Paris is one of those places that you've seen in movies enough to think you know exactly what it's actually like. Last summer, I traveled to Paris for the first time, and, like anyone who took French in high school, I had set expectations for what Paris would be like. Some of the things I was taught turned out to be true, but others were completely off, and it shocked me. Here's what I learned from staying in Paris for a week.
1. The Quartier Latin is my favorite part of Paris. It was a lot more serene, the architecture was beautiful, and the people were a lot nicer to tourists. It is also home to a lot of universities, so area is more college kid-friendly. Definitely staying there next time I visit Paris!
2. You have to know some French. Parisians aren't the most fond of American tourists, especially when they expect the locals to know English. You should never start a conversation with "English?". You're in their country after all, so you should at least try your best to speak their language. Even if you're really struggling, they'll appreciate the effort.
3. The entrance to the Louvre is through the large glass pyramid in the middle of the courtyard. My boyfriend and I wandered around for a good 15 minutes before we realized that it wasn't just a pretty sculpture to look at. Oops.
4. Climbing the Eiffel Tower is not worth it. Now, this is just my opinion, but I don't get the hype of it at all. Climbing the Eiffel Tower was just like climbing a very large, foreign lighthouse. It was hot, tiring, crowded, and the weather wasn't beautiful, so the view could've been better. My advice would be to only climb on a really nice day or night.
5. Eduroam Wifi is a lifesaver. As a college student, I have an eduroam wifi account to use on campus. Luckily, France uses eduroam as well, and it automatically connected every time I was near a university. I don't have an international data plan, so I relied on wifi for the entirety of my trip.
6. Know what basic foods are called in French. At the first restaurant I went to, it did not offer a menu in English. I took French back in high school, but it was still pretty hard to translate most of the menu, so I ended up ordering a Poke bowl that I really didn't want. You should at least know different types of meats, drinks like coffee, water and milk, pasta and bread, and condiments.
7. Summer just wasn't the right season. While Paris wasn't terribly crowded in July, the weather was not our friend. Not only were we very hot most of the time, but much of the plants had suffered from the heat as well. I'm all about aesthetic pictures and pretty scenery, so I was sorely disappointed with the lack of healthy foliage. If you scroll down the post, you can see a picture of me standing in front of the Eiffel Tower. Look at the grass in the photo. It's all dead! When I go back next year, I will make sure to go during the Spring, when the cherry blossoms are in bloom and the land is healthy.
8. Stay in the right arrondissement. Paris has 20 districts called arrondissements, and each one is pretty unique. The lower districts are in the center of Paris, and usually a lot nicer, and the higher districts are around the outskirts. I stayed in Montemarte, the 18th district, which requires a taxi or train to get to the center where the Eiffel Tower is. To be 100% honest, I didn't feel very safe in that district, and I would definitely recommend staying in a lower-numbered district. For example, the Latin Quarter is located in District 5.
9. The best bread I've ever tasted was in a small bakery called Legay Choc. Run by two brothers, the shop is famous for its gluten-free penis-shaped bread. Not the most appropriate place for younger kids, but definitely worth the trip for anyone high school age and older.
10. Don't be afraid to order tap water. Most waiters will offer bottled water, because it is more expensive and they love to trick tourists into spending more. It isn't considered rude to simply decline and ask for a glass of tap water. The water is not much different from bottled water, and it'll save you a lot of money in the long run. Simply ask for "une caraf d'eau" when the waiter comes by.