It's no secret that Paris is one of the world's truly magical getaway destinations. Renowned far and wide for its art, culture, and world-class dining, a Parisian vacation will soon have even the Beastliest visitor overcome by its Beauty. But in a city cock-full of so many amazing things to see, do and eat, how can anyone be sure that they're making the most of their European adventure?
Well, fear not “mon ami” – I've just gotten back from a three-day, two-night stay in “The City By the Lights,” and I've compiled the ultimate Insider's Guide that will soon have you cheering “oui oui!” just like you were a local!
By loudly declaring “American!” the moment you enter an eating establishment, you're letting the wait staff know they're free to converse with you in your native tongue.
It can be overwhelming to walk into a local “café“ (which is the French word for “restaurant”), and realize that everyone there is speaking in a language you don't understand.
Not to worry!
Parisians are delighted for the opportunity to speak English with their guests; you just need to let them know who you are. By loudly declaring “American!” the moment you enter an eating establishment, you're letting the wait staff know they're free to converse with you in your native tongue. (Just remember to be patient, as for many of these Parisians English may not be a first language.)
And although certainly not a necessity, it may also help to familiarize yourself with a few commonly used French words and phrases. For example: “bon jour” (which, much like the Hawaiian “aloha,” means both “hello” and “goodbye”), or “baguette,” which loosely translates to “bread stick.” And, of course: “Mais fuel eat le prix en dollars américains?” which means “What I meant was: what does this cost in US Dollars?”
It may surprise you to learn that many of the greatest French authors were actually born right here in the United States of America! Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Gertrude Stein all took up residency in Paris in the aftermath of World War I, and quickly established themselves as the intellectual literati that the city was so sorely lacking.
And though they lived in Paris for only a short period of time, their influence can still be felt to this day. In fact, it's said that you can judge the authenticity of a French restaurant based purely on the variety of “Hemingway Daiquiris” that they feature on their menu. (And after a few Hemingway Daiquiris on the winding streets of Paris, you'll certainly understand why Ernest and friends were known as “The Lost Generation”!)
The architecture, monuments, and natural splendor of Paris are second to none, and no trip “over the pond” would be complete without a self-guided walking tour of the city's historic landmarks. Make sure you take a picture outside of the magnificent “Cathédrale du Notre Dame” (don't let the accent fool you – it's pronounced just like the college in Indiana), which you may recognize as the inspiration for the classic Disney film The Hunchback of Notre Dame. (Looking up at the sunlight streaming through those brilliant stained glass windows, you can certainly understand why Walt Disney chose this location to create some of his most iconic characters.)
And although the Eiffel Tower is an absolute “must see,” don't fall into the common trap of simply meandering around on the grounds outside the famous structure. One of Paris' best kept secrets is the hidden elevator that will take you right to the top of the Tower itself! (But make sure to keep this information”hush hush” – the locals don't want their elevator crowded with tourists!)
And once you've had your fill of those breathtaking Parisian views, the world-famous “Louvre” is only a cab ride away. (Just make sure to loudly declare “American!” as soon as you enter into the cab, to let the “chauffeur” – French for “cab driver” – know that you're comfortable with him speaking to you in English.)
It should come as no surprise that Paris is home to some of the greatest shopping the world over. A scenic stroll down the tree-lined sidewalks of “Boulevard Saint-Germaine” – French for “St. Germaine Boulevard” – will soon have you stumbling across the storefronts of such quintessential French brands as Gucci, Versace, and Salvatore Ferragamo.
Pop over to the celebrated “Champs-Elysées“ for more luxury window-gazing, although if you're planning on picking up a brand new beret, be prepared to spend more than a few French Francs (which the locals refer to as “Euros“). Of course the Christian Dior flagship store on Avenue Montaigne is required visiting for any self-respecting shopaholic. And don't be surprised if you experience more than a bit of “déja vu” – the landmark building is best known as the location where Carrie tripped over her stilettos in Part One of the Sex and the City series finale: “An American Girl in Paris.” Talk about a “faux pas!” (French for “trip”).
After all that shopping you're sure to have worked up quite an appetite – be sure to stop into Au Bon Pain, a local bakery specializing in fresh-made breads, pastries, and gourmet French sandwiches.
So there you have it “mon ami!” Although you can't possibly be expected to experience all the Paris has to offer in a single trip (I didn't even get to the Hard Rock Cafe's “Local Legendary:” a flame grilled half-pound patty served the French way – with onion rings on the burger!”), this Insider's Guide will ensure that your Parisian vacation truly is “c'est si bon.”
And be sure to stay tuned for the next installment of my “Insider's Guides,” where I introduce you to the Spanish capital of Barcelona!