I wanted to say a big thank you to this forum first - many of the tips, through my numerous queries here, played I think a big role in helping me have a wonderful first Paris holiday in early March (5-10th). The weather was glorious and I confirmed that I really am in love with Paris as I had imagined myself to be with all the reading. I stayed in an apartment booked from airbnb at St Ile Louis and found it very convenient for my needs - mostly walked, but did use the metro and one day the Batobus. I was fairly selective in what I chose to see/ go… for e.g., I did not go up the Eiffel (is that a blasphemy?) and was fine to just have a look (liked it from the boat). Tough to share everything about the trip but a few random and hopefully helpful observations:
1. I think an apartment can work for the first time but of course there is a risk involved and I chose something that was well in my budget and a location I chose after much decision. A lift/ elevator is an absolute must I think unless you have nothing but a backpack :) Even then, if you have spent the day walking, you may not want to climb a flight of stairs perhaps?
2. Being close to the metro is important. There were a couple of days I simply needed to rest my feet and I was thankful for the metro. I did not find the different lines difficult to use at all once I clearly figured it out and for my 5-day trip, the 10-ticket carnet sufficed.
3. I really enjoyed the Batobus one day pass - I used it to go back and forth a couple of times the same day, including the trip from my apartment to Eiffel. I also enjoyed the boat rides because I was able to see the distinct characters of the bridges - I doubt I could have visited them all in my limited time and enjoyed watching the city from the river.
4. Montmarte's energy took me by surprise - I went there with a friend on a Sat night (10 pm) and was amazed to see the number of people there on the steps and it looks fun and had a great vibe. I went back there on Sunday afternoon to actually see the place but it was way too crowded. The shops there, touristy though they may be, were cute.
5. I absolutely loved the Musee d'Orsay - I found the Louvre overpowering even though I tried to do it in short bursts and made two trips there. And yes, as had been pointed out in this forum, on one of my posts, it was amazing to see people just head purposefully for the Mona Lisa without even looking left or right :)
6. I also enjoyed Tuileries but did not really walk down Champs Elysee - just drove past it with a friend the one evening I did not have to walk :)
7. The Marais energy is fabulous and I think for a first-time visitor, it is perhaps great to visit/ stay. However, I am not sure I would chose it for a second or third visit to stay - I liked the Boulevard St. Germaine and may want to try that next time.
8. Google Maps rock - I never got lost all through the trip. And it does not need data roaming. I used to save/ mark out the places I want to go to when I was in the apartment (in wifi zone) and the map itself worked great anyway without internet. I am a fan now for Google Maps.
9. I had researched a fair bit and had planned the itinerary but things did go off-track.. for e.g., the morning I had actually intended to go to Montmarte and early enough, I found myself feeling tired (read sore feet) and ended up not going that day, preferring to spend it wandering around Marais, sitting in some cafes and re-visiting Louvre. And I didn't have St Sulpice on my agenda but wandering around, I ended up there (was on way to Orsay from Luxembourg gardens) and really enjoyed it and stayed a bit there.
10. The Museum Pass was helpful not so much for the lines only but that it freed me from thinking when I wanted to go, where to buy tickets and so on. I did not perhaps go to enough places to justify the cost - I don't know. But I would definitely recommend having it. For instance, the day I planned to go to Orsay, I reached the museum and realised I was really tired and instead just sat by the steps and then took the boat to Notre Dame (as the apartment I stayed in was close by). However, later in the evening, after relaxing a bit, I felt ready to go and as it was Thursday, the museum was open till late and I enjoyed my visit.
11. Both Orsay and Louvre were great to visit in the evening. I went to Louvre on friday evening around 5.30 pm - took the metro and went through Carousel (thank you again, trip advisor forum for that tip) and I went through with hardly any security lines. Similarly, on a thursday evening at Orsay, while there was a line for ticket, my museum pass let me enter within a matter of hardly few minutes.
12. I had had the pharmacy shopping on my list - I did go to City Pharma and pick up some stuff but doubt am ever going back there. I reached there around noon I think and it was so packed, it was impossible to move. I have no idea if I got a better deal there - perhaps I did but really for those few euros less, it was a part I didn't enjoy at all. I was pushed and pulled, the staff tried to be helpful but there were simply too many people around to be able to browse comfortably. I just ended up buying what I had previously researched but ideally, would have preferred to look a bit, find something unexpected and unplanned and have fun. Ironically, it was nicer to do that in a smaller pharmacy closer to where I stayed - like I said, maybe it was a little more expensive but I could not figure it what with forex changes and it was not worthwhile.
13. Nothing had prepared me for how close tables are stacked at a cafe :) It was like we were all a part of the same group at times.
14. It was lovely to get a lot of different views of the Notre Dame as I walked around - and I was impressed by it when I went inside. But was somewhat disappointed by the Saint Chappelle - perhaps I expected something a little more magnificent and it took me by surprise with its small size.
15. I went with what I thought were very comfortable shoes but eventually the last day, I changed into sneakers :)
16. Went to the Bastille market on sunday morning - and it was lovely! Had a fun vibe, picked up some interesting souvenirs, enjoyed eating crepes from the stalls there.
17. I don't know about others - but with my less than limited French, I realised I often had no clue what I was eating as all the menus were so totally in french :) I either googled or simply took a chance (I clicked the menus to go back to the apartment and figure what I ate - lol)
I thoroughly loved my stay and am so looking forward to another visit :)