Kristin offers an excellent account of our first day in Paris. I have only a few things to add.
It’s true what they say – most of the French seem willing to cheerily accommodate you if you attempt to speak the language, even if you knowingly mangle the grammar and forget which consonants to swallow. They’re actually quite sporting about it.
I’m really glad Kristin took the time to read up on standards of dress here. I won’t claim that I blend in perfectly, but at least I don’t look like a mark. I see a lot of tourist couples where the man is my age and my (sightly inflated) size, and he’s wearing a polo shirt, jeans, cheap running shoes, and an electric blue backpack over both shoulders, and I think, “Damn, I want to mug that guy.” I might try it, just to see what it’s like.
The neighborhood is kind of funny. The Sacré Coeur basilica is an imposing structure that looks down on you from its hilltop and declares: “Catholicism is Serious Business”. All the way down the hill, people are engaged in a variety of un-serious and not especially Catholic (though arguably catholic) business, such as selling Eiffel Tower knick-knacks, drumming and dancing, caricaturing tourists, selling counterfeit handbags, and drinking wine from the bottle on the steps of the basilica. I should note that the drinking was being done not by alcoholic vagrants, but mostly by respectable-looking twenty-somethings. It’s not something you’d see in the U.S. – but then, neither is Sacré Coeur.