Is it true what they say about Paris ?
1. Do french people really eat snails, frogs and pigs feet ?
Yes, and Yes! They also eat cow’s brains, pig’s cheek, tripe and all sorts of weird and wonderful things. Whilst these ‘delicacies’ are somewhat of an acquired taste, you will definitely be able to find something to suit. Admittedly it is a little harder if you are vegetarian, but if you know where to look you can find something more adventurous than omelette and chips for every meal. Whilst France is a nation of food lovers, Paris does have its fair share of tourist traps serving less than ideal fare. The easiest way to find a good venue still is to browse our Food and Drink page!
2. Are the waiters really as rude as people think ?
The answer to that one is – “It depends”. As with most people, not just french waiters, If you are polite to them, they are more likely to be polite to you. A simple but well timed Bonjour/S’il vous plait/Merci can work wonders to how you are treated: Most French people, especially restaurant staff, can speak a little English, but they will feel more like trying if you at least have a go in French first. You may also need to moderate your expectations of what is rude though, for example: a waiter looking around whilst you are giving your order could just be a sign that he is multi-tasking and making sure that everyone has everything they need, not that he isn’t interested in you; or, if you have to wait a little longer than you are used to, just sit back and relax, meals in France are supposed to be enjoyed at a leisurely pace.
3. Is everything shut in August?
Pretty much, yes. Most Parisians migrate south for the summer, leaving Paris just to the tourists and the rare stay-cationers. This means that a lot of the smaller places shut down for the month, with no management, staff, or locals to cater for. All of the main tourist areas will still cater for the masses, but you will find less French culture, less off-beat experiences, and less atmosphere – but it will be quiet, car free, you’ll have the party atmosphere of the Paris-plages, and it will probably be quite warm – Up to you!
4. Is Paris really cripplingly expensive?
It can be, but it doesn’t have to be. If you stay in the best suite of the ‘Palace’ rated hotels, and dine out in the likes of the ‘Grand Véfour’ every day, then you will likely rack up a hefty visa bill. However, if you stay somewhere more modest, and eat, drink and explore more like the locals and French tourists, then you can have a fabulous time on a relatively low budget. You can even stay in the campsite in Bois de Boulogne and walk around soaking up the atmosphere and the state run museums for free if you are in for the real student experience!
5. Is there really dog poo everywhere ?
Well, it’s not as bad as it used to be! I jest, in most areas you are pretty safe from the lovely ‘presents’ our canine friends leave for us: in recent years there has been a big campaign to get people clearing up after their pooches (with a fine of €35 if you don’t), and there are also regular street cleaners that wash pavements, curbs and roads. You are actually more at risk of stepping in the little ‘rivers’ of water used for cleaning that run along the side of the road and pool at the pedestrian crossings than you are of getting anything nastier on your shoes these days. However, in the more residential areas (especially on a Sunday afternoon) you may well find yourself in envy of the in-built reflex that the born and bred Parisians seem to have for avoiding the poo. Try not to spend your precious holiday time looking down at the pavement though, continue looking around you and up at the beautiful buildings – and if the worst happens, well **** happens.
6. Is the eiffel tower the tallest ‘building’ in Paris ?
It is! Since it was built in 1889 it remains the tallest structure in Paris. It is 324m high and reigns over central Paris. When it was first erected, it was actually the tallest man-made structure in the world, and kept that title for 41 years until the Chrysler building was built in New York City. Some people mistakenly think that the Tour Montparnasse is actually taller, but that is a mere 210m (It is the tallest skyscraper within the city limits – those in La Defense are technically not in Paris – but by no means taller than the iron lady).
7. Is it really possible to get stuck driving round and round the Arc de Triomphe ?
Only if you don’t know the rules! For people not used to driving in Paris the roundabout around the Arc de Triomphe can be a scary and daunting experience, but it doesn’t need to be: it is chaos, but very organised chaos. All you need to know is that everyone has to give way to the right, and you can wait your turn. So, charge into the middle like the rest of the traffic, making sure to look right to make sure nothing is coming. Keep looking right, and carry on round. When you come close to your exit try to move over, and if there is someone coming from the right, stop and wait your turn – there will be a gap in the traffic sooner or later. Be assertive, but safe – if you have an accident here, you are probably not insured!
8. Is Paris really dangerous?
No, Paris actually has a very low crime rate. Whilst we do advise you not to go looking for trouble, you should be safe pretty much everywhere in the city. The most reported crime affecting tourists is linked to pickpockets – we recommend carrying only what you need for the day, and to keep an eye on your belonging, especially in touristy areas, crowded transport, or if you are sitting enjoying a relaxing break on a terrace. We hear of people avoiding the public transport systems, but there is really no need to. Don’t be paranoid, but take the necessary precautions that you would take in any big city and read our article on how to avoid scams in Paris.
9. Is Paris a 24Hr fashion parade?
No, people generally dress smart casual, not haute-couture. Whilst you can find your stereotypical fashionistas in the well-to-do areas of the city, they are not the norm. Most people try to look smart, whilst being comfortable, and this works for most places throughout Paris. If you want to go to some of the upscale restaurants to indulge in fine French cuisine, then you may need to make a little more effort (shirts and jackets for the gents) but otherwise just be yourself. Ladies will probably thank themselves for bringing some flat comfortable shoes, as if you want to explore Paris to the full you will probably end up doing quite a bit of walking.
10. Is Paris only for lovers?
Not at all! It is a romantic place, but it is as much for lovers of culture, architecture, history and food as it is for ‘lovers’. Whether you travel alone, with friends, with family or as a couple, you will fit in just like everyone else. If you look around a typical French brasserie you will find each group represented: there will be the man at the bar reading the paper and drinking a coffee, the group of friends on the terrace laughing and joking, the young lady writing her memoirs (or her shopping list – who knows!) sipping an infusion, the couple gazing into each other’s eyes in the corner over a glass of rosé, and the parents treating their children to the ‘menu enfant’ in the middle. The same goes for most activities and places in Paris – Everyone will feel comfortable here.