Everyone knows that Paris is a beautiful city full of romance and plenty of tourist attractions. I just returned from a wonderful long weekend there, so I thought I would share a few things that surprised me on my trip. Here it goes, in no particular order:
- There are lots of places to get a good view of Paris: Of course there is the Eiffel Tower, but there are also several other places that might even have a better view. You can take the funicular up to Sacre-Coeur in Montmarte (or walk up the stairs like we did). If that is not high enough, you can climb 400 more steps up to the top of the dome. You can also climb the stairs to the top of Notre Dame and the Arc de Triomphe. Galeries Lafayette also has a wonderful view from the top floor café. You can read more about the climb to the top of Notre Dame here.
- Not many places have free wi-fi: Our twitter and instagram followers may have noticed decreased activity. This was mainly due to the lack of free wi-fi that I was able to find. Of course, there were Starbucks that had free wi-fi, but I really did not want to spend my time in Paris there. Most museums and brasseries that we went to did not have free wi-fi. And those that did were usually poor quality.
- Metro is excellent: I am using the NYC subway as my reference point and the Metro is so much better. The longest we had to wait was 4 minutes and the cars and stations were much cleaner than NYC. There was one time that I had to deal with bad body odor, but luckily that ride was short. It is cheap (each trip costs 1.80 euro) and you can also get a daily or weekly pass.
- Be prepared for bag searches: Even though I had a small purse, I was constantly being subjected to a search. This included to get into tourist attractions, shopping centers, and also in the metro. We also saw some military personnel with large guns. Unfortunately, I think this must be in reaction to the recent terrorist attacks, but better safe than sorry.
- Fountains are not always on: Paris has over 350 beautiful fountains, however, most of the ones we came across were dry. According to various websites the fountains are turned off in the winter, however we were there the first week of October. We could only imagine how much more beautiful Paris would be with working fountains.
- People are putting locks everywhere: There was the tradition that you would write your name and your significant other’s name on a lock on the Pont Des Arts and toss the key into the Seine as a symbol of being together forever. You may have heard that authorities have been removing the love locks from the Pont Des Arts. That is true, but lovers have found other areas to leave the locks. There is a railing on land by the bridge that is filled with locks. There were also lots of locks by the Pont Neuf. We even saw some on the railing by the replica of the Statue of Liberty torch that has become a makeshift memorial for Princess Diana. In some of the areas, there were people selling locks and also selling engraving services.
- Google maps has a terrible French accent: We did walk around Paris a fair bit, since it is really the best way to see the city. We used Google maps to help us navigate the streets. We would get a good laugh from the pronunciation of the French street names.
- Souvenir Eiffel towers are cheapest from street vendors at the Eiffel tower: Normally, you may not get the best deal on souvenirs in the tourist areas. However, if you want a replica of the Eiffel Tower, the best area to get these are at the Eiffel Tower. There are so many vendors selling them, it helps keep the price down. You should still be sure to bargain as we did have a pretty easy time getting the vendors to come down in price. They also have a good selection – lots of different sizes and even some that light up (batteries are included!).
- The Eiffel tower light show is amazing: Our last night in Paris, we picnicked by the Eiffel tower to catch the light show that happens the first five minutes of each hour starting a 8 pm. When the show would start there was a collective “awe” from the crowd that had gathered. We tried to take pictures and video, but it really didn’t do it justice. This is a must see for any Paris trip. Also, there were vendors walking around selling bottles of wine and champagne.
- Right now there are a lot of renovations going on in Paris: We had wanted to take pictures of the Eiffel Tower from Place de Trocadero, but there was a large area that was covered. In addition, both the Pantheon and the Rodin Museum were still open, but undergoing repairs. You may want to research this in advance to make sure it doesn’t affect your plans.
- Mustard is really good: Growing up in Texas, I am a fan of yellow mustard. It seemed like most places we ate would set a container of Dijon mustard on the table without any prompting. I had to try it and it was really good, especially with steak tartare.
- Photo shoots everywhere: I lost count of how many bridal photo shoots I saw in the few days we were in Paris. We also saw engagement and fashion model shoots. It makes a lot of sense since there are so many beautiful spots like Place de Trocadero, Sacre Coeur, Pont Alexander III, and the lovely parks. There are many options to hire your own photographer if you like or you can just head to these spots and test out your photography skills.
Paris really is a wonderful city and there is a lot more to it than what I mention here. More blog posts about what to do (Louvre, Notre Dame) in Paris will be forthcoming, but the bottom line is if you haven’t been to Paris, go and if you’ve been, there is always more to experience in the City of Lights.
- Walking is the best way to get around Paris and see the city, but the metro is a great option if you are pressed for time or your feet are tired.
- Avoid carrying a large bag, it can be a pain with bag searches.
- There are many local sandwich shops where you can get great food for picnics, but they are usually not open late. You can also buy great cheeses and wines at the supermarche (supermarket).