Mad About Paris, Much more than a guide
The Easter week-end marks the beginning of the full-blown high season in Paris, now the masses are really streaming in, humming “J’aime Paris au mois de mai”, looking for their own unforgettable “springtime in Paris” – and maybe, probably, you’re one of them. Make the most out of it with some priceless tips.
So, high season is here, definitely, and Paris is turning into the world’s No. 1 travel destination. Here are some essential rules of how to survive.
Paris may well be a metropolis but it is a city following pretty strict rhythms, too. Unlike other capitals, say, Berlin or London, the days are clearly structured like in the old days which means, for instance, that you’ll run into problems trying to find a place for lunch at – 4 o’clock in the afternoon. Here’s the rule: have breakfast before 9, go for lunch between 1 and 3 p.m., have dinner after 8 p.m. (at 7, you’ll sit alone like a lost child).
Most restaurants are closed on Sundays, check well beforehand, most shops outside the tourist zones – and especially the beautiful butchers, the picturesque bakeries, the rough fish vendours – don’t open on Mondays at all, many museums are closed on Tuesdays, and on Wednesdays all the parks are packed with French children who have their mid-week break. Too much detail? Well, you better learn the above informations by heart in order to avoid spoiled trips and disappointing meals!
Always check for online tickets whatever you plan to do. Nothing is more boring than to stand in a queue for two hours just to get to the Eiffel tower’s first elevator! With an online ticket your chances on a fast track rise. Almost all major attractions offer Internet services nowadays – use them! Some of them (the Eiffel Tower amongst them) even define time slots for your entry, so try to be informed whether you’re tempted by the Louvre, the Musée d’Orsay, the Grand Palais, you name it. Be a smart traveller. Avoid the crowds.
Sacre Coeur? Well, Sacre Coeur, of course you want to go there. But please forget about sleeping until 9, having breakfast at 10 only to arrive on Montmartre at 11 – you’ll feel like you’re in a refugee camp! Go early, be bold, climb up at 8.30 a.m. (or p.m.) and have your breakfast (or dinner) afterwards somewhere in the narrow streets around and below the kitschy white temple. You won’t regret it, even better: you won’t forget it.
Information is also crucial when it comes to dining out. Don’t trust bistros or restaurants that are empty at 9 o’clock in the evening even when they’re displaying chequered tablecloth and playing chansons over loudspeakers. Check reliable sources – like Mad About Paris – and book your table in advance (one day ahead of time for bistros, approximately two months per Michelin-star, meaning that it is not ridiculous at all to call, say, “Le Meurice” 6 months before arrival; the same is true for the trendy hot spots).
I could go on, but the message is clear: Make the best out of your trip. Leave the comfort zone. Get up early. Do your homework. Paris can be heaven – and it can be hell. We don’t want you to experience the latter.