In making a conscious effort to share more useful travel advice & info, I began keeping a travel journal. For our recent road trip around Europe, I tried to jot down lessons & words I had learned from each city we visited. It’s more like the scribblings of a mad woman than a journal per say. I wish I was more methodical but in all honesty, I get pretty wrapped up in vacation time, given the chance, so I don’t like to revert to my usual day-to-day self on these trips. Usually I like routines & meeting goals but, not on vacation. On vacation, I like only having to relax & enjoy. So, my “journal” is a mess of thoughts, sometimes single words or fragments that only I could make sense of, quickly scribbled down while riding in the car. Here are my journal thoughts from Paris:
- Parisian women got that style:
Everywhere I looked I was surrounded by beautiful women with amazing shoes & stylishly messy hair. They all looked like artists & designers or the people who work for artists & designers. I was particularly inspired by a girl I chatted with briefly on the MRT. She had on light pink mary jane heels, sandy blonde hair pulled up into a frizzy, teased mess of a pony tail & red stained lips. She was just headed home from work so that was basically her Tuesday look. My Tuesday look in Singapore is wet hair, because why bother in this humidity, flip flops & the lightest, softest clothes I can sweat on. I wanted to be her.
2. Parisians are victim of a stereotype that I didn’t find to be true, at all.
I was told time & again that when travelling in Paris, be aware that locals will be rude & pretty much hate hearing my attempts at French. I didn’t experience this once. Well maybe once, but I would have laughed at me, too. I ordered pate as my entree, not knowing what I was ordering. The waitress laughed while watching me push it away after only two bites & teased me about it a bit. Pate is not a dish you ever need to eat more than two bites of at a time. I would have had a go at me, too.
That aside, I only experienced warmth from the Parisians I talked to. I have never studied French before & so I gave best attempts at words I saw written in patisseries & on restaurant menus. Not once did I get rudely corrected or have someone turn their nose up at my pronunciation. They simply obliged me & acknowledged that they understood what I was trying to say. So perhaps the down season is the best time to experience French warmth & kindness in Paris or maybe it was because it was leading up to Christmas. Paris had just experienced terrorist attacks & that could have affected the mood, but overall, I have to say that from my experiences the “rude Parisian” stereotype felt very undeserved.
3. Wear yer walkin shoes.
Paris is a very walkable city. While the metro is simple & convenient to use, you can also save yourself the time from going in & out of train stations by walking between many of the sites & museums. Just be sure to wear comfortable shoes. All of Europe is covered with stairs & Paris is no exception. There were 96 stairs that led up to our Air BnB alone.
I went to Paris with a pair of heeled ankle boots & some cheap sneakers I ordered online. The first day I wore my cheap sneakers walking around Paris my feet were ready to fall off. I literally threw those sneakers away & bought a new pair. It’s fun to feel glamorous on vacation, but if you’re out sight seeing, own up to it. I’m not saying you need a fanny pack but, do wear a decent pair of shoes.
4. Look for the Lunch specials!
In Paris most of the restaurants have menus or chalk boards outside that list the specials. Between 12-2:00ish, hours being loosely based in Europe, there are lunch specials. These will be listed as “Formules.” Formules are usually a set menu including 3-5 courses & a glass of wine or cup of espresso. If you want to experience a large French meal on a budget, this is a great option!
5. The Metro:
The Metro was convenient & easy enough for tourism. I can’t speak for day to day life but it seemed nice. Just be aware, some of the trains require you to open the doors manually. Simply flip the latch & the doors will fly open. We noticed a lot of people doing this while the train was still coming to a stop. They would bounce off & onto the platform & be walking away while the train was still moving like something from an action movie. A semi-cool, dangerous but still mostly safe, action movie.
Maps of the Metro are all over the airport or you can cause the official app, Visit Paris By Metro. It is 1.80€ per ticket (billet in French).
6. Patisseries & Bakeries are the first businesses to open…
and that’s just important information to have! On top of trying the standard baugette, croissant & pain au chocolat, I recommend trying:
- Caneles de Bordeaux – Rum & Vanilla cakes
- Chausson au Pomme – Apple Turnover, literally translated as The Apple Slipper
- Amandine Croissant – soaked in rum, baked twice & filled with almond cream
- Pain Suisse – Pastry with custard & chocolate chip filling
7. Eat a large breakfast each morning.
There is a lot to see & do in Paris & you’ll need your energy! At least, that was my excuse when I ate a spread like this each morning. Stay at an Air BnB or a place with a fridge & a few utensils. Swing by a market or Carrefour & pick-up tapenades, cheeses & deli meats. Each morning, drop by the bakery/patisserie for fresh breads & pastries. Then take your time & start the day right: with a loaf of bread, pot of coffee & a pound of cheese 😉 You won’t be hungry until well into the day!
8. My experience with the Paris Pass
We bought the Paris Pass museum passes at the airport for 42€ each. This covered our entrance to the Louvre, d’Orsay, Notre Dame bell tower (had we been willing to wait in line), Arab World Institute & Versailles Palace & Gardens. There were many more options of museums covered by the pass, however, it must be used within a 48 hour time period. Keep this in mind when purchasing. Had we skipped one of the museums we visited, we would have spent around 41€ on entrance, leaving us 1€ shy of breaking even.
Still, if you’re visiting Paris within the summer months, the pass offers you the option to skip the lines at many museums (Notre Dame bell tower excluded). You cannot possibly visit all the museums the pass has available, however you can get your moneys worth & save yourself the time & hassle of waiting in line. Overall, it was worth it.
9. Useful words & phrases:
Though I speak little to no French, I can share with you a few useful things I learned.
- Bonjour/Bonsoir/Au Revoir – Good day/Good evening/Goodbye
- Bon chance – Good luck
- Merci – Thank you
- s’il vous plaît – Please
- Excusez-moi/ Pardonnez-moi – Excuse me/Pardon me
- Oui/Non – Yes/No
- Un (une)/Deux/Trois/Quatre/Cinq – One (feminine)/Two/Three/Four/Five
- à emporter – take away; to go; to carry
- C’est combien? – How much is that? (price)
- C’est tout. – That’s all.
- Parlez-vous anglias? – Do you speak English?
10. Cash or Card: Always have both!
Anywhere you travel, but particularly in Europe, bring more than one card & plenty of cash. For the most part, restaurants & shops in France accepted our cards. However, once we began travelling outside of Paris only some of the tolls would accept cards. Once in Italy & Germany, all bets were off. Sometimes it would work but mostly we needed to operate on cash. Belgium & Netherlands accepted cards almost everywhere we went but just to be safe, always ask before ordering an expensive meal.
We made this mistake in Germany & Ben (Mr. FGK) had to wait alone at the restaurant while I drove back to our Air BnB to get the cash to pay our bill. Needless to say, it was pretty embarrassing. The waitress was really understanding about it & offered him a free beer while he waited. The worst part was, we were only a few euros short. If only we hadn’t indulged & ordered that fancy artisanal cheese appetizer!