The First-Timers Guide to France: Paris, Provence & The South

Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail

F

rance Travel Guide for First Timers

There are a ton of travel blogs dedicated to Paris, and I’m not claiming to be anywhere near an expert on Paris, but being a New Yorker visiting Paris for the first time, the selections in this guide are designed for you to only hit the top spots and not be overwhelmed with too much information. We had an amazing time in France and can’t wait to go back, so if you’re planning your first trip and want to make it seamless, just book our same exact trip (I made it really easy for you).

On our journey we went to Paris, Provence and The South of France for a total of 8 nights.

If you’re not already following our adventures on IG, check out @Lifetailored for behind the scenes on our trips in our stories plus find out where we’re heading next, before it makes it to the blog.

W

here you should stay in Paris

We stayed in Le Marais at Les Bains Paris, which everyone was calling the Williamsburg of Paris. Suffice to say it wasn’t Williamsburg. More so I felt it was like Chelsea. A lot of galleries, great bars and cafes and home to the gay community. We were there during Pride and got to take in the parade.

If you stay in any areas around Le Marais (the 3rd aridonssment) you should be good. There were plenty of bars and restaurants in that area. The 1st is home to Goyard, the Ritz and more ritzy shops but more so an older crowd akin to maybe Upper East Side.

We stayed at Les Bains, which is the origin of the Les Bains club at The Top of the Standard in Meatpacking. Les Bain’s means the bath and got its namesake thanks to a pool in the basement home to their nightclub.

We were warned that Paris is hot in the summer, but being from Florida didn’t think much of it. What we were not told is that almost no establishments have A/C. Not the restaurant we dined in with the doors and windows closed and a wood fired oven, nor the lobby of Les Bains nor the Metro (subway).

We stayed one night in our Airbnb with no A/C and 90 degree weather and barely slept a wink, despite me taking a cold shower, sleeping buck-naked, and stripping the bed of all the blankets and sheets.

Tip: When booking an Airbnb triple check it has A/C if you’re visiting in Summer

W

here to Eat & Drink in Paris

We dined at a number of other places and instead of overwhelming you with so many places I’m listing just three to hit. Prior to our trip we had such a hard time figuring out what to select given the options that I want to make it easy for you. Beyond these picks your best bet is to wander the street for cafes that look good and just pop in for a wine and a bite, and keep moving throughout the city eating a little as you explore.

Pink Mamma is an Italian restaurant housed in a four story home with different dining rooms on every floor and a cocktail bar on the roof. The food was fantastic, the drinks were on point and the building was beautiful. This is probably one of the most trendy and great spots in the city. They don’t take reservations so plan to arrive 1-2 hours early to get a table. We were a party of 6 and got there at 9 and ate at 10:15.

Ô Chateau got 4.5 stars on Yelp and despite being a Parisian wine bar filled with Americans was actually amazing. The staff was still French, passionate and could care less about you. They had a massive selection of wine of which they offer small pours enabling me to try 10 different bottles. The cheese and meat were marvelous and they offered a wine pairing meal.

Boulangerie m’Seddi won the best baguette in Paris this year and now supplies the bread for the royal palace (equivalent of the White House) and these baguettes are the real deal. We shared one for breakfast and lunch and were extremely satisfied.

Parisians are notorious for their 2-hour lunches, and to truly feel at home in this city, try to embrace the slow pace of service, and order an extra glass or bottle of wine.

W

here to shop in Paris

Living In New York we’re spoiled. Almost every shop we saw in Paris has a location in New York. The shops we went to either had cheaper prices in Europe or were exclusive to the city.

Memo Paris Perfume in Le Bon Marche (which is basically a giant Bloomingdales) has some of the most unique perfumes and colognes. Our favorite was the French Leather which smelled of an old bookstore in Paris (leather, tobacco, oak).

Fauré Le Page was founded in 1717 and originally a firearms manufacturer turned leather goods provider, making it much older than Goyard, 1853 or Louis Vuitton , 1854. They only have stores in France and now produce their “gun” bag.

Goyard has a handful of locations around the world, including one flagship in New York, but in Paris the prices are 20-30% cheaper plus you get 10% vat back making this an ideal time to invest.

Tip: If you do buy anything in Paris, and the value is over $800, you need to declare it and pay taxes when you arrive. For our bags we paid just 3% duty saving 7% overall

Provence, France

If you want to capture amazing photos in the Lavender fields, they are literally everywhere, just hop in the car and start driving.

Tip: If you want to explore Provence, rent a car, but you can always use cabs like we did.

W

here you should stay in Provence

Provence is the central southern area of France and is famous for being the home of rose and lavender fields.

It’s a rustic area dotted with a ton of old castles, farmland and quaint gothic towns. It’s a quick 3 hour train ride from Paris and is a must stop on any trip to the South of France.

In Provence we stayed at Le Bastide de Gordes in Gordes. We took the Paris TGV train to Avignon and had a taxi drive us the hour to the hotel, you can also rent a car at the train station.

Gordes itself is a tiny town built around an old castle fortification. There are maybe 5 restaurants, the best of which being at Bastide de Gordes.

For lunch you must experience the views and white table cloth setting at l’Oragnegeri. We had surprisingly good pizza at Bastide de Pierres also in town and excellent bar food at the terrace of Bastide de Gordes.

While in Provence, the top activities are wine tours, which can be booked through the concierge or arranged on TripAdvisor, etc.

We partook in the beautiful lavender field hunt. Valensole is the best setting for any lavender field shot (where the horizon continues forever in purple), but it’s 1.5 hours from Gordes so your best bet is to continue your trip closer towards Valensole or dedicate an entire day to driving out there.

We only had 2 nights in Gordes so opted for a more local option: Sault, a mere 45 minutes away. But, 10 minutes into our drive we came across this beautiful field of lavender and decided to give it a shot. After 1 hour of shooting we decided to just abandon the Sault expedition and instead head back to the hotel to drink more amazing wine.

Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur

W

here you should stay in South of France

The South of France or Côte d’Azur or the French Riviera is France’s version of the Amalfi Coast (or vice versa). It’s where all the locals and tourists holiday in the summer.

While the Amalfi Coast has a more dramatic steep coastline, the French Riviera compensates with amazing wine and food plus actual sand beaches.

We stayed in Saint Raphael at Les Roches Rouges. We took the TGV train from Aix-En-Provence to Saint Raphael and the ride was $50 and took just 1.5 hours (it was 1 hour car ride from Bastide). We then hopped in a taxi and 15 minutes later arrived at Les Roches Rouges and had our welcome aperitif in hand.

Tip: when booking train tickets use Trainlone.eu and ignore Google Maps, they don’t have the train directions in there

Les Roches Rouges was recently remodeled two years ago and is one of the most posh resorts we’ve ever visited. From the saltwater pool with waves crashing into it, to the impeccably designed lobby and lounge, we loved every minute.

Here’s your ideal day: wake up and take in your in-room espresso on the balcony overlooking the ocean. Head down to breakfast before 10am to enjoy a gratis spread with everything from pastries to pastis. Reserve a pool chair while waiting for breakfast, then post up for lunch. Order one of the four natural rose wines they have on offer and dig into your favorite periodical or good book. Book your dinner at the gastronomic restaurant for 8pm so you can take in the sunset along with your tasting menu. Order one of their infused cocktails. I got the old fashioned infused with lavender and wei got the martini infused with absinthe. Cap off the night again at your balcony sipping on one of the pre-mixed in room cocktails. I went with The Brooklyn (of course) and plan your next vacation.

At some point your vacation will end and you’ll still be thinking about when to come back, but luckily getting home is easy. Either drive 1 hour to NCE airport or take the train. There are direct flights on Delta from NCE to JFK or connect like we did in Paris on Air France.

Tip: Make sure to book an ocean-view room to be able to wake up to this

H

ow to get to Paris

We flew back from NCE to JFK on Air France and I absolutely loved the Air France experience. From the wine to the food to the courteous service they are crushing it (which makes me wonder how they’re losing money).

I booked our business class flight using American Express Membership Rewards points. I transferred them to Flying Blue and paid just 130,500 miles, and to put this in perspective, the ticket is close to $6,000, giving you $.045 per mile. If you want to learn how to book this flight yourself, look for my new course coming out and check out our guide here.

If You Enjoyed, Please Share

Follow Us On Instagram @LifeTailored

More in Travel Guide