“Paris exists to remind you that your dreams are real”
Paris Up Close
I seriously feel as though Paris was MONTHS ago!! Can I go back now please? I’ve been meaning to write this blog for the past week or so, but am admittedly still feeling that post-vacay bliss. AKA. I want to do absolutely nothing but sit on my tushie & binge watch The Handmaid’s Tale whilst binge eating baguettes & macarons literally all day. Side Note: I fully realize this situation sounds more like “rut” than “bliss“, but I’m a glass half full kinda gal, so we’re going to go ahead & roll with “bliss” today. So – I FINALLY decided to pull myself together – partially because I’d finished The Handmaid’s Tale (snaps for Peggy), but MOSTLY because I was afraid that all of my Paris tips & tricks (& they’re goodies) would soon be a distant memory & I’d therefore have zero information to give all of you! So… yeah… you’re welcome! 😛
Everything You NEED to Know About Paris!
What can I say…Paris was un – freakin -believable!!! I’ve been desperately attempting to find words that accurately depict just how incredible this city is, but honestly… I got nada. There is seriously not a single adjective I can think of that would do Paris justice. However we DID befriend a local Parisian who related living in Paris to living in a museum & that is probably the best way to possibly put it!
AKA. You MUST MUST MUST go!!!
And NOW – you totally have my guide to help ya through it! Where to stay on a budget, what to do, how to spot the best French restaurants from a menu, how to take pics WITHOUT a million people in them, & how to get around the city for just 8 Euros/week!
1. Where to Stay on a Budget
Okay so first things, first… you’re going to need a place to stay! But before we get into the actual accomodations themselves, I have to delve into a little bit of Geography 101 for you to FULLY understand the logistics behind our Airbnb location choice!! Cross my fingers it won’t be boring! Promise!
Paris is essentially divided into two banks – left & right – which is essentially differentiated below:
- The Right Bank: More luxurious, caters to tourists, a bit more “Americanized” (lots of department stores you’d find over here in Canada), newer part of Paris, busy – AKA all of this means lots of $$$$$$$$
- The Left Bank: Infamous for being home to the creatives, artists & students, less crowded, less touristy, older part of Paris etc.
I mean, I think it’s kind of obvious which bank WE preferred!! It goes without saying… I would HIGHLY recommend staying on the Left Bank – specifically the Latin Quarter because it’s less crowded, quiet, great food, virtually no tourists &, most importantly, WAY cheaper than staying on the right bank! Not to mention – you’re still minutes from historical landmarks like the Notre Dame & the Pantheon!!!
Andrei & I essentially hit the Airbnb Jackpot with a spectacularly spacious apartment in the Latin Quarter for just $70 CAD/night! It was steps away from the infamous Rue Mouffetard (an outdoor market lining an old cobblestone walkway) which was perfect because we’d grab baguettes, cheese, fruits & eggs from there every single morning for breakfast in the condo! Not to mention – there were some seriously amazing cafes & restaurants all within a 5-10 minute walk!
Fruit & wine shops along the Rue Mouffetard! This was about a two minute walk from the condo! Walking along this cobblestone street was a serious pinch me moment! There were fish & meat vendors, cheese shops, bakeries, clothing stores etc. etc. etc.
Below are a few photos of our Airbnb! All via Airbnb! To be completely honest… it actually looks better in person! UPDATE: As I was adding photos to this blog, I noticed that the price of this Airbnb raised to $109 CAD!!! Still a fair price – but a far cry from the $70 we rented it for!
Ugh – simply stunning! Perfect location, super clean, VERY spacious & so affordable! To book, click HERE!
2. What to Do
….EVERYTHING YOU POSSIBLY CAN! There is SO much to do in Paris, & although Andrei & I were there for about 10 days, we still didn’t see everything that we wanted to! In fact, I could go back tomorrow for another 10 days & I guarantee it would be a completely different & new experience. I’m going to divide our excursions into “Free” & “Paid” to give you a good idea of what we decided to save & splurge on!
What I absolutely recommend are Discover Walks; they’re free (tip supported) walking tours guided by local Parisians. We did nearly every single one over the first three days – which was perfect, because we got a good geographical grip of the city & because the guides are locals, they were able to give us some EXCELLENT tips regarding restaurants, avoiding tourist traps & avoiding crowds at historical monuments etc. Below are the ones I’d recommend doing:
Montmartre is literally what Instagram Dreams are made of!!!
- Montmartre Tour – this might just be my favourite part of Paris! It is SO different from the rest of the city & super quaint! Our guide was amazing & took us the route locals use to avoid the mass amount of tourists at the Sacre Coeur church.
- Latin Quarter, Left Bank Tour – we did this tour because this is where our Airbnb was located, so we wanted to know the ins & outs of the area! Unbeknownst to us, the Latin Quarter is actually one of the oldest parts of Paris, so there was tons of fun history 101 going on during this tour.
- Hidden Gems & Secret Paris Tour – we slept through this tour! BOO!!!! It was our first day there & we had MAJOR jet lag! I was so disappointed because I really, really wanted to go on this one!
- Notre Dame & the Heart of Paris – if you’re short on time & only have couple of days in Paris, THIS is the tour you need to do! It was SO interesting & by far my favourite tour of the bunch! I loved learning about the construction & history of Notre Dame… mind BLOWN!
- Paris Landmarks – I mean… obviously. This tour will give you a good, solid overview of some of the more infamous (& not so infamous) Parisian landmarks!
- Saint Germain & the River – the left bank is split in two: the Latin Quarter & Saint Germain! Similarly to the Latin Quarter tour, we did the Saint Germain tour because we wanted to get to know our area a bit more! It was super interesting to learn about these older parts of Paris & see authentic, Medieval streets & houses!
There were a few things that we decided to splurge on, honestly because I think we’d be kicking ourselves if we travelled all that way to Paris & didn’t end up doing these things!
- Versailles – we were SO freakin’ excited to see Versailles! Nerd Alert: we’d been watching endless documentaries on Versailles leading up to our vacation that’s how excited we were!
- Hot Tip: Bite the bullet & purchase all three entry fees for Marie Antoinette’s cottage, the Gardens & the Versailles Palace itself! It’s worth it!
- Hotter Tip: We accidentally slept in this day & were SUPER late to Versailles! We were told the lines were too busy to enter the palace (2.5-3 hour wait) for us to purchase all three tickets – BUT because we’re risky like that, we decided to go ahead & do it anyways! Attendants wished us luck & told us to try the palace at 3pm because the line dies down. WELP – we went at 4pm (palace closes & 6pm) & I SWEAR there was ZERO line! We walked right in, liked the palace so much – we did it TWICE! No guarantees – but if you’re feeling lucky, this might be something to try! We had Versailles to ourselves!
- Champagne, France – a friend of mine had travelled to France two months before me, & as SOON as I saw that she went to Champagne I IMMEDIATELY messaged her to ask for details! I mean how cool?! To drink champagne IN Champagne?! Bucket list moment right there! Click HERE for our tour booking info!
- What I loved? Touring the champagne cellars! First off, I had no idea that Champagne Cellars even existed & secondly it’s SO cool; essentially miles upon miles of cellars, hundreds of feet under the ground & FILLED with champagne!
- The champagne cellars of Mumm’s Champagne! The champagne needs to be kept so far underground because these are the ideal temperatures to age champagne… who knew?!
- Mumm’s Champagne sponsors a few racing events! So we HAD to snap this shot on the podium!
- What I not so much loved? If you’re expecting Niagara… don’t! The vineyards are not actually directly ON the Champagne houses like the Wineries are here in Canada! They’re a bit further away! I was a little disappointed that the tastings weren’t surrounded by vines upon vines of grapes – I mean, how romantic – so it just felt a BIT industrial to me! So if you DO want to go to Champagne… perhaps look for a tour that goes through the vineyards as well? I couldn’t find one to share with you today! But perhaps you’ll have better luck!
These vineyards were quite a distance away from the actual Champagne houses themselves… but worth the view!
- The Loire Valley – this was another great suggestion from my friend who had just visited!!!! I have to say… if you’re going to splurge on one tour, this would be the one to splurge on! The Loire Valley is about three hours outside of Paris & is a region that is home to over 100 castles! It was so beyond unique & it felt like we had time travelled back hundreds of years! Click HERE for our tour booking info!
Rose on the castle grounds? Yes please!
- Seine River Cruise – not much to say about this one, other than it’s really cool to see Paris from a different perspective (on the river)! It only cost about 10 Euros, & it’s worth it to see the monuments by boat!
3. What to Eat
Okay so people had told me the food was amazing in Paris, but I didn’t know it was THAT amazing! The sauces in particular were just out of this world & I honestly don’t think I can ever eat cheese or macarons here in Canada again after indulging in what the French have to offer. I’ve been spoiled.
So I’m not necessarily going to tell you WHERE to eat, but WHAT to look for in a menu & name when selecting restaurants or cafes! One of our tour guides on Discover Walks gave us an excellent breakdown of what to look for on a menu so that you don’t fall into a frozen food tourist trap!
If you want good, authentic Parisian food… here’s what your menu should look like:
- One or two pages of food MAX! There should be about five-ish main courses listed. If the restaurant has a menu with pages upon pages of food items (specifically those that list every French specialty in the book)… RUN!
- The menu displayed should only be in French! If the menu displayed outside the restaurant lists both French & English, this means they’re catering to tourists, which ALSO means they’re churning out frozen foods like chain restaurant. No Bueno!
- No pictures of food! Avoid restaurants that put pictures of their food in the menu like the plague!
Above was one of our favourite spots on the Rue Mouffetard! Andrei got the lamb & ratatouille… I got chicken & fries! Both delicious!
This restaurant was CHALK full of history! Le Procope was founded in 1686 & was a favourite of Napoleons! In fact… his hat is actually still at the restaurant! You can take a picture beside it!
French onion soup at Le Procope… because OBVI!
Hot Tip: The pastries in France are literally to DIE for, so if you’re in Paris, you want to make sure you’re getting the best of the BEST! You therefore MUST opt for a Boulangerie over a Patisserie when looking to chow down on some seriously amazing baked goods. Why? We were told by the locals that chefs at Boulangeries come up with their own, original recipes, whereas Patisseries follow more stringent, classical or traditional recipes!
4. How to Get Around the City
To say that Paris is a big city would be a gross understatement. This city is freakin’ MASSIVE & all of the “must-see” monuments are totally spread out, so if you’re like us & not willing to shell out for Uber or Public Transit on the daily – your only option is to either walk or bike!
- Walk: If you’re going to walk, well A. bless your feet, they’re about to suffer unimaginably & B. you’re going to need to pack some serious kicks! I packed my Skechers runners – thank goodness – & wore them every single day! No stilettos or those fly slides for moi! What I love most about my Skechers is that they’re super, super comfortable (You by Skechers actually contains memory foam) AND they’re casual chic, so they looked perfect with all of my outfits – even the sundresses! Want to learn more? Check out my blog on Airport Essentials HERE!
Velib bike stations (there are HUNDREDS throughout the city)! This one was 2 minutes from our Airbnb & right outside our favourite Boulangerie!
- Bike: Andrei & I opted to bike our way through Paris, & although I was positively terrified for the first couple of days – this actually turned out to be an EXCELLENT mode of transportation! We each purchased a 7 day ticket at Velib, a self service bike system offered 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year! The cost? 8 Euros each – for the ENTIRE week! I would highly, highly recommend doing this while you’re in Paris! It’s a really neat way to get around the city – & due to car traffic, Google Estimated Arrival Times were almost the exact same for cars & bikes (if not faster by bike)! Not to mention, Paris is an incredibly bike-friendly city, the cars & bikes have a GREAT relationship with one another; it’s not like here in Toronto, where passer byers will essentially call you every name in the book for daring to ride your bicycle. Want to learn more? Click HERE.
Ow, ow!!!! Ps. This is how I take my photos! I make Andrei do them first so that I can show him EXACTLY how I want myself to be positioned in the photo. Scoff if you’d like – but this makes the process so much quicker! Pssst. See below two photos – he did VERY well!
5. Where to take photos with nobody else in it!
Paris is positively swarming with tourists! There are SO many people there, so it’s incredibly hard to get a good shot of any of the monuments without having about a million, unknowing photo bombers crashing your picture! Below are some of my favourite snaps of Parisian landmarks accompanied with a couple of tips on how to take photos, sans all of the people!!!
Take your Eiffel Tower photos in the gardens surrounding this landmark! Not only are there minimal people, it makes for a WAY more interesting photo that has a bit more depth & character than you’re standard, touristy Eiffel Tower photo.
You can also try going to the sides of the tower to have a picnic! It’s way less crowded than the front or back!
The most perfect shot of the Notre Dame is across the Seine River! Hot Tip: this is also the perfect spot to plant your kiester with a bottle of vino, cheese & baguettes & take in the sites! Which I suggest you do on the daily for lunch!
The back & sides of the Notre Dame are other really pretty options to consider for photo purposes! These spots contain lots of greenery & florals which will add a fun, & unique element to your photo! Plus… notice any people? Nope? That’s because there are hardly ANY in comparison to the swarms at the front!
These photos were taken about 30 minutes til close! There is virtually nobody in the palace at this time, presenting the perfect opportunity for a GREAT photo op!
Not to mention, there are so many hidden gems & interesting elements throughout the gardens! Sure…. grab that quintessential Versailles Gardens photo from the top of the palace, but then do a little exploring to the more deserted, whimsical crooks & crannies of the gardens!
Sacre Coeur Church
The back of the church is your very best bet if you’d like to get an unobstructed photo of this insanely gorgeous church! To be completely honest, I felt the back was actually way more architecturally interesting than the front anyways! You MUST go to the front, simply for the views of Paris – however snap your photos of the church from the back!
Welp…. there ya have it! My FULL guide to Paris… on a Budget!
That was a lengthy one, so thanks for sticking with it!
Have you been to Paris? What are your tips?!