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Many people dream of going to Paris. It’s the quintessential bucket list trip. We all picture ourselves looking super chic and speaking “un peu de français”. At least, that’s how I pictured it, the big 25th anniversary trip was going to be amazing! When you start planning it though, the budget quickly makes you take a reality check. For all the things I wished I had done, here are things I definitely did right for me.
1. Skip the Car Rental
I opted for a transport to pick us up at the airport. Our flight was delayed by almost 2 hours and we eventually arrived in Paris with no bags. Biggest lesson we learned here was to travel light or at least pack some essentials in a carryon. We knew this beforehand; I swear we did, but it’s hard to get over how you picture yourself enjoying your trip when you’re packing versus what you really need to enjoy yourself.
The company I used was awesome! They waited for us, the driver was not happy but by the time we made it to the hotel, he warmed up to me. You know the saying about attracting flies with honey? That’s me, sweet as honey. I had already decided that nothing was going to ruin this trip. Absolutely nothing.
I was so glad we booked the private shuttle. I was already nervous about my French, and my whole family (9 of us) was counting on me as our translator. I tried to constantly educate them before the trip on cultural tips I read, how to get around, phrases to use, and how to look like less of an American (because we tend to stick out like sore thumbs which can make you a target). When he drove around the Arc de Triomphe, I immediately thought no freaking way I would’ve wanted to have to navigate that.
Not only did I NOT want to drive in a foreign country, but I also didn’t want to have to worry about parking. I wanted to take advantage of public transportation and wandering the streets as much as possible. Plus, there were 9 of us which would’ve meant 2 cars at least.
Getting from (Charles de Gaulle Airport) CDG to the Eiffel Tower is very easy via the train also.
2. Skip the Eiffel Tower
When I say I skipped it, I mean that I didn’t want to deal with the crowds and lines just to look out at Paris. It certainly would’ve been a wonderful stop, but I decided that enjoying the view of the Eiffel was way more important to me. That’s why I chose to find a hotel/rental with a view of it. That was my splurge, sleeping under the Eiffel Tower for every night of my short stay.
The Residence Charles Floquet was absolutely perfect for this. I did my research and knew that in order to get that view, you had to choose the right room. It worked out perfectly, if you decide to try it, go with the Duplex or the Penthouse.
Our time was so limited and to be there without all our luggage for days felt excruciating. Every plan I had almost flew out of the window because of luggage. But don’t do that, when you have limited time, there’s no time for tears. Suck it up and get out there in yesterday’s clothes. Who’s going to know? They’ll never see you again anyway.
I’m not a shopper, that was never part of my Paris plan so shopping in Paris felt intimidating to me. I hate boutiques where I don’t know what I might have to pay for a dress, I certainly didn’t want to do that in a foreign country while I’m still trying to gather my bearings. Therefore, I did the most American thing I could think of – google searched for familiar stores like the Gap and H&M. I’m not ashamed, I wanted that little bit of reassurance in my unfamiliar surroundings. It fit the budget, it was just a few blocks walk away and done – back to enjoying Paris, what I came to do!
Besides the bird’s eye view, I loved walking up the 6 flights of stairs or even waiting for the elevator here. I felt like I was living my Paris dreams. A block away from the metro station and walking distance to everything. My only complaint is to be careful with the restaurants in the area. We got the “tourist restaurant treatment” at Le Bailli de Suffren, absolutely avoid it! I forgot to follow my own rules and we wandered in here instead of sticking to the plans.
The scam is when your bill doesn’t match the menu that you were given at the start of the meal, everything suddenly has a higher price on the bill and they tell you that’s the evening price. We were charged for tap water despite confirming that I didn’t want to pay for water. Then, to add insult to injury, they add a 20% tip to the bill and tell you it’s customary and it’s not. You can fight with them, but it doesn’t end well based on reviews from others. I chose to fight it with my credit card instead. There are plenty of better, nearby restaurants where we had no problem:
Le Petit Suffren – cute and cozy with late night food including crepes and risotto.
Firmine – late night pizza.
Restaurant de la Tour – Didn’t get to go here but with such good reviews, it’s worth a try!
3. Book a Photoshoot
My daughter and I both booked photoshoots – for my anniversary and her engagement. I was the bag holder at hers and because I didn’t want to upset the photographer or have him concerned about what I was doing, I had to refrain from taking photos. I missed out on my opportunity to shoot the Trocadero. (Big Sigh – never had time to go back.) But, my photographer later in the day totally made up for it as we made it to the Louvre and the Jardin du Palais Royal (in yesterday’s clothes remixed with a new shirt or pants, whatever we could find).
Go for the Photoshoot!It’s a great way to take a tour with a local and create some memorable shots at the same time.
4. Choose the “famous” spots carefully.
After our photo session, we walked over to the famed “Angelina” to check it off the list. It was everything we expected it to be, as far as, being touristy. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t worthwhile. I thought the Croque Monsieur was seriously the best ever. Honestly, I don’t have a bad thing to say about it at all. Except for my really awesome family was being so cautious that they barely ordered anything, and I was just sitting there like what’s wrong with everyone? Live a little, we’re in Paris!
5. A Private Paris Night Tour
While I didn’t get to see everything that I had planned on seeing, I did get some quick glimpses that made my Paris dreams come true. A night out (kid-free) in a historic Citroen with an awesome driver. We were picked up from our temporary residence and whisked away into the night, stopping by many of the known landmarks for quick shots and observing the liveliness of Montmartre.
You’re creating memories, do want to remember how long you stood in line or how amazing the view was? If I were in Paris for a month, I’d probably spend a day at the Eiffel Tower. However, if I’m short on time, I’m going to enjoy the view from somewhere like Montparnasse Tower, Sacre Couer, or Parc de Belleville while out wandering around. It might still be crowded but we can work with it.