Here are a few things we discovered that I thought might be very helpful to anyone planning a Paris trip. As a note – we arrived on a Monday in Paris and stayed four nights in an apartment in The Marais district (near Republique Metro). This meant we had 3 days in Paris to begin the trip.
We love making our own food and picnicking – money savers! We found Carrefour and Monoprix (both grocery store chains) to carry everything and more – and we loved the adventure of figuring it out. Of course the patisseries and boulangeries abound! Picnics are VERY easy to arrange in Paris.
Luxembourg Gardens is the best place for picnicking and walking. When we went there – it was pouring rain. Don’t let that hinder you – we huddled under the bandshell with the chess players and dined like kings with the ducks, while the French police looked on. 🙂
Large ‘typical’ mall is Les Quatre Temps at La Defense (The Four Seasons). Takes a bit of a ride to get there – but its a whole different view point.
We strolled the Left Bank of the Seine with our pastries and hung out until the Eiffel Tower sparkled – in my view there is no other time to see this beautiful edifice. It happens at promptly 10 PM in mid June. (I suppose it happens once its dark, according to season)
We took a whole day (we had committed to it from Canada) to take the train to Chateau Versailles – a museum of paintings and furniture related to the French Revolution, and Marie Antoinette. If you buy tickets from Canada, it will save you 1-2 hours in 1 line, as you also have to line up just to get in – even with a ticket. You should plan on arriving no later than 10 AM – in mid June the lines were already so long – it took an hour, with tickets in hand to get in. You pay extra money for the Little Train if you want to explore the gardens. There is a small town outside the palace gate with some eateries and souvenirs. If you want something cheap, predictable and easy – there is a (GASP) MacDonald’s and Starbucks before you hit the train back to Paris. We felt, all in all, it was not worth the effort or the day excursion, with so much to see IN Paris.
Many times we would picnic by buying sandwiches at Monoprix or meat/cheese/bread/fruit at a store.
Most retail stores are closed on Sunday, except the big mall and some exceptions throughout Paris.
The book Eating and Drinking in Paris by Andy Herbach was extremely helpful in our figuring out the types of food we wanted vis a vis a French only menu (we didn’t want the English menus, actually.
Dinner really isn’t until 7:30. Things really do close between 12 and 2 in towns throughout France, but you can usually get lunch from 12:30 until 3.
We travel with handiwipes/sanitizer/roll of toilet paper/Baggies (all sizes)/water bottle to fill (tap water is completely ‘drinkable’), Epsom salts for the surprisingly tired feet, pain reliever, money belt – to name a few tricks to keep us comfortable.
We LOVE our motorcycle adventures and our city tours – looking forward to our Central Europe tour starting June 23, 2014.