Each trip to Paris brings new insights into traveling. Both for traveling in general and for traveling specifically to Paris. This recent January trip was perfect! How could it not be? It is Paris, after all.
We were greeted with snow, then with rain on and off for a few days. The nights were chilly with low clouds, but then the sun shone through at times making the city sparkle. Generally, the weather does not affect my enjoyment of Paris, but it does determine how to pack and how to plan.
In addition to all of the information on traveling to Paris on this site, such as this packing list, here are a few recent observations. Also, a little tattle on myself for not following my own suggestions!
Map and Guidebook for Traveling
I forgot a map of Paris!!! And, a guidebook. I always bring them. Not this time. I completely forgot them while I was trying to get the dog to camp before starting to pack (so she wouldn’t be stressed). I always pack the night before or the day of the flight (not suggested), but I have always done it that way. As the trip approaches, I usually make a pile of things to put in my suitcase. But this time, I just forgot a map and guidebook. It is on the list I use to pack – but I misplaced my list the day before leaving! Not a good idea. Keep your list for packing with your suitcase!
In Paris, we stayed in a more reasonably priced hotel so that we could splurge on a few specials. Like the day trip to the Normandy D-Day Beaches, a show at the Lido, a food tour of the Marais, and of course, a special ride with Champagne in Guillaume’s Citroën DS!!
Taxis and Ride Hailing Services
G7 is a taxi service in Paris. A little while back, I downloaded the G7 app. It was terrific. It is quick and easy to enter the destination. Meaning no fumbling with using the wrong number in French or mispronouncing street names – all while the taxi driver speaks faster and faster French to you. Besides, it explained, in English, what kind of car was coming with contact information. Then, I could see the car on its way with an estimated time of arrival and more. Just like popular ride sharing apps.
One of my friends tried Uber and it was a 30 minute wait. Same when I tried it. In the past it has worked well, but not so great this time. Do not know the reasons why, but it is great to have options. Also, if you link the G7 app to a credit card that doesn’t charge a foreign exchange fee, even better. (Lyft is not in Paris yet.)
The Métro is always easy and super-efficient transport. As you work your way through the underground maze, make sure to look for the signs leading you in the right direction at each intersection. And, double check yourself each time. I missed a sign at one cross path, but Jennifer caught it. Of course, it wouldn’t have been terrible, but catching the right one saved time and kept us on track to our next destination.
Read more on getting around in Paris here.
Without my hard copy of a map, I used a map application on my phone a couple of times. I needed to confirm we were going in the correct direction. (I felt like I was cheating, but it was pretty useful!)
Although I advised my bank that I would be in France ahead of time, I still got a fraud call after using my debit card. Plus, I wasted time and had a lot of aggravation talking to a fraud person who was not really connected to my local bank. The big banks did not have these problems. And of course, American Express already knows you are there (somehow??) and knows you are spending money – so no problems with AmEx.
Poncho in Your Satchel
It rained on this visit, but it is Paris, so who really cares? I had ponchos in my satchel for everyone. One time it was really raining hard by Parisian standards so I broke out the ponchos. BUT, make sure the poncho in the little bitty sack from the drugstore is big enough to fit over you!!! Each of us had on a coat, some with sweaters underneath, and I was carrying my satchel. None of the ponchos fit over me. Another was so flimsy, and the wind was so strong, that it was constantly being turned inside out! Anyway, I was glad to have a little cover, but will be restocking with a little higher quality and checking the sizes before purchasing more.
Hiking Boots – Who Knew?
I was very happy that I brought lightweight, waterproof, hiking boots. I have never thought of bringing hiking boots to Paris before. But, it is lots of walking, sometimes on cobblestones, sometimes in the rain, and sometimes with a little slush on the ground. They were excellent. I even wore them when it wasn’t raining. So, I was very happy to have them.
Walk a Mile
Jennifer left her iPhone connected to internet service the entire time. And, if it is correct, we walked 7-8 miles each day. I was really surprised by that number! If it was a long way to dinner, we took a taxi. Most of this was really just walking in the day from Métro stops and in and around neighborhoods and a few museums. No wonder Parisians are fit looking!
Now, THIS is an Observation
And, one more….
Know When to Rest ‘Em
Everyone else took a rest in the afternoon, but I went to see more and walk around more. I have a hard time sitting still in Paris. However, the important part of this is that they NEEDED a rest so that the rest of their day would be enjoyable. IT IS REALLY IMPORTANT TO UNDERSTAND WHEN TO REST. On this trip, I was fortunate to need only about 15 minutes with my feet up before changing clothes for dinner. And, for all the places we ate dinner, I wore jeans, collared shirt and a sports jacket. Also, an outer coat and scarf for traveling to and from dinner.
Louvre Museum Shop Moved
The Louvre moved its ticket stations from right under the pyramid into the space where the gift shop used to be. Now, the museum shop is on the same underground level as before, but two parts, one either side of the wide hall leading to the inverted pyramid. It still has all of the great books, interesting gifts and walls of post cards.
Angelina on rue de Rivoli
Angelina has an outpost on the rue de Rivoli, next door to Hotel Le Meurice. The line was about 75 people long waiting to get in on a drizzly and cold afternoon. (Hint: Go to Café de Flore, instead. Or try practically any café with seating and you may be surprised by the hot chocolate.)
Stand Up Cafés Disappearing?
Cafés where one stands at the bar and orders coffee and a croissant in the morning seem to be fewer and farther between. Don’t know for sure, but we were having trouble finding them so we could duck in quickly for a shot of espresso. Will have to research more on this and be more observant. Maybe it is only the tourist areas that are filled with to-go shops.
Walk and Drink and Eat
Meanwhile on the streets of Paris, more and more Parisians seem to be walking around with cups of coffee in their hands. Quelle horreur! That is so un-Parisian to walk on the street and drink coffee. And, certainly completely unacceptable to eat while walking. Neither of these used to ever be seen.
Exercise Fanatics – In Style
Another interesting observation is that more and more joggers are all over the place – another sight that used to never be seen. They thought I was from the moon when I jogged in the mornings back in the 90s. Of course, Parisians have on matching running outfits (not just shorts and t-shirts) so they look good while jogging. The runners are everywhere, especially through the gardens and along the quais of the Seine.
January = Fashion Weeks
No wonder the hotels were not at a deep discount in January. Paris Fashion Week, both womens’ and mens’ are in January. Back-to-back. And, mens fashion week was happening when we were there. Another time to put on the calendar to check before booking.
Organ concerts at historic churches are an absolute must. They only last an hour and you don’t have to stay for the whole thing. They are a great opportunity to see magnificent architecture, and the sound from the organs can rattle your bones and the rafters. I saw/heard them at Saint-Sulpice, Saint Séverin and Saint Eustache. (I wrote more on awe-inspiring churches here.)
All incredible, but Saint Eustache may be a little more fun because the keyboard is on the ground floor. That means you can see the organist perform while listening to the music. At the others, the keyboard and the organist are way up by the pipes. At the end of the performance, they kind of peep out from the organ for their final applause. Choir organs, which are also beautiful, are played during many church services. But do not mistake them for the grand organs. The grand organs are the ones where you see the massive pipes above the main doors to the church.
For jet lag, I kind of tried the “not eating on the flights” way of thinking. On the way to Paris, the meal on the plane leaving Atlanta was at about the time I would normally have dinner, so I ate. I did not eat again until lunch in Paris at Cafe Nouvelle Saint Marie. On the way back, I ate a baguette sandwich at the airport terminal that I had bought near the hotel. Then, not again until dinner in Atlanta. Generally, my jetlag is really bad coming back from Paris. But this time, it was practically non-existent. Will try the not eating on flights again in a few months and report back.
A Few More Visual Observations