My spring break experience in Paris
By: Jackson Schultz
Photo by Jackson Schultz
The buildings lined up and down the street guide all pedestrian's eyes toward the huge Eiffel Tower staring down at everyone. This photo was taken at Rue Saint-Dominique on March 26.
I heard the bustling crowds, speaking both French and English, past the crepe stand. I saw the pigeons, looking for food, flapping their wings, and I felt the wind rushing past me. I savored the moment with my family, a favorite moment for my first time in Paris this spring break.
I ordered a Nutella crepe and gazed up at the Eiffel tower for the first time which seemed to be staring back down at me casting a huge shadow over everyone on the streets. I was amazed as I was taking a bite of my crepe because I have never seen any building or iconic landmark like that. As I observed the iconic building closer, I noticed that it looked like an x-ray because you can see each piece of metal it took to create the edifice. We would explore the expansive view from the top of the Eiffel tower later that day. Although Paris is a well-known vacation destination, it can be challenging to navigate.
The following are tips to make any experience in Paris both exhilarating and safe.
While the Eiffel Tower may seem too touristy to visit, you can’t skip over it. The tower's beauty shines from far away and up close. We were ready to go up the elevator but had to wait in a long line since my sister wanted to walk up all the endless flights of stairs. I would recommend taking the elevator, it saves time so you can see the view sooner, plus, less tiring than walking up 250 stairs. Nevertheless, once we reached the top we were greeted with the most beautiful view of the whole city with all of the old architecture and colors of buildings popping, the people and cars traveling through the streets, birds flying past us, and the sun bouncing off Paris Rive Gauche like a mirror shining back up into the sky. From the top of the tower, I could see how lively and populated the city was compared to being down on the streets and walking around. The champagne bar at the top of the tower to celebrate your trip to the top was also an added bonus.
My number one piece of advice is to try as many restaurants as possible! My family and I visited a restaurant named La Favorite. We have never heard of it before but it was placed on a beautiful street corner across from a full, active street market with interesting food and items for sale. The restaurant was full of bright pink flowers with a big LED sign with the name of the restaurant. Right as we sat down we were kindly greeted with the menu and an option to translate the menu to English which was very helpful. We had the opportunity to sit at a small cafe table outdoors overlooking the street. We weren’t very hungry so we decided to order some drinks and light snacks like a charcuterie board. It was a beautiful, warm, sunny day which was perfect for us. Once we ordered the food, we all sat and talked looking out at the market and waiting for our food. Once the charcuterie board arrived we devoured it in a second, the food was so savory and smooth. We were given goat cheese, Brie, Salami, and multiple types of bread. All of the different types of meat, cheeses, and bread were very interesting because you could mix and match everything.
Photo by Jackson Schultz
A very popular restaurant located on Rue de Rivoli has bright pink flowers popping out from the consistent architecture and colors from all along the streets attracting immense attention and crowds.
Never use a cafe or restaurant’s bathroom without paying or buying something. The French consider this action an action of disrespect to the employees and owner, you will be looked at as a typical, careless tourist. If you have to use the restroom but see no public ones, walk into a cafe or restaurant, stand at the bar, and ask for a “quick cafe”. This means a quick coffee at the bar. it only costs one Euro and gives people the opportunity to use the bathroom without being disrespectful. Plus you get a quick coffee along with the trip to the bathroom to wake you up and be ready for the rest of the day.
Studying key French words and phrases will also help you navigate not just your travels but ordering at restaurants. The following are especially helpful: “Je voudrais de l'eau” (I would like some water) Apportez moi la carte, si vous plait (please bring me the menu) Merci (Thank you) “Je prends/Je voudrias” (I would like, followed by what you want to order) and finally, the most important “Ou est les toilets” (Where is the bathroom?)
Throughout my time in Paris, we tried our best to understand the French spoken to use our best attempt at such French phrases and noticed that waiters and tourism guides treated use better than Americans who assumed all French understand English and didn’t even try to speak French.
One morning, we sat down to eat a quiet breakfast in our hotel. We were staying at Hotel Therese, they have a beautiful breakfast set up, they have croissants, scrambled eggs, bacon, all sorts of breakfast drinks, and little yogurt parfaits contained in a cute little glass cup. Before starting our day. A lady walked into the room and was insanely obnoxious right once she stepped foot into the room. She did not try to help the waiter, who spoke mostly French and couldn't understand her well. She assumed he should know how to speak English even though he was Parisian and English wasn’t his first language. When he brought her tea she looked up at him angrily and said “Only one sugar?!?!” very loudly. The waiter continued to be very polite but was visibly aggravated and wanted to make her leave.
Speaking of leaving, be sure to learn how to use the Metro, the subway system. Walking in Paris is great, you can see so many different views, restaurants, and sight-seeing locations like Montmartre by exploring, but if you have a specific place to visit and want to save time, take the metro. I think it is very exciting and interesting too. Once I strode into the station, the loud train running on the tracks and the wheels squealing to a stop increased my adrenaline. Posters line the walls with maps of the train routes and all the different cutoffs; the train routes are color-coded with open and closed circles showing if there is a cutoff or if it is the final stop on the route. Two separate trains go opposite ways, so, if you mess up and get on the wrong train, all you need to do is hop off at the next stop and walk to the other side and head back.
Be careful of pickpockets though. It isn’t very common but on the metro, it is always possible, you never want to carry valuables in your back pocket. That is the easiest access for pickpockets.
If you are like me you love just exploring and finding cool places out of the blue, some of the best gems in Paris are not well known. To find these lesser-known places, I would recommend getting tickets for a boat tour. The boat tours are very exciting and helpful because you are given the opportunity to see the city from a different angle on the water. We went down Paris Rive Gauche placed in the middle of the city that was originally made for transporting and delivering goods. The weather was bright, and we slowly drifted through the flat smooth water and looked at the scenery. The sun was bouncing off all the gold and metal structures giving it an incredible shine, we also drifted past the Eiffel tower and learned they are painting the Eiffel tower gold for when France hosts the Olympics in 2024.
Photo by Jackson Schultz
The Paris Rive Gauche is the main river passing through the city of Paris with its incredible view of the Eiffel Tower at night with spotlights and sparkling lights. You can see the beautiful architecture and statues covered in gold with color popping.
The best-kept secret in Paris is Kodawari Ramen: a delicious ramen restaurant. It is the best-kept secret because their food is delicious all of the flavors of the ramen mix together so perfectly in the dish. Every night my family and I walked past the restaurant on the way back to our hotel without knowing what it was but always saw a line at least an hour long. On the second to last night of our trip, we decided to take a risk and wait in line. It was so worth it. The inside of the restaurant was set up exactly like a fish market with fake fish in coolers to give it a great fish market feeling, gloves, and bags strung all over the walls and ceiling, and even speakers playing sounds and conversations you would typically hear in a fish market like yelling, singing, and talking to customers about the prices and amounts of fish. The waiters and waitresses were dressed in rain boots and rubber aprons to increase the fish market effect. They took your order right away, so you had to know what you wanted immediately as you entered the restaurant. Once you ordered the food came very quickly which made up for the hour-long wait. everyone in my family ordered different ramen dishes and they all looked delicious. The ramen had the perfect mix of seafood taste added with eggs and chicken. It was the most delicious ramen I have ever had, even better than the one-dollar packets.
We spent most of our final day in Paris taste-testing, we traveled to at least 10 different cafes to sample every cappuccino on the menu. We also explored all of the street crepe stands, steaming hot, with warm melted jelly or chocolate running out of the sides. The crepe is always warm right off the pan and hits the spot on cold windy days. I turned to the left and the chilling breeze of the water rushed onto my face and the chocolaty, doughy smell of the crepes instantly made my mouth water.
By the end of my trip, I was ready to pack my bags and move to Paris. Everything about my trip was unbelievable, and I am so grateful that I got to experience the city and its wonders. The morning of our flight back I tried to hide in the hotel because I didn’t want to leave. It also changed my perspective on America because many things that are considered strange or odd in the states are considered normal in Paris, for example always having to ask for tap water or else you get charged for a bottle of still, or always having to purchase something to be able to use their restrooms. I loved learning more about European culture and will forever reminisce on this trip and my adventures in Paris.