This trip was an entirely new type of experience for me. As I said in my first post, I have never left the country before besides driving trips to Canada. I enjoyed being far from home immersed in a different culture. France is a European nation, and many things about it aren’t so different from life here in the US. There are some pretty obvious distinctions, especially in Paris, such as lots of crêperies, motorcycles, small European cars, and baguette sandwiches. Other things took a little longer to realize. I’m sure I would have found out a lot more if I spent more time in France, but this trip was the perfect length to get a good gist of it. People keep asking me if the people in Paris are as rude as they’re often claimed to be. I didn’t find them rude, but servers and cashiers definitely were more focused on their jobs and less on chit-chat.
The French do a good job of protecting historic places. This is shown in the large number of buildings that date back hundreds of years. Even the standard apartment buildings in the center of Paris all adhere to similar historical styles and have the same height. In Paris you don’t have tall buildings all over the place, which surprised me. When we went on the roof of the Château de Saint-Germain-en-Laye, we could see far across the city. The only place with sky scrapers was the business district, La Défense, nearly seven miles outside of the heart of Paris.
Getting around Paris was mostly the same as traveling in any city. The Metro was essentially the same as the Boston subway. There were taxis (although apparently most of them were on strike) and buses, but all of our traveling was on the Metro, RER, or tour bus.
When we first arrived at the airport in Paris, we went through customs, which composed of a uniformed man in a booth stamping our passports. No questions. Arriving back in Boston, we had to fill out a lengthy slip (for restricted substances and declaration of goods), use an automated passport machine, and answer an officer’s questions. They were a little more relaxed about the ordeal in France.
I really knew nothing about French History (except what I learned in Dr. Blunt’s class!) or anything about prehistoric man. This trip was a great way to learn about these two subjects because we got the opportunity to experience them, for instance we visited historic sites and dug on an archaeological site.