Travel Tip Tuesday: Five Ways to feel at Home in Paris

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!

12 Responses
  1. It’s so funny, when I read the headline I guess I was thinking like an expat? And thought it was going to be a list of places you can feel like an American? Dunno why.

    I’ve always been more of a Tuilleries fan myself, love it! I guess because it’s on the way of my favorite walk, from the Pei pyramid to the Eiffel Tower.

    Mont Orgeuil (hatcheted spelling, I know) is great, and makes me feel like a Parisian at home in Paris.

    (Guilty pleasure is Breakfast in America, both for the excellent food and the watching of Parisians not have a clue what to order.)
    To feel like an American in Paris, we used to go to Chewy’s Mexican restaurant for ritas and over to the American bookstore (both near the Opera). Another fun area in Paris!! I’ve NEVER head of Breakfast in America … OMG. HOW FUN!

  2. We saw Breakfast in America- it was next to our hotel in the Marais. We laughed, hard, when we saw it!!

    Great list C. We have a few things in common.It’s hard not to love anything and everything in Paris 🙂
    I mean, do they have GRITS? If they have grits it is worth the plane ride!

  3. Jeff

    My favorite part was going up to the Sacre Coeur and then afterward we ate at a Pakistani Restaurant nearby. Defintely a little different. Also I like trying to say Sacre Coeur like a French person. It sounds like you cursing!

    See? France is DEFINITELY more “International” than Italy. There is also a great fondue restaurant near Sacre Coeur that I love! They serve wine in baby bottles … I kid you not. It rocks!

  4. I like to just walk and walk and walk. It’s just an amazingly beautiful place and I feel really great. I take a seat in a cafe window and read or write, I walk to and from Metro stops, I shop in tiny places I have never heard of, and I look at roofs. It is the most homogeneous of the great cities and for that I think is beautiful.
    Like NY, you can find anything you want in Paris. I just haven’t stayed long enough to find a Parisien.
    It is settled, Judith we are going to Paris together. I’ll help you find a Parisian so we’ll have a great place to stay when we fly in on the weekends! 🙂

  5. Oh, how I love Paris! I was just there for two weeks with my kids this summer. I agree with everything on your list and would also add that from the Place de la Bastille there is a great walking path (an old railway line) that starts out over an old aquaduct that is full of chic shops and goes all the way to the Bois de Vincennes. It’s called the Promenade Plantee, and you can read more about it here:

    I also recommend renting an apartment and shopping at the nearest market. We stayed right by the Place Monge, which has a fabulous market three times a week. By the end of our stay I was getting cooking tips from the vendors there.
    THAT is a great path, I know where you are talking about … ahhh, isn’t Paris wonderful? I love that you got cooking tips fort he people at the market! What a memory!

  6. Definitely a sit or stroll in the Luxembourg Gardens, listening to some musicians in the Metro, eating a crepe, taking BW photos of just about anything in the city in winter… Thanks for taking me there once again.
    Yes. Yes. Yes. I hope you get back (for real) soon!

  7. I really should book a trip to Paris…Just wondering who the best person to go with would be!!! My husband would be a good person for some to it…but you know, sometimes you really need a female for the girly bits. 🙂
    Oh you should go with your hubby. Paris is sooo romantic!

  8. Alisa

    I really loved the open air produce market. It was so beautiful and interesting, and it had such a great vibe. And few tourists. 🙂
    Oh yes, the open air markets. There is SO much to love about Paris … ahhh….

  9. casacaudill

    Every guide book tells you to go to go to the Rue Cler and the Rue Mouffetard, and while both are great, it was some of the less “popular” open air markets in non-touristy neighborhoods that we found ourselves wandering happily. I would also recommend staying in a neighborhood that’s not typically a tourist neighborhood – find a hotel, b&b or apartment in a residential neighborhood where real Parisians live and work and use that as your base.
    Great advice! Thanks for sharing.

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