Quick Guide to Paris, France

Paris, France (excluding major tourist attractions)

First Impression: It is hard to have a first impression of such a famous city that isn’t skewed by expectation and prior knowledge.  I had a nasty head cold and wasn’t able to check in to my hotel until 4pm-I’d arrived at 7am; it was cold and rainy so I spent much of the day wandering around Pigalle and Montmartre.

Where I stayed: Hostel Le Regent Montmartre.  I originally booked a dorm room but because I wasn’t feeling well I switched to a private (90euro/night).  The front desk lady felt sorry for me I think and so booked me into a room on the top floor with the best view of Sacre Coeur.  I fell asleep around 5pm and woke up in the middle of the night to the Basilica all lit up.  The room was small and basic but clean and there was a little balcony to sit on for afternoon wine.

What to wear: Wear whatever you want; of course Paris is fashionable but as a tourist, walking 10-20 km a day, you want to be comfortable. I wore good walking shoes and leggings with a casual dress during the day, and smart casual (jeans and shirt) for evenings out.  Coming from 40/50 degree heat in the Middle East, I found Paris chilly and kept a sweater with me day and night.

What I did: Context-Coming from the UAE, I had been stuck inside for about 2 ½ months due to the heat so I was excited to be outside and did not want to stand in lines to spend time inside museums.  For 5 days I pretty much just walked, I would pick an area and wander for hours, ducking into shops, cafes, restaurants, sitting in the parks, and taking photographs.  I did go into the Erotic Art Museum one day because it was raining and there were no lines.  I rented a bike for a day and with my paper map, explored the city and the tourist zone (Louvre, Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, Champs D’Elysees, and La Seine).  The worst meal I had was in this area; it was like a gas station sandwich but cost 15 euro. I did eat it in the park with my sketchbook though so…

Practical tidbits:

  • Don’t eat in the tourist area but also don’t be bothered with famous restaurants as every single meal I had outside the tourist zone was awesome!
  • Buy a bottle of wine and hang out next to Canal Saint Martin.  Go on a street art tour (self guided or otherwise)
  • Check out the vintage and 2ndhand shops near Bastille. Exact location unknown-but I know that I was walking east of Place Bastille through streets of chain stores when I found a few Consignment shops.
  • Buy cheese, fresh produce, and baguettes, at a market and make your own lunch in the park or at your hotel.
  • Walk and bike as much as possible.
  • We randomly checked meetup.com and found a pub crawl one night-we joined and met a bunch of Parisian expats as well as locals.
  • Do realize that the French are generally a reserved culture and that is why they are not overly friendly and can come off as rude (same thing in most of Quebec).  I speak French fluently so I did not experience any of the ‘rudeness’ Parisians are famous for.

Off the beaten path: Wander through La Goutte D’Or Area (next to Pigalle/Montmartre). It is the African Hub of Paris and has an open air market, Marche DeJean. There are also some great bars and cafes in the area and a lively vibe for a fun walkabout.

Last Impression/Wishes for “next time”:  No regrets on not going to any of the museums but next time I will make a genuine effort to go to Versailles, the Louvre, and perhaps a few other places.

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