28 May 2012

Reflections on Paris

Sitting in the lounge at CDG Airport, about to leave Paris, prompts me to reflect on the past few days (but not posted until arrival in Belgrade - see subsequent post!).
We were very satisfied with the Paris apartment, and it was very well fitted out. All our dealings with the agency were excellent. Everything was properly documented and the arrangements were clear and all worked perfectly.
You certainly get more bang for your euro with apartment rental than with a hotel, but I suspect there's not as much flexibility if your arrangements change (for example, if you have flight delays etc).
We wouldn't like to have had this particular apartment in the heat of summer. We had a few days in the mid 20s. Our windows faced the east, so by lunch-time, the place was pretty warm. It's only May, so things weren't too bad, and we caught some of the breeze, and things cooled down in the evening. The agent also told us that they supply a fan in summer. However, unless we left the front door open, there was no cross-ventilation. Air conditioning doesn't seem to be widespread, but if we were ever to be here in the summer period, we would regard it as essential.
As I've mentioned previously, downstairs from us was a popular bar, where the boys were enjoying themselves until 1 am or later on Friday and Saturday nights. This didn't really trouble us, as the double-gazed windows were pretty effective, but had we wanted to leave them open on a warm night, we would have been faced with a choice between catching the breeze or having a relatively quiet night!
Luxembourg Gardens
More generally, there's no doubt that there is much that is very attractive about Paris, including the oases of green such as Place des Vosges and the  Jardin du Luxembourg.
 And the streetscapes are appealing (although occasionally bordering on the monotonous!), presumably as a result of what I imagine must be fairly stringent controls. The people are polite: how they tolerate so many tourists is a mystery to me (although I suspect that tourism is an important contributor to the economy). We have found that, by making a little effort, you'll be met with a gracious and helpful response – even though I have no ear for French at all (although I can occasionally discern the meaning of the written word). Perhaps it's just the way it worked out this time, but my impression is that the Parisian attitude to us was even better this time than on previous visits (not that we have ever had cause to complain in the past). I wonder if the fact that many residents of Paris (or their parents) started life somewhere else is a factor? Even the lady from the agency for our apartment mentioned that she was born on Reunion Island.
Place des Vosges

If you can't speak French, then English is definitely the next best alternative. In all the museums that we visited, most of the information was available in English as well as French, and only occasionally was it available in other languages. Frequently signs and other instructions are in English, and nearly everyone we encountered in shops and the like could communicate at least at a basic level in English. It made me a little sorry for the group of Spanish-speakers (I think) who sat next to us in a restaurant where there was a bilingual menu. It seemed that there was one member who could manage in English, who was interpreting the English-language version of the menu for the benefit of the others.
And so now on to Belgrade, where I expect a range of quite different experiences awaits!

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