One of the greatest things about living in the Netherlands is how easy it is to travel from there to anywhere in the world! On one hand you’ve got Royal Dutch Airlines KLM which is one of the best in the world and has mapped up the entire globe with great partners, and then you have their budget airline called Transavia which I find pretty good compared to others like easyJet and Ryanair. With the Dutch being all big and tall comes the blessings of a lot of leg space for small people like myself even on Transavia!
The other best thing about living in Nijmegen specifically is that my favorite cities are just a ride away: 1h15 minutes to Amsterdam, 1h20 to Dusseldorf, 1h3o to Antwerp, 1h45 to Cologne, 2h30 to Bruges, 4h30 to Paris! Pretty fascinating isn’t it? It takes me the same amount of time to drive 20 km from Jounieh to Beirut… everyday! All this time wasted on the Lebanese roads is finally paying back. Thank you dear Karma!
Now let’s rewind a bit, “4h30 ride to Paris!” *** wooohooo*** I always loved our road trips to Paris: Erwin and I have done it a few times already, it has always been good fun: we always had something to discuss, some mind games to play, a lot of stories to tell, and mostly a lot of sweets to eat. If you believe that travelling together is one of the biggest tests for any relationship, I recommend you try long road trips!
This time though, we decided to fly to Paris.
Truth be told, it’s impossible to see and do everything when visiting Paris for two days. We didn’t go to places that weren’t worth our precious time. We’ve been there often enough to know better. This post’s objective is to communicate our experience in”the city of Light” in order to help you avoid tourist traps, save you money, time and frustration next time you decide to go there.
Here are the 5 things I’ve learned to do and not to do in Paris:
1- Use public transportation: Plain and simple! That is the most essential advice I can give you. It’s very effective and will get you nearly anywhere.
Don’t get lazy and use your legs to walk around. The best way to discover any city is by foot.
2– Download the RATP application: It is pretty handy and will route options in detail. The app can save a lot of time, money and frustration. We have personally used it frequently during our trip: As soon as we landed in Orly Airport, we consulted RATP for the fastest way to out hotel. It suggested we take the Orlybus to Denfert-Rochereau station, then the metro line 4 direction Porte de Clignancourt, to Odeon station, and walk 5 minutes to the Belloy Saint Germain hotel in Paris . The journey time was almost 40 min and the total amount paid was around 9 euros per person. Much cheaper then a taxi isn’t it? Thank you RATP!
Don’t drive in Paris and don’t rely on taxis day and night! If you need to be driven somewhere, use smartphone car services like Uber: They are very reliable and very economical if you compare their fares to the Parisian taxis.
3-Book a hotel in a safe area : The Belloy Saint Germain Hotel is a beautiful cozy one in Odeon with lots of restaurants, bars and shops near by. The location is walking distance to a lot of main attractions like the Notre Dame, Quartier Latin, Musee de Cluny, Shakespeare and Co, Miraculous Medal church, the Pantheon, the Louvre, the Luxembourg Garden… It is very safe to walk in there day and night. Just keep in mind, that no matter where you are in Paris and no matter how safe it feels, you need to keep an eye on your belonging to avoid pickpocketing: keep your bags closed and very close to you, place your phones and cameras either in your closed pockets and/or bags.
Don’t book hotels in very touristy areas, instead find hotels with nearby transportation connections. The Belloy Saint Germain Hotel , for example, had numerous ones just a few minutes away: taxis, batobus, autobus, metros, RER (to Charles De Gaulle and to Orly airports) and the RER C that you can take at the Saint-Michel/Notre Dame Metro station to Eiffel Tower and to the Chateau de Versailles
4-: Use tripadvisor to book a hotel or a restaurant : We always refer to tripadvisor when planning for a trip. We tend to make our selection among the 4/5 and above scoring hotels and restaurants. That doesn’t mean we end up choosing 5 stars hotels. A lot of 3 and 4 star hotels have better ratings than 5 stars ones and that is why you need to do your research well: spend time reading the reviews before booking. It is not an easy thing to do and it is time consuming, but trust me it is totally worth it. Even if you are booking your trip through a travel agency, I advise you to do the same exercise for their suggested hotels. It is through a long research that Erwin found our hotel and I believe he made a great choice for the following reasons: Delicious macarons await you upon check in, the staff is very helpful, nice and patient. The lounge area was very comfortable with a tea selection and a coffee machine readily available to make yourself an espresso. The room was a bit small but it is expected because the hotel is located in an old building. It was decorated French country style which added romance and coziness to it. The mini bar (excl alcohol) was included. The bathroom was new and very clean. The only thing it was missing was a bath, but hey can’t really complain here specially when the hotel offers free champagne happy hours with a selection of confectionery between 5pm and 8pm. Pretty cool don’t you think? A small tip: I recommend you check the hotel website before going through booking websites. You might find better rates there. http://en.hotel-paris-belloy.com/?gclid=CMLk0sLd5cwCFe4y0wodqIoK5A.
Don’t be afraid to use airbnb if you don’t like any of the hotels proposed on Tripadvisor, on any other similar websites or by your travel agent. If you don’t mind not having room service or a hotel breakfast then definitely go for it. You can get very good deals there especially when hotels, for some event or seasons, are peaking price wise! Again, don’t forget to do your research well just like you would on Tripadvisor!
5- Eat like the French: Not only because French women don’t get fat! The list of French specialties and delicatessen is long. We had dinner at a restaurant called “Les Racines“ just down the street from the Hotel Belloy Saint Germain where we were staying. It doesn’t look like much from the outside, but don’t let that fool you. It was one of those restaurants where locals go, we were probably the only tourists there. If you are looking for a delicious meal in a non pretentious French restaurant, that is the one to go to!
Don’t eat any meals at touristic areas, it’s a shame to waste money on low quality dining. Do your homework ahead of time with a good Paris restaurant guide or a website such as Tripadvisor and be prepared to find restaurants like Les Racines that aren’t catering only to tourists.
Most probably, you are planning to go on vacations the coming days, weeks, month or season. If you have never been to Paris already, I urge you to! It is the perfect destination for singles, couples and family. It is considered the most beautiful city for a reason. Just try to avoid going there in August because most of the Parisians take their vacations then. This affects essential services for a Paris trip such as getting your baguettes and croissants fresh from the boulangeries… all day long!
If you already have been there, then come back again! There is always something new to see in Paris: small streets to discover, more exhibitions to attend to, more museums to visit, more bistrots to dine in, hidden gems to bring to light, more wines to be sipped, more strolls by the Seine, rekindled relationships and last but not least a “je ne sais quoi” eager to be solved!