One of the reasons I created an English version of my Brazilian blog, as I already explained here, is because when I was in Paris last summer, I met a new yorker that, after hearing my tips about Paris, insisted on me creating a blog.
Down here are listed some of the tips I gave him. Since I often notice that the most common thing is to find luxury and expensive places when it comes to blogs about Paris, I decided only to give tips about things for free and not so obvious, for people like you and me.
The first time I went to Paris, I didn’t even know how to say “Hi” in French and I was well prepared to meet some of the famous French rudeness. I have to say that after two days in Paris, I was very disappointed. In TWO days, not one person was rude to me, or even ill humored.
That’s when I realized that the trick is to always ask – in advance and very politely – no matter how bad is your French, if the person speaks English (“Excusez-moi, parlez vous anglais?”). And there you have it. It works like magic. Suddenly, people are willing to help you, even if they don’t speak English.
Another good tip (and that works anywhere in the world) is to always ask for information to people that don’t look like they are in a hurry or busy with something. Always prefer people seating on a bench, or smoking a cigarette. And put a smile on your face before asking anything from anyone (also a tip that works anywhere in the world).
It’s like my mom used to say: if you are nice to people, people are gonna be nice to you.
Père Lachaise is one of the most interesting “not-so-famous” places to go in Paris. It is a very big cemetery located in the 20th arrondissment. And there’s a bunch of famous people buried there. They even have a map to help you locate whomever you want to visit – and trust me, you’re gonna need a map!
One good tip is to always use the cemetery’s main entrance because there you can have a free map (you just need to ask one of the guards), whereas the side entrance (closer to the metro station) has people selling maps for tourists that don’t know they can get it for free.
Some of the people buried there are: Jim Morrison, Édith Piaf, Oscar Wilde, Georges Méliès, Yves Montand, Henri Salvador, Maria Callas,…
Here’s a complete list of every famous person buried there.
Parc de Belleville
My best friend lives in Paris and he showed me this charming park next to his house. It’s definitely not well known and it has one of the best views in Paris. For those people who love to see where the real Parisian go, this is a good spot. Here’s the map with all the detailed information.
After going to the park, you can walk down to the charming and bohemian Rue de Belleville to have dinner at one of the amazing Asian restaurants there. My favorite is a Thai place called “Lao Siam”. The line to get a table can be hard on those with an empty stomach, but I guarantee it’s worth the wait. If you like red meat, I recommend a dish called Le tigre qui cri (correction: the name of the dish is Le tigre qui pleure (it means “the crying tiger”). It’s beef with a delicious spicy sauce. Yummy.
La Sacre Coeur de Montmartre
OK, I know that’s a very touristic place that everyone knows about, but I wanted to talk about this amazing church because I have a few tips to offer.
First and most importantly: buy a bottle of water before climbing all the stairs. Once you reach the top, you’re gonna need some water and, since everyone gets there thirsty, the bottle of water can cost up to 4 euros.
Second, I strongly recommend you would wake up really early to go there. Preferably around 8 a.m.. After 10 in the morning the place gets really crowded and it’s impossible to admire the magnificent view with a peace of mind that a place like that requires.
And third: be extra careful with your belongings. My purse was stolen when I went there to a picnic on Bastille day. I don’t mean to scare anyone, but, like any touristic spot, there’s a bunch of people trying to get money out of distracted, bewildered tourists.
Pont des Arts
Finally, I wanted to talk about Pont des Arts. It’s also very touristic but, while I was there, I noticed most of the people on the bridge was young which gave me an impression that older people don’t know about it.
Plus, if you are looking for a place to propose to your girlfriend, I think there’s no better place to do it.
A couple years ago, somebody had the idea of attaching a padlock to the railing (just like people do in Verona, Italy, to represent Romeo and Juliet) and it soon became a tradition. Nowadays, the railings of the bridge are all covered with love padlocks.
This photograph was taken by my dear friend Fabio Maciel. How charming the bridge looks on the sunset!
Café de Flore
If you are crazy about the idea of the culture life in Paris in the beginning of the 20th century (like Owen Wilson’s character in Midnight in Paris), you should have a coffee at Café de Flore. If you do that, you should know that you might be seating on the very same spot where people like Jean Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir and Édith Piaf once sat.
But if you are more of a Hemingway fan, no worries, just cross the street and take a seat at “Les Deux Magots“, another coffee shop known to be the favorite of great geniuses.
Once you’re there, take a good look at the Boulevard Saint-Germain and try to imagine those amazing artists walking around on that very same street every day. Like any other Café in Paris, if you seat outside, you’re probably gonna have to pay twice the price of the coffee, but just for this once, you should do it.