Helpline Question of the Month: Going to Paris with a Man Who Doesn't Get It!
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For a smooth, happy trip, there's nothing better than having a travel partner who enthusiastically shares your interests and anticipation. And there's no wet blanket like one who has to be "dragged along." Jennifer is afraid her husband is the latter, so she turns to her friendly neighborhood Travelers Helpline clinic for a cure.
Tag along on Jennifer's journey through our Travelers Helpline...
"In May, I am going to Paris with my husband for three days. (We are going to visit family and Frankfurt and will be doing this side trip with just the two of us.) I've been to Paris once when in college, and plan to go again in a few years with my mom and daughters. My husband has not been to Europe.
I love absorbing the culture, the museums and famous landmarks, and casual strolls, just enjoying the atmosphere.
He loves beer and sports. He has always looked at France as very girly.
So I'm trying to come up with ideas of things to do that will be more interesting for him. We'll be staying in the 5th District about a block away from the Seine, just across from Notre-Dame. So far, he wants to go up the Eiffel Tower, and I plan to visit Notre-Dame, do the tower climb and go down below.
Any other ideas for more "manly" activities? I know there are things I can wait to do in a few years without him, but I'm trying to find a way for us to enjoy it together."
— Jennifer, near Indianapolis
Since you have been to Paris once and plan to go again in the future with your mom and daughters, maybe you should spend only one day visiting the Eiffel Tower, Notre-Dame, etc. Then, head out of Paris and go to Normandy! Spend two days visiting the D-Day Beaches and related sites (e.g., Sainte Mère Eglise, American Cemetery, German Cemetery, Pegasus Bridge, the WWII museum at Caen plus the Bayeux Tapestry, etc.). Mont St. Michel is also awesome and worth a visit. If this itinerary does not interest your husband, then he is not really very manly after all and deserves to spend all three days with you shopping in Paris.
Take him to the Catacombs, stacks of bones, underground, tunnels used by both the French Resistance and the Nazis during WWII. Also, both my teen boys and ex-husband (who at 6'4" and 200 lbs is about as girly as a sledgehammer) loved the Invalides Army Museum. It's actually an interesting museum for you too, I enjoyed it.
Des Moines, IA
Girly? Hemingway was pretty manly and he liked Paris a lot. Paris is a city with millions of people...there are bars everywhere...he can get his beer fix no problem. And unless something has changed since I was last there, he can drink his bottle of beer walking down the street. He probably likes to eat...no better place than Paris for good food. What about a Paris SG football match...there will be tens of thousands of manly dudes there. How about a bike tour or even a guided walking tour so he can learn something about Paris?
What kind of activities has he enjoyed on past vacations (in the U.S., I assume)? I'm guessing that he's done more on vacations than drink beer and/or participate in sports. Or do you mean the "manly" activity of watching others participate in sports?
Anyway, build on those experiences that he's enjoyed on other vacations. If he likes sitting on the beach, maybe sitting at a cafe would be a good alternative, with either a beer or a glass of wine in hand. Or you might be able to find a soccer game or something similar to attend while in Paris. If he's a runner, he could go for an early-morning run — that's something I love to do while I'm in Paris.
Also, it helps the rest of my family (who doesn't have the zest for researching destinations like I do) to watch travel videos, either Rick Steves' or others. That may give him ideas of things he'd enjoy (without anyone engaging in stereotypes).
I've spoken with a few members of the Gendarmerie on past visits to France, and anyone that labels them as "girly" might end up with a nightstick up-side the head!
I agree with a previous post about visiting the Invalides Museum as it's huge and covers military history across several eras. He can see everything from chain mail, swords and Halberds to WWI and WWII battle implements.
With only three days, I don't feel you have adequate time to visit Normandy. It could be done with a day trip from Paris, but those typically don't allow much more than a quick glimpse of the sights. There's MORE than enough to keep busy for three days in Paris.
As you haven't been to Paris in a while, be sure you're both wearing moneybelts! You'll likely encounter "scammers" with the Gold Ring, Friendship Bracelet or other scams, so be prepared. Happy travels!
The French Open is on in May. I understand it's quite a scene.
If my (very) French husband can become a Hoosier, your Hoosier hubby will get it pretty quickly. Be sure he tries the good Belgian beers and the French Blanche de Bruges beer. And don't miss the gyros shops in the 5th. He'll love the gyros with French fries flowing out of them for 5-6 euros. He'll need to bring his own ketchup packets, though. Good luck.
I am a woman who loves beer and sports more than most men and I had a fabulous time in Paris.
There are many small pubs with hard-to-find beers from Normandy (near Belgium, so the beer is sweeter) and Alsace (near Germany, so the beer is clear and cold). In many of those same pubs, they will have a TV showing Paris-St Germain games. I watched one with the locals that got so rowdy, I swore I was watching the NFL.
I second the Invalides and Army Museum suggestion. Lots of cool military artifacts. How about Père-Lachaise? Lots of important people buried there, and many memorials to the brave people who died defending the country. I'm sure you two will have a great time.
Ann Arbor, MI
If you decide to spend only a short amount of time in Paris, I think the idea of Normandy is great. Number one, you won't be seeing someplace you have already been and you won't be trying to convince him to change his mind about his preconceived ideas of Paris and whether it is "girly." Plus, you get to experience a new place together. (I think I understand what he means by girly — possibly using the word "refined" might fit it a bit better.) I am not trying to classify a whole country as a particular way, but one has to admit there are certain generalities that can help describe the culture of a specific country. France: the food, wine, manners, language, designer clothing, museums, art, literature, perfume, exquisite desserts...all make it perfect for me!
My husband is not a "city" traveler and was a bit weirded out by my sudden decision to throw Paris into our itinerary. Toss him a guidebook and let him peruse it a bit and see what he likes. My husband loves sports, so he likes the challenge of climbing up the tower of Notre-Dame and Arc de Triomphe and the second bit of the Eiffel Tower. If your man loves history then Versailles and the crypt of Notre-Dame would be great. And Paris has a great war museum that should strike at the heart of most testosterone levels! It's all about knowing your husband and what interests him. If all fails, find a soccer match on the telly and leave him in the room! Just kidding. However, if worse comes to worst you can leave him to sample wine at a wine shop and tell him NOT to spit. Again, mostly joking.
Sorry, getting long-winded here, but my husband was hating the idea of going to Rome. We wandered around a bit and he ended up loving it. He loved the street scenes and just checking things out. He also loved being able to read the map and know exactly where we were and where to go (men love that sort of thing). He ended up disappointed that we only allocated four days to the Eternal City. So hopefully if you toss a map in your hubby's hands and wander a bit, he'll "get" the ambiance of Paris.
Land of La
Take him to visit Jim Morrison.
I can't think of anything manly that hasn't already been mentioned but wanted to say....When I was married it took me two years to convince my then-husband to go to Paris. He had absolutely no interest in going to Europe at all, didn't see any reason to. We spent a month in Paris and he completely fell in love with it! He enjoyed every single thing about it — all the tourist things, Versailles, walks all over Paris, the parks, markets, the Métro, the museums, the food, the people, everything. I remember being very happily surprised how much he loved it (he was also very manly and into beer and sports). He loved it so much, we talked about coming home, selling our house and moving there. We didn't move there, but from then on he couldn't stop telling everyone we knew how wonderful and amazing the city, the country (we also visited Normandy and the Loire) and the people are. So you never know — your husband may end up loving it as well.
Musée de l'érotisme in Pigalle. What man is going to complain about being dragged to that museum?! It's actually a very fun museum to check out for an hour and just a few blocks away you can snap a photo in front of the windmill outside Moulin Rouge (girly photo op) and then work your way over to Montmartre where he can climb up the hill to Sacré Coeur (manly) while you ride the comfortable funicular (girly) and then he can exhaust himself further by climbing the dome for a nice view of Paris. Or take him into Deyrolle — a shop full of taxidermied dead animals. Manly men would always prefer to look at mounted, stuffed wildlife over some painting of water lilies!
Minneapolis, MN USA
I was never "that guy," but I do remember when I was in my 20s — before foreign travel — I was put off by all the gushing I would hear about France and Paris in particular. It seemed more like sheepism than reality.
Fortunately, I continued to grow up, and I went there for a long enough visit to let it sink in (a month). It remains probably my favorite of our five big trips so far. But then again, I don't drink beer (or wine!) or drool over every sport or own any camouflage clothing.
On the other hand, I'm not generally in favor of forcing people into doing things. If he really doesn't want to go, he shouldn't. It'll make the trip less enjoyable for you. I don't think couples need to do everything together. Sometimes time apart can be wonderful.
As others are suggesting, I suggest also Les Invalides and the Army Museum. My first time there I spent the entire afternoon there, which was on the day I landed at Orly that morning from California. Also, I suggest the French Naval Museum (Musée de la Marine).
Another sobering visit is Suresnes, about 8 km from the center of Paris, where you see the American military cemetery from both wars.
If you had more than just three full days in Paris, I would recommend seeing Compiègne and places more to the north, such as the Somme and Nord-Pas-de-Calais where you can see military cemeteries of the British, Germans, Canadians as well...all very poignant and sobering.
Ansbach, Bayern Germany
I like Robert's advice. I've grown up in a culture where French-bashing is natural, so I understand where he's coming from. Take him to the Normandy beaches; if he doesn't like that, then go to Germany without him.
The Sewers Museum is surprisingly interesting.
Chemnitz, Saxony Germany
France? Girly? Bugs Bunny's solution would be reaching for the biggest cast iron frying pan! Many things already said about sights and beer. The French are sports fanatics and they have an excellent rugby team and a good national rugby league.
I just read "has not been in Europe." Sainte-Chapelle, Vaux-le-Vicomte and others sights will not fail to amaze even the most uninitiated. The cure: repeat visits over a longer period. He seems to just have no clue and this can be rectified by exposure to the many wonders France undoubtedly has to offer.
So...has the advice been helpful? Back to Jennifer...
Thanks to all for the fabulous suggestions. I've started some lists and just received my Rick Steves Pocket Paris Guide.
And my hope is that some of the initial posters don't take offense in my description my husband's reaction to Paris as fearing it is too "girly." My husband really is not a complete Neanderthal! I think I am just drawn to the parts of French culture that are more artsy and more feminine — therefore, that has been what my husband has seen by way of me!
I know that we will have a great time, once he sees there is more to Paris than browsing boutiques and looking at 300-year-old canvases. I think he will love the crypts below Notre-Dame, and an early morning run in Paris sounds fabulous.
Our independent, volunteer Travelers Helpline contributors are sincere, but not infallible! Follow their advice at your own risk. This thread was gently edited for brevity and clarity. Ask your European travel question on the Travelers Helpline.