My Own Little Paris

Everyone writes about Paris, and probably has more to say than I do, but I couldn't resist sharing my findings, anyway.

My Own Little Paris

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by Mandan Lynn on February 13, 2007

We were in Paris for only 3 days, but they were a lovely three. Paris was bustling with locals and tourists alike, despite it being the middle of February.

Cafés are a culture in Paris. It's almost always possible to eat outside. We enjoyed choosing restaurants and having long, lingering meals, just watching people come and go.

Of course, you can't miss the Eiffel Tower lit up at night, or a walk along the river, or a day (or six) in the Louvre. Paris has something for everyone.${QuickSuggestions} You can go to the top of the Eiffel Tower, but the view from the Arc de Triomphe is just as good—and it costs less. Plus, you can see the Eiffel Tower from there, and it's sort of cool to see it from that level.

The Louvre is free for people under 25, and has reduced admission for everyone else, on Friday evenings after 6pm. That still gives you about 3 hours of art appreciating, and it's not enough for a museum like the Louvre, but it's a smart option if you're looking to save money. We still managed to see a lot.

There are many good museums in Paris, and if you're staying for a long time and plan to go to a lot of them, buy a pass for all of them.

Learn a few French phrases and use them! I think you should do that for any country you're in, but it seems that in France especially you can tell that they really appreciate the effort.

Restaurants are plentiful around Notre Dame, and they are relatively low-priced.

The Ste-Chapelle is a massive disappointment, especially considering you have to pay to go in. I suggest skipping it. Notre Dame and the Sacre Coeur are both free to enter, though you have to pay to climb to the top.

If you're looking for a spot to view Paris free of charge (the Eiffel Tower and Arc de Triomphe both charge admission fees), climb Montmarte and sit on the steps at the base of the Sacre Coeur.${BestWay} The Métro is extensive and easy to use. A 3-day pass costs about 18 euros, so it's more expensive that some other cities you may have visited, but still probably worth it. However, don't be afraid to strike out on foot. Most of what you'll want to see in Paris is fairly close together, and you get to see so much more than if you shut yourself underground.

Hotel Hermes

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by Mandan Lynn on February 13, 2007

Hotel Hermes is sufficiently out of the city center—luckily, there is an end-of-the-line Métro stop on the corner, so it's no problem to get everywhere you need to be. There is free parking on the street surrounding the hotel on the weekends. If you're there during the week, though, you'll have to pay. Try to find parking on the street anyway, but it might be tricky. Try to avoid the 25 euro for 24-hour parking garages—though I think parking is pretty pricey all over Paris.

This is one of the cheapest hotels we could find without staying someplace really crappy, and it's cheaper yet if you book through an agency! Strange, but true. We only paid €50 per night. The prices listed on the hotel website are around €80. I'm not sure where Ruud made the reservation, but look around on the Internet and see if you can find it.

The room was small—typical of Paris hotels—but adequate. It was phenomenally clean. We had a toilet and shower in our room—also perfectly clean. There was a television as well.

Breakfast—a piece of bread, croissant, coffee/tea/hot chocolate, and orange juice—was included. Just be there to eat before 9:30am! Ruud and I were both sure they told us 10am, and after getting in late the night before we slept until 9:30, but breakfast was already cleaned up by the time we got out there.

Some of the desk workers spoke English, some didn't, but all were so friendly and helpful. Ruud speaks a bit of French so we got by just fine.

Finding reasonable hotels in Paris is a difficult job, but I'd say that here is a good place to start your search.
Hotel Hermes
22, rue Baudin
Levallois-Perret, France, 92300
+33 (147) 599600


Member Rating 3 out of 5 by Mandan Lynn on February 13, 2007

We stopped at Fregate for a quick lunch after we went to the Musée d'Orsay. It is a delightful, cozy, classy place with quite a crowd at 1pm on a Sunday. The waiters were friendly and quick to seat us—and take my coat.

There were a couple of set menu options, but, like I said, we just wanted a quick meal before continuing with our day. I ordered the onion soup, which seemed a little pricey at 7,50 euro, but it was really, really good. Don't be surprised that it's full of bread. I've had onion soup before, but never with the soggy bread. Apparently Americans don't go for that in a big way. I thought it was maybe just the way this particular restaurant does things, but I ordered onion soup at another place as well, and it was made the same way. It was covered in a thick layer of gooey, melted cheese.

Ruud ordered a sort of ham sandwich for about 5,00 euro. It looked pretty tasty, and he was happy with it. It was a piece of ham between two slices of bread and covered with melted cheese.

The woman next to us (the tables are VERY close together, as you will find to be true in many French restaurants) ordered a crepe, which looked excellent. The cappuccino to my left smelled wonderful, too.

The menu has many options, including steak and chicken. The set menus were reasonably priced, if you're looking for a heartier meal. This is one of the best places we stopped; I wish we had been there for a larger meal.
La Fregate
Rue du Bac
Paris, France

Le Buci

Member Rating 2 out of 5 by Mandan Lynn on February 13, 2007

Le Buci was the site of our first meal in Paris. It was a tight squeeze, which at the time was sort of surprising to me, but as we stopped at more and more restaurants I started to realize that that's just how it is in Paris!

The menu was fairly small. Appetizers cost between 4 and 10 euro; meals were around €10. I ordered the chicken and ended up with half a bird, a small salad, and a bunch of french fries. (Don't be afraid to ask for ketchup, but try to resist the urge to eat them with your hands.) Ruud ordered a salad, which he could barely finish—it was huge. Steak and soup are also available.

The waiter brought my water in a small pitcher, and it was free. The Coke Ruud ordered, however, was €5. If you're on a budget, beware of drink prices.

The service was quick—remarkably quick. Too quick. It seems likely that our food had been sitting there, waiting for someone to order it.

The chicken just wasn't that good. It was chicken. It was nothing special. The fries were okay. Ruud liked his salad quite a lot, though.

Skip it. It's fine, but there are so many good restaurants in Paris. You can do better.
Buci (Le)
52 rue Dauphine
Paris, France
+33 (1) 4326-6752

Café des Beaux Arts

Member Rating 2 out of 5 by Mandan Lynn on February 13, 2007

We stopped at the Café des Beaux-Arts for a drink after our dinner elsewhere. I didn't look at the food menu, but it didn't seem very long.

It was about 9:30 on a Friday night, but it wasn't very busy. I ordered cappuccino—6 euro! "Welcome to Paris," Ruud kept saying, but that's still a little ridiculous. Even his tea was €4,50. It was so-so cappuccino. My friend says one mark of good cappuccino is if the sugar you add sits on the top for a while before sinking. It fell right through in this cup. Very disappointing, for €6.

We enjoyed our time here, however. The view from our window seats was delightful, and the waiters were friendly.

But it comes down to that price. Yes, food and drink is expensive throughout Paris, but you can do better than €6 euro cappuccino.
Café des Beaux Arts
7 Quai Malaquais
Paris, 75006
+33 01 43 54 08 55

Aux Artistes

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by Mandan Lynn on February 13, 2007

This is my favorite of the restaurants we visited in Paris!

It's a bit out of the way, but with the convenience of the Métro, it's no problem.

The walls are covered with American license plates, photographs, and paintings. It's so cozy—and, again, cramped. The tables are very close together. We were there early, but it filled up quickly. If you plan to go later, be sure to make a reservation.

The waiters were young and fun. They give you the menu and a piece of paper; after you've decided what you want, you write it down and hand it back to them.

The menu is handwritten and extensive. The set menu costs 13 euro, and that's what we ordered. For that, you get an appetizer, meal, and dessert, and there are so many options. Well, there are only two dessert options on the set menu, but if you'd prefer one of the other desserts, you can pay a supplement and get that.

I ordered the lentil soup and beef stroganoff. Delicious. The best meal I had in Paris, hands down. I wish I were still there eating it.

Ruud had a salad and a steak, which came with fries. He enjoyed it, I think, but I was so busy enjoying my own meal that I really didn't pay that much attention. So good, I tell you. So good!

For dessert we could choose between ice cream (one of four flavor options) or cheese. We went with strawberry ice cream—very nice.

You can also order à la carte, but I'd definitely recommend the €13 menu.

I ordered water, which was free and brought to me in a bottle that was formerly a wine bottle. We also ordered tea and coffee after our meal was over. I wanted cappuccino, but they didn't seem to have it (I don't speak French, but I was gathering that something was broken), so I went with coffee and milk. Very good coffee, and such a beautiful caramel color.

We stayed here for a few hours, eating and talking, talking and eating. There are two best parts: one is that it's a restaurant frequented by locals, so there's a chance that all you'll hear around you is French. The other is that some English-speakers do manage to find this delightful place, and if some of them sit next to you, you can listen in on their conversations if you're ever bored with your own or your mouth is too full to speak. The American couple next to us were on their way to Africa for a safari.

I hope you make your way to Aux Artistes and love it as much as we did.
Aux Artistes
63, Rue Falguière
+33 01 43-22-05-39

Musee d'Orsay

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by Mandan Lynn on February 13, 2007

I had heard that the Musee d'Orsay has a phenomenal collection, and indeed it does. It is housed in an impressive building - you enter into a grand hall filled with sculptures. To the side are rooms filled with paintings. I came across Delacroix's "Chasse aux lions" and couldn't move. It was glorious. It's now on my list of favorite paintings.

It's a bit difficult to navigate - you'll probably end up missing some things if you're not careful. It's also a bit of a maze, especially when you throw the upper floors into the mix. I ended up getting ahead of my travel partner, and even though I stopped in front of "Chasse aux lions" for a good long time, I still had to embark on a major search for him.

The museum drowns you in works by Delacroix, Monet, Manet, Cezanne, and Renoir. It's amazing, and people realize it. Even though my visit was in February, it was really crowded in there. I can't imagine a July visit!

The rooms on the upper floors have more pieces by artists from other countries. There are some rooms devoted to Oriental art, and a room for Van Gogh. Audio guides are available for 5 euros, and I really wish I had taken one.

One hugely disappointing feature of the museum is that the captions are only in French! Every now and then you'll find these large laminated cards in several languages with information on artists, movements, and periods, but not on particular paintings. Paris has many high-quality art museums, but I think it would be a shame to miss the Musee d'Orsay.

Musee d'Orsay
Tuesday-Sunday 9:30-6pm
Thursday 9:30-9:45 pm
Admission: 7,50 euros (5,50 for ages 18-25 and for everyone on Sunday)
Musee d'Orsay
62, Rue De Lille
Paris, France, 75343
+33 (1) 4049-4994

Musée du Louvre

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by Mandan Lynn on February 13, 2007

No self-respecting art lover can visit Paris without visiting the Louvre. Close your eyes long enough to get past that pyramid and you're in for a treat.

It's overwhelming, no doubt. You just have to resign yourself to the fact that you're not going to see it all, or even close. In most museums, I don't pay much attention to the floor plan, but in the Louvre you'll want that map handy.

Wandering around aimlessly leads you to rooms housing small sculptures and artifacts - not what I was there to see. I wanted paintings! So I pulled out the map and followed the roads leading to painting-filled rooms.

The first stop for most people is the Mona Lisa. My travel partner, Ruud, mentioned that since she's everywhere, since everyone is familiar with her face, seeing her in person isn't as special. I disagree - I think that makes it more special. Sure, everyone has seen her in some form - but relatively few have seen the real Mona Lisa, and it's a sight to behold. Unfortunately, she's behind glass, which makes it infinitely more difficult if not impossible to really connect with and experience a painting, but seeing her is still a great experience.

Luckily, her room wasn't so crowded, so I got to spend quite a bit of time in front of her. Make time for the Mona Lisa. You won't regret it. After that, I checked my map and headed straight for the Netherlands/Flemish part of the museum for my Rubens fix. Ah, Rubens. He's everywhere, and I love it.

We visited on a Friday night, so admission was free for us young folks. We only had three hours, but we still got to see a lot and saved a little money in the process. An added bonus was all the art students that were there at that time. We loved peeking over their shoulders at their sketches. So many talented people!

It should go without saying: don't miss the Louvre.

Musée du Louvre
Wednesday-Monday 9-6pm
Wednesday and Friday 9-9:45 pm
Admission: 8,50 euros (9 starting July 1, 2007); 6 euros on Wednesdays and Fridays after 6pm (free for ages 18-25)
Musée du Louvre
99, rue de Rivoli
Paris, France, 75001
+33 (1) 40 20 51 51

Arc de Triomphe

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by Mandan Lynn on February 13, 2007

Both Ruud and I had already been to the top of the Eiffel Tower on previous trips to Paris, so this time we decided to ascend the Arc de Triomphe. It was an excellent choice. The views of Paris were every bit as lovely as they are from atop the Eiffel Tower, and getting to the top of the Arc is a less expensive process.

There are lots of spiral steps to climb, so if you have any health conditions you might want to be aware of that before you buy your ticket. Once on the top, you can check out les Champs-Elysees, the crazy traffic, and the Eiffel Tower.

Back on the ground, you can see the eternal flame at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

If you've never done the Eiffel Tower thing and you're only planning to climb one monument, do the Eiffel Tower thing just because, well, you're in Paris, and it's the Eiffel Tower. But if you're really watching your wallet, know that a trip to the top of the Arc de Triomphe is every bit as rewarding.
Arc de Triomphe
Place Charles-de-gaulle
Paris, France, 75008
+33 (1) 55 37 73 77

Will You Marry Him?

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by Mandan Lynn on February 13, 2007

When we got to the top of the Arc de Triomphe, I caught sight of two love birds in the midst of a serious make-out session. I mentally rolled my eyes. Okay, okay - this is Paris, you can see a long way from up here, it's a bit cold, it's almost Valentine's Day, there are a dozen other romance factors at play, but come on. I couldn't even see their faces - both were hidden behind the hood of her jacket.

Ruud and I chatted a bit, and I glanced back at them. Yep, still at it.

We walked past them and stopped to admire the Eiffel Tower. I swear I didn't mean to look at them again, but my eyes accidently fell on them - but this time they weren't kissing. Instead, he was on bended knee, sliding a ring on her finger, saying what I'm sure were sweet things in a voice only she could hear. (Really. I tried to listen, but I couldn't catch a word.)

I nudged Ruud and gestured in their direction. He smiled and looked away. Which was the classy thing to do, right? I mean, let the couple have their moment, right? But I promise you, I watched discreetly and in pure appreciation and even honor that I got to witness such a beautiful event.

I have seen only one other proposal, and that was the one between two of my best friends, and I had known it was coming. I didn't realize that the unexpected marriage proposal between two complete strangers could be as special for me. But it was. Their lives changed before my eyes. They were both so happy.

Then they got back to the kissing.

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