Speaking the language
I loved the Eiffel tower (I think I spelled that wrong?)...we didn't have much time in Paris and I want to return after seeing some other places...great people, food, and sounds. I have yearned to go to Europe for a very long time...when I stepped off the bus near the Arc de Triumph I burst into tears! I was sooo happy. My boyfriend was embarrassed but I just couldn't contain myself. We had no agenda or rervation ( My mother was horrified) but it was October and we had no problem getting a wonderful not too pricey room. I found if you politetly try to speak french the people are incredible kind. We had forgotten our digital camera charger and the hotel attendant called around for us to different places so we didn't have to waste too much time.
Place de la Bastille
This bustling square was once the site of the infamous Bastille, the prison which became the symbol of the French Revolution. On July 14, 1789, the people of Paris stormed the prison in protest, freeing the few remaining prisoners and getting away with ammunition, which fueled the beginning of the Revolution.
Today, all that remains of the prison is part of the foundation, visible down in the Metro. The Colonne de Juillet stands in the center of the square, commemorating those fallen during the battles of 1830 and 1848. After strolling through the little streets of the Marais, we entered the square from Boulevard Beaumarchais. Speeding cars, horns tooting, pedestrians running. It's a jolt back to present day following the old-world feel of its neighbor to the west.
Lots of shops, cafes, and movie theaters surround the square, as well as the Opera de Paris Bastille, a very modern marble and glass auditorium opened on the bicentenary of the French Revolution, July 14, 1989.
Paris Vision: Sightseeing Made Easier
If you want either an overview of Paris and its monuments and sights, I recommend taking a city sightseeing tour. Yes, it sounds unnecessary to do this. However, you will be surprised. You'll be driven to all the most popular places and then you can decide for yourself if you would like to return later on your own.
One sightseeing tour company I recommend is Paris Vision. They use audio guides mostly. However, they are a great company to use if you wish to visit outside Paris like the Loire Valley chateaux for example. Just leave the driving and all the tour arrangements to them. Some tours do include a lunch too so that's another plus.
Watch the world go by...
Cafe's are a way of life in Paris, or really all of Europe for that matter. Parisians love to sit and have a coffee, or pastis, or whatever, and people watch, read the paper, or just talk. You could do this for hours, and no one will bother you, unlike in the states, where you will be hassled to either drink more or leave. It's a nice way of life.
Pack to Blend In with the Locals!
I carried a comfortable zipper-top tote bag on my shoulder for shopping and sightseeing. It started out fairly empty in the beginning of the day (water bottle, cameras, map), and my purchases could fit in that bag as the day went on and I didn't have to carry around lots of individual bags from the shops (which can get lost very easy). Not that I bought a lot, but it was much more convenient. I didn't have any problem with safety or pickpockets. I do not like to stand out as "The American Tourist", wherever I go. It was spring, and I brought a black wool blazer that I could layer under, a colorful scarf, a couple of pairs of trousers (no jeans), one button-down shirt, a few layerable cotton tops, socks and underwear, and comfortable black shoes. And a compact umbrella. That's it! I wore most everything more than once which was fine. Tissue for the public toilets, moleskin or band-aids for blisters from walking, aspirin in case you get a headache from too much wine, and Pepto-Bismol or antacids in case you overindulge on the great food! I kept two cameras, one loaded with color film and one loaded with black and white film. I took some exquisite b&w shots of the Venus de Milo and the Louvre pyramid, of Notre Dame, and the bustling streets. Paris is a great place for black and white photos! A journal for documenting details of your trip and also the many photos you will take!