Wednesday, March 7, 2012
Paris: Survive and Thrive!
It has been a few days since my half-marathon and I'm happy to say that my legs are starting to feel like normal.That being said, stairs still are awful.
It is a rainy and grey day here, so not much is going on. Some rock climbing tonight, but that's about it. Oh, and homework, of course!
So I would not call myself an expert on Paris, but I have been there a few times. So, for the blog post I'm going to write about what I have learned to do/not to do in order to have an enjoyable time in the city. This is mainly for my parents, who will be coming to France in less than a month! Very exciting.
1. Don't rent a car. Why not? First, the metro is great. Use it. It will take you everywhere. Second, good luck finding a parking space. Third, good luck navigating the streets.
2. The metro
-------It is grand!
-------Do buy booklets of 10 tickets, rather than individual ones if you are planning to be there for a few days. It is more cost efficient. You can buy them at a desk or a little booth.
-------Do know where you are going! The metro is easy to use and easy to navigate, but make sure you know the direction you need to go in and which stop you need. Also, try to figure out where you are going before you go. Nothing screams "tourist" like a giant metro map. You can print a smaller version off of the internet which you can carry around with you (http://subway.umka.org/map-paris.html).
-------There are automatic doors and also ones you have to open manually. For the manual ones, pull the lever up, not down.
-------There are bound to be some strange people in the metro. DON'T make eye contact, or else they will bother you.
-------Know when the last metro is if you are going to be out late, unless you want to sleep in the streets.
-------To locate the metro stops, look for the giant red M or a sign that says Metropole.
-------When on escalators or moving sidewalks, always stand to the right to allow people in a hurry to pass by on the left.
3. The streets. Watch your step! Sometimes people don't pick up after their pets.
4. Be polite. If you need to ask for help, begin with "Bonjour" and then your question. Unlike in Canada, you cannot just say "Excuse me, can you help me find the..." You must say hello first.
5. Another useful phrase: "Parlez-vous anglais?" Don't assume that just because it is Paris, everyone speaks English. Say Bonjour, then this phrase, and hope that they say "oui" in response. Also, "Merci" (thank you) goes a long way. Showing that you are trying will get your brownie points.
6. Not all Parisians are rude. Some are in fact very nice. Just imagine how you would feel if your city was constantly overrun with tourists, snapping pictures and not understanding the rules.
7. If you are with Scotiabank, you are in luck! BNP Paribas, one of the French banks, is affiliated with Scotia, which means you can use your debit card to take out cash and not get a service charge. The sign is green with white stars.
8. It is worth asking your hotel/hostel/apartment main desk for advice on where to eat out. Often the best places are not in the main centre of the city. That goes for bakeries and bars as well!
9. St. Germain is a really cool part of the city with lots of good bars, restaurants, and movie theatres.
10. The Eiffel tower is great in the day, but going up at night is apparently amazing. I saw some pictures taken by a friend and the lights of the city are just fantastic.
11. Take a boat ride too! Tour boats go all down the Seine and will give you great stories.
12. The Arc du Triomphe, if you climb up the stairs, has a great view of the city and the Eiffel Tower. Just make sure you get to it underground; don't try and cross the giant roundabout unless you want to die.
13. Speaking of roundabouts, there are lots in Paris and France in general. When crossing the streets, do so at pedestrian crosswalks. In Paris there are usually the familiar green and red signals to tell you when to go. Elsewhere in France, you just walk and cars stop for you. Be more careful in Paris.
14. You can take an RER train to the Chateau de Versailles and it is a must-see.
15. Other things to see: Sacre Coeur cathedral and wandering through the Montmartre area, where you will find lots of artists as well as the Moulin Rouge. Watch your purse in this area! Also the Louvre is great if you are an art critic. Everyone says that the Catacombs are a must-see as well. Notre Dame is impressive, but the St. Chapelle is my friend's favourite church on the inside. I also have not been, but if you like macarons the house that started it all is in Paris and it is called Ladurée. Apparently they have they bets macarons.
16. Bring your umbrella! Don't be surprised if the sky is grey and it rains. Sometimes you get lucky, sometimes you don't.
I can't really think of anything else at the moment. This is what I have learned traveling in Paris! It is a really beautiful and unique city, but it just needs to be discovered by you! Hopefully for those who plan on going to Paris, you love the city. The first time I went, I didn't like it very much, but this year it is really quite different. I have come to appreciate cities, and though I will always love the great outdoors, the bustling city life is starting to grow on me. Besides, people watching is so fun in big cities!
PS- eat lots of bread. It's unbelievably good!