I often get asked for tips for going to Paris. It isn’t hard to respond. I have a lots of specific suggestions on my blog. Really, there’s so much to do that the question is how to narrow down the choices. It’s really all about interest, energy and inclination.
However, I do have some general tips to share. In many cases, I’ve learned these the hard way.
1. Don’t get rattled with what feels like rudeness by the French. If you are polite, learn to follow their customs and even try a few words in French, you probably won’t have a problem. And if you do, remember this thought proposed by a travel writer: “The French are like a coconut, tough and rough on the outside but sweet and lovely in the middle.” You just got to get to the middle.
2. Always greet people. You don’t necessarily have to smile (and sometimes smiling is deemed suspect….too friendly) but always say Bonjour. In the elevator. In a shop. When you walk into a restaurant. Always.
3. Spend a little time understanding the restaurant system. The French are very particular about their food and how and when it is eaten. For example, don’t order a snack at a full service restaurant. You are expected to eat a full meal. Go to a cafe for a snack. An excellent reference is “The Unofficial Guide to Paris” by David Applefield.
4. Did you know that you will pay more if you sit at an outside cafe than if you get a drink standing a bar? You are paying for “real estate”or the opportunity to sit and savor your coffee or glass of wine without being rushed. Never order at the bar and then take it to the table. Do spring for the more expensive option. You’ll never know what you will see…… like this fellow who stopped right in front of us at a cafe in the Marais.
5. If you want authentic food, don’t eat at restaurants with menus with multiple languages. These places are for tourists. Always eat at places with a chalk board menu of the daily features.
6. Get a Museum Pass. This gives you admission to more than 70 museums but better yet, you get to go in special lines. A lot less waiting.
7. Wear comfortable shoes. I know everyone says this when you travel, but Paris is covered in wonderful cobblestones. Charming. But they are killers and you want to be able to walk or as the French say, “Be a Flaneur.” This means walking just for the pleasure of it. It isn’t fun if your feet hurt.
8. Dress up a bit. The French don’t wear shorts. Avoid flip flops or white athletic shoes. Throw a jaunty scarf around your neck. After all, it is the Fashion Capital of the World. You’ll get treated better.
9. Get away from the Seine to see the “real Paris.” Most of the tourist destinations are clustered in the Arrondissements near the Seine (numbers 1-8). There’s a lot to see there but don’t be afraid to venture farther out. You won’t be sorry.
10. Relax and have a wonderful time. Please share your Paris Tips in the comment section below. Thank you.