The Ridge Review

The Student News Site of Mountain Ridge High School | Glendale, Arizona

The Student News Site of Mountain Ridge High School | Glendale, Arizona

The Ridge Review

The Student News Site of Mountain Ridge High School | Glendale, Arizona

The Ridge Review

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Paris: Some Tourist Tips and Tricks

Eiffel Tower at night
Ella Sutton

A year ago this time, me and my family were embarking on what would be my first trip out of the country to experience some European history. One of the two major cities I had the opportunity to visit was Paris. Of course, when booking we did what most American first-time European tourists do and splurged when booking tours. However, while visiting some of France’s famous landmarks was definitely a highlight of the trip, there are some things that I would approach differently if given the chance to do it all again. I’ve compiled some of these tips and tricks in this article for those planning to visit or see Paris someday so they can enjoy their trip to the fullest without the pressure of constantly running against the clock.

Tip 1: Prepare in case of delayed flights and inevitable jet lag. 

From the moment you have to forcibly adjust to an alternate time zone right after landing, one is going to be physically exhausted. This is why it is especially advisable to prepare a day or two when one first arrives in Paris as a sort of “buffer,” when no big events are planned and you can enjoy your new surroundings and more easily regulate your circadian rhythm. Also, having a day or two with no major plans after arrival can save you money on tours that might have been missed if a connecting flight over to Paris became delayed. This happens a lot more than you’d think, especially when traveling abroad.

Tip Two: Don’t set too many expectations, especially regarding food. 

Before experiencing the food in Paris, I automatically assumed that French food would be really amazing. After all, France is where the classic movies Ratatouille and The Tale of Despereaux are set, and Julia Child has been famous for her extravagant French cuisine. And don’t get me wrong, French dishes can be very enjoyable, but it really depends on where you venture and your own tastes. 

During my first dinner in France, I experienced the shock of overly pungent foods that weren’t to my liking, and yet a day later, at another restaurant, I had the best French onion soup to date. This is because French cuisine is very versatile and, of course, different from American cuisine, which seems like an obvious factor, right? French cheeses aren’t going to have the same simple, delectable flavor as American cheeses. On the contrary, French cheeses tend to be aged and very bitter, which is a custom of French culture. 

Also, in both the case of non-picky and picky eaters, it can be beneficial to go with the safest option when adjusting to French dishes. This means the better option is probably going to be the chicken dish over other fancier dishes, such as lasagna… yes, it was heavily layered with minty basil which was cooked into the pasta. 

However, the nice thing about visiting an international city, is that you have the choice to choose from different styles of foods from all over the world! You just need to know where to go. 

Regardless, it is vital that one doesn’t set their own preconceived ideas or standards for food in another country, even if it is because you are just delirious from coming off a long flight. After all, you are visiting another country and their customs are going to differ, food included. 

This goes for room service too, as not everything that is stated will resemble the version of the food item that you are familiar with. I speak from experience from when my family ordered room service after we arrived at our hotel, in which we were prepared to be served club sandwiches, but were granted burritos stuffed with chicken and greens instead. 

Food can be hit or miss when adjusting to new styles of cuisine, but there are three specific food groups that one can never go wrong with in Paris and France in general: bread, desserts, and most importantly, street food! 

Tip Three: Street food is your best friend. 

The best food I had during my whole visit was actually street food! My family and I were walking past the shops along the streets across from Le Louvre looking to buy cute souvenirs when we decided to look for a snack. There were plenty of cafes and businesses in the area, and a painstakingly long line piling just outside the doors of Angelina’s, however we decided their famous hot chocolate wasn’t worth waiting around an hour. 

Luckily, we found even better food! Just five minutes down the street was a café where fresh, grilled dishes and crepes were being cooked! The atmosphere of the café was very nice and small, aside from the loud but kind personality of the owner who insisted we call him “Spider-Man”, as he claimed that was his name. I had a nice, refreshing salad bowl along with hot chocolate, and of course, a Nutella strawberry-filled crepe, all of which he made right in front of us! Chocolate-filled crepes are a must-have snack in Paris, similar to how gelato is frequently enjoyed in Italy. They are always perfectly fresh and crisp, and you can find them at almost any corner of the city, from shops to stands sitting just outside of the Eiffel Tower. These foods were so delicious, and much more enjoyable for my family than traditional French cuisine, which was served at most of the restaurants near our hotel.

Tip Four: Visit more places for free. 

Some beautiful museums with free admission include Le Petit Palais, which directly translates to “The Little Palace,” the Carnavalet Museum, and the National Archives Museum in Paris. Another interesting scene where one can take in the atmosphere of Paris is listening to live music for free at Le Gare Le Gore, a train station repurposed for music that is open every night until 6 am! Other enjoyable sites that can be explored for free include the beautiful park Place des Vosges, flea markets all throughout the city such as Grenelle Market, and the dazzling streets and view which overlook Paris from the Basilica of Sacré-Cœur. Behind the Basilica is also Montemarte, where one can soak in the sight of one-of-a-kind art pieces by painters illustrating in Place du Tertre. Getting my portrait drawn is one of the things I would make sure to cross off my list next time I visit Paris again, alongside seeing more areas of the city for less.

Tip Five: Visit the areas not too overcrowded that still hold history.

 One of the last destinations my family and I visited near the end of our trip was Shakespeare and Company. While this historic bookstore became busy sometime after we came, there was a certain limit of people that could visit at a time because it is so small. Not to mention, the souvenirs you can purchase from this shop are absolutely beautiful, whether it is a cute tote bag or a book stamped with the official Shakespeare and Company logo. While the atmosphere of this bookshop was very cozy and not overcrowded, it was mostly the atmosphere of the pocket in Paris where this shop was located that made a lasting impression. This area of the city was peaceful and quaint, and there I could really see the beauty of an older Paris that so many still romanticize. There were painted scenes of Paris landscapes and landmarks being sold to every side of this part of town. It was a lot less crowded than we were used to, as it was further from the heart of the city. 

Lastly, this destination feels just as vital to share some words of advice on, regardless of it being just outside of the skirts of Paris, which is the Palace of Versailles. Some good things to keep in mind when planning to visit is that the Palace of Versailles’ least busy day is usually Thursdays, however, there are also ways one can visit certain rooms of the palace alone. The first and most obvious way is to wake up extremely early and be amongst the first tourists there. However, if one is planning on visiting Versailles from Paris, one has to consider the amount of time it takes to get to Versailles, which varies depending if you are going by car (est. 1 hour) or by train (est. 2 hours.) Keeping this in mind, one’s best bet coming from Paris to snag some photos alone inside the Palace of Versailles is not by arriving early in the morning, but actually around the closing time of the palace. This perfect but narrow time window to be able to experience some of the palace’s rooms completely alone sits right between the time of the Palace of Versailles’ closing hour, in which guests begin to exit. 

The entrance to the inner rooms of the palace is right by the built-in church area, which is the first place that the workers begin to lock access to. To be able to take photos and visit the Hall of Mirrors, specifically, alone, one must make sure to be past that point of the palace and near the King’s chamber. Everyone else will begin to exit through the other side of the palace, which leads back to the main stairwell and exit doors. To be able to reach the main stairwell from that side of the palace, one needs to continue walking towards the Hall of Mirrors before passing a few more rooms which will then lead out. Being amongst the last to exit the palace and being in the room just before the Hall of Mirrors, which one has to inevitably pass to reach the exits, grants a small period of time where one can take photos all by themselves in this extravagant and almost always crowded hall. I do recommend trying this the second time one visits, however, only after one has experienced the history and culture of the grounds by a tour guide. Going closer to the closing hour means that one isn’t going to have much time to explore the palace, so I think it is the best means of exploring the palace to take plenty of photos.

One’s first trip to the capital of love is always exciting! While not everything might go according to plan during a vacation, there are preparations one can take to ensure a somewhat smoother sailing of their trip, even more so when traveling abroad. Making sure you are getting the most of your time and trip is equally as important when traveling to a different country. Now all that is left is to book that flight! 🙂 

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