I’ve just had a few of days in Paris on route to Chamonix and here are some tips to help you enjoy Paris even more.
- Don’t spend all your time at the major attractions.
If the Eiffel Tower, Louvre, Musse d’Orsay and Notre Dame are all on your ‘must see’ list book on-line before you leave home as it will save you hours queuing. If you haven’t managed to pre-book get up early and be the first in the queue.
- Explore the neighbourhoods.
When you have knocked off the major attractions get into the neighbourhoods and start exploring the city. This time I’ve based myself in Saint Germain, a classically Parisian neighbourhood.
With bookstores, design shops, museums, churches, high-end art galleries, boutique hotels, cafés and restaurants it is a destination in itself.
- Have plenty of money
Paris is full of sensory experiences … smelling the freshly baked bread at boulangerie, seeing the Mona Lisa, (albeit behind bullet proof glass) tasting the cheeses and savouring the wine. But none of it’s cheap.
The other morning, we had 2 cappuccinos, an espresso and three pastries at our local corner café and paid 24 Euros. The cappuccinos were 5 Euro each so stick with a simple café au lait at a quarter the price.
- Leave the heels at home
Paris is a city that needs to be explored on foot so put your most comfortable runners on. A good friend who is in love with Paris gave me some advice, “remember to look up,” and she’s right.
- Don’t be in a rush- the traffic is awful
I’ve never really understood what grid-lock traffic look like until we were jammed on all side by cars and buses travelling in both directions through an intersection. Some cars were horizontal and others vertical creating an impassable mess.
Angry horns vibrated for 15 minutes before a beautifully dressed Parisian stepped from his 5 series BMW and started to negotiate with drivers and direct the traffic.
- Enjoy Paris’s Jardins
Paris has a number of inner city gardens. When you are scouting the city remember to walk though the green areas and take a moment to sit and enjoy. One of my favourites, next to the Louvre is Jardin des Tuileries.
- Avoid the smokers
New Zealand leads the world with our smoking laws and we take it for granted smoking in restaurants is prohibited.
The locals have no inhibitions about lighting up while you are eating so chose a table carefully in an open space to avoid inhaling their second-hand smoke.
- The Paris Metro doesn’t have escalators
If you are a train person and don’t mind catching the metro to and from the airport remember the Paris Metro doesn’t have many escalators and lugging a heavy suitcase up and down steps is not good for your back. Likewise, you can get caught as many apartments have 3-4 flights of stairs up.
- Make time for the attractions in Paris
Don’t under estimate the time you will spend at many of Paris’s attractions. The galleries are spectacular and you need a good half-day minimum, as with the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame.
- There is good affordable accommodation -Air B & B
When looking for accommodation in an expensive city like Paris don’t discount Air B & B. They have some great inner city accommodation on their books at affordable prices, larger than your typical European hotel room.