5 Must-Haves When Exploring Paris

I’ve been thinking a lot about Paris lately. Not only am I always trying to justify going back, but a coworker of mine just booked two weeks in Paris for her honeymoon in May. While thinking of the Must-See spots in and around the city, I kept thinking about the Must-Haves that every Paris traveler should be carrying with them. I learned some of these the hard way, but these five things will make exploring Paris easier and more enjoyable.

Paris Pratique par Arrondissement
This little booklet includes the best map of Paris that I’ve encountered. It makes navigating the city almost effortless. Wandering the city streets was one of my favorite Paris activities and, with the Paris Pratique, I was never concerned about getting lost. It also includes a map of the Metro lines, an incredibly valuable map when traveling across the city. You can pick it up at any street news stand for only a few Euros.

Passe Navigo (formerly Carte Orange)
The Paris Metro is so convenient, easy to use, and the fastest way to travel around Paris. While you can purchase single-use tickets, I wouldn’t think twice about getting a Passe Navigo. The pass can be purchased for a week or a month and the price varies based on included zones. When I was there, I found myself using the Metro several times a day. It was great to not worry about purchasing tickets or about how much I was spending each time I boarded a train.

A small, travel umbrella
Several times while walking through the city, I found myself caught in an afternoon downpour. While it was great to wait out the rain in a cozy cafe, most days were booked with sightseeing and walking through the rain was unavoidable. I finally got wise and started carrying a small umbrella with me at all times. The ones shown here are Slimline travel umbrellas from the Container Store, weighing only 7 ounces.

A collapsable, reusable tote
Eating in Paris restaurants can get expensive. Most days, we purchased bread, cheese, and produce from specialty markets and had picnics in the park. Having a reusable bag to hold our groceries was incredibly helpful. Each component of our meal was often purchased at a different store, so we looked to avoid the collection of plastic bags. Many of our meals were also spontaneous, wandering upon a pop-up market and wanting to try new things.

Travel hand sanitizer
While Paris is exceptionally beautiful, it’s also exceptionally dirty. We spent the majority of the day away from our apartment, visiting places and touching things thousands of others were also touching. Jumping on and off the Metro promised convenience, but also plenty of germs. And since most of our meals were unplanned and outside, having hand sanitizer was a lifesaver. Public restrooms in Paris are hard to find and most shops charge money for you to use theirs. So this was key for in between hand washings.

“Midnight in Paris” Gave Me Chest Pains (the Good Kind)

After the first few minutes, an instrumental montage of various Parisian landmarks and scenery, I was convinced I would absolutely love this film. If I only knew what was to come.

Owen Wilson and Rachel McAdams play Gil and Inez, ill-matched fiancés. One is decent, romantic, and optimistic, while the other is shallow, unkind, and petty. Gil, while wandering the streets of Paris at midnight, stumbles upon another (and his ideal) era: Paris in the 1920’s. He brushes elbows with some of the greatest literary and artistic geniuses of all time, realizes what he really wants in life, and discovers the potential problems with romanticizing the past. Wilson is as charming as ever, while McAdams plays an overly exaggerated version of a spoiled brat. Even with time travel as a theme in the film, the most unbelievable part is the engagement of the two main characters. Regardless, what is truly great about this film is how Allen captures the city’s spirit and the amazing powerhouse of talent that has walked its streets.

I spent 5 weeks in Paris during the summer of 2005. It is an understatement to say I fell in love. Some say Paris is overly romanticized, that the city’s iconic landmarks have become cliché. I can only respond that I suspect these people have never spent time there. The city has drawn in the best artists and writers from around the world, many of whom appear in the film: Hemingway, Fitzgerald (Scott and Zelda), Gertrude Stein, Picasso, Dalí, Degas, Toulouse-Lautrec, and so many more. These roles and small cameos of such significant and inspirational figures will delight even the most casual art history buff.

Along with the recognizable names and faces from history are the recognizable and gorgeous Parisian buildings, streets, and natural scenery. So many amazing landmarks are seen throughout the film: Tour Eiffel, Arc de Triomphe, the Louvre, Monet’s gardens at Giverny, the Palace of Versailles, and even the famous Shakespeare and Company bookstore. Every street the characters walked reminded me of how I felt in the city of light and it made my heart ache. Only a city like Paris could make a person long so badly it causes chest pain. I know this. Woody Allen obviously knows this too. His creation perfectly embodies the magic and inspiration Paris has and still offers across cultures and generations alike.

I Dream of Paris

I’ve found that whenever my life gets particularly stressful, I dream of Paris. My mind transports me to the bustling streets of Montmartre, to the art-adorned walls of the Louvre, and to the quiet benches of the Jardin du Luxembourg. My heart aches for the carefree afternoons I spent in the corners of cafes and wandering each nook of the famous Grande Galerie. Until I can find my way back there for real, it seems my nighttime travels will have to do.

My Favorite Places: #2 Montmartre

One of my very favorite cities in the whole world is Paris, and my very favorite part of Paris is Montmartre. The hill is topped by the beautiful and iconic dome of Sacré Cœur overlooking the city below. Montmartre is best known for the many incredible artists who gathered, worked, and partied in its restaurants and cabarets. Matisse, van Gogh, Renoir, Degas, Toulouse-Latrec, and Picasso found inspiration here and drank plenty of Absinthe under the stars. When I visited the area, I was enamored with the collection of beautiful spaces. I spent hours there, pretending I was in a Renoir painting at the Moulin de la Galette, sipping drinks at the Lapin Agile, and admiring surrealist sculpture at Espace Dalí. Especially wonderful was the crème brulée at Les Deux Moulins café, made famous in Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulain, my very favorite film. Around every corner is an artist at an easel, a couple in an embrace, or a scene right out of an impressionist painting. It’s the kind of place of which artists dream.

My Favorite Places: #5 Musée du Louvre

There are few single buildings that can draw visitors from every corner of the world. Musée du Louvre began as a palace, but has since been converted into the most visited museum on Earth. Inside its beautifully structured exterior lives the greatest collection of artwork ever seen, spanning from prehistory to the late 19th century. Historical timelines are kept in surprising quality as you travel through the Egyptian, Eastern, Greek, Roman, Etruscan, and sculptural collections. But nothing drops jaws or makes me feel warmer than the paintings that span the Richelieu and Denon wings of the museum. Delacroix, David, Vermeer, and Caravaggio are among favorites, but truly nothing compares to the Mona Lisa. While many who see it in person scoff at its surprisingly small size and its ever-present crowd of camera-flashing tourists, the tiny portrait’s draw is what makes it incredible. For a man to have created a single work of art that is recognized by all and is the most visited piece in the most visited collection of nearly 35,000 pieces, well, that’s magic. I love I. M. Pei’s glass pyramid, the distinct parquet floor of the Grand Gallery, wall after wall of masterpieces, and how I still have to pronounce it Loo-vrah.

Apple Store Paris

The second Apple store in Paris opened earlier this month, and I can’t help but swoon. The distinctly sleek brand took over a distinctly Parisian former bank building directly facing the Opéra national de Paris. I’m so glad they kept the original architecture; it is charming and definitely makes an impact. Just another reason to love the city of light.

images from gizmodo