Words by The Little Teochew, photos by ladyironchef.
I think Audrey Hepburn said it best in Sabrina – “Paris is always a good idea.” Ah, the city of lights, of love and all things lyrical – what’s not to like? Beautiful cities are aplenty, but Paris has a certain je ne sais quoi that draws you in, keeps you enthralled and makes you yearn for more. Little wonder that it constantly tops the list of “Most Visited Cities in the World”. Instead of sharing the well-grooved tourist tracks we visited (which a gazillion other people have already done), we thought it would be better to give you a tongue-in-cheek take on how to enjoy Paris.
Here are 5 life lessons learned from travelling in Paris.
1. Bring money, lots of it.
A Parisian holiday doesn’t exactly come cheap. Of course you can still enjoy this beautiful city on a shoestring – which I did as a poor student, and which I am thankfully not anymore – but if you want to eat and stay reasonably well, keep your pockets padded.
At the time when we were there, the exchange rate was €1 to S$1.76 and expenses certainly added up very quickly. Here’s a glimpse: accommodation in a centrally located 3-star hotel costs roughly €180 per night. An average 2-course lunch at a brasserie would minimally set you back between €15-€17 per head… but being foodies, we usually opted for 3-courses. A cup of vin chaud along Avenue des Champs-Élysées, €3. A mini entremet at a random patissiere when the sweet tooth strikes, €7. Throw in a few pains au chocolat, croissants, macarons and tartes peppered throughout the day, and you get the idea. Did I mention we’re foodies?
Of course, when big ticket temptations abound in the form of luxury goods – think Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Hermes – the figure instantly balloons. But hey, with a 12% refund on VAT, it makes perfect sense to get that bag or wallet you have been eyeing.
Add that all up in Euros and cents, and you get The. Time. Of. Your. Life. After all, what is a vacation if you are scrimping, saving and counting? Do that before the trip, but while in Paris, indulge. Money can always be earned, but happy memories stay with you for years to come. And from what I hear, so do Chanel bags.
2. Forget water, drink wine.
You’re in Paris! Wine here is abundant, good and cheap – even cheaper than water. This is where a glass costs €3 to €4 at a brasserie, and for the same price, can get you an entire bottle at the local Carrefour supermarket. If you are new to wine, now’s a great time to get acquainted. And if you already love wine, welcome to heaven. Each time I perused a wine list, I wish I lived here; each time I walked along the aisles of the wine section, I didn’t want to leave. We had wine everyday, at every meal, after every meal – you get the picture. So, drop the Evian and pop the bubbly. À votre santé!
3. Dress chic, especially if you are a woman.
One of the things you would notice quite immediately in Paris, is how slim and fashionable the women are. They all come in one size – small; and in one look – chic. They may wear very little make-up and/or dress simply, but they always look impeccable and stylish. You know how people always advise tourists to dress down in order to avoid unwanted attention? Not here. This is where you dress up to blend in with the crowd. Paris is not one of the world’s fashion capitals for nothing, so go all out and embrace its style. Look Parisian, feel Parisian.
4. Eat as you go.
You are in culinary mecca, so ditch that diet, please. We did not have a fixed itinerary, which made every meal an adventure, and we literally ate as we ambled along. In the process, we discovered many gems – from the humble but delicious Nutella crepe at a nondescript traiteur, to the stellar moules marinière at La Dorade Royale. All wonderful! And who can forget that morning we strolled past Les Gourmandises d’Eiffel? Its dazzling display of breads and pastries beckoned us in, and we ended up eating the most sublime tarte au citron. EVER. I mean, nothing else even comes close.
In fact, we did not encounter bad food in Paris. Not once. Either we had amazing luck in choosing the right places or we were simply surrounded by good food. I would like to think the latter, so eat whatever comes your way. Bon appetit!
5. Keep an open mind.
Much has been said about Parisian hospitality, or lack thereof. Someone I know just returned from Paris and lamented that she was met with churlishness everywhere. I do not doubt her words – they are after all her personal experiences – but I found it hard to empathise. Throughout our stay, we never felt unwelcomed or ignored. Sure, there were a few instances when the reception were a tad icy, or waiting times that were a little stretched, but they never bordered on ugly. Perhaps it was the bonjour and merci that always got us the assistance or service we needed, oftentimes with a smile.
Rude? Or misunderstood? Experiences will vary, but it always helps to keep expectations in check … and it sure doesn’t hurt to throw in a friendly French word or two.
This guest post is brought to you by The Little Teochew (or as you’d say in French – La Petite Teochew).