I’m grateful that Loic and Geraldine invited me to keynote LeWeb ’09 in Paris last week. It was my first time in Paris, my first time in France – and I’ll undoubtedly make my way back there at some point in the future. The food was just too good to forget!
I didn’t take too many photos or videos while I was there – probably because I was too jet lagged to see straight (and I really didn’t have much time to sightsee). I’m not one to snap photos of faces, though. Despite being tied up inside a solid tech event, I managed to sneak out to the Tower Eiffel on my final night there.
And the view from the top?
Yes, “everybody” goes to the Eiffel Tower when they’re in Paris – but did you ever get to see the inside of City Hall? Keep in mind, they only open it up to the public one day per year – which means that most locals never get to see what some of us got to see. Yep! I partied with the current mayor of Paris!
Dude, seriously – how do you get over jet lag without practically killing yourself? I was in Paris last week, to speak at the LeWeb conference. While it was a fantastic experience for me, I am still so tired I could die. Paris is nine hours ahead of the time here in Seattle. That is a HUGE difference, let me tell you. I was tired when I got to Paris, and I’m still wiped out two days after returning home.
Yes, I slept a little on the flight. No, it really didn’t seem to help. I’ve only been to Europe once before, and I had the same issues then, as well. I know many of you out there are jet-setters, right? How do you manage to go back and forth between different time zones without dropping over from exhaustion? How the heck do you reset your body clocks so quickly, and adapt within a matter of hours?
The community may not have been with me in presence, but I know you were all with me in spirit. Thanks to those of you who watched my presentation as it happened. Your support means a lot to me! I’m also glad that you all stayed home! It allowed you to keep writing and posting things on our sites!
Imei has a grab-bag of observations related to Paris, France and French culture. Remember: we’re American!
What is that funny sound French people make that sounds like “Phhht?” The sound is made by squiring air quickly through pursed lips. When do you use it? Example: “I went to the ATM to withdraw money, but when I entered in the amount I wanted, then [sound of “phht”]. Implied: where’s da money?
If you don’t want the waiter to take your plate while you sneak off to les Toilettes (femme for women, homme for men), place your knife and fork with the ends in a tee-pee formation. If you’re finished, place your utensils in a parallel position. If you’re eating in a restaurant, generally the bill won’t come until you ask for it, even if you eat like a snail [as opposed to eating escargots].
Yes, you can drink the water from the tap.
In the U.S., it is considered healthy for a man to drink one to two glasses of red wine a day (one glass for women). In France, it is considered sensible (i.e. reasonable) to drink three to five glasses of wine a day (two to three for women). Fancy that.
The average number of spelling errors on a French policeman’s parking infraction form is 25 or more. Why? Because transcription is a bear in French, with so many different spellings of similar sounding words. [Don’t get Chris started about “your” and “you’re”, folks, or you might be hearing the word “dumbass” shortly thereafter.]
Think starting a new business in the U.S. is difficult? It’s a cake walk compared to Paris, with exceptional laws that protect employees over employers, high taxes, and paperwork that will leaving your head spinning. [I salut anyone who starts a new biz in Paris. More power to you.]
More words are left in the masculine gender, yet are applied to the feminine. I am allowed to call myself a Professeur du Yoga, instead using the typical feminine ending. I get to be a Mister! [did you know: there is an exclusive committee that approves or rejects the addition of words, pronunciation, and their usage in the French language. Do you think they will add the word, “Doh!” anytime soon?]
Ever wonder about where such items as “French fries”, “French Toast”, “French Manicure”, and “French Kiss” come from? You can do a Google search on these, and there is plenty of speculation. But if you live as an ex-pat in Paris, you notice that the French culture is somewhat arbitrarily mapped to… well, just about anything. [and I’ve been reminded that the correct term is “Freedom fries”.]
For business people, traveling with your iPhone means expensive charges for data unless you plan ahead. Options: buy a service plan to cover the time you are there, or better yet, get hooked up with someone with SIM cards from England and unlocked iPhones from Italy. [besides, you can make some international friends and practice your accent.]
Thanks to a tip from an ex-pat we ran into on the Metro, there is another photo op location worth mentioning: the rooftop of the Printemps and the 11th floor of La Samaritaine (Louvre-Rivoli).
As expected, Paris is full of trivia, tribulations, and surprises, and reassurances. A trip to Paris is full of adventure and delight for the American tourist, and we highly recommend that you come for a visit soon.
Do you have any perspectives to share on French culture?
Once again, Imei has helped compile these tips for the journey to Paris, France.
We all know that Paris is just beaucoup expensive for Americans, thanks to the strength of the Euro. However, there are ways to save a little here and there, and hopefully that will take some stress off your pocketbook so you can enjoy your stay in this beautiful city.
Many of the museums of Paris have a free visit evening listed on their websites. It will likely be a an off-night, such as a Thursday, and it will only be for the evening hours before close, but hey, free is free.
Take the Metro. If you’re staying for at least a week, buy a pack of Metro passes rather than single tickets. They never expire, so you don’t have to worry about using them in a certain time frame. Any left over? Gift ’em to a friend, and pay it forward.
From the CDG airport, check for the closest RER (A or B) that runs nearest to your area of Paris. It’s cheaper than a taxi, efficient, and easy.
Looking for some inexpensive gifts for the gals back home? What is Paris without a scarf? Go to the Arabic speaking area near Montmarte, and haggle for anything from scarves to Egyptian style cover ups. I found two scarves made out of velvet and chiffon for 10 euros, gifted one of them, and still get compliments on the other. Hint: inspect them carefully. You might find a small tear or a “burn” where there a glue gun went rogue.
If you like eating well, always go for the prix fixe meal at the local bistro. You’ll have more than enough food, and for 12-15e, your appetizer, main, and dessert will feel like a feast. Adventurous? Eat at the Arabic gyro-style shops, and get a wrap containing lamb or beef, veggies, pita bread, and a soft drink. Don’t even try to super-size it. [Speaking of super size, the French equivalent of McD’s is Quick].
Need some inexpensive house or personal items? Tati is a low-end department store equivalent to Kmart in the U.S. Just know: you get what you pay for. [Imei notes: I have to say that the fancy underpants I bought there is still holding up nicely, ooh la la.]
Like to walk? Visit some of Paris’ beautiful gardens and scenic areas, such as Jardin des Tuileries, Jardin du Luxembourg, and Boulevard St-Germain. Want to try something different? See if you can get in on a game of Petanque.
If you are bold and have balls, you can rent a bicycle: the clunky, grey Velib that has taken Paris by storm. But I warn you: don’t let those buses creep up next to you. Not only will the buses take off all the door handles of the cars on a narrow street, but they will leave you nowhere to go if you don’t know where you’re going.
Single Ladies: you are the cat’s meow. Repetez, s’il vous plaiz: you are the cat’s meow. Going to a nightclub? Go early, get in free. Grab your drink tickets, and don’t use them. Let men buy you drinks. Gift those men with your drink tickets later. And if the nightclub has more than one floor, like Bain Douche, be sure to switch floors and start the process all over again: “Je suis Americain… “. Have fun!
Single Men: women own this place. If you want to get anywhere, you will have to pay. They know it, and you know it. End of story. Bring cash. If you want to save $$, forego the women, go out with your best buddies, get some beers, or better yet, bad boxed wine from the local market (yes, even France has bad boxed wine). Factoid: buying beer or wine from the local Casino (one local supermarket) is significantly cheaper. Don’t go too cheap however: wine under one Euro isn’t even fit to cook with. At Nicolas (wine shoppe), ask the store keeper for valuable advice on French wines. [Imei adds: I always take a bottle or two back for the cellar back home.]
Face it, no one wants to unknowingly embarrass themselves by being the ugly American. Here’s our short list of etiquette tips that function well throughout France and actually translate fairly well to your microcosm back home. Thanks to Renee from Travel Geeks, who also contributed a conversation that influenced this list, and to Imei for editing and compiling it:
A profuse use of “please” and “thank you” goes a long way. You will hear people constantly saying “merci beaucoup” or just “merci” even more than you hear “you’re welcome.”
In general, adults don’t wear shorts (males) except for exercise, and women don’t wear short skirts and shorts without stockings or tights (except to a nightclub, where you’ll see shorter skirts on women without hosiery). There is a sense of propriety and class, even if the placards and magazine stands near Metro entrances suggest otherwise. My tip: if you travel for business, bring a sport coat, slacks, and a pair of non-sneaker shoes.
I don’t care how many times you might have seen this in a movie, but it is rude to snap your fingers to get the attention of a waiter. In my six trips to France, staying two to three weeks at a time, I have only seen the head waiter clap his hands for his team to quickly clear a table and set up for the next course in a 10-course meal. Instead, catch his attention with your eyes or a hand in the air. [General rule of thumb: if snapping your fingers gets your partner livid, just imagine what it does to your server.]
The Metro posts signs that explain who has priority for seating. Unfortunately, it is all in French. Here it is: women with children, pregnant women, people 75 and older, and those with disabilities. During heavy commuter hours, be aware of those who needs priority seating, even if your feet are begging for a rest.
Stuffed like a sardine into the train? Make your way toward a door one stop before your exit station, and then kindly say, “Pardon.” People understand and will do their best to make way for you to exit quickly. If you are nearest to the door, open the latch or push the green button to open the door, and get off the train so that people can exit. As soon as people have exited, hop back onto the train and move as far back as you can.
France isn’t the land of Provence’s best parfumeries for no reason. People like to smell good here, and my guess is that they appreciate that you smell good, too. My favorite: Chanel’s CoCo for night, and Mademoiselle for day. For men: Hermes’ Bel Ami. Men: if you don’t think this matters, just know that I once met someone simply by being able to identify the scent he was wearing. Women have a refined and sensitive sense of smell. Use this in your favor.
Having traveled around the world, I find that Parisiens do not need nearly as much personal space as Americans. Space is a precious commodity, and they are used to having less of it. A hand at the back, guiding you gently; a greeting of a kiss on both cheeks among closer associates, and other touchy-feely actions fit with this picture. Men: you are the man. Be a gentleman, offer your hand to a woman getting in and out of taxis and cars, settle her into her seat, help her in and out of her coat. You serve the woman nearest to you at the table, and you pour the wine. Her glass is never empty. Women: you are the cat’s meow. Men will wait on you, pour the wine, and often serve the food at the table. If you are feminist and find this offensive, swallow your offense, sit back, relax, and see tip #1.
Parisiens receive many hours of English instruction from a young age. That does not mean they are fluent. Americans also study a foreign language in order to attend college; that doesn’t mean that in a pickle, you can use your French language studies to figure out why someone is yelling at you (besides the fact that street-French is filled with slang and spoken hellafast with missing words or words that are slammed together like a verbal train wreck). I recommend picking up the “French in 10 Minutes a Day” laminated card with typical phrases, numbers, questions, and descriptions of things you will hear and you will need to say, even if all you can say is “Je ne pas parle le Francaise.” There are translator programs for the iPhone, mini-translator products, and a free version of Rosetta Stone available through most public libraries that you can use to practice a few phrases. Your attempts to speak French go a long way toward connection, making friends, and getting around as a savvy (and welcome) tourist.
About food: the buffet is usually reserved for large venues and hotels. What you will notice is how little the locals eat: little or no breakfast, a moderate lunch, and a smaller dinner. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Parisien pile his/her plate high, but s/he does not need to. When the food is made with real butter, olive oil, whole food ingredients, no GMOs, and grass fed animals, the amount of food it takes for your appetite to be satisfied is much less than the typical buffet in America. Rule of thumb: take a smaller plate, and fill it 2/3 full. Leave room for a nibble of cheese at the end of the meal. [Incidentally, Paris is following world trends for obesity, instituting new campaigns and education to reduce the incidence of obesity in children and young adults].
Most Parisien apartments and hotels are constructed of concrete, yet the walls sound like they are paper-thin. Keep your voices down, turn down TVs and electronic devices, and recognize that hair dryers and shavers project sound laterally (your neighbor on the same floor). [Of course, for everything else in the intimate department, just consider it free entertainment.]
Do you have any other etiquette tips to add to this list?
Some of these are general travel tips that are good for any trip overseas, but Imei has included a few that are particular to Paris.
Bring a sturdy and comfortable pair of shoes for walking. Don’t worry so much about fashion. Your feet will only care that they are comfortable. Most Parisians spend time walking everywhere, and it is not uncommon to see a person carrying the makings of a meal from several stores (butcher, bakery, Casino) onto the Metro. Be prepared to stand during most of the prime commute hours on the Metro.
If you need a converter for an electrical appliance, make sure it’s not one of those “all-in-one” converters on a solid block. The prongs are the correct ones, but the block won’t fit in the deep and round hole around the prong entrance. Sticks and holes do matter.
In winter, bring a wool coat that hangs below the waist, a scarf, gloves, and a hat. The windchill factor is exacerbated in Paris proper because of the buildings. In summer, wear loose clothing but don’t be an ugly American: leave the open-toed Teva’s and flip flops at home. You’ll thank me after the first person rolls her bag over your toes in the Metro. Also, the Metro isn’t often air-conditioned in the summer, and with humidity, prepare to sweat.
Take a moment to study a map of the Metro lines. Almost everyone takes them for public transport, and they are much cheaper than taxis. You do not want to drive in Paris. If you are staying a week or longer, purchase a pack of tickets rather than single tickets. Keep these handy while you ride, as they are checked occasionally during transit and when you exit the Metro station, as well as when you are transferring from one line to another.
Pack light, and bring smaller and more narrow luggage with you. Some of the larger pieces of luggage I have seen don’t fit on the escalators of the Metro or are difficult to manage going up and down the entrances and exits.
Your mobile phone will work in Paris, but it is expensive for your data use. It may be better to explore other options: a temporary phone from France; buying a T-mobile Hotspot access (T-mobile is Deutsch Telecom); use a Skype phone? I wonder when someone is going to bother to make this more convenient for businesspeople to purchase per day a phone and/or SIM card for use while in another country.
Meals generally take longer to consume, especially when eating in public. The French really know how to eat and how to relax. They tend to eat dinner a bit later, so get yourself a snack in the late afternoon so you can make it to dinner time, and sit back and enjoy.
If you get sick in Paris, don’t be afraid to stop into a hospital if you need to. Hospitals are clean, efficient, and if you have no residence in Paris, absolutely free. Welcome to socialized medicine. Also, if you need a pain reliever like Ibuprofen, don’t help yourself to it from the shelf in your local pharmacy. All medications — even the over-the-counter (OTC) ones, must be handed to you by a pharmacist.
Like NYC, Paris is as beautiful to see at night as it is in the day. With the Metro running until 4 am, you can get around, snap pictures, walk along the river, and see the Eiffel Tower lit up at night. For the clubbers, you’ll have your pick of swanky places, but get ready to hear some unknown American rap (from the old B sides) that might be leaving you scratching your head.
Like any large city, there are reports of crime and vandalism, yet for its size, these numbers are surprisingly low. Keep a small amount of Euros with you for incidentals, and if you don’t need your passport, lock it up in the hotel safe. I always keep a copy of my passport in my luggage as well. I also recommend keeping your money in a thin money bag that hangs on the inside of your clothes, and for men to keep their wallet in a front pocket with their hand placed over the pocket when in crowded public places full of tourists.
If anyone invites you to their home for a drink, dessert, or a meal, graciously accept! You will see how people live, especially in homes with less space per person. Be sure to bring a gift: something for the meal may be appropriate, such as something from the patisserie or a bottle of red wine.
So, do you have any travel tips for Paris, France?
Imei has been fortunate to see some of the world’s best museums, and Paris is a destination city for them. Most tourists don’t spend a lot of time in museums, but they have no idea what they are missing. Here’s herParis Museum Crawl list, in no particular order.
Musee Louvre. There is more to see than the Mona Lisa. Be sure to get a map of the entire museum, make a strategy on how to see each piece, and give yourself at least four hours minimum.
Musee d’Orsay. Make an afternoon of visiting this museum, and don’t forget to stop by the gift shop to browse books about your favorite installation. The installations are often provocative and/or whimsical.
Musee de Quai Branly. It was first called the“ Museum of Primitive People, but after some complaint, that title was dropped. It houses an impressive collection of aboriginal and ancient cultural artifacts, including textiles, jewelry, pottery, sculpture, and paintings, with some modern and interactive installations attractive enough for young kids.
Musee National d’Art Moderne. Two levels, over 1400 pieces of art. About half is permanent, and the other half is split over 1960’s- present day art and temporary installations.
L’Orangerie. You like Monet? That’s where you’ll see his huge waterlily works, but see #6 for the collection from his son.
Musee Marmottan-Claude Monet. Get your official Monet fix from the collection of Monet’s son. This is considered the world’s finest Monet collection.
Musee Rodin. If you are going to visit the 18th century Hotel de Invalides for its beautiful architecture, you need to see this Rodin museum as well. You’ll see his extensive sculpture collection, as well as Rodin’s personal collection of Van Gogh paintings.
Jeu de Paume. Like contemporary art? Not only is it in a 19th century tennis court, but it constantly changes its installations in this beautiful space.
What’s a museum crawl without Salvador Dali? Check out this cool underground museum.
Musee de l’Exotisme. With over 2000 artifacts tastefully presented, you’ll certainly be titillated with this museum.
What other museums would you recommend in Paris, France?
We haven’t actually tried all these foods, but Imei has it on good authority that these are all excellent examples of French food. You don’t have to buy a 50 year anniversary edition of Julia Child’s “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” to sample these delicious foods:
Steak Tartare. It’s like the raw fish of Japanese sushi, only the raw meat of the carnivore’s world. Better yet, horse meat is even more rare and considered a refined dish.
Escargot. Not to diss The Keg, but Escargot in Paris should be served in the shell, AND with one of those tiny forks so you can easily remove those slimy little suckers without slopping the full stick of butter and herbs it should be served with all over your white tablecloth. Be careful: the dish comes pipping hot, and you’re likely to burn your tongue on the butter.
Parisiens do not eat much for breakfast. Pop into a corner bakery and do as they do: a cafe and a croissant with butter (beure), or a pain chocolate (a square croissant with chocolate) will suffice. Skip the latte and go for an espresso with a cube of brown sugar.
Paris boasts a large Arabic-speaking population, and where there are Arabs, there are plenty of restaurants. Check out Mansouria, who appears to get return customers for their couscous alone. Located between place de Bastille and place de Nation.
As much as possible, eat where the Parisiens do: locally. If you’re staying in a fancy hotel, do venture out and try restaurants that are lively and absent of tourists. Your best bet: a local bistro. Look for their prix fixe meal, which allows you to select an entree (our appetizer), a main (our entree), and a dessert. It will likely be more food than you can eat, but you won’t see people asking for a take out box.
While at a bistro, try the house red wine by the glass. Not only is it decent, it’s usually a good deal. If you have guests, it’s rude to not offer enough wine to be consumed throughout the entire meal.
Cheese (frommage) is usually served at the end of the meal. Want to try something different? The French are known for their assortments of stinky frommage, cheeses that are runny, and cheeses adorned with its own sweat. I personally like their fresh goat cheese (chevre). Cheese is not often served with crackers; instead, you may eat this with bread.
Japanese restaurants serving sushi are popping up everywhere, especially in the Latin Quarter. They are likely growing in popularity by providing the freshest and the most pleasing aesthetic that meets the high standards of this population. Isse got good reviews; in comparison, I couldn’t even recommend a good Chinese restaurant that wouldn’t break the bank, while the rest are not good enough to even bother. Several years ago, the reputation of Chinese restaurants was ruined with an expose on the quality of the food, and frankly, that reputation has never recovered. I predict that Japanese food in Paris is going to be hip and fashionable in 2010, with matching hip prices.
Don’t be ashamed if all you want is steak et frites (steak and fries). Americans Facebook pictures of this meal back to their friends as proof of their stay in Paris. Just don’t douse it with A-1, even if you can find it. Try the horseradish, or real dijon mustard, and feel free to be Belgian and eat those fries with mayonnaise.
Imei also adds:
France has a love affair going on with turning anything that moves into some kind of dry sausage. I suppose if Camel was common, it would be a dry sausage at the local butcher’s. Of particular distaste to me: ane (donkey).
Off the beaten path: try going to a good butcher’s store. You’ll see some meats we might consider exotic, including the Cock (the balls are removed while it is living, so the meat of the bird is more tender). Eww. For Christmas, a goose is also common.
There are two kinds of specialty baked goods that I have not understood. A mountain-high pile of what looks like glazed donut holes, called a Piece Montee, or a Christmas log cake, ornately decorated as traditional wedding cake and a holiday cake, respectively.
Food in Paris isn’t just food – ice c’est l’gourmandise l’art — here it is the art of gourmandise! Paris art made from food have included designer shoes dipped in chocolate. Nothing is forbidden. Well, just don’t put any Coke in your wine.
So, what food and drink do you believe is the best to have in Paris, France?
Here are some juicy tidbits about Paris that my travel buddy, Imei, learned in her past five trips:
The city of Paris has a slang name, “Paname”, which has come back in favor with the young generation. You can hear Edith Piaf’s version of Paname Paname on Myspace Music under Edith Piaf “Paname Paname”. Americans refer to people from Paris as “Parisians”, but the French pronounce it as “Parisiens”. I wouldn’t use the term “Parigots”, but you might hear some Parisiens referring to themselves this way.
Parisiens love their dogs. That doesn’t mean they love picking up their dog shit. Water trucks come every morning to power wash the sidewalks, but that doesn’t always take care of the pesky problem. On average, twenty-five people per year slip and fall on the slick stuff and end up in the hospital. Watch where you step, especially in the morning! I once saw a piece of poop on top of a lonely ice cube tray on a street corner. In Paris, you should ask, “Is it art?”
Paris is one of the most sophisticated and uber-modern cities in the world, so it has had a lot of time to be covered in asphalt and concrete several times over. This is why young footballers know the locations of every dirt and grass field, park, and garden like the backs of their hands by the time they are five. Don’t be surprised by the number of children riding the Metro by themselves! [BTW, they are also more likely to know some English and be very helpful if you need directions t one of those beautiful gardens]. Count on getting lost if you look at the skyline of the city; all the buildings with just a few exceptions are the same height and by law have kept their original facades intact. This makes the city beautiful, yet to the tourist, things may begin to look the same because we’re not used of distinguishing areas with other features than building height, color, and large signs, all of which do not vary much in Paris.
Your bill at the end of a meal is exactly what it is, tax included. In a bistro, a few euros is an appropriate tip. More than that, and you’ll raise eyebrows.
The return policy in large department stores is different than in America. Putting it simply, REI’s return policy is an unfathomable one in Europe. Before making any large purchase, be sure to go to the customer service desk (usually located somewhere in a galaxy far, far away) and ask about the return policy. If you purchase over a certain amount, some stores have a refund for tourists, so be sure to bring your Passport with you when shopping.
As much as we share in common with the French language, there is a long list of faux amis (false friends), to which you mean one thing but it means something entirely different! Example: Gerber baby food in the U.S., the verb Gerber means “to vomit, to puke” in French. Another example: cul-de-sac (le cul = arse). Having mentioned the problem of faux amis, it’s still worth your while to learn and use the following words and phrases whenever appropriate: Salut (hello and good-bye), bonjour, bonsoir, and bonne nuit, merci beaucoup, pardon (excuse me); Je m’appelle (my name is); Comment allez-vous (slam the t into the a); Parlez-vous anglais?; Repetez, s’il vous plait. Your efforts to be well-mannered and use as much of the language you know is appreciated. Laugh with them over your silly mistakes, but don’t stop trying. It’s entertaining.
There is no need to exchange money for a short trip. Most places accept credit cards these days. Instead, go to an ATM and get a small amount for taxi rides, a quick breakfast of une cafe et croissant beurre, and coins to tip at a restaurant.
Your local corner grocery store, which might look to you like a 7 – Eleven at first glance, is a Casino (yet, there is no gambling inside). It usually has decent produce and affordable champagne in it. If you plan to cook anything for friends, I suggest going to the farmer’s markets (located EVERYWHERE) and oohing and ahhing over all that “terrior” (the love of earthy, French food and wine).
If you have a small child with a stroller, don’t bring your fancy, heavy-duty stroller. Chances are, it won’t fit in either the aisles of most small stores, nor the escalator of the Metro. Don’t hope to find elevators, nor if you do to believe those elevators are wide enough to hold more than a couple of people at a time (except in the modern museums).
If you’re a smoker, Paris fell to the world-wide movement of banning smoking from public places where food is served, as well as work places in 2008 (an amazing feat, as French women are known for using smoking to curb their appetite). There are exceptions to that rule, but you’ll still find some miserable looking smokers outside restaurants, stamping their feet in the cold. Don’t be suprised by the number of smokers in bars (along with under-age teens); there are still many who don’t like the laws and find ways around them.
What are other things to know about Paris / France?
I’m thankful that Imei, my travel partner, has been to Paris a few times before. She knows where all the good photo opportunities are!
Eiffel Tower. Two thoughts: at night, and from the Sacre Coeur. Actually, three: kissing under the Eiffel Tower. If you actually go up the Eiffel, take a picture of all the people milling around the bottom, waiting to go up to the top.
Take a boat tour on the Seine. You can snap pictures of your favorite bridge, Paris’ skinniest building, and all the houseboats and restaurants on the waterfront.
Outside Musee d’Orsay, there is a sort of sculpture park of modern art pieces. Kissy lips, anyone? Blow a kiss at the lips, and you’ll have a picture-perfect shot for Valentine’s Day.
Take a seat on the edge of the fountain outside the Musee Louvre, and be surrounded by I.M.Pei’s glass pyramids (there’s an inverted pyramid inside the Louvre entrance). If you are going to defy authority and stand inside the fountain, just know it’s kind of slippery because of the moss.
Approach the Arc de Triomphe from a distance to take your picture of this giant structure. If you take a picture at the bottom with yourself in it, it just doesn’t cut it.
Though the Sacre Couer is more majestic, I like the facade of the cathedral Notre-Dame. You’ll get more detailed pictures inside if you purchase them, because your flash photography is discouraged.
Snap at least one picture from a famous cafe or trendy hotel. I like Mama Shelter, with a menu from Alain Ducasse, and interiors from Philippe Starck. Not only is it photographable, but it’s the place to have your photograph taken with other trendsetters. If you get bored, you can dash across the street to D’Or for a beer and some decent English bands.
Don’t forget to take your camera to an outdoor market. The colors, flowers, and artists make wonderful pictures. Of course, you could become one of them and get your face turned into a cartoon.
Take a Sunday stroll in the Jardin du Luxembourg, and roll some video of your sweetheart enjoying the open space and the Palais du Luxembourg.
Do allow yourself one measly “ugly American” moment. I mean, it is yours, and the French will forgive you because you’re a tourist. Want to wear your shorts instead of long pants and take a picture holding up that ultra expensive Louis Vuitton purse you are so NOT going to buy? Fine. Want to take a picture humping one of the legs of the Eiffel Tower? Be my guest. Only take that picture and send it back to us as proof that you had a good time. We can’t guarantee the French will take you back, but we will know it was worth it.
What about you? Where do you think photo opportunities exist in Paris, France?