The two most valuable pieces of information I learned from Rick Steves in his travel advice section at www.ricksteves.com were:
- Travel light
- Have your destination written clearly on a small sheet of paper whenever you climb in a taxi or ask for directions.
These two bits of advice were gold and saved us from a multitude of difficulty in Paris, London and Amsterdam.
The taxi driver that took us from the scary Gare du Nord station to our hotel near the Arc de Triomphe spoke no English. The little piece of paper I’d prepared with the address of our hotel came in handy.
|We stayed at the Renaissance Arc de Triomphe in Paris.|
|The hotel was two short blocks from the Arc de Triomphe|
Once we arrived at our hotel, the Renaissance Paris Arc de Triomphe, I decided to try to make use of all of that French I’d learned in four years of high school and four semesters of college. Now was the time. Now or never. I began my brief conversation with the young hotel clerk in French, but was soon lost in her mumblings, which I believe were a sort of a test she gave me. I was quickly rebuked —French or English? Pick one. Put in my place by her nasty “fish or cut bait” sort of tone, I declared my preference for English and she went back to a friendlier sort of service. The rest of our encounters at the hotel were civil, but we mostly kept to ourselves. The Renaissance is a Marriott Hotel, based in the United States, and so the employees all spoke English.
|View of the lobby as you enter. Our clerk was stationed at the 3rd desk.|
|My French took a nosedive here. Same shot as above from the opposite direction. (This and all photos above from the Marriott site).|
|Sleek Room, beloved daughter|
|Our window bowed out, so it seemed like sitting/standing with no support below|
|That's my small suitcase on the rack. Never did watch any television in Paris or Amsterdam, though the set was on here when we arrived.|
The one place we were able to use some French was in taxis, at museums or in shops:
- Bonjour. Le Musee du Louvre, s’il vous plait
- Bonjour. Le Tour Eiffel, s’il vous plait
- Bonjour. La Saint Chappelle, s’il vous plait
- Bonjour. Notre Dame, s’il vous plait
- Bonjour. Le Musee D’Orsay, s’il vous plait
- Bonjour…Bonsoir…Merci beaucoup, au revoir… That's about it.
We’d hop in the taxi and then usually remain respectfully quiet, pay, thank the driver in French and exit. We didn’t do much shopping, but did stop in a couple of souvenir shops. I greeted the shop clerk or owner as I had read one should do, and then received cordial service. I had read that many Americans offend by not extending a greeting.
Paris is much smaller than London, so none of the taxis cost a lot. Usually the rates seemed reasonable, but not always. One time a driver had the meter covered and we felt sure we were overcharged, but I did not dare to argue the amount. I went back to the hotel, researched and learned to always look for the meter before getting in—some drivers will cheat you and regulation is lax. Most were honest and just did their job. None initiated conversation. We walked a ton, too, but because of my knee trouble, I’m not the best walker anymore and I was glad for the taxis.
If you went to Paris and arrived early afternoon, what would your first visit be? I’ll share about our first choice in the next post.