Paris – the City of Light.
After a nice time in London, I wasn’t sure what to really expect in Paris. I was fairly confident the food would be more to our liking, but I wasn’t positive at this point. My confidence was a little shaken.
I could tell that public transportation was much more reasonably priced than London (1.3 Euros for a one way trip) and would get us to just about everywhere we wanted to go. I was relieved to know that going in to it. No more $70 US cab rides just to get to/from dinner 15 minutes from the hotel.
I read some internet suggestions about how to not be an obnoxious American tourist. I think we do a pretty good job of that in general (being a considerate person will usually get you pretty far), but there are always some unique customs and etiquette you should be aware of.
In France, you always say hello/good-bye upon entering or leaving some place; it is considered rude not to do so. In fact, you should always greet someone prior to talking to them. You don’t eat when walking in the streets. The French are generally more polite and formal than Americans; they also tend to dress much nicer for normal everyday activities than we do.
One thing that is quite obvious when you actually think about it is to try to just not walk up to people and start speaking English. Maybe they do speak English, but it’s kind of rude to assume that they do in their country. Think if someone just walked up to you and started speaking some foreign language at your home. I think there would be a lot of “this is ‘Merica” reactions out there.
Learning to say do you speak English (Parlez vous Anglais) and I don’t speak French (je ne parle pas Francais) will get you a long way. On top of that, I’d add bonjour/bonsoir monsieur/madame (hello/good evening sir/madam), pardon (sorry), excusez moi (excuse me), si vous plait (please), merci beau coup (thank you very much). And that is your daily French lesson from someone who doesn’t speak much French.
So there we were leaving the land of familiarity. Similar to big cities in Australia, London could have easily been in the US – outside of the fact that they speak differently. Though, I was actually happy about leaving our comfort zone.
Part of the fun of travelling to other places is being put in different situations than you are familiar with. I was also ready to see if the French earned their reputation of being rude – or if that was more a result of “ugly Americans/Brits” showing up and acting like asses – then predictably being treated rudely.
Paris has a metro population of about 12 million people – or about 20% smaller than London, which surprised me a little. That would make it the third biggest city in the US behind New York (20M) and LA (13M).
Central Paris had a very historic, authentic feel to it. There weren’t many tall buildings. The only skyscraper in central Paris – the Tour Montparnasse – was built in the 1970’s. It was so out of place that buildings over 7 stories were banned from being built in the Paris city center 2 years after it was finished.
There are tons of Museums in Paris, as well as a lot of historical type stuff. Throw in old churches and plenty of parks, and there is no shortage of stuff to see.
Weather was pretty similar to London – maybe a little less rain. Again, the temperatures were warmer than I would have expected for Paris in January (highs in the low 50’s, lows in the low 40’s).
As previously mentioned, the Paris metro was great. You can buy a book of 10 tickets for about 13 Euros. That made a one way trip about $1.75 US on the Metro. There is also an option to buy a Zone 1 and 2 all you can ride ticket for something like 6 Euros. Note: Zones one and two are most likely all you’ll need unless you are planning to take a trip to somewhere specific outside of central Paris.
Safety…Again, I felt pretty safe. Maybe not quite to the level of Hong Kong or Tokyo or rural Australia/New Zealand, but that is a ridiculously high standard. Really, the only things you need to worry about are (1) not getting pickpocketed and (2) not getting scammed. Acting with some common sense will help you prevent both of those tremendously. Reading what the latest scams are before arriving just to be aware of them should help you in that department.
If approached by a scammer, it’s not a big deal…I saw or was approached by several of the major ones – “please sign this”…”let me make you a friendship bracelet”…Not a big deal at all. Just be aware of them, say no, and keep moving. Saying “no English” generally ends things pretty quickly. The scammers are out there to make a quick buck – not to get in trouble.
Otherwise, things were generally very safe.
Communicating was again, pretty easy. Just about everywhere we went had someone who spoke English. Usually it was our waiter at restaurants…I’m thinking the hotel (who made our reservations) gives a heads up when English speaking guests will be coming and they pair you up. Well, that and the fact that English seemed to be pretty widely spoken in Central Paris. My butchering of the above phrases generally was all we needed – and I use the term need loosely.
On planning for Paris…Being that it was winter and Alyce was pregnant, I decided trying to venture off for any day trips was probably not a good idea. Plus, there is so much to do in Paris that it wasn’t necessary. I’ll save that for our trip when return to explore more of France.
Also, we probably would have eaten more cheese, done more wine stuff, spent more time in cafe’s, etc. if not for the obvious hold-up in those areas. Again, not a big deal as there was still more than enough to do. I just wanted to point out that the reason that we largely omitted those types of things was not that we didn’t want to do them. For whatever that’s worth to people potentially planning a trip…
If you’re wondering at this point what the final verdict was on the French, I’d have to say I found them to be pretty pleasant. I do think they are a little more of a raw, reserved group – don’t know if those are the right words. They’re just more formal and less outwardly/overly friendly. I didn’t think it was a bad thing. That said they’re probably more expressive of things/emotions when they get worked up about something.
Again, I’m the real ass here for trying to capture a long established culture in a paragraph after spending 5 days in the country. My point is that I didn’t think the French were rude at all. Make a little effort to fit in, and they’ll help – usually in a relatively friendly manner.
That’s about all I can think of for my intro to Paris. If you want more, trust me you can find plenty by just doing a Google search. Paris may be the most famous tourist destination/most visited city in the world.
We weren’t in a huge rush to get moving, as our flight didn’t leave until noon. We ate our final lounge breakfast, checked out and caught a taxi to the Heathrow Express.
I looked at taking the chunnel to Paris, but it was pricey. Tickets for reasonable departure times were about 100 pounds a person. Using British Airways miles, it was only 4500 miles and something like $25 a person. Even though I thought it would have been cool to ride the chunnel, the decision was easy.
We were checked in and through immigrations pretty quickly. There was a minor issue at security…One of us left a water bottle in our carry-on bag and had to wait in line for 30 minutes to get the bag screened. No big deal though – this is why we always get to the airports with plenty of time to spare.
It did significantly limit the time we got to spend in the BA lounge, which was pretty nice. There were much more food and drink options than US lounges.
The flight over to Paris was quick and completely uneventful.
Upon arriving, we went straight to immigrations. I had re-read all the French etiquette/customs stuff on the plane ride over. I was visualizing entering a country full of Soup Nazi type people and wanted to not rock the boat.
After about 15 minutes, it’s my turn. I walk up intending to say bonjour monsieur, even prepared to say “I do not speak French” in French if necessary. I guess I had too much on my mind; I just handed my passport over and smiled like a doofus. It wasn’t quite Elaine playing drums on the counter and doing Pacino impressions, but it was not what I had in mind either.
No bother. The immigrations guy barely looked in my direction. He was busy holding a conversation with the agent next to him. He stamped my passport and I was through.
Our bags were slow to come out. I even thought that we may have had our first bag issue, but everything showed up eventually. Getting through customs was a non-issue.
The plan on getting to the hotel was just to take a taxi. It was definitely not the most economical option, but it was the most convenient with a pregnant wife who had a rolling suitcase. Other options were the Roissy Bus (~10 Euros/person) which dropped you off outside the Opera station or the RER Train that also costs about 10 Euro a person and takes you to the Opera station after a transfer.
Knowing what I know now, I think we could have easily taken the Roissy Bus. It is an easy 2 block walk from the dropoff point. The only reason I didn’t take it on the way back is because we had to leave very early. Travelling by myself, I’d probably take the RER or the Roissy bus depending on how much stuff I had. One extra thing to be aware of is that you have to walk up stairs (not an escalator) to get out to the streets from the Metro station.
The taxi took about 45 minutes with moderate traffic and was right at 60 euros. I had a map/address to the Park Hyatt, but I’m pretty sure he would have had no problems without it.
The Park Hyatt Paris is widely considered one of the top hotels in the entire Hyatt portfolio. It is definitely one of our favorite Hyatt’s all things considered, though we’ve had plenty of favorites.
For starters, it is definitely the best located Hyatt of any the Hyatt’s we stayed at. None of them have been particularly bad locations – some very good, but this one was ideal.
Opera station is a 2 block walk away. That connects you to 4 Metro lines. 2 other lines are available at stops a couple blocks in the other direction. We did not take a single cab the entire time in Paris (other than to/from the airport) because of how well the hotel is positioned for Metro access. Hell, we didn’t even have to connect to a second train – everything was a direct Metro ride.
In terms of pure walking distance, the Louvre is close by. The Champs Elysees, Arc de Triomphe, Eifel Tower, and Notre Dame Cathedral were also all within a reasonable walking distance. I even walked to the neighborhoods of Marais, St. Germain, and the Latin Quarter.
We were staying on points, so there would be no upgrade to a suite here. That said, we were upgraded to the highest non-suite room – a Park Deluxe. It was surprisingly large, just a little smaller than the suite in London. Perhaps most importantly after the awful internet in London, the internet worked very well here.
After settling in, I walked to a Tabac store to see about SIM options. I didn’t see any and didn’t feel like entering in to a confusing conversation, so I just put it off. Turns out we were fine without them.
I also walked to the Opera station to gauge how far away it was from the hotel (not very) and to pick up a carnet of tickets (the pack of 10 metro tickets for 13 Euros). It was simple enough.
Just from this quick walk, I could tell that Paris had a very different feel than London. There is no mistaking that you are not in a different country. Paris just had a different vibe to it.
Dinner reservations were at L’Ami Jean for 7:00. L’Ami Jean (I’ve also seen it called just Ami Jean) is a classic French Bistro but serves food with a more modern twist – or something along those lines. It was easy enough to just catch the metro to dinner, so that’s what we did. As was the case all trip, the metro got us where we wanted to be quickly and inexpensively.
Not knowing how long the trip to the restaurant would take, we left a little earlier than needed. As a result, we arrived a couple minutes before 7:00 and were clearly the first people there. We offered to go walk around a little longer, but they told us to come on in. I’m pretty sure that showing up early (or even on time) for reservations in Paris is not the norm.
We were seated and handed a menu in French. That was not surprising. What did surprise me was that I didn’t recognize a lot of the stuff on the menu. I thought our years of dining in fancy French restaurants, combined with my years of Latin in high school (French is a romance language) would help me out. Yeah…not sure what I was thinking there. We could pick out things like beef, or fish, or chicken, or duck…essentially the main protein. But that was it.
The waiter approached and asked if we needed some help. Yes please! He went over most of the stuff and set down some bread, butter, pate, and cornichons for us. We decided to go with the tasting menu because it really wasn’t much more expensive than picking out an appetizer and entrée.
All of the food was very good. We really enjoyed it. The bread was free flowing the entire time, and I had to physically separate Alyce from the rice pudding – which was absolutely delicious.
The French bistro dining experience was a little different. It started off pretty quiet in the restaurant but was packed later in the night with people waiting to get in. The tables are literally touching one another; they have to slide the table out anytime the person sitting against the wall wanted to leave.
Things have a much more communal feel to them. Items will go from one table to the next. Most of the complimentary goodies for the table were passed around as well. The chef was working from the kitchen in the corner with an open window to the dining room and would get pretty worked up and start yelling/clapping if the staff was not doing something to his satisfaction. We thought it was funny.
Also, they were considerably less staffed than a comparable restaurant in America, but the service did not suffer. One last thing is that they will not bring you the bill until you ask.
Overall, we really liked L’Ami Jean. I’d definitely recommend it; they were friendly and very helpful to us English speakers. The crowd started off as mostly English/tourists, but the French were taking over as the night proceeded. I think that is pretty common. The French tend to eat later, and restaurants like to get the English speakers in early when it is less crowded – so they can take the time to help you.
If I have only one criticism, it is that the glasses of wine were priced pretty high – I think the cheapest was 13 Euros. Generally, wine is cheaper in France than the US; that was the case everywhere else we went. But that’s it. Otherwise the food was delicious, the prices were reasonable, and the atmosphere was classic French Bistro.
Walking back to the metro, we caught our first view of the Eiffel Tower. Back at the hotel, we were both stuffed and had no trouble falling to sleep.
To start off our first full day in Paris, we were excited to try the famed Park Hyatt Paris breakfast. We received breakfast complimentary from my diamond status, but it otherwise would have been 50 euros per person.
Diamond members get the American breakfast, which included the continental buffet along with a choice of eggs and two garnishes. You also could get room service up to 50 euros per person. We ate in the restaurant everyday.
The continental buffet featured more selections than most. We usually try to avoid eating breads/croissants/etc., so we were not as excited by it as others may be. That said, on the last day we tried some of everything and it was all delicious. I could see why people like the breakfast so much.
The eggs were always a healthy portion and the sides were good as well. Overall, it was a really nice breakfast, but I’m not sure it was any better than any of the other Park Hyatt’s we stayed at. I could see how you could have a different opinion if you like to eat continental breakfasts moreso than hot breakfasts.
Anyway, we could barely finish our breakfasts as we were still pretty full from the night before. It was raining when we woke up, but it had stopped by the time we went back up to our room…Time to head out.
First on the agenda was the Louvre. We’re not huge museum people – especially art museums, but this is probably the most famous museum in the world. We decided to try it out.
On our way, we walked through the Tuileries Gardens. I was surprised to still see some green grass; I bet it looks really nice in the Spring.
Entry was something like 12 Euros a person, but the line was a pain. We waited over an hour to get in in the middle of a weekday in January…I don’t want to know what it is like over the summer.
I was more impressed than I expected to be by the museum. The paintings were huge. I guess when you just see paintings in isolation in a book or computer, you don’t have any reference for scale.
The Louvre itself was really neat as well. I did not realize that it was such an impressive building on its own. There is also a ton if history behind the Louvre. It was a medieval castle, a palace, etc. That was probably my favorite part of the whole thing.
We did see the Mona Lisa – or at least we saw the crowd of people looking at it. It (the painting) was actually smaller than I would have expected – cf. everything else in the museum.
My one complaint is that there was no English on any of the signs describing pretty much anything in the museum. We decided against renting the audio headphone guides because we don’t really like just walking through a museum with headphones on the whole time.
Had I been aware that there were no English descriptions anywhere in the museum, I probably would have got the audio guides. Oh well, it actually allowed us to see more stuff while we were there – and there wasn’t too much I would have wanted to hear about anyway. I don’t like complaining about a lack of English when we are in a different country, but museums are typically the one place that you can count on descriptions in multiple languages.
We had our fill of museum after about 3 hours, and decided to head on. We walked out and then followed along the Seine towards Notre Dame Cathedral. About halfway there, we crossed the Pont des Arts pedestrian bridge – aka the one with all the padlocks.
The Cathedral was still decorated for Christmas a couple weeks in to January, which we found a little odd. Actually there were Christmas decorations still up many places. They must not be in near as mush of a rush to get that stuff down as we are in the US.
It was massive. There were giant stained glass windows everywhere. It also had some famous royal carpet in there, which I think was just a temporary display. As an engineer, I’m always really impressed with how they built these things so long ago.
You can walk the stairs up to the top of one of the pillars, but it is supposed to be a pretty good climb. We decided to pass.
The metro station was just another block or two away, and we were back at the hotel in no time.
Alyce rested and got ready for dinner. I ventured out to just walk around a little more near the hotel.
Bistrot Paul Bert was on the agenda for dinner. It is a classic French Bistro serving classic French Bistro food, but they do it well.
We learned our lesson from the previous night and showed up 5 minutes late for our 7:30 reservation. Though, it still stressed Alyce out a little bit that we never showed up exactly on time from here on out for reservations.
Paul Bert featured an extremely reasonably priced prix fix menu in addition to a la carte selections. I think it was something like 38 euros for 3 courses. Glasses of wine were also very reasonably priced (5 or 6 euros per glass).
The food was all very good again, though different than the previous night at L’Ami Jean…Just more of classic French preparations. The waiter was very friendly and helped us with the all menu translations. Alyce’s post goes more in to the specifics of what we had. As with L’ami Jean, I’d have no problem recommending Bistro Paul Bert both on quality and value.
We were stuffed again after dinner (though not as bad as the previous night). We waddled our way back to the Metro to head back to the hotel and go to bed.
After another delicious breakfast, we were set to do some more walking – Alyce’s favorite!
Today the plan was to walk down the Champs Elysees to the Arc de Triomphe, then make our way to the Eifel tower. The walk down the Champs Elysees was a good walk down Paris’s biggest street. If shopping is your thing, there was certainly a whole lot of that.
Napoleon commissioned the Arc de Triomphe to be built upon the return from one of his conquest. It is truly large and located at the intersection at several major streets. There is much small detail work in the sculpturing as well. It is a pretty impressive site to see. From the Arc, we proceeded towards the Eiffel Tower.
The Eiffel Tower may be the most recognizable structure in the world. It was also the tallest structure in the world for over 40 years (the Chrysler building in New York surpassed it in 1930). It was built to signify the entrance to the 1889 World’s Fair and is still the tallest structure within Paris proper.
We took plenty of pictures around it and just soaked in being right there. We decided not to ride to the viewing deck, as the line looked long, and it was pretty chilly outside.
Once we had gotten our fill, we walked to the nearby Metro station and made our way back to the hotel. Alyce was done for the day, but I had a little energy left…
I caught the Metro to Montmarte. This is an old neighborhood of Paris located up on a hill. Now, it is pretty touristy, but it is still neat to see the view from the top.
I walked to the area of the Sacre Coeur and stared down (up?) a long flight of stairs. I figured I could handle it…no problem. Well I took off up the stairs, but I had to take a break about three quarters of the way up despite my best efforts.
The Sacre Coeur church was really nice…maybe not quite as impressive as the Notre Dame Cathedral. The view from the outside was tough to beat though.
I hung around for a little while and then walked down the stairs in the park. At the bottom, I was offered a friendship bracelet, but knew that trick and passed immediately (and forcefully). Someone else was not so fortunate, but luckily for her the cops showed up and the scammers took off running.
At this point, I noticed that the time of our dinner reservation was approaching quickly. I walked straight back to the Metro and took off for Opera.
Tonight, we were dining at Spring. Of all the places I had researched when trying to pick restaurants, Spring had the most universally positive reviews. People seemed to really like it.
We walked all the way from the Park Hyatt. It wasn’t a bad walk by any means – probably taking 15 minutes. We were greeted at the door and immediately taken to our table for two downstairs. And yes, it was an actual table for two…Not a line of tables – bistro style.
The food was very good, but I must admit that I wasn’t as impressed with it as I expected to be given the reviews. Still, we had a very nice meal all said and done. Alyce covered it better than I will here.
The walk back to the hotel afterwards was another nice stroll. Alyce went straight to bed when we got back, and I (finally!) confirmed two Lufthansa first class flights back to the United States for our return home.
We again ate a decent bit at the breakfast, despite claiming to be not hungry. We held back some though since our major meal plans for the day were for lunch.
Alyce planned to have a relaxing morning in the hotel room, but I wanted to go do some walking. I left for the Marais, which is a neighborhood that is said to be nice to just walk around and observe the scenery.
I walked to the Marais from the Park Hyatt, passing back through the Louvre again to take some more pictures. It had a lot of little streets with cafes and restaurants all over the place. I made my way to Place des Vosges park and then ended up at the Bastille to catch the Metro back to the hotel just in time to get ready for lunch.
Lunch today was at Le Taillevent. Le Taillevent is a very classic style French restaurant. They do everything there the same way I would imagine things being done 50-100 years ago…It also had a really good lunch special. For 100 Euros, you got a 4 course lunch and two glasses of wine. Maybe not the cheapest lunch ever, but this is a restaurant that has been either 2 or 3 Michelin Stars for years…And those types of places are usually outrageously expensive in Paris.
We enjoyed all of the food. Alyce probably picked the winners with the foie gras and meat entrée.
Unlike the previous restaurants where there were several other English speaking parties, we were the only ones here. Also, the atmosphere was very formal – not surprising when you go to a classic, formal French restaurant. They still helped us with the menu and were very courteous, but it just had a very formal feeling…Almost like we were trying not to misbehave the whole time for fear of being kicked out. Again, don’t take that as me complaining about the restaurant – it’s just the type of place it is.
We were pretty full by the end of the meal, having eaten a restaurant breakfast and multi-course lunch. At that point we decided that unless we got a major second wind, dinner was out for the night.
Alyce was contempt to relax in the hotel for the night, but I had other ideas…Nerd time – heading out with my tripod.
I walked down the Champs Elysees and got some nice shots of the Arc de Triomphe. I would have paid to walk to the top, but they don’t allow use of tripods up there – which any pictures without a tripod would be pretty poor at night.
From there, I walked to the Eiffel Tower to get some good night shots of the Tower. Plenty other people had the same idea, but no one else had a tripod. So I’m pretty sure I got the winners of the night.
After getting my (extensive) fill of Eiffel Tower pictures, I rode the Metro back to the Opera station…but I wasn’t quite done for the night yet. I wanted to take some pictures of the big ferris wheel at the end of Tuileries Garden. So, I did that and made my way back to the hotel where Alyce admitted she was starting to wonder if I was coming back. All in all, it was a successful night for taking pictures.
This was the last day we’d have time to sit down and eat breakfast, so we splurged and tried a bunch of the pastries…It was worth it.
The big meal plan for the day was lunch at Le Cinq. Alyce had been enjoying her time relaxing at the hotel, so she decided to relax some more after breakfast. I was going to venture off again.
My plan for the morning was to walk through the neighborhoods of St. Germain and the Latin Quarter. Off I went.
After wandering around St. Germain for little bit and taking some pictures, I stumbled upon a church. It looked like a nice attraction, so I figured why not and went in. It was St. Sulpice church (which I didn’t know until I got back to the hotel) and was yet another very nice church – probably not as impressive as the others, but still impressive.
I continued on to Luxembourg Gardens. This was a very well maintained green area with sculptures and fountains. It was a nice relaxing place to just hang out and observe….So much so that I realized I was way behind schedule and needed to pick up the pace if I was going to make lunch.
I scrambled through the Latin Quarter, stopping briefly at the Pantheon. I reached the metro station and went straight back to the hotel. I got back with just enough time to change and run out.
Le Cinq is located off the Champs Elysees in the Four Seasons hotel. The hotel itself had a very grand appearance. We walked in and were escorted by a friendly doorman to the restaurant.
Our waiter greeted us and was very friendly and welcoming. He cracked jokes and just made us feel very welcome. It was still a formal dining room, but it had a much more relaxed and welcoming atmosphere than Le Taillevent.
Le Cinq also had a reasonably priced prix fix lunch menu (reasonable under the circumstances). We decided to go that route, as the a la carte menu was very expensive…At least I decided that – Alyce was given a menu without any prices on it.
The menu consisted of an appetizer, entrée, and dessert. That’s at least the listed courses…we were served many other little bites and treats throughout the meal. We also split a cheese course.
The butter was from some famous butter house – I’m not making this up – and was absolutely delicious. All of our courses were excellent, but the standouts were the foie gras appetizer and the caramel ice cream desert…It was up there with the deserts from Quay in Sydney as our all-time favorites.
Overall, it was a fantastic meal. From the grand dining room and china to the friendly and fantastic service and most importantly the delicious food, it ranks up there with some of our favorite meals.
Le Cinq and Le Taillevent are both currently 2 Star restaurants, but both have been 3 Stars in the recent past. I’d agree that two stars is appropriate for Le Taillevent, but I don’t know what they were doing when they rated Le Cinq. We’ve dined at numerous 3 Michelin Star restaurants, and this was 3 Star quality all the way. I’d have to think they get their third star back in the near future.
We ate what we could of the little treats we were provided and then waddled out, more stuffed than we had been at any other point along the trip. I had wanted to go get some sweets for “dinner.” We didn’t even have enough room for that.
After a little rest to let our stomachs digest, Alyce started to pack but I wanted to take one last chance to take some more pictures. My plan was to go pass by the Louvre and then get some shots at Notre Dame before calling it a night.
I took my pictures and made my way back to the hotel, where Alyce was already packed. I packed and then tried to find the Saints game on TV…No luck. Though we did see a documentary in French that featured New Orleans. It was quite odd to find that. They were interviewing people in Lakeview and even went to church in St. Dominic.
I took one last shot at the Saints game and attempted to find it streaming on the internet – success! I hooked my computer up to the TV, and we watched the Saints lose to Seattle…womp, womp.
Despite the disappointing end to the day (the Saints), Paris was still a great stop. We went to bed and called it a trip.
We both really liked Paris. Alyce later admitted that she was worried that I wouldn’t be a fan because it wasn’t “exotic enough” compared to places like Hong Kong, Japan, Thailand, etc. That was kind of the case for London, but Paris was different. There is no doubt that you are in a different country.
Paris just had a cool vibe to it. There is plenty to do, or you could have a perfectly enjoyable day just hanging out at a café and watching the people go by. The food is world renowned, and it did not disappoint. It is also a great city for just walking around and wandering the streets – something I always enjoy.
The people were mostly friendly, and the ones that weren’t outwardly friendly were still courteous – but just a little more reserved. I think most issues that lead to the “rude French” reputation usually arise from tourist ignorance of important French etiquette, i.e. the tourist started it.
If there were one thing I would have done differently, I would have probably gotten a Paris Museum Pass for the length of our stay. A museum pass will get you in to most of the places you’d probably want to go – museums, historical buildings, Versailles, the Arc de Triomphe, and so on. There were a couple places I would have liked to have run in and checked out for 30 minutes or so (the Pantheon, Concierge…), but I wasn’t going to pay the 10 euro entrance fee for that.
Perhaps more importantly, the museum pass allows you to skip the lines at many places. A 4 day pass cost 56 Euros; entrance to the Louvre was 12 Euros. I probably would have paid the additional 44 Euros on the spot to avoid having to wait in the Louvre line and considered it worth it even if I did not use it a single other time. If you plan to hit several of the options offered on the museum pass, I’d seriously consider it – even if you might not come ahead on total cost – for the ability to skip lines.
Seeing other parts of France still remains very high on our list. Hopefully, we’ll make it back to do that sooner rather than later – I guess we’ll see how our upcoming addition will affect things. Whenever we do make it back, I’ll be sure to try my best to work in at least a couple days in Paris.