Transcript for Episode 266: 3 Common Mistakes Tourists Make in Paris

Category: Paris

Discussed in this Episode

  • Opening and closing times [01:12]
  • Beware of distances between Paris attractions [06:16]
  • Don't schedule any timed visits on your first day [09:49]

Annie Sargent  00:00

This is Join Us in France Episode 266 Bonjour, I’m Annie Sargent. And today’s episode is going to be a solo show where I tell you about three things you might be doing wrong when planning your trip to France. At least these are three things that you should consider when coming to France. That wouldn’t matter so much in other parts of the world.


Annie Sargent  00:24

Show Notes for this episode are on Join Us in, forward slash 266. That’s the number 266. And if you’re planning a trip to France, this site is chock full of great resources. You should check it out.


Annie Sargent  01:10

So here you go, here are the three things that I think people do wrong when planning a trip to Paris. And if you’re thinking how preposterous How would she know? Well, I’ve been doing a lot of trip reports, I think there are a lot there 150 trip reports in the lineup for this podcast. And so I’ve been talking to a lot of people. And I kind of get a bird’s eye view of what happens when people plan a trip to France.


Annie Sargent  01:42

And one of the things that I think a lot of people get wrong is not checking opening and closing times. Now we look at them. Of course, when we first look at you know, we’re thinking Oh, you want to go see the Orsay museum. So at that time you look at it and you You’re realized that it’s closed on Mondays and so you put it on a different day. But if something happens, and all of a sudden, you didn’t get to go to the Orsay museum on Sunday, you say, oh, we’ll go tomorrow. Yeah, you won’t.


Annie Sargent  02:16

And at least half of the people I talked to mentioned at some point in their trip report that they went and did something that didn’t work out because it was closed. So I’m going to tell you that you should not assume that stores and museums will be open every day. French people don’t keep long hours like Americans.


Annie Sargent  02:41

As a matter of fact, I was shocked when I moved to America to see how many stores were open 24/7, it’s like, and very quickly, you get used to it. You just think oh, I can go pick up some milk at 11pm. Well, no, not in France. You can’t do I was I was stopped at a red light recently in a neighborhood where I grew up. So this is a place I know very well and I turned my head and I noticed that this one store that already had a reputation for being open long hours, it now says they’re open 24/7, which is probably the only store in the Toulouse Metro that does that. I mean, I haven’t checked, but it’s possibly the only one out of thousands of grocery stores.


Annie Sargent  03:30

So in France don’t assume things are going to be open. Check it, okay. And this is especially true outside of Paris, but even in Paris, people don’t want to work 24/7, and if they don’t have the funding, to have enough employees to keep it open long hours, then they just won’t.


Annie Sargent  03:50

Even in touristy areas like say the Mont Saint Michel or Carcassonne They slow down a lot during low tourist season. You know, maybe that Chateau you wanted to see, well, maybe they stop letting people in at 5pm. The grocery stores, most of them are closed by 7pm. In big cities, it’s more like eight or nine, but in small places, it might be 7pm. Some places only open in the afternoon some places close for a couple of days a week of not grocery stores, but you know, venues, small museums. There are parks and activities for kids that are only open during French school vacations. And almost every place has different hours for low season and high season.


Annie Sargent  04:45

Even popular places. You know, I was in Collioure, recently, Collioure is very touristy. Well, we were there the week before Christmas, and the tourist office was closed all week. The Missoni for visa, which is a major attraction there, it was closed for three weeks. It’s not that there were no visitors around, it’s that they need some time off. They don’t have the funding to have people year round. And so they close, you know.


Annie Sargent  05:12

So here’s my challenge to you. Once you have your itinerary nailed down, imagine you’re sitting at the airport, you’re waiting for boarding, check opening and closing times again. And when you check into your hotel at night, check opening and closing times for the next day’s activities. Just make sure right. And if you change things around, or then make sure that your spur the moment change isn’t going to mean that you try to go to the Louvre on a Tuesday because it’s closed on a Tuesday. I don’t expect you to remember all of these opening and closing times and they’re so complicated. You know, nobody remembers all this stuff. I get taken by this stuff too. But check before you go.


Annie Sargent  05:58

So an easy way to check this I think by now most of us travel with data on our phone, it can be done pretty cheaply. So Google the place of the name you want and add hours. And you’ll find it within seconds. You know, you just, you just have to remember to check.


Annie Sargent  06:16

The second thing that people do wrong. visiting Paris, is that they underestimate the distances between Paris attractions. Now, most of us can walk 20 kilometers in a day if we have to, you know, but many of us won’t enjoy that if we’re really honest with ourselves, because we’re on vacation and you know, it’s a lot.


Annie Sargent  06:41

There are cities where you can eyeball how long the walk is going to be like New York City. Once you know that city blocks are long going east to west and short going north to south, you can estimate the distance pretty accurately. Do not try that in Paris! Especially if the only math Paris you have a present in mind is the the metro map. That map is totally unrealistic when it comes to distances. There is a map that shows walking distances between metro stations. I will find it and put a link to it on the show notes.


Annie Sargent  07:17

But what you need to do is ask Google what the distance is between where you are and where you want to go. And just check it be sure. On a recent episode, my guest said that they walked from the Louvre to the Luxembourg Gardens with their preschool children. That’s a couple of kilometres it’s going up hill softly. But by the time they got to the gardens, they were too tired and they didn’t explore the gardens very much.


Annie Sargent  07:45

So my point is, if your intent is to go see the Luxembourg Gardens, save your steps for the Luxembourg Gardens. You know don’t walk all the way there because you especially with young kids or or anyone really mean, that’s a hoof. If you’re at the Eiffel Tower and you decide you want to see the Orsay Museum, well, it’s only two and a half kilometers, you could say all just walk, but then are you going to get cranky while visiting your same museum because you’re tired? So again, you know, save your energy for the visit of the venue.


Annie Sargent  08:20

And, of course, this doesn’t apply to athletes who train all the time. But but for the rest of us mortals, you know, I walk 6k every day with my dogs, which, you know, it’s not amazing, but most people don’t do that. And I noticed the difference when I’m in Paris, it’s a lot more walking than my usual 6k. So I will challenge you to learn to use the Google Maps for public transportation. I think in Paris, the best transportation app is citymapper. But I mean, whatever app you’re comfortable with use that.


Annie Sargent  08:58

And if you’re from I would say, this is generally speaking, if you’re from a big city, where you take the metro, at least some of the time, then use the Paris Metro. But if you never take public transportation at home, then choose the bus. Paris has a great bus system, it can take you just about anywhere. And if you didn’t buy bus tickets in advance, which I recommend you should do, but you can pay the bus driver, it’s pretty easy.


Annie Sargent  09:26

And to find the bus stop, the biggest problem is often to find the bus stop. So what you need to do is like in citymapper, you have to kind of zoom in and see exactly where you walking or you just show your phone to somebody and say, where’s that bus stop? And they if they’re locals, they can probably show you. All right.


Annie Sargent  09:49

And the third thing that I think people do wrong when planning a first time trip to Paris, is that they plan things on the day that they arrive. I think you need to keep your first day wide open. In my opinion, you shouldn’t schedule anything that has to have timed tickets for the day you arrive because too much might happen.


Annie Sargent  10:11

So, you know, again, a recent episode, they had bought tickets to the Atelier des Lumiere for that afternoon. So they had given it plenty of time, right? But the kids were very cranky, and it just didn’t happen. So, I there are places where you need a time ticket. The Louvre is one, the Eiffel Tower is one. The Atelier des Lumi138res is one those keep for different day.


Annie Sargent  10:43

On your first day, there are plenty you can do. You can walk around whatever neighborhood you’re staying in. Hopefully it’s central Paris because that’s the best way to enjoy the city for first time visitor and if you walk around, it’ll help you with jet lag. When I arrive somewhere after a long flight, I’m usually not. I’m usually tired. Okay? This is low energy. So this is the day to try cafes. Maybe you can pop into the neighborhood church. If it’s open, they close and they have closing and opening times too most of them by 5pm. Closed, especially in the winter. Maybe you could go to the nearest Museum, even if it’s not a famous Museum, this is the day to do all the “flâneur” thing.


Annie Sargent  11:33

“Flâneur” is this wonderful word in French that means to to to walk around with no particular aim, aimless walking. Which I think there needs to be some time for that when you’re in Paris. So just just look around your neighborhood. Look for pharmacies and grocery stores, near your hotel or your apartments. Get the lay of the land. Don’t rush around too much. You might want to go out to a restaurant but don’t make reservations just again the first day Don’t make reservations for that first day.


Annie Sargent  12:09

Another thing you could do on that first day is take a boat ride. In Paris, unlike many other cities, the most wonderful monuments are all along the river. Well, not all of them, but most of them. And that makes a boat tour better than the bus tour. In my opinion, that’s just me. Okay. And there are several companies that do this.


Annie Sargent  12:32

But the ones that I think are easiest are there’s one called Vedettes du Pont Neuf. So that’s a few near the Pont Neuf.  The Bateaux Mouche the name is famous because they’ve been better at advertising, but they’re near the Alexander III bridge. Vedettes de Paris if you’re by the Eiffel Tower.


Annie Sargent  12:51

And one mistake that people make, again, not estimating the distances very well is that they think that they need to go to the Bâteaux Mouche for some reason. They tell Google to take them to the Bâteaux Mouche. And they have to have to hoof it like two kilometers get there. You don’t need to, there’s probably one closer to you get go to the closest one. You don’t need a reservation. I’ve never even in the highest season. I’ve never seen more than maybe 20 people in line. So those boats can take hundreds of people. So don’t worry, just just go on the spur of the moment.


Annie Sargent  13:26

And of course, one more thing you can do on your first day in Paris that doesn’t need to be done at any specific time is one of my self guided walking tours of Paris. So you can just get one of them. There’s one for the Île de la Cité, there’s one for the Marais, there’s one for more Montmartre, the Montmartre one is  further away. And there’s soon to be a fourth one that I’m going to be announcing in a moment. Those you can take it anytime of day.


Annie Sargent  13:55

So install the VoiceMap app. Look for Paris tours by Annie Sargent. And there you have it, or if you want to get a little bit of a discount, get them on Join Us in forward slash audio tours. You can do them anytime you can stop and go, you can stop at a cafe if you want to. Anyway, I will recommend along the way, things that you can pop into that are marvelous. So yeah, that’s, that’s something that you can do anytime you but..


Annie Sargent  14:25

But I would say don’t book a guided tour with a human being because what if you don’t make it you know, that day for some reason your flight is delayed, you feel sick, I don’t know what could happen.


Annie Sargent  14:39

So just to recap, I would like you to get into the habit of checking, opening and closing times. Number two, be aware of distances and don’t trust your gut feeling about how far it’s going to be. And keep your first day wide open. I think this will help anybody have a better time in Paris.


Annie Sargent  14:54

Thank you Patricia Cleary for pledging to support the show on Patreon this week. Patrons enjoy several reward that you’ll find listed forward slash joinus be a tr un join us no spaces or dashes. I share exclusive content with my patrons including help with French, stories about friends photos, membership into a secret Facebook group, lots of rewards for the Patrons and of course patrons can message me directly through Patreon and these messages always get top priority. So again, this is to see the different reward tiers and thank you so much for giving back.


Annie Sargent  15:05

I’m also available to review your itinerary for France will cost you 50 bucks, but you know what, it can save you a lot of time and I will check those opening and closing times for you So, if you don’t have the time to do this, let me do it. Send me an email that says, itinerary review and we’ll get right on that. My email address is


Annie Sargent  16:14

For my personal update this week, well, you can hear that my, my bronchitis slash asthma thing isn’t quite cleared up, but I’m feeling a lot better. Thank goodness for modern medicine! But my voice isn’t quite all the way back.


Annie Sargent  16:30

But I’m really excited to be going back to Paris for a couple of weeks. early February, I’m going to work on Saint Germain des Prés tour. I love the area. It’s there’s so many stories and you know, for somebody who grew up in France, but not in Paris, and I was a bit I was not a bit I was a bookworm.


Annie Sargent  16:52

In my childhood, my mom actually went to see my teacher once and said, I don’t understand she’s always reading books. She never plays with other kids. I did play with other kids just I just liked the books a lot. And this went on until, you know until I was late teens. And then when I went to college, I had to stop reading for pleasure and start reading for college. And I didn’t really get back into reading until until audible came around. Yeah, audible has changed things for me because I love listening to things. And so I’ve listened to a ton of books anyway.


Annie Sargent  17:26

So I know all these stories about things that happened in Paris and important historical events and whatever. But I not having grown up in Paris, I didn’t see the places for the most part. And so it’s really exciting for me to go seek them out and plot them on a map and take you to right where the stories are. So this is very, I’m really looking forward to this.


Annie Sargent  17:50

But before I go to Paris, I’m going to participate in the bird count for the first time in my life. I have feeders around my house. Now I have three and I’m planning on building making one, two, there will be four of them. And I was told that it’s totally okay to count birds at feeders. So, but now the thing is, I have to recognize that right? And so I’ve been looking at birds and taking photos of them, which is challenging.


Annie Sargent  18:19

I think I mentioned it before on the on the show that I love photography. I don’t do so much basketball photography anymore. So I’ve turned to birds instead. And they move super fast. But it’s a talent is great, and I’m getting better at it. So I take all these photos of birds and then I asked people so what bird is this And anyway, it’s it’s just, it’s a fun thing for for me to do.


Annie Sargent  18:42

And I’ve tried to share some of my bird photos on Instagram stories, but the problem is, you can’t share photos on into Instagram Stories from the laptop. But I take my photos with a DSLR and so they’re all on my laptop. And I can’t it’s it’s not they don’t make it easy. Let’s put it this way.


Annie Sargent  19:00

But when I’m in Paris, early February, I’ll share places I go on Instagram stories. So if you want to follow me, it’s Addicted to France on Instagram.


Annie Sargent  19:13

So a brief update on the strike situation. People talk a lot about the strikes, like they’re surprised that are happening. Don’t be surprised strikes happen all the time in France, it’s just that this one is getting a lot of press, and even a lot of people who participate in the Facebook group, they say I was in Paris, in the middle of the strikes, and then I get home and they see the coverage. And it looks like two different worlds like the coverage on the news, make it look like apocalyptic in Paris. And that’s not what’s happening.


Annie Sargent  19:49

So my recommendation is, if in general, because this will happen again, it’s not over and it will continue to happen. In general, if you are strike averse, I would say do not book a hotel anywhere near République. That’s an area where most demonstrations start or end. And, and they’re usually there for a long time because they gather you know, over a long time whatever. Some of these demonstrations are so tiny, that you hardly because Republique is a big area, you hardly notice them, you know, but the big ones you do notice, but there are demonstrations starting at République just about three, four times a week. I mean, it’s, it’s the demonstration area, so stay away from that area.


Annie Sargent  20:38

The other thing is if you want to avoid trouble with public transportation, stay in centrally. There are three areas that I really like I really like the Marais, I really like Saint Germain des Prés. And I really like also, the Palais Royal area is also very central. Do another solo episode about hotel recommendations in these places. But it’s, it’s if you stay in those areas you could hoof it just about anywhere. And I think that would be a good decision for a first, especially a first time visitor to Paris


Annie Sargent  21:13

If you’ve been there 20 times, all bets are off, you probably have your habits, you probably have your, you know, have you figured it out by now. So you don’t need my help. I mean, I hope you enjoy my help, but you don’t need it. You’re self sufficient. But I’m talking to a lot of people. And I realized this more and more on the Facebook group, who are saying, This is my first visit to France, you know, my first time in Paris, so a lot of them it’s their first time out of the US, and that’s why I can’t tell them. You know, I have to be careful what I tell them because it’s very different for somebody who’s been around France many times and be somebody who has not.


Annie Sargent  21:53

Alright, so this is going to be a little bit of a short episode, but my voice is suffering. I’ve been drinking water To try and stop the cough. Alright, so lots of people they don’t think about looking for a podcast to plan a trip to France. So tell them about it because I think it’s a great way to, to learn about the country and to decide what’s for you and what’s not. We’re on Spotify, Pandora, Apple podcast, any app that they use to listen to podcasts. And if they don’t listen to podcasts, maybe you could show them how it’s not that difficult really anymore.


Annie Sargent  22:30

And if you want to review Join Us in France, you can go to ratethis it’s a new service. I signed up just to just to hear what people have to say about the podcast and you know, I love when people gush about this podcast so obviously. We have hundreds of reviews on on iTunes. I didn’t I I never I don’t go there very much. When I go my Wow. That’s a lot of people who listen and enjoy the podcast. So that’s very gratifying.


Annie Sargent  23:01

So excited for a new VoiceMap tour of Saint Germain des Prés and the left bank. But if you want to check out the three that are already out there, go to JoinUsin, or install the free VoiceMap app on your phone. And then look for tours of Paris and there I be! Annie Sargent. Tours by Annie Sargent.


Annie Sargent  23:26

Send questions or feedback to have a great time in France or a great week of trip planning. And I will talk to you next week of the Join Us in France Travel Podcast is written and produced by I’m Annie Sargent and copyright 2019. By addicted to France, it is released under a Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial no derivatives license.

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Category: Paris