Everyone had warned me about the French. I had heard horror stories from fellow travelers of being scolded by store clerks for not pronouncing French words right.
"They're going to be so rude", "Make sure you learn some French." and "Good luck loser", were some of the main staples I heard amongst the common room in my hostel.
So it was here, in Paris, that on my very last night, I found myself leading 14 fellow backpackers from my hostel to a bar that I had walked by earlier that day. I thought myself lucky to have gotten away without meeting any of the aforementioned "rude" Parisians, but I had this nagging feeling that they were waiting to pounce. We had a pre game at the hostel that night, and before embarking on where to go, I shouted out to the crowd that I saw an amazing bar earlier that day and would lead everyone there.
You'd be surprised to find how little of your memory sticks around after about two bottles of wine.
We walked down random, uninhabited side streets, getting deeper and deeper into the city for about twenty minutes. I could feel the alcohol wearing off the group and the crowd getting impatient with me. They were starting to question where the bar was.
I couldn't TELL everyone that I was lost and had no idea where I was going. I wasn't about to admit I was lost to a group of drunk travelers looking to get more drunk. I figured, as long as we just kept walking we'd eventually find a bar that was open. At this point, ANY bar would suffice.
Finally, in the distance, like a mirage, I saw a bright red light in the distance that said BAR.
"Here it is!" I shouted triumphantly.
It was a tiny, local bar playing quiet jazz with no more than 6 people inside. Small, quaint + dimly lit, the bar was not fit for a group of our size. Our rambunctious group crammed into the tiny bar like a fat kid into a water slide. The Parisians inside watched our group with bewilderment. They stared at us and whispered in French about us, mesmerized by our large, loud and drunk ways. A lady walked up to me - one of the group of three in the corner who sat silently judging us.
Here it is, I thought to myself. Here's the whole French persona I was thinking about. I turned the rings on my fingers around in case I had to throw down. She came up to me and said, "Excuse me. I could not help but hear that you are all speaking English. It's a very local bar, we never see foreigners in here. We want to welcome you to our neighborhood!"
She later on told me that she was born in the apartment across the street, grew up in the apartment across the street, and still lives across the street. Another fellow lived right upstairs and invited us to airbnb his apartment next time we came to Paris.
And it was here that we were able to meet some real Parisians. On a random street, that I don't even remember the name of the place - but it was the perfect ending to France for me. Locals buying us shots - some mixed cocktail that I couldn't tell but resembled a murky green Absinthe.
At 5AM that day, my lovely roommates woke me up to make sure I made my bus to the airport and send me off.
Suffice to say, I'm happy that I was proven wrong. Parisians are lovely.