10 things I’ve learned in Paris

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1. What “Sortie” means. It means “Exit”. If you don’t know that, you will literally not be able to leave places. Seriously, is it so difficult to write – even in little fonts – “exit” under “sortie”?

2. If you’re looking for kind responses from the natives, initiate the interaction with a smile and a “bonjour/bonsoir”. The French are more likely to be friendly when they see that you at least make an effort (almost).

3. You can have a picnic anywhere. Literally. You don’t have to necessarily go to a park; if you have wine and cheese with you, basically anywhere is fine to just sit down and hang out. And Paris has some beautiful outdoor areas.

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La Saine (top left), Jardin des Plantes (top right), Jardin du Luxembourg (bottom left), Jardin des Tuileries (bottom right)

4. If there is ever a place where the weather is at its most unreliable, that place is Paris. Man, I thought New York weather was weird. At least it was somewhat consistent with the seasons. In Paris, there are no specific seasons. In 20 days that I’ve stayed there, I think I’ve lived through all the seasons. Sometimes on the same day! The day may start out shiny and warm, but it may end with a monsoon. So do yourself a favor and do not part with your umbrella.

5. Speaking of umbrellas, being a former New Yorker and a native Istanbullu, I was used to just buying one if it happens to start raining. It would be cheap and EVERYWHERE. So I thought the case would be the same in Paris. Aaand it’s not. They don’t sell it everywhere and it’s expensive. And the ones they sell on the newstands are huge! Once it stops raining, you wouldn’t know what to do with it. So bring your own, and don’t leave home without it.

6. It’s not OK to lose yourself in the city and wander around if you don’t know the area. I was trying to find Moulin Rouge, and I think that was the most scared I felt during my trip to Paris. After I found the famous landmark, I didn’t even stop to take pictures. I thought “ok, that’s done” and jumped at the nearest Metro. I might be slightly exaggerating, but there was a guy following me and he was creepy as hell!

7. While getting lost in an unknown neighbourhood (or a neighbourhood with a reputation) is scary, Paris actually is pretty cool if you just sightsee by walking around and getting lost (in the better neighbourhoods and with a map… don’t find yourself in the bad part of town). You can find the cutest streets. And it’s a flat city – no hills or anything – so it’s easy on the feet (except for Butte Montmartre. Oh, those stairs!).

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8. I skipped to go up the Eiffel, and I would do it again. Not worth those line and the ticket price, in my opinion. The views from the tops of Notre Dame and Sacre Ceour are gorgeous and apparently the view from the new building Tour Montparnasse is the best view in town. At least, you can see the Eiffel Tower from all the others, which is pretty much it in the Paris skyline.

9. Food is pretty expensive, so if you’re on a budget like me, try not to eat every meal at a restaurant. I bought bread & cheese from Carrefour (super cheap & super delicious) so I made sandwiches on the go for either breakfast or lunch to consume at the numerous parks & gardens. If I was particularly lazy, croissant from the bakeries and sandwiches from Monoprix would do the trick. So when I wanted to splurge, I would have money for it, and I would just do it for dinner or something. And if you really want decent food on the cheap side, go to Quartier Latin near Saint Michel. Dozens of restaurants with prix-fixe lunch menus. You can get an entree, a main course and a dessert for like 10 Euros.

10. It’s just pretty. Just go, even if you don’t like anything French, go see Paris at least once.

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