15 July 2014

Suitcase. Paris, France - Travel Guide

Paris – the city of love; a place of incredible architecture, gastronomical food and mad drivers. The French capital is a truly magnificent city and I think everyone should visit it at least once in their lifetime. There is something so awe-inspiring about the grand historical buildings, wandering the banks of the Seine and seeing the Eiffel Tower peeking out at you from the left bank.

Boulevard de Saint Germain

Jardin du Luxembourg 

There is so much to see and do in the city of lights so I suggest you make a plan before you go and familiarise yourself with a map. You certainly can’t miss all the cliché tourist attractions; they are in fact incredible sights – head to the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, The Louvre, Champs-Élysées, L’Arc de Triomph, Jardin de Tuileries, Montmatre and Jardin de Luxembourg. Once you have checked these off your list you can spend a day wandering the streets of Marais in the third arrondissement where there is fantastic shopping and cafés; wander along the left bank from Musee d’Orsay to Notre Dame where you can admire the artists and their work; take a walk from the 7th to the 5th arondissment to admire some of Paris’ most beautiful streets, and stop for a coffee in a street-front café; and if you like to shop head to La Bon Marche or Galleries Lafayette for an overwhelming designer experience. Make sure you note that virtually all shops are shut on Sundays in France; the French regard Sundays as a day of rest - so try and plan your sprees for another day of the week!

Love Locks on the Pont des Arts  

The city has a fantastic underground system called the Metro. It is a great way to get around town and there are stations all around the city. Personally I think the best ticket method is a carnet (kar-nay). It is a book of 10 tickets for €13.70 (more cost effective than buying them singly) which you will easily go through if you’re in the city for at least 4 days.  Download the Paris Metro app on your phone which will give you an easy-to-read map of all the lines and stations in the city. Bicycles are also available around Paris. There are Velo stations where you can rent a bike using your credit card, ride around the city and the return it to another Velo station of your choosing. This is a great way to get around town but just watch out for crazy drivers who don’t show a lot of consideration for cyclists. Taxis are plentiful around the city and they are fairly priced as well. A 15-minute trip might cost you around €12. However most of the drivers don’t speak English so if you can’t communicate in French you might have to resort to charades and a whole lot of map-pointing! Unless you have absolute nerves of steel I wouldn’t suggest driving yourself around the city; the traffic is crazy, there are no lanes and the Parisians seem to have a whole different method of driving altogether. Even if you were to manage to get to your destination, parking seems to be a nightmare with every street occupied bumper to bumper – the French actually crash into the cars either side of them to nudge them out of the way in order to park; it’s madness! 

There is so much choice when it comes to food in Paris and in seven days I only managed to dip my toe into the pool of gastronomic delicacies. I can tell you that Rue des Canettes in the 6th arrondissement is a hub of Italian cuisine and I can highly recommend Restaurant Santa Lucia for great pizza and pasta. Piroutte is a modern French restaurant in the 3rd arrondissement which serves an exquisite set three course menu for €40; it is well worth it. Dining in the 1st arrondissement is expensive and you’ll get a mix of great restaurants and pretty terrible touristy ones so check online reviews first. Street front cafés around Paris are great for a casual lunch or dinner but you’ll probably be paying more for the setting rather than for good food. If you’re a crepe lover like me then make sure you stop into Breizh Café in the 3rd arrondissement,  it is known as the “best creperie in Paris” and I would not dispute that title – delicious! A lot of the fashion houses in Paris have their own restaurant so if you want to treat yourself you can dine at Emporio Armani or Ralph Lauren. Be warned that the coffee in Paris is very strong and the hot chocolates are like a pot of melted chocolate that has a slightly bitter cocoa taste- but it’s all part of the experience!

Ceviche Fish at Pirouette

Spaghetti alle Vongole at Santa Lucia

On a side note: When in France try to speak French; the Parisians are far more receptive and kind to you if you at least attempt the basics: bonjour, merci beaucoup, où est, etc. I’m lucky that after studying French at school for seven years I can get by fairly easily and it is such a thrill to converse in another language. I highly recommend taking some courses before you visit.

I've been lucky enough to visit Paris twice now and I can truly say that I love it; it is rich in culture and has infinite history - as I walk the streets I wonder about all the things the walls of the city have seen and heard over the years. There is something here for everyone whether it's the food, the sights, the people, the architecture, the history or simply the way of life.

In the words of Audrey Hepburn - Paris is always a good idea.

Photos by Krissie.