In my article, Paris Will Have to Wait, I share my thirty-year journey to get to the City of Light.
In this follow-up piece, I share some of the basic yet important lessons I learned from that trip: how I will do Paris differently next time, and 4 key tips for your first Paris adventure.
What I’d Do Differently Next Time
1. Key tip: Allow Enough Time
Allow enough time for a Paris vacation. I only had five and a half days, so I planned my entire vacation to-the-day, to make sure I got to see everything I wanted. This strict schedule didn’t leave any room for just wandering around the city, so I missed out on a lot of ‘off the beaten path’ things.
For example, one day I got lost walking around Montmartre. While trying to find my way back to the metro station, I came across this cobblestone street line with quaint little shops. Sadly, I only had the time to go into a couple of them. I would have loved to see all of them.
Next time, I will allow myself at least a full seven days in Paris. I may plan a few days, but I will also leave a few open to explore little gems like the shops in Montmartre.
2. Key tip:Think about what season suits you best
I went to Paris from September 30th to October 6th.
At the time, all of the tourist information I read said that week technically started the “off-season”. However, the weather was still summer-like.
Every day, with the exception of one, was in the mid to upper 70s (Fahrenheit or 21+ Celcius), and sunny. Tourist weather. This made the most popular sites such as the Louvre and Versailles, very crowded, to the point they were not enjoyable for me. I only spent a few hours at the Louvre. I’m an art lover and want to be able to enjoy the art.
Next time, I’ll think about the attractions I want to see, if they are only open seasonally and which time of year will they be the least crowded. This will determine when I go.
3. Learn basic French words and phrases
While a lot of people in Paris speak English, knowing keywords and phrases will get you far. I think Parisians really appreciate it when visitors to their country make an attempt to speak their language. Also, if your plan is to venture to other regions, as I did, English is not as prevalent, so you’ll need to know more French, or have a good translation App. Also, a quick read about understanding French people could really help you know what to expect and not be surprised.
Some words/phrases you should know:
|Word||What it means|
|S’il vous plaît||Please|
|Bonjour / bonsoir|
This is a big one. People will say this to you upon entrance to any public space: an elevator, as you enter a shop, the restroom. It’s rude not to say it back. Note: If it is nighttime, you can say bonsoir, but if you mess up and say bonjour, you’ll be fine.
|Good morning / good evening|
|Je suis perdu||I’m lost|
|Je suis désolée||I’m sorry|
|Où sont les toilettes?||Where are the toilets/bathrooms|
4. Have some familiarity with public transport
If you’ve never used public transportation, learning how to use it in a foreign country is not the best time.
Paris has a great public transportation system. The subway (le metro) and buses are probably the best ways to get around the city. Knowing how to read route maps and schedules, as well as how to actually use public transportation lessens the stress of getting to where you want to go. Fortunately, the Paris system is easy to learn and I was comfortable with it by the second day of my trip.
It’s also a good idea to learn some of the schedules and routes for the Reseau Express Regional (RER), a rapid-transit system serving Paris and its suburbs. I took the RER from Charles de Gaulle airport into Paris, and then again to get from Paris to Versailles.
Armed with a little knowledge and some planning, you can minimize the stress and make the most of your Paris vacation!
What would you do differently next time you go to Paris? Please share in the comments below.
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Here you can read more about the love of planning your next trip to Paris.
1. Louvre via Wikimedia
2. Montmartre via Wikimedia
3-4. Copyright Michelle Mason