6 of the Best Style Tips I Learned from France

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A little known fact about me is that I have a degree in fashion design. I don’t usually talk about it because in the professional world I don’t use those skills as much, but I grew up making clothes and sewing and I’ve always loved style. I also grew up watching entirely too many black and white movies, so I have a soft spot for classy clothing and pearl earrings. 1950’s Paris *sigh*. When I lived in France one of the parts that I loved was seeing all of the beautiful European style. I would have loved it more if I was making any amount of money close to a salary so I could buy any of these clothes, but not having the income to splurge made me vastly more aware of the trends and how I would apply them to my own life, once I got back into a position to. Here are some of the things I’ve learned:

shoppingSimplicity is Queen
One of the most beautiful things about living in France was how simple the style and lifestyle is. Now it’s important to note that we’re not talking Scandinavian minimalism (although I’m sure there are houses that follow that) but the French have a clean, yet intricate, attention to detail that I absolutely adore. I love the minimalism, mixed with color and patterns and my heart was won over by the beautiful patterns that you can find in so many homes.

Pearls Solve a Multitude of Sins
Having a bad day? Not feeling like feeling you’re usual classy self? Throw on some pearl stud earrings! This is one of my favorite style hacks because it makes me feel like Audrey Hepburn on days when I’m feeling more like Oscar the Grouch from Sesame Street. And who doesn’t want to look like Audrey? No hands? I didn’t think so. Not ready to throw down on real pearls? I’ve found some really great pairs of studs at Nordstrom that do the trick, while on a budget.

Mix and Max

You’re probably thinking that the French spend millions each year on clothing. And, of course, for some you’re probably right. But some of the classiest women I ever met taught me the very important lesson to mixing where you shop. This means you may have a designer wool peacoat, but your t-shirt is from Abercrombie. This lesson taught me that it’s not just about what you’re wearing, it’s about how you’re wearing it. And another key is to buy quality, over quantity. When you do splurge, splurge on statement pieces that are going to last you years. There’s a really great book I have called Paris Chic that does a great job of outlining Parisian and French fashion. Your wardrobe will thank you for the $1.99 you spent buying it.

Treat Yourself
The French know how to pamper themselves, and I don’t mean going out and coming back with a carload of clothes charged on their credit card. I mean lotions, bubble baths and perfumes. I mean those things that make you feel like gold – even with nothing on. Spending the extra dollars to buy quality skin care products is worth it. Treat yourself, and your body, by investing in some bath salts or some soothing lotions. You’ll be surprised how lovely you feel without even needing to spend money on clothes.

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Scarves
If there’s one style tip that I’m so glad I learned when living in France, it’s the beauty of scarves. From light and airy to bulky and bold, scarves aren’t really something I invested in before I lived in Europe. But I’m definitely now riding the scarf train! A great scarf can not only double your options on a simple sweater, they’re a lot less expensive than buying a whole new wardrobe. And they’re warm. I’m all about the warm. I’ve found some of my favorites at Nordstrom (because, despite popular opinion, Nordstrom isn’t always crazy expensive, if you know the right places to look), but I also love to buy them at World Market.

Kids Wear
One of the cutest things about living in France was definitely the children. The child style goals I now have are insanely high. Like, I kind of want to fly to France yearly so that I can dress my future children. Yeah, that bad. The cute little animals, the cute little patterns. All of it. If you’re looking to replicate all the cuteness (or just see what I’m talking about), you can type in “French kids clothing” in Pintrest and envy away, or hop over to Petit Bateau which has a U.S. website but totally French kids style. J’adore.

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Why Tina Fey is Wrong – You Shouldn’t Have It All

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The other day I was clothes shopping and spent close to a millennia in the store…but only 3 things. SHOCK. Despite what my American upbringing echoed in the back of my mind:

“You should have bought it all!”
“You’ll look better walking out with overflowing bags on your arms.”
“How do you call yourself an adult without being able to splurge on payday?”

I wasn’t “sad” that I had “only” found a few things – I was elated. Why? Because what I bought was what I really really wanted. It wasn’t because I was broke, it wasn’t because nothing else worked, it was because I only bought what I was really passionate about.

I know, crazy.

Yesterday I went to the grocery store. And while I was there I had to wonder: Why are American grocery stores the size of small villages? Have you ever been in a European grocery store? There’s like 8 aisles and one option of each thing (Yes, even in Paris). Why? Well for one thing, it’s because they don’t have to worry about organic – it’s all organic. The other is because life in general is more straight forward. You get what you need and then you move on with life.

And while we’re on the topic, have you guys seen that “Impulse Buy” Tina Fey commercial, if not watch it, below.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m a BIG Tina Fey fan, but every time I see this commercial I think about how intense the culture of, “I can, therefore I will,” is in the U.S. Not saying it’s always a bad thing, just that it’s problematic, in that it creates this idea that all that is going to make you happy.

Clarification: I am no proponent of the kind of minimalism that Scandinavian countries advocate for. I know that works for some, and high-five to them, but that is NOT my aesthetic. I love having tons of art supplies, and bookcases overflowing with vintage/sketch books. But, something that I think has really stuck with me, from living in France, is that you don’t NEED to have every version and every color and every brand of something, in order to be happy. I mean, I basically lived out of two suitcases for A YEAR (and one of those suitcases was just art supplies) and I was perfectly functional.

During that year I had a lot (probably too much time) to think, and I was able to really analyze what was and wasn’t important/necessary in my life. Essentially, I learned what makes me happy. And, the emphasis here is what makes me happy (this is not a guide to making the world happy, again).

So, here’s what I learned and continue to implement in my day to day:

Languages are my passion:
I’ve always loved learning other languages (except Spanish, which for some reason I CANNOT pick up) and I love exploring the cultures that come with them. Studies show that learning/speaking other languages can actually make you happier for a multitude of reasons, including reducing stress, helping you feel more connected to other people and of course there’s the “chocolate cake high” that comes with learning new words. Regardless of what the motivation is, I love the idea that we can add so much value to our lives for (especially with online resources like Duolingo etc) little or no money.

“If we spoke a different language, we would perceive a somewhat different world.” –

Ludwig Wittgenstein

Art makes me whole:
While I was in France the two things I chose to spend my pitiful allowance on was postcards (another passion of mine!) and art supplies. Why? Because I literally start losing my mind if I can’t create art. Whether it’s painting or drawing (I learned in France, I actually can draw) I love having art as a meditative part of my life. Hop over to my Facebook page if you’d like to see what I’m currently up to, or you can check out my Pintrest board to see some of my drawing projects from France.

Learning new things enriches me:
Three words: Khan. Coursera. Skillshare. These are the trifecta of my learning (with perhaps some PBS worked in there) and I love taking classes, picking up new skills and learning about the world around me.

Khan Academy
was one of my favorite resources when I was in France, because it’s totally free and you can take classes on a million different subjects, including Pixar animation (also, because I’m a Trekkie – ha). I’ve taken ALL the history classes, and I regret none of the time spent. They also have science, art, coding, and math (gross – but if you’re into that kind of thing).

I also love Coursera, although now they’re starting to charge (but you can find hacks by Googling how to get the classes free). Coursera allows you to take academic classes from universities and professors all over the world, which I also think is amazing.

And lastly Skillshare is amazing for learning new creative things like drawing, photography and even cooking! I’ve learned so much from this resource, and the monthly subscription rate is about the same as Netflix/Hulu (but way more valuable, in my opinion).

Books are beautiful:
The Christmas before last I spent my day wandering Paris, and buying a bunch of classic literature. Why? Because for some reason, in Paris, the cheapest books to buy (we’re talking like 1 euro) are the classics in English. Needless to say, I’ve now read pretty much all of Jules Verne and Jane Austen. Books don’t have to be super expensive (especially if you’re finding them used) and yet they have the amazing ability to transport you all over the world and on a million different adventures. I’ve always been such a bookworm, but I think there was definitely a post college (or even during college) period of time when I forgot how much I loved them. I don’t have as much time now, because obviously I’m not a kid running free, but I do try to make sure to carve out 30min-1hour of reading time, each day. What am I reading right now? The Outlander series, and it’s making me want to go back to Scotland real bad.
WARNING: These books are mammoth.

I don’t need a million friends:
Okay, so let’s talk popularity contest. Why, oh why, do we have to feel like we need a million people who you’re “best friends” with? Unknown. But it’s a thing. And, as a proud introvert, it’s a lie I’m not buying into, anymore. I love me time, and I love alone time. It’s when my brain is settled and happy and free and I come up with my best ideas and creations. I do love the friends that I have, and I do love meeting new people, but not under the pretense that if I don’t have 12 friends I’m Snapchatting every night I’ll shrivel up and die like a raisin. Nope. I’ve had to fight hard for it, but creating that space, and bringing in only people in who understand that I need alone time has made me much happier than a thousand friends ever could.

My faith is really important to me:
My faith, like meditation or exercise, is something that keeps me whole. While I’m not sure that I would describe myself as specifically one denomination, Christianity is a really important part of my life, and one that inspires and strengthens me, daily. It’s not perfect, and neither am I, but it’s something that no one can buy, trade or take away and that makes it an invaluable treasure in my life.

What about you guys? Yeah, shoes are awesome, but what else makes you really glow with happiness? Comment below!

Memoirs of A French Au Pair: 1 Year Back In The U.S.

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This time last year I was packing my suitcases and planning on getting the hell out of France. I was so over it. I was over my job. Over my living situation and over the idea that I had made the right decision moving there in the first place. In short, I was over it (and everything that ‘it’ encompassed).

If I sound like an angsty teen here, I apologize. And then I unapologize. Because life is hard sometimes, and we have a right to look up to the heavens and shout, “WHAT WERE YOU THINKING BRINGING ME HERE!?” There was a lot of that when I lived in France. And that’s okay. Because I don’t believe that God wants subservient robots and I strongly believe that he likes us having real dialog with him. Even when things are hard. Especially when things are hard.

When I moved to France I thought it was going to solve all of my problems. I was sick of seeing people get engaged/married or posting baby pics on Facebook and I decided to DO something with my life. So I quit my job, bought a plane ticket and went (way harder than that, but you get the point). Then the first bad thing happened… and then another. And another and another and another and finally I started to wonder if I had made the right decision? Had I done something with my life, or had I ruined the perfectly good life I had already had?

Risk.

I’m not usually a very risky person. In fact, I would go as far as to say I adore being comfortable and secure. I don’t gamble. I don’t really like taking chances. I’ve ordered the exact same flavor of bubble tea at the exact same place for six years. It’s who I am. I like knowing what I’m getting into. So when I felt the extreme push in my life to move to France, I felt so certain that it was a divine intervention. Let’s be real, it pretty much had to be.

Fast forward nine months and my little idealistic dream boat had been battered and thrown into the shoals. It wasn’t painted and glowing with idealistic promises, anymore. That shit (sorry, mom) was borderline Titanic-post-iceberg status. All I wanted to do was to run away. So I did. And I’m okay with that decision, but I what I did next was wrong.

I tried to ignore and repress and never ever ever think about France.

In fact, I can honestly say I’ve been almost entirely removed from my experience up until the last couple of weeks. It’s very rare that I’ll talk about my experiences there. In fact, I basically don’t talk about that year, at all. At first I told myself that it was because I was too busy or that I had too much on my plate. But the reality was that I didn’t want to have to think about the fact that I had failed at something (or, at least, my definition of failure). France was not magical, fun, beautiful, a fairytale or anything like Audrey Hepburn described it. That’s a tourists dream. Not this expat’s reality.

And at the end of it all I’m still not sure that I have an answer for, “What I learned.” I know that I’ve become a much different person, because I can see it in the reflection of the people who were closest to me, before I moved. Since those changes were gradual they’re much harder for me to personally distinguish.

But I have changed. And I can feel it.

This year back in the U.S. has been one of the most hectic and crazy that I’ve ever had. At times I’ve felt like I was drowning in an ocean, too overwhelming to overcome. Other times I’ve felt so overwhelmingly loved and supported. Overall, this has been a year of drastic highs and earth-shattering lows.

I can’t even believe that one year has already passed. On the one hand it feels like no time at all, and on the other I feel like five years has passed in the course of one. Such is life.

It’s taken almost the entirety of the year for me to finally start having some pieces fall into place. A lot is still up in the air, but things will hopefully click, soon. Over the past year I’ve been bouncing between more jobs than I can count, I’ve moved four times, and I’ve been dutifully pay off the debt (Paris is hella expensive) that I incurred while living abroad (halfway done!) in addition to my student loans (also halfway there). If there’s one thing I learned in France, it’s that I NEVER want to have to think about student loans again, and the sooner they’re gone the better. I hate how “normal” it is for people my age to have tens of thousands of dollars in debt before they really even start their adult lives. It’s basically nonexistent in so many European countries, and I cannot wait to be done with them for good.

The highlights of this year? I’ve gone to three conventions, which was something I had placed on my bucket list while I was living in France. I’ve taken one trip out of the country (Scotland, Ireland, England) and three smaller trips (soon to be four) within the U.S. I’ve seen Riverdance (twice!) and Lord of the Dance, I started a Star Wars painting that will someday be awesome, and I started the process of writing/putting together a comic book with one of my friends. All in all this year has been so incredibly hard, but I’m so thankful for the friends who have held my hand, wrapped me in wool blankets with cups of tea and given me comic books to help me through.

Moving back from France was a really hard decision. It was a hit to my pride (because I honestly didn’t think I would ever come back) and it was a life lesson in how much I actually do need others to make it through this crazy circus called life. Today I was looking at pictures from just two years ago and it’s insane to think about how different things are, now. I was a completely different person. From my ideals, to the way that I approach life, I can honestly say that basically nothing is the same. Maybe this transformation will prove beneficial in the upcoming year. Maybe it won’t. But the point of this long-winded tale is: Fail you might, but try you must.

So here’s to one year of making shit work (sorry for the swearing, mom). The past few years have been just about anything other than what I thought they would be. And that’s OKAY. I give you all permission to be confused, and angry, and elated and to feel torn in a hundred different directions. Life doesn’t have to be exactly what we plan, we just have to be ready to keep moving forward, not matter what is thrown our way.

Review: Cafè Besalu

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Fact: Pretty much every food item tastes like dirt in comparison to its French alternative. And this fact has not escaped my notice. Because, the truth is, France has completely ruined my taste buds. And it wasn’t until someone suggested this little cafe to me that I realized that not all was lost, just because I’d moved back to the U.S.

Cafe Besalu is THE most authentic French food I’ve had since being back in U.S. without a doubt. Sure, I’ve tried out some other spots in Seattle but they’re either priced by the deranged or completely off the mark. I was so happy to not only find this spot, but to have it just down the street from my house. J’adore.

Ordered: Hot chocolate (w/ rice milk), pain au raisin

Where:  5909 24th Ave NW Seattle, WA 98107

Went: Too many Saturday mornings to count

Wifi: No

Reservation Needed: No

Tip: On the weekends, get there before the 10:30AM rush!

Website: http://cafebesalu.com/

Invincible Me

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Memories are funny things. Childhood memories can be filled with imagined wonder, or overwhelming pain. And, looking back at my crazy bookworm artist braided hair younger self; I see so much more insight into who I am, and who I am becoming, as an adult.

Looking back, I see all of the laughter, the imagination, the beauty, the pain, the curiosity, the anger and confusion – and I sometimes think I was so much more intact when I was a child. Because, back then, I didn’t worry about being filtered. I laughed and danced because it was time to laugh and it was time to dance, not because I had been told by society to do, or not to do, one or the other.

Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about when I was 11 years old.

My grandma, who I had only met once, had died and I was laying on my bed, curled in a crescent shape. Alone. And wondering if I should cry. At the time, I suppose it would have been the right thing to do. But all I could do was sit there, curled up, wondering whether I was supposed to do it.

That was the beginning of a pretty unhealthy relationship with tears.

You see, I was raised in a very non-emotional family. We didn’t cry, hug, say ‘I love you’ or talk about emotions in pretty much any other way. We were strong. We were invincible. Or, at least, in my naivety, that’s what I thought.

Over the next decade I didn’t cry. I didn’t cry at sad movies, funerals, when pets died, or when sad things happened in the world. I was invincible. I was strong. Or that’s what I told myself.

I still can count the number of people who have seen me cry on one hand. It’s a pretty rare occasion, and like any natural phenomena it’s usually brief and then gone, like it never happened in the first place. Crying just wasn’t ever an acceptable means of communication in my life.

Then I moved to France.

Americans make fun of the French, a lot, for how emotional they are. And, to a certain extent, those jokes aren’t always wholly unfounded. In my one year in Paris, I saw more tantrums, and crying fits than I had in my entire existence. And I’m not talking about from the kids.

Maybe it was the culture that was surrounding me, or maybe it was the trauma of being alone in a country 5,000 miles away from your next closest friend. But, when I lived in France I cried – quite a lot. In fact, I wouldn’t even say ‘cry’ is a solid enough word. I wept. A lot.

And while it still wasn’t in front of people, and there still weren’t tantrums involved, I think I have to thank France for giving me back my tears.

You see, something I’ve realized, since being back in the US, is how much more emotional I am. When shit is sad, I cry (sorry, for the swearword, mom). When I’m upset, I cry. When I see something heartbreaking in the news, I care…and sometimes I cry.

And while I may not be single-handedly supporting the Kleenex industry (yet), that’s a really big deal for me. But what’s more substantial, in my opinion, is the realization that for so long, I believed a lie.

Crying and caring hasn’t made me weaker.

It has made me so much stronger. I’m able to invest so much more in the people and relationships around me. It has pushed me forward, and allowed me to focus on creating a solution, rather than trying to control the problem.

I hear a lot about people who don’t cry: they’re tough, they’re cool, they’re manly, they’re invincible. But the truth is that we are broken. And don’t get me wrong, that’s not necessarily a bad thing – brokenness builds beauty all the time.

But, speaking from the other side, I’ve learned so much more about my own ability to rise higher, dig deeper and pursue and dream more. There’s something empowering about the ability to cry. In a way, I like to think of it like a phoenix burning. It can hurt to feel pain, and to allow your body to process it. But, in the end, it creates something even more beautiful; something renewed.

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How to Museum 101

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During the past year, while I’ve been living in Paris, I’ve been to more museums than I can count. Whether it’s art, history, architecture or culture I absolutely love museums and I always have (thanks, mom!). Being centralized in one of the biggest European cities sets me up pretty well for feeding this addiction. It’s not very hard to wake up, decide where I’m going and hop on the metro – ending up at a museum featuring famous works from many of my favorites.

Like this morning, for instance, when I decided I would go to the Louvre on a whim. A sentence which I don’t think I would have ever dreamed I could write. Treating myself to Louvre days has been something I’ve done throughout the year. Not only is it important for my introvert artist self, but it really is necessary, since the museum is so incredibly huge.

While walking around the Louvre today I realized that I felt like more than a tourist. I “had down” the whole museum thing – I knew what I was doing, where I was going and I had everything in my bag to keep me happy for the rest of my time there. No longer was I the stumbling around scared expat I once was. It would seem, after all this time, I have FINALLY perfected my up-and-go technique. To save you all the months of confusion I went through, I thought I would share some of my tips on how to optimize your museum going experience! Sound good?! Great!

1. Check online for discounts/open hours BEFORE going: This may sound like a no brainer, but you’d be surprised how often people pay more than they actually have to when going to a museum! There are a lot of discounts available, especially in European museums, so make sure that you know what category you fall under (under 26 year olds – you’re probably FREE!) and save yourself some cash. EU residents (including expats, aupairs, students etc.) can also get in most museums free in France, just make sure you have your passport with you!
Checking museum open and close times can also save you time and stress. Museums can have odd days when they’re closed, so make sure you’re headed there on a day when they’re open (many are closed on Mondays or Tuesdays), and when you have plenty of time to see everything! Again, sounds like a no brainer – but you’d be surprised how easy it is to miss.

2. Bring water/snacks!: Museums take time, and if you’re like me, you’re likely to be there for more than an hour (or two…or three) so make sure you’re stocked up! You don’t want to have to leave and go seek out food just because you need a snack, or have to pay the absurd museum prices! Water bottles are allowed in most places, as well as little snacks (I like to bring dried fruit) which can help you maintain your blood sugar throughout your time of exploration. On the same note, going after you’ve eaten a meal (ex: lunch) rather than right before, when you’re bound to get hungry, is always a good idea.

3. Audio guides: These are one of my favorite companions when it comes to solo travel through a museum. Of course, I do like going with friends as well, but some of my favorite museum experiences have been when it’s just me and my audio guide. Not only can audio guides give you the inside scoop on art pieces, but they can also give you tour routes which get you, more easily, through the museum without missing anything. Audio guide prices generally range from free – 5 euro. Especially if you did your research and got in for free/reduced, they’re a great little added extra!

4. Camera!: Whether you’re bringing a DSLR or just your smartphone, make sure all batteries are charged BEFORE you leave for the museum. There is nothing worse than arriving at a place and having a dead battery – especially if you’re about so see things you’ll definitely want preserved with more than just the recesses of your mind. Battery up! You won’t regret making sure you did!

5. Sturdy shoes: It always amuses/humors/horrifies me to see how many woman are walking around in heels when they’re at museums. Don’t get me wrong, I’m one of the biggest fans of pumps you might ever meet, but wearing them to an extensive building where you’ll be walking from exhibit to exhibit is just not ideal. Throw on a pair of tennis shoes for your museum trip, or if you simply must wear your heels, make sure you slip some flats in your bag (just in case).

6. Bathrooms: Some museums have bathrooms – but some do not. Which means it’s up to you to make sure this is something taken care of before you pay to get in. It wiill save you the annoyance of having to go out and back in again, as well as the uncomfortableness of the situation as a whole.

7. Know your favorites: Call me a nerd, but doing a bit of research before you go into a museum can save you time, frustration and energy once you’re there. For art museums there are certain favorite artists that I generally search before going in, so I know where in the museum they are, and can enter in the right entrance. Knowing the layout can also help save your legs from having to wander around parts of the museum which may not be as important to you.

8. Bring the proper baggage: For me this generally means a smaller backpack, but packing all of your *maybe items and then toting them around in an arm bag for three hours is exhausting and makes me want to leave twice as fast. Save your arms, and balance out the weight you’re carrying, with a bag/backpack/fanny pack that can hold everything (including souvenirs!) while keeping you comfortable.

*Maybe items to bring: Chapstick, jacket/sweatshirt (if you’re wearing light clothing), notebook/sketchbook, reading book (lines can be long), more snacks

Review: Tough Burger

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Want a great place to feel like a hipster, eat great hamburgers and possibly get a tattoo afterwards? Well I’ve got just the place for you!
Tough Burger was actually a suggestion from my aupair host mom, because she noticed the hipster vibe of the places I generally like to go. She thought I would like it – and she was right!

Luckily, this swanky little joint isn’t only about good looks – the food was phenomenal as well. I ordered the fish burger and french fries and it was sublime. Again, perhaps a little pricey at 15 euro for burger, fries and drink. But that’s Paris. And also why we only go out once a week. Ha.

One of my favorite features of this bar was the stash of American candy they had. You heard me. Real American candy – in PARIS!! I was a little bit excited. There are, of course, specialty places that carry American food at the cost of an arm and a leg, but I was just so surprised to be able to buy a dark chocolate Milky Way at a burger joint. Beware though, the prices are (of course) inflated due to the candy not being French.

Overall the food was amazing, the waiters were some of the most suave I’ve ever seen, and the atmosphere was swanky, fun and perfect. A warning about this place: YOU HAVE TO RESERVE VIA TEXT MESSAGE in order to get in. You’ve been warned.

Ordered: Fish Burger, Fries, Coke

Where: 40 rue de Meudon
92100 – Boulogne-Billancourt

Went: Saturday, April 4th, 2015 around 1pm

Wifi: Unknown – I did see that they had a connection, but I’m not sure it was accessible to the public

Reservation Needed: Yes. SMS 06 21 63 44 17

5star1

Top 5 questions I get asked about Paris:

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Living in such a tourist favorite city as Paris, I get a lot of friends who are visiting here and want to know what my perspective on the city is. For the sake of time management, and so I can help out as many people as possible with my faux Parisian opinions, I thought I would put together a post with the answers to some of the questions I get asked most frequently. Ready!? Let’s go!

1. Where should I stay?

There are tons of options for where to stay during your time in Paris! My personal favorites would probably be to either find a hostel to stay in or to find a place on Airbnb because Couchsurfing requests don’t work as often in such a huge city. The hostel that I stayed in the first time I came to Paris (which I would definitely recommend) is the BVJ Champs-Elysées Monceau which is an affordable option for a city where money melts out of your pockets, if you’re not paying attention. This hostel had so many lovely memories for me. It was here that my friend and me met a couple of awesome backpackers who walked the streets of Paris with us, late at night. We had drinks at a café and talked about how different life was in each of our different countries (Brazil, Spain, USA and Romania). It was the quintessential Parisian moment and one of my favorite memories. The hostel itself is also just lovely and looks like a museum from the outside.

2. What should I see?

I think Paris does a great job with their most famous attractions, but if you want some personal suggestions I would say make sure you visit Montmartre and Sacre Coeur church. That’s my favorite area in Paris because it’s where all of the artist stores are. This is also where you can find the “famous” square where you can buy original paintings from Parisian artists! One time I got my silhouette cut out from one a man there and I absolutely love it. 🙂
Another favorite spot is the Gardens at Luxembourg, especially if it’s sunny outside. These gardens are absolutely beautiful and such a great place to sit, have a picnic, walk or sketch. But fair warning, if it’s a sunny and nice day this is a very WELL KNOWN spot for Parisians so you most certainly will not be alone.
My best suggestion is to look up things you love, such as the movie Mulan Rouge, Ernest Hemingway, Victor Hugo, or Midnight in Paris and then go from there. There are just so many amazing settings  for stories that you can visit in real life. It’s amazing!

3. Should I stay away from anywhere in Paris?

I get a lot of questions asking what the “bad” parts of Paris are. The answer, of course, is not quite so simple. There are of course “bad” metro lines ( *cough* 13) that are a bit on the sketch line, but I would say to be aware no matter where you’re traveling in Paris.  1) Keep your valuables in zipped or buttoned pockets so people can’t slip their hands in and pick pocket you. 2) If you’re in a crowded space, and have a bag or purse, hold it over your shoulder and in front of you so it’s not hanging behind being gone through without your knowledge. 3) NEVER leave your bags unaccompanied 4) Don’t walk alone late at night down dark alley ways 5) If you feel like you’re in an area that’s less than serene keep your headphones out of your ears and keep aware of the people around you. The rules are pretty much the same for any big city – don’t be scared, be prepared.

4. How do I get around?

There are actually a few ways to get around, although the main ones that we use are the RER and the metro (sometimes other trains, but not as much for Paris proper). Paris actually has a pretty understandable system when it comes to metros and each line is color coded and numbered. If you ever need help when riding the metro feel free to ask the info places at the entrances to the stops (before you put your ticket in). They’re extremely helpful and have even been known to print directions for lost travelers or first time visitors to the city.

5. Do you have any favorite spots I should know about?

Honestly, my favorite thing to do in Paris is to just walk up and down the Seine river. It’s the closest thing we have to an ocean, and I miss Puget Sound so very much. I also love that it will take you along many of the major attractions. The gardens of Paris are also just simply magnificent. If there’s one thing the French excel at it’s making things beautiful and elaborate, and their gardens are no exception – if you have the opportunity to step into one with a book to read – do it. The atmosphere is lovely and oh so French.