15 Things I Learned While in Paris

1. People in restaurants still talk to each other!

I sat in a café for quite some time just observing life in Paris on the Champs Elysees. What I discovered was that people actually enjoy spending time talking with each other while dining, as opposed to in the States where people are more engaged with their electronic devices than their company. I also noticed, and participated in, the practice of eating alone, which is something that I have previously been completely opposed to. However, I had no problem sitting alone at a café in Paris. I actually REALLY enjoyed it.

“The servers don't mind if you sit at a table for hours just sipping wine.”

2. Servers will not fawn all over you.

It's not that you receive bad service in Paris; it's simply that the servers allow patrons to enjoy their meal or drinks without being constantly bothered by them. This is another practice that I truly appreciated. The servers don't mind if you sit at a table for hours just sipping wine. They were always around when I needed something, yet I was able to sit and relax, or write in my journal without being bothered.

3. Police carry heavy artillery in public.

This one was a little disconcerting. As we walked the streets of Paris, we noticed that at several points throughout the city, there were heavily armed police officers. I guess I should have been appreciative of the fact that I was safe; however, it was not something I was used to seeing. It's also interesting to note that although there are armed officers around, pick pocketing and scam artists are still rampant throughout Europe. It is quite a strange dichotomy.

“We found ourselves at the Eiffel Tower, 10 miles from our hotel, with no transportation.”

4. The Metro is much cleaner and safer than the subway in New York City.

We decided that in order to see as much as we could in the short amount of time we had in Paris that we would travel by Metro. This proved to be extremely advantageous. We obtained a two day pass for 20 Euros and traveled the city effortlessly. The Metro was clean, easily accessible, and well lit. It is important to note however that the Metro DOES NOT run 24 hours a day. We found ourselves at the Eiffel Tower, 10 miles from our hotel, with no transportation. Unfortunately, we found out too late that the Metro stops running at 12:30 a.m.

5. Water is served either "still" or "sparkling" and is normally sold in a glass bottle.

If you order water in any restaurant, the servers will ask you whether you would like "still" or "sparkling." Whichever you choose, be prepared to pay for it as it is not the normal water you get in the States. The water is usually served from a glass bottle, and although cold, will not be served with ice.

6. Traffic is INSANE!

I have never seen traffic like I saw in Paris! Near the Arc de Triomphe there is a roundabout. This roundabout has no lines to distinguish lanes, but has room for approximately six lanes of traffic. I witnessed cars cutting off other cars, busses cutting off several cars, drivers weaving in and out, and mopeds squeezing in between them all! I still can't believe I didn't witness an accident as well!

7. Nutella is everywhere.

I never knew that there was such a demand for Nutella in Europe. Everywhere we went we found something with Nutella in it: Crepes with Nutella and bananas, breakfast pastries filled with Nutella, and dessert pastries topped with Nutella.

8. People travel by moped or cars; there are no trucks.

Being from Texas, one of the first things I noticed in Paris is that there are no trucks on the road. Everyone drives very small cars or mopeds. And from what I can tell, those that ride mopeds do not have to obey the normal traffic rules, if there are any that is. Mopeds weave in and out of traffic, squeeze between cars, and basically go wherever they need to in order to get where they are going.

9. Air conditioning is a luxury.

Air conditioning is something I definitely take for granted here in the States. During the time we spent in Europe there was a heat wave. News reports stated that there were record highs for that time of year with temperatures reaching the high 90s. Needless to say, we were tired and sweaty and would have loved to have had easy access to air conditioning. However, that just isn't the case. Air conditioning does exist in places like hotels and some restaurants; however, for the most part, you better just hope for some shade!

10. Ice is also a luxury.

Again, we visited Europe during a heat wave. I have never drunk so much water in my life; however, water in Paris is not served with ice, nor is it ice cold. So, if you're hoping to find a delicious ice cold glass of water in Paris, as it turns out, you'll be out of luck.

11. Toilets are very easy to find.

Before we travelled to Europe I had spoken to other people who had stated that restrooms were difficult to come by or that in order to use them you had to pay. I can honestly say that not once did I have an issue finding a restroom anywhere that I went. In fact, in some parts of Paris there are actually self cleaning public toilet kiosks along the main walkways. The only place that we had to pay to use a restroom was at the bus station.

12. Pick pockets do exist.

I had done tons of research before our trip to Europe and I saw the same thing over and over... Beware of pick pockets! Because of this, I thought long and hard about how I would avoid becoming a victim of a pick pocket. I can happily say that I did not become victim; however, the same cannot be said for everyone I travelled with. Although Ashley did get her wallet back, she fell victim to a scam near the Love Lock Bridge. Two women came up to her. One distracted her by trying to get her to sign a paper and donate money. When she wouldn't, the other stole her wallet out of her purse! We saw this same scam in several different places.

13. Pizza is AMAZING!

It sounds kind of silly, but the first meal we had in Paris was pizza. And much to our surprise, it was delicious. We loved it so much that we continued to order the same thing several times throughout our trip. Specifically, we ordered the Pizza Crudo, or pizza with prosciutto. The tomato sauce is unlike the heavy sauces you get in the States; this sauce is light and fresh and they serve the pizza with olive oil on the side. It is SO good!

“Parisian women are beautiful. They take care of themselves; they wear dresses every day, they just always look put together. ”

14. Women in the States are lazy.

I don't really want to offend anyone with this last epiphany; however, I can't help it. What I saw in Paris was eye opening. Women in the States are lazy. Perhaps that's not fair. Perhaps we just don't know how to be simplistically beautiful. That is what I saw. Parisian women are beautiful. They take care of themselves; they wear dresses every day, they just always look put together. Somehow in the States, women have gotten lazy. We wear lounge pants or yoga pants, whatever you want to call them, we throw our hair up into a messy bun, or throw on a baseball cap, and head out to go grocery shopping, take the kids to soccer practice, and whatever else needs to be done. Parisian women do all of those things as well, yet they look beautiful doing it. I did not see any Parisian woman in tennis shoes, nor did I see anyone wearing shorts, any kind of lounge wear, or athletic wear.

15. Americans are ARROGANT!

I have to admit I am ashamed of myself after realizing this last piece of insight. Americans really are arrogant; I was one of them! The first day we were in Paris we went to a restaurant for brunch. Without even thinking about it I just started speaking English. I couldn't understand why the servers and the restaurant owners just wouldn't acknowledge me. I began to think that they were the stereotype we always hear about, the rude French people. The more I thought about it I realized that I was the one being rude. How dare I go to foreign country and expect them to speak English! I didn't even try to speak French and I was a French major in college, albeit years and years ago. French people are not rude. Once I broke out my rickety French, what little I remembered, my whole experience changed. People were friendlier, more helpful, and interestingly enough, I became more confident in my surroundings!

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