I was just sitting at a café next to two Americans visiting Paris and overheard their discussion. The whole time they were discussing how Paris wasn’t their city. These people didn’t like Paris. I get it, Paris isn’t for everyone, and that’s totally fine. However, as the conversation continued they kept talking and listing everything that they didn’t like about Paris. It made me sad because obviously I love Paris and travel planning, and wish everyone could have an amazing experience here.
What They Didn’t Like About Paris:
- One was gluten free
- The other didn’t like French food (“maybe we should go to Five Guys for lunch”)
- The Louvre was closed
- The crêpe was too doughy
- The black coffee wasn’t big enough
- There weren’t any milk alternatives
- The cappuccino was “weird” and “not like ours at home”
- What more was there to say about the Eiffel Tower besides “it’s the Eiffel Tower”
- They weren’t sure what to do with two more full days here
- They couldn’t find a croissant
- No one takes American Express
- No one was paying attention to them
- How hard can it be to order something?
- The fries just aren’t very good, but they’ll be better in Amsterdam.
Listening to the conversation made me sad. I was on my laptop 10 inches from them on Pinterest pinning basically everything I love about France. It made me wish I could’ve joined these two for coffee and shared everything I know about the city and French people that I love.
I contemplated intervening. I knew I could right their ship in about three seconds. But I hadn’t had enough caffeine yet to try to convert them from people who don’t like Paris into people who adore Paris and “la France.” Now that I’m properly fueled, here’s what I wish I would’ve said.
How I Would Respond To Those Travelers:
- You can be gluten-free and have great meals in Paris. There are actually a good number of gluten-free bakeries throughout the city like Helmut Newcake and Noglu. Just be sure to tell the restaurant or café before you order, they’re usually very accommodating.
- If you don’t like French food, you’re in luck because there are so many types of cuisines here. Paris is really having a moment as an international food city. Please don’t go to Five Guys 🙂
- Yes, the Louvre is closed. That’s definitely a bummer and I understand being disappointed. Hopefully it’s is a very temporary problem.
- Don’t order a crêpe at a random café anywhere and expect it to be amazing. In all honesty, I wouldn’t order anything at a random café expecting it to be amazing. I think one of the biggest mistakes travelers is just popping in a random spot because it’s cute. I always look for homemade “fait maison” food signs at cafés. Or send me a message and I’ll give you a list of great places.
- France isn’t the US – nothing is jumbo-sized, including the coffees.
- A lot of coffee shops have soy, almond, coconut, and oat milk. Two of my favorites are Arabica and Café Kitsune. A “typical” Parisian café probably won’t have milk alternatives.
- I’ve tried the cappuccino in question, and it’s a good one. There are lots of different styles of cappuccinos here, so sometimes you have to try a few to find your favorite. I think one of the best is at Poilâne – and it comes with a cookie spoon!
- The Eiffel Tower is “just” the Eiffel Tower, but it still takes my breath away. Be sure to get up close to it so you can appreciate its size. And definitely make sure to watch it twinkle at night for the first five minutes of every hour, it’s magical!
- If you can’t figure out what to do in Paris for two days, contact me here and I’ll help you plan your travel. There’s so much to do that the information can be overwhelming!
- You can find croissants pretty much everywhere in Paris, but the best come from the best boulangeries. And they’re really the best when you get them early in the morning when they’re still warm.
- Not everyone takes American Express here, but a lot of places do. There’s usually a sticker on the door that lists the types of cards accepted, or you can always call in advance and check.
- It took me a while to understand why no one seemed to be paying attention to me at a restaurant or café in Paris. When I first studied here I spent a lot of time waiting. It’s not because they don’t want to help you, it’s because they don’t want to bother you or rush you. Just waive the waiter down and they’ll usually help with whatever you need quickly.
- If you need help finding good fries in Paris, again, contact me here for help with travel planning. I know a few too many places with good fries 🙂
So, while this all seems like common sense stuff to me, I realize that it took me a while to figure out how things work. The French have a set of codes and customs that I’m still working on figuring out.
I think to really love and appreciate Paris you have to be able to take it for what it is and accept what it is not. It’s easy to have a bad experience but it’s easier to have a great experience. Of course, certain people prefer certain places and Paris doesn’t have to be everyone’s favorite. As in any situation, if you’re willing to adjust your expectations accordingly most things will work out nicely.
One of the reasons I love bespoke travel planning is because not only do I get to share my absolute favorite parts of Paris and France with people, but I also get to prep them for what to expect and give them plenty of tips for a smooth, enjoyable trip. I never want people to leave saying they don’t like Paris. In short, I love Paris and France, and my ultimate goal is to have clients leave France with a feeling that they do too!