Paris. The City of Lights. The city of romance … the city where everyone spews French faster than the TGV can get to Versailles and where the locals, well … may or may not like your American-ass accent.
Eight years ago I boarded my first intercontinental flight and headed thousands of miles from everyone I knew. Armed only with my French phrase book and a DLP work visa I set out to see the world. Or at least, Paris, France.
The first few days were trying. It was blistery cold, I didn’t speak a word of French and I felt, for lack of a more descriptive word, lost.
But the first time I stepped off of the Metro and onto the Champs Elysee, I was mesmerized. The Arc de Triomphe stood proudly behind me as a flutter of beautiful French women carried me two steps forward.
I was in Paris!
I’ve learned there are essentially two kinds of travelers. Those who like to see different things and never eat at the same place twice and those who like to blend in, live like the locals and really, I mean really know an area.
I’m the second kind.
Over the last few years I’ve been asked dozens of times for recommendations on what top things my friends and family members should do when they are in Paris. The Louvre is amazing, the Eiffel Tower is a must. Versailles is, well … Versailles! But, if I went to Paris tomorrow I’d skip those things.
Here are Five Must-Do Things to Feel at Home in Paris.
5. Hang out in Bastille. Bastille is one of the trendiest areas in Paris and overflows with cheap restaurants and great bars … and there is Haagen Daz. About 50% of our Parisian evenings ended with a night cap in Bastille, people watching and practicing French with our newest amis.
4. Stroll the Seine. The Seine River divides Paris into two halves, The Right Bank and The Left Bank. Whichever bank you choose, you will discover outdoor merchants selling watercolor paintings, handmade crafts and books or postcards. There is no better way to feel at home in Paris than by walking arm in arm with a good friend along the side of the Seine. In fact, I met one of my best French friends while I was strolling solo along the banks before a wine festival, and eight years later we are still in touch.
3. Have a picnic in the Place du Tertre. Bohemian culture is thriving in the Place du Tertre in Montmartre, just steps away from the famous Sacre Coeure Basillica and previous home to some of the world’s most notable artists. You will likely be bombarded with requests to paint your “beautiful face” as you walk through the square, but resist. (Trust me.) Take a step back and just watch the energy. It’s captivating.
2. Grab a gyro and a bottle of vin and head to Notre Dame. About once a week my friends and I would find ourselves sitting on the stairs that led to the Seine next to Notre Dame – with a gyro and a bottle of six franc wine. The Latin Quarter is just across from the impressive Notre Dame Cathedral and is home to the best gyros I’ve ever had – Greece included. The gyro guy recognized us and always mumbled a word or two in English as he poured on extra tzatziki for my pal, Adrian and handed me a few more napkins. We’d stroll along the Seine en route to Notre Dame, where we would decend the stairs and picnic on the bank. We would sit for hours talking, laughing and passing the bottle as we waved to Japenese tourists on the Seine Dinner Cruise ships beside us.
1. Read a book in the Luxembourg Gardens. Or if you prefer, take your journal and make note of the sounds and sights of one of the most beautiful gardens in the world. Jardin du Luxembourg features fountains, statues and the Medicis palace which was modeled after the family’s native home in Florence, Italy. Children play freely, people walk their dogs and others, like me, sit and watch.
Have you ever been to Paris? What are your favorite things to do? What would you recommend to your friends ?
Until next time … Buon Viaggio!