We all have that one city we are completely besotted with ever since we can remember. That one city which probably constructs the perfect vision in your head, every time you take a moment to conjure a picture of it. It never mattered that you had actually not seen the city. Until you actually do. You can read a billion travelogues and you can inundate under the effect of a billion lists, it is never going to feel like enough preparation. Sometimes, knowing your basics is enough and the rest as they say can be 'winged'. I have not been an ardent traveller as much as I would like to be. That could be the reason it took me twenty five years to plan this holiday and plant my feet in the city of my dreams. Eiffel Tower always sparkled with the lights of a thousand glittering bulbs in my head. It was always windy and my hair always managed to stay right where I intended them to be by the end of the day, in my imagination. The 'creme glacee' as the French would say, always looked perfect in my head maybe even with a sprinkle of edible glitter. Women in the most effortless kind of street style were always running asunder and I wouldn't even want to get to those dapper French men. If I could put it in the most succinct manner, Paris is all that and more. It is not just a board straight out of Pinterest, it is that board with a hint of reality. Parisians don't poop rainbows and everything is not topped with a dollop of glitter or cream (it could be if you cared no less about your health) but it is dreamy, beautiful and instils a sense of revelry in you that no other place does. The architecture of France, which includes Pre-Roman, Romanesque, Medieval and other periods that it pans over, is so magnificent that every possible cliche on the list of touristy sights, is worth going to. In order to save you the hassle of compiling tips from twenty blogs, below is a list of ten things to do(or not to do) to have a fun short trip to Paris. It is not all inclusive and does not include the complete list of places to go to or what to eat, but it touches upon important matters:
- Get ready to walk. And walk a lot. Paris is a city best seen on foot because you never know what you might find in the lane adjoining your hotel. A lot of areas can be covered on foot over a few hours. And if you are as enthusiastic as we were, you will probably walk half the city and back. Comfortable shoes are a priority, as are comfortable bags.
- Le Marais should not be missed. This might be driven by the fact that we decided to stay in that area but I can safely say that every possible element of the Parisian culture can be found in this area. You can walk down a lane and buy wholesale jewellery or walk down another and find it lined with the cutest cafes. You could buy every possible variety of flowers (including those fabulous tulips) and you could also grab a drink at a bar where the locals hang at the same time. It is brimming with cute little boutiques and ample of street style.
- If you, like me are a 'need-to-see-everything' kind of a traveller then a word of caution: Do not spend an entire day at the Louvre, unless art is the purpose of your travel. There are many other museums and art galleries that you could see in the remainder of the day, which include Musee D'Orsay. Finding the most coveted paintings and sculptures at the Louvre is not hard, given that there are audio commentaries available along with some research that you could do on what to see before you actually go there.
- Eat and drink where the locals do. We found this little bar called Industrie in our locale of Le Marais and I believe that the fun, French evening out vibe there remains unparalleled to any of our touristy cafe jaunts. Ask the locals, see where they go for a stiff drink or a portion of their beef tartar and live a day in their life. Another must visit, albeit a little expensive is Les deux Magots at Rue de Bonaparte which incidentally, I did first find through some food blogs.
- The longest walk and definitely worth all the hype is the walk to Montmartre. There are buses and trains that drop you to the plateau landing and there upwards is the most beautiful walk, where in you will cross artists sitting by the road and dreamily sketching away, bars to grab a drink on the way and even souvenir shops since Montmartre is such a tourist attraction. The walk is worth every calf muscle pain especially with the views from the top.
- Shopping is an expensive affair in Paris. If you are from India then you would be happy to know that at least the high end designer lines are slightly cheaper. High street is almost priced similarly but it is great in terms of the variety of brands available and the collections they are displaying at the certain point. There are plenty of indigenous small boutiques but those are definitely more expensive than the high street brands.
- A little bit of working knowledge of the language will go a long way. I travelled with my sister who had been to Paris before and I was equipped with the working knowledge of the French language. It makes things like identifying food items (not all places have an english menu and not all who wait on you know english), asking for directions (simple words like left, right, straight), total sum of a bill or in a cab (working knowledge of numbers) a lot simpler. You also deal better with interactions when you have to pronounce a certain word since French pronunciations are extremely convoluted. Besides, lets not forget, a simple 'Merci' (French for Thank you) post a hearty meal will definitely leave you feeling more at home.
- Dressing for Paris is a tricky affair. While one way to go about it would be to wear what you are most comfortable in, the other way is to dress like the Europeans. I love European fashion and hence dressing for the weather with ample of layers, oversized coats, gloves, beanies et al was a breeze. Parisian women never over dress and a leather jacket with great pants and boots with an infinity scarf and red lips with no make up is their staple for the ideal French winter.
- Moulin Rouge is definitely a must watch simply because of the culture of cabaret that it introduced in all of Europe and the fact that it continues to be a highly entertaining evening spent over some champagne. Some of the acts from the 1800s continue to make their way into the evening still.
- This last one is for those who want to relax and just soak in the vibe. Find yourself a nice cafe (there is one literally after every two steps), preferably not near an obvious tourist attraction, pick up a book to read, alternate that with people watching and pet watching since pets are allowed everywhere (including indoors) in France, sip your cafe ou cafe au last (coffee or coffee with milk), grab a smoke with your coffee and croissant (in case tobacco is your thing!) and soak in the culture. Alternatively, you could do this somewhere outside like around the fountain in Jardin du Tuileries and also seek pride in the fact that you're sitting in a very historically significant garden.
If you are still reading, here a few snap shots from my sojourn in Paris.
If you have any questions, doubts or just random experiences to share about Paris, you are more than welcome to drop in a comment and I would love to respond to the best of my knowledge.