Karl was kind enough to post a very detailed comment about his recent trip to Paris. I wanted to make sure that everyone saw it, so I’ve done a cut and paste.
It appears below in italics. So enjoy.
My thoughts…I think Karl has a great approach to European vacations: pick one city and explore it for a week. It seems this allows enough time, but also forces the traveler to focus and get the most out of a destination.
It is great to read about someone else’s first impressions of Paris, and to learn that a good time was had by all…except when it came to the smoking in cafes and the prices at Charvet. These two things, I fear, will not change anytime soon.
I’m especially grateful to everyone here who contributed their two-cents worth prior to Karl and his wife making the trip.
Thanks for sharing, Karl…! Who’s traveling next?
Off topic, but I just returned from Paris and wanted to thank everyone for the travel advice I received a few weeks back. I thought I would provide an “after action” report for those of you who might be planning a first trip. Obviously our host has much greater insight, but a second set of eyes never hurts. We stayed at the Hotel Du Louvre, just North of the Louvre museum. I was pleased with the accommodations and service we received there.
This was my fourth trip to Europe. Each time we have visited one city for a week, usually with a day trip thrown in. I have been to Rome, Athens, London, and now Paris. Although my wife preferred Rome, I can say with certainty that Paris is my favorite. It really is a good representation of Europe, and you can feel the influences of both Northern and Southern European culture. Things that struck me:
1. Food – French food is, on the whole, of better quality than American food. This is definitely true of casual dining, which is everywhere a step up from our casual dining. I think American fine dining has largely closed the Gap with the French, and while the French dishes were delicious, I think you can probably find comparable food in America pretty easily now days, even if you live in a provincial area like I do (Cleveland, Ohio). I did have my first experience with escargot. (I found it earthy and very mild).
2. Fashion – The French dress better than we do. I ended up wearing mostly polo shirts, cotton pants/khakis, and comfortable white Nike tennis shoes. I did find my apprehension about tennis shoes unfounded. While the French undoubtedly prefer their tennis shoes to look less like “athleisure wear” and more like a traditional shoe, they were far from uncommon. Large numbers of men wear casual jackets / sports coats around town. And yes, the dark suits that Mr. Tully wisely recommends were common. I did see a few Parisians dressed in OMG style with Khakis, OCBD, and blue blazer. I wore the same myself for dinner a few times. Loafers on men were also much more common than usually seen in America. I didn’t see as many common themes in women’s fashion (and I am admittedly largely devoid of fashion sense, which is why finding Mr. Tully’s book and the OMG uniform such a God send for me). A lot of dresses. More modesty. Not as much skin tight clothing.
I will say I stopped at a few department stores, and briefly considered stopping into Mr. Tully’s favorite, Charvet. The sticker shock I suffered quickly reminded me that I am, in fact, not an OMG, but rather an aspirational working class upstart. Being generally of the “Millionaire next door” mindset and shopping for my wardrobe from the sale sections of retailers, it gave me a new appreciation for the reasonableness of Brooks Brothers full retail price!
3. Health – The Good: The first thing that stands out when you settle into a cafe seat and start people watching is how thin the French are compared to Americans. I would estimate 80% of them are thin. And not just “normal” sized, but model thin. It was striking. I’m 165lbs with a slight paunch, and I would be in the fatter half of Parisians. Even the 20% of French that are not thin are only over-weight. A beer belly. A woman that is pear shaped. They simply do not have the morbidly obese people that we do in America. Also notable was that I did not see one French man that appeared muscular. They were all very svelte, and with the exception of some members of the Gendarme, none had the “bodybuilder” physique you often see among the fit in America.
The Bad: The French smoke like chimneys. Large numbers, both men and women, smoke. My wife is particularly sensitive and frankly, it was a major disappointment. The cafe seating is elbow to elbow with the other patrons. On more than one occasion, we would sit down, order a meal, and upon receiving it, have someone sit down 2 feet away and light a cigarette. It really detracted from the cafe experience. About half way through the week we started sitting inside the cafes to avoid the smoke.
4. Over all impression – Walking the Champs Elysee or sitting fountain-side in the Jardin des Tuileries, one gets the feeling that Western Civilization has continued on uninterrupted in Paris in a way it has not in America. Every one is polite, well dressed, and behaving themselves. They seem to care more about the aesthetics of the built environment. No public drunkenness, no neck tattoos, no loutish behavior. And, despite the conventional wisdom of the French being “snooty” or feigning ignorance of the English language to avoid dealing with Americans, I found the French universally friendly and helpful. I twice stopped strangers for help, once on the street and once in the RER station, and both were generous with their help and time.
Finally, yes, the tourist attractions were beautiful. I was particularly fond of the gardens at Versailles. The Louvre was a close second, especially for its architecture. The Mona Lisa, like a previous day trip to Stonehenge in England, was underwhelming. The Musee de Armee an unexpected treat with a very impressive collection of armor, swords, etc. Although an agnostic, at the Sacre Coeur I continued my vacation tradition of praying to the God of whichever house of worship I am visiting for a safe return home to my children. As you can see by this post, my prayers were not in vain! I hope some of you may find this helpful. Au revoir!