Arriving at the Charles DeGaul airport at 10:am Paris time after a near sleepless night on the plane, Mike and I stuck to our original plan of using the Public Transportation System and Rick Steves' directions to get to our hotel. Originally we would have had the entire day to wander around and get lost, but with the change in our schedule we needed to find our way to our hotel and be ready to meet 23 new best friends that afternoon.
Luckily we had also taken Rick's advice about taking only carry on luggage, so once we were off the plane we were ready to go. We got some cash from an ATM machine, found an Information kiosk and asked where we could catch our bus, and promptly hopped on the wrong bus.
And there we encountered our first magic moment of the day. The bus driver, seeing our confusion, told us to take a seat and drove us to the terminal where we could catch the correct bus. Mike and I had both worried that our inability to speak French, coupled with the (incorrect) information we'd been given that French people are rude, might make communicating a problem. What we found repeatedly was the exact opposite.
The French people we talked to that day were unfailingly friendly, helpful and patient. The museum guard who showed us how to find the Metro station when we got off the bus (and discovered the joys of pulling wheeled suitcases over cobblestone streets). The woman in the Metro station who explained how to use our tickets and which stop to get off at. The man working at the corner news stand who pointed out to us where the street signs were (high up on the sides of the buildings) so we could find our street. And if we couldn't find any common words, sign language worked just as well. Pointing at your feet while holding your nose is universal for stinky feet, and the woman in the pharmacy had no trouble understanding I needed some foot spray.
This is how we found the people we met in Paris to be the entire time. Someone had asked us before we left on our trip why we had chosen Paris.
The people are rude and the city is dirty she insisted.
If we had listened to her we would have missed meeting some of the most gracious people it has been our pleasure to spend time with. Shopkeepers, museum workers, people on the street. All made us feel welcome and the stories they shared with us are among the best souvenirs of our trip.