A long list of things I learnt in Paris that might be of use to other novice travellers (it was orginally ten but the lessons got away from me).
- The French are fucking insane and should never be allowed near cars, vans, motorcycle or bicycles.Traffic laws seem to mean nothing and crossing the road means taking your life in your hands and hoping you make it across the road before someone decides to just drive over the crossing. Crossing when the green man is lit is only marginally less dangerous than using a crossing without lights. Follow the example of the locals and cross when they do.
- Motoercycles and bicycles are incredibly common means of transport in Paris. When crossing the road, be sure t0o make an extra observation behind you as they tend to appear from nowhere and sometimes ride on the footpath. There are dedicated cycle lanes on the pavements – try to avoid walking in them. Bicycles can be rented from racks all over the city and can be left at any other official rack.
- Restaurants have English language menus; they’ll either give them to you when you walk in and are obviously a tourist or you can ask for them and you won’t have to struggle with trying to make sense of the menu in French if your language skills are so-so.
- Always wait to be seated when you enter a cafe or restaurent. The waiter will ask how many and whether you want to sit inside or outside. Most of them speak reasonable English if you need help.
- Portions are huge! It might seem expensive but you get a generously sized meal. eat where there are lots of locals; if they like it the food will probably be good. You almost always get a bottle of table water to go with your meal so if you’re on a budget don’t order a drink.
- The Louvre is open until 9.45 pm on a Wednesday and Friday, I recommend going in the late afternoon/early evening when the crowds have thinned out and it’s less sweltering outside. It is very hot in some parts of the Louvre purely because of the number of people in the building, which is something to bear in mind when visiting. You won’t need a coat.
- Again, at the Louvre, and other attractions, you can pre-book your tickets online and get the e-tickets on your phone. This allows you to skip the much longer queue for security. People in wheel chairs and those with children in push chairs are also sent to the head of the queue.
- Watch for the beggers; they sometimes claim to be raising money for a deaf and blind or dumb charity or a disabled association and present official looking sponser forms. They are not real charities and the beggars are neither deaf nor dumb.Wave them away with a stern ‘Non’ and if they persist don’t get you purse or wallet out; they will look inside and demand you open zipped pockets. Just keep waving them on. The same applies to the dodgy old men who ask you to take their picture in front of a building, such as Notre Dame and then say they want a selfy with you instead, while they try to grope you or get in your pockets.
- Avoid buying from the street vendors of cheap tat, of which there are many. They are usually men carrying strings of mini Eiffal towers and will offer 1, then 2, then 3, etc. up to five for a Euro. Again, ‘Non’ and carry on walking.
- Remember your manners; it isn’t hard to learn ‘Oui’, ‘Non’, ‘Bonjour’, ‘Bonsoir’, ‘Merci’ and ‘Si’l vous plais’. Also ‘pardon’ is useful for getting through crowds.
- If you want tea buy some tea bags from Franprix or one of the other supermarkets, the tea bags in the hotel room are not great.The Louvre has a tea shop in the food court but it’s expensive tea. I had a quick look and had a heart attack.
- The airport security and much nicer and more thoughrough than they are in England (in my limited experience) and can be very helpful and funny. In fact service in general is really good.
- Getting in to any country is easy, getting out is the problem.
- France in August is hot and you can’t get a decent cup of tea anywhere.
- McDonalds is the same everwhere, except where it isn’t. There are local differences but in general the menu is predictable; this is useful on your first night when you’re knackered and can’t be bothered with anything too complicated.