Don't be a tourist!
Until I was 20 years old I mostly traveled with my family. So they decided where to go, what to do etc.. My first trip alone was with my boyfriend, now husband, Burak. We were studying in Germany at that time and wanted to have a day trip. Of course as a fresh couple we opted for Paris. I've been to Paris a couple of times before but followed my parents around most of the time so I didn't really have an idea of where is what. The other time I've went was on a school trip to Paris but that trip mainly consisted of following the red umbrella of our class teacher. So I have been to Paris but I didn't know much about the city. Neither did my boyfriend.
So here's the story of my first trip alone, which in hindsight was a total disaster, and what lessons I took from it :)
We rented a car and started our trip. After a 4 hour drive we arrived in the city outskirts. It took us 1 hour to find a decent car park which wasn't even close to the city centre but we wanted to get rid of the car because the traffic was terrible and our time was limited. So we payed 40 Euros for a couple of hours of parking and jumped on the metro to go to the centre for lunch. Lesson 1: Bad idea to come to Paris by car.
Now that we were freed from our car we needed to find a place to eat. By the way this was the year 2008 so Iphone & Co weren't that common. So we were on our own without Google Maps or Yelp. I remembered that the Champs Elysee was the main street of Paris so I suggested to go there. We sat at one of the cafes on the Champs Elysee where a grumpy waiter greeted us. We paid 15 Euros each for a terrible baguette which was rock hard. For the rest of the day we walked with an acing jar. Lesson 2: Avoid restaurants in touristy areas. The best food is where there's no English menu.
So after our 'romantic lunch' it started pouring like crazy but what would a Paris trip be without a visit to the Eiffel tower, right? Also we thought, actually just me :), walking in the rain is kinda romantic. So we tried to find our way to the Eiffel tower. We took our mandatory kissing selfie in front of it and considered our trip to Paris as successful and completed. Now we could return home. Lesson 3: Don't limit yourself on touristic landmarks, explore the unknown parts of the city.
Of course I was very happy at that time, I mean I was in Paris with my love, what else can a girl wish for? But in the upcoming years many trips followed and I promised myself that the next time I will be more prepared. I realised that I don't care much about landmarks, or guided tours or recommendations from Lonely Planet & Co.
Before my trips I started researching the city I was going to. I asked friends who have been there previously and was looking for recommendations on the internet from people I thought have a similar taste like me (not Tripadvisor). My trips where getting more and more enjoyable each time and I also discovered that each time I returned to a place I've already been to it was always more fun than the trip before.
So why I'm telling you all this? I'm not going to say something like 'Don't be a tourist, travel like a local' cause actually you are not a local. But don't limit yourself with touristic activities because this is not the real city that you will experience. Try food you've never heard of, get lost in the streets, buy something different instead of a magnet and most important stay away from guided tours. Explore the city on your own or with a real local that lives there. And the most important thing, take some time and do a little research before you go. It will definitely pay off. Also please don't think, I've been to Paris for 1-2 days, I've seen it and can check it off my list. Go again and again, get to really know the city, be part of it. You will explore something new each time you go, it won't be boring at all!
Happy tourists :) After a 'romantic' walk in the rain we finally could take our selfie.