Reason for Visit
I’ve been to Paris six times, living there for 10 months when I was in college. It is my absolute favorite place in the whole world, except the place I live (Nashville, TN). Whenever people visit Paris, they ask me for ideas of what to see or do and are always surprised that I don’t recommend the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower or Les Champs Elysees. Those are not my Paris. My Paris hides from the tourists, offers delicious cheap house wine, and specializes in quiet moments. My Paris is a maze of side streets and parks, smaller ticket attractions with big photo op's, affordable restaurants and accommodations that will let you live like a local.
Airport: Charles de Gaulle is the easiest option.
Currency: the Euro!
Best time to go: Not only can the summer be boiling hot but July and August are the two months that all of Europe goes on vacation so either it’ll be jam-packed with fellow tourists or it’ll be empty because everyone left and half of the shops and cafes are closed. The spring can be a bit rainy but that means fewer people and cooler temperatures. My favorite time to visit is Sept-Oct (nice weather, fewer tourists, just beautiful!) but if I were going to Paris, I wouldn’t be picky about time of year (except not in August, never again! And probably not January as it’s cold and grey and dreary.)
How to get around:
· Walk! Paris is not a huge city. You can literally walk top to bottom in 2 hours. (Not kidding, I’ve done it.) Walking allows you to diverge from your path, stumble upon small neighborhood parks and dive bars, and gives you lots of photo opportunities along the way. It’s my favorite way to explore any new city or to enjoy familiar ones.
· Cabs: My least favorite way to get around unless you’re in the mood for an adrenaline-filled life-or-death ride. They cram in extra lanes of traffic, don’t always look out for pedestrians and aren’t always the friendliest. We only took one cab on our last trip, just because we were dragging a bunch of luggage from our apartment to the train station, and it was fine; we survived, it wasn’t expensive, and the guy was nice enough. But I’ve had some terrible cab experiences and this is at the bottom of my list.
· Uber: Regardless of where I am, I find Uber drivers to be more careful than cab drivers, and I like the convenience of hailing a ride from my phone, tracking our route, and rating our drivers. This isn’t an option, obviously, if you don’t have an international data plan (and I don’t think you need one to get around) so I actually haven’t used Uber in Paris.
· Subway! The Paris metro is, in my opinion, one of the finest in the world (but don’t get into a fight with a New Yorker about this! Haha) and it’s one of the easiest to navigate. But it can be intimidating if you don’t speak the language. You can buy “carnets” (packets) of 10 tickets at a time from the kiosks, or if you’ll be there for a long time buy a long-term metro pass. Some key things to know:
o Signs with the M in a circle = Metro = Subway. Just your regular run of the mill subway line, going from Destination A to Destination B. You don’t need to know north or south or east or west; just know which destination, A or B, is in the direction of where you’re headed and go to that ‘quais’ (platform).
o Signs with RER in a circle = metro/subway trains that go out to the suburbs. If you take the train from the airport into the city, you’ll be on an RER. If you go out to DisneyLand Paris, you’ll be on the RER. Rides within the city on either the M or the RER cost the same.
o Zones: There are 5 Metro Zones, and you probably will stay within Zones 1 and 2 the entire time, unless you head out to La Défense, which is Zone 3, or Versailles in Zone 4.
o Ask for help! Living in a super tourist destination, Parisians are used to people not knowing what they’re doing. Ask one of the cashiers, or even a fellow traveler. Say “Excusez-moi, pouvez-vous m’aider?” and smile. (Don’t worry, there’s a quick phrase cheat sheet below!)