Paris, The Second Time Around...
For Joes... "Dracarys," dear nephew, you set the world on fire with your kindred spirit.
P'Niche Personal: while I have been to Paris (genuinely) more times than one can count, this was Joseph's second trip. Given how many blogs, boards, and guide books that exist on what to do and prep for your first Parisian adventure, he thought it might be fun to share some thoughts on what to expect for your second trip to Paris.
We'll free flow through some questions, thoughts, and tidbits in this casual discussion in hopes that some insights shared can be helpful to those of you who are lucky enough to travel to Paris "encore une fois..."
P'Niche: Ok, let's go! Start out with some thoughts on how you planned differently for this second trip...
Joseph: Packing wise, I overpacked, even though I knew not too. I did not need two outfits a day, and really only needed two pairs of shoes - one pair for dinners out and one REALLY broken-in pair of sneakers for walking / touring the streets.
Things I wish I did bring with me were a pair of my own headphones for the airplane. What they offered really did not allow me to disconnect and get much rest.
I wish I had also brought a book to read for when I was through with screen time.
That said, I was really glad I packed a thick, hooded sweatshirt and scarf for the plane as it got incredibly cold during the transatlantic flight. And snacks from home were key to settling my mind - and tummy.
I also packed fuzzy socks / slippers to get comfortable enough to jump the pond and it really made a big difference.
I am now also hyper aware of the luggage weight restrictions, especially on the way home, after shopping for many heavy items and souvenirs. I will be investing in a small and portable weight scale to make getting home less stressful.
P'Niche: How did you feel landing this second time in Paris versus your first?
Joseph: I was very excited for this second trip, but also felt more comfortable and at ease at being in a foreign city. One thing I will say is that jet lag hit differently this trip than last trip (as last year, the hotel room was ready when we landed...)
Staying awake that first day back to Paris was key. Had we even tried to nap, the day would have been destroyed and all of our energy poorly spent.
Once we were lucky enough to be able to drop our luggage at our place of accommodation, we made the smart decision of just walking around, getting caffeine and fresh air, while enjoying the Rodin Museum and other sites.
This way, when we checked in to the hotel that evening, and were able to settle and tuck in for bed, our bodies were able to adjust a lot quicker to the Parisian time zone than had we just napped the first day away.
P'Niche: Tell us more...
Joseph: Well, expect hiccups. Our hotel was amazing and the balcony view was a once in a lifetime experience. That said, the rooms are much smaller than Americans are used to and I was really thrown by the actual shower mechanisms (just a long hose with a shower head). We are used to a certain way of things in the States and I needed to be able to adapt in order to make travel easier.
I remembered to pack my own disposable washcloths as well, as this was not something offered by the hotel (common in Europe) and having my own made this comfort of home easy to achieve and utilize.
P'Niche: So after a good rest, what did you tackle?
Joseph: I LOVE the Parisian métro system. For me, it's the easiest and fastest way to get out there and explore. It's really user friendly and enabled me to feel very independent - my Navigo pass made me feel like quite the Parisian!
I knew to be on the lookout for pickpockets, but felt incredibly safe on the métro system. Just listen carefully for your stops - they will not sound like you think they will! I was lucky to have not missed my stops - thanks to the "light guide" on the trains above each door. Again, it is a really easy system to use.
Since we got my Navigo pass right away, I was able to not miss a minute and got to Trocadero right away the next day to catch the sunrise. I'm not typically a morning person (without coffee, anyway), but used jet lag to my advantage to get this once in a lifetime sunrise photo with the Eiffel Tower. We even got to see a couple get engaged by Paris morning's first light! It was quite a special moment...
And speaking of getting around Paris, naturally, I didn't only use the métro. Walking around the city was an amazing way to find hidden and unique spots that aren't on everyone's photo or social media feeds. I found a great place to watch the sunset in peace. It allowed me quiet time to sit and think about life.
It reminded me of that quote you sent us from Thomas Jefferson... "a walk about Paris will provide lessons in history, beauty, and in the point of life."
That definitely resonated with me and made me want to walk and see more...
In fact, one of my favorite solo walks was right by the Eiffel Tower. I was able to discover this ramble, garden type of area, with just an amazing view of the Eiffel Tower, but with not a tourist in site.
Walking around Paris freely like this really enables you to find "your special spot" where you can come again to say hello to the city and settle in with your thoughts, wishes, and dreams.
I would not have been able to find these spots had I not put down the guide book and just started walking around with the purpose of enjoying the city. It made all the difference.
P'Niche: You do have SOME places you can share though, right?!
Joseph: Oh yeah, absolutely. My favorite café is Le Royal Opéra. You can get the most amazing onion soup, with a view right down to the Palais Garnier opera house, having lunch right next to local Parisians, while practicing your French phrases.
P'Niche: ooh, tell us more about that!
Joseph: Well, I already knew from my last trip how important it is to say bonjour to everyone. Everyone. But this year, I was bolder and ordered food and such in French. At first I was skeptical, but when the French people saw I was trying, even when I made mistakes, they were delighted to see any attempt and it made a lot of difference in how people treated us.
I even became buddies with a local café operator and we'd say "bonjour" each day and chat. Moments like this are better memories than any tee shirt you can get (although I got those too!)
Speaking of food, Paris is the place to have your foodie adventure! I really encourage you to eat outside of your comfort zone. We tried frogs' legs this trip and they were pretty good. Will I order them again soon? Probably not, but even if you don't like something, you can still say you at least tried it. If you do want to try them, L'Escargot Montorgueil (on rue Montorgueil) is the place to do it.
P'Niche: Anything else food wise?
Joseph: Well, I love beer, so we booked a beer flight / tasting tour. I know you will be blogging about that soon, so won't give away too much, but it was a great way to see a few different bars and places in Paris and try several different craft beers.
P'Niche: You heard him, I will be blogging about our beer adventure soon, so do subscribe to Parisian Niche so we can raise a glass together!
Back to our interview...
Speaking of getting out there, this trip, I was definitely into learning about Rodin sculptures and the life of Napoleon. However, now that that is in the books, I don't know that I would return to Invalides so quickly as there is so much more to see.
I am interested in moving on to Lafayette. And after seeing "The Count of Monte Cristo" film, I definitely need to learn more about Alexandre Dumas - he has a tremendous way with words and Paris is really affording me the chance to learn about these great figures.
An amazing thing about Paris is the more you see and learn is the more you want to see and learn!
Another good thing I learned in Paris are the flea markets! The smaller market (Porte de Vanves) was great. As I just moved into a new apartment with my girlfriend, I was able to score lots of little items to decorate with, especially a handful of great antique books.
P'Niche: What else did you shop for?
Joseph: Well, outside of my antiques and a statuette of the Concorde obelisk (which I love) for my desk, I had to really think about how to souvenir shop for others.
Taking a few moments at a café to make a list of exactly who I was shopping for (as well as their tastes and requests) really helped out. If not, I would have just been grabbing random things in a hurry from the many souvenir shops we saw. Putting in a little forethought and planning ahead of time, saved a lot of stress down the line and I knew that people enjoyed what I got for them and that they were thought of on my travels.
P'Niche: Any final thoughts?
Joseph: Like I said, prepare for travel hiccups. It's just the name of the game.
When we placed our sneakers out on the balcony, we forgot to take them in and they got drenched in a passing rain storm. All we could do was laugh it off and blow dry them so we could carry on with our adventures.
Another thing is to remember that you are not in the United States, or your own home country. Try to speak the language and dress to fit in with the locals. A few minor adjustments go quite a long way to making your trip more enjoyable.
One thing to not expect in Paris is air conditioning - most places do not have it, or if they do, it's set to a setting that would be considered too warm for many Americans.
Also - the elevators! When they are available, they are much smaller than the United States. We had a great laugh getting me into the elevator at your French host family's home. But that laugh was well worth it for the wonderful welcome we got from your host family. The French people are very friendly and warm. I met some great people on this trip, from your French host family to local Parisians in the parks, to tourists simply looking for directions.
One thing I also noticed and admired about the French is their respect of culture and patriotism. They leave flowers for fallen soldiers / fighters and when I noticed one name without a bouquet, it inspired me to leave one as well.
Paris really is a city like no other and I am definitely starting to feel it's going to become a second home.
Already knowing that I will be returning next June with my family and girlfriend, I am so excited to see Paris through her eyes for the first time. I can already hear Le Royal Opéra café calling my name for a café crème. See you soon, Paris, I can hardly wait...
So that's that, P'Nichers - a personal and inside scoop about Paris "encore une fois." Given this last photo below, I think it's safe to assume, Joseph will be back to Paris... what about you? When is your dream trip taking place? Let us know below et à bientôt!