French Homework: 10 Things to Do in Preparation for a First Visit to Paris

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The time has come — it’s your first trip to Paris, and you’re in for an absolute treat. You’re also in for the ultimate heartbreak this magical little city will lay upon you forever when you have to catch your return flight.

To best enjoy the love and magic and history of this city (and to minimize the ups and downs), there are a few steps you can take in order to prepare for your trip as a proper tourist (the good kind!).

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1. Read “A Moveable Feast” by Ernest Hemingway

Besides being a classic marvel of a book, “A Moveable Feast” is somehow still pertinent to the life on an expat in Paris. It also points to a few addresses which are still open to this day, including the bookshop Shakespeare & Company, which Hemingway refers to as Sylvia Beach’s bookshop. (Buy on Amazon here.)

2. Listen to French music — the old and the new

Paris without music isn’t Paris. Listen your way through the city! Try Françoise Hardy and Serge Gainsbourg, and here are nostalgic classics, recent hits, and the best of the new golden girl, Angèle.

3. Watch “Midnight in Paris” 

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Midnight in Paris (2011)

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Perhaps it is a bit cliché but this Woody Allen film does a wonderful job of mapping out Paris’ Latin Quarter. It also gives us a good look at the golden age of Paris when the Fitzgeralds hung out with the Hemingways, the artists, and all the cool kids of the era. (Stream here on Hulu and here on Amazon Prime.)

4. Prepare to dress your best

Stripes, blacks and nudes always work; the less flashy the better. These are the keywords and ideas for a non-Parisian trying to blend in.

5. Read the news 

Despite being one of the most wonderful places on the planet, Paris has plenty of political issues as well. Read the news a weeks before going to see if there might be a Gilets Jaunes strike in the works and learn what the French President Emmanuel Macron and Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo have been up do.

6. Learn about Paul Cézanne, Claude Monet, and Henri Matisse (to start)

Paris is a Mecca for art, and while it is the best place to learn about different art forms and their luminaries, it helps know a bit of history in advance. Start with a piece on My Modern Met about some of the most important figures and their work. Though you should visit all the great famous museums of Paris (The Louvre, the Musée d’Orsay), also stop by the smaller ones, like Musée Bourdelle. (And read up on nine more important lesser-known painters here.)

7. Listen to podcasts

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Meanwhile in Paris…

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Paris is full of anglophone expats and they make wonderful podcasts (and books too). Try The New Paris, by journalist and writer Lindsay Tramuta, and The Earful Tower, by Oliver Gee. These will prepare you to talk about things that are new and changing in the City of Light. (And try these eight podcasts to improve your French.)

8. Watch a few Youtube videos 

More on the case of the expats, they also feature wonderful Youtube videos with Andrea Heckler really nailing the American-in-Paris scene. Learn more about weird grocery store foods, and things not to do from the madame herself. Watch Rosie of Not Even French to learn about what to know about Paris before visiting and how to adapt to customs there. (Here are six more channels Francophiles should be watching.)

9. Worship David Lebovitz

The person you truly must know in Paris is the ultimate foodie, David Lebovitz. His Instagram, website, and books make him basically your best friend guiding you through the culinary bests of the city. Plus, the aficionado shares his own recipes too, which you will surely want to jot down.

10. Buy a silk scarf 

Instead of wearing a tourist beret, bring a scarf with you (both men and women can do this). In fact, you won’t look like a tourist and you will be smartly dressed as weather changes quite often. It’s a little French hack for Parisian life and life in general.

Featured image: Stock Photos from AnastasiaNess / Shutterstock