Eleven Things Every American Girl in Paris Needs to Know

COURTESY STEPHEN DOYLE

While studying abroad in the City of Light, Maud Doyle, a junior at Brown University, passed along what she learned outside the classroom.

1. Always do the bisous with everyone you meet and everyone you’ve met: one kiss on each cheek, even if there are 20 people at the table.

2. If you’re in Paris in search of romance, walk through the Tuileries to the Musée de l’Orangerie. If you’re in Paris in search of luxury, bike to the Place de la Madeleine to load up on truffles and macarons. Ladurée (laduree.fr) remains the ultimate in French taste, both on the tongue and on the eye.

3. Rent a bicycle from a Vélib’ station to get a visceral sense of the city. Biking is often faster than the métro, always less crowded, always more fabulous.

4. Take scarf-tying classes before your departure: In Paris the accessory has been elevated to an art form. For an excellent selection of alligator goods, visit A L’Elégance d’Autrefois (33-1/48-87-78-84), the jewel-box vintage clothing and accessories store in the Marais, just east of the Place des Vosges.

5. Never take off your motorcycle helmet until the last possible moment. Not when you’re shopping for flowers, not even when you’re doing the bisous.

6. Shop secondhand. Paris’s consignment stores sell lightly worn and unworn clothing for boutique prices—only it’s all Hermès, Chanel, and Lacroix. For vintage finds dating as far back as the fifties, I love the Marché aux Puces (marchesauxpuces.fr), the flea market in the peripheral neighborhoods of Vanves and Clignancourt. I found an haute-couture dress in Vanves for $110.

7. Paris waiters have X-ray vision. They look through you, around you, all up and down, but never at you. It’s an incredible talent; however, it means you should leave an extra 30 minutes to get the check. (They also have a sixth sense for when someone has left a tip—they come out of the walls. Veritable X-Men.)

8. To get in touch with the city, go to a café by yourself and take a seat outside. Enjoy Colette’s Chéri or Paris to the Moon, by Adam Gopnik. Sip your coffee, look around, and do nothing. Small wonder Ben Franklin was so keen to leave his schedules and inventions behind for Versailles.

9. All café chairs face the street rather than one another. A peculiar arrangement to be sure, but one with a purpose: audience seating. Observe the French in their natural habitat at trendy, low-key Le Progrès (33-1/42-72-01-44) for a café on Saturday morning or a verre de vin in the evening.

10. Parisians are blatant about giving you the once-over. Don’t be shocked or offended; just return the stare.

11. A Parisian friend, when asked if she was cold, laughed. “Here, we simply dress,” she said. Practicality seems to have no place in this city. As in: Always wear heels.