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Back from 14 days in Paris! General reviews, notes and advice (if you want it)

Firstly, I just want to thank this forum for such amazing advice. Our trip was magical. It is truly a fantastic city with amazing food, people, art, architecture and we can't wait to go back!

General notes, tips, tricks and whatnot:

  • Dress/Packing: As a female, I'd say this is what I had struggled with the most before going. I can now confidently say that water proof shoes are a non-negotiable in February (for rain and dog poop). Most of the female frenchies where wearing dark tones. Lots of black Chelsea boots, heavy button down coats, black tights. Anything bright stuck out and the tourists were obvious. For the men it varied with streetwear and formal business attire.

  • Paris in February is wonderful. We have pictures with the Mona Lisa and pictures at Versailles with zero people in our pictures. We were alone and had private tours for group tour prices because no one else was signed up for the tours we had booked. I know that COVID is a major factor in this but traveling in February is just the off-est of off season there is. I'd say we did miss out a bit on enjoying the gardens to the fullest because it was raining but we definitely had a few days of sunshine that we were able to plan around getting our vitamin D.

  • Rats: Yes, Paris has rats. Just think of it as a Ratatouille spotting and move on.

  • Dog poop: Yup, there is doggie poop everywhere so don't wear white shoes

  • Flights: We flew Icelandair, absolutely amazing and I can't recommend their Saga Premium business class enough. We picked up round trip Seattle- Paris for $650.00 (I shop the deals babyyyy). Worth it 1000000%. We did use the BinexNow proctored home test for the flight back home which was accepted with no problem. We did pay for the rapid antigen before we left because we didn't want to risk not getting on the flight. That was stupid expensive and I regret paying such a stupid amount. Flying through Iceland was so great. The airport is small and we flew at night so we were able to see the northern lights for hours from the airplane windows.

  • Food (my favorite): We are big foodies so we planned our trip for eating and taking baking/cooking classes. La Cuisine is a fantastic cooking school with good prices for classes. We did their croissant class and their chicken class, both were excellent.

  • Restaurants of note: Mumi, Les Antiquaires, Treize Au Jardin, Poni, Bistrot Instinct, Taing Song-Heng, Seb'on

  • Food Streets: Rue Des Rosiers, Rue Des Martyrs, Rue Monorgueil

  • Stay: we stayed in an apartment in the 9th about 1 block from Rue Des Martyrs and I can confidently say that everyone looking for the Parisian experience should stay as close to this street as possible. The little cheese shops, the meat shops, the fish monger, the boulangeries and patisseries. You will swoon and die of happiness. We also stayed in Le Marais and it was also a great and I would highly recommend it. Safe, fun, lots of food and little shops. Both were equally wonderful.

  • Getting around: metro, metro metro. Watch a youtube video (I like Les Frenchies channel) and you will become a quick expert to a very easy way to zip around the city. It is a functioning, working city. You will commute with the locals and feel like one too!

  • COVID/Health Pass: Very easy! Just walk into the pharmacy (this link shows all health pass pharmacies: https://www.sante.fr/recherche/trouver/health%20pass) and you can have your pass on your phone in less than 10 minutes. Everyone wore masks and the health pass was asked for at just about every restaurant and museum.

  • Language: I had heard so much about the "rude French." I experienced only the nicest people. We did learn a bit of French for a few months on how to say hello and order food which will get you everything that you need. The best service at restaurants and the best food at the shops are just a "Bonjour" away!

Happy to help if you have questions planning!

Posted by
940 posts

You bring back memories of my first visit to Paris many years ago, I felt like you that it was one of the best experiences of my life. There are very few times in my life that I can remember that truly amazed me as the first time I looked up saw the Eiffel Tower rising above me. The food in Paris is in a class by itself!

Keep on Travel'in

Posted by
5149 posts

Thank you, LorenH. I'm going to look for the foodie streets when we're there in April.

And thank you for noting how nice the French are. We've been to France - mostly Paris - 5 or 6 times, and have never met anyone rude. Au contraire! The French we've met have been kind and helpful. And contrary to what many people think, attempting to speak French is appreciated. At one restaurant in Paris, a waiter lightly corrected me - he made a joke out of my referring to my husband with a feminine gender article. That opened the door to more conversation, in French and in English, for the two hours or so we were there.

He was also concerned when I ordered kidneys, but I assured him (by pointing to my own) that I knew what they were.

We love France and the French, and cannot wait to return.

Posted by
1124 posts

Thanks for the current report. I've only been to France twice (most recently last fall) but have never encountered the 'rude' French. Although my partner had heard of this, he agreed we found them very helpful, kind, and willing.

Interesting about the rats and the dog poop. We spent 5 days in Paris, walking everywhere from the Ile St Louis, including to the Eiffel Tower (average 12-17 mile days) and never encountered either. Maybe we were just not far enough out in residential areas enough?

Posted by
9898 posts

Loren, great to hear everything worked out and that you had a great time!

Although the entry test is no longer needed for France, I know you are in the Boise area. May I ask where you wound up getting your test booked? NOT that we have the same resources up here in the Panhandle....just wanting to file for future reference.

Posted by
35 posts

Our little rat friends were mostly around the parks at night. We had a few late night walks after dinner and saw some chunky buddies. I had heard whispers of this but never thought I'd witness it myself haha. But it's a city and just like any big city there are going to be critters that take advantage of the people and the trash I'm sure. I'm just happy that we never got pickpocketed! Those critters I do not tolerate.

Pam- COVID Clinic in Boise was where we got our international exit test and it was a truly gross amount of money. 10/10 would not recommend.

Posted by
1191 posts

Thank you, Loren for your post! We are going in May, first time to France. Can't wait!

Also thank you. Nice to hear of a great experience in Paris. My first trip to France and this was very helpful.

Posted by
35 posts

I had a few people message asking which tours we ended up taking. I will attach the links of the ones that we used. You will see we went a bit tour heavy but everything was super discounted for off season. Plus, I always feel like you get a little more appreciation for what you are seeing instead of aimlessly walking through huge museums, it can be overwhelming. I mainly use Airbnb for our tours. I find that it is super legit and you can find local people that do tours of their favorite places in the city.

Local tasting tour (9th/Rue des Martyrs). This one was our favorite. If you love food and want the local experience, this is absolutely the tour I would recommend: https://www.airbnb.com/experiences/349

Louvre (make sure to ask for Adam if you can). I can't recommend this enough. You hear people that hated the Louvre because it was crowded and the Mona Lisa was underwhelming, you wont feel like that at all on this tour: https://www.tripadvisor.com/AttractionProductReview-g187147-d12367018-Skip_the_Line_Closing_Time_with_the_Mona_Lisa-Paris_Ile_de_France.html

Baguette baking class: https://www.airbnb.com/experiences/1178490

Cooking class, croissant classes through La Cuisine are awesome. The teachers are great and you will feel like an expert: https://lacuisineparis.com/

Orsay Museum: https://www.airbnb.com/experiences/363169

All day walking tour: https://www.airbnb.com/experiences/308291

Food tour: https://www.airbnb.com/experiences/148925

Posted by
41 posts

Thank you for your report! We leave in just 2 weeks and I am so excited! This is will be my first time in Paris without being on a tour, and the first time for my husband and 2 daughters (3 & 10).

I will definitely check out the food recommendations and foodie streets! We also plan our trips around food! Do you think the croissant class would be fun for a 10 year old?

I also have a Ratatouille memory of the chubby rats eating trash underneath the Eiffel Tower at night. They didn't have a care in the world about the people nearby. Still makes me laugh!

Posted by
35 posts

@hellospain Fun!!!!!! I think La Cuisine had an excellent croissant class. It was very extensive so I think it would definitely depend on the maturity level of your 10 year old and their interest in baking. But I think all levels of baking skills would have a great time. They had a swap out for the dough since it would obviously take all day (or even multiple days) to get a perfect croissant dough. They also showed us a simple pastry cream and we did other little filled pastries as well. Either way, you still get to eat and enjoy all of your spoils so I think that alone will be worth it :)

I don't think I would recommend the chicken class for a 10 year old since it involved knife skills, but the macaron class or croissant class would be a great time. The baguette class we did through Airbnb and I think that would definitely be 10 year old friendly.

Posted by
99 posts

There is a wonderful book about rue des Martyrs, by Elaine Sciolino, a journalist. It is a memoir from her time living in the neighbourhood and her relationships with the various shopkeepers. I always visit that area when we are in Paris as it is a lovely meander.

Posted by
37 posts

Hello! Were you allowed to drop off your luggage at the hotel prior to getting your vaccine pass? We’re going at the end of March, and I’m trying to figure out what we do after arriving. We’re taking the metro from CDG.

Posted by
2055 posts

I have not heard of any hotel not allowing clients to leave their baggage in advance of their checking in. You might ask them, send an email, just to put your mind at ease.

If the pass vaccinal is still required by the end of March, they are easy to obtain at almost any pharmacy, of which there are hundreds in Paris. When you check in to your hotel, the desk should be able to guide you to the nearest pharmacy able to help you.

I am sure you meant that you were taking the RER from CDG, just do not attempt to board the train using a ticket t+ (a métro ticket) as the métro does not go to CDG.

Posted by
1780 posts

Hi Loren, thanks for taking the time to report back. We’re headed to Paris in May and getting very excited! I encountered the rats around the Eiffel Tower on my last visit in 2018. Had never seen them on prior trips and was hoping the situation had improved. I love Paris and appreciate hearing about your experiences. Planning to check out the baguette class!

Posted by
2737 posts

I was there in December, yes the locals are friendly. Hopefully that is an old cliche that is mostly passe, as they say. People in the tourist industry anywhere quickly realize that to make money they must make happy as much as possible. And speak whatever language is most touristy at the moment; always English yes, but for a while it was Japanese and then Chinese.

Saw no rats, and minimal dog poop. The metro is like the subway in any major city anywhere in the world so not hard to use. But remember, you'll actually see the sights if you ride a bus for the same price - always consider whether walking, bussing or metroing is the best way to get to your destination (depending on distance, natch).

There were no ticket lines at the Orsay or the Rodin, but the former was quite crowded once we got to the Impressionist level.

Posted by
10 posts

Thank you for the boots on the ground update Loren. I leave next week and it will be my 9th trip to Paris since 2010. I'm so glad you had a wonderful time.

Posted by
34 posts

What fun to read your report! Thank you for sharing. I particularly appreciated the clothing input. We're going in May and can't wait.

Posted by
97 posts

Thank you so much for this great information.

Posted by
5 posts

Thank you for all the tips LorenH. Did you do the early or later 5 hour tour? I see there is one from 9:30-2:30 and 3:00-8:00. I'm wondering if the night time tour would be fun?

Posted by
35 posts

@quinmj
We did the early tour! I loved waking up early and walking around the city since Parisians seem to wake up a bit later.

Posted by
341 posts

hey we ate at Poni, looked good as we walked by so came back for dinner. Great choice. Many nice casual restaurants in that neighborhood.

Did you eat falafel? We only did Miznon right on Canal Saint-Martin, absolutely excellent. The blasted cauliflower was an experience ...

Also one of the few wood-fired bakeries in the 9th, excellent can't recall the name ....

Posted by
35 posts

@hlaufenberg Yayyyyyyyyy Poni was excellent so I'm glad you enjoyed it! Miznon was at the top of my list but we just didn't have a chance to get over to the canal during mealtime. We did L'As du Fallafel and I will never be the same haha! It really does live up to the hype.
In the 9th there were quite a few awesome patisseries and boulangeries. Jojo&Co had possibly the best babka that I have ever had in my life.

Posted by
341 posts

did you eat anywhere more casual on Monmartre? We'll have two 13 year old girls with us who will like the brasserie level experience, lively sidewalks etc. We ate at a few places on the lower front side of Monmartre last summer -- all fine but not special -- the galette/Breton place was decent but not a redo ...

Merci!

Posted by
35 posts

@hlaufenberg We did not eat very close to Montmartre just because it can be a little touristy so we ventured a teeny bit south to Pigalle for a little better food. I did have a few places saved in my maps with good reviews from my research though. Le Poulbot and Fric Frac Montmartre were probably the most recommended. Soul Kitchen, Au Progres and Sacree Fleur also had good reviews. I have heard that La Maison Rose is actually a restaurant with decent food under the new ownership (which for a 13 year old would probably be just Instagram heaven).
If you decide to venture slightly south to Pigalle for your meal instead I would recommend Le Bon Georges, Buvette Gastrotheque or Boullion Pigalle.
If I had a 13 year old with me for the day I would probably do a loop going up to Sacre-Coeur in the morning (grabbing a croissant and a coffee at Pain Pain on the way), stop at La Maison Rose for a picture, venture south and walk down Rue Des Martyrs, cut over to Pink Mamma for Lunch (Instagram galore) and hit the Museum of Romantic Life before going to the Moulin Rouge. That would be the perfect day of Instagram heaven for a 13 year old.

Posted by
8 posts

LorenH-Thank you so much for your post! My husband & I are finally taking our first trip to Paris in April-after 2 yrs & 3 cancelations due to Covid!

We are only there for 4 days, then a train to Nice for 3 more nights. I can't wait until we have the time to go for 2 weeks, as you did, to take advantage of everything else Paris has to offer!
I am grateful that you added the links to your tours. The walking tour is exactly what we were looking for, and the dates are already filling up.

Merci beaucoup!

Posted by
341 posts

Loren thanks so much, kind of you to help me plan. We went to Pain Pain - very good. Gives me confidence in your other reco's that we accord on the ones I've been to :)

Best,

Hank