6.DON’T WASTE TIME ON THE CHAMPS-ELYSEES
Though this famous street is still spectacular, especially when viewed from the Arc de Triomphe, its glamour has been tarnished by dealerships, megastores, and overpriced cafés. Though there are some notable exceptions (perfumer Guerlain’s superb historic flagship, for one), you’ll find mostly chains, and many American ones at that.If you’re dying to check out the Levis, Banana Republic, or Abercombie & Fitch superstores, go for it! If it’s a truly Parisian walk you’re after, stroll along tree-lined Boulevard Saint-Germain; the Rue des Martyrs, from the heights of Montmartre; along the Canal Saint-Martin; or Les Berges de Seine, a new route along the river, beginning in front of the Musée d’Orsay. With no car traffic to deal with, a stroll along the river offers great, up-close views of many of Paris’s best monuments and bridges.
7.DON’T STAY INSIDE THE CITY LIMITS
When booking a trip to Paris, whether it’s your first or your 15th, keep in mind that some of France’s—and the world’s—greatest treasures lie within an hour from Paris. You’ll be well rewarded by adding an extra day or two to travel a little farther afield to explore some of these riches. An easy, hour-long train ride from Paris, Chartres cathedral is an absolute must-see, especially now, as it undergoes an astonishing restoration (and to see the cathedral rising up in the distance over the flat countryside is an experience in itself). Besides splendid Giverny, also an hour train ride away, consider Vaux-le-Vicomte or Fountainebleau; the Château de Chantilly, with its world-class art collection, Le Nôtre gardens, and famous stables; and the charming medieval town of Senlis, a short taxi ride from Chantilly.
8.DON’T WAIT IN LINE AT THE EIFFEL TOWER
The Eiffel Tower isn’t one of the world’s most visited monuments for nothing. While you won’t want to miss the thrilling ride up and extraordinary views, waiting in long lines is not the ideal way to spend precious vacation time. And you don’t have to. Intrepid visitors can walk the 328 steps to the tower’s first level and take the lift from there. Many tour companies, like Easy Pass, offer “skip the line” tours (and you can stick with the tour or not). The time you’ll save skirting lines is worth a little extra cash. If money is no object, your very best bet is to book a table at Alain Ducasse’s swank Le Jules Verne restaurant on the tower’s second floor (3-course lunch, €98; dinner, €185). Along with gorgeous views, you’ll dine in splendor and arrive like a VIP on a dedicated lift.
9.DON’T BE AFRAID TO EAT LIKE A PARISIAN
From garlicky escargots to boudin noir (blood sausage) and tête de veau (calf’s brains), the list of French specialties and delicacies is long—and it needn’t involve slimy creatures or mysterious parts. Dishes like confit de canard (preserved duck leg) tender lapin (rabbit) or langouste (spiny lobster from the coast of Brittany) are well worth a try. Vegetarians should look for white asparagus, fraises des bois, and any truffle dish they can afford. You might have heard a lot about unpasturized cheeses being dangerous (and too fattening), but the French are the best argument to the contrary. With enough varieties to enjoy a different cheese every day of the year—from cow (vache), goat (chèvre), or sheep (brebis) milk—ask the fromager to give some advice and grab a baguette!
10.DON’T BE AFRAID TO GO OFF THE BEATEN PATH
Paris’s parks—both large and small—afford memorable experiences, fabulous views, and outdoor cultural activities galore. The city proper’s largest green space, La Villette is more than just a park. Home to Cité de la Musique, Cité des Enfants, and the new Paris Philharmonie, it also borders on the fabulous arts center Centquatre and has tons of summer activities for the whole family. The Bois de Vincennes—and the next door Chateau de Vincennes, France’s best preserved medieval chateau—includes the fabulous Parc Floral (see their outdoor concert series), the newly opened zoo, and so much more. Check out the glorious views from lovely Parc de Belleville (20th), and the Buttes Chaumont (19th) is a perennial favorite. As weird as sounds, Paris’s cemeteries are wonderful for a historic stroll: Père Lachaise is tops, followed by Montparnasse and Montmartre.
TO BE CONTINUED