It seemed like Paris was the right place to start a few weeks in France, a few days of trying to understand the French way of life.
by wasa girl on September 12, 2010
The Paris metro is a great, it is inexpensive way to get around and very easy to use. With a little planning you can see the whole city, only traveling by Metro, but a few things to keep in mind.- If you are heading to Paris from the US, your credit card will not work in the ticket machines. (in fact US credit cards are a bit of a pain everywhere) The larger stations can have long lines to get a person who can swipe your card, so arrive in Paris with some change in hand to buy your tickets. - It also helps to arrive with a metro map, even if it is a quick print out so you can get from your arrival point to your hotel. The stations do have maps and are well labeled, but when we arrived the paper maps were hard to find and it was reassuring when we were waiting on the platform to look at the map and know that we were in the right place.- Buy the carnet - a package of 10 tickets - you will save money and you don't have to keep buying tickets. Since it is a pack of tickets you can split it between your group as well if you are only going to use the metro a few times. I believe in 5 days we went through two carnets.- Some of the stations are very large with long underground tunnels and lots of stairs, not suitcase friendly. If you are a suitcase (vs. backpack) type, be prepared to be physically carrying your suitcase a lot.
by wasa girl on May 21, 2011
I am really bad at remembering where I ate, what the name of that great restaurant was and things like that when I travel so I try to grab a business card or (my favorite) a box of matches from each place I eat at. During long trips such as this one through France and Belgium the goal was to take a photograph of the outside of each place we ate at.... I failed and because of that failure I cannot tell you where exactly I had some of the BEST pastries ever. I also cannot tell you were - as an English speaker you can find a fellow English speaking Crepe stand owner - which makes for not only easier ordering, but for an interesting conversation and, I believe, a little more nutella than other stands. Sorry fellow travelers, my plans were forgotten in the moments of tastiness. What I can tell you is that these two places proved my theory of traveling and what I hope all people will consider - go with the flow. We found the pastries as we got off the metro near the Eiffel Tower, it just happened and we let it. The crepes, there were tons of stands near the Moulin Rouge and I just wandered up to one. Traveling is about finding these places and about sitting here, almost a year later, wishing for another chance to sample that flaky pastry again.
by wasa girl on September 19, 2010
This was my first hostel stay, so I cannot compare it to other hostels. To start with the location was nice. It is located in the 13th arrondissement, a short walk from either the Saint-Jacques or Glacière metro stations making it very easy to get around the city. This is not a "tourist" area so there was not a ton of restaurants or stores near by, but it is five metro stops from Montparnasse (you can also walk to Montparnasse for dinner). The front desk was pleasant, I cannot say they were very helpful with finding things in the area. There were people of all ages staying there, while we were there a conference of some sort was going on and it appeared that there were a few families staying there as well. It has a small bar with some outside seating, cafeteria, restaurant, laundry, a computer center and lots of conference rooms. The breakfasts were simple, one serving each; bread, yogurt, croissant, orange juice, coffee and cereal per person. The restaurant and the bar had limited hours so we found food out. The laundry seemed expensive at 7 euro to use the washer, including detergent, and dryer, but it was welcomed after we accumulated several days of rain soaked clothes.The room felt like I was back in a college dorm. We had a room with two single beds and a bathroom but not much else, it was narrow but we had plenty of room. It felt clean and was cleaned everyday. I have no complaints about the beds, the shower would only stay on for about 2 minutes, you have to push the handle to start it again. The major down side was that since there was no AC you had to keep your windows open and every morning pre-7am there were loud trucks outside and late into the night you could hear activity on other floors and in the streets. We took to sleeping with our earplugs.
by wasa girl on September 20, 2010
It was our first night in Paris , we put a restaurant address into the GPS and went in search of food. Nearing the tick mark on the screen we realized that we could not remember the name and found ourselves at Le Select. We joined the locals enjoying dinner and wine while embarking on a meal that was the perfect introduction to dining in Paris.There were seats on the sidewalk in typical cafe style, however we were able to be seated directly inside, right off the sidewalk. The open "porch" area provided us the outside eating experience that we would become accustomed to during our stay, without being right in the path of the Friday night foot traffic. The location at Rue Vavin and Boulevard du Montarnasse provided plenty to watch for the two hours we spent there.Our waiter did not know much, if any English. He was attentive and tried his best to make sure that we understood the menu, which was in French. We ordered a bottle of inexpensive, but wonderful wine, a charcuterie plate and steak tartar, at which point he carefully made sure that we understood that would not be cooked meat. While this was not a surprise to us the friendly way he made sure that we understood was very welcoming and reassuring. Unlike restaurants we would visit later in the trip, the waiter brought us a carafe of water without our having to ask. We found out later how rare this was when we often had to ask many times or were give the only the "pay-for" water.The portions were "American" appetizer sizes, which appeared far to small for a meal, but with the added bonus of fresh bread it was the perfect size for two. All the meats were perfect and the addition of the beyond wonderful French mustard made it the best charcuterie plate I had eaten anywhere. If in Paris again I would not hesitate to eat here again.
by wasa girl on September 26, 2010
Everyone goes to the Louvre when the are in Paris, but that is only a fraction of the story. As a "art nut" I encourage anyone visiting Paris to not over look the Musee d'Orsay, the museum continues the story that the Louvre starts. This is the museum where you are going to see Van Gogh, Cezanne and Seurat, along with furniture by Horta and Behrens. There is a wonderful Art Nouveau room reconstructed and Lalique jewelery on view as well. It felt as if all mediums were represented so that everyone could find something to be inspired by.The d'Orsay only has a few floors, starting the day at the museum, we were able to see everything in a relaxed manner and still have the majority of the day open to see the city. The museum pass is a great purchase, we had almost no wait to get in, you will have to check large bags but even the bag check was quick. The building, a former train station is bright and open inside with an impressive collection of sculptures, including some Rodin and Degas pieces, scattered about. While we were visiting there was some remodeling going on, so the flow was constricted in some areas, but in the majority of the museum it was easy to move around and see the works.If you are going to find yourself at Gare St-Lazare while in Paris make sure to wander by Monet's version in oil.
by wasa girl on October 10, 2010
Our perfectly planned day in Paris was interrupted with the introduction of rain. Walking along the Seine from the Musee d'Orsay we found a table at La Fregate with a view of the Pont Royal Bridge. From our table we sat out much of the rain storm with a glass of red wine, Fig & Goat Cheese Salad, Onion Soup, Marrow Bones and when it was still raining coffee and the best creme brulee ever. Everything was perfect, the marrow bones being larger than imagined. The service was as good, if not slightly more attentive, as any restaurant we visited while in Paris. The manager checked with us a few times, and even with our poor French it was not difficult at all to get anything we requested. All in all nothing stands out as being remarkable, but we had a very relaxed meal and I would definitely eat here again.
by wasa girl on March 14, 2011
So I thought I was going to the Catacombs of Paris when I walked down the stairs. Honestly I had not looked at the guide books or anything that day and there we stood looking for a restroom and a way out of the rain. Our museum pass gave us free entry and since I remembered reading that the catacombs was really interesting I figured why not? There is a BIG difference, not that I ever made it to the catacombs. What is on view is the remains of Roman walls, maps and diagrams of where the walls used to run compared to where they run now. Had I actually paid to get in, I would have been very upset. Oh, for the record, they do not have a restroom available.
by wasa girl on October 12, 2010
I am sure other reviewers and writers will tell you the best time to get to the plaza outside Notre-Dame in order to avoid crowds and to hear choirs performing inside. We were going with the flow so we did not take any of this into account and arrived mid-day with the plaza packed with other tourists. Even so the view of this landmark is beautiful, the sky and finally cleared and the towers against the blue was perfect. From every angle there are details not to be missed, the gargoyles, the buttresses and the stained glass. If you are going inside, keep in mind that there are different lines for ascending the towers and just visiting the cathedral. The lines for both were long, but the line for the cathedral moved quickly and we were inside far quicker then we ever thought. It was as crowded inside as out, and as remarkable as the outside as well. There are plenty of opportunities to find a quiet spot if you wish, other than around the rose windows you are able to move around. If all you choose to do it stay in the plaza and admire the architecture it is worth the time.
by wasa girl on October 21, 2010
There is nothing I enjoy more when traveling than to spend time in a garden, instantly I feel a part of the area, as if I were a local. It was however with no expectations beyond getting off our feet for a while we wandered into the Jardin du Luxembourg. I stepped out of the touristy, busy city streets of Paris into the paintings I love and at once felt at ease. We picked the chairs closest to us, looking at a beautiful burst of flowers to one side and on our other side perfectly spaced rows of trees with benches, tables and a stage positioned underneath. There is just something about the way the rows of trees are perfectly lined up that brought Renoir's Garden Party to my mind. We sat there watching families enjoy a meal together under the trees, couples walking by and I could imagine a band setting up for an evening party. The overcast sky disappeared in my eyes and I wanted to push further into the garden. Urging my husband to his feet we followed the gravel path through the trees to the grand promenade leading to the Palace. We emerged to formal garden laid out in front of the Palace itself. Images of John Singer Sargent’s painting filled with well dressed Parisians out for their evening stroll sprang to mind. While the fashions may have changed the feeling and activity have not. Couples were enjoying the late afternoon together, children were playing by the pond and we found some reclining chairs and enjoyed the passing world. There are too many statues to imagine, fountains, clusters of flowers and more to see in the garden, but honestly the hour or so we spent sitting just enjoying Paris was perfect.
by wasa girl on May 15, 2011
Our first night in Paris we were stopped dead in our tracks in front of this restaurant looking at the towers of seafood that people were eating. We debated stopping but decided to continue on, the next night however passing by for the second time was a sign that we had to order a tower for ourselves.They have menus in at least five different languages available, and spoke with us in the right combination of English and French so that we understood what was going on. In the mindset of we are only here once we ordered the largest tower for two and it did not disappoint. It included tasty sea treats such as cockles that I had never tried before, several different oysters, muscles, crabs, shrimp and prawns and the BEST lobster I have ever eaten. You have to understand I am not a fan of lobster, honestly I never order it because I it always just okay. If all lobster tasted as good as this one I would order it ever chance I had. Since we could not figure out where the butter was (tip, it was the rolled tubes that we thought were hand-wipes) we ate all this with no butter and yet lobster tasted buttery. Aside from the food being wonderful, we had a nice bottle of wine and the right amount of service - slightly more than typical in France, but far less than the pushy American waiters. As the restaurant started to fill and the night got chilly one of the other tables had asked to close the glass doors. The waiter apologized that he could not and went about his job. Wondering what was going on we go clarification from a few locals a few tables over. It turns out since we were sitting at the table by the doors, they would not close them since it would appear rude and spoil our evening. It was never a question of asking us, it was just the respect that we were enjoying our dinner inside with the complete feel of being in a sidewalk cafe and it was just not something that would be done. I appreciated this as part of the charm of French restaurants is the outdoor feeling you get.
by wasa girl on September 24, 2010
The only way you are going to see everything is if you arrive as they are opening the doors, you don't eat, drink or use the restrooms at all and exit when they kick you out at the end of the night. Oh, and you probably will want to not bring anyone with you because they will just slow you down - sounds like fun? Straight off I will state that I am an art nut, so going to the Louvre was going to happen while I was in Paris. Having read a number of reviews about how crowded the museum was, how large it was and how long the line can get I was prepared (one would possibly say over prepared) prior to going. I accepted the fact that I would only have a few hours to spend in the museum and I visited the museums website and downloaded the map and looked at the map in books as well. If you are only going to visit to see the Mona Lisa then enter through any door and follow the crowds of people, however if you have any interest in seeing other works or have a particular area of art that you like (or hate) then it is beneficial to do some research prior to going.Looking at the maps it really did help to identify which areas of the museum I wanted to make sure I saw and the other areas that were not that important to me. I was able to figure out what I felt where the key works in the different rooms and even found a path through the areas and levels that I really wanted to see. While it is a little bit dorky to do this in advance, with museums of this size, I really feel that you have to think it out a little before you go. Once you add in the crowds of people and the size of the Louvre it is really hard to find that one artists work that you have always wanted to see without a little planning. We also purchased the museum pass - at first seemed like an extra expense since we were only going to make it to two of the sites in the time frame of the pass - but we stepped off the metro, walked into the museum and that was it. No line. The pass allows you to enter at the Passage Richelieu, which is a few steps from the metro and when we saw the line outside in the rain waiting to enter, the museum pass had paid for itself. Really choosing what to see is a lot up to taste, but visit at least one floor of the Egyptian items, the crown and other jewels was cool to see and the Flemish art, while I am not a fan, is very impressive up close. Don't miss The Coronation of Napoleon. It is huge - you have to see it to believe the size. Also - on the way out we stopped and mailed a card from the post office in the Louvre, which makes a really cool surprise for someone at home to get in the mail.
by wasa girl on May 18, 2011
Have you ever looked to find a place to eat in a Paris, during a rain storm on Assumption day? We tried and I cannot say it was an easy task, maybe it was the area we were staying in but the few restaurants in the area were not open. The wandering the streets lead us to Escale a Saigon which was actual open - empty but open. Once inside I had no complaints, the meal was slightly different than what I am used to in the US, but not in a bad way by any means. We warmed up with pho and beer, enjoyed the quiet after a busy day. If I returned to Paris I would not search the restaurant out, but at the same time, if I found myself on the same street I would stop in for another round.
***If you are on a travel budget skip this review, unfortunately Cafe George V is not friendly on the wallet. Similarly if you are a go - go - go traveler, this is not the review for you ***My husband and I had walked from the Eiffel Tower to the Arc de Triomphe and as we reach the Arc the rain started again so we searched out a place to get something to eat while the rain passed through. Something We quickly learned while walking along the Ave Champs Elysees is that the waiters and restaurant staff will practically pull you into their cafes if you pause for even a moment in front of their door. As the rain was picking up we submitted to the pull and were seated under a large canopy with a view of the avenue over my shoulder and heater next two our table. For two hours while buckets of rain feel we sat and relaxed with some simple but tasty bar food and $10 beers. The beers were excellent, and given that this was France the waiter was very attentive without pushing us out the door either (if we keep drinking $10 beers why should he have us leave). He was friendly, laughed a little, impressed that I was able to keep pace with my husbands drinking and brought us snacks. It was clear by a few of the other tables around us that this both a tourist stop and a local hang out so we felt completely at ease. As with much of our trip, when we could either be disappointed that it rained all the time or say "c'est la vie" and make the best of it, we made the best of it and Cafe George V was perfect for that. In fact it was kind of sad when the rain finally let up and we had no excuse to remain sitting and watching the world go by.
by wasa girl on March 5, 2011
We had a mission to visit the Eiffel Tour and then go to the Arc de Triomphe, which does make for a fair bit of walking but was worth it. I will say (if you did not read any other bits of my visit to France) that it was a rainy gray day. However, if you start at the Tour you can stroll across the bridge and up the Avenue d'Lena past many the Guimet Museum (Museum of Asian Art) and several embassies. It is a slight uphill walk, but the road is lined with trees and then when you reach the top the Arc suddenly appears in view - it was perfect. Now this is where the frogger comes into play – you can stand outside the road that circles the Arc and watch tourists dash across, weaving in and out of the steady stream of cars. While this is slightly amusing to watch (when no one gets hurt) it is not the technique recommended for reaching the Arc. There is an underground walkway with an entrance by the Avenue des Champs-Elyees and it brings you to the ticket counter if you want to go up in the Arc or you can just walk outside emerging in the center of the Arc. Once there, make sure that you walk around each of the sides have incredible sculptures and reliefs to look at. If you want to go up in the Arc keep in mind that the museum pass gives you free access, we unfortunately had used our two days up before we made it out. The poor weather seemed to reduce the number of people there and I don’t think that it changed the experience – so I would say if you end up with a rainy day it is something other than a museum to visit, after which you can escape from the rain in one of the numerous café’s that line the Champs-Elyees.
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