Wow, I’m finally ready to tell you about Paris. My husband and I went to Paris for 6 nights after a little over a week in Santorini in September 2017 which seems like a million years ago now. But, I’m a strong believer in better late then never so here we go.
I never like to waste a flight to Europe. A wasted flight is anything less than 10 days so when I signed up for a retreat in Santorini I knew I we needed to visit somewhere else too (tough right?). Flights are so expensive and long that going for less than 10 days just seems wasteful to me. For many years I was disinterested in France. I was so stuck on the stereotype that the French are rude that I just didn’t even think about visiting there. Why go somewhere I feel unwanted? Well, I did a lot of growing up and somehow Paris kept finding it’s way into my life, and it began to pique interest so Paris it was. I’m so glad I grew the F up and didn’t let some ridiculous stereotype keep me from visiting such an enchanting place. We fell in love with the food, the architecture, the vibes, the lifestyle, everything. And guess what-the people were pretty cool too.
Getting to the City from Charles de Gaulle Airport & Navigating the City
We flew into Charles de Gaulle airport from Athens. Charles de Gaulle is a really weird airport. It’s sort of space-agey. Anyway, you can uber into the city or take the train. We opted for the train for maximum cost savings. The train system in Paris is one of the most complicated I’ve ever navigated, but don’t worry, you’ll figure it out. You’ll take the RER train system, which is basically the commuter train system that services suburbs into the city. Train B is the on you will take. You reach the station from terminal 1. You can walk in through the weird, space age like airport or take a shuttle from your terminal. We walked. It was fine.
You’ll need to buy a ticket before you can access the train. There was a pretty big line when we were there, but they have English speaking helpers who attempt to explain to you the wild transport system and help you get where you need to be. You buy your ticket from a machine based on the zone you are in (5) and the zone you are going to in the city. The ticket will be 10.30 euro. We went go Gar du Norde, a very common station for visitors who are needing to switch to the Metro system (aka subway).
Once you get to your transfer station, you might have to buy a new ticket for the Metro system. You can buy a single ticket for 1.90 or carnet, stack of 10, for 14.90 euro. A ticket will take you anywhere in the city on both Metro and RER lines. You can also use the same ticket on transfers between lines and for RER and Metro changes. If that confused you, you aren’t alone. If you’ve been on the train systems in New York and Chicago, the subway and commuter lines are totally separate and to transfer between the two involves walking blocks between stations downtown and isn’t even possible in other parts of the city. You have to buy completely different tickets as well. Well, in Paris, the subway and commuter trains help each other out around the city. The lines of the two systems are more interwoven. Transfers often don’t involve leaving the station. This website has more in-depth information for you to check out.
Unless you are going very far distances, walking is truly the best way to get around. I find transferring trains to be a hassle and prefer to just hike it. This is also an excellent way to take the city in. You get to see all the buildings, people, restaurants. Everything.
Living Like a Local
We stayed in an airbnb in the 11th district. It was a quaint apartment listed by a local woman. At the time of booking, which was about 3 months before the trip, the listing was new and had no reviews yet, but it seemed legit and for 49 euro/night I was willing to risk it. By the time of our trip, the unit had gathered positive reviews, and it was truly a great place to stay and experience a lovely Parisian apartment. And a hell of steal. Of course the rate went up as it accumulated good reviews, but listing in general were around $80/night because it’s a highly saturated market. So overall it’s very affordable.
One of the most enchanting things about Paris is the food and the food culture. Just steps around the corner from our apartment we had all the shops one would need to gather high quality, fresh groceries. Each shop was separate, but since they were all clustered together it was very convenient. There was a produce stand on the corner. A fromage (cheese) shop. A boulangerie (bakery) which we frequented every morning for 6 mornings to get our daily croissant. (Pan au chocolate for him and for me something new each day.) There was a shop for everything food related. There was even a little Sicilian market which was so cool to me- I did an internship in Sicily after college graduation. There are also supermarkets, but those are no fun and the food is lesser quality.
Districts are named as numbers in Paris. The 11th is a very local part of the city, meaning there’s not a lot of touristy stuff nearby. Or in other words, the food is incredible and you aren’t being price gouged like when you stay in the 3rd and the 4th which are right along the river Seine, near Notre Dame and lots of cute shops. It was about a mile long walk from our apartment to Notre Dame which was fine by us. We did a ton of walking, averaging around 7 miles a day or so.
I didn’t do much planning for our time in the city of lights. I knew I wanted to see the Eiffel Tower from the carousel perspective. There is actually a carousel right next to the Eiffel Tower, but the one I was looking for was across the Seine in Jardins du Trocadero. As pictured above. Most of our trip was spent walking the streets, taking in the views, and eating delicious food. We actually developed a regular “spot” where we would go for for happy hour each night a few blocks from our apartment. We spent time in the Jardin Tuileries where I lavished in the fall florals- dahlias and Japanese anemones. I enjoyed having an open schedule. Though I wish we’d gone to the Louvre or at least one iconic museum. But all the more reason to return, oui?
One day after hoping onto the metro and getting lost on our way to, I don’t even remember where, we stumbled onto an open air market where we collected the goods for a sack lunch. Cheese, meat, bread. It was amazing. I have a thing for open air markets. I like to find one in every city. You’d be surprised how many great markets their are in the US. Anyway, then we found this incredible wine and spirit bar En Vrac where I tasted the best gin I’ve ever had. I even bought a bottle to take home. When I go back to Pairs, I’ll be returning there.
From that cozy spot we wandered to a supremely iconic neighborhood in Paris, Montmatre. This is where you’ll see the iconic pink cafe La Maison Rose. Around this area you’ll find an abundance of small museums and art galleries to visit. Keep going up the hill and you’ll find Sacre-Coeur, an iconic domed white church that is not to be missed. It’s stunning.
My last tip is to check out Notre Dame from the back side. There are beautiful gardens and you see the curvature of the architecture prominently. This perspective is more quaint and charming than the front view in my opinion. In this city of so much culture and history there are endless things to do. There is no right or wrong way to see the city. Do like I did and meander around or come with a loose itinerary. The most important thing is to take it all in in a way that speaks to you.
Helpful Things to Know
Businesses aren’t up and running until 10-12 am so you can sleep in. Food is 2-3x more expensive close to the Eiffel tower, Notre Dame and other major tourist attractions. Go a couple blocks out of range for better food at 1/2 the price. Learning some basic phrases in French and trying to speak them will get you a long way with the locals. They appreciate it. Google translate is super literal and might make you sound stupid. Ha! Get a phrase book instead. Pain au chocolat is amazing. Like most places in Europe and most of the world, cash is the preferred method of payment when spending less than 20 euro or so. Use ATMs. Look out for pick pockets by using a zipper purse or bag and keeping it in front of you in crowds. Lastly, don’t worry if you get lost, you’ll probably stumble onto something amazing.
Tell me all about your favorite things in Paris or the things you desire to do when you get to go there!