The magic of Paris is not a myth. It’s enchanting, captivating and endearing. Yes, it’s true, the City completely stole our hearts. On our first visit to the City of Light in 2014, we had high hopes. After all, it’s the city we all dream about. But I started to get nervous when I spoke to other people and found out that they were less than impressed on their visit to Paris. Anxiously, we arrived prepped with all the stereotypes, ready to be seriously disappointed about what we had expected Paris to be… and nope. It was everything we wanted it to be and more! Here’s why:
The French Are Not Rude:
No, they actually are not rude at all. I would say that they’re busy and distracted, but not rude. They were even helpful, in fact — especially when you look completely lost (we would know)! But a good thing to mention is to be sure to offer a polite ‘bonjour’ (French for Hello) or ‘bonsoir’ (in the evening), whenever you speak to someone. The courtesy will be sure to get you better service. If you’re feeling bold you can add more words to your repertoire; ‘au revoir’ (goodbye) or even: ‘merci, au revoir, bonne journée’ (thank you, goodbye, have a nice day).
The Cafe Culture
We cafe it up a lot on our visits to Paris: see here. And I do think this is the key to doing Paris like a Parisian. You have to sit on a sidewalk at a cafe facing the street (because that’s how they do it) and just take in the city. I like to call it ‘people-judging’ because that’s the only reason I would imagine they would be faced that way, like they’re about to watch a show. But I actually now love the fact that nowhere else in the world do they cafe-it-up like the French!
Paris is an easy city to get around on foot, and as you might know already, we feel like that is the best way to actually experience a city. When you’re driving round, you’re more likely to miss that cute corner cafe or antique store with hidden gems. When your feet do eventually fail you, and you feel like you can walk no longer, you can hop onto an inexpensive metro to take you to your accommodation. Also, the french drive like crazy people so I would avoid that stressful scenario as much as possible.
We Skipped Tourist Traps:
Yes, this is controversial. I mean, how does one go to Paris twice and NOT go up the Eiffel Tower?! Well, for one, we hate waiting in lines (queues). I have an annoying pet-peeve about wasting time waiting around when we could be exploring. And second, I much prefer the actual view of the tower so you can head up the Arc de Triomph or even up Notre Dame! Here’s a great article on all the viewing spots in the city. The day we did succumb to a tourist trap, the Louvre, to see the Mona Lisa of course, we were thoroughly disappointed.
We Didn’t Fall For Tourist Scams:
Maybe it’s cause we’re South African, and maybe it’s cause we know what to look for, but we didn’t fall victim to any common tourists scams, which of course can ruin a holiday. I would highly recommend you get to know the common tricks by reading this article. Put on that resting bitch face and take on the streets like a Parisian! Hide the touristy-giveaways like cameras and backpacks near tourist traps and try blend in. Always be on the lookout!
We Went When It Wasn’t So Crowded:
Avoid the swarm of tourist crowds as much as you can, after all, Paris sees upwards of 30 million of them visiting each year. We visited Paris in late November, when it was slightly cooler but much less busier than it can be during peak season. If you can, I would highly recommend packing in a warm coat and doing the same! Plus, you’ll save on flights and hotel costs! Don’t get me wrong, there are always tourists in Paris, but when you can enjoy it in a quieter moment, it adds to the experience! So another hot tip, wake up earlier: the touristy spots are usually dead early in the morning and it makes for a better photo op.
It is Actually Romantic…
.. if you do the romantic things! Stroll through Jardin du Luxembourg. Picnic under the tower or the Seine with baguettes (even gluten-free ones from Noglu), wine and flowers. Go for a fancy schmancy High Tea at the Four Seasons with your partner. Take a midnight stroll to the Eiffel Tower and watch it glisten and sparkle on the hour. Visit the Wall of Love in Montmartre as you stroll around the streets and pop in and out of cafes. Yes, it’s all so dreamy!
We Loved Our Hotel:
I truly do believe a hotel or accommodation space can make or break a holiday. And for many reasons, our hotel on our first visit to Paris, Secret De Paris, could be one of the big reasons why we fell in love with the city. It was well-positioned, modern and and the service from the staff was out of this world. On our second stay, we didn’t enjoy our hotel’s position as much as the first: it was busy and crowded and felt even more out of the way. The staff weren’t as attentive and the ‘feel’ was just not right. It dimmed our experience of Paris just a little on that second visit.
We Ate Where The Locals Ate:
Having the benefit of an amazing hotel and staff on our first visit, who were on the ball with dinner reservations, we ate some of the best food on our visit to Paris! I would seriously suggest avoiding the tourist trap restaurants and cafes and opt for one of these. The days we did go to them, purely out of convenience, we were so disappointed and vowed never to do it again. To be fair, we also ate where the locals didn’t. Like the Four Seasons Hotel, because we love ’em lavish dinners. But obviously, those are so worth it too and definitely should be splurged on when possible!
We Went For Long Enough:
There are some cities that I think should never be done ‘in a day’ or squashed into a mere ’24 hour stint’. New York, for one, is not that kind of city (even though we had no choice but to do it that way here). On our first visit to Paris, we went for 10 days which was enough to do everything we wanted. The second time, we went for 5 days. You cannot expect to get to know the city’s charm without having time to simply explore on foot. Get lost in the city and find new narrow streets to stroll on. If you do not have time to do that, you did not go for long enough.
Amazing Day Trips:
On our first visit to Paris we went on a day trip to Reims and had a night stay at Disneyland! And, we seriously loved both! Visiting Paris does not mean you have to explore the city everyday without guilt. Walking Paris everyday can get overwhelming too. SO, explore the surrounding areas! Reims was a spontaneous outing on a Monday morning that we had nothing planned. We popped into the train station, grabbed an early ticket and headed for the Champagne Houses! For our stay at Disney, we went big! We booked a night in the castle and felt all the Christmas feels as the Park got ready for the festive season.
So, Tell Me:
Did you love Paris? And why? I want to know all about your visit below! Or if you’re planning on going, what will you be doing?!
Missing you Paris,
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