Part 1//My First Time In Paris: 10 Practical Recommendations

There are some dreams you are just born with, Paris was one of those for me. I don’t have any explanation for where the desire originated, or how it planted itself inside me, only that it never waned… no matter how much time went on.

So when opportunity, intuition, timing, and an inkling of courage aligned and at 41 years old, the dream became reality.

This week, this sampling of Paris so to speak, will have ripple effects on my life for years to come. While it’s still fresh in my mind, I want to document everything from the practical recommendations to the poetic revelations. (Part 2- coming tomorrow!)

Mainly so I don’t forget anything, but also as a way to encourage us to:

give more nods to the unknown path and our intuitive ideas and weird dreams (whatever that may look like for you) and

view our life through the lens of an exploration.

What follows are 10 practical recommendations for Paris which could also be translated over to any new endeavor or direction you are setting out on for the first time.

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ONE. Know the last stop of your train/metro/bus first.

When using public transportation (which I highly recommend in Europe for the full immersive experience) make sure you know the direction the train is headed before you know your specific stop, which is how it will always be labeled on the schedule. I know, super basic, but incredibly helpful to remember, especially for those of us who don’t ride public transportation every day.

Note: Be sure to always allow extra time for traveling by public transport- trains running late or you getting lost WILL ALWAYS HAPPEN. But it’s all part of the adventure. (See number seven!)

Also note: I bought the handy Navigo Travel Card when I landed at the airport. You pay upfront at any ticket office, then you have access to train, metro, bus in all five zones of Paris for the week. This is what most French people use every month too- everyone has them! Also, I stayed 45 minutes by train outside of Paris and this was still in Zone 5!

TWO. Make people-watching a shameless priority.

In Paris, it is perfectly acceptable to sit and stare. This is in fact how they design cafe tables and chairs and the park benches, so you can face outward and, as this local put it, “People-watching is a way for us Parisians to get outside of our heads and be reminded that others exist.” Wisdom for us all!

THREE. Find a convenient and highly-rated airbnb to stay in.

Airbnb’s can be much more affordable than staying at a hotel and again, it’s a more French experience staying in a house or apartment. Plus, you can have a kitchen and a washer/dryer, which helps if you abide by number five (see below!)

Note: I gave the airbnb I rented 5 stars! Here was my review: “Highly recommend this place! Had a wonderful stay… absolutely no complaints! An excellent host who answered all my questions and was so helpful.”

Here is the listing.

And he and his partner also have one closer to Paris center.

FOUR. Learn how to say 4 simple words- hello, goodbye, thank you, and please.

They will bridge any language or cultural barrier. Every interaction I had with a French person (and I had many!) was delightful and heart-warming. Even though I was traveling alone I felt cared for and welcomed and truly never felt on my own.

FIVE. If possible, bring only carry-on luggage, including a backpack of some sort.

Best decision I made! The amount of walking and stairs you do just to get out of the airport is enough to make it worth it! Plus, it forces you to travel light and make it about experiences and memories more than buying and bringing back stuff.

SIX. Don’t forget to travel by bike too!

There is nothing like seeing a city by bike and Europe (especially Paris!) makes this easy and fun! On nearly every street corner (I’m not kidding!) there are grab-n-go bikes. You simply scan the QR code and off you go! When you’re done, you just park in basically any bike parking area, in other words, anywhere really. Plus, there are bike lanes everywhere, and in Paris, like many European cities, biking is a respected and a very common way to get around.

No one is going to scream at you or flip you off for crossing the street or being on the street for that matter. (I love America.)

Note: I used Lime Bikes multiple times a day to zip around when I was in Paris, combined with walking and wandering I was able to see everything! I used RentaBikeParis to bike to Versailles one day. You can reserve online and I met both the owners who are very sweet and speak excellent English. I rented a mountain bike from the highly recommended A La Petite Reine for the week while I stayed in Fontainebleau, I used it to get to and from the gym every day, yes, I still work out when I’m on vacation! The owner let me reserve it before I came, just via email.

SEVEN. Pick two or three MUSTS for the day to map out.

Then, fill in the other chunks of time with plenty of time to be a “flaneur”- this is a popular French word to describe the act of strolling and loafing about. Have both a schedule and allow yourself to be surprised by where the day leads you. Adventure > Agenda. Always.

EIGHT. Bring a special book or journal (or both!).

There were 2 books I bought just for this trip. One was made even more special because I bought it there, OVERRIDE: What If There Was Another Way? by Anne S. Ditmeyer. It was at the cutest shop, Messy Nessy’s Cabinet, in a favorite part of Paris. The other was a memoir about a woman who made a monumental pivot in her life to start a cooking school in Paris, “The French Ingredient: Making a Life in Paris One Lesson At A Time” by Jane Bertch. Both so timely and relevant for this season and the accompanying decisions I’m navigating right now.

NINE. Shop at the grocery stores.

It’s probably just me, but I’m always fascinated by the grocery stores of other countries. It’s such a fun way to see what the locals eat and it makes me feel not like a tourist. Also, I love buying my food and snacks for the week here and saving money this way! I found this cute organic shop, Naturalia, and went to the super-fancy La Grande Epicerie Paris.

TEN. Always have a few Euros in your pocket for when you need to pee!

I have to confess- I found a dark corner, popped behind some bushes and hedges, checked for people, and then peed in the gardens of this gorgeous castle. Oh my gosh, I can’t believe myself! Bathrooms are not free in Europe normally. Although Paris is starting to have many more free public restrooms out on the streets, they are more like port-o-potties for us Americans. But the few I did manage to locate were too sketchy and smelly for my liking. However, I did find a loophole- Starbucks- you can just walk in and use the bathroom and no one will stop you. GRATEFUL.

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Thank you for reading my wanna-be-a-travel-blogger post today 😉 Stay tuned for Part 2 tomorrow where I’ll share some of my poetic revelations.

May your childhood dreams keep you up at night and be a beacon pointing you toward what is most important and beautiful in this life.

One Comment

  • Re shopping at grocery stores while traveling. The late, lamented writer Laurie Colwin (Home Cooking & fiction like Happy All the Time) loved going into grocery stores in other cities/countries. She reminded us that this is anthropological research.

    Happy that you had a great time in Paris.

    Reply

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