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Published:August 6th, 2009 11:37 EST
Adventures in Cheese Snob Land: Relying on French Taxi Drivers for Advice

Adventures in Cheese Snob Land: Relying on French Taxi Drivers for Advice

By Christine Stoddard

After winding around and around the Parisian airport, finally tracking down my classmate`s luggage, and unsuccessfully seeking out another classmate (surprise! She arrived at the Kellermann before we did because she left during the time we desperately tried to find her jet-lagged self. It`s obvious who the smartest one in THAT situation was), my airport buddy and I called it quits. My original plan to take the Metro from the airport to the youth hostel dissolved and we opted for a taxi instead. We were simply too tired to lug all of our junk. Thankfully we didn`t have to wait long for a taxi, but the drive from point A to B could`ve been shorter for my taste. I was thrilled to get out of the airport and see the real Paris, not suburban sprawl. It`s like I always tell tourists: Dulles International Airport is not Washington, D.C.; it`s located in a very boring part of Northern Virginia about forty-five minutes from the action. 


The taxi driver was gallant, but, as an airport employee explained, they are trained to be helpful. The taxi driver loaded K.C.`s and my luggage into the mini-van and politely asked for the address and stated the approximate cost. To his shock, I spoke to him in French. He said that most of the tourists he drives have little to no knowledge of the language, so that definitely put me at an advantage. I know how easy it is to trick tourists; they`re über-excited, naive, often loaded with cash somewhere on their bodies, and far from home. If a tourist can speak the  language of the place he`s visiting, however, it`s harder for natives to dupe him out of extra money. 


At first K.C. and I kept to ourselves and just vented about our frustrating experience in the airport. Our passports still weren`t stamped, but we figured it was too late. Eventually, though, I realized what a great opportunity it was to have a native Parisian in the car, all to ourselves, for close to an hour. We could ask him anything and everything about the surroundings, where to go, where to eat, what to see and do. Thus, I launched into a 1,0001 questions, talking like a dinosaur-obsessed child on his first visit to a dig site. The taxi driver didn`t seem annoyed about my interrogation mode, though. Like many city people (yes, I will include myself in this), he liked bragging about where he was from. I heard about Paris Disneyland, the Latin Quarter, the Louvre, le Marais, and more all from a Parisian`s perspective, including which places are expensive and which ones, not so much. After all of the chatter, including my frequent stumblings in grammar and vocabulary I`m sure, I personally vowed to visit Le Quartier Latin during my first night in France.


And I did.