"There's nothing quite as magical as Paris," they said.
"They don't like Americans, are you sure you want to go?" they asked.
Lights, love... It's one of those right?
Those are just a couple of the comments I received when people found out I was going to Paris this summer. Apparently, you're either a Francophile or definitely not a Francophile.
Still not sure how you can't love this city, but go on with your anti -Paris bad self (my attempt at being understanding and stuff).
Well... I for one fell in love with the city of love. I was only there for four days and am already counting the days/minutes/breaths until my next Parisian rendezvous (see what I did there? ). Paris is the definition of a multi-faceted destination. The saying is true, there is nothing quite like Paris. That's why I'm sharing my tips for visiting Paris to ensure that you can have the best Parisian experience and you know eventually join the legion of Francophiles.
1. DO wakeup early and walk to your nearest bakery or boulangerie to score yourself a chocolate croissant
We did this our last morning in Paris and you bet your bottom dollar that I wish we had done this every morning (granted, I don't want to trade the delicious food we had the other mornings). Our last day, we woke up extra early to make sure we took advantage of our last day and thanks to my boyfriend's nose for delicious smelling foods, we found ourselves at the bakery around the corner where all the locals seemed to be getting their Sunday morning fixins. I was standing in line, mentally rehearsing how I was going to attempt to order two chocolate croissants in French all while drooling at the array of pastries and baked goods in front of my eyes. Fast forward to our walk back to our hotel (where we were supposed to go to eat our croissants) and both croissants are already being inhaled. There is no way those warm, fresh and chocolate-y croissants were going to make it to the hotel...2 blocks away. Buttery, flaky and the perfect amount of chocolate, also known as gifts from heaven. If we talk after your trip to Paris and you tell me you didn't have a chocolate croissant from your neighborhood bakery, you can consider those fighting words.
2. DON'T go to Moulin Rouge (unless you're actually going to see a show)
Now, I know the film Moulin Rouge made Moulin Rouge look really sexy. Well, it's not...unless you're going to an actual show. We were told to visit the area where Moulin Rouge is and go see where the theatre is, even if we weren't seeing a show. Welp, I'm here to tell you that you shouldn't. The area immediately surrounding Moulin Rouge (not all of Montmartre by any means) was the only part of Paris where I genuinely worried about pickpocketers. It's a seedy area that I wouldn't revisit. Not only that but if you're not seeing a show, you're really only seeing the outside and taking a picture of the sign. To top it off for us, the entire front of Moulin Rouge was under construction when we visited. Lovely. My advice? Skip Moulin Rouge unless you're watching a show or want to see Paris's red light district but don't skip Montmartre (the part of town where Moulin Rouge is).
3. DO make the trek up the steps of Montmartre to see the Sacré-Cœur basilica (and the stunning views from there)
Speaking of Montmartre, you'll want to make sure you visit this arrondissement (French neighborhood or district). Not only is Montmartre a romantic and charming area but it's also home to one of the best views of Paris. Now it won't be an easy trek to see these views but it's definitely worth it. Wether you come from the Moulin Rouge side or the not red light district side, you'll have to climb some steps. We did both sides and I would say that coming up from the Moulin Rouge side was definitely easier than the latter. Once you get up the steps, you'll marvel at the architecture that is the basilica but your jaw might drop when you consume the city views. This was a really cool part of our trip. Not only was the inside and outside of the basilica so intricate and beautiful but there was also really talented street performers outside. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so here's 999 and I'll let you come up with the last one.
Views from Sacré-Cœur in Montmartre are endless ©milleniGAL
4. DO buy champagne and snacks at a LOCAL grocery store to have a picnic under the Eiffel Tower
Because no one wants to spend $19 for a split of champagne when you can buy it for a quarter of the price at a local grocery store. Load up on delicious bread, snacks and French wine at the local market so you don't have to be the victim of price gauging when you go to buy snacks at the Eiffel Tower. Otherwise, your romantic picnic under the Eiffel Tower will resemble the price tag of a gourmet dinner.
5. DO try to use some French words
We changed our itinerary to include Paris only 2 weeks before our departure date which didn't give me enough time to learn as many French words/terms as I wanted to but as soon as Paris was confirmed, I downloaded Duolingo app on my phone and went to town on the app. I am SO glad that I learned a few words and short phrases because personally, I feel like it made interactions with locals much friendlier (more on the friendliness later...). Now don't be mistaken, I was not by an means speaking full French sentences but the small effort I made with using French vocabulary and short phrases, made a difference. I think it's a cultural thing and I feel like the French tend to appreciate and respect that you are trying to speak their language. After all, they're extremely proud of their culture and little things like a s'il vous plaît (please) or merci beaucoup (thank you very much) can go a long way. When I incorporated French words in my communication with locals, it seemed to break the ice a bit. It showed that I was not too proud to absorb their culture (and potentially make a fool of myself). I specifically recall another American traveler who approached a bus driver to ask for directions in English and was blown off. I was intimidated to be next to ask for directions but I tried my best to ask in (broken) French and was pleasantly surprised when he responded with a smile from ear to ear and was given the directions I needed. From that moment forward, I decided to do my best to speak whatever French words I could wether it be in an Uber, a cafe or at a gift shop.
I figured out how to ask where Ladurée was reaaaal quick.
6. DON'T take the Parisian attitude personally
I'm not going to lie and sugar coat things. It's true, some of the people you encounter in Paris are not going to be the friendliest humans you've ever met or be the keenest on tourists. Don't take it personally and don't let it ruin your trip. Don't let it stop you from immersing yourself in centuries old history and culture. Don't let it stop you from enjoying beautiful architectural wonders and decadent art! We had a few encounters where I stepped back and thought to myself, "I guess people were right back home, they must not like Americans." But I didn't want to generalize a whole group of beautiful people, so I didn't take it personally. Our last night in Paris, we were sitting outside the cafe we had frequented a couple times during our four day stay and were approached by a group of French young men who just wanted to chat with us. They saw my boyfriend's hat (representing the SD Padres!) and wanted to chit chat and talk sports. We ended up talking to them for over an hour about everything you can think of — sports, Obama, Trump, differences between the USA and France. And finally, it happened. We talked about how the majority of people haven't been too friendly. They're answer was similar to what our friend at the front desk of our hotel said — it's a big city, people are in a rush, they're use to millions of tourists, go outside the city and it'll be different, it's the cold weather that makes people unfriendly (couldn't imagine that as it was 105° as we were chatting). What started as a group of two young French guys stopping by to chat turned into 8 of their friends jumping in to introduce themselves. They were by far, the friendliest, most outgoing people we met (and, they approached US) but my point is don't let the idea that you are bound to encounter some not so friendly people ruin your trip. Be mindful of cultural differences, remember that you are a visitor in their country and simply don't take it personally.
Because my trip to Paris wouldn't have been complete without meeting Van Gogh, face to face.