No. I’m not channeling my French Joan Rivers. It’s just that now is the time that many people are making plans for summer trips and vacations. And. Lately, I’ve been approached by both friends and family on advice and thoughts about my much-visited and much loved city of Paris.
This is my favorite pic of the Arc de Triomphe because the flag was hanging. It was taken just before Bastille Day.
To tell you the truth, I’m having a difficult time starting this post. I don’t wanna sound “preachy” or “Oh-you-MUST-do-thisy“. Nor do I want to sound like one of those “experts” on the City of Lights, because I’m not.
Alright, I WILL strongly suggest a ride on the ferris wheel over by the Louvre if it is standing. Not because of the ride, but because of the great photo ops it’ll give you! It’ll be nice because you can be alone in the little seat. Bonaparte won’t join me due to his fear of heights. Just as well because I’m that person who rocks the seat!
In the ten years I’ve been visiting Paris, my outlook never changes. I’m pretty damned lucky because most people don’t even get to visit but once in their lifetimes. Where Bonaparte looks at the trips to Paris as “Going back home”, I look at it as “I’m nothing more than a seasoned tourist”.
Anyway, before I start rambling on and on, I’m just going to write some logical pointers about visiting Paris in a logical way. Whether it’s the first visit ever or if it is a return trip back of many years away, here goes in no random order. (Does that make it illogical?)
Ladies–get Parisian Chic out of your mind. I’m serious. Just like me, you are a tourist. You simply cannot wear six-to-eight inch stiletto heels running around the streets of Paris if you are serious about seeing the sights. The streets are uneven. There’s cobblestone. You need to walk fast and not mope. A leisurely pace in Paris is still a faster pace than what you may be used to.
Wear shoes comfortable enough for walking. My suggestions are Repetto ballet flats or the Cole Haan Air Nike ballet flats. Both look great. Both are comfortable. Save the heels for that special dinner out or if you have to attend a fancy party.
Hands down. THE best shoes ever for walking around Paris, New York–ANY city you plan on visiting. I’ve also worn these sight seeing in the South of France. I took this pic today–the shoes are about ten years old and they don’t wear out. Plus..they look good!
And sometimes I’ll wear my Repettos. My feet like to be comfy in Paris!
The only people you will see wearing berets and the stripped shirts are the mimes. Do not dress like this. Not now. Not ever. Never! Unless you are a mime.
I am more scared of these guys than clowns.
Most Parisians look like this.
This is the genuine street look. I took this from the car during rush hour. Normal. Just like you and me..
This. From Street Style Chic . Paris fashion week 2015. Most Parisians do not look like this. At all.
My personal uniform of choice is skinny jeans or black pointe pants, ballet flats, white fitted T-Shirt and a blazer or denim jacket. If the weather is a bit cool a light scarf around my neck.
One of my uniforms for travel. Pointe pants, a white fitted tee. Flats for day. Kitten heels by night. CAVEAT. The J. Crew Dulci Pumps are never going with me anymore click here to find out why. Keep scrolling to you get to the paragraph about the shoes!
I think those are skinny jeans. I can’t tell. Oh my eyes. This is my other “uniform” (I HOPE it’s skinny jeans)
Don’t dress sloppy. I’m talkin’ baggy shorts, ankle socks, sneakers, raggy t-shirt, and khaki hat. Dressing sloppy isn’t right in any major city. God forbid you need assistance—let me tell you, looking neat will get you more assistance than looking like you just rolled out of bed. I’m not being snotty. I’m being logical.
Save this outfit for exploring in the woods. It is more appropriate.
My point is, dress nice and neatly. Don’t be intimidated by magazines or high-end fashion blogs. If you allow yourself to be intimidated you won’t enjoy yourself.
Would you like to live like the locals? If so, do research on finding an apartment. Check out different rental sites on the net. The first time I went to Paris with Bonaparte, we were unable to stay with Daniele but we rented an apartment around the corner from her apartment. It was a small studio and was equipped with a computer, Wi-Fi, A washer/dryer, an “American” bathroom (i.e. a bathtub and shower) and a small kitchen. It was all we needed. And as a first-time visitor, it was a wonderful experience for me because I got a feel for living like the locals. I loved it! I was able to cook, have breakfast “in” and could stay in my pj’s until we were ready to hit the street!
Where I stayed on my first trip to Paris. The cutest studio apt. on Rue Seguier
The kitchen was so small but efficient-a laundry area was built into a closet!
It was nice to wake up like a local and enjoy this view with my coffee!
Tips: If you rent an apartment, you can pack less clothing because you can do laundry. You can save on meals because you can eat in. You can be completely delusional and pretend that you are living in Paris—and if an elevator breaks you can complain just as the locals do!
Rather a hotel? Paris has a gazillion hotels. Here’s where you want to check your budget and think about just what kind of place you want to stay in. Many Americans have complained about the smaller hotels. Guess what? It’s Paris. The buildings are a lot older than the buildings here in the States. The rooms will be smaller and not as fancy. If you are looking for the comforts of home and larger rooms, check out the chains such as Marriott.
Personally, all I look for in a hotel is a working elevator, a bathtub and clean sheets. I’m down with a smaller and more affordable place in a neighborhood that I’m fond of and familiar with. Logically speaking—you are not going to want to spend all your time in the hotel room. Even if you are on your honeymoon and want to be passionate every night, you will still want to venture outside and see the sights!
Hotel Prince de Conti is more my speed. This is a FANTASTIC little hotel in the 6th!
The price of admission: Don’t forget to add into your budget the price or tariffs you will be paying to gain entrance into museums, etc. If you will be visiting many museums in your short stay, purchasing a Museum Pass may be worth your while.
I’ll be honest. We’ve never purchased the museum pass because our itineraries were never very ambitious. And speaking of ambitious…
Be a “Flaneur”—a Wanderer: Ambitious itineraries always scare the shit out of me. How can you enjoy Paris—or any city for that matter, if you only have about four days and two hundred sights to see? Whoa! Take it easy! Paris is the greatest city to do absolutely nothing and yet everything at the same time. It’s the greatest walking city because like, NYC, you never quite know what you will stumble upon. Honestly, we literally stumbled upon a Fragonard Exhibit at the Jardin du Luxembourg last fall. We were wandering around aimlessly and saw the sign for the exhibit. Here’s an article I wrote for French Entree: What To Do With Three Days in Paris–I think it may help to understand those ambitious itineraries!
You cannot see this…
and Sacre Coeur in Monmartre
..or stand on a line like this to get to the top of…
..or visit the Orsay or the Louvre, Catacombs or every museum in Paris in three or four days.
That’s the way we discovered the Eugene Delacroix museum. Bonaparte knew about it but had never been and while exploring a few years back, we came upon it! I’m so glad that we did because it is a great little hidden gem.
Why not just grab a picnic lunch and hang out on the Seine?
..or take a lazy walk up a quiet street?
People Watching Doesn’t get much better than this: There is a reason the chairs in the outdoor areas of cafés are facing the street. You get a better view of people. If you love to observe and study people, enjoy a café au lait, noir or a chocolat chaud while watching the real-life documentary that takes place before you. You’ll be spellbound by the many personalities of passersby. You may even see a celebrity or two—even three!
It’s the cheapest form of real-life entertainment. The cost of a coffee, hot chocolate or if you are hungover the greatness of a citron prisse.
I literally almost had a heart attack when Eric Clapton was sitting across from me on one side and Gilles Lellouche was sitting to my right at one of the cafes we were lazing in. I’ve also seen the great Vincent Lindon (right) while people watching.
Other than the cafés, the best area for the watching of human interaction is Place Dauphine!
We’ve closed with the restaurants on Place Dauphine. The party lasts till late night during the summer!
Mind your manners! This is your mother speaking to you. Listen to me. You know how we Americans can be ridiculously friendly with our mega-watt smiles and invitations that really don’t mean anything because they are just a formality? Well—we aren’t all that polite!
The French are just the opposite. They are an incredibly polite people. I would not say they are unfriendly because once that guarded barrier is broken, the French are wonderful and friendship is very important to them.
So by all means, whenever you enter into a shop or anywhere you will have human interaction always give the greeting of “Bonjour” in the day and “Bonne Soirée” in the evening. When saying bye-bye don’t forget the “Au Revoir” or “Bonne Journee” in the day and Bonsoir” in the evening! If you know someone casually greet and leave them with “Salut”
The kiss. Don’t get all freaky outy if you are invited to a party and greeted with a kiss on the cheek. It’s normal. We aren’t kissy-kissy. The French are and it’s all cool and good and just plain nice to see.
Take a lesson from Geraldine LaPere’s “Comme une Francaise” She’s got a website and a blog and she’s adorable with her YouTube lessons. But first, take your eyes off that shirt! I was thinking the same thing!
Speak in your indoor voice. Or rather, don’t be loud. I’m loud—and Bonaparte was rather concerned about my vocal decibel the first time I accompanied him to France. Let’s put it this way. His family got to know me and my loudness is something endearing to them. But—when I’m in a restaurant I use my best low, indoor, voice with my minimal knowledge of the French language. It’s sort of like if Gomer Pyle was a female and went to France—except I don’t have a Southern accent.
Think of me as a female Gomer Pyle who can turn on the great French accent the way he can sing!
Research the arrondissenments. I can’t speak for everyone but it helps to research the area of Paris that you wish to stay during your visit. The lower numbered arrondissenments offer a lot more of the liveliness that you may want. Other arrondissenments are quieter and may be what you are more in tune with.
Just like the tasty escargot, think of a snail when visualizing all the arrondissenments
Food: I’m amazed when I speak to people and they tell me the food in Paris sucked. It’s a real WTF moment for me. I’ll tell you why. Because no matter what is on the menu, you can always order a “Steak Frites”. Steak and fries. And if that doesn’t rock your boat, you can get fish. And if that doesn’t rock your boat, you can get a Nutella crepe on the street or run into McDonalds. Nothing more to say.
When in doubt, order Steak Frites. You cannot go wrong with steak and fries!
..and if all else fails, get eggs. The eggs in Europe are better tasting anyway!
Shopping: Be logical! This is probably where I can be a bit preachy. Rather than spend your well-earned money on tacky souvenirs, wouldn’t you rather spend your money on something good, like a great pair of shoes or a bag that nobody else has? I love my Nat & Nin bags and love knowing that these bags are a rare sight in the US. Clothing—I don’t buy because my body is too curvy for the European fit. If I lose 30 pounds maybe I’ll think about it but I would rather purchase the shoes, bags, and beauty products that I can’t get here. That’s just me though.
Check out the domed ceiling at Galeries Lafayette.
Everything is displayed so neatly and orderly.
Galeries Lafayette is a beautiful department store and it is a fun experience shopping there. Rue Bonaparte has great shops and Boutiques and in Montparnasse, on Rue du Rennes you can find lots of CD’s, books and movies at FNAC—FNAC are also great if you need help with an iPhone or any techie stuff! (Shopping in France) (More shopping in France another article I wrote for FrenchEntree)
Random stuff: Carry an umbrella. Be extra cautious on the metro—lots of pickpockets. (Regardless of the warning, Paris is a safe city). A fun project is to load up on French cooking magazines. When you return home, you can translate the recipes—and you will realize that you understand more than you ever thought!
This is a great way to practice the French language in the written form.
Bring bags or stop at Monoprix and pick up little shopping bags for pennies. Bags are not handed out in grocery stores and if you are out and about and decide you want to bring some food items back to where you are staying, it’s going to be a lot easier if you have a little sac!
These are literally pennies. Sacs within their own sac. I ended up purchasing a lot and giving them away as little gifts. I plan on stocking up on more of these next summer!
Blogs for educating you on your trip: French Girl in Seattle. She may live here, but this French girl is a wealth of information if you are thinking of traveling over to France.
Out and About in Paris. This from an ex-pat who is living in Paris. Her photos are great and she always has interesting tidbits to write about!
Oh. Don’t forget to pack your common sense, sense of humor and camera! S’amuser!
To put you in a Paris mood, here’s Juliette Gerco with “Sous le Ciel de Paris” Under the skies of Paris!!