I’m very excited about my upcoming vacation to Paris, France! I have booked an escorted tour with Trafalgar Tours in order to avoid the stress of making my own arrangements. They take care of the hotel reservation, provide travel to various sightseeing destinations, and provide a tour guide. I hope this will minimize my interaction with the locals because I don’t speak French and I’m not sure I could find my way around on my own. I will be staying at the Hotel De la Tour Eiffel which is not far from the Eiffel Tower. The tour includes a cruise on the Seine, an excursion to Louis XIV’s Palace and gardens of Versailles, and a visit to the Fragonard Perfumery and museum.
The global economic crisis makes this a bad time for extravagant travel but I think the IT industry is virtually recession proof. Programmers and web developers are not expected to find themselves unemployed for very long. This trip is very expensive but after going on two cruises last year I’m more familiar with the costs. I won’t be going on two vacations this year and I’ve already paid off last year’s travel expenses.
France is my favorite foreign country and I’m been studying French culture for years. I’ve read a lot of French literature (mostly poetry in translation), learned a lot about French art (especially Surrealism) and I’ve seen French art in museums. I’ve also seen a lot of French cinema. I have an entire bookshelf of textbooks for learning French. Unfortunately I have not read any of them and only bought them for nostalgia’s sake and to browse through! That’s right, I don’t speak or read French and I cannot understand spoken French. I’m somewhat familiar with the language and I have a small vocabulary but my fascination with France has not extended to learning the language.
Now that I’m actually going to visit the country, my perspective has changed and instead of merely consuming their cultural products in translation I am doing some research on France itself. There are many little cultural differences to be aware of. For example, electricity in France runs on 220-volt, 50-cycle AC current. I’ve bought some European plug adapters to charge my electrical devices. Their time zone is Central European Time (CET) which puts them 6 hours ahead of the Eastern Time Zone (EST). Their currency is now the Euro, not francs. I’d like to exchange some dollars for Euros before I leave but I’m not sure you can do that. They format their dates differently than we do so I’ve added a French calendar widget to my notes to familiarize myself with that. A French or British calendar begins with Monday and puts Saturday and Sunday at the end of the week for a true weekend. The French do not capitalize the days of the week or months and the day comes before the month in a date: 07/02/2009 would be February 7th 2009 and not July 2nd 2009.
Fortunately, the Internet makes it easier to explore France. I encounter many foreigners on the World Wide Web but not many French due to the language barrier. I know many English speaking foreigners on social networking sites including English, Canadian, Australian, and Irish vloggers, bloggers, and programmers. Not many Indians though even though they speak English in India and many Indians are working here, especially in the IT industry. The English frequently vacation in France and some Canadians speak French so I should probably ask them about the country.
But the French are nowhere to be seen unless you go looking for them. I’m familiar with DailyMotion.com which is sort of like France’s answer to YouTube. You can find a lot of French videos there as well as many videos from other European countries. However, the French do not vlog. I’ve seen many of their videos and they usually just create a photo montage of their friends with some pop music in the background.
There are French versions of major web sites like Yahoo!, Amazon, YouTube, and Wikipedia. You can also find a lot of French television to watch over the Internet although it is mostly news programs. Google Street View is a fantastic way to go on a virtual tour of Paris. You can see a lot of architecture and examine the street signs and store windows to see what French words you are likely to encounter while walking down the street, avenue, and boulevards.
My trip is in April on the Easter weekend which may or may not be a good time to visit Paris. I will be blogging extensively about my trip. I’ll also be going French crazy so I’ll probably blog about how to make your use of the Internet more of an International experience. For example, web developers should know how to localize their web applications for foreign languages but few web sites really bother. I shall tie my current craze into that professional consideration in order to keep on topic.