A May 2005 trip
to Paris by misconduct7
Quote: Not only was this our first time in Paris, but also our first time in Europe! It’s impossible to see it all, but I think we did a good job. I’ll tell you all the things that we learned that we didn't find in the countless guidebooks we consulted.
If you love architecture and art, Paris is the city for you. It is just a shame that there will always be scaffolding or improvements being made to at least one site all the time. Don’t worry, though; there is always something else to see. To me, it is just so breathtaking to see buildings built more than 400 years ago that are so magnificent. Being from California, we aren’t used to such huge, historic, and grand buildings. Even just roaming through the markets was a bit of a culture shock for us. We are so used to huge supermarkets; it was amazing to see so many small specialized shops with such fresh food!
Our only disappointment came from the food. We love food, and Paris is supposed to be a legend. We were worried that maybe we just didn’t like French food until we went to Lyon and Nice, where we had some of the best food of our young lives. Maybe we just had bad luck, but at best, our meals were okay. However, the sweets are to-die-for.
All in all, Paris is a must-see. If you have the opportunity, do it! That said, I’d also highly recommend Lyon and Nice for two completely different looks into French culture.
Watch out for poop! The French love their dogs, but do not love to clean up after them.
Learn French if you plan to venture out of the normal tourist areas.
We thought it would be nice to have our breakfast in the Jardin des Tuileries, but we were attacked by hungry birds that were swooping on us.
Jeans and tennis shoes are okay. Yes, the locals wear them. The only difference is that they are neat and put together when they wear them.
Bring an alarm clock and hair dryer if you want them, since many hotels don’t provide them.
If you want to eat outside at a café, just seat yourself. If you go inside to look for someone, they will assume you want to eat inside and will seat you indoors.
Watch out for Jamaicans with string! Don’t let them tie it around your wrist unless you want a string bracelet for €20. I was suckered but at least talked them down to €5, but I saw plenty of people forking over the full amount.
Paris has an awesome public transportation system. If you get there at the beginning of the week (Monday or Tuesday) and will be there for a week or more and plan to use the subway, look into getting the "Carte Orange" for €14.50. It is a pass that gives you unlimited use to the metro, RER, buses, and funiculars for a week (Monday-Sunday) and should be enough to get you everywhere you want to go in Paris. Be aware, though, that you’ll have to submit a passport-sized photo, but there are photo booths everywhere if you need to take one. Otherwise, you can buy day passes. There is also the "Paris Visite" pass that includes the same unlimited use of public transportation but also includes discounts to some attractions, but we felt it was overpriced.
The rooms are a decent size by European standards. Our room had a double bed, a small desk, and two chairs, and the décor was quite quaint. In our first room (we returned for the last 2 nights of our trip), the toilet was in a separate closet-like space from the shower and sink. The bathrooms are pretty small by American standards (some may categorize the shower as microscopic), but they are very clean.
The employees speak English (a great plus for us), and the owners have put together a booklet of local sights and restaurants. They were also very quick at responding to my emails, as I made a few changes to our dates before we left the States and also asked for suggestions on transportation to/from the airport.
The location isn’t central to many of the most-visited tourist sights, but it is only a few steps from the metro, which makes it very convenient. However, the flip-side to this convenience is that you can feel a slight vibration as the trains pass. We barely felt it during our first stay since we were on the third (top) floor, but it was more noticeable when we were on the first floor (although it didn’t keep us up). Other than that, the hotel was pretty quiet.
The hotel has a computer with Internet access that guests can use for a small fee, and I found this to be very convenient. It also has an optional basic French breakfast that includes a croissant, jam, juice, and coffee, available for 6€. They will even deliver it to your room if you’d like. However, the best boulangerie that we encountered during our entire trip is across the street, so we went there instead.
One last thing, the hotel has what has to be the smallest elevator in the world (see the pic)! We had a pretty good stay here, and I really think that the owners try to offer their guests the most that they can for the rate they charge. It was a great value.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on June 13, 2005
Hotel de la Porte Doree
273 Ave. Daumesnil
Paris, France 75012
33-1 43 07 56 97
Restaurant | "Marty's Restaurant"
It was an upscale/business-suit crowd, but we were there for lunch on a weekday. The place is decorated with all types of jazz motif, and it has a full bar. It is pretty large and has an upstairs lounge area, and I think that they may play music at night.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on June 29, 2005
20 Avenue de Gobelins
01 43 31 39 51
The building itself is simply beautiful. It has a solemn atmosphere, but at the same time, it is inviting. It has large open spaces and a mixture of Greek and Gothic architecture. The best free thing that we did on our entire trip was take the tour to the top dome. Be aware, it is about 400 some odd stairs, and you can only see the upper areas with a guide during designated times, but it is definitely worth it. The guides are there more to escort you safely up and down the narrow, twisting staircases than to explain anything, but it is still a must do. Not only do you get close-up views of the frescoes of the domes, but you also get fantastic views of the city (not to mention a workout!).
There is a small fee for admission, but it is included in the museum pass.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on June 14, 2005
Place Du Panthéon
+33 (1) 44 32 18 00
Attraction | "Louvre"
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on June 14, 2005
Musée du Louvre
99, rue de Rivoli
Paris, France 75001
+33 (1) 40 20 51 51
Attraction | "Cathedral of Notre Dame"
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on June 16, 2005
6, place du Parvis-de-Notre-Dame
Paris, France 75004
+33 (1) 42 34 56 10
In addition to the view from the top, the monument also houses the tomb of the Unknown Soldier. It was built to commemorate the lives lost in the two world wars, but it also serves as a solemn reminder of all the lives lost in history’s darkest times. A flame and a memorial where people lay flowers mark the spot.
Inside the Arc, there is an excellent exhibit of photos from World War II. I think that there is supposed to be another area that covers more information on the building of the Arc, but it was closed for remodeling. The price of the Arc de Triomphe is also covered in the museum pass if you have it. Oh, by the way, make sure to take the underground passageway to the Arc. We actually saw people risking death by trying to run across the 12 lanes that encircle the monument.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on June 17, 2005
Arc de Triomphe
Paris, France 75008
+33 (1) 55 37 73 77
By the time we made it up to the first platform, it was already dark. We wanted to drop off our postcards to have them postmarked from the Eiffel Tower, but we were too late. Instead, we had to buy envelopes from the gift store and slip them underneath the door of the Eiffel Tower’s post office. They did get the coveted postmark, though! We contemplated splurging on dinner at the restaurant but decided that they were a little too expensive for us (maybe next time). I think that the second viewing platform was the best since the top one tends to get kinda cloudy at night. It was quite nice to see Paris all lit up at night.
Champ De Mars
Attraction | "Le Crapaud Bistro"
On top of having good food and a full bar, this was by far the friendliest staff that I have ever come across. When they found out that we were from California, they pulled out all the American pop culture they could remember! They were hilarious! They asked me if I knew Snoop Doggy Dog (and started to sing for us) or the TV Show "CHiPS," and they asked me how "Arnie" (the Terminator) was. They also helped us work on our French, such as telling me that I shouldn’t say, "Je suis fini," when I am finished with a meal since it means that I am dead or dying. The correct phrase is "Je fini." Danny speaks the most English, but he made sure to get everyone into the act with whatever they knew about the States. He also clued us into where to go at night. He suggested the CAB, VIP Room, and Barrio Latino (sadly, we never made it to any of them). These guys were a riot! If you go, tell them that Sheri and Crystal say, "Hi from the Westside!"
Crapaud Bistro (Le)
64 rue Jean-Jacques Rousseau
Attraction | "Hôtel des Invalides"
What I did enjoy, though, was the building itself and the church. The building had the most interesting windows that were done up as suits of armor. There is also a large courtyard bordered with cannons and interesting astrological clocks. The church is actually divided in two. One side was for the soldiers and the other side was for the royalty. It was quite unique. Of course, there was also Napoleon’s tomb which was huge. He was originally buried at St. Helena, which is where he was exiled to, but he was moved back to Paris in 1840.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on June 21, 2005
Les Invalides/L'Hôtel National des Invalides
Esplanade Des Invalides
Paris, France 75007
+33 1 44 42 37 70
Attraction | "Montmartre and the Sacré Coeur"
The Sacre-Cour has the most beautiful mosaics; unfortunately, they don’t allow you to take photos. The interior is really dark and has a very solemn feel to it, but it really makes the mosaics stand out that much more. I read that the crypt is supposed to house a piece of Christ’s heart, but I couldn’t find where it was supposed to be. The gift shop has a large assortment of rosaries, postcards, and other religious merchandise.
Once you’re done, walk around the area surrounding the Sacre-Cour. The shops are very touristy, but there was a great little art fair the Saturday we were there. Be aware, though, there are a lot of street peddlers that want to draw your picture, too, and they can get a little annoying. We took the stairs back down, and it had this really cool "Parisian park" feel to it. Another thing you may want to do while you are in the area is grab some sweets from the patisserie, Le Gostelier, across from where the funicular is, and sit and enjoy the park and carousel. We did a little sampler of mini pastries, and it was really yummy.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on June 21, 2005
Basilica du Sacre Coeur
35, Rue Du Chevalier-de-la-barre Rue De La Bonne
Paris, France 75018
+33 (1) 53 41 89 00
Attraction | "Opera Garnier"
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on June 23, 2005
Paris Opera (The Palais Garnier, Opéra Garni)
8, Rue Scribe
Paris, France 75009
33 1 40 01 17 89
Food: The French eat at very specific times. Although you can almost always find a café open, most restaurants are only open from noon to 2pm at the latest for lunch and 7:30pm to 10pm for dinner, and even then they may turn you away before their posted closing time. There is usually a blackboard that has a list of daily specials that often includes the formule, which is a three-course meal that includes the plat du jour (dish of the day), entrée (appetizer), and/or dessert for a special price. They can be a great value, especially if they include wine or a beverage. Also, if you hate smoke, like me, beware, as the French love their cigarettes. Many restaurants don’t have a nonsmoking area, and it seems to make little difference when they do. Some of the smaller restaurants only have menus in French, but there is often at least one waiter that can help translate the menu for you. Be aware that it is the French way not check on you the way they do in the States (they want you to eat without unnecessary interruption), and they will wait for you to ask for the check.
Transportation: France has the most expensive taxis I have encountered, and the bad traffic only compounds the problem. We did almost all our travel in the city by subway, and it was fast and efficient. The only thing is that the metro closes around 1am. After that, there are night buses or taxis (but they charge a surcharge for after-hours). To get to and from the airport, we used Blue Shuttle, and for 14.50€ each way, it was very convenient. They use vans, so if there are other people sharing the ride, there are very few stops. We also used a EuroRail pass for travel to other cities in France and to Barcelona. If you plan to do the same, thoroughly research the different types and structures to find out which one is the best for you. A few things to remember if do get a rail pass: be sure to get the pass validated before the first use and remember to date the pass each new day you board the train. We forgot one day and were fined 10€. You also need to have your passport handy if they should check your ticket on the train. Also, some trains require reservations, but it is a good idea to make them regardless. Reservations are about 3€ each. You can reserve nonsmoking trains if you’d like. One last thing: you may want to find out what stop is before yours since they don’t always announce it.
Tidbits: Public toilets are not hard to come by, but they will often cost you. Sometimes they are coin-operated, but more often, there is a bathroom attendant. Some attendants charge a set amount, and some just expect a tip (0.20€ to 0.40€ will do). Don’t touch the food at the markets unless invited to do so by the vendor. If you plan to visit a lot of the museums, consider buying a museum pass. We purchased a pass for unlimited access for three consecutive days for 36€ each. Since rain was in the forecast, we decided to try to stay indoors. The upside to the pass is that you don’t have to wait in line to buy tickets and if you can, revisit them during the length of your pass if you’d like. The downside is that you have to visit two to three museums a day to get the full value of the pass, and the pass does not get you into certain "special" exhibits. However, we were happy that we had done it once we saw the line for the Louvre.
Diamond Bar, California