I’d be lying if I said my first impression of Paris teemed with rainbows and butterflies, because it didn’t. When someone tells you Parisians are rude, don’t disregard that person’s opinion — because it’s true to a certain extent, at least in my experience. I mean, I wouldn’t say they’re the scum of the Earth or that they sport devil horns on their head on a daily basis, but they’re not exactly the friendliest of people. I was disappointed to have encountered my first rude Parisian on my very first day in Paris. Fortunately, it didn’t set a tone or ruin my experience there, but it’s one of those things you just look back on and count that as a true Parisian experience.
After checking into our hotel, the Novotel Tour Eiffel, our tour group gathered in one of the conference rooms — where we were even poured a glass of wine or soda for the non-drinkers — to go over our itineraries for our time in Paris. I was surprised that some of the most renowned sights, like the Louvre and Versailles were “optional tours.” So, of course, my mom and I signed up for most of the optional tours that Trafalgar, the tour company, offered because we weren’t about to spend our time in Paris without seeing the world-famous Mona Lisa or Hall of Mirrors!
The first optional tour started in a few hours, and that was a dinner stop at the Champs-Elysees followed by a cruise on the River Seine.
Dinner at Champs Elysees
Before we made our way to the River Seine, we boarded our coach that drove us down the busy Champs-Elysees, a long stretch of road flanked by the glimmering lights from the high-end shops and restaurants leading up to the Arc de Triomphe. Agatha, our tour escort, pointed out the window to give us some restaurant recommendations, including an eatery called Bistro Romain and another one called George V Cafe.
As you approach the Arc de Triomphe, the road takes you around the massive structure, which you can circle as many times as you like to marvel at the magnanimity and grandeur of the famous monument that honors those who fought and died for France in the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars.
Our bus stopped on a side street off the Arc de Triomphe and let us out. We were asked to come back to the bus in exactly an hour, which didn’t give us a whole lot of time to eat, but enough time if we found the right restaurant.
We stopped in front of the Arc de Triomphe to snap a few photos. Craning my head back to analyze the nearly 165-foot monument from bottom to top, I was impressed at how detailed and intrinsic this glorious piece of art was — from the facial features of the figures in battle to the maze-like pattern of the borders, this was every art history buff’s dream.
Not having a clue where we wanted to eat, my mom and I decided to stop off at one of the restaurants Agatha recommended, the Bistro Romain since it seemed like it would be quick and authentic enough for us to enjoy our first Parisian meal.
Little did we know how wrong we were.
Entering the double doors of the restaurant, a waitress asked if we’d like to sit upstairs or downstairs. “Upstairs,” I responded, thinking we’d get a better view. She then pointed us in the direction of the stairs toward the back of the business. We climbed the stairs and another waitress glanced our way. I asked if we could sit anywhere and she responded with a nod.
We definitely had our share of choices since the upstairs area was pretty empty aside from a group of adults appearing to be coworkers and a group of young ladies that I recognized from our our group. I chose a table right next to the window, away from the other groups.
After the waitress gave us our menus, it only took about five minutes for us to decide what we each wanted. But we remained patient and waited for the waitress to come our way.
Another five minutes passed and a family that I also recognized from our group got seated on a table right next to us.
About 20 minutes passed by and we both kept checking our watches to see how much time we had left. Does it really take 30 minutes to decide what to eat? Finally, I decided to flag down the waitress, who looked my way but — with an irritated expression on her face — pointed to the family and took their order instead. I thought she would come our way next, but she instead disappeared and came back to their table with a bottle of wine. She disappeared again and then went to the group of girls and never came back to us.
This really irritated me since we clearly arrived before the family and she did acknowledge me when I waved to her. Perhaps I missed the memo that it may be impolite to flag waitresses down in Paris? I don’t know. In any case, before my blood could really get a chance to boil, I suggested we go somewhere else to eat. For the record, the waitress didn’t even say anything when we passed her to leave.
We walked over to the neighboring restaurant, Cafe George V, since we were already in a rush and the waiters outside were actually smiling and greeted us with a friendly “Bonjour.” I decided to order an omelet since that was basically the only thing on the menu I could understand — everything else was in French!
To be honest, I was a little underwhelmed with the meal. After all, it was just an omelet, which I could easily get in the states. Or maybe my irritable mood got the best of me and prevented me from enjoying my food. But at least I could say it was my first official meal in Paris, and it wasn’t horrible for the most part. I was, however, much more satisfied with the service than anything else.
Seine River cruise
Even though I had a disappointing first dinner experience, I wasn’t about to let that ruin the rest of my night. Shrugging it off as water under the bridge (no pun intended), we joined up with the rest of the tour group to drive over to the Seine River for a two-hour boat cruise, which rides down the length of part of the river.
If you only had a few hours to spare in Paris, I personally feel like this river cruise is the best way to see the city. It would be ideal to have a tour guide by your side to point out the different buildings (we passed by several museums and even got a great view of the Eiffel Tower), but just enjoying the city lights as the sun sets and dusk closes in is enough to allow you to capture the essence of this beautiful city.
Did I mention how romantic it would be to do this with your significant other, too?
The boat glided along the water at a leisurely pace, giving me a chance to appreciate the architectural makeup of the buildings, golden statues and even the people — from the pedestrians crossing the street to the homeless lying under the bridge. It was all part of the experience.
As my first day in the city of love came to a close, yes, I had an unfortunate start to the night, but also a flawless end. As in life, we go through experiences that may not necessarily be in our favor, but it is all part of the journey, and the journey is what makes the destination beautiful.
Getting snubbed in a restaurant in Paris? Heck, it’s all part of the Parisian experience!