Ok so I figured it was about time I write this post, considering the weekly emails I receive asking for advice about traveling in Paris! It’s my favorite place in the entire world, somewhere near and dear to my heart, and I get SO excited whenever a friend or family member tells me they’re visiting for the first time! I may be in Ascain right now, down near the Spain border, but Paris will always be my favorite place in France.
So let’s break this down into my top FIVE tips for visiting the City of Light!
1. Don’t assume everyone speaks English. Do most Parisians speak English? Yes. But Americans assuming and expecting that a shopkeeper, server, or taxi driver to speak in our native tongue is what can incite that “rude Parisian” stereotype. They’re not being rude, they just have a LOT of French national pride! It’d be like someone stepping up to a Starbucks in Virginia and speaking in French, and getting annoyed when the barista can’t understand them.
You’re in THEIR country, so it’s your responsibility to communicate what you need. Don’t speak French? That’s ok! Bring a French phrase book or have the Google Translate app on your phone- Matt doesn’t speak a LICK of French and he got by just fine when we were there in September.
Truthfully, most French doesn’t care if you don’t speak their language and are happy to help out if you’re having trouble communicating- you just need to make an EFFORT. Learn to say “I’m sorry, I don’t speak French” in French (“Desolée, je ne parle pas Français”), and you’ll be much more likely to receive a warm answer :).
2. Wander. It’s my favorite way to explore the city! Is the Eiffel Tower a sight worth seeing? Heck yes! And so is the Louvre, the Arc de Triomphe, the Luxembourg Gardens, all of it. But here’s what I’d recommend- set your course for roughly the area of where you want to end up (say, the Louvre), and instead of hopping in a taxi cab to the exact spot, have your driver drop you a quarter to half mile away instead. Meander your way through the cobbled streets and French architecture- you won’t be sorry for it.
3. For a more authentic, city-dweller experience, stay at an AirBnB. We love AirBnb! It’s the only method we use these days for Paris trips. Hotels are amazing if that’s the kind of experience you’re accustomed to or are looking for, but we actually love the opportunity to stay in an apartment. I don’t mind the winding staircases up to your 4th floor flat, potentially bumping into neighbors on the way back down, hearing snatches of French conversation as you pass each door. We like the opportunity to see inside the home of someone from another culture, instead of a traditional hotel that feels very much like the hotels you could stay at in the United States.
4. Want a fresh croissant or pain au chocolat? Go to the bakery first thing in the morning. Bread is another source of French pride, and we’ve actually found boulangeries that WON’T sell you a croissant past a certain hour in the day because it’s no longer fresh enough for their standards. I LOVE THAT. A pain au chocolate, warm from the oven at 7am? It’s heaven. Don’t cheat yourself on that one.
5. Absorb it- drink it in for YOU. One of the things that drives me absolutely bonkers about the majority of tourists is that most often, it seems like they’re so caught up in making sure everyone SEES them in this fabulous place… that they miss the experience of BEING there! Does that make any sense? It’s like if you’re at your kid’s birthday party, and you’re so set on getting the perfect Instagram of the cake that you miss the moment they blow out the candles. Sure, the photo may be great, but you’ve missed the moment itself.
Don’t let that happen when you’re in Paris. The experience of being in this incredible city is so much more than what you could hope to communicate over social media- the sights, yes, but also the smells, sounds, the people, the atmosphere. Drink. that. in. Don’t get so caught up in documenting it all for everyone else that you miss experiencing it for yourself!
Got a question or an additional tip? Leave it in a comment!
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