While I love to babble on all day about home design and obsess over other design/DIY blogs, I also love the pragmatic posts here and again, when applicable. When I found out we were moving overseas, I relied on the kindness of other bloggers’ willingness to share their experiences on travel and moving to a new country. So this post is, in a way, my version of paying it forward.
I know many of my friends, family and readers are planning to travel abroad, and some of you newbies might be think of doing so, too. Here are a few tips to help you enjoy your time in Paris more:
1.) What’s the plan, man?
If you are like me, you love to plan. I still make little lists for the day (don’t confuse “planning” with “organization” – these are two very different things). No matter the day, I always have the greatest intentions to scratch things off of my list. In Paris, however, you might be dissappointed from time to time. One thing I love about Paris culture is how laid back everyone is about almost everything. The downside to that is that things take tiiiiimmmmmmeeee here. Seriously. Like real time. And if something is under construction (like the Pantheon in Paris, pictured above), expect that it will be for a bit. This can interfere with site-seeing plans if you are visiting, so be sure to research ahead of time and buy tickets to as much as you can in advance! You might pay a little extra but, hey, you’re in Paris! Also, Parisians exercise their right to strike very often – the trains, the busses, the hospitals. It’s kind of a common thing here, and while I kind of love the moxy behind it, it can be a little daunting.
2.) Taking the metro:
While a bit confusing at first, the metro is an incredible efficient and intuitive way to get around Paris. I’ve ridden the subway in New York several times and, by comparison, the metro in Paris is much easier to figure out. However, if you have a baby stroller (like yours truly) or are handicapped in any way, the metro is almost a no go. Paris is an old, old city, and is not completely retrofitted to meet modern day handicapped standards. Some metro stops have escalators and elevators, but most do not. And trying to make connections to the stops that are accessible can put you completely out of the way of where you are trying to go. The bus system is a much more accessible route for anyone with babies or handicapped needs. While a little bit slower, you can still get a much broader view of the city is transit. And people like to talk on the bus! It’s fun and feels a little more coloquial. The metro is all business – for the most part- like any other subway line. Headphones on, no chatting.
3.) Get your shoes on!
I could probably talk for hours about shoe culture in Paris (what does that say about me?). This is one area where you need to be sure to be comfortable at all times. I think because Paris is such a huge hub for fashion that we, as foreigners, all asume that women and men walk around in incredibly chic, outrageously uncomfortable shoes all day. At least, that was my assumption before I moved here. That is definitely not the case – most people wear comfortable shoes, or at least, moderately comfortable, meaning lots of trendy tennis shoes and low heeled boots. Another shoe point (<PUN!) is that your nice shoes will get DESTROYED within the first few days here, and that is NOT an exaggeration. The streets are cobbled and bumby and going up and down stairs and running in and out of shops is hard on the feet. So don’t bring that super expensive pair of shoes you have been saving just for Paris unless you plan to wear them door to door via a car.
4.) Push it!
There are over 2 million people living in Paris proper, which is about 40 square miles big. That’s a lot of people in a condensed amount of space. Most people here use public transportation of some kind. Like any pedestrian city, be prepared to hustle through the streets on almost any given day. Parisians, much like New Yorkers, are in a hurry, and will not get our of your way. It feels a little dog-eat-dog at times, but it’s really just a result of a long history of relying on foot to get you around. Be prepared to get shoved and pushed a little, and don’t take it personally.
5.) Utilize apps!
A lot of buildings look the same here, and the city is based on a “snail system”, not a grid. So, take it from me, it is very, very easy to get lost here if you don’t know the city very well. Paris is compartmentalized into 20 districts, or, “arrondissements”, and anytime a local asks where you live or are staying or where a certain place is, they are referring to the district. Locals call each district by number – the 11th is a cool part of town, the 3rd is where The Marais is, which is a really awesome part of town…and so on. The districts are planned out like a snail, starting at the center of Paris at the 1st. There are lots of good apps to help you navigate the city – CityMapper is a great one, as well as SNFC if you are feeling adventurous. Goole Maps is great, but I’ve learned the hard way that even trusty ole Google can get it wrong from time to time.
Lastly is not so much a tip as it is a myth debunction (is that a word?): Parisians are friendly! Don’t believe the rumors! People in Paris are definitely not in your face with politness, but they are very warm and friendly people. I can’t tell you how many times someone has helped me lift Colin’s stroller up a flight of stairs or pinched his cheeks.
We love Paris and hope that any of you visitors do, too! Bon voyage!