From Calais to Paris – December 1978 (Part-II)

At Calais, we caught another train for the short journey to Paris. Our companions in the compartment were a young lady and two young men escorting her, a trio returning from a shopping trip to London. London has always been cheaper than Europe, so many Continentals shop regularly across the Channel. Usually, the French do not like to speak in English and pretend not to know it. This should be seen against the background of almost a thousand years of hostility between the two nations and the numerous battles that have often been fought between Catholic France and Protestant England. Both Dover and Calais have been scenes of battles over the centuries.[ad name=”HTML-1″]

They fought to control the trade in the English channel and they competed for new colonies. They also fought in the Indian Ocean, the Bay of Bengal, the Arabian sea, the Pacific Ocean and probably in others seas too. In India, three Anglo-French wars were fought, with battles at Pondicherry, Cuddalore, Wandiwash, Chandranagore and many other places. Despite these numerous conflicts, many measures of reconciliation have also been attempted, mainly through marriage ties. Shakespeare, in hilarious passages of ‘Henry the Fourth’, shows an English governess trying to teach her language to a beautiful, innocent French princess, whose marriage to the King of England is part of a peace proposal (for return of French territory taken by the English). A marriage proposal on behalf of a not-so-worthy heir to the throne of France was also received by Queen Elizabeth I.[ad name=”HTML-1″]

So the French want visitors to speak to them in French and not in English and usually do not like to reply if spoken to in English. They do not feel happy with the reality that more people in the world have taken to learning English than French. In their subconscious, they would still like to snub the English and the English language. This causes a real problem for visitors who do not know French. Luckily, our train companions knew a smattering of English so we were able to ask them how best to utilise our limited time and money in Paris. They turned out to be real angels and but for their guidance, we could not have made as much as we did of our little vacation.[ad name=”HTML-1″]

First, they advised us to buy a pack of Metro (Paris underground train) tickets at Paris station. A pack of ten tickets cost 20 francs, each ticket valid for a journey to any destination around the town. We were delighted to know that the Metro covered the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower, the Seine River, Notre Dame Cathedral, the Champs Elyses, the Pompidou Centre, the Samaritans, in fact almost anywhere a visitor would like to go. We used the Metro throughout our stay, hailing a taxi only once when we wanted to go to a Chinese restaurant in the middle of town. They told us what to eat, where the get good crepes, which deli sold the best blue cheese, where to buy fruits cheap and fresh and which bakery would give the best French loaf, date and fruit loaf, coffee and raisin loaf and garlic bread. They advised us to stock these in our room the first thing on arrival, so we didn’t have to eat out all the time. This was an excellent tip which helped us enjoy the best of local food at a very little cost.[ad name=”HTML-3″]

I am very fond of Chinese food (though, according to my husband, it is shame to go to Paris and want to eat a Chinese meal instead of sampling the famous French cuisine). They told us where to find a cheap and good Chinese restaurant, where to get inexpensive but good French food and which cafes to visit on the Champs Elyses. We were advised to buy French sausages from the hawkers below the Eiffel Tower and to visit the Latin Quarter and dine at a particular Greek restaurant, ordering dishes they specified. Thus braced with ample information, we parted from our French companions amidst much laughter and shaking of hands, at Paris. At the station itself, we purchased two packs of tickets and took our first ride in the Metro to reach our hostel. Of course, we had to lug our baggage a fair distance to the hostel, but that hardly mattered in the fresh morning air of Paris.[ad name=”HTML-3″][ad name=”HTML-3″]

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