Hey there, fellow tourist! While we were traveling around Paris, there were some things that the guidebook and French translator didn’t tell us. I thought I would share those things with you here.
It is OK to drink the water in Paris. You can definitely ask for free tap water at a restaurant rather than paying too much for the fancy bottled water. And they will try to up-sell you for not knowing what you’re asking for. Or if you wait, it seems to be a custom that they bring you water when you eat, just not necessarily right away. But that also means, you don’t have to worry about anything when you are brushing your teeth or accidentally open your mouth in the shower. (Sex and the City… Anyone?)
We also looked this up on Google and there were some snarky responses about the cleanliness of water in Europe, namely Amsterdam, claiming that they have had water purification systems longer than our country (America) has been around. But still ask the locals, because we were instructed not to drink the water in both Brussels and Copenhagen (Two cities also older than America… I guess they didn’t do a great job with the up-keep of their water purification systems…)
Paris is an expensive city. Where you are makes a big difference. If you want to save a Euro or two, eat away from the touristy spots. Yes, those places will have servers who speak perfect English, but the food is going to be sub-par and pricey. Baguettes are typically 1.5 or 2 Euros and cheese, meat and produce at any grocery store is cheap. Check out a Monoprix which is like the Parisian version of Target, Franprix are kind of like a 7/11, small and not as much, but any place you see a variety of produce outside is probably the entrance to a great grocery store.
When eating out, most cafes have a lunch special written on their chalkboard outside. Usually, those are cheaper meals like 10-13 Euros and you get two or three courses. Pretty good deal to get lunch and dessert for 10 bucks! Even by American standards!
You don’t have to tip your service at restaurants. They add that into the bill. If you look closely at the bottom of the tab, you’ll see that they get a little commission on every item you bought.
Going from place to place is actually easy when you understand the Metro lines. If you have lived in any major city with a train system, you will easily understand this one. If you haven’t, you will get it, don’t worry. The biggest thing I want to advise against (Tourist to tourist) is the vulnerability you have at these pay stations. There are a lot of scammers and pick-pockets in the depots, they will try to “help” you and get you to pay ridiculous sums of money for tickets you don’t need. They seem nice and helpful, but always tell them a firm “Non” and walk away. All of the machines have English options, just look for the UK flag. A Metro ride will cost you 1.80 Euros each way, and you can buy in bulk which will save you a little.
Taxis are so much cleaner and nicer in Paris (Compared to LA). They are a lot pricier than taking the Metro, but it’s kind of exciting. To operate a vehicle in Paris you must be very attuned to everything around you and you must have a death wish. We took a cab from the Eiffel Tower to Montmartre and it was 16 Euros. Not terrible. Plus, it’s like a ride at an amusement park! I was amused.
I hate to say this, because it is such a beautiful city and you never know what you are going to see at any given moment, but put your camera away when moving through the city. That is a huge sign on your back that you are a tourist, and you will be subjected to much more soliciting from street people and scammers alike. And the Parisians will be nicer to you if they don’t realize you are a tourist at first.
There are no open container laws in Paris. Which begs the question: is it OK to drink on the lawn of the Eiffel Tower, or the bank of the Seine? Yes. And everyone is doing it. Whether it’s a bottle of wine or a case of Heineken, at about 4PM everyone starts to drink in Paris. I mean, socially. Parisians drink whenever they damn-well please, but in the afternoon, it becomes a social event. People will get together just to drink and they will do that just about everywhere and anywhere. I never saw anyone drinking on the Metro, but if it’s a nice day and you want to sit on the bank of the Seine and split a bottle of wine with someone lovely, do it.
I don’t know why I saved this one for the last. But I did. Public displays of affection are commonplace in Paris. Everyone is doing it and everyone is so nonchalant about it. So if this makes you uncomfortable, I’m giving you a fair warning. I think that is partially why it’s known as the “City of Love.” Our friend, Marion, said that they feel like if you are in love then you have a right to show the world. I love the French way of thinking.