September 26, 2016

Paris Diary September 2016

      I just got back from an incredible trip from Paris, and although I'm happy to be back in my apartment in my own bed, I'm also missing Paris terribly. The city was honestly as it is in pictures, but of course more breathtaking in person. Six days in Paris was just enough to experience all the top attractions, but not quite enough to immerse yourself further in the city. I definitely want to go back soon! The shopping, food, and city was just so beautiful. It definitely had a more historical and cultural feeling to the entire city than NYC which is more fast, urban, and modern. Click through to see some snapshots I took on my trip, as well as some tips (for Americans mostly as that is the culture I'll be comparing the French culture to) for those of you that are traveling soon or plan to travel to Paris. 

Packing Tips
  • Pack your comfiest pairs of shoes: Unless you plan on taking a taxi or uber everywhere, plan on walking - a lot. So pack sneakers or comfortable walking shoes. Paris is a walking city and you'll want to walk to explore all the small streets and take a peek into the various stores lining the city's picturesque streets.
  • Carry an umbrella: Not all the time in your bag, but in your luggage because the rain in Paris comes and goes fast. It can disappear and reappear after only walking 20 or so steps!
  • Wear a bag with zippers: Although we didn't have any trouble with pickpockets, it is a huge concern in Paris and when I was in City Pharma (yes, that infamous French Pharmacy, more on that later in a separate post!), I saw two individuals run out of City Pharma and up the street which I can only assume that they were pickpocketers. Be street smart and bring a bag that you can zip up, and carry your bag close to you when you're in highly crowded areas.


Time Saving Tips
  • Buy all possible tickets in advance: You can almost buy every ticket to the museums and top attractions in advance. We waited in very minimal lines and avoided every huge crowd for every famous museum and attraction. Eiffel Tower tickets for the elevator can be bought up to 3 months in advance here. Tickets to the Catacombs can be purchased here, and I highly recommend buying these tickets in advance - the line to purchase tickets for the Catacombs at the actual place was insanely long. For most other museums such as the Louvre, Museum D'Orsay, Rodin, etc. - you can get a museum pass by googling "Paris Museum Pass"  (we purchased passes from this company) and bypass the normal crowds as well.


General Tips
  • The importance of saying "Bonjour" and "Bonsoir": This is probably the most important tip for Paris - I'm not kidding. It's really important to say Bonjour or Bonsoir to every person you start a conversation with in Paris as it sets the tone of the conversation and it shows that you're being a respectful visitor in their country. Rest assured though, almost everyone in Paris speaks English well enough to carry on a basic conversation.
  • No shorts: "Everyone in New York City wears black" is a generalization that is only somewhat true, but the French not wearing shorts except for when they're on holiday or at the beach is really true. I can honestly say I don't remember seeing a single local French person wearing shorts so if you want to blend in with the locals, I recommend leaving your shorts at home.
  • Allocate around 1.5x more time for meals: In my own research in preparing for Paris, I read that the servers in Paris are rude and don't serve tourists. This simply isn't true and wasn't my experience in Paris. It's more of a cultural difference between how the French and how Americans view meal times. In America, we want to be served and addressed almost immediately when we sit down, and when we ask for the bill it should come promptly. In Paris however, meal times are viewed as a place where you take your time to enjoy your food and catch up with your friends. Servers don't rush you, they expect you to take your time, and they won't give you the bill unless you proactively ask for it. Essentially, time moves slower when you're dining in Paris and thus you should expect both lunch and dinner to take around 1.5x longer than a meal in America.
  • Carry only a small amount of cash: Almost everywhere in Paris takes card. If you have a credit card that doesn't charge a foreign transaction fee, you're pretty much set. 
  • Don't tip servers: Tipping is seen as rude, and the tourists that we saw tip servers ended up with the servers not even knowing what the money was for. I thought it was refreshing to not be expected to tip!
  • Dinner rush starts at 8pm: The French also eat later with the dinner rush starting at 8pm. If you want to avoid the crowds and waiting for a table, consider eating dinner at around 6:30 or 7pm.
  • Avoid dining al fresco if you get bothered by smokers: When you picture Paris you most likely picture cafes with tons of people sitting outside, and that is the reality but it's also filled with smokers. If you get bothered by cigarette smoke, you pretty much can't dine al fresco because that's where smoking is allowed.

      I'll be doing a separate post on restaurant recommendations as well as shopping and my VAT refund experience. Hope these tips were helpful! And don't worry, I have tons of more photos to share and you can definitely expect them to pop up on my Instagram once in a while!

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