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Our friends Adrian and Zoe just went to Paris for a nice weekend (I miss those days) and we asked them if they would like to write a post on the city Alex and I love so much. So here it is, lets all live vicariously through Adrian and Zoe.
The best thing about Paris is not its food, monuments, diversity or authenticity. The best thing about Paris is that is it is the definition of on-the-beaten-track. Paris is one of the most visited cities on the planet and arguably the most visited in Europe, and as such it has a bit of everything that any traveller wants. From the hipest of hipsters to the most mellow museum goers, happy honeymooners to restless retirees, what you want; Paris has.
No other city has both impressed and depressed me so wholly like Paris. In my experience it can be a two-headed dragon where one head is a very small but atrociously ugly and mean lizard-like thing and the other is the much more pleasant, more common, unicorn-esque opposite. I have visited the city only twice, most recently this past weekend, but seen the good the bad and the ugly. The ugly side is what people say it is, for instance, in the summer it is crowded with tourists which causes a host of problems. Lines are longer, waiters and hospitality staff are fed up, exhausted and perpetually busy so they treat you rather poorly leading to the cliché of the snobby Parisian also, like any other city of a million plus and it can be (can be, not is) a bit of a dirty place to see. However, like I said, the more common, almost mythically pleasant side is as charming as its nicknames suggest. The City of Lights is as enchanting at times as the postcards imply, and has every reason to be with it’s magnificent city planning, long and storied history, as well as the monuments and attractions recognized around the world. France’s capital also offers a complete spread of cultural and culinary distractions for those more interested in art and artisan food than the architecture.
So what do you do when you arrive? Well I suggest starting right off the plane/bus/ train, by grabbing a croissant just to say you did. My girlfriend did this and I regret not following suit because it is definitely a good way to start. Then get your hands on a packet of Metro tickets. These will come in handy as Paris is not the most walkable city. Unlike my home base of Rome, Paris is not all packed into a condensed, ancient centre so the Metro is a must. Alternatively, if the weather permits and you have a willingness to face foreign traffic on a very small personal vehicle fitted with no safety equipment commonly known as a bike; the Velib bike sharing system is superb.
After you get ready to get around the city hit all the spots that make for good photos, Notre-Dame de Paris, the Arc de Triomphe, Louvre and of course the Eiffel Tower. If you are only there for a short time like a weekend for instance, make sure you prioritize what to see, the Louvre has an incredible art selection but takes a long time to do it right (not so long if you are in it for the Mona Lisa) while Versailles also takes most of the day. There are plenty of views in Paris for that perfect panorama shot, the Arc (284 steps), Notre-Dame (387 steps) and the Eiffel tower (a lot of steps) are the best spots and for EU citizens the Arc at least is free!
At night head into the arrondissements a couple Metro stops away from the Eiffel Tower because contrary to tourist logic, it is a food dead-zone in that area. Parisian options are great though, there is plenty of french cuisine from haute to nouvelle but also a good variety of foreign food thanks to the cosmopolitan nature of the city. For a good selection of bars go straight to Montmarte and stop by Moulin Rouge for the novelty before taking your choice of drinking establishments. Last weekend my lady and I really enjoyed a light dinner and glass of wine at Bistrot Chat Noir, where the waiter definitely knew his wine but not our budget. When we were unsure of our selection he kindly asked us if we “trusted him” and when we confirmed our trust he proceeded to get us a great glass of red but perhaps we should have entrusted him with a pinch of information on our financial preferences. Thankfully, it was a little pricey but not bank-breaking by any means and 100% delicious. Afterwards we headed to James Hetfeeld Pub the self styled “American Pub” as a laugh after nothing but French food. The one thing I would like to note is that if you intend to head to this bar do not expect a Metallica, or anything related to Metallica vibe. For the time that we were there the nearest thing to metal was an indie rock song and according to Facebook reviews that is pretty standard.
All in all, Paris is a must see on-the-beaten-track experience. Get the most out of it because it has a lot to offer and thankfully it is a good place to visit once now and then again later if you miss something. It might not be as timeless as Rome, but I doubt it will disappear any time soon.