Hey Corey! Do you still do your Paris or France tours? I remember reading something about you guys doing that a while back.
I’ve done a lot of travelling. I’m up to 10 countries and 69+ cities! And for whatever reason, I keep finding myself drawn back to Paris. Paris has never lost its magic for me.
We did Paris tours until 2008 when the recession began. I plan to revive this once the economy shows signs of picking back up. I still go to Paris to see my friends there anyway, and my boyfriend is from Germany, so for me it’s just a one hour flight to hop over. Your problem won’t be the weather – it will be the tourists crowding everything!
Above: Paris Winter Shopping can be very monochromatic!
When is the best time to visit weather-wise?
In all honesty, Paris is such a magical place that the weather really won’t affect any plans you might have. I think Paris is as gorgeous in the snow as it is in the spring with the flowers.
I tend to like to go around October or Thanksgiving – it’s a great time because there are hardly any tourists there, and the weather isn’t yet so cold that you can’t stand it. (Although once we went and it was pretty bad! I swear I almost froze to death at the flea market! Not a bad place to die if you ask me! haha)
Above: Galeries Lafayette and Printemps department stores go all out for their holiday displays
Is there a time of year that is notable or special?
January is a good time, but it’s wicked cold – I mean that deep bone-chilling kind of cold that sticks with you. It’s very unpleasant! We really don’t have any kind of cold like that here in California. BUT! That’s the mandated sales month, so everything in the stores are up to 70% off…which is good, because with the current Euro-Dollar conversion, you’ll need it!
The other mandated sales month is July, which is also a good time to go as the weather is not too hot by Sacramento standards. It averages 66 degrees with the high around 75 degrees. Of course July 14th is Bastille Day, and July also features the Tour de France bike race, and La Foire Saint Germain, a festival that’s rumored to have been going since the middle ages – OK a long time anyways!
Another big attraction for all fashionistas is the big holiday display windows in the major department stores starting in November. Highly recommended: You have to see that at least once in your life!
Above: Holiday window displays in Paris are like nothing you’ve ever seen before!
August is the big No-No time of year to go because it’s the month when most French take their vacations, so it’s like a ghost town, and you’re likely to find most small places closed for pretty much the entire month. And especially don’t go to the South of France in August, as that’s where a lot of French like to go for their vacations.
Above: The Louvre – Mona Lisa (still packed in the off season!) And the ancient sculptures
What should I pack to wear in Paris?
As we all know, Paris is the fashion capital of the world. In Paris especially, they are VERY fashionable and really stick to the colors of the season. Fall=Tans, browns, camel, creams. Mid-Fall/Winter transition=Grey, navy, black. Winter=Black or grey. It’s really odd to see – the whole city of Paris looks like they are going to a funeral! Everyone is wearing dark colors. Here in California, we can get away with almost anything year round: turquoise, lime green, hot pink, red, yellow. We call it a “pop of color” – they would rather die! We have our color of the season, but it’s always one season behind Paris. So the best bet is to stick to basic black. Also not recommended: comfortable “manly” shoes. There is a distinctive difference between men’s shoes and women’s shoes. Parisian women love to wear sexy heels, sturdy boots, cute sandals, but very feminine, no matter what (think Anthropologie’s summer sandals collection). Once I brought a pair of comfortable walking Born lace-up bowling shoes with me and I felt so embarrassed because only the men wore shoes like that. I donated them upon my return!
Above: The Louvre Palace and one of my Louvre faves: Victory of Samothrace
What are your recommended “must see” items in Paris?
Paris is an amazing place with so many world-class museums and attractions, that you’d have to go several times just to see it all!
If you’re a first-timer, here’s my short list of “must see” places:
- Eiffel Tower – go to the top if you’re not afraid of heights
- Avenue des Champs Elysees – but watch your step for dog ahems!
- Moulin Rouge or Lido Dinner show – it’s not as risqué as you think
- Seine River Cruise – a great way to see most major sites in Paris
- Louvre Palace – (formerly Napoleon’s home) it’s huge, and would take days to see everything, so select your favorite art genre or era and see those areas. My personal faves: Mona Lisa (duh!), Winged Victory of Samothrace, Leonardo da Vinci, Peter Paul Reubens, Impressionist and Post-Impressionist art, Ancient Greek and Roman sculptures, Edgar Degas (the guy who did the ballerina paintings/sculptures), and the Egyptian collection is fantastic! That’s just a fraction of what’s in the Louvre, and if you saw all this, it would still take an entire day.
- Tuileries Jardin – In front of the Louvre. Features fun sculptures from children’s fairy tales, classic Greek/Roman gods, and more!
- Basilique du Sacre Coeur – There are some cool fabric shops in this area, but the crime (pick pocketing) is high, so watch your bags and do your best to blend in.
- For Fashionistas: Chanel headquarters store (Place Vendome)
- For folks looking for alternative to typical tourist attractions: Catacombs – Very interesting and educational, but not for the faint of heart or the claustrophobic!
Above: Mom at the Catacombs - Not for the faint of heart!
What unique and interesting souvenirs should I bring back for my friends and family?
I have found that most of the typical tourist souvenirs are rather expensive and the quality is lacking. So I try to avoid buying those as gifts. If you are interested in bringing home some of those typical souvenirs, then DON’T buy those at any of the museums or monuments – the prices are inflated for tourists. A better place to buy souvenirs is in the alleys and streets of Place St. Michel (5ieme). They’re cheaper, better selection and the fifth district is a lot of fun!
With that said, my personal favorite thing to give friends and family is lip gloss/chapstick and hand crèmes. These may be found at any pharmacy (look for the green cross). The quality is amazing – Amilab is my fave chapstick in the world – although I found a good one recently in Germany, too. La Roche Posay, Amilab, or any of the other big French brands make some fantastic hand crèmes!
Another great list of souvenir ideas comes from this blog post: http://girlsguidetoparis.com/archives/top-20-or-more-items-to-bring-back/
Above: Paris monuments at night are equally cool – Sacre Coeur Basilica and Moulin Rouge
Any secrets to airfare or hotel deals?
I don’t get anything for recommending them, BUT…
- Travel Zoo (www.travelzoo.com) Has some good deals and sends you a list of the best deals each week.
- Virgin Vacations (http://www.virgin-vacations.com/) They still have the best Paris package deals! Don’t be fooled by the “free breakfast” – it’s BS! EVERY hotel in Europe offers a free breakfast!
Also – do NOT drive in Paris…I do not recommend it for anyone. I swear it seems like sometimes drivers aim for tourists on the sidewalks, so be careful!
Fun Resources & References: