Category Archives: Paris

Paris; the first bit

I haven’t been to Paris since 1999 and I really, really missed it. I wasn’t certain how much had changed, a city that large and that cosmopolitan clearly has to have changed greatly since almost 20 years ago. But then again we’re talking about a city that has been kicking around before the Romans decided to put their mark on it.

The architecture, the layout, the parks, and the museums of course were still there, but Paris has always found a way to reinvent itself. The citizens have become more diverse, things have evolved, and, of course, it reflects the outside world while still retaining its own self.

Also there are push scooters EVERYWHERE. It’s pretty hilarious to see such stylish people scooting their way down the sidewalks towards a metro station.

I’m still also giggling at the happily surprised expression on Parisian faces when I respond in French, and then they ask if I speak French and I say yes. I’m not certain why this is so atypical. I guess having aged a bit since I was there last I don’t look like the Irish person that I used resemble. (The Irish tend to speak lots of languages; I’m kind of in awe of them.) they used to not be so surprised that I spoke French and would inevitably ask me if I was Irish. But then they were actually astounded when I said I am from Texas.

The one thing I did miss this trip was being able to snoop around grocery stores like Monoprix or just the little local fruit & veg market and find an adorable grocer to visit every day for my white peaches or tomatoes.

We spent so much time in museums catching my husband up on basic Paris and it’s fabulous collection of art that by the end of the day my feet were in active revolt and it was all I could do to catch the metro home, find a little restaurant to eat at, then manage to get back to the hotel room and pass out.

I think I bruised my feet. Poor feet, I’m so sorry!

Note to self: bring the whole bottle of Tylenol next time. Speaking of Tylenol, that was fun; trying to remember paracetamol and conveying sore feet to the French pharmacist.

We managed to walk about 8 miles the first day just excited to be out and about in the weather that was pretty glorious for October. We spent the next day in the Louvre though we only saw two of the wings… and only 7 miles of walking. Had dinner at the café (Café Marly) that wasn’t there when I was there last – I really should stop comparing to last time because there’s too many things to list. Sigh.

I’ve actually taken several people to Paris for their first visits. There’s several things that I teach them that make being in Paris much easier. The first one is how to use the metro. It’s really not that difficult, but getting oriented takes a couple of rides. Another learning experience is to survive eating in a restaurant (ordering, asking for water, the bill, etc. Mostly the waiters now are younger and are pretty mellow and also they tend to speak at least smattering of English, so really not too much of an issue). Though my favorite food to eat is the street carts full of sandwiches jambon et fromage, crèpes Nutella, pain au chocolat and all of the other heavenly things that I seem to live on while I’m there. Not to mention Kinder eggs; I’m pretty sure they have medicinal properties…

Given my druthers I’d walk around with a shopping bag full of sammiches and white peaches to eat gazing wistfully into the french cooking supply stores and quite happily skip most of the major museums now.

Worst art degree holder ever!

The third day was another long walking day; the Orangerie and the Orsay. Said hello to some of my favorite paintings by Henri Rousseau etc and marveled at how much the museum space has evolved.

Why am I so astounded by this change? I guess because when I am there it is such a place out of time and cemented so thoroughly in my consciousness that I want to keep it the way it is. Guess I better make sure I can visit it in the real world instead this time and keep up with the evolution. They say you can’t go back again but happily Paris keeps evolving into a slightly new place while keeping true to itself. I’m very pleased about this.

Good job, Paris.

Though I did have plenty of things to revisit, I still needed to go see some new things myself. I had never been to Versailles so we took a day trip out to the palace.

To be honest I was not exactly excited about going there. It isn’t my favorite time period, the decorations to me don’t seem beautiful; but gaudy. I really prefer the medieval period. If we are going to get down to brass tacks, the Cluny museum would’ve been my first choice, but the request was for castles and art just so we went Versailles.

Full disclosure, I also have a French degree. So I have a little more background in French history than most of your casual tourists there. I was a little bit predisposed not to be excited about the palace but I put on my best happy face and we went through and had a good day nonetheless. Wasn’t my favorite, so I don’t think I’ll go back unless it is to spend the entire day in the gardens; it was a lovely day and they are really beautiful and so very huge you need an entire day to see them.

If I’m going to do more palaces, we’ll probably just head down to the Loire Valley – I’ll demand more cheese and wine on the tour.

Favorite things on my trip

You try and try to get the perfect travel items; some work well and some you end up, well, handing to random people on the street because you just can’t even…
These are the things I gravitated toward (just about) every day on my trip.

The EYN case for iPhone 6+
EYN.jpgI put my metro tickets in there, my current museum pass/ticket, sometimes a few € and I always had my phone in my hand. I also attached a quick release lanyard for the few times I needed to hang the phone around my neck to do something. I pretty much use this anytime I fly (especially on domestic flights where I keep my passport card in it in combo with my e-boarding pass) and on most trips. | Buy at Amazon

…and I carried the EYN with this Lanyard
This has a round attachment point on the end so I sometimes put my finger through it to keep from dropping my phone during picture taking times. I can’t vouch that it is any sturdier than other lanyards with different release clips, but I prefer this style. | Buy at Amazon

Tom Bihn wallet
Clear-Organizer-Wallet-D01_1024x1024Nicely slim, ID window shows my passport card, second little slot has whatever other card is relevant to my day for easy access (a carnet of metro tickets or my Paris pass card for this last trip) then my credit cards in RFID blocking sleeves at the back. I use a clip to keep it anchored to my coin pouch and then clipped into my day bag so I don’t run the risk of it falling out of my purse inadvertantly. | Buy at TomBihn.com

Tom Bihn pouch(es)
So many sizes available! I use a small one for coins and bills of 1 currency (I had one for € and one for £ – very necessary since they tend to work with many heavy coins that would otherwise overburden most wallets) and finally, one medium sized to keep used metro tickets, museum passes and the inevitable business cards the restaurants hand out now. (Someday I will be minimalist enough to recycle these bits of paper, but I like to paste them into my written journal so, clearly, today is not that day 😉 | Buy at TomBihn.com

4 port USB intl kit
img_3308.jpgOh I was so very pleasantly surprised by this! It has the base 4 port USB charger but then it has ends for worldwide use that just slide over the power prongs to make it useful in whatever country you are in. I’m almost to the point where I can get away with USB only charging so this is super handy.  Perfect for phone charging at the end of a full day along with the several phone batteries I kept in my day bag.| Buy at Amazon

 

Smartwool t’s/Merino t’s
Good thing I love these shirts! I tested the anti-smelly properties by wearing one to Versailles, then letting it air out for a day then bringing it as my only shirt for the quick London overnight (2 days of sightseeing and two Eurostar trips) then another day of airing then the 24 hour travel day back to the states. I sanity checked this by asking my hubby if he could smell me, he said no. Note: I did bathe each day! I promise. Highly recommended for travel. (Invest, and also get a wool wash if you are neurotic and want to keep them forever like I do…) | Buy at Amazon

Leggings

I knew that I had a ton of museum hours in front of me with a new Paris person in tow. I was not wrong.

The only way I survived 9 freaking hours in the Louvre (and that was just 1 day of a 10 day trip) that I needed to be soooooper comfortable. I also was quite certain that I would be kicked out of Paris if I wore yoga pants everyday. So I brought a variety of leggings in addition to my jeans, my favorite pair being from Torrid. Pretty pattern, sturdy fabric (alas, no pocket but it is leggings after all) and made it mostly tolerable. My feet were whining greatly at this point!

 

What is your go to travel accessory? Let me know in the comments…

Paris packing list

We have the luxury of not changing hotels for a reasonable stretch of time, our hotel isn’t too far from a Metro station and there aren’t too many changes between Metro lines to get there.

I’ll be using my Aeronaut 30 and my Travelon daypack to carry me through 10 days of Paris and London.

Bags:

Clothes:

PACKING LIST:Backpacking around Europe

cafe in paris
I studied in Paris in college (oh the things we did… ah youth.) and then my cousin and I traveled around for a month or two after I got out of classes.

Bag:
Granite Gear Vapor Pack
or
Eagle Creek Voyage 65L Travel Pack or a Eagle Creek Switchback and daypack or purse like the EC Drifter*

*remember you have to carry this comfortably even when you have your full pack on, so a daypack that doesn’t attach can be a tedious chore and I tend to hand things that I have to work to carry to the nearest busker as a tip.

Clothes:

  • Black pants
  • Khaki Cargo pants
  • Really good walking shoes (I use Keen’s or my Merrell boots-I’ll leave it to you to decide yours, just remember that you need good foot/ankle support as you are carrying all your stuff (perhaps 20 pounds) on you for long distances on hard surfaces.)
  • black tshirts
  • sleep shirt or light sweatshirt (you can always buy clothes when you are there… I actually prefer this… especially on beaches, the roadside vendors always have the coolest clothes.)
  • a skirt
  • shorts
  • Socks (smartwool)
  • Undies (ex
    officio magic undies
    )
  • 2 scarves (I use the pashminas-useful as a blanket or a scarf)
  • Jammies/hotel wear (I tend to go with yoga pants as mine are quick drying and can double as another pair of pants.)

Stuff:

  • swimsuit – for the beach and less-than-private shower facilities
  • crocs/ flipflops / shower shoes – I like Crocs because I can walk in them for long distances, but they can be a bit bulky (though for the ladies, the Mary Janes are much more manageable). However, they are waterproof and if you are staying in hostels (or skeevy hotels 😉 ) you want to wear these in the shower. Really.
  • Camera+charger and spare cards
  • A book (and just trade someone for a different one when you are done. Works on the AT, works in the rest of the world.)
  • journal
  • A thumbdrive(and portableapps configured***) for internet cafes -card adapter for your camera** card + place on the web to upload them (flickr or XDrive, etc)
  • Silk Sleep sack (good for both hostels or when the harsh chemicals that they wash sheets in hotels in burn your skin as they do mine. This is also good for adding another +10 degree rating to your sleeping bag without adding a ton of weight or having to buy a new one.)
  • toiletries

**or, instead of chargers, bring along your USB cables (bonus if multiple things you have charge off of mini USB) and bring a Solio [My review | Amazon] and its wall charger. You can tie to the top of your backpack and let it charge in the Cezanne-esque light of the valleys in Central France or plug it into the wall where you are staying.)

***just install portable apps to a directory on your WIN machine and start using it. After about 2 weeks of regular use you will have all your bookmarks and setup about like you like it (actually, I recommend you do this anyway as a backup). Then just copy it to your thumbdrive and go play! Another sneaky trick is to double up on the adapter and put a memory card in it to hold your portable apps instead of buying a thumbdrive (and portable apps sits quite happily on a 512M card, so you can use old cards that aren’t big enough to hold your larger pixel depth images from your camera.)

….or you can just put a bunch of clean underwear in a backpack and go! (As a matter of fact, my cousin put two skirts, two shirts and clean undies in a carry-on bag and did just this.)