You might have heard the term ‘Gay Pari’ and wondered where it came from. It’s thought to have arisen among the French themselves, because they don’t pronounce the ‘s’ in ‘Paris’ and because ‘Gai’ means happy or fun-loving. There’s also a half-serious footwear rule for travellers in France – no laces. A lot of unplanned marriages happened when someone bent to tie their shoe and their partner cried/giggled and posted ‘S/he said yes’ to social media before they stopped to ask about their (non-existent) ring.
Travelling to any location can be eye-opening, but that doesn’t always mean you’ll like the view. Our preconceptions about a place are flavoured by depictions in the media, books we’ve read, and people we’ve talked to. And all these sources paint Paris as a city of laughter, love, and magic. Unfortunately, unless you play your cards right, your mental image can be broken. So instead of offering another to to-do list, let’s look at some definitely don’ts.
Don’t rush the sites
Yes, you want your Eiffel Tower selfie, and you want to see Mona Lisa’s smile for yourself. And that’s all fine. But … the queues around those sites are often hours long. You may have a grand plan to be up at sunrise and beat the ticket line, but that’s probably what everyone else is thinking. Also, depending on how you to got to Paris in the first place, excellent Paris deals might already be your thing. If you bought your package online, start there.
Instead of rushing into Paris at sunrise, lounge in bed, order room service, have a proper French breakfast. French toast aka pain perdu (lost toast) is a dessert dish, croissants are Austrian, and fries were invented in Belgium, so everything you know about French palates is probably wrong. Typical breakfasts involve brioche and baguettes, with lots of jam – in volume and variety. Café au lait is drunk in a bowl and mostly ordered by tourists (heads up).
Don’t be obvious
Before you leave your room, double-check your wardrobe. Cargo shorts, floppy hats, branded sneakers, and selfie sticks mark you as a tourist. Instead, glance outside and see how people are dressed. Match your wardrobe to theirs, and if you have ‘nothing to wear’ then your first stop should be a clothing store. Your doorman or hotel staff can point you to a flea market or budget shop if you’re uneasy about (the prices in) Champs-Elysées.
Paris is best known for good food and rich art, but that doesn’t mean you have to spend all your time in museums and 5-star restaurants. Take a stroll and pop into street-side cafes. The food there will be far more authentic than any place you have to call for reservations. You’ll also find tons of artsy locals and street performers to get the full flavour of the city.
The covered passages offer deep dives into culture, but be alert – tourist haunts often attract tourist hunters. Loosely planned strolls are the best way to nurture your dreams of Paris.