We're traveling through Europe right now so this is as good a time as any to refresh you on our tips for visiting the City of Lights, Paris.
A visit to Paris is usually at or near the top of every sophisticated traveler's list.
But before you go to the city of love, romance and high fashion, there are some things you need to know.
Here are a few tips:
1) If you speak English, don't expect Parsians to immediately respond to you in English. Think of it this way: In America, if someone came up to you on the street and immediately started addressing you in Franch or Italian or Spanish, how would you respond? Wouldn't you immediately expect that person to at least greet you in Engish? Well, it's the same way here in Paris. If you want help from a Parisian, you must be at least willing to say "Bonjour." And you should know simple words and/or phrases such as "merci" and "bonsoir." These will go a long way toward established at least some form of simple conversation. And once you do that, you'll be suprised at how many Parisians actually do speak English.
2) In a restaurant don't expect the waiter or waitress to bring you the check unless you actually ask for it. It's considered rude for the magement to attempt to end your dining experience until you're ready for it to end. They won't rush you -- ever. It is up to you to signal that you're ready to pay your check and bring your visit to a close.
3) At zig-zag crosswalks you may be tempted to enter the intersection and expect cars to stop for you. That won't necessarily happen. They're supposed to stop, yes -- but that doesn't mean they will. Your best bet: Go to a signaled intersection and wait for the green light.
4) In everyday conversation, mannerly touches are important. So, si vou plait (if you please) merci (thank you) and pardon are expected -- not just now and then but all the time, everywhere.
5) In a restaurant, it's not approriate to ask for a take home or "doggy bag." That's because the French do not separate the dining experience from the dining. The two are the same. You can't take the restaurant with you. Likewise, you'd be well-advised not to try to take the food.
6) Don't respond to anyone on the street who asks you to sign a petition or tells you that you dropped something or tries to get you to stop or look in another direction. The pickpockets on Paris streets are notorious and their first order of business is getting you to stop or distrating you in some way. Once that happens, they move very quickly and before you know it you're flat out broke. Beware!
7) The customary 15-20% tip in American restaurants does not apply in Paris. Often a grtuaity or service charge is included but even when it's not, waitstaff are better-paid than their American counterparts. A small tip is given only for exceptional service.
8) In the warmer weather months avoid wearing shorts and sneakers in Paris. This is not considered appropriate and will immediately identify you as an American tourist. As such, you will become a quick target. White sneakers in particular are a no-no.
9) Many tours will give you just two or three days in Paris. Don't try to do the city in that length of time. It's really not feasible -- and its an injustice to all the wonders of Paris. We've allowed ourselves a full week in Paris (with two full weks in France) and we're so glad we did.
10) In high-tourist areas of the city, meals will be expensive. To avoid this find small neighborhoods and out of the way brasseries and sidewalk cafes. It's almost impossible to have a bad meal in Paris so you'll enjoy a fine dining experience, patronize an appreciative proprietor and pay a lot less. Voila! Everybody wins!