Quatre jours a Paris
February 19, 2011 9:53 AM   Subscribe

Can you help make a four day solo trip to Paris extra awesome?

I'm headed to Paris in April for a four-day adventure! It'll be my first time there, and the goal is really just to wander. I'll see some of the major tourist stuff (Eiffel Tower, Musee D'Orsay), but I generally like just feeling like a local in a new city, taking in the day-to-day life and sights. I'll go to the Louvre if there's a very rainy day, otherwise I may not bother, and I'll probably skip Montmartre/Moulin Rouge/Sacre Coeur.

I've come across some great AskMes with fun things to do, and while I'm certainly open to more ideas, I'm specifically wondering:

-River cruises… worth it, or touristy nightmare?

-Solo meals… Am I going to look like a weirdo out to dinner by myself? And as a teetotaler, no less?

-Food… I mostly want to snack on whatever catches my eye as I wander the city, but what happens at dinner time? I don't want to have an expensive meal every night. What sort of inexpensive dinner options are available? Any recommendations in the 6e/Jardin du Luxembourg area?

-Side trips… I'm considering a side trip for a day (morning/afternoon, returning to Paris for the night), possibly Fontainebleau, maybe someplace even farther (Bruges!) if Paris weather is icky and it's nicer elsewhere. Recommendations? Or too crazy on my short schedule?

-Shopping… Is there a spot in the city where little crafty shops and record stores abound? Or any specific shops you can recommend for indie-type goodness?

-Safety… I'm street smart and fine on public transportation--grew up in Philly, lived in NYC, etc. Some tourism forums would lead you to believe that you should never smile at anyone in Paris (you'll have a Pepe Lew Pew moment) or if you have a DSLR on you, you'll get robbed blind. What is actually realistic in terms of safety for a 30-something woman (who doesn't do stupid things like have a wallet in her back pocket or walk around with a wide-open handbag)?

-Language… My French is barely so-so. Is it better to try speaking as much as I can, and hope they understand me, or is it better to go straight for the "parlez-vous anglais"?

Sorry for so many questions crammed into one post! But I know AskMe will help make my trip parfait!
posted by dayintoday to Travel & Transportation around Paris, France (27 answers total) 37 users marked this as a favorite
I took a brief trip to Paris a few weeks ago.

Nearly everyone we came in contact with was pleasant. I never felt unsafe.

You mention the Eiffel Tower. Please make sure that you visit it at night. It's so sparkly and beautiful. It's a touristy thing to do, but I'd also recommend going up to the top. You'll get an unparalleled view of the city.

As far as a little side trip, make sure to ride THE BIGGEST WHEEL IN PARIS. You'll see it when you exit the Louvre.
posted by WaspEnterprises at 10:01 AM on February 19, 2011

If you like film, you can't go wrong with a visit to the Cinémathèque Française.
The Marais is really beautiful; there's a vintage shop in that area that's really great called Free'p'star. I still wear some of the things I found in the 3-euro bin.
posted by inkytea at 10:19 AM on February 19, 2011

Best answer: I'm a single woman and I go to Paris by myself all the time.

River cruise - I did this on my first trip years and years ago. I thought about it on my last trip but never got around to it so I can't offer a real opinion. I'd give it a try though.

Solo meals - you won't look like a weirdo by yourself but it can be a bit more comfortable to go a bit earlier before places get crowded. Not so early that the place is empty. There are lots of inexpensive options, all menus are posted in the window. Ethnic foods are often cheaper. Prix fixe menus are common. Pudlow's is the best guide if you want specifics. And contrary to popular belief, not all French people drink wine.

Side trip - I did Versailles on my last trip. It was worth it. The guided tour was actually quite good, allowed me to skip to the front of the line and I got to see parts of Versailles not available if you go in on your own. I love Brugges! But with only 4 days, I'd stay in Paris. Creperie restaurants are always a good choice (I don't mean the crepe stands, which are good too).

Shopping - try the flea markets, wander the streets, there is shopping EVERYWHERE, that's part of the charm and adventure.

Safety was never a concern. Use common sense, stay on main streets at night.

Language - always say bonjour or bonsoir (after 6), always try to speak French, waiters may switch to English but try to communicate in French. Never lead with parlez-vous anglais.

Make an effort to talk to someone everyday. When traveling by yourself it's easy to go all day and only talk to waiters.

Bonnes vacances!
posted by shoesietart at 10:31 AM on February 19, 2011

Best answer: I've gone to Paris by myself the last two years and did exactly what you want to do - just wander. I'm a 50 something woman, and I felt completely safe in populated areas all the time (and I was wandering around till midnight some nights).

I had heard lots about pickpockets on the Metro, and there are actually signs advising you to be careful of them. I found a great "anti-theft" purse (the Pacsafe Citysafe 200 Anti-theft Handbag - they have lots of different styles) which has several anti-theft features (a strap that can't be cut, a zipper that can be secured so it can't be opened by someone else) and I was really glad I did. That took away that particular worry so I could wander without being scared of someone trying to take something. It has a shoulder strap, and although it's not too fashionable, I'd recommend wearing the strap across your body rather than just on your shoulder. With these two things I had zero fear of being robbed.

It is true (and I found this to be true when I lived in France years ago) that if you make eye contact with a man just walking on the street, many times it is seen as something more than just being friendly. While Americans are used to making eye contact, smiling, and even saying "hi" to strangers who are coming towards us on the sidewalk, this is not the way it's done in France -- they are much more reserved. I had to sort of fight against my natural openness and friendliness and just kind of "blue steel" it as I walked around. I did find that several times men would try to engage me as I walked past, but if I just kept walking they left me alone.

I will say that if you think you'll want to go to a museum, buy your ticket online before you go, otherwise you risk standing in line for at least an hour or maybe more (I learned that the hard way).

Are you familiar with Tripadvisor.com? If not, go to their Paris forums - you'll get tons of helpful ideas and advice (when I posted a couple of years ago about exactly the things you're worried about, I got lots of reassurance and ideas). Also, go to davidlebovitz.com - he's an American former pastry chef and cookbook author who has been living in Paris for years, and he has a wonderful list of places to go, restaurants in all price ranges and arrondissements, and just generally great info about Paris. I'd look there to get ideas for restaurants.

It is very common for people to eat alone in restaurants there - much more common than here - so you won't stick out. (I also don't drink, but I just ordered water and no one batted an eye.) I just would buy a sandwich or pastry from a patisserie for lunch, in whatever area I was in. Because I was on a really restricted budget, most nights I usually just bought something from Monoprix or another small market and ate in my hotel room at night. I know I was missing out on getting a good French meal, but I was really watching what I spent. Next time I will definitely try eating dinner out more often.

The river cruises are touristy, but I fought back against my anti-touristy bent and took one anyway -- there's nothing like it to see the city of lights after dark. I didn't take a dinner cruise or the very touristy ones. If you go to canauxrama.com you can buy a ticket for their evening cruises ahead of time (or you can just show up) - much less expensive, and I took a 2 hour evening cruise that saw the same things as the much more expensive, much more touristy cruises. It's more barebones, but all I wanted was just to cruise the Seine after dark, not have entertainment, etc. Also, there were no crowds and the other tourists on the boat were European.

I speak fairly fluent French, so I wanted to speak French, but you won't have a problem finding English speakers. I always think that you should at least try a little French before reverting to English. It shows people that you are at least trying and aren't just an entitled American who expects everyone to speak English. Many of the shopkeepers in Paris are so used to tourists that, even with my good (but rusty) French, they would sometimes answer me in English because they could tell I was an English speaker from my accent. But I still always started in French to show that I was at least trying (plus I wanted to practice).

It's polite to greet the shopkeeper as you enter with "Bonjour Madame" (or Monsieur) and say "Au revoir Madame" (or Monsieur) as you leave.

That's all I can think of right now. You'll have a wonderful time!
posted by la petite marie at 10:39 AM on February 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

I wouldn't skip Montmarte, or the Sacre Coeur.

Other than that I think everything you ask is answered in previous AskMes, plenty of info here!
posted by fire&wings at 10:53 AM on February 19, 2011

I don't speak French, but I always try for "Bon jour, madame/mlle/m'sr" when I enter a place, and then lapse into English.
The Musée Carnavalet, which is devoted to the history of Paris, is fascinating. One of my favorites. I also think going to the top of both Notre Dame and the Arc d' Triomphe are worth the trips, esp if you take panoramic photos.
The big dept. stores are great for easy packable souvenirs--I esp. like the home repair/improvement part of BHV for enamel signs and house numbers. Indie goodness is sort of everywhere, as the big stores carry a lot of French-made items that you don't see all over the world.
posted by Ideefixe at 10:56 AM on February 19, 2011

Oooh can I come? I've not been in Paris yet this year!

Since most of your actual questions have been answered, I'll just add a few general things I can think of...

What sort of inexpensive dinner options are available? Any recommendations in the 6e/Jardin du Luxembourg area?

I actually do what la petite marie does, i.e. get a baguette and stuff from a Monoprix and eat in my hotel room watching TV. I'm particularly paranoid about looking odd in restaurants tho.

I'd reconsider Montmartre (Sacré Cœur) btw. It's one of the most amazing views, having Paris at your feet. Also, should you like views, give the Tour Montparnasse a try - you never need to queue, it's actually higher than the Eiffel Tower, and the views are amazing.

Also I can never recommend the rental bikes Vélib' enough - absolutely totally the best way to explore the city! Even after I'd been dozens of times and lived there for a year, when the bikes were launched I gained a totally new view of Paris, because it's so much easier to explore the less central areas you wouldn't normally go to. Traffic is not nearly as bad as people say, and there are tons of dedicated bike lanes.

Enjoy my beloved city. :)

PS On preview, seconding Musée Carnavalet - it's free, and really interesting.
posted by ClarissaWAM at 11:03 AM on February 19, 2011

I wouldn't skip Montmarte, or the Sacre Coeur either.

Montmarte is a cool area of Paris and worth visiting.
posted by jennstra at 11:14 AM on February 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I've wandered around Paris extensively as a single woman, and it's awesome. To answer your questions in order from least to most fun...
- The biggest danger you face is pickpockets. This is a real danger - definitely worse than any US city (I have personal experience here) take extra precautions with your purse, and don't let anything valuable out of sight for a moment, especially in tourist areas. Otherwise you'll be completely fine. (The one precaution I would suggest, from experience, is to have two debit cards. One you carry, and one you keep in your hotel room. This is the most crippling item to lose, in terms of enjoying your vacation. Even worse than your passport, which can be replaced in one morning at the US embassy).
- Parisian men can be romantically aggressive, especially if you appear young for your age. I don't think the smiling thing is true...in my experience there's not much you can do to other than, you know, tell them to go away until they get the hint. But in the four months total I've spent in the city, I've had less than half a dozen mildly awkward experiences, so this is unlikely to ruin your trip.
- You will definitely get farther if you make an effort to start the conversation in French. Also, keep in mind that Parisians are more formal than Americans, so a few niceties go a long way. Madame and Monsieur always, say hello before you ask for anything from a shopkeeper, etc. If you want to ask if they speak English, you'll get a much better reaction if you ask "Pardon Monsieur/Madame, mais est-ce vous parlez anglais?" than with "Parlez-vous anglais?"
- You will not look like a weirdo dining out alone at all. If you're worried, bring a book, but you probably won't end up reading it.
- The Bastille is the most centrally located indie neighborhood. The Marais is also a great place to shop...more expensive but wonderful for wandering.
- Wandering the streets and eating yummy food is the best way to do it. Boulangeries sell all sorts of lunch options (sandwiches, quiches) that are very reasonably priced. The ubiquitous Paris cafes are generally good options for an inexpensive dinner, and there are many reasonably priced neighborhood restaurants. The cafes directly on highly trafficked corners or intersections of major boulevards are the most likely to be overpriced/feature underwhelming food and are best for drinking an atmospheric cup of coffee. Instead, look for places on side streets or quieter intersections that are likely surviving by catering to locals. The major advantage of the cafe is that no one will mind if you order a small meal. It's extremely common for restaurants to have the menu, with prices, outside the door, so you can know just what you're getting into. Check online listings or the latest Zagat guide if you want more specific info, but don't feel that you have to in order to have a good chance at a good meal.
- Day trips are easily possible so long as you check the train schedules ahead of time and leave early. I've done Versailles, Chartres, a couple of places in Normandy, and the Loire Valley, all of which I've enjoyed.
- If you plan to wander, buy a map. They're little blue books, sold in newsstands everywhere, even the locals carry them. Or maybe there's now a smartphone app you can download. You'll only look like a tourist if you have one of those big foldout awkward maps.
- Definitely do the Eiffel Tower at night. It's open quite late. Some other extremely worthwhile but less touristed destinations: Saint-Chapelle, Musee de Rodin, Cluny, Musee Picasso. All of these can be visited in a couple of hours, making them a good way to break up a day of wandering. Notre Dame, the Latin Quarter, and the Champs Elysees are all overrated and avoidable. The view from the Arc de Triomphe is spectacular - better than the Eiffel tower, I think, but it's not near anything else you'd want to visit. The best way to see Notre Dame is from across the river, in the neighborhood right around the Shakespeare and Co bookstore. If you do go to the Louvre, arrive early and visit the Italian gallery with the Mona Lisa the very first thing. Following that, take a whirlwind tour through European painting, then hit up the sculpture gallery to relax. From there, wander at random. 80% of the museum is virtually empty 80% of the time.

Have a fantastic time!
posted by psycheslamp at 11:28 AM on February 19, 2011

Best answer: It is common to say 'Bonjour!' (if daytime) as you enter a small shop. If you don't you probably have already given yourself away as an outsider.

It is worthwhile to learn the simple phrases one finds in a phrasebook such as Hello, Goodbye, Please, Thank you, May I have..., Where is the Toilet? etc. As others have said, it is appreciated if you begin speaking French. In many case, they will interrupt you and start speaking to you in English.

In some cases, such as at my favorite candy shop in Paris, the owner does not (or will not?) speak English though she is very patient with broken French.
posted by vacapinta at 11:54 AM on February 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

if you like medieval art/architecture/history stuff at all and you only go to one church let it be sainte chapelle. its incredibly beautiful and in perfect condition. also the gustave moreau museum is awesome and a great alternative to the big ones. have fun!!!

me, I would also spend one afternoon just sitting in an outdoor cafe, weather permitting, people watching and idly writing in my journal but you may want to fill that time with a more active pursuit...
posted by supermedusa at 12:14 PM on February 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

I was just in Paris too. Two places for great views, that I must stress: 1) Department store Galleries Lafayette: go to the top floor (with the cafeterias) and then find the stairs upwards. Then you have a great view of Paris. There is a lunch restaurant in the season that is quite fair. 2) The Tour Montparnasse: better view of Paris than the Eiffel tower, and you can even look down onto it.

The latin quarter is fine, btw, but just don't go for the too cheap restaurants, for instance the one next to the very entertaining Shakespeare book store, that is almost in the center of the Latin Quarter.

The Rodin Museum is definitely a must see. too, as well as the Centre Pompidou, which has a very good view from the 6th floor too.

Pickpocket notices are definitely important to notice, also at "good" places, where you normally think you can put your iPhone on the table: you can and it may disappear!
posted by KimG at 12:54 PM on February 19, 2011

Best answer: Not sure if you're into making crafts, but there's a few interesting places in Paris if so:

The Goutte D'Or neighbourhood (metro Barbes-Rochechouart) is jammed with huge fabric stores, from very cheap stuff to high-end silks, and it's kind of astonishing. (The neighbourhood is working-class and multicultural, and off the tourist trail - if you're feeling meek or harassed during your stay, skip this one, but it's far from no-go.)

Ultramod is a haberdashery with gorgeous buttons, ribbons, etc, near the Bourse in 2e.

Sennelier is an art supply shop on Quai Voltaire near l'Ecole des Beaux-Arts, across the river from the Louvre. They have their own line of pastels, but also an incredible selection of any other material you could imagine there, from inexpensive drawing pens to pure pigments, and a huge range of sketchbooks from very cheap and good to very expensive and good. The staff wear white coats and getting help or being able to pay requires confidence!

Bastille is a good neighbourhood recommendation (though it's indieish but not Etsyish, from my experience), and I'd say that Canal St Martin and Faubourg St Denis (get off at metro Republique) are a good bet for a wander - lots of artsy and vintagey shops and a nice neighbourhood feel. Antoine et Lili, a chain that I think has a location there but certainly has lots of others, might suit your sensibilities.

You should definitely wander in the Marais, it's a lovely area to spend a few hours wandering even though it's extremely busy. A good bet for a Sunday, too, when a lot of Paris shuts down. There's a couple of vintage clothes shops (Free P Star is one) around Rue de Sainte Croix de la Bretonnerie that are worth visiting, but that's a good street to start from anyway, and since you're about three streets away from Beaubourg/Centre du George Pompidou, you could visit both and have a lovely day. (Do not, for any reason, stop for food within two streets of Pompidou - it's as touristy as the base of the Eiffel Tower, pickpockety and expensive and guaranteed misery).

With four days, I wouldn't leave Paris - you'll barely scratch the surface of the city in that time, so don't waste it travelling outside unless you desperately want to see Versailles etc. Bruges sounds too ambitious, I think you'd do a disservice to both cities.

On the safety front, don't worry and do be smart. Over the course of about 20 trips to Paris, I've been groped on the Métro a good few times and followed off the Métro by a groper once, and I try to be wary now - you can get taxis, you can stay in busy areas, etc, and most of all, you can dress and walk like you know exactly where you're going, like any other city.
posted by carbide at 1:01 PM on February 19, 2011 [3 favorites]

if you've never been to the catacombs, they are definitely worth a visit. my favourite thing in paris.

also, there's a chain of good quality take away/cafe type places called cojean that may provide a nutritious, relatively cheap lunch without the formality of a sit down rastaurant. on a par with somewhere like pret a manger in england/the us, if you're familiar with that.
posted by ascullion at 1:05 PM on February 19, 2011

Oh, yeah, on safety: Va t'en! means "go away", and it's worth having it as a reflex. I should also add that my bad Métro luck doesn't seem to be typical, but I also go off the beaten track and take public transportation a great deal - in other words, please don't let what I said above worry you.

Enjoy the trip! Even if it rains, there's tons to do.
posted by carbide at 1:10 PM on February 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

Do not, for any reason, stop for food within two streets of Pompidou - it's as touristy as the base of the Eiffel Tower, pickpockety and expensive and guaranteed misery

Bistrot Beauborg is actually cheap and full of French students. I recommend it if you're stuck in that area.
posted by vacapinta at 1:21 PM on February 19, 2011

Bistrot Beauborg is actually cheap and full of French students. I recommend it if you're stuck in that area.

Ah, sorry! Noted for future trips.
posted by carbide at 1:23 PM on February 19, 2011

Best answer: -River cruises: touisty, but a nice, inexpensive way to get off your feet and hear the history of the things you pass. Open late.
-Solo meals: I think people here consider it a bit weird, but you just have to say fuck 'em. I don't drink either and rarely get shit about it, especially not from servers. That's the least of the worst service they could give! (Remember there is a large Muslim population in this city, and most of them don't drink alcohol either)
-Food: I think you should have lunch at a restaurant and dinner on snacky things. Saves you money and avoids the big meal. My favorite inexpensive dinners are crepes/galettes, falafel, and quiche. I also know a restaurant where the dinner (couscous or moules frites depending on the day) is free with two drinks (non-alcoholic ~4EUR each). You are apparently staying in my neighborhood. I love creperie La Belle Ronde (19 rue Daguerre) and my favorite falafel place is maoz in the Latin Quarter. The boulangerie outside the Denfert-Rochereau metro is all bio products and has a very nice selection. The free dinner I am thinking of is at Providence, metro Parmentier, right outside the metro.
-Side trips: If you want to see a castle, go to Versailles instead of Fountainbleu. Versailles is a half-day trip instead. I love Belgium and would never advise against it except that yes, your trip is very short. Also, these small distances won't really do much about the weather.
-Shopping: clueless
-Safety: the people who are up to no good can peg a touist from 500 m. Don't stop for anyone who asks if you speak english, or wants you to sign a petition, or pretends to be deaf. Just say NON (not NO), or "non, bonne journee, au revoir." I don't look like a tourist and I have never been hassled by as many strange and scamming people in any other city.
-Language: Always start with your best "bonjour" even if it is awful. Try in French, as it will make even a Parisian's heart melt a little bit. If they are comfortable in English, they will reply in English, and the ball is in your court. But do put out the first words in French, as it makes all the difference.

Can you help make a four day solo trip to Paris extra awesome?
I didn't notice if other posters are among me, but I live in Paris and could help you out of a solo-dinner or do some walk around town during a weekend day.
posted by whatzit at 1:33 PM on February 19, 2011 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thank you for all of the wonderful advice thus far! I better think about at least strolling through Montmartre, if nothing else but for that candy shop.

whatzit, I may just take you up on a little meetup, seeing as you found MeFi through the same blog that I did and are an education nerd. I'll send you a message as the trip nears. I might at least like to have someone take my photo to prove I was in Paris!

Hey, I just realized, that's the biggest downside of a solo trip... no pictures of myself. Any suggestions on this that don't involve weirdos running off with my camera?
posted by dayintoday at 3:26 PM on February 19, 2011

You HAVE to go to L'Etoile d'Or. See David Lebovitz's blog entry about this. If you mention his name, the lady who owns the store will light up and bring out pictures of the two of them together! You have to buy the salted caramels - they are literally the best in France (expensive, but absolutely delicious!)!!
posted by la petite marie at 3:53 PM on February 19, 2011

In terms of people taking your picture, just get another tourist who is also taking pictures to take one of you. They're not going to run off with your camera if they already have one.

A couple of other simple things to keep in mind:

- When you're done your meal, they'll say "ça a été ?" to mean "how was it?". Nice simple answers to this are "génial...superbe...parfait".
- If you want to use a bathroom ("les toilettes, s'il vous plaît ?") in an establishment where you're not dining or drinking, offer 50 centimes when you ask. Most likely they will refuse the money, but they will also be more friendly to you. I've always done this, and it's always worked out favourably, but I guess it all depends in how you offer it. I put it on the table.
- Cash transactions are almost always done by putting it on the counter and not in each other's hands. Not sure about where you're from, but that always threw me off.

Paris is better than ever as a town, I hope you enjoy the experience.
posted by fantasticninety at 5:25 PM on February 19, 2011 [2 favorites]

One small thing I did the last time I was in Paris that reaped wonderful results: got to Musee d'Orsay right at opening time, hurried upstairs instead of meandering downstairs rooms, and had the whole floor of the most beautiful paintings to myself for 15 minutes. I often hug that memory to myself when I think of Paris.

Also, no-one has mentioned Pere Lachaise cemetery which, apart from scouting all the famous types buried there, has beautiful tombs - my favourite is Oscar Wilde's. I've spent lovely afternoons wandering there - raining? even better for atmosphere!
posted by honey-barbara at 6:42 PM on February 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

The best Paris recommendation I got from AskMe was Parisian Falafel. So. Incredibly. Delicious.
posted by beepbeepboopboop at 8:25 PM on February 19, 2011

honey-barbara reminds me, you should check out the paris museum pass. It includes entries to all of your biggie museums plus a bunch of out of the way ones and discounts on some other activities. More, the card lets you skip lines and head directly to the exhibits. When your time is already short, it is a life-saver. honey-barbara's suggestion of going in with A Plan is great. I've done this also to show a friend the Mona Lisa before the hordes arrived.

Sacre coeur is great but I don't find the neighborhood exciting. Moulin Rouge is anti-climactic. Etoile d'Or is indeed delicious, and the proprietor gregarious and limited in English, but it does. not. stop her. The products are not-cheap gifts, and you will get "free" entertaiment and samples as you pick things out.

About Sacre coeur, watch out for the big dudes offering "free" bracelets to "show friendship between your country and theirs." They will charge money in the end and intimidate you into paying. The best way to go up to Sacre coeur is by the funicular (included in your all-day metro pass) or the stairs to the left of the funicular. If you decide you have to enter through the center, where they usually gather, go in with your hands in your armpits and don't slow down.

I'll be happy to take your picture for you but otherwise yeah ask other tourists and there are always little old couples around.
posted by whatzit at 5:49 AM on February 20, 2011

Hey, I just realized, that's the biggest downside of a solo trip... no pictures of myself. Any suggestions on this that don't involve weirdos running off with my camera?

I've never had problems asking people who are clearly tourists, especially families or couples or people snapping copious pictures. There should be plenty of 'em in Paris.

(By the way, yeah it's more polite to say "Bonjour/bonsoir madame/monsieur" than just Bonjour. But don't worry about it too much.)
posted by Solon and Thanks at 11:51 AM on February 20, 2011

nthing sainte chapelle. more impressive than notre dame imho, ESPECAILLY if it's a sunny day.

If you like creepy, nthing the catacombs.
posted by lalochezia at 12:26 PM on February 20, 2011

Best answer: you are so lucky!
-Solo meals… most restaurants are closed between 4-7 and only really get going after that, around 8 or 9. i would pick one or two great restos that you're interested in trying (my list is below) and don't worry about eating alone. i found the french to be incredibly open and chatty, much more so than in other cities i have been, and when i was eating alone i was often joined by locals!

-Food… I would recommend finding the markets and making a picnic out of the things you find there. i remember my favourite meal of my whole stay was fresh cheeses, raw almonds, apricots, olives, a flat peach, and some other fresh veggies that i got from a market. i found a park bench - heavenly. breakfast for me was always a croissant and cappuccino. this was either incredibly cheap, or incredibly pricey, depending on where i was eating. (6e arrondissement = expensive).

-Side trips… i would honestly skip the side trip. if the weather is bad, go to museums. there are SO many things to see in paris and you will get a better sense of the city if you just stay there, rather than trying to run around and see a little of everything.

-Shopping… in the 18th arrondissement, at #17 Joseph du maistre (RIIIIIIGHT by the monmartre cemetery,) there is an amazing store you will love. http://www.tombeesducamion.com/. Oh, their website shows that they have one in the 2nd arrondissement as well.
i loved wandering through the latin quarter to see the cute design-y shops. lots of it was too expensive but really unique pieces.

-Safety… In Paris, men spoke to me every 5 minutes, at least. (This was not my experience in any other part of France, or any other country I visited). In the daylight, I allllmost always spoke back and had a conversation with them. these were some of my favourite moments of my trip. Generally people just wanted to find out about me, what i was doing there, and it was a great opportunity for me to get a better idea of who lives in paris for reals. i had coffee with a few different men. totally fine. then i left. no hassle, no pressure. i would NEVER do this kind of thing in my city or in any american city, but i had a great experience and if you are safe, and do the obvious kinds of looking-out-for-yourself things you do anyways, you shouldn't have any problems. I watched my bag carefully and didn't act like a tourist (no freakin J'aime Paris shirts, no american flag baseball caps (seriously, people??)) and i had no close calls.

-Language… Speak French. They'll be much more open if you start in french, and smile. It's okay if you don't speak that much, they don't speak that much english.

I carried an iPod and apps i can recommend are the metro app and a street map. the metro app is good because if you're on the 6th line and you need to get to the 9th line, it will tell you how to do it, where to transfer and approximately how long it will take you. if you buy a day pass every day (not so expensive) you don't have to worry about wearing your feet out.

many public parks have wifi!
Go to the Rue Mouffetard. It’s a cute street to walk down, and was where that telephone booth scene in Amélie was filmed.

Go to Rue Oberkampf to hang around - a youth-y, interesting place with lots of cool, more affordable shops, and a good night scene.

Here's a partial list of good stuff that my friend made for me. i haven't been to all of these places but the ones i did go to were SUCH a hit:

1. Centre Pompidou (free wifi, and the best view of paris, IMO, from the top!)
2. Musée d'Orsay (Van Gogh, Manet, Monet, Toulouse-Lautrec).
3. Fondation Cartier, boulevard Raspail. The museum itself is one of the most beautiful I've ever seen - it was designed by Jean Nouvel. There aren't many things inside, but all the exhibitions I've seen are worth the visit.
4. 59 Rivoli – it’s an artist squat that turned into a huge gallery. There are floors and floors of interesting art. It’s free and so, so awesome.
5. Airs de Paris, left bank, near Bibliothèque François Mitterrand. Lots of very cool art galeries in the area, on rue Louise Weiss.
6. Palais de Tokyo + Musée d'art moderne de la ville de Paris. Exhibitions at Palais de Tokyo aren't that great, but the space itself is amazing. Very cool, trendy spot with a great bookstore where you can find rare magazines, and there's a nice café as well.
7. Jeu de Paume (small contemporary art museum) and Musée de l'Orangerie (they have Monet's Water Lilies exhibited in three circle rooms). Both are located at the extreme end of Jardin des Tuileries.
8. Le Louvre, of course.

1. Merci, boulevard Beaumarchais. A small flower shop bought the inside of a huge house, and they're now selling everything, from fabrics to furniture, from Acne Jeans to kitchen accessories. There's a very nice café inside, next to thousands of used books.
2. Les Cahiers de Colette, rue Rambuteau. The most beautiful bookstore in Paris. Lots of books, they're specialized in French literature and social sciences. Colette is the kind of old bitch that I looove, she smokes, she drinks, she likes to hang out with young, handsome boys from le Marais.
3. Colette, rue Saint-Honoré. Very hip, very trendy, not really accessible, but worth having a look. Plus they have a great selection of magazines and weird little accessories.
4. Get some macarons at Ladurée.

Restos + Bars
1. Le comptoir des archives, rue Rambuteau corner rue des Archives. Simple and honest.
2. Le Loir dans la théière, rue des Rosiers, especially for breakfast or brunch. super cute and rugged-looking. a pretty 'indy' style vibe there, the carrot cake was ridiculous.
3. La Strada, rue Geoffroy Langevin. Best pasta restaurant in Paris. Very small, but amazingly good.
4. Max y Jeremy, rue Saint-Saveur, near Montorgueil. Best mojitos in Paris for practically nothing. They also serve tapas.
5. Derrière, rue des Gravilliers. A little more expensive, but sooo cool. They transformed an old apartment into a huge restaurant and bar, but kept everything in place - so you can basically sip an apéro while sitting on a bed on the second floor. Speaking of second floor, right next to the bathrooms, you'll see a huge cupboard with glass doors on it. Behind it, there's a private fumoir full of books and old furniture. Awesome. (we tried to get in but couldn't! good luck!)
6. Le dindon en laisse, rue de Beautreillis. Right in front of the apartment where Jim Morrison died. Best food evah. Best wine list. Super cheap and accessible. The owner is very, very French, and very cynical - which means that he kicks out those he doesn't like. But if you're nice and you give enough tip, you might see a bottle of armagnac on the table at the end of the journey.

bon voyage!
posted by andreapandrea at 1:36 PM on February 20, 2011 [5 favorites]

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