Once was enough for Kiwi actor Michelle Langstone to fall in love. Paris, the City of Light, where the Eiffel Tower sparkles and the Seine flows and close to 18 million tourists walk its streets every year. Once, Langstone was one of them and, in the third episode of our new podcast Trip Notes, she explains why it stole a piece of her heart.
"There's just nowhere else like Paris," she says. "Where you can stand in a room and look at things that are hundreds and hundreds of years old, while outside on the street there's just the bustle of everything that is brand new and modern.
"There's that great dichotomy of old and new that exists, all the time, wherever you are in the city. It's so alive and beautiful."
You can listen free to the next episode of Trip Notes from Tuesday June 25 — download it at iHeart Radio, Apple, Spotify, Stitcher ... wherever you usually get your podcasts. Subscribe, and the episode will automatically download as soon as it's released at 5am — ready for you to listen on your way to work, while you dream about your next holiday. You can also go to nzherald.co.nz/tripnotes to watch video from the podcast.
In the meantime, here are some tips for visiting Paris, invaluable for your next visit.
1. Use public transport
"The Metro is the greatest metro I've ever been on, anywhere," Langstone says. "I could just sit on those trains all day and just go round marvelling at how well they work."
Your first time on Paris' Metro system might feel a little overwhelming, but it really is the best way to get around. The network is extensive, and the city government is constantly looking at ways to improve it, with new stations being added as the city grows.
"Taxis are expensive, Uber is controversial, so I'd recommend bringing a pair of comfy shoes to get around to explore on foot or by public transport," says Steph Millington, Intrepid Travel Europe's regional product manager. "To help navigate your way around, the RATP — Next Stop Paris app is amazing. It's got a public transport route planner, maps, popular attraction info and it works offline."
2. Parlez francais
It's true of any overseas holiday destination, but speaking a little of the language in Paris will go a long way. "Making a genuine effort will go down well with the locals," says Millington.
I found knowing three phrases really helped: "Bonjour, comment-allez vous?" (Hello, how are you?); "Parlez vous anglais?" (do you speak English?); and "Desole, je ne parle pas francais" (Sorry, I don't speak French).
As one of the world's major tourist cities, you'll find many people do speak a little English, but it's respectful to make an effort, says Langstone.
"Language is so important, it's how we connect to each other. And if you make an effort in Paris ... even if it's terrible, that unites you as well, because then you just both laugh at how useless you are."
3. The Louvre is not essential
If you have time to visit the Louvre, one of the world's most famous museums, then by all means, take a look. But be prepared for long queues, crowded exhibit halls, and an overwhelming amount of things to see.
"I have to be honest, I was really challenged by the Louvre," Langstone admits. "It was so crowded. It was the classic — every photo I took was just a photo of other people's hands taking photos. You couldn't really get close to the art."
If that doesn't sound like a lot of fun, know that Paris is home to more than 130 museums and countless art galleries, so you can still enjoy culture and history without fighting your way to the front of the Mona Lisa.
"The Louvre is great but there are so many other museums to explore," says Millington. "Some of my faves are the Musee d'Orsay (Impressionism — great setting. Definitely advance purchase your skip-the-line tickets), Centre Pompidou (modern art and one of the best views of Paris from the top floor) and the Musee Rodin (for the sculpture garden on a sunny day). Also, there are lots of quirkier museums in the city too: Musee de la Magie (magic), Musee des arts Forains (fairground arts), Musee d'Histoire de la Medecine (history of medicine) and of course, the Musee du Vin (wine)."
4. The best things in Paris are free
As such a high-demand tourist destination — and with an unfavourable exchange rate — getting to, and staying in, Paris can be expensive for Kiwis. But there are many things in the city that will cost you little, or nothing at all.
"One of the nicest things is going down the road and getting fresh baked bread and cheese and sitting in a park," says Langstone. "Like Cite Universitaire, which was established in 1925. It has huge, beautiful grounds. It's just amazing to sit there and have a picnic."
And another great thing for those on a budget in Paris — the tipping culture is very straightforward. "Service charges are normally itemised and almost always included on your bill," says Millington, "so there's no expectation to tip on top of this."
To hear more about Paris, as well as Michelle Langstone's other favourite travel memories, listen to Trip Notes. Episode three is available from June 25. See Langstone in Westside, Mondays at 8.35pm on Three.
For more travel inspiration, go to intrepidtravel.com