Parisians, Friends or Foes – France, Europe

Our first visit to Paris was exciting and full of expectation, yet we wondered, is it true what people say about the French? We had heard all the stories about how they treat you with disdain if you can't speak the language, or just because you are an American. We weren't really too worried about it, but it was in the back of our minds.

We love to travel and generally do so twice a year for one month at a time. Our trip to Paris was a four-day stay from a month spent in the Netherlands and Belgium. We always have wonderful experiences without spending a lot of money. So while searching for a less expensive restaurant frequented by the locals, we walked into an obvious private party. The tables were set together in two long rows and filled with Parisians enjoying a meal together. We were turning to leave when one of the owners came up and in French, told us to sit at one of the two extra tables. She than tried to explain the menu, but we don't speak French, she didn't speak English. She called on one of the party guests to interpret. Patiently, she explained what they were serving that afternoon; we ordered our meal and a few glasses of the house wine.

As we sat enjoying our meal and listening to the guitarist entertain the group, a dapper gentleman in a red sports coat told us politely to finish our wine so he could share his bottle of "superior" wine with us. Earlier, a couple of young women had come in and sat at the table near us. We conversed with the help of a guest. Everyone wanted to know where we were from and how we liked Paris.

When the guitarist/singer started to play some lively music, the man in the red coat got up and with a courtly bow, asked my wife to dance. As they danced to the smiles and joy of the rest of the party, a woman came to get me to the dance floor and many others joined us. A young woman near our table grabbed my camera and took photographs. We were having a great time; these folks were so friendly and happy that we were part of their celebration.

Although we really didn't want to, it was time for us to leave. We said our goodbyes and took photos with the three owners, the guitarist and many of the guests. As we moved toward the door, the whole room started singing a very familiar song in French. "should old acquaintance be forgot, in the days of Auld Lang Yyne". Waving and blowing kisses, we realized people are open and friendly, given the opportunity. We will never think of Paris without remembering that special afternoon and those gracious and welcoming Parisians.

See Jim's Cheap Travel in Europe.

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