• Things I learned in Paris

    We went to Paris towards the end of October, where we spent 10 days in total.  Before we headed to Paris, I tried really hard to try to manage my expectations. When you hear the word Paris, you immediately have images of the Eiffel Tower, crepes and romantic scenery. I really didn't want to end up there and be disappointed - especially because we were going in Autumn so I knew the weather wouldn't be great.  Instead of doing a typical travel post, I thought I would share a few things that I learned while there of myself and the city.

    The Eiffel Tower is everything you expect it to be but it is most beautiful at night. The light show is pure magic! One afternoon JP and I were heading back to our hotel from Versailles and decided to get off the train a bit early to see the Arc de Triomphe and Eiffel Tower and night - it incredible. We also went up the Arc de Triomphe at night which gave us such beautiful views of the Eiffel Tower and Paris streets. Oh and just a note - it is technically illegal to take photos and video footage of the tower at night and post it on social media or on your website. This is because the light show is still copyrighted.

    Initially, I didn't find Paris to be any more romantic than the other places we've been to. I even asked JP if he feels more in love with me - both agreed we still feel the same way (ha ha). But that changed when we were up on the summit of the Eiffel Tower, we splurged on champagne and macarons and took in the views of the city. This city is best viewed from a height. I think it is also just because standing at the top of the tower was such a surreal experience for me. I never thought I would travel overseas, so getting to experience a moment like that was truly special for me. I was beaming!

    Traveling in and around Paris is super easy and quite affordable. There are many options to get around - trams, metros, buses and trains. We found the metros to be the quickest, cheapest and most convenient way to get around. There are metro stations all over the place.

    You have to be aware of your surroundings while in public areas - one has to be mindful of how you carry your bag and people trying to scam you. At every single big tourist attraction there were people trying to con tourists out of money. There are so many different scams - so I highly recommend doing some googling on it. Coming from South Africa, I think we are naturally more aware of things around us and how to walk with our bags and belongings, so it wasn't an issue for me walking around Paris. I didn't experience anything bad, the only incident I did have was when I didn't want to buy a big metal Eiffel Tower and kept walking on, the man shoved me in the side with the tower to get my attention - let's just say he got to hear a few choice words in Afrikaans that made him run away.

    While we are on the topic of Afrikaans - it is your best friend in Paris. We found that if we spoke Afrikaans first and then switched to English, people in general treated us better. It was also a good way to avoid having to talk to people trying to sell us stuff we weren't interested in. But it is really a good idea to learn some basic French phrases to at least greet people properly in French before switching to English.

    Get up early and be prepared to queue! There is so much to see and although a lot of places open a bit later in Autumn, it takes a while to get to them. When you arrive at popular attractions there will already a long queue, it just is what it is. We spent over an hour in queues at most places which isn't fun. You have to prepare yourself for the hundreds of people around you, security checks at all entrances and then additional security checks inside certain attractions. You cannot skip the security lines (even if you have purchased your ticket online), so places like The Louvre, Eiffel Tower, Versailles, Arc de Triomphe - they make everyone wait in long queues to first pass through security checks before you hit the ticket lines. I hate long queues and will purposefully avoid certain places back home so that I don't have to endure it, but being on holiday in such a popular city, you cannot avoid them. I quickly had to learn to just accept the situation and make the most of it.

    Supper time is not a big deal in Paris, the main meal is Lunch which means that restaurants have great deals. In the center of Paris there are many restaurants open for supper but we found in the area we stayed in (around 5km outside Paris) places opened for breakfast and lunch but closed after their lunch service. So keep this in mind if you are not in the heart of the city and need to eat supper still.

    Eating out is expensive - which is just made worse by weak Rand. It is always nice to enjoy a meal at a restaurant and you just have to make peace with the fact that you end up spending A LOT of money on a normal meal. Even places like McDonalds works out incredibly expensive for what you are getting. For this trip, we decided to stay in Aparthotels because they have kitchenettes. This meant we could buy groceries and cook our own meals. It made our stay a lot cheaper and I enjoy cooking, so it was nice to go to the markets and get things for meals. It also saved us a hell of a lot of money by doing this.

    Paris gardens are designed to be viewed from a height - reason I am mentioning this is because I was very underwhelmed by the gardens surrounding the Eiffel Tower and those leading to the Louvre. It was only once I was up on the Eiffel Tower platform that I could see the beauty and intent of the design. When walking down below, it just looked like rows of trees with dirt paths - nothing wonderful. So if you are in Paris and walking through gardens, look for places with some height to take in the true beauty. There are so many beautiful parks scattered all around the city and surrounding suburbs which are a nice escape from the busyness and noise of the streets.

    Go off the beaten track - JP and I would take the Metro to an area we wanted to explore and then walk around from there. It was a great way to view the city and we stumbled across museums that were less touristy (yay for no queues). We even found a wine museum in one back street. Seeing the big tourist attractions are definitely a must, but don't only focus on that because you end up missing out on great places that are quieter and more affordable to visit.

    The crepes are worth the calories and cash - seriously! The way they make it here in South Africa is not at all how they are in Paris. Locally I found that they make then very thin with almost crispy edges, in Paris they are thicker, have a bit of a chew to them and are soft, even around the edges. It is so delicious and the perfect way to warm up when taking a break from all the walking.

    Every trip we do, I learn something about myself. Last year, it was all about being out of my comfort zone and not allowing that to ruin my holiday (you can read that post here). This year I wasn't able to plan the trip the way I typically would, so it was all about seeing once we got there what we'd do. No plans other than knowing where we were staying. Typical me would not be happy about that, I don't plan the days out by the hour, but I know what I would like us to see and have a rough idea of what we'd do on a day (I like to leave the days flexible to allow for us to just walk around and explore on our own). This year I had a completely different approach, wake up, see what the weather was like and then plan from there. It was liberating and we still got to do everything we wanted...except for one thing. I really wanted to go to the Asterix and Obelix Park but it closed a few days into our trip. Now that poor planning made me want to kick myself - I really love the stories on these two friends and the adventures they went on. Going to the Disney wasn't even on my list because although Disney is great, I grew up on Asterix and Obelix, Tin Tin and the Gummy Bears. If we are close to Paris in the future, I'll definitely plan things better so that I can go to this park.

    There are so many things to see and do in Paris, it truly is a great city to visit. If you have any specific questions about our trip or the places we went to, you are welcome to leave a comment below (although I know it is a lot easier to tweet or leave a message on Instagram so you are welcome to do that - I am gee_whiskers on both platforms).

    Big Hugs,
    Charlene XXX

    PS. I had a travel poster made again for this trip. So if you are wondering where I got it printed and framed, it was again through Nifty250. This is such an affordable way to document trips in a way that I can appreciate them every day. I often stop at out travel wall and look at each year's photos. It also serves as a reminder of how lucky I have been to travel and that I get to make these memories with JP.

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