1. Police - Since the attacks last November in Paris and with the Euros in town, security was high wherever we went - especially for the heavy traffic areas around monuments and soccer stadiums. The Euro fan zone was set up next to the Eiffel Tower and you better believe there were extra layers of protection. To get into the stadium for the match we had to go through two layers of bag checks, detectors, and a pat down. Something that you might not see in the US is that the police carried machine guns. To Americans, this looks concerning at first, but people didn't seem bothered by it because it's the norm. On our last day in Paris, there was a National Labor Strike happening and police were everywhere. It was interesting to see the protests, but it made it a little difficult to get where we were going.
2. Public Transportation - Ride the Metro. Like the Subway in NY, everyone uses it and we were able to figure out where we were going pretty easily even if we couldn't pronounce any of the stops. Pro Tip (Thanks Abby!) - buy the metro tickets in increments of 10 because it's cheaper and you'll use them, but don't store them in your wallet next to your credit cards or they'll deactivate! Sometimes you need the ticket to also get out of the metro station so don't throw it out until you're outside.
3. Views - I'm a sucker for scenic view and we saw many during our trip - the best view of the Eiffel Tower from Trocadero (where it sparkles on the hour), landscapes in Southern France, and my favorite from the highest point in Paris in Montmatre just outside of Sacre-Coeur. We had to hike up all the steps to get there, but it was worth it!
On that note, wear good shoes. We walked at least 10 miles a day (Gygers, correct me if I'm wrong) and if your feet hurt, it makes it a little less fun.
4. Museums - Musee d'Orsay was my favorite! It was a train station once upon a time, but now hosts many of my favorite artists like Vincent van Gogh, Edgar Degas, Monet, and so on.
5. Wifi - If you opted not to pay for the international phone plan, I'll give you a little tip. There is free wifi at the little garden next to Shakespeare and Company (across the street from Notre Dame)! You can go buy a book (in English!), a latte, and go chill in the garden and text your mom.
6. UBER and Airbnb - These are international companies so that means you can book a fun home away from home and easily transport yourself to the train station with your uber app. The nice part is, even if you speak no french and your driver knows little english, it doesn't matter because you typed in the address and they know where to take you.
7. Boat Tours - We took the boat tour on our last night. It was a nice little "Au Revoir, Paris!" I'm a nerd and love hearing about history and fun facts so I was a fan of the boat tour, but I would say it may also be a fun first night activity. You would learn some information and get to know your way around the city a little bit before diving in yourself. We went right before sunset so it was a beautiful time of night.
8. Last, but not least, I'll leave you with a few French phrases that came in handy:
Bonjour - hello (good morning/day)
Bonsoir - good evening
Parlez-vous anglais? - Do you speak English?
Desole - sorry
s'il vous plait - please
excusez-moi - excuse me
Je ne sais pas - I don't know.
Je ne parle pas francais - I don't speak french
un croissant au chocolat et un cafe - a chocolate croissant and a coffee
deuz boules de noisette - 2 scoops of hazelnut (gelato is yummy)
If you took another foreign language in high school or college, you can probably guess what something means, especially if it's written out. I say, if you're in another country, try to speak their language, but if you get stuck, they may know english and are willing to help you out if you've at least tried to speak to them in their own language first.