Greetings from the American Girl
 
Mon mari's sister is coming to Paris with one of her university's classes, and I'm playing virtual tour guide by answering questions she and her classmates sent my way. Unfortunately, I'm not the Paris guru that I pretend to be so I've enlisted the assistance of mes amies to give my sister-in-law's class (and you!) the most genuinely helpful, honest responses possible.

Before jumping into suggestions for what to do and where to go in Paris, I need to share a secret...I never really studied abroad. Not in the semester long sense. I did study in Europe though, and boy oh boy I wish I had had my act together during those eight weeks I spent traipsing around. I have always been a crazy organized person, but for some reason I was feeling my "go with the flow" side while I was studying abroad and really didn't put any effort into preparing for my trip or thinking about what I would do with my time when I wasn't in class. Instead I participated in the "mall mob." You know how American middle schoolers hang out at the mall and shuffle around in slow moving groups that resemble a giant mush of Gak? Well, young adults on study abroad revert to mall mob and walk around cities in meandering blobs wondering aloud what they should do, where they should eat, and where they can go out. I was part of that mess of uncertainty when I visited Paris and wasted so much time looking like an idiot trying to figure out where the hell I could get a good crepe. If only I had been more on top of my game...so my big tip is this: PLAN, PLAN, PLAN. Flying by the seat of your pants and wandering around cobblestone streets in blissful ignorance is fun to a point, but if you have limited time or this is your one BIG trip to Europe (or in my case, you were with some folks who drank the cheap French wine for breakfast), get the most out of your experience and put in some planning effort up front. Is eating your thing (because it's mine, we could probably be friends...) or are museums and the sights more up your alley? Think about that stuff now else you'll be sucked into the study abroad blob of aimlessness.
Now for the helpful part...your questions, my (and my friends') answers:

How should I plan? Peruse and read books, blogs, travel sections of newspapers and magazines and start getting a general feel for what you want to do. (See here for my favorites Paris books.) Next, make a "must see/do list." A good list is a flexible list. You don't want to be married to it, but instead use it as a guide and a way to help plan your time. Don't forget about making reservations (Eiffel Tower anyone?!), booking museums passes, and checking schedules. Some popular sites are closed on random days!
What are the top 10ish places to visit in Paris?
Eiffel Tower and Champs de Mars (Go to the Palais de Chaillot at Trocadero for a great photo opp or even better, go into the Cité de l'architecture & du patrimoine, walk all the way to the back of the entrance, get a coffee at Cafe Carlu, and sip your drink on the portico while soaking up the Iron Lady in all of her glory.) Metro Trocadero or Bir Hakeim
Montmartre Metro Pigalle or Abesses
Musée d'Orsay Metro Solferino, Tuileries or Musée d'Orsay RER C
Notre Dame Cathedral--arrive early and do the tower tour Metro St. Michel
Sainte Chapelle Metro Cité
The Catacombs Metro or RER B Denfert-Rochereau
Luxembourg Gardens multiple Metro stops or Luxembourg RER B
Walk around the Marais--take a tour with Paris Walks (I've taken 4!) Metro St. Paul
Opera Garnier (You can visit the inside without going to an opera, but check the website for closings.) Metro Opera
Champs Elysées--especially at night (It's nice to get off at Metro Franklin Roosevelt and walk up to the Arc de Triomphe or at Metro Charles de Gaulle Etoile and walk down the avenue.)
Pompidou Center (See the outside at least and if you like modern art, check out the inside.) Metro Châtelet
Tuileries Gardens and Pyramids of the Louvre Metro Palais Royal Musée du Louvre or Tuileries
Louvre (Do a Louvre treasure hunt with THATLou!)
Pere Lachaise Cemetery Metro Pere Lachaise or Philippe Auguste
Take a river cruise (I recommend the Les Vedettes du Pont Neuf, not Bateaux Mouches. I've taken both and prefer the first.)
What are some good things to do or places to go at night?
Rue Oberkampf Metro Oberkampf or Parmentier
Rue de Lappe Metro Bastille or Ledru-Rollin 
Latin Quarter (very student centered) Metro Odéon, Cluny La Sorbonne, or St. Michel
Rue Mouffetard (again student friendly) Metro Place Monge or Maubert Mutualité
Rue de la Butte aux Cailles Metro Place d'Italie, Corvisart, or Tolbiac
Go to the Eiffel Tower for a picnic at twilight! Metro Trocadero or Bir Hakeim
Sit along Canal St. Martin and waste the night away Metro Republique
Picnic along the Seine (best spots: the eastern nose of Île Saint-Louis and the green space along the river by Quai Saint-Bernard) Metro Sully-Morland or Jussieu 
Where are the dance clubs?
Bars that have dance floors are your best bet. Try Hideout at Châtelet or Le Violon Dingue on rue de la Montagne St. Genevieve. If you're looking for a nightclub go with Duplex. My friend who runs study abroad programs in Paris said her students gave this one a thumbs up. The funny thing is mon mari's office had a work event there. Awkward...it definitely felt inappropriate for a work function so that probably makes it an awesome club.
What are some good expensive and inexpensive places to eat?
3 pieces of guidance regarding eating:
1. Go to this website (it IS the end-all-be-all of Paris foodie sites). You can search and find whatever your stomach desires.
2. Do not eat at the Hard Rock Cafe. Just don't. A little piece of me will die inside. McDonald's would be better, especially because they are sort of fancy schmancy here.
3. Do not get suckered into eating in the Latin Quarter at one of the restaurants where there's someone at the door trying to sweet talk you into eating there. Those restaurants aren't necessarily bad, but you can do better than a tourist trap!

Less Expensive
Le Relais Entrecote (multiple locations)
Les Petite Indécises 2 Rue des Trois Bornes 75011 Paris
Creperie Plougastel 47 rue du Montparnasse 75014 Paris
Paladio 2 rue Lavoisier 75008 Paris (quick sandwiches)
L’As du Falafel 34 rue des Rosiers 75004 Paris
Le Petit Cler 29 rue Cler 75007 Paris
Au Pere Louis 8 rue Monsieur Le Prince 75006 Paris
Sur un Petit Velo 82 Avenue Parmentier 75011 Paris
Heureux comme Alexandre (multiple locations)

Expensive(ish)
Auberege des Pyrenees Cevennes 106 Rue de la Folie Méricourt 75011 Paris (01 43 57 33 78)
Les Ombres 27 Quai Branly 75007 Paris
Le Chateaubriand 129 Avenue Parmentier 75011 Paris (01 43 57 45 95)
L’Hotel du Nord Canal St. Martin 102, Quai de Jemmapes 75010 Paris (01 40 40 78 78)
La Cigale Recamier 4 rue Recamier 75007 Paris (01 45 48 86 58)
La Fontaine de Mars 129 rue St. Dominique 75007 Paris (01 47 05 46 44)
L’Esplanade 52 Rue Fabert 75007 Paris (01 47 05 38 80)
La Fermette Marbeuf 5 rue Marbeuf 75008 Paris (01 53 23 08 00)
Diep 55 rue Pierre Charon 75008 Paris (01 45 63 52 76)
Tante Louise 41 rue Boissy d’Anglas 75008 Paris (01 42 65 06 85)
Restaurant Astier 44 rue Jean-Pierre Timbaud 75011 Paris (01 43 57 16 35)
What is the best bakery?
Best bakery? That is probably THE most difficult question to answer, so I'll give you my pastry list instead. If you'll have an iPhone while you're here, download the Paris Pastry App. It basically dictates my weekends.

Desgranges Yves 6 rue Passy 75016 Paris (croissant)
Café Angelina 226 rue de Rivoli 75001 Paris (hot chocolate)
Stohrer 51 rue Montorgueil 75002 Paris (baba au rhum brioche, éclair)
Berthillon 31 rue St. Louis en L’lle 75004 Paris (ice cream)
Benoit 20 Rue Saint-Martin 75004 Paris (hot chocolate, chocolate, nougat)
Gerard Mulot 76 rue Bonaparte 75006 Paris (raspberry tart, caramel mousse)
Pierre Herme 72 rue Bonaparte 75006 Paris (macarons)
Jean Millet 103 rue St. Dominque 75007 Paris (pain au chocolat)
Jean-Paul Hévin 231 Rue Saint-Honoré  75001 Paris (hot chocolate, chocolate tart)
La Patisserie de Reves 93 rue de bac 75007 Paris (kouign amman)
Fauchon 24-26 Place de la Madeleine 75008 Paris (madelines, éclair)
Bonjour 16 Avenue Rene Coty 70014 Paris (éclair)
Lenotre 48 Avenue Victor Hugo 750016 Paris (brioche pralines rose)
Ganachaud 226 rue des Pyrennées 75020 Paris Les Halles (aurure-capucine)
Banette multiple locations; check website www.banette.fr (la figue)
Laduree multiple locations; check website www.laduree.fr (religieuse violet, macarons)
Dalloyau multiple locations; check website www.dalloyau.fr (praline cake with almond meringue)
La Bague de Kenza 106 rue Saint-Maur 75011 (EVERYTHING, my version of heaven is this place)
This post is growing unruly and I'm starting to salivate on my keyboard so we'll save safety and speaking Franglish for the next study abroad post.

Bon week-end everybody and be sure to comment if you have a recommendation to share!
P.S. Why didn't any of you smart Penn Staters tell me about all the typos in my last study abroad post? You've got to have a few grammar freaks in your class who were cringing! Don't be shy. You can call me out.
 


Mel
03/31/2012 13:37

LOVEE IT! I'm going to look like that typical tourist with my list of all those restaurants and pastry shops! ( Obviously the pastry shops will be listed first, you know me too well :) )

Thanks so much Linds! We'll be taking a look at this in class next week!!! Love you guys!

Reply
04/01/2012 12:04

The pastry shops are where it's at! (Clearly my sweet photos demonstrate this point.)

I can also provide additional book recommendations to read and buy ahead of time in case people want more information to plan with :-)

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04/01/2012 10:25

Wow, new to your blog and it's amazing - you are living a dream! Of course everything is not "as it seems" but still, amazing!

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04/01/2012 12:06

Paris is indeed a dream, and I am so fortunate to have the experience of living in this amazing (and of course sometimes frustrating) city. Hope you continue to enjoy reading the blog!

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04/03/2012 09:10

Clearly I will not be studying in Paris since I am ancient, but this year, is the year I have vowed to return to Paris for a city break (I haven't been since moving to Provence!!) and I'm bookmarking this post because it's chock-full of Paris goodness. Thanks Linds! :)

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Jan
04/05/2012 10:12

Linds,
An amazing list of choices.
I too was salivating at your list of patisseries
If you had only 1 museum- my choice musee-d-orsay- loved it.
M-in L

Reply
04/10/2012 22:20

I just got back from a trip to London where I studied for a semester back in the dark ages. I felt I was doing so much at the time but I really got to know all the pubs in the neighborhood and not much else! Fantastic list, Linds. I'm sending your link to several friends who will be visiting Paris this summer. Thanks!

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Danielle
04/12/2012 13:07

Thanks for the great tips!

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Ketja
04/12/2012 14:04

Hi! I'm one of Melanie's trip leaders, and you just don't know how wonderful it has been to have a Paris-connection for our class! I so appreciate your tips and info, and will be carrying around the lists above! I have shared your blog with another class that is going to France, and with various visitors along the way. Thank you! We are all looking forward to Paris and the countdown to landing in CDG is on!

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Paige
04/12/2012 14:43

I am a student in the study abroad class your sister in law is going on and I just wanted to say thank you so much for your posts. They were very helpful and I cannot wait to put your tips to use in the streets of Paris! I especially enjoy all your suggestions for things to do, places to see, and where to eat (i'll most likely be at all the pastry shops).
Thanks again!
Paige

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Kelsey Yates
04/12/2012 19:38

Thanks so much for this blog post! I am soo glad you put up suggestions based on what is expensive/less expensive. I definitely want to enjoy my trip and eat some tasty food, and it is good to know that there are several delicious less expensive options!
Thanks again!

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Sara C
04/13/2012 08:50

Hey! I am a student in Mel's study abroad class. This blog is great! Thanks so much for all the tips! I have a lot to plan.

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