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A week in Paris

Recently got back from my first trip to Paris, and hopefully others making a trip there will find a few of these tips helpful!

  • I had 10 days to split between Barcelona and Paris, and at first was considering 5 days each, then considered 6 for Paris, and finally settled on 7 for Paris after someone made the suggestion. Barcelona was great, there are many amazing things to do there, and I’d love to visit there again, but there’s just a staggering number of things I ended up wanting to do in and around Paris. Paris turned out to be my favorite city in Europe yet!

    • My flight with Delta to Barcelona through JFK in late May ended up getting enough delays and cancellations due to bad weather that I lost two full days in Barcelona and the cost of the first couple hotel nights I had already booked there. Delta gave no reimbursement because the delays were weather related. If you have one, try to book your flight and/or hotel with a credit card that offers free travel insurance, which might have helped.
    • In Naples, Italy I ate the best pizzas I’ve ever had, but in Paris I ate the best breads and pastries I’ve ever had. I stopped by Les Gourmandises d’Eiffel on my way to the Eiffel Tower since they were ranked in the top 10 baguettes of Paris from the 2017 competition, but I made the mistake of just asking for a “baguette,” and was handed the type of mediocre bread you might find at any supermarket. To get the award winning baguettes you’ve got to ask for “la baguette speciale” or “la baguette tradition;” after I realized this I went back in to order the right one and it tasted great.
    • Boulangerie Brun and Poilane were another couple excellent bakeries I visited. Brun has the #1 baguette in Paris from the 2017 competition and their chocolate eclair was incredible too. Poilane has really good sourdough bread, or pain au levain, and amazing apple pastries. I heard their croissants and chocolate croissants were really good, but they were out of those when I stopped in around 8pm.
    • I was looking for a Michelin-starred restaurant to try for the first time and settled on Cobea for lunch, which was a good experience. I worried about there being strict dress codes at these types of restaurants, but had no issues wearing an Oxford shirt, chinos, and sneakers. The biggest downside there is that I had to keep myself from eating too much of the fantastic bread and butter they served first, to save my appetite for the main courses.
    • I wish I had eaten more crepes while in Paris, but had a couple really good ones at places on Rue d’Arcole near Notre Dame: a butter and sugar one, and a lemon and sugar one.
    • Don’t get me wrong, I loved Paris, but out of all the train and metro systems I’ve used around the world, whether in NYC, Japan, DC, Italy, or London, I had the most problems with getting on the wrong trains in Paris. On the way to both Versailles and Disneyland I managed to get on the wrong trains. Give yourself plenty of time to get to the right train, pay careful attention to the signs, and ask others nearby if you’re getting on the right train. I’m sure there are plenty of others who can say the Paris train system was simple for them, but this was just my personal experience.
    • For the Eiffel Tower and Disneyland, check out the online crowd calendars to choose one of the less busy days. In the weeks leading up to my trip while reading the latest Google reviews of Versailles I saw horror stories of multiple-hour waits in line to get in and crowds packed like sardines within the palace, but I went after 3pm on a weekday without the fountain show, only waited minutes in line, and faced very manageable crowds. Versailles and the gardens were definitely a highlight of my trip!
    • Another highlight of my trip was being able drive a Lamborghini for 89 Euros, offered by Dream on Board across the river from the Eiffel Tower near Trocadero Place.
Posted by
418 posts

Thanks for the information. We'll be visiting Paris in 2 months and I took notes on the locations to eat! Sorry you lost those first few days of your trip. We're taking the RS "Paris in 7 days" tour. Hopefully we have better luck with the Metro.

Posted by
9855 posts

Just to note, I think Bob's experiences with getting on the wrong trains were with the RER, not the Metro, given the destinations he mentions (both of which are reachable only by RER). The Metro is pretty easy, but the RER is definitely more confusing. The vast majority of one's journeys while in Paris will be only by Metro and not include the RER.

Posted by
6 posts

Thanks for the info Bob. The Lady and I are planning a Paris trip for Sept and will take your experience under advisement. I especially was interested in your culinary review and the Versailles tour. What is the one item you would have liked to do but didn't?

Posted by
16087 posts

I think Bob's experiences with getting on the wrong trains were with
the RER, not the Metro, given the destinations he mentions.

I'm thinking the same thing, Kim.

Bob, I'm delighted that you loved Paris in spite of some head-scratchings over the trains! Crepes are really yummy, aren't they? We had several of them too and, like you, wished we'd sampled a few more. :O)

Posted by
2221 posts

Yes, regarding metro vs. RER. I'd hate for people to think the Paris metro is confusing. I found it much easier to navigate than New York City's.

Posted by
440 posts

Get a metro map before you go and work out where you need to get to and from and this will make it abit easier when you arrive. Great report thanks

P.s the Lambo experience sounds great and good price aswell

Posted by
2 posts

It's true that my biggest transit issues were with the RER trains, but I also had some issues with the Metro. I was starting to get the hang of it by the end of my trip. I hope I made it clear enough in my original post that I don't think any less of Paris for it, nor do I believe that the Paris transit system is inherently difficult. It just happened to give me a few more problems than my experiences with other transit systems around the world. I may not have had as many issues using the London or Rome transit systems, for example, but I'd still gladly make another visit to Paris over either of those cities!

And to Ronald, the biggest thing I missed out on was the Musee d'Orsay. Many places around Paris have a last entry time of 45 minutes before closing, but I only found out less than 10 minutes too late that the d'Orsay's last entry time is 1 hour before. It's probably not such a good idea to be waiting for the last entry times anyway since some places can start clearing people out well before closing.