AnAmericanDogInParis

The Adventures of a 12 pound Shetland Sheepdog (Sheltie) going to Paris.

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Tom & Maxine like to travel. Blogging helps us create a record of the trips, and share with friends and family...

Friday, November 03, 2006

Things We Would Do Again

Here’s a brief list of things about the trip that worked, that we’d do again

1. Buy a monthly transit pass (Carte Orange). Single use tickets (one bus or train ride) cost about $1.50. One month (they also have one week versions) unlimited use passes cost $70. Never having to decide if it was worth spending money to go someplace made us feel freer to explore the city.
2. Meeting The French program. It’s a new program in Paris where you meet people interested in talking about their specialty. We focused on food artisans and met coffee roasters, candy makers, bread bakers, and cheese sellers. Every meeting was a highlight of the trip.
3. Croissants and 'pain au chocolats' (basically, square croissants with chocolate bars melted inside) for breakfast. OK, lots and lots of calories in this suggestion! But, they taste so much better than anywhere else that you won’t bother eating breakfasts any other way.
4. Join the American Library. This only works on a relatively long stay, but it proved worthwhile for us. The library is quite extensive and current – many books, magazines, newspapers, videos. It’s a place to go – in a strange city, I can only hang out in café’s for so long.
5. Meetup.com. Maxine & I used Meetup to find out about and go to a number of expat/English speaker events. This broke up a diet of museums. It was also an opportunity to meet people with widely different personal circumstances. People we met included: an Australian couple there for 18 months, an American woman on a month long project from DC, an American woman who moved to France 8 years ago, a New York couple who moved to Paris last spring, a grandfather who spends ½ the year in Paris and the other ½ in Pennsylvania, a 23 year old French Structural Engineering student, etc. P.S. If this sounds interesting, there is one name you need to know, the master organizer – Andy Coyne!
6. Learning a few French words. With each successive trip to France we’ve found more and more people speaking English. In our neighborhood, you could hear snippets in English every time you walked down the street. Despite this, we felt more connected by trying to speak French. The French will NOT bite your head off if you speak French badly, we almost always found the reverse to be the case, that they will struggle in English to help the conversation along. More advice – it is pointless to ask someone, “Do you speak English”. If someone were to ask me if I spoke French I’d either hedge or say no. But, late one night someone came up to me and asked where the grocery store was. I don’t really speak French – but I did.
7. Bring your computer. There were plenty of free WiFi spots (the American Library, the café 4 blocks away, probably the apartment next door!) Aside from being able to stay in touch, it gave us access to unlimited tourism resources. Almost all the museums had sites that told hours and days open, etc. The RATP (city buses and subways) website plots out the quickest or least amount of walking required way to get to any place in the city, etc.
8. Bring your dog. It is true – the French love dogs!!! Aside from commercial transactions, i.e. a waiter or a clerk in a store, more than 90% of our conversations with French people began through our dog Cassie. They would express an interest in her, would bring their dog up to her, their children would try to pet her, or the like. I simply cannot express how much more connected we felt to Paris and Parisians by virtue of the connections Cassie made for us. All of that time with our trainer, Lori, paid off!

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