Paris Is Always A Good Choice: Guest post from the lovely Vanessa at TurnipSeedTravels
Love it or hate it?
You can hardly click on a Pinterest board without seeing something with the slogan “Paris Is Always A Good Choice”. I have to say, I’m inclined to agree! I’ve been to Paris 6 times and I love it. There’s a reason Paris makes it onto every bucket list, why even non-travelers are enamoured with the City of Lights. But Paris also has many detractors. So what can you expect from your first time in Paris and is it a good choice?
City of Lights? Or just a city?
First and foremost, Paris is a city, a national capital, and the centre of the Francophone world. And like any other major city, there can be downsides. It can be bureaucratic, busy, congested, sooty, overpriced, with pockets of crime and poverty. Chances are very good that Paris is actually statistically cleaner and safer than your hometown, but there’s no escaping that it’s a big city. Movies have worked hard to sanitize Paris into perfect loveliness, but millions of real people live and work there – and millions more like you and I visit each year. Be gentle with your expectations.
Snobby? Not quite!
I’ve also heard complaints that Parisians are snobby. In my experience, Parisians have always been polite and helpful. When any big city is overrun by tourists, its residents can be a bit fatigued by it all. Paris is a world leader for the finer things in life, which a rich history and legacy all its own. As a Parisian, you would have justifiable pride in your city, your heritage – and you’d likely be put out when a loud, brash, tourist starts complaining about the lack of English signage. I think Parisians just want to see that the travellers who overwhelm their city also show it some love, some respect.
The world is your oyster.
So, taking these factors into account, what can you expect from a visit to Paris? More than anything else, you can expect choice. Whether your interest lie with history, any form of art, dance, theatre, or literature, architecture or design, gardens or nature, food, drink, or people – there is a Paris filled with your passions, waiting for you to discover it. And make your visit guilt-free! Paris has the most spectacular art museums in the world but you shouldn’t feel pressured to spend all your time in galleries. You can enjoy Paris just as much if your passion is cycling, or music, or baking. By all means, challenge yourself to try new things, consider seeing some of the most famous sites, but ultimately follow your true interests and Paris will support you!
Wistful or list-ful?
While many of us dream of lazy Parisian afternoons, floating on a breeze, happy to stroll and explore and follow our whims, the reality is that a bit of organization goes a long way in this large and popular city. I suggest breaking up your visit to be half free time and half pre-planned time. You can save hours by planning when you will visit the most popular sites, legendary for their epic lines. You can also save a lot of money when you group your activities by geographic zone, cutting out the need for extra transportation. With a little planning, you can see most of Paris’s famous attractions in a short amount of time, leaving you with the leisure and relaxation you crave.
Prince or pauper?
One of the best things about Paris is that it represents tremendous value for travellers of all budgets. Paris is the kind of city that you can experience unforgettable luxury or you can live the savvy backpacker’s dream. To experience the best of Paris, you don’t have to be holed up in a 5 star hotel, drinking overpriced wine. Nor do you have to bunk in a hostel dorm, eating stale baguette. There is something for every budget and there are plenty of creative ways to save money in some areas in order to splurge more on others.
How I save and splurge in Paris:
When I visit Paris next in November 2013, I’ll be staying at a modest, 2 star hotel that is very reasonably priced. What I’m giving up in fancy accommodation, I’m gaining back in luxurious location, as my dusty little pension is located right next to Notre Dame Cathedral. My strategic plan to visit museums during their reduced evening rates saves me money, which I’ll then use to take a guided walking tour of a new neighbourhood. I’ll be breakfasting on the go, grabbing baked goods and local market fare, but I’ll enjoy dinner with wine and dessert. And at every step, I’ll be soaking up the Parisian experience, enjoying every minute of the day surrounded by beautiful public parks, charming cobblestone lanes, rich historical sites, and delightful cityscapes.
My top Paris tips:
- Take a walking tour. They’re offered in English, are reasonably priced, and the exercise will help beat jet lag. A fun way to discover a new neighbourhood. Ask your tour guide for his favourite little bakery or bar – probably the best recommendation you’ll find!
- For every famous site you see, such as the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, Notre Dame, see one that is slightly less famous –a small church, a lesser-known market, the Picasso museum. That way, you’ll enjoy Paris’ highlights but also get off the beaten track.
- The best value comes from local products. French house wine is an absolute steal compared to that bottle of Spanish red. Splurge on Dior and Chanel, not Dolce & Gabbana. A baguette with Brie will be a much better deal than tracking down an American-style grilled cheese. You can get any product, any experience in the world in Paris – but the highest quality and best price will be the homegrown ones.
- Learn a little French. Parisians are well educated and most speak some English, but you are guaranteed a much nicer experience if you make an effort in their native language. A good guidebook will also contain a language section giving you everything you need. PS: “Garcon” means “boy” – NOT “waiter”. Not a very polite word to use!
- Do a little reading and research on the activities you’ll do. Seeing the Mona Lisa becomes much more meaningful if you know a bit about the famous lady. Coffee lovers would be smart to learn the French terms for different drinks and tips regarding café customs.
Paris Is Always A Good Choice is part of my travel blogger network series.
Bio: Vanessa Chiasson is TurnipseedTravel – an ocean loving Maritimer now settled as a freelance writer in Ottawa. Her diverse travels include Paris, where she ran a marathon, the coffee farms of Hawaii, and the national parks of Malawi. Next up? A round-the-world trip with 9 stops, including Turkey, Myanmar, and Australia. When not on the road, she loves to read, bake, garden, & spend time with her family (dashing husband, jaunty black lab, disgruntled cat.)
Blog Description: TurnipseedTravel.com is passionate about great value -getting the absolute most for your hard earned dollars and days off. Our value travel philosophy tells you where to save, when to splurge, and how to make every moment count.
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