I’ve mentioned before that I love hearing about fellow traveller’s experiences of France.
I’m intrigued by it all. Where they went. What they ate. How they travelled. And, most of all, what they learned.
Which is why I’ve been so excited to have Distant Francophile reader Claire posting lately about her recent trip to France.
Claire has been so generous in sharing the lessons she learned while she was in France and I’m incredibly grateful.
In Claire’s final piece in this little series, she lets us in on the travel tips she picked up in Paris.
Over to you Claire.
- Don’t assume everyone in Paris speaks English, learn some French. The basics like hello; bonjour, thank you; merci and good bye; au revoir will go a long way.
- Always greet the shop staff when entering a store. It is not something we do Australia, but it is de rigueur in France; Bonjour Madame/Monsieur .
- Understand that most French people won’t smile on the street or make small talk with you. It is just not in their culture. They respect other people’s personal space and privacy.
- Dress like a local. Nothing screams tourist like a bright coloured parka, cargo shorts and sneakers. You are an easy target for pick-pockets and tricksters.
- At major tourist attractions there are a lot of souvenir sellers and tricksters. Link arms with your partner (if you have a travelling companion), do not speak and look suitably bored (like you are planning tonight’s dinner). You will look local, they will not pick a foreign accent and you will probably be left alone.
- A croissant a day is not a bad thing, nor is a glass of rosé.
- We choose not to buy museum tickets and passes in advance and have never regretted it. Check the hours for late night openings and remember many places are closed on Monday so are busy on Tuesday. Compared to Australia, the entry cost to many places is a lot cheaper than you expect.
- Check for free walking tours around Paris, you tip the guide as payment, but you also have a more personal and interesting tour. Check the local buses, the number 69 and 72 run across Paris and for €2 you can see as much as a more expensive tour.
- A carnet is a book of 10 Paris Métro tickets. They are easy to buy at each station and save you having to buy a ticket each time you want to ride. Remember to keep your ticket until you are back out on the street. A couple of stations require you to insert your ticket again to exit the station or a ticket inspector might ask to see it.
- Go to the Métro early in the morning and have a play on the ticket machines before the morning rush hour. Then you will feel confident using them and not hold up the queue. We did this on the way to the boulangerie to buy breakfast.
- As much as you want to – you just can’t do everything. Pick your priorities and work from there, there will always be a next time.
- Just walk, sometimes you see more of the real Paris by picking a street or an area and just walking. Don’t forget to look up. Paris architecture is wonderful and so is the cat sitting on the ledge up there.
- The French tend not to walk along the street eating or drinking a take away coffee. Although I noticed a few take away sandwich shops, people sit and eat. French food is different so don’t expect to find what you eat at home. Go with an open mind and you won’t be disappointed.
- Some lesser known sites are more spectacular than the iconic tourist spots. My favourites are concerts at the various Paris churches, the Paris Opera House and the Lady and the Unicorn Tapestries at the Museum of Medieval History.
- Ecocabs are a great taxi service that will meet you on arrival and take you to your accommodation. If the thought of navigating the Paris Métro after a long flight or train ride does your head in, let them take care of you. Nothing impresses your mother more than a man in uniform who meets you on arrival. Same approximate cost as a taxi.
It’s been so wonderful having you write for Distant Francophile Claire. Thank you again for sharing your adventures – we are all very appreciative.
And before you go, if you’ve learned any lessons from Paris, pleasejoin the conversation in the comments section below.
Until next time – au revoir.
Photographs courtesy of Claire Collins 2016.