What she thought
Where do I start. Paris and I have an emotional relationship wrought with love and hate, adoration and disgust, breathtaking moments and moments that make me want to hold my breath. I'd like to start by saying everyone should go to Paris. The history, architecture, museums, shopping, bread and macarons all make it a great place to visit. Few things are as magical as the Eiffel Tower all light up and twinkling against the night sky. I would also like to take another moment to defend the French. We've been to France twice and have not had any of the experiences that we were warned we would have. The French have a different way than Americans. In America when we pass a stranger on the street we usually smile and say "hi" or "how are ya?" even if we really don't care how they are. In France, when you pass someone and do this and they look at you funny. They aren't being rude; they are just wondering if they know you. It's just a different culture, don't take it personally. The biggest issue I've observed, and observing is my favorite past time, is I see a lot of Americans oversees making no effort to even learn a few words of a foreign language. And, I don't need to get comments here about how the French would be speaking German if it weren't for Americans because then I would be saying you should learn a few words of German before you go to France. It goes along way if you could greet someone from another country in their language, apologize for not being able to speak more of it, ask if they speak English (most do) and then thank them wholeheartedly for taking time to learn YOUR language so you can communicate with them. So often I've seen Americans just start speaking English like everyone else should speak it too, and though most do, it's not the official language of their country. I usually think to myself "these are probably the same Americans that have bumper stickers that say 'welcome to America, now speak English'". Don't be that person. Be gracious travelers. Be humble when you should be and thankful when you should be and you'll do fine. We've had friendly waiters help us with our French, we've had people asking us tons of questions because they were intrigued with where we live, and have met plenty of other friendly and helpful Parisians along the way. Yet, I just can't seem to fall completely and madly in love with Paris like so many other people I know. My biggest issue is how dirty it is. For example, I had an empty coffee cup in my hand on the Champs-Élysées and wanted to throw it away. No trash can anywhere!! So, I walked into the store with it. Immediately a security guard came up to me waving his hand and saying no. I tell him it's empty but I can't find a trash can. He says ok, here, and takes it from me and sits it on the sidewalk in front of the store. Huh? The phone booths had trash stuck everywhere because there was no trash can to put anything in. Meanwhile, Jason is outside of the store dealing with some questionable person who is yelling at him because he won't give her his coffee cup, which still has coffee in it! I know this should be a small thing but I can't shake the dirty, smelly feeling. I think someone should warn you about all of this before you go so you are mentally prepared, so that's what I'm doing. Consider it a public service announcement!
So, to sum it up, be prepared for some trash and some smelly places, be nice and courteous in your travels and enjoy Paris. You'll be happy you went.
What he thought
I couldn't agree more with Tega. There is magic in Paris but it is often diminished by something offensive. The Eiffel tower is beautiful beyond words but the urchins who constantly push their trinkets on you while you try to enjoy it make it difficult at times. The architecture of buildings in Paris show design details you won't see anywhere else in the world but the trash that Parisians leave laying about...
You find delights unexpectedly throughout Paris. Exploring it on foot and by Metro is very enjoyable. Even during busy times of the day, the traffic is not overwhelming (on foot). Driving around the city should be avoided if possible. The service we received at our hotel and in the restaurants where we ate was impeccable. The food was of the highest quality. The beer, as it was Belgian usually, was brilliant.
It's one place that everyone must go to experience. The language is certainly more elegant than German (or English). You aren't likely to find the romantic music (i.e. La Vie en Rose) playing on every street-corner, more accurately - on any street-corner. You are likely to find incredibly old buildings with beautiful facades, pastry shops that are unequalled anywhere in the world, a museum that is unparalleled and that's about it.
Unless you are incredibly wealthy, you aren't going to do much shopping in Paris. There was certainly no shortage of merchandise and it was highly fashionable and quality stuff but it cost two or three times as much as you would pay back home in the states. Of course you want a few things that you can say you purchased in Paris, and you should, but you should get away from the tourist shopping areas and find individually owned shops off the beaten path. They have more unique merchandise though not as many name brands.
The view from the Eiffel tower after dark is my favorite part. There's no view like it anywhere else and it's hard not to fall in love with the city when you're watching it from the top of the tower. The chill will make you want to grab your girl and pull her close so you can enjoy the view together and all the stars align for making your most magical moments in this wondrous place.