Even though it’s officially spring, it certainly doesn’t feel like it! The cloud are still threatening to pour out rain or snow, and the sun still hides for the majority of the day, but there are a few signs of Spring. Besides the flowers popping up, the biggest sign of Spring for me is visitors! Paris is beautiful and warm in the summer, but flights are so much cheaper this time of year. It’s not ideal weather, but the food is still good and the museums have less of a line.
Having friends from other countries come visit me is one of the sweetest things I’ve experienced in Paris. I 100% agree with Gertuide Stein when she said, ‘America is my country, but Paris is my home,’ and I want my friends to understand why. Maybe it can’t be fully grasped in just a few days (especially with so many tourist sites to see), but I’m certainly going to try. Paris feels more permanent when friends see that I actually have a normal life here. Social media is great, but you only see the big beautiful highlights… you don’t see the normal stuff and I think that paints an incorrect picture of peoples’ lives. No matter what nationality you are or what country you live in, you have good and bad moments. But the majority of the time, only the good ones go on instagram.
Whenever friends come I try to do as much as I can to help them see my Paris, but I think that’s more attainable on the second trip to Paris. Nobody wants to go to a famous city and skip all the famous things. But if you hang around long enough, I think you can find a good mix of tourist attractions and local spots. You just have to make your trip long enough.
If you are coming to Paris for the first time, here’s my top ten things to do in the city:
*Eiffel Tower glittering at night (every hour, on the hour, for a few minutes) Metro stop Trocadero is the best place for seeing this and taking pictures.
*Lunch at the Marche des Enfants Rouge: Sandwiches from a man (Alain) who sells bread right in the center of the market. He speaks English and loves to give you a show while you stand in line! He opens at noon so if you don’t want to wait in line for an hour, get there right at noon.
*Louvre: If you enter from the metro, you will probably hear my favorite musican playing just before you enter the Carrousel. She plays the bass and plays gigs around the city, full-time. Use the Rick Steves free downloadable audio guide for this museum.
*Coffee at Telescope
The owner is French but learned how to brew coffee in New York, so he speaks perfect English. If you’re a coffee snob, you’ll like this place.
*Notre Dame and the Lock Bridge, using Rick Steves free podcast (Paris Historic Walk, available on iTunes)
*Handmade gifts from Les Chics de Claire
The owner, Claire, makes everything herself using fabric. Claire speaks French, English, Japanese and some Russian!
2 place de Thorigny, 75003 Paris; 7 days a week 10am – 7 pm; firstname.lastname@example.org
*Walk along the Seine
During the day: see the drawings and books for sale
During the evening: (if it’s warm enough) Pick up some wine, cheese, and a baguette, and sit and watch the city come
*Institut Suédois: I don’t know that everyone who works here speaks English, but it wouldn’t be difficult to order. It’s a Swedish cultural center and they have a cafe and free exhibits. In the cafe you can get Swedish cakes and cheap filtered coffee. It’s absolutely beautiful in the courtyard when the weather is warm.
*Le Jardin de Luxembourg/Luxembourg Gardens
Stop at the fountain to the right of the Senate, if you’re facing the Senate. I can’t think of anything more French than sitting in a lounge chair, soaking up the sun in a park.
*Chocolat Chaud/Hot Chocolate at Le Boulanger des Invalides Jocteur
The Boulanger speaks English, and so do a couple of his assistants. It’s a unique boulangerie because it also functions like a cafe, so you can have your drink and treat inside, and then grab your baguettes on the way out.
Metro and Bus stop: St. Francois Xavier; 14 Avenue de Villars, 75007 Paris
If you need it in schedule form, with a few more things, here it is:
Morning: Metro to Notre Dame (metro stop Saint Michel) and go inside using the Rick Steves Historic Paris Walk podcast as a guided tour. The tour will take you tell you about the church, and introduce you later to the ‘Bridge of Love,’ where people put locks on the bridge (if you want to bring one). They lock it to the side of the bridge, and then throw the key into the Seine (river). End the audio guide there and go across the street, you can walk into Shakespeare & Co Bookstore (if you’re interested… oldest English book store in the city). The first floor is all books for sale but the second floor is a collection of books that have been donated for people to use at the store. There’s a piano up there that people sit down and play, which you’re more than welcome to play!
Lunch: sandwiches from my favorite boulangerie. Chicken sandwich on the multigrain baguette (poulet sandwich avec le pain tradition) is my favorite! At the Metro stop Jussieu, near 21 Rue Jussieu, 75005 Paris.
Afternoon: Take the metro to the Champs -Elysées (metro stop George V) (famous expensive street) and walk down it to the arc de triomphe. There is a famous macaron place called La Durée if you wanted to buy a couple while you’re there. Or you can go into ‘Public Drug Store’ which is at the very end next to the Arc de Triomphe and buy some Pierre Hermes macaroons! It’s on the main floor, in the back.
Take metro to ‘Trocadero’ to see the Eiffel Tower in the daylight and go up it. It’s 12.50€ a person to take the elevator all the way up. I would recommend saving your money here, and just viewing the tower from Trocadero.
Dinner: La Veraison
Reservations might be required unless you go right when they open. They do speak English here!
Morning: Montmarte visit to see Sacre Coeur (church) and the painters in the open plaza.
Lunch: Salad and wine at Le Relais Glason (metro abess)
Afternoon: take the metro to the pantheon to visit, and after walk to (and around) the Luxembourg Gardens
Dinner: falafels in the marais (metro: saint Paul)
Evening: Visit the Louvre (free after 6pm on Friday nights if you’re under 26)
Take wine and desserts out to the Eiffel Tower (metro Trocadero), and watch it sparkle
Late Morning: Visit the Marché des Enfants Rouge (my favorite market) and get in line for a sandwich at noon (it gets really busy) (sandwiches are 7€ each). Plan ahead a meal to make at your apartment, with great suggestions from Bea at La Tartine Gourmande, and pick up the ingredients at the market.
After noon: walk through the marais with audio guide (Rick Steves – free) to learn about the Jewish history, see the vintage shops. Finish with a snack and coffee at the Swedish Institute. They even sell cookbooks there with everything they make for 10€. Stop by Les Chics de Claire afterwards (it’s right around the corner) to look for some handmade purses and bags. Leisurely walk towards Bastille to catch the metro or continue walking to the Seine to take pictures.
Dinner at home