Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Au revoir Paris

I'm home! Pumpkin and I returned to Arlington this afternoon and have had quite the productive day. I've done laundry, unpacked, and went to the grocery. I even made an actual dinner for myself tonight instead of ordering something. And I still have one more day of vacation.

I'm sure some of my friends will be disappointed that I didn't marry a Frenchmen and move to Paris but I didn't because that is not how real life works. I did have an amazing trip and realize that I am very lucky to have been able to go at all. I thought I'd wrap up these posts with some advice for future Paris travelers. People will give you a lot of advice on what to see and where to go to dinner or where you can find the perfect cup of coffee but no one will tell you how to ask for insect bite cream at the pharmacy. And you will need to do this and will not have your handy phrasebook with you.
  1. I don't care what anyone tells you - bring tennis shoes. Parisians wear tennis shoes - they're people not alien beings from the Planet Fashion (well not all the time). Tennis shoes are not what will signal the fact that you are a tourist and seriously, you are so let it go. I brought a pair and it was awesome. I also had flats and comfy sandals all of which were fine. Regardless of the shoes, your feet will still hurt. It's all the cobblestones and the inordinate amount of walking you will do. And the 101 steps to your apartment.
  2. Rent an apartment! I'm so glad that I listened to a friend's advice on this one. It was a great experience and I would rent from this person again. Try airbnb.com or housetrip.com to find a place. Make sure it has wifi - this was super helpful for staying in touch and for figuring out how to get to wherever I decided to go the next day. I liked mon petit studio in all it's oldness and oddness and massive amounts of stairs. That might not be your taste but I'm sure you'll find something you like in a neighborhood you'll enjoy for a price you can afford.
  3. Pack options because you never know if the weather will actually cooperate. I packed mostly skirts and dresses but it ended up being much colder than it normally is in Paris in June. Luckily, I packed pants so it wasn't terrible. I would also include a light jacket or a sweater.
  4. Wear a scarf. Seriously, just embrace this and do it already. You'll look really nice and vaguely European.
  5. Drink wine at lunch and champagne at the summit of the Eiffel Tower. Linger at cafes - the people watching is extraordinary.
  6. Bring a tote bag - I don't know why I didn't think of this when I was packing since I have on other trips. I ended up buying one. I could carry my umbrella, a bottle of water, Le Navigateur, and anything I bought while out (like bread and cheese). Plastic bags cost extra at some stores and there's also the "you don't have your own bag?" look that I'm not really fond of in any country.
  7. A smartphone that isn't dumb outside of the US. Curses to you, Sprint clerk who told me my phone would be fine. You are a liar. I still made it everywhere without my phone map and I'm sure everyone would have hated my check-ins (because the blog posts and photos weren't annoying enough I'm sure). The pay as you go phone I borrowed worked fine for what I needed (calling the shuttle driver and my mom) so that's cool.
  8. Plan a bit. If you want to go to the Eiffel Tower, purchase your ticket in advance so you don't have to wait in the longest line ever. I would say the same for any of the museums (I wasted a ton of time in line at the Louvre). Also, if you plan to take Metro either buy a pass or a book of tickets. Both will save you time. But remember this: you are there to enjoy yourself. Slow the pace a bit and do that. You cannot see everything.
  9. Make sure you have a reliable map. I had one from a Lonely Planet guidebook that was perfect for where I was going but had I wanted to spend time in other parts of the city, I probably would have needed something with a bit more detail. 
  10. Bring an umbrella. 
  11. If you're like me and decide to travel alone, try to have a few conversations with random people in cafes or in line. I enjoyed my random conversations with people through the week and it definitely helps you feel less like you're by yourself. Some people find American accents charming. Along the same route, either ask people to take your picture or develop the skill of taking a decent selfie (even if you normally dislike the practice).
  12. If you don't speak French fluently (or at all), at least try to learn a few phrases to get a conversation started. Knowing how to greet someone, say thank, and ask if they know English goes a long way. English tops the list of languages spoken and being learned in France so you'll probably be okay in most places but it's always more polite to try, mangled accent and all.
  13. If at a pharmacy and you see a box for "une piqûre d'insectes", you have found the insect bite cream. In my case, it was a clear liquid that created a bandage-like covering on my arm that resembled dried glue. Effective but weird looking and a little smelly.
  14. Have dessert and embrace carbs. You can't pass up the bread - it would be wrong and will make the bread sad. You're going to walk everywhere so don't worry about it.
  15. Be a tourist. Enjoy the fact that you are visiting a truly magical city with more history on one street than any of us will experience in our entire lives. Be in awe of it and appreciate it because you might not get to visit again.

Because I want you to be prepared.

 See you next week Island readers!

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