly ate lunches out and went out for dinner or pastries a few times, but most evenings we bought veggies, bread, and wine from neighborhood markets and cooked up simple dinners, each time making enough so that we had leftovers for a few days. We saved a lot of money this way and didn’t end up with that slightly unhealthy feeling you get from eating out too often.
Vegetarian food is surprisingly hard to come by in Paris restaurants, so another benefit to eating at home was that we just didn’t have to worry about it. One oasis of good vegetarian food was Bioboa, an organic lunch place near the city center; we had veggie burgers here twice. We didn’t eat much French food aside from a few crepes and brie sandwiches, and didn’t try any frites because they were mostly served with steaks.
We stayed in Paris longer than we’ve stayed in any one city before, and it still wasn’t enough time to do everything we wanted. We did see quite a bit though, from the usual stuff like the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower, to a giant permanent flea market and the Cimetière du Père-Lachaise, where we visited the graves of Balzac, Molière, Edith Piaf, and Oscar Wilde. We looked for Jim Morrison’s grave but couldn’t find it. The map we had wasn’t very good.
The language barrier was surprisingly tough. We’ve always done ok in Italy — we can often eke out the meaning of written Italian and can speak a few handfuls of words, enough to get by — and we’ve managed alright in places that speak even less English where we don’t even know a single word of the local language, but this trip was harder than we expected. While we don’t speak any French, we did learn some basic words before the trip, but French pronunciation is hard. They do speak a lot of English in Paris, but it’s frustrating to have to use it, even for simple things. The stereotypical view of Parisians is that they hate people who don’t speak French; we didn’t find that to be true, but things definitely would be easier if we knew at least a bit of the language.
This has strengthened our resolve to learn more Italian. Although French or German would be more useful, Italian is relatively easy and we’ve got a foundation there already.
Paris is an amazing city and, along with Florence and San Francisco, one of the most beautiful I’ve seen. A return trip is a ways off still, especially since we’re determined to know more French next time, but we’ll definitely be back eventually.