5 Helpful Ideas for Your Paris Trip!
September 25, 2018
All my life, I’d been obsessed with the commercialized idea of Paris. I’d amassed a small collection of various knick knacks in the shape of the Eiffel Tower, loved listening to La Vie en Rose while picturing myself walking alongside sidewalk cafés and got a little thrill whenever I ordered a Croque Monsieur at La Madeleine. So I put my imaginary beret on and off we went!
We have found that reality and daydreams rarely ever line up. Here are some things we found to be helpful during our three day trip to Paris that we hope will help you out!
Choose your Arrondissement wisely!
If you’re a little rusty on your French, arrondissement translates literally to borough. If you’ve been to any other big cities, you’ll know that what neighborhood you pick can make or break a trip!
You’ll have a completely different experience if you stay in the 7th Arrondissement, where you will find the Eiffel Tower, as opposed to to the 15th Arrondissement, which will be a pretty residential type area.
We chose to stay in the 12th Arrondissement at the Citizen M hotel. This area felt a bit more “authentic Paris” than some of the other areas we visited during our trip. Situated alongside the Seine river, there are lots of streets to wander down and get lost (and found). Be sure to check out the Promenade Plantée, a 3 mile walkway above the buildings throughout the neighborhood. Always within close proximity to a metro station, the must-see sites: Eiffel Tower, Montmartre and Arc de Triomphe to name a few are just a short metro ride away!
Use Your Feet as Your Main Source of Transportation!
The real feel of Paris comes from walking the streets. We love to walk a lot in every city we visit; there is just something magical about seeing the side streets and small cafes that you would otherwise miss if you took the train.
One day we took the train to the Montmarte area. We ended up stumbling upon Sacré-Cœur, something that wasn’t on our list of things to see, but are glad we did (despite the rather aggressive con-artists who situate themselves near here. Be wary of physical confrontations here!)
With no real plans in mind besides finding dejeuner (lunch), we were able to just meander the streets and drink in the distinct feeling you get from walking the streets of Paris. I could practically hear the accordion music of my dreams enveloping us as we explored.
Our lack of direction led us to probably one of our favorite meals of our entire four month trip to Europe, which leads me to…
Find Restaurants that Offer 2 or 3 Course Meals
If you’re in Paris for a short time like we were, you only have so much time to try to eat all the delicious foods the city of lights is known for. We found that the best way to try as many dishes as we could was to seek out restaurants who offered a 2 or 3 course offering. I remember seeing a lot of cafes that offer this style of dining but the particular one we found had amazing service and a three course meal for €14.50 per person. Sunset was such a fantastic, quintessentially French experience and a meal I will never forget.
Brush Up on More than “Bonjour!” and “Merci”
I’m sure you have heard the same things about Paris that we had…everyone speaks at least some English! While this might be true, getting someone to actually speak it back to you is not a given. During our trip we probably had about 50% good fortune with finding someone who would help us out…the other 50% was a lot of “Quoi?!” and “Je nes comprends pas.”
I took 3 years of French in high school. While it is pretty rusty,, we did find it really helpful to have a few phrases under our belt beyond the standard Bonjour, Merci and S’il Vous Plait. It shows that you’ve put a little bit more effort forth to come their way a little bit. Remember, until you speak, most people won’t think about you not being able to speak French, so be patient and polite when communicating!
A good example is asking for water at a restaurant. Unlike many European cities, it’s free to get tap water at the restaurants in Paris. If they don’t automatically bring you a carafe, you can use this simple phrase:
une carafe d’eau, s’il vois plait” (phonetically: oon care-aff doh, see voo play.
Knowing how to say I’m sorry is also a good one to know — you tend to use it frequently when you’re a bumbling tourist and again, is a little extra step beyond the normal phrases.
Je suis désolé. (Phonetically: zhe swee deh-zo-lay) as in, “Je suis désolé, I’m going to need 8 more of these lattes.”
Give Yourself Extra Time at the Train Station
If you have another destination after Paris and you are taking the rail, but sure to give yourself some extra time!
Paris to Bruges was our fourth long train ride of our trip and we had the Train Station routine down pretty good at this point. With felt like Gare du Nord seemed pretty straight forward based on the map of it, but once you get to the station, hot from dragging your luggage around, the number on your ticket doesn’t look like it matches anything you see on the arrival/departure board and everyone you try to talk to has very little English, you’ll wish you had the extra thirty minutes. The closer you get to your departure time, the faster those minutes seem to go!
If you end up having good luck and find your platform quickly, you’ll at least have time to grab a latte and pastry for your trip.