Paris: Setting the Stage

There will be much more to come shortly about my recent trip to beautiful Paris, but I thought it would be helpful to give a little background first (plus, pictures!).

Tres Parisian

Sainte-Chapelle

A toutes les gloires de la France, Chateau de Versailles

Jardin des Tuileries


When? I was there for four days, landed Friday morning and left Tuesday afternoon. While I could have stayed (much) longer, it was a good amount of time for a first trip and left plenty to look forward to for my next trip (oh there will be a next trip).

I also really liked this time of year to visit. It’s technically the off season for tourism so prices are lower, lines are shorter, everything just seems a little less frantic. It didn’t hurt that the weather was spectacular–mid-60’s and sunny the first two days, kind of cloudy the third day, and threatening rain on the last day (perfect for museums and shopping).

Where? Conveniently, a friend who used to live in Paris suggested the Marais neighborhood as a good home base for a short trip; this was absolutely spot on. North-east of Notre Dame in the 3rd and 4th arrondissements, Marais is cute, funky, kind of hipster, close to a lot of the tourist sites but far enough away to avoid tourist trap hell.

I really liked the hotel, Hostellerie du Marais, too–simple but quality, inexpensive for the area ($160/night), really comfortable beds, quiet, and the people were very kind and helpful.

Seine

Eiffel Tower

Jardin des Tuileries

Place des Vosges

What? As if it’s any surprise, I researched the hell out of this trip. Places to eat, things to do, where to shop (specifically where to shop for things to eat). I asked everyone I knew who’s ever been or thought of going to Paris for input, and read the usual tour books plus a million blogs (especially David Lebovitz and Dorie Greenspan‘s), websites, and forums. I made a color-coded, multi-layered Google map.

This was what I ended up with as my top five “To Do”s; anything else would just be a bonus:

  1. Visit a farmer’s market
  2. Have one old-school French dinner
  3. Shop at G. Detou
  4. See the Lady and the Unicorn tapestries at the Musee de Cluny, the Medieval history museum
  5. See Monet’s waterlilies at the Musee Orangerie

Here is where I actually went, all of which I’ll touch on in the next few posts:

Who? My travel buddy was a long-time friend, fellow food fan, excellent navigator, and very tolerant of my maps and lists.

Why? Because when someone asks where you’ve always wanted to go and have never been, you say “Paris.”

Parlez-vous Francais? I went there knowing three words of French: merci, bonjour, and au revoir (plus a lot of food words). I came back having tripled my vocabulary; I added merci beacoup, sortie, bonsoir, and the ability to count to 5.

A very friendly smile, “bonjour/bonsoir” to start any interaction, an honest attempt to communicate in French, and lots of hand gestures and pointing served well. As a guest in their country, it seemed perfectly reasonable to try to speak on their terms and I never found anyone to be rude or unwilling to try to communicate.

I think that’s enough background–next up, the good stuff, eating (and drinking) in Paris!

Empty Sunday street

Voie Georges Pompidou

Cathedrale Notre-Dame de Paris

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