20 Tips for Satisfying All 5 (or 8) Senses in Paris

I recently went on a trip that was my version of “Eat, Pray, Love.” Except I didn’t take a whole year off to travel to three different countries. It was one week in one city, the ever-so-magical city of Paris. In spite of the unfortunate events that have unraveled there very shortly upon my return, I believe that terrorist attacks cannot take away the magical charm the city has to offer.

I’ve been there before a few times, studying abroad there back in 2007 during my college years. On this trip, it is pretty evident that I had some good eats. I didn’t really pray (though dining in a restaurant that’s been around since the 1600’s is a bit of a spiritual experience on its own). Nor did I come home with a new beau. Though the trip did help me to appreciate who I am more than ever (so if loving yourself more counts as love, than so be it!)

<—–Click on the book or the movie to buy them

One week was enough time for me to satisfy all five of my senses – or eight (if you can count laughter, dancing and speaking French). I spent hours smelling tea samples and went on quite the tea + macarons + chocolates adventure. It sounds fun and all, but that doesn’t mean there weren’t mishaps. I will be writing this entry in hopes of it being helpful to anyone else who might want to follow my tips and advice for a trip there.

Tip #1 – Like many Europeans, the French know how to have a life. Meaning, it’s not uncommon for stores to be closed on Sundays and on holidays.

For this reason, I had to make multiple trips to Madeleine (the metro station), the neighborhood of Fauchon and Angelique Chiba (not to be mistaken with the other salon de thé Angelina), both of which were closed on New Year’s Day and on Sunday during my stay. Though Patrick Roger and the Laudurée on rue royale are also in the same neighborhood so a trip there might still not be in vain.

So here’s how I would go about it (on a day when they’re all open):

1.) Get off the metro on Madeleine.

2.) Make your way to Fauchon (immediately visible when you emerge from the metro station). They occupy 24 through 26 place de la Madeleine. It’s the Victoria’s Secret of macarons and tea, in my opinion. You see vivid pink everywhere and the tea samples are all appropriately inside perfume bottles for you to smell. I did not go for their chocolates, though they had quite the collection of that as well. I asked for recommendations and was told that the vanilla macarons were the best so I had them pack two of that amongst six others inside a gift box for my sister and got one for myself to enjoy. I give it a thumbs up. After smelling all their tea samples, I agreed with the label “best seller” placed on the tin of the Violette & Fraise des Bois, which I indeed thought smelled the best. IMG_0510 IMG_0514 3.) Walk the street between the two different store fronts of Fauchon and you will reach the street rue Vignon where you will find a quaint salon de thé called Angelique Chiba. The Chiba part wasn’t emphasized so it wasn’t until I got there and saw a book in Japanese placed on the counter that I realized that it was run by a Japanese family named Chiba. I got to meet the Chibas myself and had this wonderful photo opportunity: IMG_0564 IMG_0565

I also enjoyed their smoked salmon quiche while I was there and got to try the white powdered sugar sprinkled chocolate and marron truffle (both of which were amongst the bag of chocolates from there I got for my parents containing at least one of each kind of chocolate they had there). IMG_0562 IMG_0559 Unfortunately, when I went again on Sunday, they were closed so I didn’t get to go back and try their very own tea collection. They also get a thumbs up.

4.) You can walk back to Fauchon and keep walking past the church (L’eglise de la Madeleine) to Patrick Roger on 3 place de la Madeleine, where I was greeted by chocolate sculpted penguins at the display windows. If you want to feel like you just came out of a jewelry store, this is the place to go for full service. When you go to pay at the counter, you are given free samples to try and you are then escorted out to the front door and handed the bag of chocolates you just bought as you’re walking out the door. I got to try the citron varieties (I took two samples, one of each kind): IMG_0469 IMG_0471 As you can see, even their packaging reminds you of Tiffany’s.

5.) I would then keep walking down on rue Royale and step into the boutique store of Laudurée (they take up the addresses 16 through 18 rue Royale) and buy their macarons and tea at that location rather than their busy, loud Champs-Elysées location. However, at the Champs-Elysées location, they have their open tea canisters underneath glass cloche lids that you can lift and smell without getting into that long line because they have it off to the side of the counter where people are exiting the registers. So I suggest either dining there (as I did) and trying some teas in person or smelling the teas first to see which one you would like to buy at the rue Royale location. The aftermath? I bought a box of macarons for my parents and a canister of the Marie Antoinette (in the pastel pink canister) and Mathilde (in the light violet canister). IMG_0558

As my mother put it, even the macarons smelled like perfume!

Tip #2: When roaming around Paris on a night like New Year’s Eve, anticipate the metro stations shutting down (for security reasons).

If I had known this, I would have either stayed at a hotel closer to the areas I was informed to go to (the Champs-Elysées and the Eiffel Tour) or I would have just gone home when I had the chance instead of having to figure out a way home walking in the cold. So I was able to get to these places by metro but I was not able to get back home on it until after midnight (by the time in which I had spent a considerable amount of time walking my way home). I couldn’t bring myself to stay at these places long enough to witness the spectacle of light shows and all, but did manage to smile for the camera for these shots: IMG_0453 IMG_0452IMG_0459IMG_0468

If I were to ever do another New Year’s Eve night in Paris over again, I think the best idea would be to make reservations at a restaurant with a nice view of these lighted areas. I did manage to get a few items earlier that day at the chocolatier Hugo & Victor (on 40 boulevard Raspail): IMG_0438

I got several boxes of these chocolates that resemble marbled stones that come in boxes mimicking books (in case you didn’t get the reference to Victor Hugo). The citron tarte was not too bad either. As you can see from the photo of the display case of desserts, I had quite the selection to choose from. Below it is the photo of the chocolate Eiffel Tower. IMG_0431 IMG_0432Again, it almost feels like you’re in a jewelry store!

Tip #3: This is a personal favor I would like to ask of tourists … if you’re going to dine in a place like Laudurée, please DO NOT have your smart phone out, use good table manners and dress appropriately. I in fact did ask of the first item on the list from the two ladies that were sitting at the table next to me. If you’re going to take photos, fine (as long as you’re discrete enough by not using distracting flash and all). If you’re not sure how to ask people to stop politely, I simply said that I was not going to say anything so as to not ruin their experience but that they were ruining mine.

Tip #4: Do not say yes to water at Laudurée unless you want to pay 5.7 Euros for it. Water can be expensive in France (most people drink wine) so do not go in with the mindset that it will be served to you for free like most American restaurants.

Tip #5: Make reservations for Laudurée at http://www.lafourchette.com/restaurant/laduree-champs-elysees/457, make sure you know which location you’re making the reservation for, and go for the 39 euro course (which will give you a choice of one appetizer + main dish of your choice OR a main dish + a dessert of your choice). I decided to go with the main dish + dessert, of course!IMG_0528 IMG_0538

I did manage to take quite a few photos of bathrooms on this trip…   IMG_0541IMG_0542 And if you’re more into the bar scene, the Champs-Elysée location has one inside.  IMG_0543 IMG_0545

Tip #6: The best price for postcards I found was at the kiosk right in front of the famous Le Fouquet’s on Champs-Elysées.

You will come across it as you walk out of the Laudurée towards l’arc de Triopmphe. They were 0.40 euros each and are ideal for Japanese tourists who want to send one back to their home country because they have the box spaces to write in the postal codes. If you walk over to the next kiosk (in front of the Louis Vuitton, appropriately) it’s more expensive at 0.50 euros each, which is still considerably better than the 1.50 euros or more that you would typically pay for postcards in other places.

Tip #7: Though I didn’t climb it this time, the best view of the city is commonly said to be from the top of l’Arc de Triomphe. Oh, and if you only have as much common sense as I did back when I was 17 in Paris, do not attempt to get there by running across the roundabout of 8 lanes of cars (there is in fact an underground tunnel).  IMG_0548

Tip #8: If you’re going to be sitting at a café alone, bring post cards to write or a great novel to read.

Servers in France will not bring you your check unless you ask for it. This can be misinterpreted by a lot of Americans as slow (bad) service, but in reality, it’s their way of making sure they don’t impolitely rush you. So if anything, take your leisurely time and sit down for as long as you want and enjoy. I was reading Bemelmen’s novel at Mariage Frère, sipping away at the pot of apricot tea. Appropriately, Bemelmen is famous for the author of the Madeleine books (also made into movies) about the little French girl dressed in yellow. IMG_0496
 <—Click on the image to the left if you want to buy the book

If you go to the original Mariage Frère location like I did (on 260 rue du Faubourd Saint-Honoré), it’s located right across the street from La Maison du Chocolat (on 225 rue du Faubourd Saint-Honoré) so I would enjoy tea time, the small tea museum, tea shopping and then go chocolate shopping across the street!

NOTE: These two locations were also closed on New Year’s Day. IMG_0499 IMG_0500 The aftermath: After nearly two hours of smelling all the tea samples at Mariage Frère, I purchased three kinds of teas. My personal favorites were Rouge Opéra (not to be mistaken with thé à l’Opéra, which is a green tea) and Chandernagor (chai). And I decided to purchase the Yuzu Temple (Yuzu green tea) for my part-Japanese family.IMG_0517

Tip #9: If you want to still have “the experience” at the famous restaurants & cafés without breaking the bank order the cheapest thing on the menu.

Between the metro stations Saint Germain des-Prés and the Odéon, lies a famous street called boulevard Saint-Germain where you will find many famous cafés lined up. Getting off the Saint Germain des-Prés, I immediately came across Café les Deux Magots (on 6 place Saint-Germain des-Prés), Café de Flore (on 172 boulevard Saint-Germain), Brasserie Lipp (151 boulevard Sain-Germain). I chose to sit down in Café de Flore. When you’re alone, it seems pretty easy for them to find a seat for you and I found myself being seated before the groups that were standing in front of me. It is a pretty busy and crowded café, and I sat at a table right next to where the servers enter the doorless kitchen yelling “trois chocolats” (or however many hot chocolates they needed). Because they’re so busy, it is a bit tricky getting their attention. I ordered the split pea soup: IMG_0474

Not the best split pea soup I’ve ever had so I would probably have one of their desserts (or their hot chocolate that seemed to be in so much demand) if I were to ever go again. I would probably ask to be seated upstairs where people of the literary and publishing world are known to flock over to. Their bathrooms were located upstairs so I got a glimpse and it did seem less touristy on that floor. IMG_0477

From there, you can walk towards the Odéon metro station on boulevard Saint-Germain and make a left onto rue de l’Ancienne Comédie and land at Café Procope, the oldest restaurant in Paris. I had enjoyed wonderful cheese on this trip and asked for a recommendation between the traditional French onion soup and the three cheese sample platter. The latter was recommended, so here it is: IMG_0481 IMG_0483 IMG_0485


I was able to dine at both Café de Flore and Café Procope without making reservations but if you’re going in with a larger group perhaps it’s better to make one. Dining at a café (or a brasserie) allows for more flexibility for the time you want to be there as the French start dinner much later and restaurants do not open or start dinner until much later (a 6PM or 7PM dinner is considered too early).

Tip #10: You don’t have to pay or wait in line to see art in Paris.

I have yet to see the actual art displays inside the Louvre. In fact, the line was so long to get in the day I thought about going inside that I decided to use that time I would be waiting in line to instead enjoy the fun artsy surroundings. There is a store called Pylones amongst the shops there and it is such a fun store to browse through. After so many edible souvenirs I bought on this trip, I unexpectedly came across quite a few great finds here:

IMG_0583 IMG_0584

Since I bought so much tea on this trip, it was only appropriate that I got some new lids (I like to place a lid on top of the cup I’m drinking out of to keep the tea hot). I got myself one with an Eiffel Tower and bought another one with a green frog on top of a lily pad and another one with a pink penguin on an ice surface as souvenirs for others. IMG_0578

And while I did not purchase these cool-looking mugs that have wings in place of a handle, you can also see a glimpse of the other tea lids I purchased at the bottom of the photo below:


I did also end up purchasing two of these adorable bowls (the one with the kissing face and the blissful smiley face underneath it at the bottom right):


Again, I don’t need anymore mugs right now so I didn’t get these. But thought they were pretty hilarious:


And these erasers may make for really appropriate party favors at a New Year’s Eve or New Year’s party for those who may need something to help make them feel better about any regrets they may end up having:IMG_0577

Next, I came across the coolest bathroom right by the store. This one bends the rules a little bit as you do need 1.50 euros to go in and use a stall (which I gladly paid for this experience) and there was a short line (which allowed me time to take some of these photos). It is said to be the world’s cleanest bathroom because there is a person that goes in and cleans the whole stall after each use.

IMG_0586 IMG_0587

There was quite the color palette for toilet paper here!

IMG_0589 IMG_0613

And of course a myriad of choices for toilet paper rolls with printed designs on them:


There was this toilet seat lid that was displayed on the wall that has famous Paris monuments on it:


And finally, here is the interior of the stall I went inside. There is one wall of pink toilet paper rolls on the left side when you enter:

IMG_0606 IMG_0597

I was even more impressed when I went to go wash my hands. This Dyson faucet allows you to not only wash your hands but dry your hands by placing your hands underneath the projecting wings. No more dripping water across the counter or the floor!


Tip #11: Get lost (on purpose)

There were numerous times when I would be in a daze and realize that I missed my stop on the metro. I often exited at the wrong station anyways to check out the surroundings. When I got on the train on the way back from my Champs-Elysées/Laudurée outing I ended up at the La Tour-Maubourg metro station and went outside to stumble upon a whole neighborhood of museums (think the National Mall in Washington DC). So I stopped by the musée de l’Armée, where I didn’t pay to go inside but still got to appreciate the exterior and the courtyard:


And the magnificent entrance at the gate:


As I was walking in there, I noticed this other woman who was also fashionably sporting a peacock fascinator so I asked to be photographed with her:IMG_0552

The courtyard of the museum:


I also came across the Jardin des Tuileries by accident as well when I decided to explore outside the Concorde metro station. It’s of course free for one to roam around (I did see a few joggers there). And it seemed to be a place of relaxation for both locals and tourists alike. You have a great view of both the Eiffel Tower and the carousel in the background:


And there are plenty of sculptures in this vast garden for viewing!  IMG_0619

One of the things I LOVE about Paris is the architecture. I particularly have this fascination of photographing doors whenever I’m there and this trip was no exception:

IMG_0472 IMG_0546

And being one of the fashion capitals, I always enjoy seeing what I may find in display windows of stores there. At this particular one, I found mannequins sporting flashy false eyelashes:


While looking around the stores in the Louvre vicinity, I also saw a display of those miniature shoes and some of which had the Eiffel Tower as part of the shoe:


Tip# 12: If you want to have a big scale cinéma experience, go to Les Halles.

I got to Les Halles metro station as a result of my journey of seeking a chocolatier called Charles Chocolatier in the neighborhood (on 15 rue Montorgueil). As you exit the train, you enter a large mall of shops, including the extensive choices of cinéma and even a cinéma library. While I did go watch a movie called “Mon Amie Victoria” at a theater closer to my hotel, I did not stop by the cinémas in Les Halles. It will have to be for another trip!

In Paris, you will often come across ads for movies (for French films as well as Hollywood films and international films) in the metro stations. This one I came across quite often:


While the English title is “Horrible Bosses 2” the French translation for it is “How to Kill Your Boss 2.” Movies usually come out on Wednesdays there so there are some movie enthusiasts who go watch Hollywood films two days before the release date in the USA. Make sure you go watch “V.O” (Version Originale) if you don’t understand French.

P.S I did manage to find Charles Chocolatier:

IMG_0507 IMG_0508

Between my chocolate shopping at La Maison du Chocolat and Charles Chocolatier this is what I ended up getting:


The small box from Maison du Chocolat contains 4 chocolates for 5.80 euros and makes a perfect small souvenir (unless you end up eating it yourself like I did). While Charles Chocolatier has pre-packaged items as well, I handpicked two varieties myself to be bagged up.

Tip#13: Laugh

In addition to enjoying French cinéma, I also got to enjoy a comedy show during my trip called “How to Become Parisian in One Hour?” It was a one man show by a French man named Olivier Giraud speaking English, making fun of Parisians and tourists alike. His shows are usually on Fridays through Sundays (and on Wednesdays and Thursdays as well during the months of July and August). There was a special New Year’s Eve show added on so I went to go see that.

And I got to be part of the New Year’s Eve countdown video that was taken there:

Tip #14: Dress accordingly.

In Olivier’s show, he does talk about how to dress like a Parisian:

The website to go to is http://www.oliviergiraud.com

I certainly was glad to have packed ear mufflers and items from my gloves/coats/scarves collection. As Olivier put it, the French wear scarves when it’s cold and they wear scarves when it’s hot! It’s all about the accessories. And while you do see many tourists walking around in sneakers, my personal recommendation as a woman would be to wear round-toed pumps that are comfortable but fashionable so that you don’t look so touristy. As seen in some of the photos, the black pumps and the peacock pumps were the two principle shoes I wore on this trip:
Picture 1 Picture 3 <— Click on image of the shoe(s) you want to buy

Tip #15: If you’re there at the right time of the year (which is not during the holidays), you can enjoy a fashion show at the Galeries Lafayette (on 40 boulevard Haussmann) on Friday afternoons at 3PM.

The last show of the year was two weeks prior to my arrival so c’est la vie! If you’re going to go shopping there anyways, you are apparently eligible for a 12% tourist tax refund if you have proof that you live outside the European Union.


(photo from wikipedia.org)

Tip #16: Learn how to speak French and be charming.

While you don’t have to take six years of French in school like I did, you can easily learn how to say simple things in French as they are often similar (or the same) as some English words. For an example:

Excuse me —> Excusez-moi (or “Pardon”) {pronounced “ex kuh-zeh-muah” and “Parr dohn”}

Being able to speak at least some French and be somewhat charming can work in your favor, especially when it comes to service or getting answers to questions as information isn’t always voluntarily provided in France. I went back to the gym I used to work out at back when I studied abroad there and was given free entrance. Saying “à vos souhaits” (bless you) to a grumpy hotel staff sneezing changed her mood 180 degrees.

At the minimum, ALWAYS greet everyone with a “Bonjour Monsieur/Madame” (or “Bonsoir” if it’s evening) BEFORE you start a conversation or ask a question when you approach someone. It’s part of their etiquette. And some Americans wonder why they get the so-called “snobby” reaction when they go there.

Tip#17: Become familiar with the metro system and get a Navigo card.

On this trip I noticed that the metro system has gone through quite the improvement with the arrival of their Navigo cards (they used to be like the other paper metro tickets). Even the cards were designed by the famous designer Philippe Starck. After getting to the nearest RER station from the airport, I purchased one valid for six days (which allows unlimited usage of the metro during that time frame). You can also ask for a metro map while you’re there (again, you need to ask for it). They have it both in regular size and pocket size so I would just ask for both.

Note:  The Navigo card can be recharged for additional days at any metro station.


Names of metro stations can be misleading. The Champ de Mars Tour Eiffel/Bir-Hakeim is indeed right by the Eiffel Tower but the most panoramic view is known to be from the Trocadéro. Champs-Elysées is quite the extensive road and extends from the Concorde to the Charles de Gaulle Étoile metro stations, and just because “Champs-Elysées” is part of the name of the metro station Champs-Elysées Clemenceau, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s the best station to get off of when making a trip there. And I think some people could also easily mistaken the Charles de Gaulle Étoile metro station for the Charles de Gaulle airport if they don’t know any better.

Tip #18: Have cash.

If you’re like me, traveling solo on a moderately conservative budget, I would say $100 to 100 euros a day is a good amount to have.

I pretty much used all of my cash the night before my departure, which I figured was just about right since I wouldn’t have to worry about trying to change back euros into dollars and the only cost I had left to worry about was my last train ticket back to the airport (which I needed to get since my Navigo card expired the day before). Well, luck had it that the machine I went to go get my train ticket at denied my credit card!

Luckily, the couple standing in line right behind me appeared to be going to the airport too and were speaking to each other in English so after confirming that they too were heading to the airport and back to the USA, I asked if I could pay them back by sending them a check in the mail upon our return to the states for the train ticket that I desperately needed in order to return home. It turned out that they were on the same exact flight and I realized in time that I had US dollars in my luggage to be able to pay them back. Lesson learned here: allocate enough cash all the way up to the very last minute of the trip when you’re traveling overseas.

Tip #19: Dance.

What started off as me working out in my hotel room to make up for the gym workout I missed that morning, turned into a crazy dance that I broke into as I turned on music. Dancing crazy all alone in my hotel room brought back sheer joy of dancing, something I had missed feeling since getting burnt out from dancing several weeks earlier.

Voila! While I did not post all photos from the trip and other tips I have, my utmost tip would be:

Tip #20: Take time to take things in and enjoy your surroundings – you’re in Paris, for Pete’s sake.

Here are some photos I took when I got off the Ternes metro station (to seek Mariage Frère and La Maison du Chocolat on Faubourd Saint-Honoré) because I was in awe of how subtle but beautiful these lights looked hanging around the area:




6 thoughts on “20 Tips for Satisfying All 5 (or 8) Senses in Paris

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