Tuesday, May 15, 2012

My Bubble: Bonjour Paris!

Lo kong and I arrived early into CDG Paris at 6.35am.  Although I had prepared myself with the appropriate info to get into the city, anxiety was playing yo-yo with my emotions.  How will we communicate with the French people who have been labelled as rude and arrogant people who also take offence when you speak to them in English?

Contrary to such a misled perception, I found the French to be friendly and helpful people even if they only speak a smattering of the English language.  It is entirely a myth that you must speak fluent French to visit Paris!

From the moment we arrived at the airport, a French couple who had just arrived on the same flight dispelled some of our anxieties.  They have just returned from a 2 week stay in Malacca with their daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren.  They were so friendly and helpful from the moment we met at the CDG-Roissybus ticket dispensing and waiting room until we parted ways at Opera de Paris. The one-way Roissybus tickets cost €10.00 per person ... that's RM40.00 per person for the 45 minutes ride into the city.

It was still too early to head to our hotel as check-in time was at 2.00pm.  Each with a luggage in tow, we explored the vicinity but retail shops were slow to open while cafes were very inviting with their aromas of coffee.  Alas, we sat out the time at Starbucks to get our bearings in tune before picking up our Les Cars Rouges Hop-On-Hop-Off bus tickets that I've purchased online back home.  As planned, we will take a quick route on the City of Paris and shortlist the places that we will want to explore further later on.  The quick route was pretty time-consuming ... it took over 3 hours instead of its prescribed 2¼-hour round trip.

We finally boarded Bus #66 for Brochant, the nearest bus-stop to the Art Hotel Congres where we will be staying for the whole duration of trip in Paris.  The bus ticket was  €2.00 per person.  That was our first and last bus ride as riding on the Metro (the subway) was cheaper and much faster at €1.70 per person.

Again we were met with friendly and helpful French on board the bus.  As the indicator inside the bus was not working and we were unsure when our stop is approaching, we were so thankful that several passengers kept a look out for us.  One even earnestly directed us in the direction of our hotel. Perhaps it is something of the past but the French have certainly debunked the stereotype during my visit.  One exceptional French lady could not speak a word of English but still took the initiative to help us with the directions seeing that we were kinda lost.  With her hands and fingers pointing in so many directions, we somehow understood the direction we should be heading ... a GPS navigator never always work when you need them to!

There are so many wonderful things about Paris like the glorious cathedrals, awesome historical attractions, appetising bakes and sandwiches and the always-crowded sidewalk cafes which we somehow could not acquire that people-watching trait.  However, I must confess that cleanliness in Paris fell far below expectation.  It is indeed a far cry from cities like Tokyo or Zurich but quite close to home though. Cigarette butts everywhere and Merde! it's dog poo if you don't watch your steps!  The smell of urine is so commonplace especially at the railway and metro station walkways and corridors.  I don't think it takes a lot of luck to bump into someone peeing the fence just as we had!  Even Uncle Chew had a shock when he unexpectedly caught sight of a woman peeing in the open beside her car at the Marathon de Paris!  Perhaps it's because public toilets are not easily found even if you are willing to pay to use one ... lo kong had to frequently hold his bladder until we found a McD!

I guess I should make the long story short before I become a bore with these compilation of our photos while in Paris.  Might be too soon to judge but I think my trigger-finger's returning after slicing the more than 600 shots taken (not including those taken at Marathon de Paris) by more than half.  Fingers crossed it's not so ... here's Bonjour Paris!!

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