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What to Skip in Paris
Today's we go onto unexplored territory: we tell you about some things you might want to skip in Paris. It was bound to happen! You can only spend so much time in Paris that it's important to be selective. Every blogger seems to have set ideas of what to skip and we're not as black and white as most. Here we try to help you think through it, what's the best use of your time given your preferences? And, of course, we don't quite agree on everything. Enjoy!
This episode was inspired by a 2001 article called Ten Things Not to Do in Paris by Christina Henry de Tessan
Don't Shop on the Champs Elysées
We definitely agree that shopping on the Champs Elysées isn't what it used to be and can totally be skipped. Shopping around rue des Francs Bourgeois and Le Marais? Yes, very nice. This is a place in Paris where you get medium to high end boutiques. Specialized boutiques that are very French. Avenue Montaigne is where high fashion is, it's very expensive, you might bump into a movie star there. Rue du Faubourg Saint Honoré is very chip, not quite as high-end as Avenue Montaigne, but expensive. For people who want to go cheaper go rue de Rivoli, which is the main shopping drag filled with lots of stores for average folks. Marchés aux Puces, for example Vanves for antiquity. Gallerie Vivienne, one of the Covered Passages, is gorgeous, but a lot of those passages are food places now. Arc de Triomphe? Yes, worth it.
Eat at Starred Restaurants?
You can eat like a king or queen in Paris for $50-$60, we don't think it's important to eat in starred restaurants, but if that's one of your goals, Paris is the right place. Yelp is in France as well and that will help you tremendously. So many choices of restaurants most places. Two places where there aren't so many choices are the Champs Elysées (not a lot of restaurants there, period!) and Le Latin Quarter close to Notre Dame where it's all kebab, pizzas and fast food. Le Comptoir in the 6th arrondissement is tiny and they don't take reservations, so do you really want to stand in line? Most French restaurants offer reservations on-line now. Another tip is to go at lunch rather than dinner, nice restaurants are always cheaper at lunch. Café-Brasseries are the same price all day long and offer great salads, omelettes, steak-frite for a reasonable price. Also at a Brasserie you don't have to order a whole meal. You can just have a soup or a salad. There are also lots of lunch-only restaurants in Paris and all over France.
You May Not Want to Spend a Whole Day at the Louvre or Musée d'Orsay
There are people who don't enjoy museums, and there is so much for them to do in Paris without stepping into museums at all. But, you can also go see wonderful pieces in the Louvre in two hours if you go at 5-7 PM for example, for those of us who are not 100% into art but enjoy it in small doses, that's a good way to go. Or go see one of the many smaller specialized museums in Paris for something that interests you. It doesn't have to be an art museum at all! For instance the Carnivalet about the history of the city of Paris, which is free too!
How Do You Dress Appropriately for Paris?
French women don't wear shorts typically, they wear skirts or dresses. Men can get away with wearing shorts. No short short or tank tops in churches. Suit and tie not needed, even at restaurants. It can be casual, but put some thought into it. French people wear more fitted clothes than Americans in general.
Don't Go Around in a Cab
Unlike the author of this article, we don't think taking taxis is a bad idea, so long as you get the official taxis. But walking and taking the bus is also a good option. To rent a Vélib (rental bikes) you may need a credit card with a chip, so not an option for everyone. French bikers are used to the cars, don't follow their bad announcement. Dog poop in Paris: Paris is a lot cleaner than it used to be. You don't have to worry about dog do-doo so much any more. Cleanup rules are enforced most places in Paris.
Don't Seek Out the Bohemian Ambiance on the Left Bank
If you go to the café where Hemmingway or Sartres or James Baldwin hung out, you'll pay more for your coffee, but they are nice. On the left bank between Saint Germain and Montparnasse there are gorgeous Brasseries that are fun. We think Bohemia has disappeared. Poor unknown artists and musicians were pushed out a long time ago. You might find some Bohemia around the 10th and 11th arrondissements around the Bastille today, but the 50s and 60s are gone. The Belleville area is very mixed, not chic, but real.
Do Go to the Eiffel Tower!!!
We don't agree with this blogger on this. The Eiffel Tower is really cool. It's gorgeous day or night. The view from any of the levels is great. It's the symbol of Paris for a good reason! It sprinkles like diamonds at night. Really, we think you should go.
Don't Book the Cheapest Hotel
Stay in Arrondissements 1 through 11, don't go too far out. It's worth the extra money. If you'd like to see what hotels we recommend, check out our hotel widget on the right side right off the front page. Or you can get an apartment, Air B&B is great for that. Hotels in Paris overall offer small rooms and bathrooms, it's hard to get around that fact. Youth hostels are also fine for people on a budget of any age.
Don't Fill Up on Croissants
That's ridiculous advice! Fill up on whatever you like and makes you happy! Elyse would rather have a croissant than a macaroon--sacrilege!!! Maybe don't go nuts on the bread, which is amazing and cheap, don't over-do. Elyse also thinks that croissants and bread are better in Paris than anywhere else even in France. Whaaaaaat? We think you should try different things. For instance cold cuts (charcuterie) and cheeses. Beware of the temptation to eat steak-frites every day too. Get the dishes of the day, that's always a good bet.
Don't Buy into Stereotypes Against the French
This past week Elyse had three instances where people heard her talk about places and they came out to add some story to her explanations. French people are not nasty overall. Waiters are over-worked and tend to not be patient if you take too long to decide what you want to eat. There aren't that many waiters in French restaurants, they end up with lots of tables and they have to run all the time. So, make up your mind quick in restaurants. Be aware of locals who want to get past you if you're going slowly.
We think they are fun and it's a great way to see Paris. Mostly it's 10€, take it near the Pont-Neuf, the commentary is getting better and easier to understand. You'll see the bridges, the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower, Orsay, it's really nice and takes an hour. Also Guinguettes are back in Paris in the summer-time. These are places where they setup a dance-floor and there's music, and places to get a drink, usually along the rivers.
Go if you love sculpture, Elyse says it's one of the minor museums that you can skip. It's one of Annie's favorites, so it depends on what you like.
Walking Along the Seine
Up near the road you'll see very small book sellers and those are good. Walking below close to the water is not as agreeable, not dangerous, you may run into bad odors.
Rue des Martyrs
Cool, new "in" neighborhood. Get off at Notre-Dame-de-Lorette and it's a nice area, but nothing special, maybe you can skip it.