When not sitting and scribbling in one of my favourite cafés, I have spent the majority of the last few days researching and writing. And I finally read "The Book": The Book is Rick Steves' Paris 2012. It seems every second tourist on rue Cler is carrying Rick's book in one hand and their stainless steel water bottle in the other. The Book also makes appearances in other parts of Paris from the Chanel boutique on rue Cambon to the flea market at Porte de Vanves.
Rick gives some good advice. On page 18 he writes, "One of the benefits of travel is the eye-opening realization that there are logical, civil, and even better alternatives." Then on page 19 Rick writes, "The French (and Europeans in general) place a high value on speaking quietly in restaurants and on trains. Listen while on the bus or in a restaurant - the place can be packed, but the decibel level is low. Try to adjust your volume accordingly to show respect for their culture."
I am seriously more confused than ever about the boorish behavior of some tourists. Are Rick's readers skimming his Introduction and going straight for his tips on how to avoid long lines at the Louvre?
"All I wanted to do was come here and eat cheese. Then when I finally got some brie, it didn't taste anything like the brie at home."
The women then made loud, crass comments about an attractive French man who was standing two feet from their table with his white shirt unbuttoned all the way down his flat stomach. His jeans were skin tight. They loved it and I half-expected them to try and shove a five euros bill down the front of his pants. Finally one of their husbands said,
"I need you to understand one point, and it may not matter to you. You may not understand French but THEY understand English."
They weren't bothered and instead reached down under the table to top up their Champagne glasses with a bottle they had hidden under the table.
Even better alternatives? Try to adjust your volume accordingly to show respect for their culture?
Why travel? Why Paris? Those are the questions, in English, I really wanted to ask them. Instead I paid my bill and walked my best French girl walk down the street to get away from them as fast as I could.