OK so even though I went to Paris back in late May, I wrote most of this post on the plane home so the info was fresh in my head, but life just happened and I hadn’t gotten around to finishing it so here it is: I’m back from my trip to France and when I say… it was everything I thought it would be, it WAS everything I thought it would be. It has been a dream of mine for so many years to visit this country and I’m happy – beyond happy – I was able to do it with my daughter! It’s beautiful in so many ways, plus there is so much to do and see, no wonder it’s the number one tourist destination in the world year after year.
The two highlights of the Paris trip for me were: of course, The Eiffel Tower, but also going to The Palace of Versailles. Seeing the details of the palace and the intricately designed garden was truly awe-inspiring. This chateau was the main residence King Louis 13th-16th until the start of the French Revolution. The architecture, in all its grander, is truly fit for royalty. NOTE: This requires a day trip. It’s located just a little over an hour outside of Paris and tickets are required for entry and a guided tour.
Before I dive into the specifics of our trip, let me share some general tips if you’re planning a trip to Paris:
The currency used in France is the Euro – which is roughly 20 cents stronger than the US dollar.
Tipping is not customary. Most restaurants actually include the gratuity. But, you can leave a small 5% gesture if you’re more comfortable, it’s appreciated. But, always tip in the hotel.
Parisians don’t necessarily smile. Maybe they’re annoyed LOL, that their city is overrun with tourists everyday! I’m not saying this is why they don’t smile, but I will say it’s a well known fact in all of France that “Parisians don’t like to smile” and local Parisians will say that same. Learning this made me feel much more at ease because I was wondering why they seem so standoffish.
Most of the cafés have outdoor seating that faces the street. Ideal for people watching but be forewarned: there will be plenty of smokers! There is no “non-smoking” like there is here in the US.
Breakfast is called Petit Déjuner and it mostly consists of fresh baguettes and croissants, butter with jam as well as coffee and juice. If you want eggs or meat or anything else that will cost about 3-5 Euros more.
Don’t settle when you are ready to eat. There is a café on almost every corner so if you are in the mood for a certain food, you can find it. My favorites that I enjoyed the most were French Onion Soup and Beef Bourguignon. These are traditional French dishes and therefore… trés magnifique!
The city is divided up into different districts or arrondissements. We were in the 16th arrondissement directly across from the Seine River that runs next to the Eiffel Tower, so it was super clean and well maintained (i.e. prime tourist area so it better look good) Other districts we happened upon were not as clean…but coming from NYC… these areas would be considered well maintained! Fun fact: on the map, each district is numbered in the shape of the swirl on a snail shell starting at the center, going clockwise.
You will see lots, and I mean lots, of electric scooters and vespas/motorcycles as a main form of transportation. I’ve never ridden a scooter before (trust me, it took quite a bit of convincing to get me on one) but once I got used to it I loved riding it from the hotel to the Champs-Élysées. Plus, it’s a more affordable way to get around than a taxi cab! There were several different brands of electric scooters but the ones that are the same as other American cities were Bird, Jump! by Uber and Voi. You simply download the app & input your card info to get started. When you scan the scooter, you will see if it’s charged enough for how far you plan to go. When finished, you can leave it on the sidewalk wherever you are and someone else could scan to use it. (FYI, there are also cute red bikes from Uber similar to Citi Bikes in Manhattan, but can lock at the wheel and other bike brands have to be returned to a dock).
The subway is not as easy to use as you might expect. The ticket booth is not as straight forward as it’s NYC counterpart but the map is equally as complicated to read. Try a YouTube tutorial to get an idea of how to buy the tickets and try google maps for step-by-step directions.
WHERE TO STAY:
La Clef Tour Eiffel Paris (the F is silent). I love this hotel and it’s accommodations! The reception area is welcoming with very nice and helpful staff who offer you sweet caramels to welcome each guest as well as little wrapped towels to get a quick refresh after traveling. Coffee drinks are available 24/7 in the dining area where breakfast and complimentary afternoon tea and classic French pastries are served. The hotel boasts a lovely gym with a steam room that we used a few times to unwind after sightseeing all day, plus large showers which are prefect when your room isn’t quite ready! The bedrooms were well appointed with L’OCCITAINE toiletries, fluffy towels, robes and slippers.
Of course I don’t have to tell you to visit the Eiffel Tower, but an added bonus to visiting the Eiffel Tower is the light show that happens at the top of the hour after sundown until 1 am – 2 am and lasts about 15 minutes. The Eiffel Tower comes alive with a sparkling and twinkling light show that shouldn’t be missed if possible (check my Paris highlights on Instagram to see all the pretty in action) During the day there are many street vendors and peddlers out there selling trinkets, gadgets, sunglasses and anything you can think of that feels a touristy. Cute but sometimes it was annoying. Theres also a handful of food and drink carts. Gabbie indulged in the one that sold crêpes and they were delish!
See the Arc de Triomphe. I knew it would be grand and majestic but loves, it’s really just so beautiful in person. It is in walking or scooter/bike ride distance from the hotel we stayed at so we saw it the same night we arrived to Paris. It’s located on the western end of the famed Champs-Élysées (which is where all the designer stores are) and then some.
Take a cruise along the Seine. We did a dinner cruise. After much research and comparing of cruise companies, we went with Bateaux Parisiens. They had great reviews for a reason. The coursed meal was delicious the staff wonderful and the boat very clean and pretty. NOTE: be prepared with cash or card as they do take photos of everyone and try to sell them to you.
SO MANY museums to visit, so do your research and try to find which ones you want to visit. Be forewarned, the Louvre is closed on Tuesdays so we were not able to go in which is when we had planned to go (all the reason to go back next May) 🙂 Even though we didn’t get to go inside it was still nice going to see it.
Go to the Montmartre area, which is a large hill in Paris’s 18th arrondissement. So many lovely and quaint cafés and of course the beautiful and iconic Basilica du Sacré-Coeur is a must see while there.
Everyone knows about Moulin Rouge, but try Lido de Paris. It’s a dinner Caberet show like no other. Loves, seriously it was one of the most beautiful and spectacular shows we’ve ever seen. We could’nt take video or I would have. Between the costumes, story telling and performance, it was an experience I promise you will never forget. NOTE: there is some topless nudity but it is quite tasteful.
The devastating fire had just ripped through Notre Dame about two weeks before our arrival. Even though we knew we couldn’t get in, it was still a beautiful place to see in person.
This trip was a dream since taking French classes in high school and I’m so happy I was able to go and experience this beautiful country. I can’t wait to go back. There is so much to do in Paris, soak it all in. Go for a walk, sit by the river, peruse the street side vendors. Just enjoy the experience of being in Pariiiiis!