10 tips for a trip to Paris

betty ming liu Inspiration, Money, Travel 39 Comments

Two weeks from now, I will be in Paris. YAY! YAY! YAY! The 10-day trip is a special gift to my daughter Gabi. Kind of a mother-daughter rite of passage.

Joining us will be her Aunt Judy, who is my best friend from childhood; we’ve known each other since we were 7th graders growing up in Chinatown.

Since we’ve never vacationed together as a threesome, this will be a special girlie vacation. The adventure began with making travel arrangements, which I loathe doing. But guess who was elected to handle things.

By going online, I managed to: book a gorgeous-looking rental apartment in the historic district of Le Marais; make dinner reservations in the Eiffel Tower, followed by a Seine River boat tour and order tickets for visiting The Palace of Versailles.

I have no idea if any of these plans will pan out. Oh well, it’s too late to worry about that now…

As for the rest of our trip, that’s wide open. To be honest, I just can’t drag myself to research or book another thing. Yeah, you’re right — I would make a lousy travel agent. But there’s a solution. To save us, I’m turning to you.

Please help crowd source!

Definition of “crowd source,” from macmillandictionary.com:

Trying to find a way of completing a task, a solution to a problem, etc. by asking a wide range of people or organisations if they can help, typically by using the Internet.

So far, my friends have been marvelous. Helen found the website that led me to the rental apartment. Diane, who told me about dining inside the Eiffel Tower, also handed me a list of restaurants that never appear in guide books.

Any tips for visiting Musee du Louvre and Musee D’Orsay? And what about shopping? How about some packing advice? We’re only taking carry-on luggage.  I was thinking of bringing an iPad and possibly a Kindle but leaving the laptop at  home. I wonder if we should pack a hair dryer…

Anyways, hoping to hear from you in the comments below. It would be great to get your 10 tips for a trip to Paris. xo

P.S. — The last time we had a family vacation was when my daughter and I visited India. That was two years ago. We were mostly in south India, with an incredible 36 hours in Mumbai. I can’t wait to travel with Gabi again. And if you’d like to read about Judy and me growing up in Chinatown and going to City College together, click HERE. 

To read the rest of my Paris posts, here are the links:

3 ways I’m becoming a smart traveller

How to eat in Paris for $38 a day

Come with me to Paris!


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Comments 39

  1. HapaMama

    Wow, how fun! However, I’m no help because the last (and only) time I went to Paris was 20 years ago. But… you’re only traveling with a carryon? For ten days? I’d suggest you bring at least one check-in suitcase so you can haul stuff back ;)

  2. Ann

    If this a mother-daughter rite of passage – I want to be adopted. Do you want to stay in Paris for the whole 10 days? If not, consider taking Eurorail to see other parts of France for a day or two. You can even go to London and see a show. It sounds like a great adventure!

  3. Isha

    Oh how fun! My parents took me to Paris as my graduation present (post-NYU). I also went while I was abroad. Versailles was beautiful… one of those things you have to see once in your life, although I must say that I was disgusted by the opulence considering the poverty of the working class back then… but that’s off -point. Here are some other must-sees:

    – Musée de l’Orangerie (located right behind the Louvre, you’ll get to see the eight wall-sized Water Lilies murals by Monet… they’re just amazing)
    – Musée d’Orsay (a museum located in a former train station- also has a BEAUTIFUL cafe inside where you can get a yummy lunch)
    – The Sacre Coeur (I didn’t go inside, but the walk up the hill give you some beautiful views, and you can walk through Monmarte, the artists village)
    – Shopping on the Champs Elysees (I don’t think I actually bought anything, but it was fun seeing the purse-shaped LV store and the beautiful Swarovski store. You can get some yummy macarons here too)

    hmm… that’s all I can remember for now but I’ll post again if I think of anything else!

  4. Post
    betty ming liu

    hapamama, yes, only carry-on luggage. we don’t want to deal with retriving baggage or having it get lost. so we need to pack really, really smart and light.

    ann, can we really hop over to london for just a night? how does that work? i would love to try that!

    isha, excellent suggestions all around. thanks and do come back with more ideas.

    so glad you all dropped by to get things going. thank you, thank you. xo

  5. Linda

    Package less, I have been to Europe many times with only carry-on. you can always find laundry mate in big cities. Check with your rental, they may have a hair dry.

    1. Post
  6. Gerry

    Although I haven’t been to France since 1986, my favorite sight then was Monet’s home in Giverny, a fairly quick bus ride from Paris. (Ask at hotel where to get the bus). Allow about 1/2 a day in all, for the trip, tour of the grounds, the house and his incredible studio. The house is full of beautiful Japanese prints, which were the rage in Monet’s time, and the paint scheme and home decorations are to die for. Hope it’s still open. Bring me photos if you go!

  7. Skye

    What an inspiring blog to read this morning!
    This, along with your recent ”win-win” post have been encouraging to me lately. So much.

    I haven’t been to Europe since ’98, but I never went to Paris. I saw an interesting interview with Gwyneth Paltrow, years ago, describing her first time there. Her beloved father took her, as a teen, for a weekend date. He said he wanted to be the first man to take her there. How sweet a memory for her to have since his passing!

    While I don’t have any travel savvy tips for you (sorry), I wish all you ladies a great time with fun, bonding and lasting memories.

    I encourage you to indulge in Parisian fare (we want to see pics!), however, I will be a small nudge reminding you to maintain the principles of your lifestyle and diet. When people go on vacation, they tend to come back with extra luggage in the pounds dept. You should feel free to explore and enjoy, but don’t go overboard when you wouldn’t do it here. I believe in ”When in Rome…” but also believe who you are here is good enough across the globe. You arre on vacation from everyday life, not yourself. You are you, wonderful you, locally and globally. It’s a challenge, but I try to maintain how I normally eat whenever I am away, just switch the cuisine, keep the principle. I even find a church wherever I go, so I don’t ignore my spiritual life when I am having fun. Maybe create a space in the rental to do yoga or have some moments in the morning before you hit the town. God takes a vacation every week…lol, the Sabbath.

    I know I should be using this post to give you insider tips, but those are the only things I am sure to do whenever I travel. Also, if you have any friends, relatives or former students in Paris or closeby in Europe, try meeting up. Locals are the best tour guides and can show you money saving tips.

  8. Toby

    OMG! Paris! Where do I start?? In the words of Oscar Wilde, “when good Americans die, they go to Paris.” I hope that is true. I’ve spent a lot of time there and am convinced it is the most beautiful place on Earth. You were wise to book an apartment! You’ll save a fortune on not having to eat out for every meal. The food in French markets is of a much superior quality, over-all, to that found here in the U.S. and doing some of your own cooking will be a pleasure. Now, about tips – first I echo Isha’s tip about the Orangerie – DO NOT MISS IT! Certainly visit the d’Orsay and note the wonderful Art Nouveau rooms.
    Be sure to see the Carnavalet, which is the museum of the City of Paris, is located in the Marais and is free. Next to the Louvre is the Musee des Arts Decoratif – too fabulous! SEE Chapel Royale!! Its is on the Ile de la cite’ in the middle of the Justice Complex and you have to go through airport type security to get in but it is well worth it. The medieval stained glass windows there are too beautiful for words. If you want a solid dose of history, visit the Basilica of St. Denis. It is on the Metro, though a bit of a long trip. All the Kings of France are buried there and the monuments are awesome. By the way, to use the Metro, ask the ticket agent for “un carnet” that’s 10 trips. Save your ticket!!! You need it when exiting the Metro. Whatever you do, do not fail to vist the famous Paris Flea Market. The vendors are all professionals and you probably won’t find real bargains but the place is absolutely fascinating and full of unusual things. Visit the famous old Paris Opera (Opera Garnier). Take the guided tour. The building is wonderful. When at the Louvre, be sure to see the state apartments of Napoleon III. They are simply the last word in fabulous ostentation. Bring COMFORTABLE walking shoes and don’t wear shorts. Adults in France simply do not wear shorts. Agree with the French that the fact there is a McDonald’s next to the Eiffle Tower is a travesty and no one but a barbarian would eat there.
    Take the barge trip on the Seine at night. Start your day at Louvre EARLY and don’t plan to do anything else that day. The place is vast. As for eating out, you can’t get a bad meal in Paris, but if you come upon a cafe that looks like it caters to workmen and has thick soups and fresh bread, you will be rewarded. BTW, don’t try to order a croissant in Paris after about 11AM. They are fresh for breakfast and it seems to be against the law or something to serve one in less than right-from-the-oven condition. If you try to order one in the afternoon, the waiter will look at you as if you are an outlander. See the Hotel deVille (City Hall) It is just amazing. Visit Sacre Cour – another amazing building with an incredible view of the city. Be aware it was built as an expression of national remorse about the terrible massacres that ended the Paris Commune. Visit Pere La Chaisse cemetary. Look for Oscar Wilde’s grave and Jim Morrison’s. Be aware that the French don’t tip or tip very little. The gratuity is usually included in the bill. Spend time just walking around the city. There are unexpected delights everywhere. A good guide book for walking tours would help. Be sure to walk around Place des Vosges. It is so lovely!! I could go on and on. A lifetime is insufficient for Paris. Sorry for any misspellings of French place names in this post!!!

  9. Skye

    **I really hope I don’t sound like a party pooper, Betty. I just want you all to have a great trip w/o any aftermath. I only set the cautious tone because I’ve learned from not doing so many times before. Now, the only ”vacations” I’ve done in the past several months was breaking my son’s perfect attendance record to play hookey in Times Square a few weeks ago, when our cousins were here from Quebec. It is his absolute favorite place in the world. For a 10 year old, skipping school with no fever or doctor’s appt was a holiday. We never skipped school as kids (not even inclement weather), so he felt he was getting royal treatment and paving the w
    Way for his future siblings or cousins.

    Again, please take my advice as loving and find your own Times Square-esq spot in France. A place Gabi will want to go again and again and you and Aunt Judy will treasure that you shared with her.

  10. Toby

    PS: If you take the Metro to the stop closest to Sacre Cour, when you exit, on the corner in the direction of Sacre Cour, there is a terrific outlet for clothes – really bargains. It has a short, one word name – something like Pitte or something – I forget – but my Paris friends tell me it is a place the French shop and is unknown to tourists. My son Noel bought me a white linen jacket there that I love. Prices are absurdly cheap!

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