ze low down
Overall: We finally understand
why everyone raves about Paris. It’s everything that people
say it is (see paris: i heart
paris) and more. As long as you embrace the snobby waiters
as an essential part of your experience here, we think you’ll
love this city too.
What we did: A week and a
half in Paris falling in love with this city (and watching the
end of the Tour de France). We did just what you think we’d
do in this city – walk around on the streets, shop, sip
coffee, drink wine, sample cheeses and eat to-die-for pastries!
Pont au Change
over the River Seine
Essentials: Bring the bare
minimum, your money (and a willingness to spend it), extra suitcase
space and get everything else when you arrive.
Non-essentials: A negative
attitude about the Parisians and the way they’ll treat you.
We encountered a couple of snobby waiters and just considered
it a part of the total Paris experience.
Food: Kick your low-carb diet
to the curb and indulge in the incredible pastries in Paris. We
just can’t figure out how they make them soooooo good. Stay
out of the touristy spots and try to find some good local bistros.
You may not know what you’re ordering (and you may not want
to) but it’ll probably taste pretty good. Oh, and a few
words of advice…foie gras, foie gras, fois gras. Crepes
and food in touristy areas were generally disappointing.
People: Beautifully put-together
and too pre-occupied to care about talking to you. Seriously,
we did meet some friendly folks, but for the most part we were
less comfortable striking up conversations with strangers than
we usually are.
Weather: It’s the end
of July, still in their tourist high-season and the Parisians
are gone on vacation, and it rains almost everyday. We’re
trying to figure out why all the tourists would come now?
Getting around: The subway
is convenient and fast and can get you to most parts of the city.
Cost of Living: Expensive
(!) and that’s coming from a couple of San Franciscans.
You just have to ready yourself to part with your Euros here.
Daily budget: Ouch. After
a lot of searching we rented a small apartment in the 5th arrondissement
for $80 USD/night. We shopped in the local farmer’s market
and bakeries and only ate out occasionally. On meals we spent
about $30 USD/day. A dinner for 2 at a mid-range restaurant with
a glass of wine is $100+. The good news is you can buy good bottles
of local wine very cheaply (<€5).
Exchange rate: $1 USD = 0.8
Renting an apartment: Our
apartment was comfortable (but small) and saved us a lot of money
since it was cheaper than a hotel and we made a lot of our own
|Specific places we visited/things we
|Things to see:
- Monuments: Okay, okay, so Paris has a lot of monuments
(the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, Sacré-Coeur, the Pompidou
Center, Saint Sulpice, and the list goes on). We'll spare
you a rundown of all these since you can find them in any
and every guidebook. Instead, we'll concentrate on some
things that might not be quite as obvious.
- Jardin des Tuileries: Worth a walk through. It’s
not as green and lush as we expected but it’s romantic
- Musée d'Orsay: A light and airy museum in a renovated
old train station. It’s amazing to see some of the
most famous paintings and sculpture in the world, up close
and in person.
- The Seine River: This river slices through Paris and a
walk (or several) along its banks and across its many bridges
is an essential part of taking in the city. We especially
recommend bringing a picnic dinner one evening and joining
the locals who set up along the banks. It’s wonderfully
romantic and tons of young Parisians enjoy their evenings
- Paris Plage (along the river Seine): This 2000 ton sand
beach in the middle of the city was launched in 2002 by
Mayor Delanoe as a part of his vision to regenerate the
Seine. For one month beginning July 21 (this year) volleyball
courts, swimming pools and a row of beach umbrellas are
set up along the right bank.
- Les Halles: This is just a big shopping mall now, and
not the good kind. We’d skip this unless you’re
looking for…well…a shopping mall.
- Catacombs: Spooky! Scary! Creepy! Cool. This underground
mass tomb holds several million skeletons artfully arranged
through a maze of tunnels. If you’re not claustrophobic,
this is an interesting place to spend a few hours.
- WHSmith’s bookstore: If you’ve been on the
road awhile (like us) and need some books in English, this
place is gigantic and has tons of books in English –
what a luxury.
Tour de France: We were surprised that we didn’t find
any Parisians watching Le Tour on television in cafes and
bars at all. That said, we went to the Champs-Elysees around
11am on the last day and it was already pretty packed. After
some searching, we found a spot in the first row. The racers
finally came in around 4:30. (For more about the Tour, see
paris: viva la tour.)
- Eiffel Tower: Wow. We said we weren't going to talk about
monuments. Even though the Eiffel Tower is about as touristy
as you can get, it’s still pretty darn impressive
and, well, it just makes you feel like you’re SO in
Paris. Pack a picnic for lunch or dinner and eat out on
the lawn like the rest of the Parisians and tourists. The
kitsch light display at night (5 minutes at the beginning
of each hour) is pretty funny. And yeah, going up in the
crazy elevators is worth it.
|Things to eat:
- Maison Kaiser Bakery (Rue Monge): Of course, there
are quite a few excellent bakeries in Paris, but this one
was not only superb, it was also close to our apartment.
We visited frequently for bread and pastries. There’s
also a little restaurant next door where you can grab breakfast
or lunch. We DREAM about this bakery. (See paris:
pastry vous français for some visual pastry
- Boulevard Saint-Germain: has a nice outdoor market.
- Le Grande Épicerie Paris at Le Bon Marché:
Le Bon Marché is a big ol' department store-ish sort
of thing (with lots of other interesting stores nearby,
too). For us the highlight was the immaculate grocery store:
Le Grand Épicerie Paris. Foodies go crazy! If you
like upscale groceries stores, then this is your paradise.
Check out the paris gallery
for pix of all the above!