It's true what they say about Paris in the springtime: there's something magical about it. This was my third trip to the City of Light and this time I saw it in a whole new, well, light. In the five years since my last visit, the place seems to have developed a new attitude.
On previous visits, it felt like I was sneered at for my North American-ness; for asking for substitutions on a menu, for asking for take away, or for just asking questions. My broken attempts at the French language were met with frustration, and I seemed to be in everyone’s way all the time.
My very presence felt like one giant irritation in the shadow of a general arrogance. I walked around saying merci and je m’excuse for no good reason. I felt like the hillbilly who somehow got into the cool party and was about to be discovered and shown the door.
Mon Dieu, what a difference a few years makes.
I am pleased to report that Paris has become the friendliest city in the world! From the moment I arrived, I was met with open arms. Not like your grandmother’s warm welcome, but more like your impossibly sophisticated girlfriend who knows everything about everything and wants to share it with you.
I spoke my own version of French to the taxi driver and he responded in slow, simple French; obviously knowing I was making an effort, and he did the same. I was grateful because it made me feel like I fit in.
The hotel staff were more hospitable and eager to please then any other hotel I’ve stayed at anywhere. In the world. And that means everyone. The maid who pressed my pants obviously loved her job and delivered my pants on time. And her red lipstick was so perfectly Parisian.
And it wasn’t just my hotel. Walking into a nearby 5-star hotel, I asked about the bar. Not only did I get directions, I was personally escorted there. In fact that happened at EVERY fancy hotel I walked into, looking for the bar. (I love checking out fancy hotel bars.)
When we were the last table at a restaurant at 1am, staff patiently waited and even offered more café. (Le Restaurant in St. Germain. Best meal I’ve had in years. Put it on your list.) No attitude. Zero arrogance. It was all so civilized. This is not the Paris I remember.
Is it possible the French have been humbled by the fact that their country is, essentially, broke?
As global financial markets continue to creak and sputter, it is clear the world is experiencing a recalibration. Scary? Very. But a recalibration of attitudes is a welcome idea indeed. And perhaps that’s what’s going on in France. So save your pennies and put Paris on your list.
My top picks for your trip:
- Le Restaurant for lunch or dinner. Reservations required. This place should be at the top of your list for a special meal.
- Le Bar 228 at Le Meurice hotel. Oak panelled and romantic.
- L’Avenue for lunch. It’s quite a scene so bring your sunglasses.
- Cafe de Flore for Sunday brunch – especially if it’s a sunny day.
Enjoying a table in the sunshine at Cafe de Flore
Oh la la! Bring your sweet tooth because macarons are everywhere!