As I sat in a restaurant seeking inspiration for the next instalment of this travelogue, my muse graced with a large family of American tourists on their first night in Paris. Having come to this city to see the sights, experience the culture and taste the cuisine, it was only natural that they come to the Chicago Pizza Pie Factory. To watch them order was the first highlight. Despite the protestations of the waiter that he was from New York, the patriarch of the family proceeded… to … talk… very… slowly…and… en-un-ci-ate. Or maybe I misunderstood the exchange and all New Yorkers are mentally retarded? It might explain why the waiter also proceeded… to … talk… very… slowly…and… en-un-ci-ate.
My favourite part of the conversation that I was rudely eavesdropping in on, was the exclamation by the eldest daughter of the family, when she realised that Wow! They were in France and they were eating french fries! What a coincidence!
I nearly choked on my beer.
And so, without further ado, I present you with:
Paris – A Visitors Guide
1. Upon arrival you may wish to take a taxi. Go to the taxi queue and politely ignore anyone along the way who offers you a taxi. These touts operate illegally and make their money by picking up unsuspecting tourists and charging them triple.
2. Remember this simple axiom. The Parisian tourist board loves the money tourists bring in. Parisians themselves like the fact that they have work because tourists come to their city, but they hate tourists themselves. This will explain a lot of things you see.
3. Never wear sandals. Remember my story about the dog crap?
4. You will have a hard time as a vegetarian, even the salads have meat in them.
5. Unless you are rabidly anti-smoking, allergic to smoke and literally prone to dying from the inhalation of second-hand cigarette smoke always ask for a smoking table at a restaurant. They are the best tables and, in some cases, the only tables. Otherwise you will be stuck right at the back, next to the kitchens or the toilets or even, as in one case, asked to sit outside in the pouring rain. It isn’t worth it.
6. In the popular areas, although the waiters and waitresses speak English, they will pretend otherwise. So don’t speak to them as if they are idiots or insult them, they will understand you and make you suffer. I’m sure you can imagine what can be added to a cream of mushroom soup.
7. I have observed many American tourists blatantly ignoring what is on the menu and ordering what they fancy. Here some advice: You are not in Burger King. If the menu is hand-written, the chef has compiled it himself, based on what is fresh on that day and what he feels would be a good culinary combination. To ignore this and to order a variant or something completely different is to insult the chef. Remember what I said about the cream of mushroom soup.
8. Yes, the Parisian MacDonald’s does sell beer, they do called a quarterpounder a Royale, and they just call them fries not french fries. Get over it.
9. No, you cannot see everything in the Louvre on one day and the trip to the top of the Eiffel Tower is not worth it. If you want a great view go to the Tour Montparnasse instead.
10. If a local says or does something you disapprove of, fit in. Sneer at them. No more is needed.