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!!
That Eiffel Tower shot is unreal. Great work!
Thanks. I have many unusual Eiffel Tower shots because I get bored taking pictures of it. LOL!
Nice post Catherine – as a Brit I’m a next-door-neighbour with France, and a frequent visitor. Not that we’re all the same – we and our lovely neighbours have our own individual cultural characteristics which folks can consider rude/stand-off ish or in the case of the UK just plain weird!! We’re not!! We’re just real citizens of real daily lives… Not just characters in a couple historical theme parks drifting somewhere between the Atlantic and the North Sea. It’s great to see realistic advice on how to have a great time, wearing comfy shoes and just being among us. Nobody can ‘do’ us in a week or so; anyone can knock our metaphorical front door , kick back alongside us and enjoy the ride. Your post conveys this beautifully.
Thanks Charles! It’s true though. You can’t “do” anyplace in a couple of days. In fact, I need to get back to Ireland. My visits there (and Belfast) have been solely for Irish Dance competitions for my daughter. I want to spend time back in Dublin and head over to London and I want to enjoy just relaxing and having a realistic time! I’m glad that you liked my post! XOXOXO!
Catherine, so many great tips you have here. I have never been to Paris, maybe some day.
Hi Spear. Glad you like the tips. I think perhaps someday you will be wandering the streets of Paris…XOXOXO!
Oh Paris , Paris ! Il y a plus de vingt ans …that I’ve been there (twenty ? is that possible , I’m barely over twenty myself 😉 )
Thanks for the memories 🙂
Hugs back atcha Turtle! Wow! You are a seasoned visitor as well! XOXOXO”!
I don’t need to go to Paris. From all the pictures and information, I feel like I’ve already been. Keep it up! Tell us some more! Yay!!!!
Hi Leslie. Oh thank youuuuu!!! I’ll definitely be more travel tips on France in the future! XOXOXO!
Very jealous! Great post!
Awww. Shucks Trudy, nothin’ to be jealz about! I’m jealous that you are living in NYC!!!! XOXOXOXO!!!
Am I mistaken or did you visit/live here already?
I used to live in Manhattan for many years. I’m lucky though because both my sons live in the city!
See! Still jealous!! Lol
Lots of good advice here, especially the shoes! Last time we visited, two years ago, it was Sam’s first time there (I hadn’t been for almost 15yrs) and we only had 36 hours – it was our last stop after a whirlwind around Europe before getting the Eurostar back home.
So, whilst I agree you cannot possibly do or appreciate everything fully in a short time, we managed to see the things we wanted. Admittedly, we love walking and with the metro being so easy to use we had a fabulous time.
An early morning wander up to Sacre Coeur before all the crowds arrived – the steep climb being worth it just watching everyone pottering around grabbing breakfast outdoors! I can’t remember which order we did things in next (and we did plenty of wonderful, aimless wandering!) but we managed The Louvre, Notre Dame (we spent ages here in the gardens), Arc de Triomphe and of course the Eiffel Tower (twice). We even fit in a picnic by the Seine, a lovely evening meal of, yes, steak and made it back to climb the tower for the midnight light show. Phew! 36 hours on a budget, done! Sam didn’t think he’d like it (that whole thing about the British not getting on with the French!) but he can’t wait to go back 🙂
Haylee! WOW! I’m tired after reading about your active visit to Paris! Picnicing by the Seine is such a great thing to do. And you’re correct about getting up early to head to Sacre Coeur. It gets mobbed around lunch time–but the view is worth pushing through the crowds! I wish I were going back to Paris this summer but Bonaparte isn’t quite ready to return yet–after Daniele’s passing and all. We will be spending all our time in Theoule instead. I’m hoping that we will be able to return to Paris in the fall–that’s my favorite time! XOXOXOXO!
Haha, yes the next time we go, we’ll go for longer and takes things at a more leisurely pace!
That’s understandable that it would be hard for Bonaparte to return just yet. I’m sure you’ll have a fabulous time, wherever. Autumn (sorry, Fall!) is my favourite time anywhere – I imagine Paris is beautiful then 🙂
Great post. And it looks like I will get to spend at lease one day there next year. Drollery came home night before last and informed me he had booked our British Isles cruise for August/September 2017, one day of which we get to spend in Paris. Do the big cruise ships doc in Paris, or Le Havre? Trying to decide if we go by bus into Paris.
Also, I LOVE Jim Nabors. I have a couple albums by him.
Lady Calen! Nice!!!! I hope you enjoy your day in Paris to the fullest. I’ve never ever seen a large cruise shop docked in Paris. I’m guessing you will dock at Le Havre and bus in to Paris Centre! OMG! Have a great time! XOXOXO!
I love those Monoprix sacs too, and I give some as gifts! (Not pennies though; they cost a euro each!)
The other great thing to buy as a souvenir: the great notebooks, often with shiny covers (some are Clairefontaine, but there are other brands too) and graph paper. Pretty, and cheap!
Hi Judy. I must’ve gotten my little sacs on sale. I found them in a basket near the register in the Monop in Garches! I definitely have to get more. Great idea on the notebooks as souvenirs! I’m making note of that. I also purchase the large grocery sacs from Geant–they come in handy as beach totes! XOXOXO!
I absolutely love my Repetto Ballet flats, but I would never wear them to walk anywhere. They are as dressed up as I get, so I will wear them out to dinner or to church, but I would probably carry them with me and change just before dinner, wearing more supportive shoes for walking. That said, I am 69 years old and Diabetic. I need supportive shoes, but as flats go, my Repetto flats are pretty comfy.
Sandy in Central Illinois
Hi Sandy! I know a lot of women who feel the same way about Repettos and walking. I think they are good for me because I walk barefoot so much! XOXO!!!
The Eiffel tower shot is absolutely gorgeous. Beautifully captured. And a lovely post too.
Here’s hoping you’ll check out my blog too. 🙂
What a wonderful guide! 🙂 Will definitely re-read this when I pack for Paris! 😀 Thanks for sharing dearest!
OMG. Pineapple. When are you going to Paris??????????????????? I leave in three months from today for France. I’m so glad you enjoyed the post! XOXOXOXO!!!
I dunno when I’ll be leaving for Paris. Haven’t got the funds for it. BUT MAKE NO MISTAKE, I will visit it one day 🙂 and I’ll even let you know when I ACTUALLY leave 😉
Reblogged this on Atypical 60 and commented:
Hey! It’s May! Many of us will now be making plans for vacation. Here’s a few pointers. Quite honestly, I feel like a lazy slob for reblogging this, but I”m going to work today, Saturday, and will be retailing all day. I AM working on a new post. But in the meantime, here are some pointers that can be related to ANY destination. Thank you lovies!!!!!!!!
Ah Paris, you have made my heart very sad this morning Catherine because the passport will not be stamped France this summer. My favorite city in the world especially at night when the lights come on and I can stroll across the bridges.
I’d like to drink my coffee while sitting at one of those outdoor chairs facing the street. Of course, I’ll definitely complain if I don’t see at least two major celebrities while I’m there! 🙂
LOL. Bun. I’m the “walker” I would walk all day around Paris and not stop. Bonaparte likes to walk. rest. sit. coffee. You get the idea! We walk then stop for some seriously great coffee and we get to do tons of people watching! OXOXOXO!!!
Sounds great! 🙂
I love a bit of people watching, and I am endlessly curious about how people live – I love an ordinary food shop for instance. Having just spent a week in and around Rincon de la Victoria near Malaga, I was thrilled we were given a room facing the street rather than Playa, that meant I could sit on our wee balcony and watch people, we were also opposite the local food shop – naturally I was over there exploring as soon as possible… I know that is possibly a bit saddo but the shelves of local brands and the local shoe shops etc are endlessly fascinating to me. OK so it is not Paris but as soon as I put my suitcase down anywhere I am already moving in and deciding where to live.
Paris – I’ve been once with friends, I would love to go again and maybe this time without people who want to sit and complain and don’t walk. Pffft I mean seriously how can you go somewhere like Paris and NOT want to explore the next street or the next bit around the corner or whatnot… the only time they got enlived was at Pere Lachaise which I wasn’t looking forward to having lost our middle son a couple of years before, but it was OK and actually rather moving, although yes you really need decent shoes for that terrain!
My general advice for a city break is dress understated, you are less likely to attract pickpockets or undesirables and if you are understated you are also more likely to not offend, so you won’t be turfed out of Cathedrals etc for uncovered shoulders or wearing jandals/flip flops and I generally find people are less likely to roll their eyes and take the mickey – in fact I am sure they are more helpful if you don’t look too “out there”, it is always fun to play “spot the nationality” when watching people but I don’t necessarily want people immediately clocking I am Kiwi by way of Scotland thanks. My other tip is make sure it is comfortable before you go – take trousers etc with a bit of lycra/stretch as they are less likely to crumple as travel involves a lot of sitting on planes and then hopefully a lot of walking. Two of my travel buddies were almost pickpocketed on the Paris metro first day we were there – but then one was wearing her I love Glasgow tee shirt and combat cropped trousers with pockets and rip cords etc and the other was also a bit of a stand out. Understated and smart and yes, definitely the comfy shoes (my OH is super fit and a physical geographer, so naturally he expects me to attempt to gallop up and down hills after him as he points out interesting rock, tottering after him in inappropriate footwear would mean I am left behind)
HI Juliet. I LOVE what you said. L.O.V.E! It’s so true. Understated is best. You certainly want to BLEND. That’s key. OMG…and the trousers with a bit of lycra/stretch are not only conducive to travel, but they are really comfortable! I cannot begin to reiterate how important comfortable shoes are—and they DON”T have to look ugly or scream “tourist” either. I want to travel with you!!!! Seriously! XOXOXOXO!!!
We would have the best time – fingers crossed that one day this WILL happen!!!
Love your (“our” 🙂 ) blog! You make me laugh and learn at the same time. Have you ever considered leading a travel group to France…it could be fun while making money!!
Hi Sharpie! Oh…I would LOVE to lead a travel group to France. Problem is, I would be complaining all the way–just like the French! Then I would just want to find a place, plop down and live there!! XOXOXOXO!!!