The lights, the action, the impossibly chic fashions (with impossibly chic people to match), Paris has something for everyone. And, if you’re like me, that something includes sampling, tasting, and trying on just about everything that I can squeeze in (or into) during a visit.
It’s rare that we take long trips to the la capitale, but with work I’m usually there a few times a year and I’ve found that each trip holds new surprises… and new ways to enjoy the city.
Here are a few thoughts on travel to the City of Light.
-Be open to Parisians, they might surprise you.
Having had quite a few hit & miss experiences in Paris (ie. a downright fantastic welcome at our favorite restaurant Le Florimond vs. a hotel mix-up involving a less-than-sympathetic receptionist that somehow found me struggling in broken-French amid a flow of frustrated tears), I’m always a little nervous when I travel to Paris.
You hear so many negative accounts from other tourists – and the media is full of stereotypes of the “rude Parisian” – that it’s difficult to feel open to meeting and / or interacting with Parisians. In the past, I’ve traveled there with an “expect the worst but hope for the best” attitude and in the end I don’t think it helped me at all.
Thankfully, I’m happy to report that during my last few visits – whether it be out shopping, in restaurants, or actually daring to ask for directions – I’ve had a “streak” of positive Parisian experiences.
Which brings us to the next thought…
-Smile, it helps.
Sure it’s a big city, and sure not everyone is always in the best mood – or ready to help every tourist who crosses their path – but there are many Parisians that you will interact with on your trip (at the hotels, in restaurants, at the sites, and in shops) that could do with a bit of good, old-fashioned kindness. I’ve tried to drop my “don’t care” attitude and attempt to smile, say hello, and generally interact with people as I would at home (in good ‘ole L’America).
Maybe it’s a bit “killing them with kindness”, but whatever the reason, it sure has improved the quality of service I’ve received.
-Beware of tourist traps and scams.
This in an obvious one, but very real and potentially could spoil an otherwise lovely trip. During our last stopover in Paris, we took a quick “spin” over to l’Opéra and it was beyond packed with tourists (height of the summer season), street performers, souvenir sellers, and some folks that apparently didn’t have the best intentions in mind – ie. someone tried to not-so-discretely dip their hand into the purse of a women seated beside us on the steps of the Opéra.
I’d consider Paris a generally safe city, but in these high-volume tourist sites, it’s important to watch your belongings and don’t speak to anyone who approaches you asking for, well, anything… scams change all of the time – whether it’s asking you to sign a petition (while a pickpocket fishes for your wallet), finding a lost ring (to be sold to you for a bargain price instead), or simply asking for money, it’s important to be careful in these areas.
-The weather really does change on a dime, plan accordingly.
Strappy shoes and dresses, check. Shorts, skirts, and tank tops, check. Clouds and rain, check. Packing for Paris can be quite challenging. Like many gals, I had my fantasies of strolling along the Champs-Elysées in something à la Sex in le City, but on my strapless dresses never saw the light of day. Sometimes preparing for “colder” is better and investing in a lightweight umbrella is always a good bet.
-Don’t miss a visit to the gourmet section of Galleries Lafayette (& bring a lot of hefty shopping bags).
Talk about foodie-heaven.
Being hit with every language from Italian to Japanese, you quickly come to realize what a foodie destination the gourmet hall at Galeries Lafayette is… and if that doesn’t convince you, then take a peek at the display cases overflowing with cheeses, meats, and every kind of sweet under the sun. Did I mention there’s also a sushi bar? Oh, and a prosciutto and wine bar? What about the three patisseries; one dedicated solely to macarons? The food selection is quite simply amazing, so prepare to pass a few hours (and spend beaucoup d’ Euros) carting away everything from artisan jams & mustards to sea-salted caramels.
-The Tuileries Garden is quite a nice spot for a picnic.
After a trip to Galeries Lafayette why not set up foodie-camp and watch the world wander by at the Tuileries Garden … Of course there are many (many!) fantastic restaurants in Paris, but sometimes an afternoon of cheese, wine, and people-watching is just what the (French) doctor ordered. And don’t forget to slip a few sweets in that picnic sack – a trip to Paris is definitely a time to ditch the diet and pack on those pretty pastries.
Pretty pastries at Galeries Lafayette