14 to 16 June 2018.
It’s been a week since I left for Paris, France. I cannot begin to tell you how exciting it was to finally get to the one place I had been dying to go to. Paris is one of those places you dream of big, looming Eiffel Tower, bright in nighttime lights; the incredible architecture of days no longer being; an air of sophistication; endless fashion trends being displayed on the sidewalks as if they’re runways. I mean, honestly, who wouldn’t want to go?
This may sound trivial, but the stress of my Parisian adventure begun when I had to decide what to wear. I had to look posh, you know? The weather was looking quite dismal for our trip, so that threw out any cute dresses, skirts, or summer clothes I had in mind. Booking of the hotel and deciding on what type of transportation we would use to get to Paris was next (check below for some tips!). Honestly, if I had planned the trip better, it would have been better. There is nothing worse than a poorly-planned trip.
Now, here are 10 things I learned during my first trip to Paris.
1. Clear your mind of any expectations.
It’s better to be overwhelmed than underwhelmed.
Most importantly, (2) it might not be what you thought it would be.
The Paris described above is not what I saw when I arrived. The city was not as busy as it usually is, which I feel may have deterred from the idea I had about the bustling city of Paris. The city was dirty, and frankly, uncomfortable. I felt a wave of paranoia overtake me the moment I stepped onto the Metro. The combination of the strange language and the assortment of people threw me for a loop. This is coming from a girl who is entirely comfortable wandering New York City. The feeling was, and still is, indescribable but wavered quickly as I began to take in the sights above ground. Overall, my preconceived notions failed me, but all was not lost.
3. Driving to Paris sucks, but so can taking a train.
The story goes driving in Paris is THE WORST: round-about after round-about, people walking in front of cars, bikes zipping in-between, and a severe lack of parking. In short, driving in Paris is probably a stupid idea. The metro system is incredible (even if slightly unnerving). It is easy to understand and will take you to any part of the city. PS: you also have legs, use them! As far as taking a train to actually get to France (like Deutsche Bahn), always make sure to check the train before you leave for the station and make sure it is on schedule and actually running. We rushed to the station to make our train, only to find out that is was canceled (after translating the cancellation sign from German, of course). Overall, a 2-hour, non-stop train ride from Germany to Paris took us 6 long, agonizing hours… PLEASE, learn from me!
4. Book everything as early as possible.
I mean, everything. If you are planning to fly to France, booking a super early ticket may not be wise. There is about a 6-week pre-flight sweet spot to book plane tickets, but I’ll save that for a later post. Booking a hotel room, tickets to the top of the Eiffel Tower, Louvre, Catacombs, or any other place your heart desires to visit in Paris. Not only will booking in advance save you money, since some rates may be lower farther from the date of travel, but time, as well. If you’re like me, you’ll want to have as much time as possible to see things you’ve only dreamed of seeing. You won’t want to be standing in line, potentially for hours when you could have gotten a ticket online, and you’ll have a spot reserved for a chance to see what you’d like. Unfortunately, we learned the hard way when tickets were sold out to get to the top of the Eiffel Tower. BUT, that does give me an excuse to visit again!
5. Make sure the “Do Not Disturb” sign is presented
If you are staying in a hotel, make sure the “Do Not Disturb” sign is out and not “Please Clean My Room,” or you’ll have housekeepers coming into your room while you’re sleeping! Now, that was just me being careless, but still a good tip.
6. Paris hotel rooms are tiny.
I’ve stayed in plenty of hotel rooms to create a concept of what a hotel room will be like. Of course, there are pictures displaying the room online and such, but sometimes, you just need to see it to believe it. I was surprised by how small our sleeping area was, but the bathroom was quite large in comparison. If you prefer larger sleeping areas, definitely choose a double room.
7. Everything is so expensive!
No exaggeration. Be prepared to spend, spend, spend! And by the way, water isn’t free! Just beware that prices in Paris are simply higher than in most places. A basic meal for two, alcohol-free and only entrées, could run you close to $50. A small beer could cost you $6, and it won’t be an artisan IPA, but an ordinary wheat beer. We left little tips at each restaurant, which is not customary but appreciated by the servers. Honestly, the tip is the cheapest part of the meal. What’s one thing you might get a deal on? 12 Eiffel Tower keychains for €5 (about $5.82)! Such a $teal!
8. Cash is a necessity
Whether you’re buying goods on the street, such as souvenirs, or paying for a meal in a restaurant, cash is the way to go. Cash is the preferred form of payment throughout Europe. Trust me, the locals will thank you. Neither you nor they want to be waiting around when their credit card machine doesn’t work since the connection hardly connects..go figure!
9. Taking in the sights and taking touristy pictures are a must.
While I found Paris not to be everything I dreamed of, it was magical nonetheless. There are hidden treasures and beauties all around. The first night, we stumbled upon the overpass to the bridge where Princess Diana of Wales was fatally wounded. I never expected to be there, but I was glad I was able to experience a piece of history. Give yourself a chance to admire the architecture of the old buildings, many older than America itself. Take a walk through the alleys and see how some window awnings match the flowers planted below them (one of my favorite sights). Take pictures of everything and anything you want. Try escargot (which is delicious, by the way!), crêpes, and/or frog legs. Indulge in French wine. Go to the Louvre and pretend to hold it. Do the same with the Eiffel Tower. You may look or feel goofy, but trust me, you’re not the only one! Those experiences will be what you have with you for the rest of your life, and maybe a tiny Eiffel Tower or two.
10. Enjoy yourself.
If you can’t enjoy yourself, then what was the trip for? Of course, all trips have stress intertwined with fun but do your best not to let it affect the outcome of your trip. I was so bummed out with the initial train situation followed by seeing that our room was slightly larger than a closet, but I did my best to not let the negative feelings become the memories of my trip. Paris was a beautiful city, despite the uglies. Being with the one I love, in the City of Love, wandering through old streets made the stress worth it for me.
Paris is not only known as the City of Love but the City of Lights. This is due to the incredible amount of lights throughout the city, as well as its position as the intellectual center during the Age of Enlightenment.
Paris is your oyster (or snail!), so relish in it! Comment below if you’ve been to Paris, have any tips to add or would like any questions answered with my next trip to the City of Love & Lights.
Until my next adventure,
Read about Parisian escargot here.