I don’t know why people care about Paris Hilton, and as the saying goes, “what have you done for me lately”? Nothing. Why is it that these no talent twits get so much recognition, but yet people have a hard time remembering the name of the President of France. Well, I decided I’d share my love of all things Paris (France, that is).
I’ve been lucky to travel to Paris quite a bit. I love it there! I’ll admit that a dream of mine would be to live in Paris and then spend the weekends in the country (a wine vineyard of course), but I’ll settle for vacations there every now and then. France in general have gotten a bad rap from us Americans. Some generalize that the French are rude, egocentric, and smell. Well, I will tell you that it’s just not true. They are patriotic, friendly, and fun! They also don’t smell….and if you are stuck on the Metro with no air-conditioning when its 90 degrees out…no deodorant can save you. They love it if you attempt to speak French, and quickly move to English to help you out. I can’t tell you how many nice people I’ve met in the City of Lights. Here are some things I’ve learned from the locals throughout my trips to this great city.
- Dust those walking shoes off, and hit the pavement. I have spent many a day just walking around the city. Sometimes, I’d walk for 6-8 hours just exploring every nook and cranny of a neighborhood. You can find the best stuff when you are walking around. Lexie and I once found the coolest trinket store. They sold greeting cards, and unique home decorations. Lexie got the best blue cloth light fixture/mobile I have ever seen. The store was non-descript from the outside but the inside was full of treasures.
- If you get tired of walking, take the Metro. There is a metro stop every 500 ft. in the city. So no matter where you are, you are close to a stop if you get tired of hoofin it. The metro is cheap, and extremely easy to conquer, even if you don’t speak a lick of French. And it never fails, if you are standing at the map trying to figure out how to get to your destination….a local will always stop and ask if you need help, and might even take you there. I’ve met really nice people on the metro that way.
- Take time to hang out at an outdoor café. One of my favorite things to do in Paris is to grab a café au lait at a table outside and watch people go by for hours. I loved chit chatting with friends or hanging out by myself. Some people try to fit so much in when they are in Paris, that they spend their whole time running from museum to museum. Stop and smell the roses, and take in the sights from a local’s perspective.
- Lunch matters. The French love their lunch. It’s their most important meal of the day. At breakfast, they usually have something small like a piece of toast and a coffee. Dinner also comes in much smaller portions that we are used to. For them, lunch is the biggest meal of the day. Most stores close from 12-1:30 so that everyone can get a good lunch in. In smaller towns, people might go home for lunch, but in Paris, lines at restaurants mean I should be checking it out. My two favorite lunch options in Paris include stopping at a popular food cart set up in the streets.
There are many of them, so I go where the line is the biggest….because I figure they must be getting something right to attract the crowd. Lexie and I would grab a Panini and then eat it in the park nearby. My other favorite thing to do is to go to the basement of the Galerie Lafayette, which is a department store in Paris. In the basement is a great gourmet food store. They have the best breads, mustards, oils….everything your heart fancies. I love to pick stuff up there and make my own lunch and eat it outside (don’t feel bad if you buy a lot, because they don’t eat dinner until around 9, so you don’t want to get hungry before then). Plus, they have very reasonably priced wines there, so live it up! I’ve taken home tons of stuff from there as gifts, and never have been disappointed.
- Try out wine bars or wine caves. There are some really cool bars in old wine caves in Paris. There are even some that sell small family owned wines from their vineyards. Wines can be listed on chalkboards on the walls. And the food can be great too. I read a great article in Food and Wine Magazine once about great wine bars in Paris…..worth checking out for sure!
- It’s a big city, so beware of pick-pockets. The city is very safe. I never feel scared to walk around there. It is a big city though, so crime isn’t obsolete. As much as we like to think we fit in as locals, our shoes and name brand shirts scream out, “I’m a tourist, take my money”. Just watch out. Lexie and I would grab a fanta and sit by the Tour Eiffel and you would be surprised how many people get pick-pocketed there. We would watch the same scam unfold time after time. There are blankets set up along the way that have trinkets for tourists, such as mini Eiffel towers. The deal went down like this….. the tourist would ask how much it was….would haggle the price, get out the wallet thinking he was getting a steal on a key chain, and when he pulls out his wallet, someone would run by and yank it out of his hand. The person that was doing the transaction with the tourist would then grab the 4 corners of the blanket, pick up the loot, and run. It was definitely a multi-person operation. They would scatter in all directions to confuse the tourist, and then set up shop again in a different area 10 minutes later. It happened over and over again. So watch out….you’ve been warned.
In all, I love this city. I could go on and on, from the food, to the great sites. What are your tips or favorite spots in the city?