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If you knew then what you know now about Paris

This was posted on another board about Rome, and it brought forth some great tips. For those of you who have already experienced Paris, what did you discover you wished someone had told you before your first trip? Did someone give you advice that you found particularly helpful or useful that you'd be willing to pass on?

Posted by
28131 posts

To make a mark on and discard used Métro tickets so as to not confuse them with unused ones. A good friend told me to stay away from Chatalet-Les Halles and I have faithfully kept that advice for many years. I wish that somebody had encouraged me to go to the Cluney on my first trip.

Posted by
3936 posts

On returning to Paris after a 3 day stint in 2010, (we only have a day and a half this time) - I am....spending more time exploring Montmartre, make sure I catch the Eiffel Tower light show (now that I know what time it goes) and visiting to roof of Notre Dame (how could I have missed that the first time!) One guide book mentioned buying tix for the Louvre inside at the 'shopping mall' area underneath at a kiosk rather then stand in line - we did this, but I didn't notice huge lines waiting to get in...not a biggie, but was a good idea I guess! (I think it was the Paris day by day book fr Frommers)

Posted by
1986 posts

St Chapelle. Once we discovered this we couldnt stay away. Staying on or wandering on the Islands; wandering the back streets of Montmartre

Posted by
4741 posts

Rent an apartment and stay at least a week. There is so much to do in Paris.

Posted by
239 posts

Rip your metro ticket after use so as not to confuse it with an unused ticket, but wait until you exit the station! You need it to exit most RER stations. Once, a friend we were traveling with ripped hers without thinking. We did eventually get her out of the RER station. :) When you are perusing all the expensive wines in a wine shop, look for "second" winesjust as delicious and a fraction of the price. Having the Paris Museum Pass lets you skip long lines. Even if you think you'll only see a few of the museums covered by the pass, you'll be glad you have it.

Posted by
1812 posts

Not to worry so much about scams and pick pockets. It's a big city, so just behave as you would in any large city in the US or any other country. We all have our favorites, but try to see the Rodin Museum and the Holocaust Museum. Read the smal plaques on the buildings - there is a lot of history. Better yet, if there are any guards about, ask them. Most of them speak English and are happy to tell you more history. Do an evening concert in St. Chappelle. Have something at a sidewalk cafe and just watch the people. Always say "bonjour" when you enter an establishment and "merci" when you leave - you'll be amazed at what a difference that makes.

Posted by
8876 posts

Stay as long as you can. ;-) Sign up for the Paris Greeters program. I didn't do this until my 3rd trip. Agree with not combining a used metro ticket with new ones. While you will need your ticket to exit the RER, you don't for the metro trains. Even so, keep your ticket until you exit the station. They do spot checks and if you don't have your ticket it can mean trouble.

Posted by
24 posts

Thanks for all the posts. It will make a difference for me, and probably others, too.
Andrea: I am looking forward to the Paris Greeter tour. Where have you been with them and what have you seen?

Posted by
8876 posts

We toured the Marais with a man who grew up there. I had been to the Marais before, but learned so much from our guide.

Posted by
8419 posts

Spend time in the Luxembourg Gardens. Amazing place. Very fun to sit and watch guys playing bocce ball - interacting and teasing each other. Walk all through Ile Saint Louis, Ile de la Cite, and along the river to Place de la Concorde - then back on the opposite side of the river. Someone already said this, but spending lots of time sitting outside at a cafe and people watch. Eat Berthillon ice cream. Rent bikes from Fat Tire on Sunday and ride along river - street on north side is closed to traffic. Shop in the kitchen dept of Monoprix. Ride busses instead of the Metro. Rent bikes at Versailles to see the grounds. Go to Museum Nissim de Camondo (formerly the home of a wealthy Jewish family) next to the Parc de Monceau. Go to different neighborhoods and just walk and explore.

Posted by
13004 posts

My first time in Paris I spent five full days there, stayed in a hostel, used the Metro, and did a ton of walking. I wish I had gone to Fontainebleau, which never occured to me. Instead, I went to Versailles. Both could have been done at that time.

Posted by
8179 posts

I wish I would have gone on one of the bike or walking tours. I think our visit would have been even more memorable by having an experienced, knowledgeble guide showing us the city and answering our questions. I also wish we would have known at the very beginning that one could ask for a carafe of cold tap water at restaurants and cafes, instead of lugging a bottle of water around with us all day. It was extremely hot when we were there and we didn't find out about the water until after 2 days in Paris.

Posted by
24 posts

Jo: I just looked up 'une carafe d'eau, s'il vous
plat' and will add it to the list of phrases. thanks,

Posted by
1353 posts

Don't drive IN Paris! and don't return a rental car there!!! Made this mistake our first time in Paris, and ended up missing our train. The return point was actually 2 blocks away from where we had picked it up. My husband had to park - then walk in the "exit" from where we had picked it up to figure out where to return. We laugh now, but definitely weren't laughing then! Next time we were there we returned our rental car way outside of the city, and took the train in. Worked wonderfully:)

Posted by
1806 posts

Best advice before my 1st trip from my brother who had lived in Paris for a few years: "Rue Cler is not the only game in town for hotel rooms - there's loads of other great affordable hotels not listed in a guidebook - and it's not that interesting over there". I didn't book a hotel there, but I did visit the street and walked around that area one day. He was right on both counts.

Posted by
1821 posts

Don't go into a restaurant just because it's crowded and therefore must be OK. Use the RS (or another guide) to find safe bets on a good meal. Don't order a steak in France.

Posted by
28131 posts

Why not a steak in France? I'm always happy when I have a steak at the Hippopotamus.

Posted by
565 posts

Nigel, I adore Hippopotamus! I ate there one night after realizing (three large beers deep) that I hadn't eaten dinner yet. Maybe that's why I liked it so much! Take an umbrella with you at all times. Wear extremely comfortable shoes. Do some cardio. 260 steps up the Arc de Triomphe is as exhausting as it sounds. And Montmarte means MOUNTAIN. It's ok not to go to the very top of the Eiffel Tower, particularly if you have clausterphobia issues. Eat up!!! You'll burn most of it off the next day when you climb the 260 steps up the Arc de Triomphe or walk diagonally up Montmarte.

Posted by
1821 posts

"Why not a steak in France?" Because I like to take my limited experience and apply it to an entire country.

Posted by
591 posts

Like others have said... keep your RER ticket until you're completely out of the station. Remember that the RER B splits en route to the airport, be sure you're on the right one. If you're into Impressionist Art visit the Orsay Museum before the Louvre. Visit a bakery as often as possible.

Posted by
1821 posts

Take a small compass. You'll spend less time starring at maps trying to get oriented.

Posted by
109 posts

Wow, this is just what I needed. We will be going for our 2nd trip to Paris and, while we will see a few things we didn't the first time, we are going to do more"being" and less "sightseeing" if you get my meaning. Please tell me more.

Posted by
6 posts

After reading the posts, it's funny how most people seem to be saying how they'd wished they had slowed down a bit and enjoyed more sensual delights--people watching, cafe schmoozing, leisurely night excursions, smaller museums, wondrous "back streets," simple things.

Posted by
1178 posts

Thanks for a great topic! I am making my first trip to Paris in early June, after an extended visit in Spain. A friend (actually several friends) have given me the same pointers that are posted above - enjoy the sites, being and not running from place to place, St. Chapple, Notre Dame, etc. Will look at this posting several times before June I know!!

Posted by
2002 posts

Try profiteroles as soon as you have the opportunity!

Posted by
776 posts

go to the Farmer's markets and buy food for picnic lunches. The open air markets are my favorite things to do, each has it's own atmosphere. Great people watching. Here is one link but there are others that have descriptions of each market.
http://goparis.about.com/od/shopping/a/Paris-food-markets.htm Many Parisiens eat lunch in small parks; it was wonderful to do the same. Get a good map. I found a small map book at home in a large chain bookstore that is fantastic. I can't remember the name of the book, sorry. walk, walk and walk some more. The architectural details are marvelous. Take time to relax in cafes for coffee or a glass of wine. I usually caught up on my journal. have a good trip.

Posted by
2995 posts

-If you're going in the summer, get a room with A/C. I know most people in Paris don't have A/C in their apartments, but trust me on this. If you're there during a heat wave, you'll thank me. -Study the metro map ahead of time, and take a nice-sized map with you (something you can open up easily). Avoid transferring at the "big" stops (indicated by a longer white diagonal oval on the map) as you'll spend so much time walking underground that it's not that efficient at all. The metro is great for longer trips, but for short ones you're usually better off walking, or taking a bus above ground, as there's a lot of stairs and walking within the stations themselves. -Be prepared for sticker shock in the more touristy areas. If you want to eat and drink cheaply, check out some of the arrondisements where people actually live. Baguette sandwiches are great for lunch if you're on a budget. -For me, having a pair of comfortable but not ugly shoes in Paris was important. Some people don't care about the "not ugly" part and that's fine too! -Paris museums are fantastic, so if you're going to see more than 2 the museum pass might be a really good deal and save you time. Do the math. -The cemeteries of Paris are fantastic and there's a lot more famous people buried there than Jim Morrison. But they're confusing so if you want to see a bunch of people's graves, print out a map at home to take with you.

Posted by
15058 posts

Don't stress if you don't find Paris incredibly captivating on your first day. Paris is gray. Some people see the beauty immediately. For others, it hits on day 3. That happened to me on my first trip. On my second trip, my campanion was there for the first time - same thing. On the first couple of days, she was pretty lukewarm about the whole experience, but on day 3 she too fell in love with Paris.

Posted by
1976 posts

What a great thread! I'm going in Sept. with my sister. It will be her first time and my second, though I didn't see much of anything while I was there. We'll be there for 7 full days; one will be a daytrip to Versailles. I'm taking notes on everyone's suggestions!

Posted by
11450 posts

I see alot of things on posts that I would have posted too. Whenever you have easy access to a bathroom( at a cafe/ resto or museum) USE IT. Don't assume just because someone says a certain site or museum is a "must see ",, it will be a "must see" for you. If you don't like Picasso,, don't go to Picassos museum.. etc. Give things a chance, but be true to yourself too. Do not sit down on the Champs Elysees for a drink,, then complain that the Coke is 5 euros and the glass of wine was 10,, find a side street with a hole in the wall place to drink or eat.
Always read menu before you sit down, it is by law always posted outside. Plot your route for metro ahead of time, if you know you are going to such and such a place, check out and write down on a scrap which route, so you are not fumbling with a map in the station. I will literally jot down " line 4 direction such and such, get off at, change to line 6 direction such and such" This can be done night before , or when you are sitting for lunch or coffee break. Then when you enter metro station you look like you know where you are going( and not such a vulnerable " I am a lost tourist distracted with a fat wallet waiting for you, " lol Don't be embarrassed to stop at |McDonalds for a cold take away drink, they are hard to find good cheap sodas.. and when its hot out who cares what the label is on the cup.Also , use their washroom, save your RECEIPT,, the bathrooms often have code access, the code is on your receipt.

Posted by
2876 posts

Be aware that "cervelles d'agneau" on a French menu means "lamb's brains." It's a long story...

Posted by
2995 posts

Also "andouille" in France is not at all the same sausage it is in the southern U.S. You may like it, but it's very, very different and stinks to high heaven.

Posted by
8512 posts

To follow up on Sarah's post: it's made of tripe. Don't know if that's why it stinks, though.

Posted by
11450 posts

I was under the impression it was made from intestines,, which gives me some idea why it might smell.. lol ''
also ," ris de veau" is not a rice dish of any sort,, ,, its sweet breads, ( even though rice is riz in french it looks like it might mean rice,, so just a warning, lol )

Posted by
8 posts

For our first day we did the Hop On Hop Off Bus for a wide overview of the city. It's a great tour, really, with commentary too and was a nice option at the end of December when it was kind of chilly. My biggest piece of advice though would have to be to watch out for the dog poo on the sidewalks :)

Posted by
11450 posts

hmm, just looked up to confirm the tripe/intestines ingriedients and discovered there are two sausages related, but different , with similar names. Andoulliette and Andouille are not the same, one used pork and tripe, the other more likely to contain intestines and even COLON, er, yum. One last comment on meat in France, they do great duck, pork , seafood , rabbit, and chicken, but unless the beef is stewed, I just don't think beef is that good there, probaly we are very spoiled here, our beef is definately better. Most cheap steaks you get for a steak and frite meal have always been less then stellar ,, usually tough( one reason they favor rare to med rare) . IF you don't like rare to med rare, do stress a point or bien cuit.

Posted by
62 posts

Stop in to Notre Dame for the free Organ concert, allow at least one afternoon to sit in a cafe and watch daily life go by, don't worry about trying to be fashionable and fitting in -- no matter what you wear, everyone will know you're American, ditto for Berthillion ice cream!

Posted by
11450 posts

Alternately james,, one can purchase a same day combo ticket for the Rodin and Orsay at the Rodin( which is within walking distance), there is rarely a long line at the Rodin, even in summer, and the Rodin can be done easily in an hour or two max, then walk over to Orsay, by pass ticket line!
Also a ticket for the Orsay can be purchased in a seperate line( a window outside), it allows for admission any OTHER day then day of purchase.

Posted by
14 posts

June! I think we have similar taste. Each night my 7 yr old Dughter and i would plan the next mornings metro ride to a farmers' market (marche). There are books and web pages (that tell you which market operates on which day. We would get there just at opening and get some crepes or other wonderful morning treats and a few bits of meat and cheese and fruit for later. Eventually my older daughter figured out it WAS worth waking up for. We also enjoyed finding the small back street neighborhood cheese shops and meat shops. Buy a little something and enjoy. I can just smell the rotisserie chicken and the potatoes at the bottom basting in the chicken fat. Sinful. Good thing i only eat it in paris! We also loved the little pieces of dessert that are like art work. A true favorite of ours are the parisen macarons cookies sold by Laduree http://www.laduree.fr/en/actualites They are an almond macaroon, but not like in the u.s. Two small cookies with a bit of filling between. The flavor combinations are amazing and change frequently. I think it is the bakery's 150 year anniversary! No wonder they are sooooo good.
I also love carrying a small camera and capturing little bits of architecture to savor again later.

Posted by
6476 posts

Read blogs on Paris before you go. They can provide local insight into "secret, non touristy" spots, restaurants, galleries, music venues, shops, etc. Friends told me to say bonjour and merci when entering and exiting an establishment. Sign of respect and civility that does work wonders. Wish I'd been told to see the catacombs and was VERY pleased that I visited the Rodin museum. The paintings Rodin received from his artist friends, marvelous. On my first visit in my 20's wish I'd known that a family member was buried in Napolean's tomb, General Bertrand. But who listens to anything in their 20's?! On subsequent visits meant a lot to have taken time to have researched his life. It was a pleasant surprise to see dogs with their families dining in the outdoor cafes but do be careful where you walk in Paris if you get my drift.

Posted by
53 posts

This is easy. After many trips...............make sure your crepe is made in front of you! (Do not eat those folded up, made early in the day circles of dough.) And allow your crepemaker to simply pour that Cointreau into the cone, regardless of the time of day!!

Posted by
284 posts

One mistake we made on our first trip to Paris was to walk to places that looked "close" on the map. It was quite idiotic, and we ended up getting incredibly tired and fumed out from before getting where we wanted to go. The metro and buses are easy enough. I think it's very good advice to slow down and enjoy Paris instead of trying to see everything. Something we did that was truly wonderful was taking the "Chocolate Tour" offered by Paris Walks. The guide was extremely entertaining with anecdotes about the history of chocolate, and the tour included tastings at the very best chocolate emporiums in Paris. About 25 euros as I remember, which included the divine chocolate.

Posted by
5265 posts

Returning to the gastronomic front, if you see "rognons de veau" on the menu, know that rognons are kidneys. Foolishly I was expecting scaloppine!

Posted by
228 posts

1. For a mere $50 additional luggage fee, you can bring home so much stuff! We went to E. Dehillerin, bought an entire copper pots-pans set, stuffed them with zip-locked cheeses, gifts, foods and candies, boxed this all up and checked it at the airport. Next time we saw it was at our home airport! Next time we'll fill the box to the brim (as long as it's under 50 pounds, of course). 2. Do not waste your calories on eating at tourist restaurants such as the plethora of places found in the latin quarter. 3. Rent a 'velo' bike after midnight... before then it's too dangerous... after the twelth chime it's sheer joy! 4. Go to the top of the Sacre Cour! and get a photo of that one gargoyle biting your leg as you're heading back down, pass on going into the catacombs (it's just an underground chapel and hall ways... nothing exciting) 5. Busy waiters + tourists = incorrect charges and hidden upcharging. Remember the price quoted on the menu and double check every charge before paying... and stick to your guns if the bill is too high. 6. In Paris there is a saying, "A nutella crepe a day keeps the doctor away." Okay, I just make that up. But whoah, yum yum yummy... er rather, ohh la la la la la.
7. Be polite and engage with those who are serving you. Look them in the eye and speak French, even if it for to sound as the Russian who for to speak the English, they'll appreciate it.

Posted by
123 posts

The l'Orangerie museum houses Monet's waterlillies and other great art. It is small enough and easily doable. And No Line to get in! I really enjoyed it. The Cluny museum houses Mid-evil ( can't think of the spelling) treasures and is in a really cool building. Also no line. Loved walking the Latin Quarter and St. Michael's fountain area. Day trip to Giverney and Versailles. Montmartre - buy a little painting for 10 Euro and a great memory. This is where you will find the cheapest souvenirs for friends, save a few Euro on your gifts. So much to do. have fun!

Posted by
123 posts

The l'Orangerie museum houses Monet's waterlillies and other great art. It is small enough and easily doable. And No Line to get in! I really enjoyed it. The Cluny museum houses Mid-evil ( can't think of the spelling) treasures and is in a really cool building. Also no line. Loved walking the Latin Quarter and St. Michael's fountain area. Day trip to Giverney and Versailles. Montmartre - buy a little painting for 10 Euro and a great memory. This is where you will find the cheapest souvenirs for friends, save a few Euro on your gifts. So much to do. have fun!

Posted by
2995 posts

Just booked a weekend trip to Paris for May 9th - 11th so I'm excited to see this thread get bumped up again. Staying in Montmarte which I haven't visited at all yet. Gonna finally hit some of the sites I haven't been able to yet - Sacre Cour, St. Chappelle, the Orangarie, the Jewish museum. And EAT! Oysters, dim sum, I can't wait!

Posted by
18 posts

I second the suggestion to visit Laduree. The macarons are pricey, but well worth it. I've never had anything so delcious in my life. Salted caramel is to die for and the rose flavor is delicious too!

Posted by
5 posts

What a great topic!! We will be in Paris for two weeks this summer - what would ya'll suggest for our first full day?