23 July 2013


Since I don't want to be that person who clogs up everyone's Facebook feeds with a thousand and one photos of ME ME ME, I decided that I am going to mostly post photos from our trip here on the blog. Since I still want to share them with people who actually care, obviously. And yes, I did go on a trip to Armenia and some other stuff happened before Paris that is probably blog worthy, but we're going to start with Paris because, well, it's Paris. I'm still working on sorting out photos and touching up a few (few = 1000+....) so I thought I'd start with some facts and myths about Paris. Being the ultra-nerd I am, I did a LOT of research before our trip, talked to a lot of people who'd been to Paris, and tried to get everyone's opinion on everything regarding France in general. Through this process, I heard a lot of differing viewpoints, and so, I am here to tell you the REAL truth in case you ever decide you fancy a trip to the City of Light.

1. All the women have hairy armpits and do not shave them - FALSE

We examined many women's underarms and found them to be perfectly clean and normal.

2. Everyone smokes - TRUE

The ground in a major park where we decided to picnic - and there were kids playing all around! Ew!

Sadly, this one is super true. So many people smoking, everywhere. It's weird though - somehow the smoking in Paris didn't bother me as much as it did in Armenia. Maybe because in Armenia it was only men smoking, and in Paris it seemed more...fair? I know, doesn't make sense. It's also a little more windy in Paris, which helps, but if you are highly smoking-averse, do NOT go in the summer time, bring eye drops, and choose to eat indoors because at least people are not allowed to smoke inside buildings (unlike Armenia, where I saw [on more than one occasion] a doctor talking with patients inside a hospital room while smoking!!). And they are all over the street, which is kind of sad because otherwise it is a very beautiful city of course. If I could change any one thing about Paris, this would be the top of the list.

3. You can't sit on the grass in public parks - half true

The big ones -- Luxembourg & Tuileries -- forbid grass-sitting. We saw people getting yelled at for sitting on the grass, and it was actually pretty funny. The grass in front of the Eiffel Tower (Champ de Mars) and park at Place des Vosges is fair game though. Basically if there are a bunch of chairs set up at the park, you should use them instead of the ground. And they even have awesome reclined chairs that are super relaxing! 

4. Men don't wear shorts - FALSE

And Owen was pretty mad about this one because it was hot, hot, hot, and practically no buildings have A/C. 

5. Men don't wear sneakers - TRUE

They all seem to prefer nicer shoes, like loafers or boat shoes, though we did spot a few Supergas and Pumas. 

6. Women don't do their hair; they prefer natural hair texture - TRUE

And I loved it! This is definitely going on my list of favorite things in France...it was awesome.

7. Everyone is thin - mostly TRUE

With all of the walking around we did, I can easily see how people are in better physical condition! Also, I'm pretty sure that's why everyone smokes.

8. The metro is hard to figure out and you should avoid it - FALSE FALSE FALSE!!

Luckily we decided to test out the metro on the second day, and it was so awesome! Public transportation in Paris is the BEST! It was so easy to figure out, so clear, and a train came every three minutes (even to the airport) so it was incredibly wonderful to use. I would HIGHLY recommend using the metro in order to save your feet if you ever go to Paris! Plus, sometimes people sing or perform other types of music in the metro, which is kind of fun because the acoustics are awesome down in that underground world!

9. Tourists wear fanny packs - TRUE

I read this on so many blogs - "just don't wear bright white tennis shoes and a fanny pack and you'll be fine" and I totally thought they were exaggerating. NO! People actually wear fanny packs in Paris and it is so embarrassing!!! Honestly, I was quite embarrassed by many of my fellow Americans - it was so easy to pick out tourists in Paris. I mean, it was the height of tourist season in Paris, so they were everywhere, but still. Let's try to be a little more subtle people. 

10. The French are rude - FALSE

This was one of my biggest fears in going to Paris - that we would be totally ignored and brushed off and lost. Well I seriously stressed for nothing! Everyone was so nice to us! I mean, it probably helped that we weren't wearing fanny packs, and we at least attempted to speak a little French (more on that later), but we did not have a single problem, and there was only one person who I felt was even a bit discourteous (and it wasn't really her fault - any American salesperson would have been just as snippy when there are a million tourists trying to buy the Longchamp bags behind her counter). Just be a decent human being, and they're just normal people, honestly. I was so grateful to everyone who we encountered and had such a great experience with the people of Paris.

11. You will get pickpocketed - TRUE

Luckily it only happened to us once, and luckily we're not dumb. Don't keep important things in your pocket, and you won't have anything to worry about! But it WAS on the metro, like we were warned, though it came as a surprise -- to get on the metro, you have to go through a little ticket gate that opens as you put in your ticket and then closes right behind you so you can't get back through. A guy reached into Owen's front pocket right after Owen went through the gate, which really is an ideal place to rob someone if you think about it. Like I said, we luckily weren't foolish so he didn't get anything, Owen just slapped his hand away and felt incredibly violated. So I'd still recommend using the metro because it's so convenient and quick, but use your brain and watch your stuff. 

12. Everything is expensive - TRUE

So, so, so incredibly true. And not just expensive, it's like stupid expensive. I'm convinced everyone who lives in Paris is in serious debt.

13. Parisians like to party all night - TRUE

Especially on the street we were staying on, until 5 in the morning at least. Bring ear plugs.

14. Parisians take a long time at meals - TRUE

It almost became like a fun little game, to see how long we could stay at our meal. It was actually kind of fun, though I really don't see how they can keep eating that whole time. I guess that's what coffee's for, but we just took a REALLY long time with our water...And trust me, you need a long time at a restaurant to recuperate from all the walking you've been doing.

15. Dish sizes at restaurants are ridiculously small - FALSE

Now this probably was false because we didn't go to any super super fancy restaurants (due to #12...), but I was totally stuffed after every meal we ate out, and never felt like we were cheated out of a normal plate of food. It's true that they don't like you to split meals or take stuff home though, so really the amount of food was just right for one person to eat in one normal sitting. We're just too used to the Olive Garden "Dinner Tonight, Dinner Tomorrow" meal sizes, so just don't plan on eating enough food for three people. Also they don't expect you to order something for each course, you can just order like a normal person. 

16. The cheese is stinky - TRUE

And we bought some, and it made our apartment stink for the rest of the trip! Buyer beware!

17. All the bathrooms cost money - FALSE

But some do. So be sure to use the free ones whenever you have a chance! Usually bathrooms inside places you pay something for (museums, restaurants, etc.) are free, and bathrooms at free places (public gardens, train stations) cost between ,50 and 1 euro. Which is ridiculous. So plan accordingly. And if you do go to one you have to pay for, they will give you back change in a stupid number of small coins that will jangle in your pocket all day and remind you of how annoying it was to pay to use the bathroom.

18. The stairs to get to the top of the Eiffel Tower are impossible - FALSE

It was totally cheaper to walk, and actually kind of fun! Plus the line you wait it is shorter (still insanely long, mind you, but a little less insanely long than the elevator lines) and you get views the whole way up! Also, then you can justify all the croissants you've been eating. 

19. People play accordions in the street - TRUE

Yep, they still do this, though it's totally just for the tourists, so maybe they are only out in the summertime. It was kind of fun though.

20. The French love their pleached trees - TRUE

I didn't even know what the word "pleached" meant before researching Paris, but I guess its a way you can plant trees and make them intertwine and grow so they form a giant, well-cropped hedge basically. It was kind of a different look, but I liked it! Very sharp and classy-looking. And they are everywhere!

Pleached trees in the background at the gardens of Versailles.

21. The Louvre is big - VERY TRUE (understatement!!!!!!!!)

I had NO idea how enormous this awesome museum was! I planned four hours into our itinerary for this museum, but really, we felt like we could have spent two whole days there. There is just so much art and amazing artifacts EVERYWHERE! And it's super easy to get lost! Especially since they have random areas closed off. I was pretty tired of tour guides after Armenia, but if I could choose one place to pay for a tour guide, it would be at the Louvre because there is just SO MUCH. 

22. The Mona Lisa is overrated - FALSE

Everyone kept telling me this "oh, you should skip her because there's just a huge crowd and the painting is smaller than you think anyway and what's the big deal?" Well, to me, the big deal IS that it's a big deal, and it's such a fun mystery! We went at a time that was not as busy (Friday nights are open late, which is a great time to go) so we had no problem going to see the woman of mystery, and I'm glad we took the detour. The glass is a little bit of a disappointment, but now you know.

23. Paris always rains - FALSE

It didn't rain the week we were there :( Which made me sad. If there is a next time, I must see it in the rain.

24. No one has air conditioning - TRUE

Okay, mostly true. To get some air conditioning relief, we recommend visiting your local Monoprix. It seriously saved our lives one day...though there was no bathroom :/

25. The French dress better than you - TRUE

Well, nicer at least. Most people in Paris were generally more dressed up than the American standard. I had to wear business casual clothes for Armenia, so that was mostly what I had packed, and it was kind of nice because I never really felt out of place in Paris. The clothes are cute and people look good, but seriously, HOW DO THEY AFFORD IT?!!??!!

26. You need to know French to visit Paris - FALSE

But learning a few key phrases can really do a lot of good! We really mastered "I would like...." "Do you have..." "Where is the bathroom?" and "Thank you!" If you're especially excited about French, learning how to ask how much something costs or how to get somewhere may be useful, but every time we asked a question in French, they replied in French...so...yeah. But a lot of people spoke English, and when you try to speak French in your terrible accent, they will like you more and probably start speaking English to you so don't worry. Though most labels and stuff at the museums will be in French, so good luck reading it. 

27. You should order "normal water" - FALSE

Apparently "normal water" is mineral water in France, which probably most Americans would find gross, so make sure to order tap water if you want U.S. normal water. And you may think the word for water is "eau" or even "l'eau" if you want to be more formal, but you have to order it like "de l'eau" which sounds like "duh low" or "duh low plat" if you want tap water. A guy who served his mission in France gave me this tip, and it was seriously true and very helpful. If you like water. 

Okay, so that's all we could think of -- if you have any questions, I'd love to help! Not like we are Paris professionals, but we definitely had a good time and it's fun to talk about! And if you want more Paris (or even if you don't), I'm planning on doing a post for each day of our trip...so get ready. 

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