My 31 year old daughter and I visited Paris for the first time during the first week of August and it definitely surpassed my expectations. It’s such an interesting blend of a beautiful, historical yet vibrant, modern city.
We flew Air France ( economy) and I was very impressed by the comfort and level of service. It was the best flight experience I have had to date and I would defiantly fly with them again. We arrived on a Saturday morning and I had planned to buy a SIM card when I got off the plane, but the only option available was an Orange kiosk where you had to insert the card yourself. Jet lagged and without the required pin, I decided to get one once we got to our hotel. That was a mistake.
We took the RER into the city (St.Michael metro). It was not entirely clear which of the 2 possible trains to board, but once we asked a local, it was a pleasant enough 45 minute trip. I spent the trip worrying about pick pockets (from everything I have read), but it was totally fine. Carrying our luggage up multiple flights of stairs at St. Michael station due the escalators being out of service, however, wasn’t fun. Fortunately, a local man saw me struggling and carried mine most of the way. This happened a few times during our trip, so although Parisians aren't warm and fuzzy, the men are certainly chivalrous.
We used an online map to walk to our hotel in the Latin Quarter, but made a few wrong turns as the wagon wheel layout of the streets there makes following maps somewhat challenging.
Our hotel (Hotel Familia) was perfect. We paid $160 CAD/night and it had a lift, shower, A/C and a balcony. It was also a 5 minute walk to the metro (Jussieu). The room was tiny (could barely hold 2 average sized suitcases), but clean, quiet and comfortable. The front desk staff are very helpful, and there is a bank machine, boulangerie and cafés right across the street, as well as a supermarket around the corner. Rick is quite right when he says that this area is very quiet until the late afternoon, then comes alive.
We spent our first day walking along the right bank ( the plages were not as happening as I had expected them to be. I had read that it's set up like a beach with lounge chairs, swimming and games), the Ile St. Louis, passed by the Hotel de Ville and was disappointed to see that the Stravinsky fountain was not operational. We walked through the Marais (think I would stay in this neighbourhood next time) and Les Halles looking for a place to buy a SIM card. Tip for anyone wanting an Orange card, buy it at the airport, or get it through amazon beforehand. Once we finally found the only store that sold them we were told they were sold out. I was finally able to buy another brand that was only good on France at an electronics store in Forum des Halles for 40 EUR.
We walked all over St Germain des Pres, and went to Jardin de Luxembourg. My daughter tells me her step counter showed 37000 steps that day!
I can't remember which cafe it was near the Luxembourg Gardens that we had lunch at, but we had a croque monsieur at a cafe that had a bunch of teddy bears seated around a table outside. The waiter there, as we found the case everywhere, took a long time to bring us glasses of water, take and bring our orders, and never checked on us to see if there was anything we needed. We are not demanding diners, and maybe it's because we didn't speak French, but everywhere we went to eat, the waiters had an attitude of being put out. It wasn't a big deal once we knew what to expect, and we learned not to wait until we were starving to sit down somewhere to eat.