Our clients Marie & David Wade recount what it’s really like to spend time in Paris, based in an authentic Paris apartment

Marie & David Wade are clients of A La Carte Paris. After their 4-week stay with us this year, they sent us a very kind thank you message which particularly piqued my interest:

“Thanks for making our stay so enjoyable.  If Alex ever wants to hear about spending a week in Paris from the perspective of an American couple who love Paris, we would love to share”

I thought it would a great idea to hand over our blog and newsletter to a guest writer, and Marie & David agreed.

So today, I will now shut up and let Marie & David do the talking instead. 🙂

“Paris is a city that should be sipped and savored like fine wine, not guzzled like beer. Take your time to enjoy all the flavors and nuances of the city. Don’t just see the sights, but truly experience the rich culture, the neighborhoods, the people and their customs.
Having said that, it is really difficult to experience Paris if you are staying in an impersonal hotel room.

Our first trip to Paris was for only 4 days. Being typical tourists, we stayed in a hotel and tried to see all of Paris in 4 days. We literally ran from one iconic sight to another, snapping photographs and moving on. I fell completely in love with a city that I had seen but not really experienced. I needed to go back to Paris and live like a temporary resident. I wanted to be a Parisian, and not just a tourist.

A year later I convinced my husband that we needed to return to Paris for at least 2 weeks. I had seen enough of Paris to know I wanted to stay near the Eiffel Tower, and I began to explore the Internet for an apartment that would be suitable. I stumbled upon the A La Carte Paris website, and was intrigued with the Left Bank Eiffel apartment. The size, location, amenities and décor seemed great, and at a reasonable price! Since the apartment had high-speed WiFi and free international calls, we decided we could bring our laptop and work, enabling us to extend our stay from 2 weeks to a full month. I was wise enough to book the apartment months in advance to secure that length of stay. The apartment was everything I had hoped: warm and welcoming, cozy, but with enough space to be comfortable, even with the table set up as our desk. Our fantasy became a reality.

DansAppart

We felt like residents – getting to know our neighbors and the local merchants on a much more personal level. The 7th warmly welcomed us and made us feel at home. So close to Rue Cler, Rue St. Dominque, Invalides, the Trocadero, the Batobus stop, Firmin le Barbier (our pick as the best restaurant in Paris, see photo below) and of course the Eiffel Tower and Champ de Mars park.

Dinner at Firmin le Barbieropt

Unless you have unlimited time to see everything, a good travel guide book can help you narrow your sightseeing options. It is more important to really experience a few sights in Paris than to race by too many. More importantly, a good travel guide book will include helpful information on the French culture and language. What Americans see as Parisians being rude is often that their cultural expectations are different than ours. Behave in a foreign country the way you would want foreigners to behave when they are in yours. A little research on what is culturally appropriate can make the difference between living out a fantasy and having a big disappointment.
Learn a few basic French phrases and greet Parisians in their own language. Even an awkward attempt at saying hello and goodbye in French will be appreciated.

Jardin duLluxembourgopt

Shopping at the flower marketoptThe things some Americans find annoying about Paris are the very things we fell in love with. Americans are sometimes frantic, multi-tasking and businesslike – always in a rush with too much to do. My perception of Parisians is that they prefer to live in the moment and enjoy life and their city. There are cultural differences. Shopkeepers in Paris are accustomed to being warmly greeted by incoming customers. They see it as a sign of courtesy and respect. Americans tend to view shopkeepers less personally. It’s cultural. When in Paris we respected their culture and tried not to impose our own. It was always rewarded with a smile and good service.

 

Americans expect prompt and accommodating service from wait staff in restaurants. We want attention and expect the check as soon as the last bite is gone. It’s cultural. Parisians often linger over meals with quiet conversation. They consider wait staff who come around frequently to be intrusive, and a quickly produced bill appears to be an unwelcome invitation to leave. We loved taking the time to really savor an excellent French meal without frequent interruptions by the wait staff. And a polite request for the bill was all that was needed. French restaurants are almost always quiet and low key. One of the things I noticed when I got home was how noisy and energetic our casual dining restaurants are. We Americans love that. It’s cultural. But, when in Paris eateries, you might want to use your “inner” voice.

I had been told that the French people like their personal space, and are less likely to engage in conversation with strangers. I was surprised at how often Parisians initiated conversations with us when they heard us speaking English. They were open, friendly and curious. One of our most enjoyable memories was lunch at an outdoor café, engaged in conversation with the couple at the next table, using their limited English and my limited French. When we were leaving, they rose and kissed us both on both cheeks (faire la bise). We felt such acceptance!

But one of our best memories was spending several hours photographing and videoing the Eiffel Tower with the full moon beside it from the Trocadero. It was late at night and a really cold night late in May, and we were freezing by the time we were done. We stopped at the Bistro Tour Eiffel (on the corner near our apartment, where we had been having breakfast many mornings) and I asked for hot chocolate. The waiter knew us by then, and joked with us that it was too late for hot chocolate, but he might be able to make us some hot chocolate with brandy. It was the best hot chocolate I’ve ever had, and so special to be treated like a friend. It was just the experience I had hoped for, to become part of the neighborhood. I’m already beginning to brush up on my very poor French so I can at least converse at least a little with the locals.

CoupleoptIt was the most enjoyable trip we’ve ever taken, and we’ve already booked the same Left Bank Eiffel apartment for our next extended stay, to continue where we left off. “

Marie & David Wade

 

I hope you enjoyed Marie & David’s account as much as I did and I would like to very warmly thank Marie & David for having taken the time to write us such a rich, thoughtful and moving account of their 4 weeks in Paris. I really couldn’t have better described the deep appeal and joy of taking the time to really enjoy an authentic slice of life in Paris.

What does Marie & David’s account inspire in you? Do you identify with them? Or perhaps you see things differently?

Either way, I would love to read your comments and counterpoints, so please do share using the comment function below. Thank you!

40 Comments Add yours

  1. Yvonne Hudacek says:

    I am so envious of Marie and David’s sojourn, wishing I was there too. My partner and I spent time on the Left Bank, but insufficient time to visit the university…perhaps next time around. This couple certainly gave a wonderful account of their travels.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Great, great, great!!!!

  3. Merrilyn Gee Kee says:

    I could not agree more with David and Marie’s comments. The French people are beautiful, warm and friendly if we tourists could slow down and fall into their rhythm of life. It’s much healthier and more respectful of their fellow man. Brett and I are travelling for a year from Sydney, Australia and we bless ourselves every day that we can slowly slowly get to know our host country, and have the pleasure of forming friendships along the way. We were hesitant in going to Turkey last month but met some of the most friendly generous and kind people in the world regardless do the language barrier. We move on to France for the month of June, including at least a week in Paris at one of the beautiful apartments of A La Carte Paris and can’t wait. If it’s anything like my year on France 2008 it’s going to be brilliant. The luxury of time to dawdle through a little village, smell dinner bubbling on mamas cooker and immerse ourselves in life itself is pure heaven. Less is always more….Happy travels to all:)

  4. Anonymous says:

    Thrice I’ve had the pleasure of staying a week (or more) in a Paris apartment. I totally agree with the Wade’s assessment! To live like a Parisian is the ultimate way to stay. I cannot wait for my next adventure!

  5. LouLou says:

    I am a Paris tragic, and have had many many visits to this exceptional city. I have experienced both apartment and hotel stays. The advice in David and Marie’s article is invaluable and I am so pleased that they “get it” and have shared with everyone else. I echo their sentiments and reiterate – it’s all about respect for the culture you are visiting, not demanding everything be the same as at home. Adapt. Engage. Fall in love with Paris, as I did years ago. It’s a wonderful affair!

  6. A city like Paris has many stories to tell. I love reading how other travellers experience the city. We stayed in an apartment in the Marais and fell in love with that area. My experiences are detailed at my blog (DG Hudson), and many of my accounts parallel the great points David and Marie relate. Staying in the apartments that A La Carte has available is the first right step, then reading all the material about your area that A La Carte provides is so much help.
    Alex, you and your crew are tops, IMO.
    Thanks David and Marie for sharing your story! We totally understand.

  7. Diana Langston says:

    thank you for sharing the words from Marie and David, my/our sentiments exactly. We do try to respect other cultures and to understand their way when in their territory. Beautifully written expression of a response to an incredible city, we , as they, feel so fortunate that we can experience Paris in such a special way, staying in an apartment through a la Carte Paris. We anticipate our stay this coming September and hope to enjoy the spirit, the warmth, the extraordinary visual presence and the magic. Again, with appreciation for sharing! Diana

  8. judidunn says:

    I was fortunate to haved lived in the 7th, one block from the Tolur Effiel and loved every moment of my 3 years there! I never met one person who was not friendly, helpful and lovely to me or my family. I am a devoted Francophile and return to la France every 3 years. Marie and David ‘s impressions were ‘parfait’ and I hope they will get back to Paris many times. it is the most beautiful city in the world! Judi Dunn, Tallahassee, Fl.

  9. Toula Antonopoulou says:

    Me and family has spent many times in Paris and north France. I am Greek but when my plane lands in Paris I became fully and totally Parissien. This is being going on since I was 18 and yes I dont speak France!!!! Some of the best people in my life are France ! The best cheese wine and bread I found it only in France! One of the best apartments in Paris I found it with Alex and on the left bank last August and can not thank him enough. My only advise ? Just be polite to people everywhere and it will take you to each and every road you dreamed about it !

    Toula Antonopoulou
    Athens Greece

  10. Sue Nayden says:

    What wonderful and perfect comments. We had a wonderful stay for 10 days in a lovely apartment last June and we are planning on doing the same next summer. To stay in an apartment and live like a ‘local’ is the only way to experience this beautiful city. We kept saying how kind and nice everyone was to us and I know it was due to us taking a little time to learn basic french, use our ‘inner’ voice (which was hard for some of us!) at times and slow down, look around and enjoy the moment. Thank you David and Marie for writing it down so perfectly!

  11. Norma Caro says:

    I greatly enjoyed the accounts of Marie and David. My plans are to do exactly what they did next year. I spent 14 days in a hotel on my last visit and, although I have no complaints, I would rather have the experience of being a “temporary resident” by renting an apartment for a couple of weeks. Looking forward to it. Thank you for the letter.

  12. Ellen A. says:

    “The best of America drifts to Paris. The American in Paris is the best American. It is more fun for an intelligent person to live in an intelligent country. France has the only two things toward which we drift as we grow older—intelligence and good manners.”
    — F. Scott Fitzgerald (1896-1940)

  13. Gaston le Flaneur says:

    First, a quick agreement with all that Marie and David. Their points cover all the bases. My wife, Diana and I just returned last Friday (May 23) from Paris, having spent two weeks in A la Carte Paris’ “Orsay Studio”, just behind the Musee D’orsay. Not far from Rue de Bac, we found all we needed at hand to have a true “live-not-just-stay” in Paris experience. My advice (and intention for my next trip) is to not stint on the flat; while studios are fine for us (at 5’8″ I’m not quite NBA material) I agree with Alex Wagner: spoil yourself a bit and ensure you have room to make you feel a bit spoiled. If I were to add anything to what Marie and David said, it would be to refer to one of Alex’s comments: don’t assume rudeness; as much as a cliché as it sounds, there really IS a cultural difference despite the commonality of being part of the human family. Example: I am both an English and Spanish speaker and my French–such as it is–has a distinct Spanish accent. When my Eric Kayser counterperson kept responding in English, I thought it rude–he was insulting my French. After he asked me how many languages I spoke, I realized that he was looking to “show off” his English. After a few visits (one gets addicted to the baguette monge!) and that realization, a real amiability was established. And I won’t get into a waiter confusing my request for “Lillet” with “le lait”–about which we all had a good laugh. Bottom line: As Josephine Baker said (actually, sang), we all have two countries: “America et Paris”. Americans have been part of the Parisian scene since Ben Franklin and T. Jefferson, through the Lost Generation and, now, us. I personally have found the city both life affirming and life changing. The city assaults one with beauty and grace, which allow one to both understand and take in stride the mis-steps and few bad moments. They, too, become part of the Paris experience, and help educate one.

    1. Suzie Jones says:

      (tongue in cheek) Are you sure it isn’t your nom, M. le Flaneur, that makes you so welcome? Loved your comments, and can’t wait to return to that incredible city.

      1. Gaston le Flaneur says:

        Merci. Has more panache than mon vrai nomme, “Richard”.

    2. Adrienne Bliss Brown says:

      Gaston le Flaneur! What a sense of humor. Interesting that Janet Flanner(real name) reported for The New Yorker magazine from Paris for many, many years.

  14. David Lehman says:

    We totally agree with Marie and David`s comments about totally enjoying Paris in one of your apartments. We stayed in Eiffel Elegance in April and had a wonderful experience. The apartment was everything that we had wished for and we have told many friends that this is the only way to truly enjoy all that Paris has to offer. The neighborhood environment with the close restaurants,groceries and bakeries within walking distance made us feel right at home. My two block walk each morning to purchase warm baguettes was a daily highlight. So thanks to your staff for making this one of our most memorable vacations ever!!! Dave & Peggy Lehman, Florida.

  15. Kathy Colvin says:

    As an American who has been studying French language and culture, and visiting Paris (and the rest of France) for over thirty years, I find Marie and David’s insights accurate. The rare times I’ve had bad experiences in Paris were when I was in areas heavily frequented by tourists where there are bad people who prey on tourists. That happens in any city with lots of tourists; it’s not unique to Paris. My one bad experience in a shop in Paris was a day when I was sick and tired and forgot to behave in a culturally appropriate way. It was MY own fault the owner wasn’t pleasant. I had behaved in a way that came across as rude to her.

  16. Cate Dellar says:

    We have just returned from our first visit to Paris. We stayed for 7 nights ( which we thought would be enough) and can’t wait to go back. We only scratched the surface of thus wonderful city. We stayed in an apartment and immersed ourself in the local community. We found the French people friendly and helpful. We were overjoyed when we entered our favourite establishment for coffee and the barista greeted us personally and knew what we were going to order. Made us felt accepted and like a local. The sites of Paris are amazing, but less is definitely more. Less sites, more time to appreciate them. A good excuse to go back for a longer stay next time is that we still have so much more to see and experience. Paris was a highlight of our trip to Europe and so much more than expected. Lived it, loved it.!!!&

  17. Frank Citroni says:

    Could not agree more with Marie e David. My wife Colleen e I also stayed in an authentic Paris apartment in the 7th off Rue St Dominique in 2012. We have wonderful memories of exploring the districts along the river and many nights lingering at the romantic lights of Tour Eiffel. Our apartment enjoyed a window view of the Eiffel Tower. Thanks to the tips and advice you provided before our trip we blended in to the culture and feel of the city. Once i was even asked for directions by a French speaking local. I thought this was the ultimate compliment. We will be returning th Paris to stay in the 7th again no doubt.

  18. Sandra and Bill Harvey says:

    Sandra and Bill Harvey,
    We are preparing for our third visit to Paris. We agree completely with your observations about Parisians and there culture. We have stayed in hotels in the 6th and 15th (much favoring the 6th) over the last two years. We are looking forward to trying the next step with rental of a flat in the 6th or 7th. Your story has inspired us to follow your lead and become adopted Parisians. Many thanks for sharing your story with us.

  19. Nelida R. Matos says:

    Oh How I wish more Americans would realize what Marie and David expressed. They are so right. I have visited Paris twice, both time in hotels, but my third time will be renting an apartment.
    I took the time to learn some French and read about the culture. I was treated with warmth and
    respect and had a wonderful time. On several occasions when I exhausted my French vernacular the parisians were more than happy to speak English and help me out. They were
    very complimentary regarding my pronunciation of French. Yes, it is all Cultural and you usually get what you give. Thank you, Marie and David and everyone for sharing.

    I will be visiting Paris again in a few weeks renting an apartment from a Friend, but the next time I will be renting from Paris Ala Carte.

  20. Sally Danvers says:

    What a great account of an extended stay in beautiful Paris! We have been fortunate to visit twice (well lucky hubby 3 times as he was also there for his work many years ago!) Our first stay was in a hotel, (a quaint older style 3 story only) but it looked directly at La Tour Eiffel with Sacre-Coeur on the right, but the other time was in an apartment in the Marais for a week. Next time – it will be for an extended time as like many other folks, we LUV the city, the history, the ambiance, the food, the wine & the people 🙂

  21. Sari Jacobsen says:

    I couldn’t agree more with this story. I too spent time in Paris on Ilse St Louis. I brushed up on my French prior to leaving home and found the Parisiens were considerate and polite at all times. I am often left defending the French over this perception of rudeness (by English/ Australian/ American) and remi d most people that we often have so little respect for travellers in our own country. Only once in my 3 week travels through Europe did I meet with rudeness and that was from a fellow Australian (she WAS travelling with teenagers so needs to be forgiven). I return soon to Paris and will stay on the Ile again tbrough A La Carte. I hope to return often to this grande place that has welcomed me so easily.

  22. Nelda Martin says:

    The French are NOT rude – unless you travel as what I call an “Ugly American” who expects to live as an American in another country! Courteously follow the golden rule. You will find your soul living in Paris – as I have done since my first trip nearly 15 years ago, having sorely missed only one or two years during that time. Wish I were there right now!

    1. CuJo YYC says:

      “The French are NOT rude – unless you travel as what I call an “Ugly American” who expects to live as an American in another country!”

      Bingo. I’ve been there three times over 39 years (far too few trips) and, other than one minor incident of poor communication on each trip that could have occurred anywhere on the planet, in any city of any size, I’ve found Parisians to be friendly and inviting. Say bonjour rather than barking HELLO and it makes all the difference in the world.

  23. Jacqueline Warnock says:

    Wonderful review thank you. One of the things I enjoyed the most was that it was written by people who were not fluent in the French language, as fluency gives a different experience. I think a month in Paris would allow us a taste of life as a local. Sadly my French language skills have deteriorated but I always try my best with a French greeting and we try to speak some French wherever possible, although their English is far now superior to our French. A couple of years ago we took our older teenage boys with us for my first trip back to Paris (just 4 nights) and some other parts of France in 30years and we all had a wonderful time. Everyone was so friendly and helpful and that old concept of rude French people was never experienced. Can’t wait for our next visit and a longer stay.

  24. katiaP says:

    I was in Paris last year and stayed in a hotel. I enjoyed it immensely. People were very friendly. I agree with the bloggers about living like Parisians. After reading their story, I’m thinking of apt for next time.

  25. Chris Owen says:

    The first few sentences mimicked our experience. But we only got back for 2 weeks not 4. That was last October. Now I’m conducting a campaign to persuade my husband we need to try 3 months in France maybe with Paris easily accessible by train. He’ll never agree to the cost of 3 months in Paris!!

    I loved the advice given regarding the cultural differences between the French and Americans. They were things we do as well. And we noticed that commonly American tourists in Paris don’t do these things and got very different service to what we got in restaurants etc.

    An excellent and wise article from a couple as besotted as we are with Paris!

    1. Ellen A. says:

      Excellent idea to stay in one of the surrounding departements and take the train to Paris. You can experience the beauty of the countryside that way. Keep in mind that it is possible to live frugally in Paris too, if you are staying in an apartment, shopping for your own food and cooking. There are so many things to do in Paris that are low cost or free, that if you only go out to eat occasionally, you can really stretch your budget.

  26. Taupo NZ says:

    Parisians are great- I have visited Paris 9 times and always counsel those going there to avoid standing out as a tourist..no bum bags etc. (so important). Yes, always greet shopkeepers, keep smiling, there are lots of people in this beautiful city so you may get shoved a bit depending where you are. Look at the people in the street and dress smartly as they do..I am always asked for directions when walking about Paris so conclude I look right! A smatter of the language is a godsend..have a try! Am visiting Europe again soon, thought I might give Paris a miss this time but I am weak …know I will go. Lois Taylor

  27. Gaston le Flaneur says:

    In addition to my previously posted concurrence with Dave and Marie, I’d like to advise all reading that an easy way to avoid the long lines at the Louvre and special events (e.g. the Paris 1900 exhibit at the Petit Palais) is to plan those visits rather than “just showing up”, purchasing tickets in advance at FNAC–a music/specialty store with branches throughout Paris (We used the one on the Champs Elysees between the George V and FDR metro stops. Seems FNAC has tickets to even relatively obscure but fabulous events in small churches and that bit of advance planning will literally save you hours during the course of your trip.

  28. Appreciate it intended for talk about………. I am hoping with potential will probably be actually of great help for you……

  29. Susan Carter says:

    Loved reading this and could really connect with their experience. We’ve been to Paris 7 times since 1968 & the first 6 trips were fairly short, ranging from 2 days to 1 week, & we stayed in several boutique hotels, which we loved but felt we were missing the real experience. therefore, on our last trip we stayed for 3 weeks & rented an apartment on the Ile de la Cite. It was a great experience to feel more like a local & to be able to savor Paris at a slower pace. Plan to do the same on my next trip.

  30. Monique Forsyth says:

    Thank you very much to Marie and David for sharing their experience with us. My husband and I have also spent time in Paris. Our favorite was when we spent almost a month in an apartment in the 5ieme arrondissement. We thoroughly enjoyed being a part of the community of “Rue Mouffetard” Not only taking in the sights but living them as well. Marie said it quite well when she said “It was more important to really experience a few sights in Paris than to race by too many.” We will return again one day soon and with laptop in hand we too may be able to stay for longer than a month, so that we may once again feel like Parisiens.

  31. Ed Cobleigh says:

    I have been lucky enough to have visited Paris over 50 times in the last 40 years and I can’t emphasize enough the accuracy of this blog. I could bore you for hours with tales of how the French people go out of their way to be friendly and helpful if only you take the effort to follow their cultural norms. I have never had a bad experience in La Belle France. I can add two additional tips. 1. Don ‘t grin or even smile when meeting a French person for the first time. Be serious. Smiles are for family, friends, and pets, the “tu” versus ” vous” thing. 2. I usually take along a case of good California wine, Zinfandel is particularly welcome, to hand a bottle out to the concierge, gardien, driver, tour guide, night man, et al. I score big time giving a bottle to various sommeliers.
    The French seem fascinated by California style wine although they are sometimes loathe to admit it. I usually stay on L’Ile Saint-Louis, but next trip, I’ll rent an apt.

    1. Ellen A. says:

      I love that tip about bringing Zinfandel for tips and thank-you gifts, Ed. Will see if that is feasible on my next trip. If you normally stay in a hotel on Ile St. Louis, I think you would enjoy the additional space, flexibility and privacy that even a studio apartment would provide. It is such fun to shop in the street markets and prepare light meals “at home.”

  32. Toni Bergonzi says:

    I have read with interest the the remarks about rudeness in France. I am a tour manager and have visited Paris over 70 times with groups and never get weary of going. I always tell my groups to say Bonjour to anyone they are going to speak to,in hops restaurants or even asking directions and aurevoir at the end on conversations,and I have never had a complaint about rudeness from any of my clients
    Paris is a magic city with so much to offer and with a good map so interesting to just walk around.

  33. Thank you, Marie and David, for taking the time to share your experiences with us. My husband and I are each part French (his mother was born in Normandy), so for us, Paris is like a second home — and one we truly love. I remember the first time we went, in 1991, and dined in a cozy restaurant. I ordered my favorite Steak Tartare, and the waiter, knowing we were Americans, asked if I knew it was rare beef. “Mais oui” I replied in my limited French. “J’taime Steak Tartare et Pommes Frittes.” We all had a good laugh at that. But it’s not the food that keeps Rick and I coming back again and again. It’s the wonderful ambiance, the joy of watching people casually walk by as we sip wine on a sidewalk cafe, or smiling with people who, after a few days, recognize us, or unknowingly copying the mannerisms so totally French as we begin to shrug our shoulders and make dismissive sounds with our lips like those around us. Best of all, we always relax and enjoy life in Paris. Our next trip will be in April 2016, when we celebrate our 35th anniversary in the most beautiful city in the world. We eagerly look forward to staying in our A La Carte apartment, truly a “home” away from home. And the food, the sights, the walks and, most of all, the people.

  34. Sue says:

    Loved the article from Marie & David. I have visited Paris several times staying in a hotel. We are going back in the spring & so looking forward to the apartment experience. I want to feel part of the culture & the neighborhood we are visiting. Thank you Ala Carte for offering the apartments.

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