Tips

Visiting Paris For The First Time? Read This First!

Bags packed… check.

Music synced… check.

Passport… in pocket.

So you’re finally ready to visit Paris… the most romantic city in the world… le city of love. You saved up your skymiles and filled up your “Paris Trip” labeled mason jar with a little bit of each paycheck set aside for the vacation. You’re good to go! Or are you? (insert dramatic music)

Paris is one of the most beautiful places I’ve had the opportunity to travel to over the years. However, before venturing over, I had a different image in my head of what the city actually was. I could mainly attribute those ideas to the Bourne movies, The Devil Wears Prada, and of course, Ratatouille.

Upon arrival, I quickly realized that I was definitely not in Kansas anymore. I attended a wedding in London the day before arriving in Paris via Eurostar and once I exited the train, I quickly discovered that I had zero clue of what was going on. Big advertisement signs filled with gibberish and other words that looked somewhat familiar. A crowd of people dressed like homeless models (more on that later). Individuals asking if I spoke English and being the kindhearted person I am, saying yes, I was quickly being asked for cash. Luckily my boyfriend is somewhat fluent in French so I always looked to him for direction.

Once we figured out the Metro, which by the way is the only logical way of traveling the city, we arrived at our hotel. Now the hotel that we stayed in is super fancypants but the room was tiny – enough to just fit a queen sized bed and two small side tables. So if you’re big like me, you might be a little claustrophobic. And it’s not just our hotel. Due to the city’s layout and historical architecture, most buildings are narrow and long. So be prepared for that. But the hotel isn’t the reason why you visit the city so it’s time to get out and go explore! But before you do, if you don’t want to rack up some crazy data charges and you don’t want to continuously ask for directions, download an offline city guide for your phone to help you find streets and metro stations. You’ll thank me later.

First thing you will notice, fairly quick mind you, is that everyone smokes. Everyone! If you don’t like to be a victim of secondhand smoke… tough. Every street cafe is filled with smokers. If you want to sit outside, have a drink or eat, all the tables will be pushed so close together that you can basically eat off the plate of you neighbor – who by the way is smoking. Now I don’t want to come across as the “Stupid American” who can’t appreciate the Paris way of things because that is not the case. My favorite part of my trip to Paris was to sit outside and watch the world go by. It was unbelievably relaxing. Just be prepared that your clothes will smell like an ashtray.

Speaking of clothes, that’s another thing that stood out on my trip. Now, I consider myself somewhat fashionable. I don’t read fashion magazines or wear the latest brands but I do know how to throw something on and look decent. Let me just say that everyone in Paris dressed like a page from GQ or Vogue. Needless to say, I definitely looked out of place with my hightops and T-shirts. All that was missing from my “American Tourist” wardrobe was a fanny pack and khaki shorts. Everyone dressed so nicely I was quite embarrassed of myself. Not that I should have dressed “better” but I should have realized that I was going to be in one of the most fashionable cities in the world – I could have at least packed a blazer or something. You should also pack a comfortable pair of sneakers for all the walking you’ll be doing. I did not.

The city of Paris is just gorgeous! If you love architecture, you’ll fall in love with the city. For all the known historical landmarks of Paris (The Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame Cathedral), there are TONS more to see. I personally loved going to the business district and seeing the Grande Arche de la Defense which is pretty impressive. What worked for us, basically being first time visitors, is that we bought a five day Metro pass which allowed us to travel to anywhere we wanted. Most of the touristy attractions are quite close to each other so it was just a Metro ride to one and walks to the others. And if you want to go up the Eiffel Tower, be prepared to wait. The day we visited The Eiffel Tower was the day after Bastille Day (and if you don’t know what that is, essentially it is Paris’ version of our Fourth of July) and there was a lot of people. The night before, on Bastille Day, there were fireworks shooting off of the tower – this by far was the best fireworks show I have ever seen! Beforehand, we didn’t know how the whole “going to the top” thing went but you can either walk up to the first level or take an elevator. On the first level there is a restaurant which I would definitely recommend doing and there is also a second part of the first level which is higher up and has shops and food vendors. After standing in line for about 1.5 hours, we got our tickets for the stairs and walked up. Now I have a little bit of a heights issue so I took my time walking up those 668 steps (first level) but you can take the elevator. We didn’t go to the very top due to time and my lack of testicles but you can decide to go up and ride the elevator to the top from the first level as well. Have fun with that… I’ll watch from the ground. As the day went on, it did get busier and the crowds grew. The line that we initially were in to buy tickets seemed to have at least doubled in size. We got there around noon which seemed to be the sweet not-as-busy spot due to the early morning crowds leaving for lunch.

All in all, Paris was amazing. Is amazing. The food is incredible. The people we encountered were friendly. However, just like with any place, there are ups and downs. I will say that having my boy friend know French helped tremendously as people didn’t speak as much English as I thought but for the most part, they were happy to try. Some restaurants have English menus but most don’t – so don’t be afraid to ask for clarification. You’ll definitely enjoy your time there. Take plenty of pictures and don’t forget you camera’s battery at home… on the charger… like me. Try different foods. Try foreign beers. Don’t be afraid to walk around and go exploring – you won’t regret it!

Bon voyage!

Am I missing anything else? Have more questions? Leave a comment. I love comments.

you’re welcome.

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