Ahhh, here is the challenge! There is unanimous agreement that it is better to try to speak a few words of French than not. The reason is that people appreciate you making an effort to speak their language, even with a strong accent. There is something a bit off-putting in assuming that even though you do not speak their language, that they will speak yours. When I first arrived in France, most people did NOT speak English, and this was a good thing; it forced me to get with the program and speak French. While it is true that today most personnel in hotels and restaurants speak English it is still better to make an effort to speak in French.
I’m sure you will use your phrase book and learn the basic survival phrases. Just to be sure, I’ve prepared a list of the basics. I don’t know about you, but when I’m in a foreign country I like to listen to the conversations around me, not to eavesdrop so much as to see if I can understand what is being said. Also, I’ve far too often had the experience of asking a question and then not understanding the answer! So in addition to the very basics, I thought it would be fun to give translations of some frequently used words and phrases.
See the link at the end of this book to receive my phrase list free of charge.
A tip: If you want to ask anyone a question, whether on the street or in a shop, always say Bonjour Madame or Bonjour Monsieur before you ask your question. And smile. (For more on this, see the Manners section, n°24).
When Starbucks announced their opening in Paris, people were up in arms, just the same as they were when EuroDisney opened, seeing this as a near-end of French culture, or, at least an unforgivable assault on it. The objection to Starbucks was the effrontery of serving coffee in cardboard mugs rather than in the china cup and saucer that you get in any cafe. Also, the fact that smoking was not allowed and that somehow overflowing ashtrays and cigarette butts on the floor were part and parcel of French culture. Well, since then France has joined most European countries in banning smoking in cafes and restaurants, although this prohibition is honored in the breach in most cafes which provide for a smoking area on their terrace (see more in Terraces n°46 below), so this leaves us with only the cardboard versus china issue. Well, china wins hands down. Also, the unflavored coffee is nothing to get excited about and the various concoctions offered are rather pricey. So what does Starbucks have going for it? Well, if you want a free WiFi connection and a comfortable place to sit and surf the Internet, this is a good solution. Starbucks are ubiquitous, pretty hard not to find one.
The one I recommend is at 3 boulevard des Capucines, right near the Opera (Metro: Opera, Lines 3,7, 8). It is located in a fabulous old building, classified by the government as a historic monument. Crown moldings, high painted ceilings, antique chandeliers, comfortable sofas and armchairs make this a comfy place to sit back to read and connect. Before the place was taken over by Starbucks it was a travel agency, and before that, at the turn of the 19 th to 20th century, it was the site of a Liberty of London shop.
If you are coming to Paris in the summer months there is always the chance that there will be a heat wave, in which case you might want to pack a bathing suit. I am not suggesting that you go to one of the many public swimming pools – they are OK, but nothing spectacular. There is, however, one exception, and that is the Centre Aquatique in Neuilly sur Seine, at 27/31 boulevard dTnkermann, Neuilly 92. (Tel: +33 (0)1 55 62 62 70, (Metro: Sablons, Line 1). Neuilly is an upscale suburb contiguous to Paris and their public swimming pool is worth a trip if the weather is hot.
One of my friends recommends the Olympic size pool Keller, 14, rue de l’lngenier Keller, Paris
15, Metro Charles-Michel (Line 10). This pool is especially pleasant on hot days as the roof opens up when it is sunny and there are lounge chairs and a separate pool for children. Here is a website for pools, in French only: http://www.paris.fr/loisirs/piscines/piscines-decouvertes-et- solariums/rub_152_actu_97235_port_24458