I recently embarked on a weekend in Paris with my other half. Our fourth anniversary was looming and being Valentines day as well, we felt it only right that we kept with the tradition of arranging a mini-break to celebrate being in love with each other.
Paris has always been on the bucket list, so we booked up and travelled by Eurostar to the city of love, in February 2016.
I wanted to write a blog post on Paris, but wasn’t sure how to approach it. Instead of a story-like account of our adventures, I felt a guide to a Parisian weekend would be a little different, and useful if you are thinking of visiting.
Obviously, February is still winter in this part of Europe so you’d need to bare that in mind when you book.
So lets begin, my top 10 tips for a Parisian weekend.
1. Avoid developing “Paris Syndrome”
If you are someone who travels frequently, or have experienced a few of the globes major cities – you may have heard of this. Many people claim to suffer from this when they visit the big apple, and no doubt when they visit London (no, I’m not blinded by the love of my local city). It refers to the deflated feeling you get when you have mentally built up the experience of a city, and it doesn’t match your expectations.
I do feel that we suffered from this during our visit to Paris, but at no fault of the city or the locals. Our weekend was drizzly with on and off rain. It meant that as we were not familiar with our surroundings, making it difficult for us to explore properly. This may seem feeble to others, but for us personally, it did affect our experience.
My recommendation to avoid Paris Syndrome is to book when the weather is likely to be more reliable (June-September). When the sun is shining and the floor is dry, exploring the city will be easier. You won’t feel constantly cold, lacking in vitamin D and lost. We would like to return during the summer months in the next couple of years to complete our adventure, and see everything.
2. Use Le Metro
Le Metro (or the metro) is similar to the tube in London, the subway in New York. It is a number of train lines running across the city. If you are travelling via Eurostar, your train may arrive in Paris Gare Du Nord – which is also a stop on Le Metro.
When we arrived, we used Le Metro from Paris Gare Du Nord to travel to our hotel and it was incredibly easy. We also used this method of transport to work our way around the city – despite being avid Über enthusiasts. If this idea intimidates you at all, you can download the Visit Paris by Metro app which is a great app for travelling around the city, it is available for iOS, Android and Amazon. Alternatively, you can simply use Google maps. Google maps accommodates Le Metro when advising a route.
If you can, try and buy your Le Metro tickets in bulk. They are for purchase on the Eurostar (on the train where you buy your coffee and snacks from) or at the stations. One ticket is valid for use within one hour and then you simply use the next. You pop it into the slot and the doors will open. It’s very simple.
3. Pick Pockets
There are 7.2 billion-ish people on this planet, and some unfortunately do not have good moral values. Rather than earning and grafting to have nice things, they’d rather just take yours. These types of people are walking all over the globe, including Paris.
Similar to any city (and I’m sure this is not the first time you are hearing this) please keep your belongings safe and near you. If you have a safe, lock passports, currency, electrical away and just take with you what you need.
We found in particular, around the Eiffel Tower it was rife for quite persistent, overly assertive street sellers. At one point, a man approached my boyfriend and started tying string around his fingers to make a bracelet, my boyfriend had to say “no, thank you” about five or six times before prising his hand away from the street seller. Despite them being polite once they cannot physically sell you something, it still can be quite distressing when you’re a tourist in an unfamiliar place.
Be assertive, say no and keep your hand in your pockets. Ladies, take a small handbag you can keep under your coat with only the essentials.
We also experienced people trying to make us sign up to petitions which meant we had to give them money. If you are not interested then explain you only carry a card and walk away. It may depend when you go and you may not experience this, but just be vigilant with your things, and definitely purchace travel insurance incase anything does go walks.
On a much lighter note (not calorie wise), breakfast or petit de’jeuner is a culture in itself in Paris. I highly recommend you embrace every croissant, coffee, OJ and baguette that encounters your person. I left a few reviews on Yelp! of places we went (and am still reviewing) if you wanted to have a look. I also try to bookmark where I go, so I can remember for future reference. In particular, we had a fantastic breakfast in Commerce Café which you can read about on my Yelp! page.
5. The Stereotypical Parisian
I hate stereotypes, but if you your trip to Paris is looming and you tell people where you’re headed, many will wish you luck with the rude locals. They’re stereotyped to be cold, rude and very unapproachable.
I would like to set the record straight. Like the minority of European, American, Canadian, African, Wherever-an’s – some are rude and obnoxious. Many may rudely grimace at your poor attempt of the French language. The majority however are friendly, understanding and appreciative of your French attempts. Many will just begin to converse with you in English and you will carry on with your day. We met some really lovely Parisian people whilst we were there and many served us with impeccable manners and approachability.
Please don’t believe stereotypes – otherwise I’d have to live up to being a dippy girl from Essex with blonde hair, fake boobs and no common sense, when in actual fact I’m a hard working young woman, training to be a nurse with common sense and real boobs. Don’t judge by stereotype.
Although, I will advise you to start your conversation with Bonjour (Hello), ending with Au Reviour (Goodbye) and using your S’il vous plaît (Please) and Merci (Thank you). Just like you’d appreciate someone trying to speak your language, they appreciate it too.
6. Drink more, it is financially better for you!
There is no shortage of beautiful wine in Paris, however like many things it is a little more expensive than what you may be used to. We found that by the end of our stay, it works out a lot cheaper to buy a bottle rather than a glass. It makes so much more financial sense and also means you have a constant supply, if you want it!
7. Lack of Coffee Shops
Now, this tip may just be applicable to our trip. No matter how hard we looked, to try and find a coffee shop was not easy. I have always been under the impression that coffee shops are everywhere in Paris but we found them to be scarce. Again, maybe our expectations were too high, maybe we were looking in all of the wrong places – but two avid coffee drinkers felt that the amount of coffee shops were lacking! We kept mainly to the Eiffel Tower side of The Seine so perhaps this was why. But on our last day, we jumped on Le Metro to the Champs-Élysées and still found coffee shops few and far between. If you have any advice on our caffeine slump, please do comment so we are better informed for our next visit!
8. It needs no introduction: Food
Now if you know me on a personal level, you know that one of my favourite parts about travelling is trying the different cuisine. I think it tells a lot about where you are and the people who live there.
Parisian food is second to none, which I genuinely believe is why we didn’t mind paying the prices as it was high quality. If I was charged 18€ for a burger and fries from Burger King, I’d be disgusted. But for the hand cut fries, fresh salad and rare steak meat inside my burger, I could swallow my pride and cough up the mullar.
Try everything, even the things that make you feel uncertain. The food is delicious!
Although, my advice is to pace yourself. The level of consumption was far too great for my body, so I spent a few hours over the weekend in the room laying down feeling sick/with a stomach ache.
Utilise the websites and apps that offer reviews, and review the places you visit. Be it Trip Advisor or Yelp!, or any other type of review website please get involved. By doing this you are far less likely to waste your time in an area with rude staff, crap food and smelly toilets. We found some absolute gems on Yelp! and Trip Advisor, and have tried to leave reviews for places to help other people have a fab time. Again, if you’d like to see some reviews for some of the places we visited just visit my Yelp! page.
There is no way that I could write up a blog post about my trip to Paris without mentioning the stunning architecture. You obviously have the staple architectural visits: Eiffel Tower, Arc D’Triomphe, but the city offers stunning buildings that you may just past as you peruse the area. One aspect of the city that I really loved was the structure of the houses and shops: the colours, the width and the romantic windows. Please don’t experience Paris without really taking in the architecture, it is stunning.
Whilst on the subject, I’d like to recommend lunch at the Eiffel Tower. The staff are charming and the food is beautiful! You will need to book in advance and on the day we went, they closed one of the lifts so there was some unorganised chaos getting to the restaurant but it really is worth it. It also gives you access to the entire floor to see the views and visit the shops. I couldn’t recommend it enough!
So, here are my top 10 tips! Get booking and enjoy the city of love, you will love it!