The Five Things You Need to do in Paris (or Five Random Things I did in Paris)

Checking a big one off of my “To Do by 30” List — Springtime in Paris. I’m back from my first visit to Paris, and have come up with a completely random but hopefully useful list of the five best things I did in Paris. I’m practically under moral obligation to share.  

Notre Dame Cathederal
Planning a trip to a “must see at least once in your life” location like Paris is basically impossible. Just don’t even try. Inevitably you’ll have spent months researching recommendations on Trip Advisor, getting obscure restaurant recommendations from friends, and consulting tour books lent to you by your boss titled “Romantic Paris”. When you get there you’ll be totally overwhelmed and a little loopy from taking the red eye, where you were too busy with your travel partner perfecting the art of synchronized movie-watching on your miniature television screens to get any sleep.
You’ll arrive and be forced to gallivant around the streets of Paris for six hours before you’re allowed to check into your hotel room. As you curse your travel outfit choice for being the fashion you’re forced to debut around the streets of Paris, then realize you’ve forgotten to learn how to say croissant in French, you will be saved and invigorated by the brisk early spring air. “So this is what air is like in Paris!” [or fill in the blank wherever I am traveling] is always one of my first thoughts when exploring a new city. As you breath the new air that thankfully works a lot like, perhaps even better than, the old air back home, it will dawn on you that while you have many locations starred as “must visit” you do not in fact have a working phone or map to let you know which way to go.   

This is the point where I can help you with real-life tips I learned from my first trip to Paris. Disclaimer: they may be horrible tips, but I happened to have a wonderful time in Paris so use at your discrection.  

1. Walk into every single Pharmacie: Just for the moment of bliss you will feel when you are surrounded by walls filled to the ceiling with French skincare brands. Some brands are available at cheaper prices than here in the US; one Pharmacie even had a Happy Hour where items were 20% off from 5-7pm. I swear the La Roche Posay moisturizer I purchased in Paris works much better than the one I bought in the US, though I could also just be delusional. Don’t forget to pick up the Bioderma Crealine H2o cleansing water (aka a makeup remover) since it is hard to find in the US and it works.   

2. Shop at Monoprix: I’ve heard it referred to as a smaller version of Target, and while there I purchased a large amount of my gifts to take home, French candy and snacks, and for some strange reason I still haven’t figured out,  bought a bright red bathing suit from here. Also similar to the Target shopping experience, I spent about 10 times the amount I initially intended.

3. Eat at Pierre Herme and Laduree: The macarons you eat in Paris do not count. It is the law of nature, or perhaps just all of the walking you’ll be doing. Snack accordingly at these two macaron stores.

4.   Take the Batobus: It’s an affordable hop on/hop off boat tour that travels the Seine River, leaving you close to eight different tourist destinations. If you plan it right, you can take it at sunset and end your day by getting off of the boat near the Eiffel Tower. You then need to proceed straight to the carousel in front of the Eiffel Tower, ignore the fact that it is only you and a baby riding around while the baby’s parents look on and seem concerned about their child’s safety.   

5.  Starbucks is your new old best friend: As a New Yorker who has at least five amazing, independent coffee shops within five blocks of my apartment, I have eschewed most ties with the coffee chain giant. But I was surprised at how difficult it was to find the small, to go coffee shops I rely on to get my going in the morning and, well, I am sorry, but when you’re a busy gal who needs to get going, don’t be ashamed to get yourself to Starbucks, use a fake name since your 1980’s American name with the letter H in it is impossible for 9 out of 10 people globally to pronounce, use the free WiFi, and map out your day.  

I am positive there are a million other things I could share with you, but you’ll probably just forget them anyways. What seems to live on most intensely in my memory of this and any trip are those unexpected bursts of bliss, when you have the unshakeable feeling that at that exact moment in time you have somehow ended up exactly where you were meant to be. 

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