Paris during Lent

Feb 20th, 2007, 12:00 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Nov 2004
Posts: 16
Paris during Lent

1. I just realized that I'm going to be in Paris in two weeks which will be smack dab in the middle of Lent. Does the city change much during the holiday season, or am I just freaking out because it's my first trip abroad, and I'm being a twit?

2. Even though I tried to teach myself French, it didn't work out as well as I thought it would. Is it better to just tell people that I don't speak French, or should I struggle through my phrasebook with my awful pronunciations?

3. What's the best way to deal with jet lag? Should I try to stay up all night the night before so that I sleep on the plane? Should I try to stay up on the plane, and sleep when I get there? It's a 9 hour plane ride from where I live. Any advice on the questions I asked, or tidbits that might help me out are appreciated. Thanks.

savah is offline  
Feb 20th, 2007, 12:48 AM
Join Date: Jul 2006
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1. The school holidays will be over so it won't be crowded. Lent doesn't affect anything as far as I can see. Easter is another matter, however.

2. Je ne parle pas le français. Parlez-vous anglais? (Jzhen parl pah le frahnsay. Parlay-voo ahnglay?)

If they want your money, they'll figure it out, but will appreciate that you at least don't start talking English immediately.

3. What I do when flying back home (I live in Switzerland) from the US where my family lives, is to eat a light meal like a caesar salad with one glass of wine at one of the restaurants at the gate. And when I get on the plane I read a little, watch one movie, I never, ever eat their food and drink lots of water and generally get 4 hours sleep. Not like a normal night obviously. The flight usually lands around 7:00 or 8:00 in the morning and I come right to work. Taking a nap just screws your bio-clock up.

When you land in Paris, drop your bags off at the hotel, walk around in the fresh air enjoying the sites, have a croissant and coffee (or diet coke if you're like me) for breakfast at an outdoor café, a sandwich from a stand and go eat in the park and then have an early dinner. I find that eating inside the first day makes me drowsy so I try and stay out as much as possible.

4. Have a great trip!
beaupeep is offline  
Feb 20th, 2007, 12:55 AM
Join Date: Jun 2003
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Less than 10% of the French population actively practices a religion, so Lent is totally unnoticed. I suppose that in churches they probably still do that statue draping thing.
kerouac is offline  
Feb 20th, 2007, 06:20 AM
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We were in Paris during Lent. Some of the churches have weekly organ recitals that don't happen during Lent. That's all we noticed. (Oh, also, the stores will be selling cool Easter candy.)

I'm terrible at foreign languages. I had a year of HS French and listened to lots of CDs, but my French was still terrible. Mmemorize a few phrases that you might need. For example, for restaurants, I memorize "Hello. A table for 5, please." There were some places where I actually needed to speak French. For example, when I was buying our Carte Orange(s), the lady selling them at the metro station spoke no English, so we had to get by in my terrible French. I had memorized the words for what I wanted to buy and how many, but then she had some questions and it was pretty rough from there.

Sleep on the plane if you can. I don't consider how I feel upon arrival from the US to Europe "jet lag"'s just that you've stayed up all night. Tour madly on the day of your arrival until about 6 pm, then have dinner close to your hotel, then go back, unpack, shower and go to bed. I would advise not straying too far from your hotel as it gets later in the afternoon/evening....I tend to lose my sense of direction when I'm really sleepy. Have a great trip!

You asked for tidbits of advise: don't fall into the trap of thinking folks are rude to you because you're American (or whatever nationality you are.) If you pay attention, that rude cashier is probably being rude to everyone in line-not just you. Every city has its share of people in a "service" profession who should not be in that profession.
missypie is offline  
Feb 20th, 2007, 06:31 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
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"Reserved" is not the same as "rude".

Get plenty of rest before you leave, and then rest or nap as best you can on the plane. Try not to nap upon arrival and go to bed a bit early (8pm or so?).

Open inquiries with "bonjour, monsieur/madame -parlez-vous anglais s'il vous plait?" The rest will be easier and most likely in English. ALWAYS use "bonjour" + "monsieur/madame", "au revoir", "s'il vous plait" and "merci".
Travelnut is offline  
Feb 20th, 2007, 06:49 AM
Join Date: Nov 2003
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re jet lag...I actually check in and have lunch..then nap up at 4-5 walk for 2 hours have dinner at 8 then to bed...I know a lot of people tell you to stay up..I am just a zombie and physically sick.. You will find each person develops their own strategy...just don't fight it!
travelbunny is offline  
Feb 20th, 2007, 06:53 AM
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Travelnut, I was not equating "reserved" with "rude." I was remembering a cashier at the gift shop at the Musee d'Orsay. She was rude and cranky to everyone. I remember thinking that she was in the WRONG line of work.
missypie is offline  
Feb 20th, 2007, 07:28 AM
Join Date: Feb 2003
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1.Can't answer, never been during that time.

2. There is french, and there is 'operating' french. By operating, there are the basic lines that you will need to get around.

In Paris, you will find a good percentage of the population in the areas that you will be seeing will have some english. Some restaurants will have english menus, but the neat thing about restaurants that will help you is the fact they put their menu and prices up outside the door. You can read it, translate, and decide if it is what you want. If you search on this forum, several people have recommended translation guides for menus.

The one thing to remember, is to ramp up your normal politeness factor. When you go into a restaurant/cafe/bistrot, you wait for the waiter to seat you. You always say "bonjour" or "bonsoir" on entering, and say "merci, aurevoir" or "merci, bonne journee" on leaving. Similarly when you go into a store, say bonjour on way in, merci/bonne journee on way out.

That gets you in...afterwards, it is a matter of saying something like..."Pardonnez moi, parler vous anglais?" which basically tells them you are english. After that, speak in slow english and you will get by.

I would get a basic french-english translation guide, for finding your way around Paris (metro, signs,etc..) People here can help explain how yo get around, the guide would help when you are there.

I would not use a guide to create french sentences, for the simple reason that when they do answer you back in french, what do you do? I would use some basic words...for example, to ask where the washroom is...."Pardon, les toilettes sont..?" when an inflection in my voice, for nearest metro "Pardon, le metro est..?" and so on "Pardon, la rue Notre Dame est..? Then, follow up with a merci.

3. Here is what I do for jetlag. I start to go to bed earlier and get up earlier before I leave. This gets my internal clock closer to the time zones of where I am going. I've always (from what I remember) taken overnight flights. When I get on the plane, it is already usually near my "new" bed time. I'll have the dinner, no wine, no caffeine. I'll put on the headset with some music, and try to sleep on the way over. I can usually get a few hours of OK sleep. When I land, no sleeping unitl that night. When you sleep during the day, all you are doing is saying to your body "yes, it is bedtime, let's sleep a bit" when really, it is not bedtime in Paris, so I don't want to prolong adjusting my body to the new zone. I've read somewhere it takes one day to adjust 1 hr in a new time zone. The first day is a bit rough, but after 1st night's sleep, I'm ready to go. I tend to avoid any activities where I will be sitting (bus tour, movie,etc) on 1st day.

Hope this helps,
Michel_Paris is offline  
Feb 20th, 2007, 07:37 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
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missypie, I wasn't 'responding' to your thoughts... meant for mine to be additional comments... people often think if the French aren't all 'smiley' they must be 'rude'.
You are right -there are rude people in all walks of life. My French teacher (born in Nice) once told us of an incident where she was shopping in Paris and overhead two shop clerks making snide comments about her (in French). She finally responded to them in French and was gratified to see them blush. So it doesn't just happen to 'foreigners' ...(and it doesn't just happen in France).
Travelnut is offline  
Feb 20th, 2007, 08:12 AM
Join Date: Nov 2006
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Hi, savah.

My answers to your questions:

1. Lent makes no noticeable difference to life in Paris.

2. Don't worry about not being able to speak French. You won't be the first tourist who can't and you won't be the last. Do take the advice given here about courtesy: it matters a lot in France. If you cannot get your tongue around "parlez-vous angalis?", don't let that bother you. Ask in English: "do you speak English?", and you will almost certainly get some sort of positive response. The thing you should not do is launch into English in the hope or expectation that you will be understood; that really gets up the noses of many French people.

3. Don't let jet lag get in the way of enjoying your trip. There is no compulsion to get up at 7.00 a.m. or be in bed at midnight. Let your body tell you what it wants, and work out compromises on the spot.
Padraig is offline  
Feb 20th, 2007, 08:42 AM
Join Date: Feb 2007
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1) Not sure, but considering everything was always open on Sundays you probably won't have any trouble at all. If for some reason you do, the lovely Marais is the Jewish section and won't be affected by lent.

2) As the other posters said, the French are very formal. Most will speak English and asking them if they do, in French, will go a long long ways. Be sure to always say "bonjour" upon entering a shop and "merci, au revoir" on leaving.

3) Jet lag on the way there is almost never a problem (getting back can be rougher). Over the counter sleep meds are a godsend for the plane and your first couple of nights. My policy is always "ignorance is bliss." I take my watch off when I get aboard the plane, try to forget how long the flight is, forget and don't think about how much sleep I got, pretend there is no time difference and NEVER think to myself "oh, it's 4am at home." When I arrive I take the first day slow spend lots of time outside.
bubblywine is offline  
Feb 20th, 2007, 09:33 AM
Join Date: Jun 2003
Posts: 739
And set your watch to Paris time when you get on the plane.
Toupary is offline  
Feb 20th, 2007, 02:06 PM
Join Date: Dec 2004
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France is not a religious country like the US, and nobody gives a rat's a*s about whether it's Lent or not (they might have circa 1450, but not anymore). If you find 5 % of the population who can tell when Lent is, then you'll be lucky!
Art_Vandelay is offline  
Feb 20th, 2007, 02:17 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
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The entire mood doesn't change just because it's Lent in the US, either. It doesn't anywhere I know of, even in very religious Catholic countries (not sure where those are anymore, actually).

Lent doesn't have anything to do with a city, only what people choose or not to do personally (in theory, you are supposed to be sacrificing something which is usually some kind of food, as I recall).
Christina is offline  
Feb 20th, 2007, 03:25 PM
Join Date: May 2005
Posts: 3,227
Oh, I see..Lent is what we called Cuaresma in Spanish. This is not a festivity..not even a Catholic one, it last for more than a month , hahaha.
It is supposed you cannot eat meat on Fridays (if you're catholic, of course) ...but people don't follow it anymore. During Franco years Spain was an officially Catholic country and in restaurants they couldn't serve meat on Fridays...but as I said not anymore As a curiosity, Castellon major festival is during Lent and also are Valencia's Fallas
kenderina is offline  

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