I’ve never been to Paris before, even though I’ve been to France several times in the (distant) past. Because of this, I decided I would go to Paris in a weekend. In order to maximise the time there and to minimise the cost, I took an overnight coach with Ouibus. I left London on Friday night and left Paris on Sunday night, arriving home on Monday morning. It was tiring to say the least. For such a short stay, overnight on the coach is probably not recommended unless you are confident you can sleep on the coach. I didn’t.
It was definitely worth the trip because I’ve already decided I love Paris and now I want to live there. All I need to do is get a job, and to do that, all I need to do is learn to speak French properly.
This time round was a bit of a flying visit, but it gave me the opportunity to see the famous sights. I also managed to familiarise myself with how the Metro works and how to get by in bars, cafés and restaurants. Furthermore, I got a good feel for the general layout of the city and built up a kind of map in my mind of where everything is. This has been very useful, and next time I visit it will probably be for a few days. I’d recommend booking travel far in advance, because you can take advantage of cheap deals on either flights or Eurostar for a much shorter journey.
I stayed in a great hotel; Hotel Magenta 38, in the 10th Arrondissement, which is quite a lively area since it is a very short walk from Canal Saint-Martin, famous for its bars and nightlife. I found a great deal on booking.com and it cost €35 for the night. It’s also only about 100m from a Metro station. The staff are friendly, the rooms are very clean and comfortable, and you can leave luggage there before checkin if you arrive early.
No one wants to read everything that I did, so I’m not going to write it, but as a result of my visit, here are a few things that I would point out to anyone who hasn’t been to Paris before:
- Don’t look like a tourist. I know it’s difficult because you’re likely to be carrying a backpack and a camera around your neck.
- You are a prime target for thieves, pickpockets and scammers, whether you are tourist-like or not. There are plenty of them in the key tourist spots. They are very insistent so this can be very intimidating. Be assertive, don’t engage in conversation with them, don’t let them try to sell you anything, don’t let them convince you to sign a piece of paper because these are all distraction techniques.
- Learn some basic French phrases. This is important because you will earn respect from people there, and they will be far more inclined to assist you, and help you if you get into difficulty etc. Usually they will recognise that you are English, and will respond in English.
- Go on the Metro to Trocadero after dark, and view the Eiffel Tower from Palais de Chaillot (Google map here).
- Remember that all accommodation has to charge a city tax, so expect to pay another couple of euros per person per night at the end of your stay.
- As awkward as it may seem, if you want to go to a bar or café, just take a table and sit down. A waiter will see you and will come and take your order, whether it is just for beer or coffee, or for food. You don’t need to go to the bar, you don’t need to ask for a table.
- For any table service, I like to leave a tip, but I understand that you don’t have to. Search Google for advice on leaving tips before you go.
- Install Google Translate on your phone. This is very useful app, and you can even download chosen languages for offline translation, so download English and French before you travel. Remember that Google Translate is really not very good at translating sentences, but is great for single words or two word phrases. If you can’t pronounce a word, at least you can get the translation and show the screen!
- Install the app ‘Paris Metro’ (iOS | Android). You can search for stations, search for landmarks and get route guidance. By the way, their London Tube Map is great too.