The Travelettes guide to getting the best out of Paris
I came to Paris for the first time as a child. It was love at first sight. It was impossible not to fall for that sheer beauty that emanates from every brick this city was built on. I kept on coming back each summer for four years in a row, until finally I was old enough to pack up my life in Colombia and move it all the way to the French capitol.
Since then it’s been two years and Paris is now my city. I know my neighborhood better than I’ll ever get to know the city I grew up in. I have the metro plan tattooed into my brain. I can bike in the dark, far from being sober, and still find my way with no problem. In those two years Paris has become my home away from home.
I love it here, but it wasn’t always that simple. Paris isn’t an easy going city. People can act cold at times, the metro smells, the streets are dirty… and the prices. Those damn high prices. So many factors that make the charm fade away so easily.
If you want to avoid falling into the “Paris blue” mood, and bring the magic back, you need to battle its monsters. Here are ten weapons to get the Paris love back.
1. Walk. Paris is a never ending city. You will always discover something new. Just go outside, start walking and let your feet take you trough a whole parisian universe you didn’t know before. Afraid of getting lost? You musten’t be! That is only the best strategy to get out of your “Home – Metro – Work” routine and start discovering a whole new city. I highly recommend walking along the Seine and/or the canal Saint Martin. Most of Paris’ magic is hidden in between quais and bridges.
2. Read. Take a book you like, go to one of Paris many beautiful parks, pick a spot and enjoy reading as you let yourself get drawn by the parisian ambiance. If its too windy outside try some of the old style independent libraries that swarm across the city. My favorite one is Shakespeare and Company (37 Rue de la Bucherie, 75004) where sometimes you can listen to someone play the piano while you read.
3. Take it easy. Don’t fall into the “Paris attitude”. Everyone seems to be rushing 24/7. But there is no need to rush: there’s a metro at least every two minutes and one way or another you’ll get to your destination. Calm down, take a deep breath and go to your own rhythm. I’m sure this way you’ll be able to appreciate your entourage a lot more.
4. Bonjour, merci, au revoir. Those are the magical words, don’t be afraid to use them. It’s not because people are rude that you should be so too. Try it, it can be fun to see how people react when you’re nice. You might get some friendly answers back and I can guarantee that will make your day.
5. Get out of town. Paris is charming, but it can also be exhausting. Taking a break will make you appreciate the city even more once you’re back. You don’t have have to go across the continent, just the other side of the périphérique will be enough to change perspectives and calm down for a while. A walk through the forest (Vincennes, Boulogne, Versailles…), visiting the sumptuous castles or just enjoying the country side landscapes have a surprisingly healing effect.
6. Do the tourist thing. Sometimes we get so stuck into our daily routines that we forget we are living on one of the most beautiful cities on earth. Take some time, every now and then, to visit a monument you really like. It will remind you of why you liked Paris on the first place. But don’t saturate. Change your destination, there are tones of monuments, museums or squares I’m sure you haven’t seen yet. Whoever tells you “I’ve seen it all in Paris” is just lying. That’s simply impossible, the city will always surprise you.
7. Un Café S’il vous plait. When i think of Paris one of the first things that comes to mind is the cafés. Yes, those typical cafés where all the seats are placed on a row, looking on the street. Where the small round tables are so close to each other that you can hardly tell where yours ends up and your neighborhood’s begins. Order a coffee of your choice and admire the city’s movements, its people, its charm… what could be more Parisian than that?
8. Abandoned Paris. If you ever get tired of gorgeous, classic Haussmanien buildings and fancy monuments, go and explore the other side of Paris. The one that hides among the old warehouses or the desolated rail trails. Walking around the Belleville neighborhood or nearby the “La petite ceinture” forgotten train tracks will provide you with a new outlook. If you have more time to spend in Paris ask around for a guide who can take you into the catacombs. They cover a supposed 40% of parisian underground and most of them are illegal to enter. We don’t want you to break the law, but a trip down there with an experienced guide can be a once in a lifetime experience.
9. Get high. No, don’t get me wrong. Not that kind of high. Explore the rooftops. It is forbidden to climb up on the residential buildings, but if you have access to one don’t hesitate. (And give me a call. I don’t). If you don’t want to take the risk, it’s ok. There are many public terraces from which you can overlook Paris and it’s beauty. Many are accessible for free (Galleries Lafayette, Printemps…). In some of them you can also enjoy taking a warm drink, or a refreshing cocktail depending on the season.
10. Good night. Good Morning. Paris by day might be a bit overwhelming. So many people rushing, so many traffic jams… But Paris it’s a different city once everyone goes to bed, or just before they get out of it. Walking or biking across the quiet streets of Paris at night or in the early morning will certainly give you a totally different feeling from the city. Remember Paris is called “The city of lights”. In the quiet hours you’ll be lucky enough to get them shinning just for you.
Bonus: Smile. Wherever you are, Paris or not, just cherish the moment and make the best out of it. With a smile on your face, and a positive spirit you’ll get far.
*guest post written by Catherine Quiroga
* photos 1 to 3 by Catherina Qiroga, photos 4,5 by Katja Hentschel
Tags: city travel