Parisians have had an awful winter, but these last two days have been absolutely beautiful with clear skies and afternoon temperatures in the 70s. Almost literally overnight, the trees began leafing out and the natives are out in force to take advantage of the delightful weather.
The streets of Paris go off in every possible direction. Little side streets run off of bigger side streets and they, in turn, feed into larger streets, which . . . well, you get the idea: Paris is one big maze. You make mental notes when you leave your hotel on foot, but it’s very easy to get lost anyway. I left the hotel three times today: once for lunch, once for dinner, and once just to take a walk.
Everyone eats out here. There are three or four little restaurants on almost every street and they’re all mostly filled for lunch and dinner. Menu prices are higher than we’re accustomed to because the servers in even the small, informal restaurants are well paid and enjoy the same benefits as in any other profession: health insurance, a retirement program, paid vacation, etc.
However, because the wait staff is well paid, there’s no tipping as we know it. If the French have a good meal and the service is really good, they may leave one or two euros as an indication of their appreciation.
And the image of people dining in a restaurant with a little dog curled up on the floor under the group? It’s accurate. The French love their little dogs and they are tolerated, if not welcomed in restaurants.
The French railway workers are on strike, but not every day. In a couple of hours, I’m scheduled to leave here by train for the medieval town of Carcassonne. Apparently, I have lucked out because someone from Railbookers in London called to say that both of my trains–Paris to Bordeaux and Bordeaux to Carcassonne–will be operating today. They’d better. There is no Plan B.