Paris Journals

Paris for Beginners

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A May 2005 trip to Paris by misconduct7

Hotel de la Porte Doree Photo, Paris, France More Photos
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.

Paris for Beginners

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Overview

Louvre Photo, Paris, France
Quote:
Armed with our guidebooks and "Learn To Speak French" CDs, we thought we had the perfect plan to see and do it all. Boy, were we wrong! It didn’t help that we were jet-lagged for almost a week. Paris is a vibrant city with enough sights to last way more vacation days than I’ll ever have. Our favorites were the Louvre, Eiffel Tower, the Pantheon, Sacre-Coeur, and the boulangerie across the street from our hotel. Really the best part was the adventure and excitement that comes from being in a foreign country. We had countless laughs over our attempts to speak French and getting lost. If you love architecture and art, Paris is the city for you. It is just a shame that there will always be scaf...Read More

Hotel de la Porte Doree

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Hotel

Hotel de la Porte Doree Photo, Paris, France
Quote:
At 65€, this is good place to stay for the budget conscious. Some may not consider this cheap, but it is one of the less-expensive rooms in Paris that has a private bathroom and shower. 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 loca...Read More

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

Marty

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Restaurant | "Marty's Restaurant"

Quote:
This was one of our better meals in Paris. It was a little on the pricy side, but the food was excellent in my opinion. Again, we did the formule for lunch, which included an entrée and plat or plat and dessert for 20€ (we actually thought it included all three courses). The waitresses were all very helpful. They have a menu in English, but it does not have the formule listed, so the waitress helped us out with what the choices were. My sister had the homemade terrine, and I had the carpaccio. For the main dish, she had seared tuna with mashed potatoes (delicious!), and I had the lamb skewers. For dessert, we split the raspberry biscuit with lime and basil sorbet, just because it...Read More

Member Rating 3 out of 5 on June 29, 2005

Marty
20 Avenue de Gobelins
Paris, France
01 43 31 39 51

Pantheon

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Attraction

Pantheon Photo, Paris, France
Quote:
Oddly, this was one of the first places we visited. It wasn’t that it was high on our list, but we just happened to be in the area and decided to swing by. It ended up being one of the highlights of our trip! It was our first exposure to the magnitude of French architecture. What started as the burial site of Geneviève, the patron saint of Paris, was later turned into a national monument. Completed in 1790, it alternated in its duties as a place of worship and civic temple. In 1885, it seemed to be the only place worthy to entomb the French’s beloved Victor Hugo. Since then, it has been one of the most prestigious burial sites, and Marie and Pierre Curie, Emile Zola, and Jean Monnet have all be...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on June 14, 2005

Pantheon
Place Du Panthéon
Paris 75005
+33 (1) 44 32 18 00

Musée du Louvre

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Attraction | "Louvre"

Musée du Louvre Photo, Paris, France
Quote:
This is a massive museum. You could spend at least 3 days straight here before you see everything. Take the guided tour; it really helps you to maximize your time. For an additional 10€, you get a live tour guide in your selected language. The guide explained that the Louvre started out as a palace built in the late 12th century and then took us below ground to see the original ruins. The walkway is where the moat used to be, and you can see various well-preserved towers and walls of the fortress. I found this to be one of the most interesting aspects of the Louvre. Of course, our guide also showed us the Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo, Napoleon’s Crown Jewels, and the massive Marriage Feast at Cana, ...Read More

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

Cathédrale Notre-Dame

Attraction | "Cathedral of Notre Dame"

Cathédrale Notre-Dame Photo, Paris, France
Quote:
The day we visited the Notre Dame, there was some scaffolding on the exterior, but we could still see the beautiful Gothic façade. If you take a look at my photo of one of the entrances to the church, you can get a sense of just how detailed it is. The whole exterior is covered with various scenes of Christ and the Virgin. It was the first time that I’ve seen a church of this magnitude. The interior is filled with the most impressive stained-glass windows. I am not an extremely religious person, but you cannot help but feel spiritual in a place such as this. Go early, as we got there too late to visit the towers (which I have heard are stunning).

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on June 16, 2005

Cathédrale Notre-Dame
6, place du Parvis-de-Notre-Dame
Paris, France 75004
+33 (1) 42 34 56 10

Arc de Triomphe

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Attraction

Arc de Triomphe Photo, Paris, France
Quote:
Napoleon was a tiny guy, but he sure did know how to think big! The Arc de Triomphe is a huge monument that he built to honor the Grand Army and just so happens to lie at the center of a traffic hellhole. One of my favorite things about going to the top of the Arc is to view the mad traffic that surrounds it. It is absolutely hilarious and a perfect example of why you don’t want to drive in Paris. However, be aware that there are 284 steps (and no elevator) to the top to see this. 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 li...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on June 17, 2005

Arc de Triomphe
Place Charles-de-gaulle
Paris, France 75008
+33 (1) 55 37 73 77

Eiffel Tower

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Attraction

Eiffel Tower Photo, Paris, France
Quote:
What is it about the Eiffel Tower that makes a normal person like me take 47 pictures of it? I had to take pictures of it not only when I actually visited it, but also every time I saw it, no matter how far away I was. The quintessential symbol of Paris is a must-see, but be prepared for a long wait. There are two elevators up and three different viewing platforms. Prices vary according to the highest platform you want to visit. If you pay to go to the top, you can also stop at the other platforms. The elevator ride up will be a crowded one, so it isn’t recommended for those with claustrophobia. Also, because of the angle that it rises at, it feels a little like a freefall ride at an amusement ...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on June 17, 2005

Eiffel Tower
Champ De Mars
Paris 75007

Crapaud Bistro (Le)

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Attraction | "Le Crapaud Bistro"

Crapaud Bistro (Le) Photo, Paris, France
Quote:
This is a bar that also serves food, and it’s not a club. We actually wanted to eat at the place next door because it was recommended by a guidebook, but it was closed (a half- hour earlier than their posted closing time). Fortunately, one of the waiters at Le Crapaud Bistro flagged us down and told us that they would give us a free glass of Kir if we came inside. How could we refuse? For only 9.50€, we got an entrée or dessert and a plat du jour in addition to our free Kir. For those of you that don’t know (we didn’t), Kir is a common aperitif in France served like a shot. Okay, it is not gourmet fare, but it was fresh, hot, and tasty. My sister got an appetizer plate with pate, slices ...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on June 17, 2005

Crapaud Bistro (Le)
64 rue Jean-Jacques Rousseau
Paris, France

Les Invalides/L'Hôtel National des Invalides

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Attraction | "Hôtel des Invalides"

Les Invalides/L'Hôtel National des Invalides Photo, Paris, France
Quote:
We aren’t big history buffs, but we decided to stop by Les Invalides to visit Napoleon’s tomb. Once there, we found out that Les Invalides was also built to be a home to injured soldiers. In fact, there is still a working hospital on the grounds. There is also the Musee de l’Aremee that houses artifacts, from suits of armor to different types of weapons used throughout the years. I can’t say it was really my thing, but those interested in military relics may find it intriguing. 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 interesti...Read More

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

Basilica du Sacre Coeur

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Attraction | "Montmartre and the Sacré Coeur"

Basilica du Sacre Coeur Photo, Paris, France
Quote:
The Basilique du Sacre-Cour was one of the highlights of our trip. Views from Montmarte are outstanding, and it is a very quaint area. The easiest way up is the funicular, which is included if you have a metro pass. Otherwise, it is a long hike up the stairs. I want to warn people about the "Jamaicans with the string." These guys stand around the outside of the stairs and funiculars to try to trap you into buying a bracelet made of string. They will ask you to hold the string for them, then quickly make a bracelet and tie it around your wrist. Then they will try to charge you 20€ for it. Don’t fall for it! The Sacre-Cour has the most beautiful mosaics; unfortunately, they don’t allow you...Read More

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

Paris Opera (The Palais Garnier, Opéra Garni)

Attraction | "Opera Garnier"

Paris Opera (The Palais Garnier, Opéra Garni) Photo, Paris, France
Quote:
Opera Garnier is said to be the setting for the famed Phantom of the Opera. Once you go inside, you can really get a sense of that. It is a massive building filled with lots of candelabras, bronze, and marble sculptures. All the candelabras really lend to the whole “Phantom” setting. The opera house is a masterpiece just in the design and the architecture. The ceilings have been painted by Marc Chagall, and everything is just so elaborate! The grand staircase is beautiful and ornate, and everyone stops to take pictures on it. We also saw a lot of people sitting in various places sketching. The façade is adorned with marble sculptures, also including The Dance by Carpeaux. The performance area...Read More

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

Tips for Other Rookies

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Story/Tip

Driving in Paris Photo, Paris, France
Quote:
Packing: If you are planning on traveling from city to city via trains, pack as light as possible. We made the mistake of a full-sized suitcase each (after all, we were going to be traveling for 3 weeks!). The trains do not have much space for full-size luggage. They have small overhead racks that can fit a small carry-on and a small closet-like space in each car for larger luggage (but this area fills up fast). Also, you have to lug your stuff around yourself, and often times that means up and down stairs. Without the help of several nice strangers, we wouldn’t have made it. One tip to save room – roll everything! We tried this and it worked; however, we just packed more stuff. Make sure that...Read More