Hey! I know I’ve been incognito but if you’ve been following me on instagram you’d know that I was in Paris!
I definitely enjoyed the city but since I’m here not only to share my travels, but to provide information that would be useful to travelers, here I go…I’ve attached a few notes that will help those who go to Paris for the first time.
My first European adventure was an awesome one! I took French in high school and had a longtime dream of going so I’m thankful that I finally had an opportunity. A friend of mine from college has been living there for the past sixteen months therefore I got to experience and learn a few things from a local. I know I always say, “you experience the real Hawaii when you hang with a local” but it’s very true. Island locals will take you to all the cool spots that are not on the travel guide, you experience local food everyday and you will be treated like family for sure!
My best resource– Go to cometoparis.com for great ideas on places to visit. I am not going to list all the places you should visit because there are too many to name and I tried to see my top 10. Don’t be disappointed if you don’t get to see them all, it’ll just give you another reason to return. I have a few pictures on my instagram #bluecrushtravel. I suggest you try a Seine river cruise, a simple tour or dinner cruise. I surprised my friend for her birthday with a dinner cruise, on the Bateaux Mouches, and we had a lovely time! Somewhere out on the worldwide web is a video of us singing happy birthday to her on the boat. It came with wine and a gourmet meal. Very delicious and the service was great.
Comfortable shoes– I can honestly say I probably walked 5-6 miles per day and at the end of my first day I literally thought my legs were going to fall off, but thanks to Aleve I was a trooper for the rest of my stay 😉 I brought my Clarks boat shoes and ballet flats and they both did a great job for me.
Long lines– Be prepared for long lines at the museum so my best advice would be to book tickets beforehand. Other than that, take it all in because the museums are beautiful and there is so much to see! Just a bit of advice, museums are free on first Sundays so I would definitely take advantage of that when planning your trip. Amazingly and in my opinion, the souvenirs were fairly cheap in the museum. I spent only 16 euros on what could have easily been $50-70 in the U.S. I ended up with a Mona Lisa pen, magnet and replica 11×14 picture. It’s the best money I’ve ever spent in a museum!
Closest beach– Since this is a blue crush blog I made it a mission to go to a beach and it was the number one thing I wanted to do, second was to see the Eiffel Tower. Two hours away was Deauville Beach. I enjoyed my time there but I discovered a couple of things. The walk from the boardwalk pavement to the actual beach had to have been 150 yards. Oh my it was a long walk but since I am a positive person, I’ll just say that when I reached the water it made it all worthwhile! The water was ice cold but still very nice.
Eiffel Tower pic– Put together a nice outfit for your Eiffel Tower souvenir picture. It’s a must and a great way to capture your visit to Paris. I bought a red beret, a silk scarf for my handbag and one for my neck and wore my gold Michael Kors heels with a wrap dress. Check it out on my instagram!
Universal charger– When I arrived I found out immediately that I should have invested in a universal charger. The one I owned for my smartphone and laptop was only good in the U.S. and not for European outlets. I would suggest the Lifetrons Switzerland travel adaptor.
Strikes and train wifi– I would advise you not to visit Paris during their strikes, unless you have the patience. I was delayed with Air France for two hours and my trip to Deauville Beach also met a three hour delay, due to the strikes by transportation workers. You can easily lose sightseeing time if you get caught up in the routes that are affected. Also, there was no wifi on the train so bring music or a great book to fill the time.
Dining– Expect to only see your waiter when you place your order, your food is served and when you are ready to pay. Also, you don’t have to tip! Unlike in the U.S., you expect great service and tip nicely if your waiter was attentive and accommodating, not the case in Paris. It is not customary to tip and they do not keep coming back to refill your glass. When you ask for the check make sure to say “l’addition s’il vous plait”. Always say hello when you arrive and always say bye and thank you when you leave. It is customary, not to mention polite and remember it’s not where you’re from, it’s where you’re at 😉
Water– We were charged 5.40 euro on a bottle of water! Simply say “Une carafe d’eau, s’il vous plait” for tap water if you want simple water and nothing fancy. It is safe to drink.
Toilets– Don’t forget to bring change for bathroom use. I had to pay .50 euro to use the bathroom at a restaurant. Not all of them charge but some do.
Sales– Sync your travels for January or July if you love to shop. My friend mentioned buying dresses for 1 euro during these sales. Talk about a great sale!
VAT refund– Online it states 20% vat refund but it is actually only 12% in Paris. This is money you get back on purchases over 175 euro. Well worth it since I see it as a savings but quite honestly, when the U.S. dollar is weaker than the Euro as it is currently, not completely great. While I was there 1 USD = .73 Euro. I claimed VAT on my Louis Vuitton purchase and I couldn’t resist buying a bag from Louis Vuitton, since it is a world renowned fashion product of France. The store handles the paperwork for you but you must provide your passport. The last step is to have the VAT bar code receipts scanned at the airport VAT kiosk and drop the sealed envelope in a VAT drop box located at the airport. It is a very simple process.
Hotel– I stayed at Hotel Astoria. Nice boutique hotel but actually smaller than I thought it would be. The pictures on hotels.com are accurate but spaces are tight. It was a 10-minute walk to the train station and 154usd/nt, which included a free breakfast and free mini bar.
French language– It is a must to learn the language even if it’s 15 of the top, most used phrases. First of all, we are known as Americans for expecting the country to adjust to us than the other way around and this is a big NO NO! Learn the language even if it’s just: Hello, Good morning, Thank you, Please, Where is the bathroom?, I would like…
And since I am very big on initiative I’ll have YOU look it up in French!! 😉 I studied the language prior to my trip using youtube videos, duolingo, babbel and downloading most used phrases on the web prior to my trip and I’m glad I did. When I arrived at customs I said “Bonjour” which put a big smile on the agent’s face and then a nod and ear to ear smile once I said “Merci Beaucoup” and “Au revoir!” once he handed back my passport. The French love it when you speak their language. I think they appreciate that you took the time to learn their language and you are not just the ‘lost tourist’.
I hope you enjoyed reading my tips and how my first experience in Paris was like. If you have been to Paris please share your experience below. I’d love to hear from you!
Haze- Blue Crush Travel
Pic: Deauville Beach Deauville, France