So you’re going to Paris for a bit of culture, huh. Sit down and read foo.
This could be your beautiful picture in Paris y’all. VIVE LA FRANCE!
Preface: Paris is my second hometown for me in a sense. My mom’s Chinese family escaped Cambodia and instead of going to LA like most; they ended up in Paris with a lot of other Cambodians/Teochew and Viet refugees. (Shouts to the French for Hennessy) . I’ve traveled to Paris over 20 times so I would say I know almost all of the neighborhoods and subways.
Like you though, I’m very American. Too American. Coca Cola refills American. Hot Pockets American. However, I’ve discovered quite a few tips to survive in Paris and become local throughout the years. While you may want to do the touristy, get on a bus and hop off a bus tour shit; I’m sure you want to feel lost and get inspired like all the people on Instagram do. It’s very easy to do that though; it’s so different.
B4 You go Crepe-ing all over Paris
Before your flight: I always have to mention this but call your bank and credit card companies before you land and inform them of your international travel. I’ve brought many friends with me on these trips and they forget about the one credit card they want to use to buy chocolat and it gets declined. It’s embarassing. Get your shit together.
Cell Phone / Data Abroad: If you are a T-Mobile user like all of Garden Grove and 626- you are in luck! T-Mobile roams free to France. Free texts, discounted calls (30cents a minute), and 3G data! (3G SUCKS THOUGH, but good enough for email and IMESSAGE). Here are some suggestions though for better internet options in Paris:
- The Beverly Hills Option: Wifi Box like the SOLIS/Skyroam. I use this all the time myself. It’s a portable box that gives you data via wifi access point. It averages out to about $9 a day for solid, fast 4G/Almost LTE internet (1GB for $9). Very pricy but this is the best option if you want to IG story, snapchat, and check internet every time you get a break. Bonus: multiple devices can share the data so you can split the price up with other people. Link: https://www.skyroam.com/solis
- The Downtown LA Option: Get a sim card from the airport. It’s super cheap. 20GB of data for like $40. There is many places at the Charles De Gaulle Airport you can buy the Orange pre paid sim card. Or you can even buy this on Amazon and land with sim card already installed. The downside is you have to change sim cards and keep your American one safe. I’ve lost my sim card before and Tmobile charged me $25 when I got back stateside. Bummer. Downsides also: no american number but if you are an IPhone user, IMessage still works. Link: type orange holiday europe on Amazon.com
- The Metro from Hollywood to Downtown option: Pay your carrier $10-15 a day for internet and roaming. I haven’t done this in a while but when I had Kevin Gates – 2 Phones; Verizon taxed me $130 for 5 days. You might want to check with your carrier to see what the plan is abroad but most of the time, they are taxing your ass for data for sure. I think they tried to sell me 200MB for $10? Like 200 MB bro? I shit 200gb in one IG story.
- The El Monte option: Just use Wifi at the hotel and look for Wifi at Mcdonalds/Starbucks. If you’re really on a budget, just wait until you have Wifi at your hotel/airbnb or look for wifi at any restaurant. There’s beauty in getting lost…right?
What To Do When You Land in Paris Land
So the first hour of you arriving is the most crucial/scary for those who have never been to Paris. Or so everyone says. It’s just dudes with AK47’s and rottweilers walking around the airport freely- it’s fine.
First things first: CDG is one confusing airport. I feel sorry for you already depending upon which terminal you land. If you land in the main one; you’re all set with Mcdonalds in the main terminal! (the other one has it on departures level….) It’s almost one of my least favorite airports besides LAX; but you’ll figure it out. Once you land, you need to enter passport control. The French are pretty straightforward though; they just look at your passport and give you that almighty coveted CDG, Paris France Stamp. Once thru here, you will enter a weird network of tunnels and escalators to grab your bags.
First French word lesson: LA CLIME
Air conditioning. You’ll need to learn this word when getting in ubers. They’ll ask you about la clime. Just give a big thumbs up. Yeahaite.
THREE WAYS TO ESCAPE CHARLES DE GAULLE AIRPORT
- TAXI: DO NOT TAXI. DO NOT TAXI. DO NOT TAXI. DO NOT TAXI. I don’t mean like an Uber stock investor; but of the ten times I’ve ridden a taxi in Paris; most of them tried to scam me and ask for money and be rude about it. Some even drove me to an ATM and demanded I get money. Pretty daunting if you don’t speak French. If you about this; then go for it. They laid off when I spoke French but just buyer beware. I’m not saying all Parisians taxis are bad – but Paris is known for having some of the worst taxis.
- UBER: Unlike cabs, UBER DRIVERS MAD NICE IN FRANCE. Even though most won’t speak English; you don’t have to say anything. Point A to Point B. Super easy. Uber is decently affordable in Paris too (at least over NYC). If you call Uber from CDG, it’ll tell you which PORTE or DOOR to stand at for the Uber pickup zone. Make sure you are in the Uber pickup zone though before because they’re kind of out of the way. Follow the signs in the airport for the Uber zone. Bonus tip: ask them to play French rap! AND LA CLIME.
- The Train/Metro. FYI: this cost about $20 per person so if there’s more than one of you; just split the Uber. If you are by yourself like me and don’t mind lugging luggage around- the train and metro are relatively easy. Find the signs in the airport that take you to RER B/TRAINS To Paris. If you miss the sign that says Train to Paris, you shouldn’t be taking the Train to paris. Call yourself an Uber. From the train hall, you can buy a metro ticket and a subway pass to get from RER B to any of the major stations in Paris to change (Chatelet, Gare Du Nord, etc). The machines have an English option so just hit the button for the Union Jack Flag (UK). If you don’t know what the England flag looks like see below. I’ll cover more about the metro and carnets and metro cards in another section after this.
Now That You’re In the City and
Some Basic French Words
SAFETY TIPS: Paris is VERY safe if you stay in the areas you need to stay in. However, just wanted to warn you about two well known uncomfortable situations in Paris.
PICK POCKETS are a thing. I have had over 8 friends get pick pocketed over ten years. It happens to those who even hold onto their phone. Just be careful in public that you have a grip of all your things because the French have some of the best finessers on the planet. They even warn you about the pick pockets on the subway announcements in English. I suggest leaving your passport at home, and only take with you money and one debit/credit card for the day so if something happens; you’re not screwed entirely.
Second: Gypsies. Gypsies are at all the tourist spots. They will try to pick pocket you and distract you with clipboards and follow you around. My number one rule: just say no and keep walking. They speak very good English because they’re not French and will fool you into thinking they’re American. It’s surprisingly how good they are at what they do.
So I know what you’re thinking- I need to learn French. You don’t actually but you should at least know the basics. Paris is I believe the most visited city in Europe and a lot of people do speak English in most establishments. It may sound untrained to the American ear; but you’ll pick it up after a bit once you figure out the cadence. Here are some of the only French I’ve ever needed to tell people to use and it’s worked so far.
Hello = BONJOUR! (bon-jur)
Please = S’il vous plait? (sil vu play)
Yes = Oui (jeremih, weeeee)
No = Non (no…sounds the same lol)
English? = Anglais? (ong glay?)
Thanks a lot = Merci beaucoup (mer see bow – coup)
How are you? = Comment ca-va? or Comment allez vous? (commo sa va?)
Excuse me = Excusez-moi (you should know this)
Sorry = Pardon (par…then don)
I Don’t Understand = Je ne comprends pas (juh nuh com-prend pa)
Where is? = Ou est? (oooooooOOOO ay?)
How Much? = Combien? (com – bien)
Toilet/Bathroom = Toilette (they don’t say bathroom…just toilet)
Exit = Sortie (you’ll see this a lot so I figured I’d add this in)
La Carte = The menu, or you might see the menu lol.
FRENCH METRO BABY
Using the subway system in Paris is very relaxing for me.
Some Famous French Musicians
Going off topic here to introduce you to some French musicians so you can be cool and cultured before you arrive. French rap is the business. Here are some links to some Youtube videos. Watch up my friends
Google Maps Chicken Scratches
Here is my famous Google Maps photos from emails I used to send every year. Feel free to use this to help you navigate around Paris!
So You Probably Want To Eat
Heads up…there’s a lot of bad food in Paris if you don’t know what you’re doing. Also, Asian food is notoriously bad unless it’s Vietnamese. Like..microwave Chinese food….JUST WARNING YOU NOW….
PRO TIP: AVOID CAFES UNLESS THEY’RE RATED. CAFES GENERALLY JUST OFFER STEAK AND FRIES. BORING. DON’T EAT ANYWHERE NEXT TO A TOURIST SPOT.
In Paris, I generally eat a lot of bread, pastries and desserts as they are some of the best in the world. Regular non Michelin starred restaurants…you kind of need to do homework. I’ve been disappointed so many times with the regular restaurants that I would cure that disappointment either with pho or a high priced French joint that serves expensive cuts of meat just to feel better .
I do have some good neighborhoods though for you to visit as well as some recommendations:
A BAR AREA AND STREET = Rue Mouffetard (see map above). It’s in the Latin quarter aka where all the universities kind of meet. At the top of the hill is a ton of bars and outwards facing cafes to grab a quick beer and people watch. As you walk down the hill, there are some bars that serve that MUCH DELICIOUS BELGIUM MONASTERY MONK BEER (IF THEY HAVE IT IN STOCK at Brewberry Bar. The Westvleteren 12 beer…ask for it. It’s anywhere from $20-32 a bottle depending on the supply but the best beer I’ve ever had. They speak English here as well)
THE PARIS NIGHTLIFE AREA= BASTILLE. Fair warning = gets crunk over here. The hood comes out as well sometimes. But I’ve had a lot of fun walking these streets and people watching and popping in for a cocktail from time to time. Ironically, there’s a friendly small Cambodian restaurant in this neighborhood I went to with my friends Mike and Tristan from Long Beach Proper (the boutique) and we had a good meal.
THE BEST DESSERTS IN PARIS? = Galeries Lafayette Gourmet (metro stop, exit LAFAYETTE) is a good place to start. Some will argue with me but at the Galaries Lafayette- the giant department store with a dedicated food floor; you will have access to a lot of good dessert and chocolate on one floor versus going out to the different small bakeries thruout the city. I always take my friends here first to get a taste of what chocolate and pastries should taste like first; before going to some of the well known spots around Paris.
one of my faves: le comptoir. https://www.yelp.com/biz/le-comptoir-du-relais-parisone of my faves. even bourdain raved about this place. but we go here for great occasions. its very, very french lol
FRENCHIE restaurant https://www.yelp.com/biz/frenchie-restaurant-paris . http://www.frenchie-restaurant.com/home-restaurant-fr another one of my faves. somewhat pricy but not so bad. you gotta book reservations but i think you can go do it on their website. my aunt called this in for me. im pretty sure half the chef team is from america too hahaha. SO GOOD. check out the yelp for types of dishes they doALSO, NEXT DOOR FOR LUNCH IS FRENCHIE TO GO. BEST PASTRAMI SANDWHICH IVE EVER HAD IN MY LIFE. http://www.frenchietogo.com/lunch-menupassage 53 (2 michelin stars)https://www.yelp.com/biz/passage-53-paris
IF YOU KNOW WHO JOEL ROBUCHON IS THIS IS PROB ONE OF THE PRICIEST PLACES IN PARIS:L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon
Boutary (top ten rated, my cousin raves about this place) , you can reserve online
L’ilot (seafood, i went here with my aunt, the staff speaks english here)https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g187147-d3649519-Reviews-L_ilot-Paris_Ile_de_France.html
HOLYBELLY! this place has american style breakfast! pancakes/eggs/etc. it’s actually decent haha. https://www.yelp.com/biz/holybelly-paris
CHEAP EAT: LA HALAL SUD or HEVI restaurant (best turkish / lebanese food) https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g187147-d10120515-Reviews-Restaurant_hevi-Paris_Ile_de_France.html i spent my summers around the block from here. same neighborhood
CHEAP EAT: chez lili et marcel (near chinatown, and the neighborhood my family is from) https://www.yelp.com/biz/chez-lili-et-marcel-paristhis place is dope. traditional cafe with steaks, burgers, fries and desserts. all the cafes in paris are the same…but at least this one is nice hahaha
CHEAP EAT: LE BANQUIER – BEST COUSCOUS SERVED ONLY On WEEKENDS- ITS A FRENCH MOROCCAN RESTAURANT
CHEAP EAT: Pho Bom – in the 13th- very authentic pho and vietnamese cuisine- probably best in paris
CHEAP EAT: Le Cambodge (very good cambodian food). https://www.yelp.com/biz/le-cambodge-paris-3
Some COOL SHOPS TO VISIT!
Warning: Paris is a very fun place to spend money…..