Is Paris Romantic? Well, my first impression of the city was, ‘This is a place for working.’ Interestingly, I didn’t find Paris romantic. Apparently, I see the world differently. 😀
I had read a lot about Paris before I went, like, the city was dirty, the dog owners left their dog poo in the streets, people were very unfriendly, people were very arrogant, French didn’t like to speak English because they were so proud of their own language, etc… When I am writing all these now, I laughed. Some were true like the dog poos while some were not.
In 2008, I went to France because I got good news from my friend. She was pregnant!!! So, I decided to fly to France to see her and by the way, travel around the country. That would be my first time to see my friend in person! Long story short, we’ve been pen friends since we were in high school.
It happened that my other friend (ex-Deutsch classmate) who was working in Denmark wanted to go to Paris to visit her friend who was also pregnant. No, her friend is an Italian while mine is French so they are not the same person. 😉 We decided to meet up in Paris and tour around together for a couple of days. It’d be her third time to go to Paris so before I went there, I checked with her which places she’d been to and where she’d like to go to and so on. My plan was to visit all the places where she’d been before I met up with her. That would be rush and in fact, when my French friend knew that I had visited so many places within one day, she was shocked.
The day after I arrived in Paris, I woke up very early in the morning to go to Montmartre. It was only around 9a.m. when I arrived at the Basilique. But that’s the best time of the day. If you go there a little bit later than that, you’ll see groups of people, whether locals or tourists, sitting on the steps and you won’t be able to take a picture like this:
When I arrived there, a few locals blocked my way to the church. I didn’t understand what they said. I think they tried to sell me something and of course, I ignored them and quickly ran up the steps.
The way to Arc de Triomphe were quite confusing to me. After all, it was my first day in Paris and I was still getting used to the roads of this city (I don’t like roundabouts!). I tried to find the way to the Arc but just couldn’t. I knew that I needed to go underground but just couldn’t find the entrance of it. I was standing in the street, looking at the Arc, thinking how I could get there.
I turned around to see if there was anybody who could help me. I was looking for tourists as the thoughts of unfriendly Parisians came into my mind – no English. Just French. But I didn’t know any French. And I was told whatever language you spoke to them, they’d only answer in French or they’d just ignore you.
I saw a guy standing behind me playing with his motorbike with some sort of a manual in his hands. I hesitated, ‘should I ask him?’
But I was stuck there and the Arc was just right in front of me. How could I let it go like this? I took the courage and asked the man for directions. He looked at me, and then looked around and asked me in English, ‘er… do you want me to speak English or French?’ I laughed and said, ‘English, please.’ All my worries were gone. I love the way he pronounced ‘Champs-Elysees’. So French. 😀 And that’s how I learnt to say the name of that road and the vowels. I used to pronounce it the English way.
So, it wasn’t that bad at all.
A few years after that, I worked in a French company. It wasn’t because of this trip. An opportunity came and I joined that company. The story didn’t end like this. After I left that French company, I met some other French people in other countries including those French volunteers I met in Cambodia and one of them became my buddy and we shared quite a lot of funny moments. I told her the way my French colleagues talked to me. She laughed. She didn’t notice it until I told her. I also met some from other parts of France. They are all very friendly.
I am sure there are some arrogant people in every country but it doesn’t mean all of them coming from the same country are.
And it could be because of some other reasons that stopped them from speaking English. Read on to find out. 😉
After my visits at Sacre Coeur, Arc de Triomphe, Tour Eiffel and Notre Dame, I wandered around, crossed a bridge and then suddenly two restaurants caught my eyes. The window sills of the restaurants were painted bright blue and bright red respectively. Beside the restaurants stood a building with green leaves climbing all over it.
I was tired and it was very hot. I felt like taking a rest but I kept walking because this area was really tranquil and … different. I had my camera in my hand. Suddenly, a bearded man with sunglasses walked past me. He looked at me and my camera. I looked back at him, puzzled. And then when he was ahead of me, he turned back, pointing at a building. Using his body language, he told me it was a very big building and he signalled me to go inside and take some pictures. I said, ‘merci’ to him.
I looked at the outside of that building, thinking, ‘nothing special here.’ But I tried to find the entrance anyway.
Once I got in, I was astonished. My jaw dropped! It was indeed a very big and beautiful church! Silence dominated the whole church. The flipping of the paper, the clicking sound of my camera could clearly be heard. I could, yes, hear a pin drop, literally. I didn’t dare to take any pictures as it was so quiet (I regret it now because there were many beautiful paintings in the church). But the silence calmed me.
Not long after that, the nuns came in. They kneeled in front of the altar and started to chant. I sat down and took this picture.
The chanting was so beautiful! ‘Maybe a Mass will begin soon?’ I thought, so I waited for it to happen. A few tourists came in, stood beside me, and listened to the chant.
The tourists left.
But nothing else happened.
And I had to leave.
It was a very peaceful moment.
It calmed me.
That night, I went to see my friend and watched Euro Cup (France vs Italy) with her and her friends. It was the first time I saw her in person! And the first time for me to see her baby (still in her womb)! 🙂 (Her baby is not a baby anymore. :D) I was very excited. We hugged each other, ‘FINALLY! We saw each other!’
It was so interesting. When her friends watched the game, they didn’t scream or shout at all probably because it was a boring game. Both teams didn’t play well, as I remember. Or maybe they tried to refrain themselves from being too noisy in front of a stranger? 😛 During the break, most of her friends went into the kitchen except for one. He almost whispered to me when he talked to me and then he said, ‘we don’t like to speak English…’ I nodded. He continued, ‘because we are afraid of making mistakes. You see, I only waited until they are not here.’
16 – 17 June 2008
P.S. While I am writing this, I am listening to Yves Montand’s Sous le Ciel de Paris. Now, Paris sounds more romantic now. 😉
In fact, I knew Yves Montand because of my French pen pal. During the time when there was no internet (and of course no YouTube), we exchanged letters and we sent each other songs on tapes or vinyl records. She sent me a few songs of Yves Montand including this Sous le Ciel de Paris and Les Feuilles Mortes. Oh! His voice was so charming. I fell in love with these songs immediately. Of course, when I knew him, he was already dead.