My husband and I recently took a trip to the U.K. to visit his brother. He has been stationed in England for a little over a year now and I just couldn’t pass up the opportunity to visit. While we were over there, we decided to do a day trip to Paris (because, why not?). It was a simple train ride from King’s Cross Station in London to Paris (who knew?)
My head was brimming with the romantic images that I’ve pinned on Pinterest (you can visit my board here) plus the sweet music that I’ve heard in movies. Instead, by mid-day I was ready to go home, and by the end of the day, I never wanted to return to even France again, much less Paris! (For the record, I’ve since changed my mind and WILL definitely be returning France, although Paris is not at the top of my return-to-list.)
Disclaimer: When I travelled, I took a day trip to Paris in July. I spent a good chunk of the day in the “touristy” sites as I did a bus trip. I wholeheartedly believe that if the stay was extended, that it would have been much more enjoyable. Regardless, I feel it’s my duty to keep it real and let you know about my experience.
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Parts of Paris are Very Dirty
Like VERY dirty. After we got off the train and boarded the bus, my first glimpses of the city of love and lights was driving through narrow streets where the buildings were covered in graffiti, only occasionally broken up by a random person passed out against the building. The dirt was visible and matters were more “pressed” by the tour guide who decided that now was a great time to go over the crime rate in Paris and safety tips on what to do, not to do, and ALWAYS be aware of your surroundings. It reminded me of New York City… only much, much dirtier.
On a positive note, this grime dissipated pretty quickly once we got closer to the center of the city. And keep in mind that all big cities have their shady spots. If you are the adventurous type, the tour guide said that you can get some pretty good price steals in this area. You just want to be aware of what is fake and what is authentic.
It Can Be HOT in the Summer
July is supposed to be the best time of year to visit Paris with average temperatures hovering in the high 60’s, low 70’s (degrees Fahrenheit). Beautiful, right? Well the ONE day that I get to explore Paris, it was a balmy 92. This might not sound like very high to some of you, depending on where you live. But it was HUMID. To make matters worse, I figured that Paris is a fashionable city, so I decided to wear a dress that day. Two words: LEG CHAFING!
A major win for this is that they sell ice cream everywhere! I found this blog that lists out the best places for you. There are also various food trucks everywhere that sell ice cream. (For example, there was one right outside the Eiffel Tower).
Everything is Open Air
Due to the normally mild weather, most things are open air in the summertime. Therefore, there was absolutely no reprieve from the heat (even in the Louvre!) I imagine that when the weather is nice, this is a wonderful experience. We just visited on the wrong day, I guess.
Lots of People Smoke
This wouldn’t be a bid deal if it wasn’t for the above topic regarding everything being open aired. Since so many people smoke, the fumes just seemed to float in from everywhere, regardless of whether you were inside, outside or in some concoction in-between. There were also a few places that we visited that had folks smoking inside as well. If the restaurants aren’t totally non-smoking, they are divided into smoking and non-smoking sections. I’m not intolerant of smoking, as much of my family and friends smoke. I just think with the thick of the heat it was a little much. If you have something like asthma, this is definitely something to consider.
The High-End Shops Require an Appointment
This is for all good reasons. These shops obviously want to be able to devote 100% of their time to their paying customers. They also want their customers to be able to shop in comfort. Neither want to attempt to pick through the throng of tourists that would certainly be present to window shop. With that being said, there are a few shops that will let you in to shop without an appointment in the afternoon if they don’t have any appointments. Other times, they will allow you in the store, however, they will answer no questions if you don’t have an appointment. Different shops schedule appointments different ways. Be sure to check online before your visit!
Paris Traffic is Insane
We were riding in a big tour bus and I still wasn’t sure if I would make it out of there alive (exaggeration, of course!) However, I would absolutely NOT want to drive in the city! Especially near Place de la Concorde or Etoile (Arc de Triomphe). Traffic in that area is several lanes. I use the term “lanes” very lightly as there doesn’t appear to be a clear division of lanes or even how many lanes there should be. Vehicles cut each other off, and squish into the roundabout if there a any minuscule of a place small enough. On the other streets, traffic moves at a snail’s pace, so you could probably walk down the street faster than you could drive. There are also so many public transit options that I would recommend not giving yourself the unneeded stress and same some Euros.
Beware of Pickpockets!
Paris is known around the world as THE go-to travel destination. Along with that, people know that at any given time, there will be a large crowd of tourists. Naturally, this is going to bring an equally large amount of pickpockets.
The pickpockets in Paris are like no other pickpockets that I have ever experienced anywhere. While walking in front of the Eiffel Tower, a throng of girls (I’d say late teens, early twenties?) surrounded us. And by us, I mean each of us individually so that none of us could help the other (it was myself, my husband, and my brother-in-law.) While they surrounded us, one girl pushed a clipboard in my face talking about signing for some petition for some orphanage. In the meantime, other girls started just touching me all over. I didn’t have anything on my except for my phone, which I held firmly in my hand as I attempted to push them away. It definitely felt like an assault. After we managed to get through them and they moved on to their next attempt, my husband and brother-in-law told me that they did the exact same thing to them. They both had on cargo shorts with their pockets buttoned, so they didn’t get anything taken. When we got back on the bus later, there were several people that were part of our trip that had their wallets, cell phones, and even passports stolen by those girls.
Personally, I love this sling pack. It’s slash resistant (so they can’t cut it open while walking behind you), unisex (so either you or your partner can carry it) , and great to wear on your back, but can easily swing around to your front if you feel the need to cradle it for extra protection (like in the situation above.) You can find it here.
The Louvre is Giant!
It’s a well-known fact that the Louvre is a huge museum. If you’ve never been there, and you close your eyes and imagine how big it is, just know that IT’S SO MUCH BIGGER. If you are going with a group or guided tour, DO NOT spend the money if you are not going to be in the Louvre for at least a few hours (and if you are an art enthusiast, you could easily spend the entire day there.) Due to traffic, my tour was only in the Louvre for about 30-45 minutes. We were literally running from one exhibit to the next that the tour guide wanted to tell us about… missing everything in between. We also did not get to even see all of the rooms of the museum due to time constraints. We did see the Mona Lisa (which is so much smaller than I expected her to be) but had zero time for a single bathroom break and missed so much.
Luckily, I purchased these comfy, yet stylish kicks just for my Paris trip. I was able to walk around all day, and run around the Louvre, with zero pain.
If You Are Going to See the Eiffel Tower, Pay the Extra and Take it to the Top
Speaking from experience… the view from the bottom is just not worth it. The view from the top, however, is everything you think Paris should be.
If You’ve Been in One Souvenir Shop, You’ve Been in Them All
They basically all sell the same things except for a select few. You’ll also come across people walking around that are selling some of the things that the souvenir shops are selling, only much cheaper (I have no idea how legal this is so keep that in mind!)
The River Tour is Worth It
We saw so many great things on the river tour. It takes you down the River Seine which is beautiful in its own right. It flows right through the heart of the city. You go under breathtaking bridges and see things like the Eiffel Tower (of course), the Louvre, the Flame dedicated to Princess Diana (right above the tunnel where she died), and even the smallest house in Paris! It was probably my favorite thing of the entire day. There are dinner cruises available (which we did not do) however, if you opt for one of these, I would make sure that it is one that offers dinner on the top of the boat. There is so much to see by looking up, I’d hate for you to miss it because you are sitting indoors.
My Four Cents
Before we travelled to Paris, we were warned by many that they are not fond of Americans and could be openly rude. I was fully prepared for this as we made our way about the city. Aside from the pickpockets (who I can’t really say were rude other than their robbery attempt), we didn’t encounter a single rude individual. Everyone was extremely nice. I would attempt to speak my laughably broken French to them and most would immediately switch to English to make it easier. They were cordial giving directions and offering their advice on which parts of the city to stay away from, what food to eat, etc.
Paris is really a beautiful city. My recommendation is DO NOT go there for the first time on Bastille Day (cough, cough, speaking from experience, cough cough). Also, be prepared to see the ugly parts of Paris, in order to properly appreciate the beautiful parts. 🙂
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