Thanks to it being the end of my semester, I have felt inspired to type about the first major country we have visited: France.
I apologize for this 6 months later, but I will try to fill in every detail I can off of memory! Anything you want to add and suggest, please put in the comments
France was our first major trip outside of Germany. At this time, I was freshly new and eager to explore Europe. One of the best things that happened to me was meeting a friend, Priscilla, who was more than willing to help. One of the best tips I can mention in every blog entry is listen to the locals and do as they suggest! Her sister happened to live in Paris and she was kind enough to give us a metro map that I cherish with my life now.
Before I get on about Paris, I will give you some fair warnings that I learned, before and after our trip.
- France loves their tolls. A lot. France bases the tolls off of a system where whatever you’re on, you pay. You can exit the road without worrying to pay again (so not the Italian system), but it’s a bit more expensive. We were entered France, it was 5 Euros. To go towards Paris, it was 23.50 Euros, both ways! I am pretty sure that their system is based off of the directions of the major cities, but don’t quote me either. In total, we paid around 75 Euros to go to and from Paris and France in general, with 3 tolls, 6 stops (if you count to and from.)
- If you have a Visa, make sure it’s chipped. France loves their Visas with chips. When Tyler and I tried to use our credit card, we were denied because the Visa was not chipped. France is a country where you either use a chipped card or use Euros, because the swipe is not allowed with them. Think of it like this- Swiper no swiping (thanks Dora.) If you have a Mastercard, I suggest using it to avoid the awkward conversation.
- Try to know some basic French, because the locals are much less likely to know English. I got lucky to find out that sometimes, the French know Spanish or there are similar words. There’s more English speakers in France than in Italy, but it’s still sparingly. Asking “Parlez-vous anglais” will get you a long way here. Use the basic knowledge you can learn on the spot, and the French will appreciate you.
- Listen to their music as you drive. I swear, you will not regret it, along with the highways. I was so happy because French highways are as wide as America’s in some parts. Their normal roads are stereotypically European in their space, but the highways are amazing.
- Try to avoid traffic circles/roundabouts if you can. I thought I was going to die.
Now, let’s talk Paris!
I used an Airbnb for this and got a wonderful place in a suburb, by the metro system. The link for my host is the following: https://www.airbnb.com/users/show/2674050 . I recommend staying somewhere with a metro nearby, because it’s the fastest and cheapest mode of transportation in the city.
If you happen to be coming from Bavaria, my best suggestion is to make Ramstein your mid-way point to fuel up. Not only is it another American base, but it happens to be very nice and 30 minutes away from the French border. There are also Esso stations right by the border, and here is the link to the Esso station finders: http://www.essofuelfinder.de/en
Paris itself is a gorgeous city, with many sites to see and things to do. I would say though it’s the Euro there as well, it’s a tad more expensive with food than Germany. It’s nowhere near the Switzerland Franc level, but think of an extra Euro for a drink per say.
One of the best things you can do is make the metro system your best friend. The metro is just like a subway, and it’s extremely easy to navigate. You purchase your tickets at the counter or machine- 14 Euros will get you 10 tickets. The best part? If you have to hop on another metro “line” (think of a different bus), you don’t have to use another ticket! The only times you have to use your tickets and have them marked is as you enter the metro- if you’re already in there, no worries! This saved us a ton of money, and we ended up using all 10 with 2 people for a 4 day! Now, I was lucky enough to befriend Priscilla, but here is a link to the metro lines and maps: http://parisbytrain.com/paris-metro-maps/
I recommend avoiding driving your car into the city at all costs. No joke, people will wreck in Paris and the police will not help or care. It’s a hot boiling mess, waiting for accidents to happen. We had to enter it to exit the area, and that was enough for me to make a mental note to stay as far away from the center of Paris as possible.
Now, there are busses you can take, and a carriage ride that is supported by a driver on a unicycle. I did not do the carriage, because it was going to be 16 Euros for us as a couple, and we’re cheap. The bus tickets are around 2 Euros. The reason why we did not do this is because we were fine with walking, and we had a lot of different spots we traveled to. Here are links to the bus information: http://parisbytrain.com/paris-bus-map/, http://www.francetravelplanner.com/go/paris/trans/ratp/bus/city.html
Now, please pick off of your preference!! The reason why we opted for the metro is I never took one until then, and it was a lot of fun for me. Busses can be much cheaper, depending on the location of the venues you are touring and how much you want to walk.
O.M. G. I fell deeply in love with crepes and bread/jams in France. It was delicious and I can’t wait to go back for more!!! Definitely indulge yourselves in these items, because France does it best in my opinion. I absolutely loved the way crepes are made- it’s unique and delicious without being too sweet. I recommend going to a locally owned bakery and grocery store, because you will find the best bread and jams there.
Now, there is something I did try that might gross out the masses: snails. Yes, I tried them and LOVED them. This is a quintessential French appetizer. You will be given a much smaller version of a fork, more like a prong, and you will pull the snail from its shell. The consistency of the small reminds me of mussels, which I will devour anytime, anywhere. Typically, the snails are coated in garlic and parsley. I absolutely loved it. If you can get the mental block from your head that you’re eating a snail, I am telling you, it’s worth the experience.
Places To Go
Okay, so I will break this down, easy peasy. I don’t want to persuade or influence y’all, so I will post links of what I used + cheap/free ways to get your tickets to see other incredible sites and monuments. I am going to discuss the places I went, along with the appropriate link.
Cheapest Eiffel Tower tickets: http://www.toureiffel.paris/en/preparing-your-visit/buying-your-tickets.html
With the Eiffel Tower, we did a package deal from Get Your Guide. The link will be at the bottom of this. The Eiffel Tower is relatively inexpensive, even to get to the top. The issue with the tower is that it will always be crowded, so make sure you get your tickets in advance, so it’s not sold out! I actually was only able to tour this beauty because of the package deal. Another cool tip- if you pick the tours and do the Eiffel Tower, you bypass a lot of the waiting process, which can take an hour alone if you only purchase the tickets from the link above (just a heads up.)
Get Your Guide package deals with Eiffel Tower:
With second floor Eiffel Tower + Seine River Cruise- https://www.getyourguide.com/paris-l16/skip-the-line-eiffel-tower-ticket-river-cruise-t45877/
Now, when I went in October, I was given the 3rd floor access.
Seine River Cruise
If you are interested solely in the Seine River Cruise, here are some links for you: https://www.justring.com/pass/paris-seine-river-cruise-ticket
I think it’s best to combine the Seine River Cruise with another activity, because it’s one of the more lax activities to do. That way, after spending a half a day on your feet, you can kick back and relax. The Seine River is stunning, and the cruise is extremely laidback. You will see much of the major attractions from this, and you are more than welcome to enjoy some crepes, wine and other foods/drinks. I infamously got drunk on this and threw up once I was off. Disclaimer- watch your alcohol consumption, because you get drunker on the water and the air than land, my friends.
Notre Dame is an awesome tourist attraction to see because of many reasons, but the biggest one is it’s completely free to the public. The only bummer is it will be crowded at all times, but it’s totally worth the crowd. We actually walked in during a service, and I loved how in tact it still is. They sell rosaries if you’re interested, but I rather wait until Rome to get my grandmother one. I did get a Notre Dame coin.
Tyler and I are still kicking ourselves because we were unable to see the Louvre! It is stunning and not bad on your budget. In fact, there are ways to get to it for free: http://www.louvre.fr/en/hours-admission/admission
Though we weren’t able to see it, we are planning to. We did get to tour the gardens and exterior. Everything about this area is breathtaking and totally worth the visit.
This was BY FAR my FAVORITE part of the trip. I am a total creeper who loves crime shows and hearing death stories, so this is up my alley. If you have children, please think before you take them here. Here’s a link to the catacombs: http://www.catacombes.paris.fr/en/homepage-catacombs-official-website
The price for us was 8 Euro per person. I loved how preserved they were, and the experience alone is awesome to have. You hear rumors of them, and then you’re underground. The main suggestion I have is show up 2 hours early. I know that sounds crazy since the catacombs are right by one of the metro stations. However, people line up before opening and you’ll be standing for hours. I loved every moment of that tour! You’ll see some interesting representation of the bones and learn much about Paris’ history.
Now, I will say the following:
- Get at least a few touristy items. The vendors will bargain with you. I refused to pay a certain price on my husband’s medium Eiffel Tower, but he gave us two free mini ones and halved the price. They want to sell, so try to work with them.
- The Lock Bridge is a no-go now. There’s only one panel left, and people are still putting locks on it. It’s extremely small and at the end, but the rest of the locks are gone. If you want to see a bridge that has locks, go to Zurich! They’re making their own now
- Avoid eating in the city of Paris, at all costs. Anywhere that is near a tourist point, don’t go. Stop. Pass. It is usually mediocre and overpriced. Also, there is a wonderful strip of designer stores, but I don’t recommend shopping there, unless you’re a walking ATM.
Cheap/free/low cost travel tips :
Free walking tour that shows you ALL the sites:
I hope this helps! Please comment and offer your two cents!