French Restaurant Etiquette

While you’ll find certain similarities in dining out in France to dining out in the US, beware that there are some important differences. It’s important to familiarize yourself with local etiquette and customs in areas such as dining before your trip, so as not to encounter an embarrassing situation or confusion. Here are some quick tips to help:

1. Restaurant Hours

Restaurant hours are a little different in France. Whereas many lunch and dinner restaurants in the US are open from 11am until 10pm or so, and we even have 24/7 diners, it is not so in France. Breakfast typically consists of a small meal of meat, cheese, and bread at home or a pastry at a local cafe, brunch is served from 11am to 3pm, and lunch is served from 12pm to 2pm with restaurants usually closing afterwards and not reopening for dinner until 7:30 or 8pm.

2. Coffee

Coffee is not ever served with dessert in France, it is always served at the end of the meal.

3. Ordering

You’ll find that it’s common for waiters not to take your entire order all at once. Often they will go around and take orders for appetizers, then go around again for entree orders. Drink orders are not taken until after all meal orders are placed.

4. Drinks

Don’t be surprised if your drink is only filled half way. It’s considered poor taste to fill a glass all the way. Also, drinks are not re-filled until the glass is completely empty. Topping a drink off is not a typical practice as it is in American restaurants.

5. Tipping

Tipping is not required in France, but it is appreciated. If the service was good, a tip of 1 Euro or up to 5% of the meal price can be left.

6. Special Menu Change Requests

In US restaurants it is common practice to customize your meal, asking for this or that to be left off or this or that to be added to your food. It’s not the same in France. In France it is considered an insult to ask a chef to alter the way he has or is preparing your meal. You eat things the way they are prepared.

7. Left Overs

Asking for a doggy bag will get weird looks. Taking home leftovers is considered taboo. It’s not that you can’t do it, just be prepared to get questionable stares.

8. Hands on the Table

It’s bad manners to have your hands out of sight. Keeping your hands within sight at all times, or on the table, is important etiquette in French restaurants.

9. Paying Your Ticket

In France, a quick table turnover is not a priority, so waiters will not be trying to rush you out the door, and they definitely won’t just bring your ticket over to your table without you asking first. Simply ask, and you shall receive.

Myths About Paris

Myth #1: Parisians are rude, snobby, and unfriendly.

Of course you’ll have rude or unfriendly encounters in Paris, as you would any other city! Parisians are generally very hospitable and kind, however they are not typically as casual as you are used to – but don’t mistake that for being snobby or rude! You get what you give, Paris included. Greet Parisians in a polite and friendly manner and you’ll see the favor returned.

Myth #2: Paris is overly expensive.

Paris is a city that has many delights to offer, both expensive and inexpensive. You can get by very cheaply in Paris, but also have a great time, by eating from street vendors, staying in smaller hotels or hostels, and limiting your shopping. The rumors of the city being expensive as a whole come from the bountiful exquisite things Paris has to offer, like high fashion, gourmet restaurants, expensive excursions. But, that’s only part of what the city has to offer!

Myth #3: Parisians are always dressed to the nines in high fashion.

Yes, you are going to encounter some high fashion in Paris, as you would in New York, Los Angeles, and most other big cities. However, as a whole Paris is a very casually dressed city: jeans, sweaters, t-shirts, etc. The only thing you probably won’t notice is Parisians wearing exercise apparel around town, like the yoga pants worn every where here.

 

Myth #4: Paris is not a safe city. 

Honestly, the biggest problem one may encounter in Paris is pick pocketing. However, guns, gangs, robberies, etc. are not as common in Europe as they are in the US and other countries – it is very, very rare to encounter any acts of violence.

Myth #5: Parisian food is weird.

Of course a good bit of it will be completely different than what you’ve experienced or are used to at home, but in what country is that not true? Paris can be the culinary experience of a lifetime if you give it a chance. In fact, many professional chefs that cook at 5 star restaurants in the US went first to Paris to gain formal training and dine on Parisian cuisine.

Duck a l'Orange Recipe

Paris in Springtime

Ahhh Springtime in Paris has finally arrived! The birds a singing, skies are blue, the flowers are blooming, and everyone has relaxed from the dreariness of winter. Paris is one of those cities that is beautiful, but even more remarkable while in full bloom during springtime. The pictures prove it.

Off the Beaten Path: Sète

Sète is a commune located in southern France, on the Mediterranean coast. It’s also called the Venice of Languedoc and the singular island. With its very unique and strong culture, traditions, delicious cuisine, and strong dialect, you’ll think you’ve stepped out of France and into an entirely different country.

Numerous actors, poets, artists, and musicians have been born here, such as Jean Vilar and Gregory Del Piero, but that’s not the only unique thing about this gorgeous seaside city. It’s also home to the sport of water jousting, where you’ll find a major tournament held each year. The sport is quite popular with residents and tourists alike. Take a look at this picture:

There’s 108 restaurants strewn throughout the city, many of them featuring unique food to the city in particular. Much of the food is based on fresh catches straight from the sea, especially mussels. Be sure to catch some sausage and garlic stuffed mussels while in town.

If you happen to be in the town in August, you’ll get to experience a unique yearly festival that is held on August 25th. The festival celebrates the consecration of the Saint-Louis church by Louis IX, who was a patron saint of the port. During the festival you’ll see water jousting, hear music, and see fireworks. It’s a great way to celebrate this unique city.

When it’s time to hit the hay, you can choose from one of 16 highly rated hotels that don’t typically rise over $100 per night. Most of the hotels are relatively close, if not right on, the beach and near the city’s shops and restaurants. You can see some hotel reviews here.

Enjoying the Outdoors in Paris

It’s almost springtime in Paris – the birds are singing, love is (of course) in the air, the outdoor markets are bustling, and the sidewalk bistros are home to day-long people watchers/newspaper readers/coffee sippers. If you’re lucky enough to be visiting this enchanted city during the spring time, there’s plenty of things to do in the fresh French air. Here’s some of our favorites:

Le Vergers de Champlain

Of course you can always stop by one of the local markets to pick up some fresh produce, but why do that when you can pick your own? The Vergers de Champlain is only 23 km south of Paris, and is always rotating about 40 different fruits and vegetables between seasons. Come here and pick your own fresh apples, tomatoes, lettuce, potatoes, cucumbers and much more!

Parc des Buttes-Chaumont

Sometimes parks are just parks, but this isn’t one of those times. The Parc des Buttes-Chaumont is often missed, but this 19th arrondissement park shouldn’t be missed. It’s on the site of a former gypsum and limestone quarry, full of winding paths, waterfalls, temples, and cliffs, and is a little piece of heaven right in the middle of the busy city. Perfect place for a midday stroll.

Cimetiere du Pere-Lachaise

Talk a walk with the dead in the Cimetiere du Pere-Lachaise celebrity cemetery. You can even view the famous (and unfortunately graffitid) grave of the late Jim Morrison. Despite the grave subject, it’s truly a beautiful cemetery.

Place des Vosges

La place des Vosges, dans le IVe arrondissement de Paris.

Here lies the city’s first planned square, built in 1612 by Louis XII, it’s symmetrically laid out, including carriageways. Its style is also a bit different than what you are used to seeing in Paris, red brick and stone and steeply pitched slate roofs.

La Coulee verte

A long time ago, steam engines used to blow through here, but no more as of 1969. Now the area is full of glass shops, translucent apartments, tree lined cycling paths, and beautiful gardens. You can even catch some fantastic artwork decorating the outside of the police station, cirque 1930’s. Pack a picnic to eat in the Jardin de Reuilly and take a stroll through this unique part of Paris.

Some Things to Keep in Mind When Planning Your Parisian Vacation

Planning a vacation takes research and a little bit of knowledge of the area you’ll be staying in in order to fully enjoy your vacation. Here’s some things to keep in mind on Paris while planning your vacation.

metro pic

Seasons

Spring: March thru May in Paris is the prettiest and most yearned for temperature wise. However, travel prices go sky high, and you’ll find that you’ll pay an arm and a leg for a hotel.

Summer: June thru August is when locals often leave the city. You’ll see a lot of festivals and outdoor events during this time, but you’ll also see an overall hike in pricing.

Fall: During the September thru November months prices are lower than usual for travel and everything in the city. The only drawback is the lessening of activities and the dark and cold evenings.

Winter: December thru February in Paris is a magical time, with lights and ice skating. However, it’s very rainy and very cold.

Hotel Budget

*Consider who you’ll be traveling with on your Paris vacation. Hostels, for instance, are probably not the best idea for small children or seniors.*

*Consider what landmarks and events you’ll be attending when you make your hotel selection, so that you choose a location with easy access to your points of interest.*

Hostels: This is the cheapest option by far, much cheaper than hotels or apartments. However, you will be sharing your living space with other travelers. It’s not a very private option, but on the up side you meet new fellow travelers while staying there.

Hotels: More expensive than hostels, but you have your own private room and enjoy the luxuries and amenities a hotel has to offer.

Apartments: Apartments are priced by the week or month, while they are pricier, in the long run they make sense if you are planning an extended stay.

Sights

Paris has many, many, many things to see and do – too much to conquer in one trip. It’s important that you plan out what landmarks and museums you plan to see in order to make the most of your trip, and plan financially for these treks. Some things to consider:

  • What landmarks and attractions do you want to see? 
  • What is your budget for attractions and landmarks?
  • Do you want to attend these attractions or landmarks more than once during your stay? If so, are passes available?

Eating

For some travelers, eating well in Paris is a must. Fortunately, you don’t always have to spend a lot to eat well here. Here’s some things to keep in mind on your food budget:

  • If you’re on a smaller dining budget, stick to street vendors and patisseries. For gourmet dining, lunch menus are always cheaper, as well as sticking to ordering off the preset menu instead of a la carte.
  • Read reviews on restaurants before you travel. It’s good to know where good places are to dine, and have an idea of what you’re interested in.

Getting Around

Paris is a friendly city when it comes to transportation. Decide what forms of transport you plan on using, and to where, and how often. You can often purchase metro, bus, and train passes to lessen the expenses a bit in this area. Taxis are also widely available.

Loire Valley Bike & Barge

loire valley bike and barge

If you’re looking to get out of Paris and see some of the sights surrounding it – Loire Valley Bike and Barge is the perfect solution! You get to cycle through the Loire countryside during the day, exploring small towns and villages along the way, seeing the canal landscape, and enjoying various wines of the region. And at night, you’ll slumber peacefully on the barge the company provides. Prices start around $1,390 per person, but it’s packed full of fun and amenities along the way – all included in that price:

  • 7 continental breakfasts included, 6 lunches, and 7 3 course dinners
  • 7 nights accommodation on the barge
  • Bicycle with gears and pannier
  • visit to castle and winery
  • Transfer into and out of Paris
  • Experienced guide leading the way

The itinerary is planned to the tea to ensure you have a great experience:

Day 1

Depart from Paris and arrive early evening in Cours-les-Narres. Get settled into barge, have dinner, socialize with other travelers.

Day 2

Leave Cours-les-Barres and sail on the Barge across the Allier River. Then, commence trip on bicyckes onwards to the historic village of Apremont. You’ll see a 12th century castle and beautiful gardens. Then continue on to the 14th century village of Nevers. Then return to the barge in Cours-les-Barres.

Day 3

Begin the day by sailing to the village of Beffes and then cycling through the countryside. You’ll head to the Roman town of La Charite-sur-loire and see its Notre Dame church. Then continue cycling through the Loire valley and see where it produces its white wines – and sample some. Return to the barge in the evening.

Day 4

Cycle to the Sancerre vineyards, renowned for its white wines. Then depart and cycle across the Sancerre vineyards and through some wine villages. Stay the night in Beaulieu-sur-Loire.

Day 5

Cycle past the historic locks of Chatillon-sur-Loire and the aqueduct across the river Loire, then visit St.Brisson that is home to one of the region’s best castles. One the way back to the barge you’ll travel through the Foret de St.Brisson. Spend the evening on the barge travelling to your next destination – Briare.

Day 6

Explore Briare, where the canal was constructed and where local pottery is made. You’ll also visit the chateau, town hall, church, and museum. Then head to the castle Pont Chevron that sits on a beautiful lake, and bike through the nearby lake-filled region. Spend the night in the Rogny-les-Sept-Ecluses village.

Day 7

Ride out in the morning to the Chatillon=Coligny and see its 12th century chateau and explore the local market. Continue to the La Bussiere abbey that dates back to 1103 and visit the 17th century castle La Bussiere and see its fish art aquariums. Spend your final night on the barge before heading home.

If you want more information, or to schedule your bike tour, visit: http://www.biketoursdirect.com/France/loire-valley-bike-boat

Fete de la Musique

Fete de la Musique

Fete de la Musique, or Paris Street Music Festival, is a vibrant and colorful street music festival that takes place in Paris every 21st of June. If you happen to be in Paris in June, you don’t want to miss this. Musicians gather in the streetsm in bars, and in cafe’s and provide free performances from music ranging from electronica, to rock, to jazz, to hip-hop. The festival is unique in that it is open to any musician, both amateur and professional, that wish to perform in it. This way, it appeases a larger audience than other concerts and gives onlookers the opportunity to discover a wide array of musical talent.

The festival all began in 1981 when director Maurice Fleuret began to study the cultural habits of the French and he discovered that out of five million people, 1 out of every 2 persons played a musical interest. He then began dreaming of a way to bring these people together and out onto the streets. And so Fete de la Musique was born on June 21st, 1982, which is also the day of Summer Solstice ( Pagan tradition of feasting). The event was a success! And, with the support of SACEM, the media, the territorial municipalities, and an ever increasing interest from the population, the festival became one of the biggest and well loved events in Paris. The event is also widely supported by Opera Houses, regional orchestras, chamber music ensembles, conservatories, music schools, and many professional music organizations such as Scènes de Musiques Actuelles (SMAC) and the Cafés Musique or the Antennes du Printemps de Bourges. Major amateur federations are also widely involved by having members throughout France participate. Volunteers are also greatly depended on to ensure the livliness and spontanaiety are continued throughout the festival.

In order to best enjoy the street concerts, your first step would be to visit the website here where you can download the program and view the musical line ups and performance times. It’s important to remember to often check the program, however, as times can change throughout the event, but the website does a good job of keeping the current schedule available. Other attendees prefer to just walk the streets of Paris and see what they stumble upon. This is a good approach if you don’t have any listening preferences and just want to see what you can discover throughout the festival.

Remember that standard travel on buses, by car, or by train are rather difficult during the event as all forms of transportation or incredibly packed. For this time, it’s best to keep a hotel nearby and walk every where.

Eating Cheap in Paris

Paris Sandwiches

 

Traveling abroad is no easy financial feat for most of us, but there are always ways to save – especially when it comes to dining in Paris. With hundreds and hundreds of small bistros offering gourmet food at lower prices than the fine restaurants in Paris, it’s easy to budget in this area. But, there are ways to dine and save at the gourmet restaurants as well.

 

When out and about enjoying the sights and sounds of Paris, stick to out of the way places when it comes to grabbing a bite to eat. The non-touristy places are going to offer great food for a lot less than the places right next to land marks such as the Eiffel Tower or the Champs Elysees. Also, keep an eye out for food stalls that are scattered throughout the city – these are usually cheap and very accessible. Patisseries are also a great way to dine, with coffee and sandwiches typically being made available for purchase.

If trendier restaurants are more your cup of tea, there are certainly ways to save in this area. Firstly, stick to the prix-fixe menu instead of ordering A la Carte. You can often times get a great three course meal for under fifteen dollars. Also, remember that it’s always cheaper to dine during lunch hours than dinner hours where you can often see the prices markedly higher.

Just remember these key things, and you’ll be dining like a king on less than a king’s budget in no time:

  • Dine at non-touristy places
  • Keep an eye out for street vendors
  • Minimize fine dining to only during lunch hours
  • Take full advantage of your hotels (typically) on-the-house breakfast. It usually consists of croissants, fruit, cheese, and juice.
  • Don’t order A la Carte. Instead stick to the prix-fixe menu most fine restaurants will provide.

 

 

January: Our Top Five Restaurants in Paris

Le Comptoir Du Relais
L'Avant ComptoirAddress:  9, Carrefour de l’Odéon

You definitely need to call ahead, way ahead, for a reservation at Le Comptoir du Relais, but it’s so very worth it. They have a very creative menu with spins on traditional French food offered by Chef Yves Camdeborde. If you came to Paris for the food, you probably already have your reservations for this delectable restaurant, but if you just want to try something unique and authentic – make your reservations for this restaurant quickly! We highly recommend the fois gras and haricot vert salad, the brandade, and the charcuterie and beef cheek.

Bistrot Paul Bert

Bistrot Paul Bert

 

Address: 18, rue Paul Bert, 11e, Paris, 75011

The chef at this quaint and classic French cuisine restaurant came from a Michelin star restaurant called La Regalade. You can choose from a wide menu that changes very often, so if you are able to go multiple times – definitely do! However, if you can only dine once, choose from the three course menu.

Le Chateaubriand

Le Chateaubriand

Address: 129 Avenue Parmentier, 75011

In 2010 this bistro made the list of world’s best restaurant, and not without reason. You can order La Carte, but we highly recommend trying one of the chef’s daily creations off the fixed six course menu. Make sure to call ahead for reservations and dine in this friendly and warm Parisian restaurant.

L’as Du Falafel

L'as Du Falafel

Address: 34 rue des Rosiers

If you’re looking for the best falafel in Paris, nay in the world – definitely check this place out. It’s closed Friday and Saturday, but any other day you can drift up to the window and order or go inside and eat (just 2 eu more than eating outside). We highly recommend trying the falafel with everything: HUmmus, 2 types of cabbage, tzatziki, eggplant, spicy sauce, and falafel of course.

Berthillon

Berthillon

Address: 31 Rue St Louis en l’ile

If your looking for something sweet after all that good Parisian food, don’t miss the Berthillon – Paris’s best ice cream! Located near the Notre Dame, stop in and choose from over 60 flavors. You can’t go wrong!