I’m home, and I think I know what day it is…maybe.
Much like Amsterdam, we wasted no time exploring Paris for an entire week. I can’t think of much we didn’t do. In fact, my mom and I did the math and figured that we were covering 12-15 miles of walking a day (not counting the Batobus that commuted us up and down the Seine for a couple of days). That being said, I would choose Amsterdam over Paris for a variety of reasons.
Much like my post on Amsterdam (read it here), I’ll cut to the chase with just the highlights.
Best way to get around:
We rode the train in, then rode by Metro, riverboat, and taxi, walked on foot, and left by plane. I’m still going with WALKING as the best mode of transportation. There were so many small things to see that if you were traveling underground by metro, you might get to your destination more efficiently, but you would miss all the tiny shops or strange graffiti. While the Batobus boat was a nice respite from walking, it wasn’t exactly fast, or well ventilated.
Everything was so centrally located, walking seemed the only viable option most of the time. My feet are still recovering.
You name it – we went there. If I had to choose, I would pick the Museum D’Histoire Naturelle which we just happened upon on our last day. Mentally and physically I was exhausted, but the museum featured pretty much every possible animal skeleton ever known (including dinosaurs and fossils) in a really compacted setting. Unlike many of the other museums, it was all there right in one giant room, with three floors to explore.
Of course, Le Musee Dupuytren gets an honorable mention, but the Museum D’Histoire Naturelle is for a broader audience (I acknowledge that not everyone wants to see siamese twin fetuses or gangrenous feet in jars).
I’ll be honest – the food in Paris did not blow me away. In fact, I would venture to say you can get a better meal a lot easier here in Portland. My biggest issue was the mast amount of cafes on every street. How does one choose? We used Yelp frequently, but some cafes only had three tables and others spanned an entire block. The service at almost every restaurant was fair, regardless that I utilized my French. One place did stand out, though, Le Bistro du Perigord.
The food was pretty amazing, and the beef bourguignon was probably the best thing I ate during the entire week. The service was also way better than what we encountered everywhere else. They didn’t condescend when using English, and when the server saw me on my phone, he promptly wrote down the wifi code on our tablecloth, and also brought our check when we asked for it. Everywhere else took at least 20-30 minutes.
Best Historical Site
Like, I know France is a historical place. But getting there and seeing just how many ancient churches and museums and government buildings on every.single.street started to hurt my brain after a couple days. However, when my mind was still fresh we visited La Conciergerie, where you can see a real medieval hall of arms and Marie Antoinette’s cell (among many other tiny prisoner cells).
Like I said, we fully explored almost every arrondissement but lucky for us, the best shopping appeared to be right out our front door in St Germain. I bought several items at different shops where the boutique owners were very helpful. In particular, Rue Dauphine was the street I preferred.
Ok – so you see some of the cool things Paris has to offer. Let’s be real and address some of the not-so-cool stuff.
The Smell of Urine
No really, it was everywhere. I attribute this to the fact that there are no bathrooms anywhere you go. On almost every block (particularly stairs), you would be holding your breath from the stench of urine, and sometimes sewer.
The Restaurant Service
I’m not being a naive American right now; I’m being a paying customer, and someone who has worked in many restaurants. One morning we even went to a little hidden cafe, called Treize – A Baker’s Dozen, where the owner turned out to be American, so you can’t blame it on the French alone. She had two tables and five people working, and still couldn’t bring us water for the first 20 minutes.
The Lack of Street Food
When I go somewhere on vacation, I want to eat. I want small bites to see what epicurean delights the place has to offer (even if it’s just Tempe, Arizona). I was sorely disappointed with how few options there were to grab some snacks. I found myself eating the Quest bars I packed for emergencies. Lame!
Pro Tip: Find all the Starbucks on your walking routes. Go in, buy a bottle of water (because you can’t find them anywhere else), and use the bathroom. Repeat this process all day – it’s about the same price as the pay toilets and far more convenient.