Upon arrival in Paris, my first impression was that French people reminded me of Brazilians (physically). For a second I almost felt as if I were in the Sāo Paulo airport. I also thought French people were kind and helpful – if you speak French. Contrary to popular belief, I actually felt very welcomed by the people I spoke to when I was asking for directions. Nonetheless, one American friend who came to spend a few days with me had a tremendous communication barrier that compromised the quality of her stay in France. She tried to speak in English with several people without any success. She thought the French were being rude to her by not even trying to speak English, but the French were probably feeling the same way towards her, since she was not making any effort to speak their language. Fortunately, she had me to translate everything 🙂
What I came to realize is that if you at least try to say a few French words beforehand, and only then ask if people can speak English, the chances of finding a French person willing to try to speak English are much higher. I also observed that it is relatively difficult to find a French person who speaks good English, so maybe that is why many feel hesitant to do so. However, as a matter of respect, I think it is important to learn a few French words even if you are only coming to visit.
Now, speaking of the country itself: France is breathtakingly beautiful. The architecture, the roads, the trams… Even though the weather was a little gloomy in Paris, since I chose to come during wintertime, it did not take away any of the beauty and charm of being here. France is like a romantic dream. Now I understand why people say that Paris is the city of love.
In order to go to Reims, we had to take a train from the Paris airport to Champagne-Ardenne. We had to change trains in Marne-la-Vallée, where the Eurodisney is located. When we were about to go in our next train, the entire station had to be evacuated, since somebody had left an unattended bag. Without further instructions, we were left standing outside in the cold weather not knowing how to proceed, while officers armed with what seemed to be submachine guns kept passing us by. To top it all off, one French lady told me the stations typically close around 9pm. It was already 7:30pm and we were left wondering if we should just get a hotel to stay overnight since we had no idea if the train station was going to reopen in the same night. Meanwhile, it was getting colder outside and we were feeling more apprehensive by the minute. Fortunately, about 1 hour later, the train station finally reopened after they apparently exploded the bag, and we were able to move forward with our trip. At least I already had a story to tell my friends about my first day in France!
The arrival in Reims was great. The town is very charming and people were friendly. Most of downtown still had all the Christmas lights and decoration. It was beautiful to watch. Even though my friend and I were excited to start exploring around, we were beyond tired and left the plans for the morning after.