When traveling to Europe, Paris is at the top of most peoples list of cities to visit but I will admit before my trip, I wasn’t sure how I would like the city. I did some research before hand but I didn’t do enough. Most people tell you about how pretty a city is but not many people explain to you the logistics of getting to certain places or what you might experience when you get there. I ran into hurdles, got lost, missed a flight but it was a great learning experience. So here is what I learned…
1. Charles De Gaulle (CDG) Airport is MASSIVE
I learned the hard way of how large this airport actually is. Like anyone else, when you’re booking your flights you’re booking it ahead of time for a location that you’ve never been to and you assume how long it might take to get from one gate to another. When I went to Prague the plan was to fly into Paris and take a different airline to get to Prague. When I landed in Paris to go to Prague I was able to catch my flight in time but I was shocked in how large that airport actually was.
Fast forward, I’m flying from Prague to Paris to catch my flight to New York. My flight to Paris was delayed 35 minutes and then baggage claim took 45 minutes. After I finally got my bags, of course, I had to go to the gate that is on the opposite side of the airport. In order to get there you have to walk all the way across the gate, go to the bottom floor and take a 15 minute Tram to get to the other side of the Airport. Long story short, I missed my flight to New York and was forced to buy another ticket the next day for $900.
If you are connecting flights in Paris on a different airline, make sure there is at least a 3 hour gap in between.
2. Charles De Gaulle (CDG) Airport and Orly (ORY) Airport are an hour from each other
In one case I decided to fly in from New York to CDG and transfer to ORY Airport. My problem was that I didn’t realize that the bus option is a bit slow and that taking a taxi was faster but expensive. I ended up spending 100 Euros on a Taxi ride.
3. Don’t take the train from the Airport to the center of the City
OK, let me rephrase. You can take the train but it’s way more difficult of an option than I anticipated. At the bottom of the CDG airport there is a direct train that goes to the city but what you don’t realize is that you may have to switch a couple more times to more local trains to get to where you need to. It took me over 2 and a half hours to get to my Hostel (which is 10 min walking distance from the Eiffel Tower) because I got lost, I got on the wrong train, got off the wrong train, asked someone for proper directions and got on the right train. Google maps was a little bit of help but the trains didn’t tell you which direction they were going. It was just way more confusing than I thought it would be.
What I later learned was that there is a bus provided by AirFrance (regardless if you are flying AirFrance) that goes to and from the Airport to the City. It stops in a few locations right in the center of the city, one of them is a couple blocks from the Eiffel tower. I ended up taking that bus back to the Airport. Here is a link for more information on this bus: Les Bus Direct
4. Everything is by the Seine River
Literally most of the places you see on the brochure to visit is right by the Seine River. Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, The Louvre, Arc De Triomphe and tons of museums. I highly suggest walking to all of these destinations because it is do-able and the city is picturesque. Also you’ll see art Vendors lined up next to the River and some are really impressive.
5. You can see the Eiffel Tower in the background…EVERYWHERE
It gets lost on you how tall the tower is but you can literally be anywhere by the river, turn in the direction of the Eiffel Tower and snap beautiful pictures.
6. The French don’t “hate” Americans…
I don’t know where this all started from but I remember before my trip I would hear from random people telling me “I hear the French hate Americans”. The problem was I was hearing this from people who haven’t actually been to Paris. Thankfully, I didn’t take it too seriously as I just let my experience be my judgement.
The people I ran into whether it was just random people on the street or someone serving me were all polite and they can hear from my accent that I was American. I never felt that they treated me any different. I specifically sat in a restaurant where it was just me and the owner and after he cooked my meal he talked to me about where I’m from and what it’s like to live in Paris. I got nothing but good vibes from people while being there, so don’t let others make you fear something that isn’t real. Are there French people out there that think Americans are obnoxious? Maybe. Hell even some Americans think other Americans are obnoxious. Just go and enjoy yourself.
7. The Military are at the popular Tourist Areas
Do not be surprised if you see big guys in fatigues with huge guns.
8. Everyone eats outside, smokes cigarettes and wears scarves
It’s so true. I got approached a couple times by people speaking French to me thinking I was french because I was wearing a scarf.
9. I’m in love with Crepes
There are crepe stands everywhere. I had a crepe with Nutella for breakfest everyday.
10. The Eiffel Tower has a Light Show
Every hour in the evening, the Eiffel Tower puts on a mini-light show. It’s actually really cool to see in person.