Personal Impressions

The "Personal Impressions" section is a collection of thoughts and personal experiences.

Since When Are Parisians Nice?

Wes' previous experience in Paris in 1987 was far from positive. The people were rude, there were bomb scares, and the city was packed with cycling fans for the final leg of the Tour de France. We arrived to Paris expecting the worst.

Something must have happened between July 1987 and June 2000 to change the Parisians from rude to charming friendly people you'd want to be with. Since when are the Parisians nice???

The friendliness and the people and the beauty of the city could have kept us in Paris a long, long time. Were it not for our plans to meet friends in Switzerland, we may not have left.

Cuisine Exquisite

"In heaven the chefs are French," the saying goes. Food in Paris lived up to its reputation. The quality of food EVERYWHERE was beyond words. It got us thinking. How is it possible that food in France can be so good and food in the U.S. is, on average, a voluminous plate of slop? Are the ingredients different, or is it a fundamental trait of the people? Americans tend to focus on price vs. volume. The French may focus on the pride that accompanies quality and satisfied diners.

Paris Pace

Did London speed up our slow Singapore pace, or is Paris slower paced than London? Whichever the case, the pace in Paris was perfect for us. In Paris, we felt that the restaurants were relaxed and enjoyable, and the sidewalk pedestrians walked at our pace. Yet, shops kept their posted hours and the transportation system was punctual. Paris is the first place in many years that matched our pace without us having to adjust first.

Did Wes Speak French?

In 1987, Wes says he was fluent in French. So what happened to it? Wes found himself trying to start off in French but usually ended up slipping English or Japanese into the sentence unintentionally. Masami never spoke French, but her 3 month study of Spanish 12 years ago paid off. After each request, she unintentionally added "Por favor".

Each day, as we heard French words, Wes would gradually remember a few here and there. Maybe after a few months in France, Wes will speak French again. That would be wonderful.

Dogs Are Welcome
The French love their dogs. After a month in Britain seeing "no dogs" signs posted nearly everywhere, we were surprised to see dogs on lead in restaurants, bookstores, and the train. At the restaurant at Château de Versailles, the waiter brought a dog bowl of water for the customer's pet waiting patiently under the table. What excellent service!

Paris, The City For Kissing
Paris is full of "kissing spots" - by the Seine River, at the Eiffel Tower, on a bridge, at a café, at the park. Everyone in London was too rushed to notice each other, but the Parisians kiss everywhere. We made lots of kissing spots of our own. We love Paris.

What's the Speed Limit?
Speed limit signs are posted along every road in abundance. Why bother if they are repeatedly ignored? The French Autoroute (expressway) theoretically has a speed limit of 130kph (81mph). Wes tries to keep the car moving between 140-160kph to flow with traffic in the center lane. Vehicles shooting through the fast lane whiz by when our speedometer reads 175kph.

Restaurant Faux Pas
The menu at Hiély (in Avignon) is superb. We couldn't stay away. In a 2 week span in Provence, we drove to Avignon 4 times to have lunch at Hiély. On our 4th visit, just after dessert, the waiter returned to our table. Dessert is normally followed by coffee, so when the waiter asked in French whether the meal was good (êtes-vous satisfait?), Wes thought he was being asked about coffee (et le café?). Hearing Wes reply, "Pas aujourd'hui" (not today) the waiter's eyebrows raised in shock. "Non?"

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