Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Observations From a First Time Visitor in Paris

I loved my visit to Paris.  While I went feeling a bit intimidated by the city, I left feeling comfortable and wanting to stay longer.  I hope I get a chance to return now that I feel more confident about getting around.  It's a clean city, at least the parts that I saw.  There are trash containers on every block and these lovely recycling bins for empty wine bottles, etc. are everywhere☺
And notice the bicycles.  You can rent them (coin operated) and drop them off at your destination.

Many Parisians speak some English so if you make an effort to learn a few French phrases they'll be happy to assist you.  I didn't run into any of the arrogant French that I've read about.  Although one young sales clerk in a department store who told me I was shopping in the wrong clothing section as the styles I was looking at were for younger women came pretty close. 

I came away with a few observations that may help prepare others going to Paris for the first time.

Paris is an old city and many of the streets are still cobblestone.  You really need to look down because if you’re looking up you might miss a raised stone or the hole from a missing stone.  Entrances into small boutiques in the older parts of the city such as Marais may have an unexpected (2-3”) step up or down.  I tripped over several. 

You have no personal space in Paris.  In lines or crowded subways, people cluster right up against one another.  On the narrow sidewalks they walk toward you without slowing down.  I dodged more umbrellas!  I’m sure that’s why there are so many signs telling you to beware of pickpockets.  People are close.  Restaurants, in order to cram in as many people as possible, have many small tables—about 2’ in diameter.  And they push them right next to one another.  So plates have to be small, you can’t lift your elbows, and you need to wait until you’re outside to put your coat back on without hitting someone.  It’s probably why Parisians have no weight problems.   I don’t think I saw even one overweight person there—like the species has adapted to the environment.  I should definitely move there to try that theory out. 

There are crossing lights for pedestrians on most major streets.  People don’t always pay attention to them (kinda like New York) but they do work.  The problem, however, is that cars are still legally able to make a left or right turn into the side street that you may be crossing.  They do stop though just short of hitting you (disregard for personal space again).  A little scary for people who think pedestrians should have the right of way.

While I bought a hop on bus pass and metro card ahead (both being good for unlimited rides over 2 consecutive days), you can also buy a 1 day bus pass directly from the bus driver on the day you decide to use it.  That way if you need it over 2 non-consecutive days, you can just buy another one later. 

The Metro Pass was a nice idea but it’s just as easy to buy a ticket at any of the stations and unless you make several trips, you could save some money.  You have to use the automated machine but English is an option.  I didn’t see where you could buy an all day pass like in NYC, but we bought a ticket for each ride.  It costs 1.80 Euros each way.  Get a Metro map and plan your trips ahead.  Know what direction you’re going in and at what stop you’ll need to change trains, the new line number, and at what stop you’ll be getting off or changing trains again.  I made a quick list before we got on the Metro and everything went very smoothly.  BTW, their PA system for calling out stations is much clearer than NY.

Scarves are de rigueur in Paris.  Most women wear them all the time and a large percentage of the men do too.  Want to look like you belong there?  Buy a scarf and wear it all the time—with a jacket or just a short sleeve T.  It doesn’t matter.  And there are 100 ways to tie it.

All week I only saw one man in public talking on his cell phone.  And he wasn’t speaking French so I’m sure he was from out of town.  You'll see Parisians walking with headsets or smoking a cigarette. But they don’t walk around with a cell phone in their ear talking loudly on the street, in stores, or on the Metro.  They are a quiet people.  Their conversations are whispered. And while I saw one or two check their phone, I didn’t see anyone talking on them.

We were advised that Parisian women generally wear dark colors and never wear sneakers on the streets of Paris.  This for the most part is true.  Yet the fashion houses and clothing stores are filled with bright orange and lime green apparel for the summer.  Who wears these clothes and where?  And while they don’t wear sneakers many wear sneaker-like tie shoes in a variety of colors.  If you don’t wear 6” platform heels, you’ll love Paris shoe stores.


  1. I haven't been to Paris in many, many years. Nice to see you blogging these notes and pictures. Sounds like a wonderful trip.

  2. Thanks, it was a great trip and we crammed a lot into it.

  3. Thanks for the tips....just in case I actually get there one day. ^_^ ...Doubtful any time soon.