I've been lucky enough to visit Paris on a number of occasions on different budgets and at different times of my life (single, married with children and with girlfriends). I have always enjoyed it and with my hand on my heart I can honestly say that I haven't met a rude French person yet. Perhaps I am lucky. All my dealings with the French have been nothing but warm and lovely - c'est vrai. So I wanted to share my experiences with you in the hope that you too get that warm fuzzy French feeling next time you are in Paris.
Where to stay
As a starting point, you need to first work out which area (arrondisement) you would like to stay in. Do some research and see what area suits you and your budget. You may have to compromise on location to get a nicer place but it's entirely up to you. Brace yourself - Paris hotel rooms are small and expensive. Even when I have stayed in posh hotels, I could barely swing a cat around my room without hitting the bed or bathroom. It pays to check out the size of the room first and if you are booking over the internet take time to understand the dimensions rather than rely on photos as they can be deceptive with the use of clever wide angle lenses. Otherwise, do what I do and opt for an apartment. It gives you more space, freedom and flexibility - particularly in regard to meals (even I prefer not to eat every meal out). There are plenty scattered throughout Paris and quite affordable. Only downside is that some apartments require minimum night stays. The most reliable sites I've used are:
Where to eat
If you are on a budget, Rosa Jackson (Australian Gourmet Traveller) has put together a wonderful showcase of eateries for under 10 Euros: www.gourmettraveller.com.au/eating-in-paris-for-under-10.htm. It is a useful guide despite being slightly dated (July 2009) because it is impossible to eat posh nosh for every meal in Paris (believe me, I've given it my best shot and found myself almost passed out after my third sitting at another bistro). Check out TripAdvisor for the best bistros as you are spoilt for choice in Paris. Personally, I would recommend one bistro and one posh restaurant:
- Josephine Chez Dumonet (117 Rue de Cherche-Midi, Paris). It has received mixed reviews on TripAdvisor but I had a divine meal there and we felt pretty special when the chef came out to have a drink with us!
- Le Cinq (at George V Four Seasons 31 Avenue, George V, 75008 Paris): Two Michelin star fine dining in exquisite surroundings with exceptional service. Definite wow factor on the opulence.
What to see and do
There is so much to see and do in Paris (refer to any Paris city guide for a comprehensive list) and you can spend hours just getting lost but here are my highlights for something slightly off beat:
- Take a cycling tour with Paris Charms & Secrets: meet at Place Vendome and ride along the cobbled streets of Paris on an electric bicycle, visiting famous icons from a different perspective (particularly, if you opt for the 8pm sunset tour - magic). I wouldn't recommend it for the faint-hearted as even though you have a guide, you still need to have your wits about you to manoeuvre through the traffic following her. It was by far and away, the highlight of my most recent trip to Paris www.parischarmssecrets.com. Ask for this amazing girl called Milana, who was my guide. She knows everything worth knowing about Paris and became my best friend overnight (e: email@example.com)
There are a number of vantage points to enjoy views of Paris: the Eiffel Tower, the bell towers of the Notre Dame and the Sacre Coeur. However, my personal favourites are:
- Le Déli-Cieux at Le Printemps: http://departmentstoreparis.printemps.com/restaurants/en/pages/index.aspx
- Montparnasse: Take a lift straight to the top, with no queues to an open-air deck with views of the Eiffel Tower and stunning Paris, which is pretty special for 11 Euros: http://www.tourmontparnasse56.com/index_EN.php#/home
In my humble opinion, it is a magical city and continues to be my favourite in the world. I hope you get to fall in love with it too.