BY MARIE-HELENE TOURENNE
Bordeaux native Marie-Hélène Tourenne is the owner of PetitParis restaurant and café in Fairfield, Iowa.
I’d like to share some travel tips about visiting France,so that when you go, you have a successful trip.
You have probably heard some travelers returning from France who found theFrench totally delightful, and others who found them very uncooperative.In general, the way we behave in a foreign country will greatly influencehow successfully we interact with the natives. So I’d like to sharesome helpful tips to make your next trip to France a pleasant experience.
First and foremost, remember that the French will love you if you try tospeak their language, no matter how much you butcher it. They will appreciateyour humility and the fact that you make an effort to fit in as much as possible.
If you do not speak French, you need to learn a few basic sentences, like “Iam sorry, but I don’t speak French. Do you speak English?” (Jesuis desolé mais je ne parle pas français. Parlez-vous anglais?)The French, like everybody else, also appreciate a compliment about theircountry. Just learn to say: “It is very beautiful” (C’esttrès beau). This will win you a smile and most likely a helpful attitudefrom your listener.
On the contrary, if you start with the abrupt: “Do you speak English?” youare unlikely to receive a cordial response. Buy a little French phrase bookfor $5, study it, and take it along with you. This will be your best investment.
Most everybody who goes to France goes to Paris, and everybody asks me aboutgood restaurants there. Since I spend very little time in Paris when I goto France, I do not have this information firsthand. So I asked some friendsfor their recommendations.
• Café des Lettres, 53 rue Vermeil, 7th arrondissement. NearestMetro stop: Solférino or RER Musée d’Orsay. On a quietstreet, back in a courtyard, beautiful garden terrace. Food is simple andfresh, with a Scandinavian touch. Very good salmon and seafood. Sunday brunch.
• Le Rostand, corner of blvd. Saint-Michel and rue de Medicis (acrossfrom Jardin du Luxembourg), 6th arrondissement. Nearest Metro stop: RER Luxembourg.8 a.m. to 2 p.m. daily. Good brasserie with outdoor tables.
• La Charlotte en L’Isle, 24 rue de L’Ile. Ile Saint Louis4th arrondissement. Nearest Metro Stop: Pont Marie. A tiny, magical place.Best hot chocolate in Paris. Limited hours.
• Le Temps des Cerises, 31 rue de la Cerisaie, 4tharrondissement. (Note address carefully – there are at least two otherrestaurants in Paris with the same name.) Good place for lunch. Cosed in August.
Remember, a vacation is not a race! Take it at a leisurely pace. Your lunchat the restaurant should reflect this—eat slowly, soak up the ambiance,and delight in every bite. You will get better service than if you gobbleup your food.
Finally, if you don’t want to be spotted as an American, wear solidcolors and avoid Hawaiian shirts and plaid pants.
For truly unusual places to stay and off-the-beaten-path things to do, visitthese interesting websites:
• www.likhom.com/ Prestigebed & breakfast homes in France
• www.cybevasion.com Traveland Hotels in France
• www. parisnet.net/balloon_loire.html target="_blank" Loire Valley Hot Air Balloon Rides