Sunday, September 24, 2006

How to tour Paris with little money and no legwork?

To the exception of its rather enjoyable aerial line #6, the Paris metro does not shine as a sightseeing vehicle. To those of you who want to 'see while learning', I would recommend discovering sections of the city on the wheels of the Open Tour deck bus.

Hop on the deck, and roll!

There are at least two advantages to a double-decker: you sit higher so you see farther, and it smells better on the open deck than at traffic level. Overall, the top platform is very pleasant excepted of course during rainy days.

The Open Tour operator offers you 4 circuits, each one giving you an opportunity to tour several well-known areas of Paris. The longest tour is called ‘Grand Tour’: it takes 2 hours. The ‘Montparnasse - Saint-Germain’ tour is a very interesting one too.

One of the two major benefits of the Open Tour formula is the multi-lingual commentary pointing at what you should look at. The other is to allow passengers to get off at each stop, visit the area, and board the next Open Tour double-decker with their 1-day or 2-day passes.

Boarding the bus for the ‘Grand Tour’

The 2-hour long 'Grand Tour' circuit starts at 'Le Printemps', one of the largest department stores in Paris. Its first stop is the old Opera Garnier. Recently renovated, the Opera house is a fine example of Second Empire architecture. It shelters the National Ballet Academy where 11-year old girls start the hard-labor path which may lead them eventually to the coveted honor of being recognized as a ‘Star’, a soloist ballerina.

The Open Tour then moves on the Palais Royal Gardens where stand the 'Buren’s Columns'. These glorified stumps of black and white concrete are the brainchild of French sculptor Daniel Buren. This work was commissioned by the French government in the early years of Socialist President Francois Mitterrand’s first tenure. Some like them; I don’t find them particularly attractive in a classical courtyard which predates them by 3 centuries.

The bus then moves to the central courtyard of the Louvre museum where you will admire (or loathe) architect Li Pei’s glass pyramid. There again, the contrast between such a modern structure and the classical proportions of the Louvre buildings is open to debate.

Then it’s off to Notre Dame Cathedral, and crossing the river Seine over the Pont Neuf, the medieval bridge built from 1578 to 1604. Notre Dame Cathedral can be toured, and the faithful can attend a Catholic mass. For the not-faint-of-hearts, the high towers offer a photo-opp view at the top of a steep flight of stairs. The large plaza which lies at the feet of the cathedral often becomes an improvised stage for street performers.

If you want to continue your tour by the Orsay Museum, the Open Tour double-decker will carry you there right after Notre Dame. Following the left bank of the Seine to the museum is pleasant ride. The museum itself is an old train station which was reconverted during the 80’s, and made into a wonderful home for impressionist art.

A little detour will have you cross the Seine again, and land on Concorde Square, a plaza of awesome dimensions. There stands the Louqsor obelisk offered to King Charles X by Egyptian sovereign Mohammad Ali in 1831. Then it’s up the Champs Elysees Avenue.

The lower section of the famous thoroughfare has kept some of its 19th-century charm with its sidewalks shaded by many trees. It ends at ‘Petit Palais’ and ‘Grand Palais’, two major exhibition venues built toward the end of the 19th century, and recently renovated. From there starts the upper section of the Avenue, which has only become uglier and uglier ever since the 60’s.

Atop the Champs Elysees stands the Arch of Triumph, a monument commissioned by Napoleon I to celebrate his victory over the Austrian armies at Austerlitz. The four pillars of the large Roman-style structure bear the names of the killing fields where the French tyrant exacted his death toll on European populations.

Around the Arch of Triumph, down a side avenue. The Open Tour bus rides you to the Trocadero, a very large structure built in the Roman style at the end of the 19th century. The Trocadero plaza is one of the two places in Paris from where you get the best full view of the Eiffel Tower.

The Tower is your next destination. The bus circles around it, going through the midsection of the Gardens of Mars, a vast expanse of grass which lies at the feet of Mr. Eiffel’s brainchild. Quite a fine site to spend a summer afternoon, soaking the sun.

The Open Tour home stretch leads you back across the Concorde Plaza, up the Rue Royale and along the upscale chic Rue St Honore. The rich 2-hour tour stops at the gates of the Madeleine Church.

Details of some importance

The Open Tour company offers 1-day and 2-day passes. Those allow you to board and de-board the company’s double-deckers at any stop along the tour circuits. Both passes also give you access to take all 4 tours. At €25 and €28 respectively, they are excellent value for money. Children’s rates are discounted 50% over regular rates. The Open Tour should be a thrill for your teenage kids. That you can board and get off at any stop ensures they won’t get bored, or grow impatient.

The website of the operator shows you where to buy your day pass, where to board the bus, and at what time. Type 'open tour Paris' on Google, they come up first.

I leave you on this final note: when you want to see as many sites as possible but feel dead tired after 3 days of walking the streets, the Open Tour double-deckers offer an easy-going way to soak in some more history and architecture. Good deal!

How to shop for fashion in Paris?

Going to Paris for a shopping spree needs not put your household finances down for the next two years. It simply requires a little planning, and being let in on little-known shops offering bargain basement deals.

Paris is a shopping mosaic

Those of you who visited Paris already know that from a shopper's perspective, the city is divided in broad sections where stores of the same trade tend to congregate. A mosaic of many colors, tastes, and price ranges.

Take Saint-Germain-des-Prés, for instance. The highest part of the famed area, situated closest to Boulevard St Germain, is home to designer clothing stores, sidewalk cafés and restaurants. Dive in, and your footsteps will lead you to Rue de Seine where the art galleries have drawn together.

From Saint-Germain, walk up the Rue de Rennes, towards the Montparnasse area. You'll be crossing the Rue Du Four where even more expensive clothiers line up the facades. But continue on to the Saint Sulpice metro station, around which many clothing stores offer cheaper garments and accessories.

Sales season in Paris

In another area of the city, not too far from the old Opera house, the Boulevard Haussmann became the homestead of the department stores over a century ago. The Printemps store was built there in 1865, followed closely by the Galeries Lafayette, in 1893. Department stores are not unlike Ali Baba's treasure cave: clothes, shoes, jewelry, watches, accessories, perfumes spread on a five-story high, gigantic floor space.

Their selection is great, but you have to visit Paris during the official sale seasons to find true bargains there. And there are only two sales seasons in France: winter, and summer. Their respective starting dates in a given year are set by administrative decree, and they each last 6 weeks. In Paris the winter sale season usually starts in the second week of January. The summer sales season starts toward end-June.

Designer depot bargains

For off-season bargains look somewhere else. The gems are often to be found in small shops in God-forsaken streets, or in hard-to-find first-floor apartments. This is especially the case of designer depots.

Though it has become a brand name in North America, a designer depot is in fact a form of commerce. People like you and me bring in clothes we don't want to wear anymore, and get a little money from the shop owner who will resell our garments for a little more money to other people.

I can hear your blasé comments: "Tcha! Consignment stores! Thrift shops!..." Well, in Paris, designer depots aren't exactly your regular Salvation Army-type stores. Not at all.

Though not all equal before God, Parisian designer depots are often owned and managed by women with a background in the fashion industry. Women with flair and a sharp eye for what to wear and how. Women who can readily tell you why you would look better in this dress than in that one.

In 'designer depot", there is the magic word 'designer'. Parisian designer depots offer designer and couture clothes at deep, deep, deep discounts. And mind you, clothes in quasi perfect condition. Clothes worn only once. Well, maybe twice.

If you come to them with your regular hoodies, or your last season tennis shoes, or your mall-shopped polo shirt for that matter, do not expect to be welcomed. Expect rejection with a disapproving stare instead.

So, where do they hide?

Then again, not all designer depots were created equal, and where you go shopping for practically-perfect-in-every-way designer clothes is the true measure of your inside knowledge of the city.

I would like to recommend you three 'petites adresses' [the French for 'best-kept-secret places'] I selected amongst a host of others.

For those of you, ladies, who like the classic look, 'Priscilla' is the shop for you. Priscilla is lady who owns the place. She reveres such signature names as Yves Saint Laurent, Max Mara, Kenzo, Chistian Dior, and Sonya Rykiel. Her prices range from €60 for a skirt, to €75 for a jacket, to €130 for a lady's suit. Priscilla advises you to rummage around, and come to her place with an open mind. The shop is located at 4 rue Mouton- Duvernet, in the 14 th district. The nearest metro station is Mouton-Duvernet. Its opening hours are between 4:00 pm and 7:00 pm on Monday, and between 11:00 am and 7:00 pm from Tuesday to Saturday with a one-hour break at 1:30 pm.

My next address, 'Le Jupon Rouge', is situated at 9 rue de Rochechouart in the 9th district. The owner, Tania, describes here designer depot as "colorful, ethnic but not hippie, and certainly not classical in style". Tania offers a selection of up and coming French designers such as Bali Barret (a fencing-style vest for €45, cashmere blend cardigans for €45 to €100) and Vanessa Bruno (wool jackets, €90). She also carries more established signatures such as Agnès B (her signature black jacket is offered at €50), and vintage Ungaro blouses for €45. Ladies looking for shoes can fall for pairs of Stephane Kelian low-cut cuban boots (€100), Repetto ballerina shoes (€40), or vintage low-heel horseriding boots (€40-70). Tania opens her doors from Tuesday to Saturday, from 10:30 am to 7:30 pm with a one-hour lunch break at 1:30 pm.

In a totally different style, Griff-Troc is the designer depot you need to lose yourself into when you want to go chic-chic-chic. The owner, Beatrice, chose to specialize in perennial, classic basics in perfect condition. Chic has a heftier price tag, of course, but on the upside Griff-Troc offers brand names for 15-30% of boutique prices. On the shelves at the time I wrote this article, Beatrice had a Chanel suit for €1000 (vs. €5000 at Chanel's), a brand-new Chloe bag for €800 (instead of €1200), several astounding evening dresses priced between €1200 and €1500 (Chloe, Dior, D&G, Valentino), and Hermès silk scarfs on offer for only €150. She maintains a full selection of bags, jewels, and fragrances. Chic classic never dies, who cares about whether your Chanel suit is this season's or not? The busy boutique is located in the posh section of the 17 th district, at 119 Boulevard Malesherbes. The nearest metro stations are Villiers and Monceau. Its opening hours are between 10:30 am and 7:00 pm, from Monday to Saturday.

More shopping tips to come

These are just three of my selection of designer depots and small boutiques.In subsequent articles I will recommend more of those 'petites adresses', including some specializing in men's wear. Meanwhile, I hope you have had the opportunity to meet Tania, Beatrice, and Priscilla in person, and find a couple of eye-pleasing items for yourself. Ta-ta!

Are there small museums in Paris?

Small Paris museums offer you an alternative to the large venues when you wish to avoid the crowds there. See which museums to visit here.

Fan of Klimt, Schiele & Co., I recently wanted to take a leisurely look at the Grand Palais blockbuster on Vienne 1900. I picked a weekday mid-afternoon, assuming I could whizz in and loiter through. Oops! I lined up before the entry (in freezing weather) for over an hour. And when I got a glimpse of the over-populated jostling going on inside, threw in the towel.

If body-contact sport isn’t your ideal for expo-visiting in Paris (or elsewhere), try small museums.

Here’s a sampling of Parisian fares in this vein, where - despite the displays’ intrinsic interest, and English documentation generally available - you’re not likely to have your feet trampled or be elbowed in the ribs. Some are so tiny they aren’t mentioned in Bordas’ authoritative Guide des Musées de France.

Let’s begin by wandering down rue Antoine Bourdelle, 15e arrondissement (district) near the Gare Montparnasse. At no. 18 you can’t not notice, through a grillwork fence, a garden hosting a bronze horse almost two storeys high.

This is the Musée Bourdelle, former home and studio of the sculptor (1861-1929) for whom the street is named, and whose work - fittingly for a small museum? - was grandiose in intent and result. The style is somewhere between rough-hewn Rodin (with whom he collaborated for a while) and Art Déco’s wind-swept streamlining.

On view are samples of his inclination for antiquity and exoticism that range from statues of Sappho and Archer Heracles to a monumental portrayal of Polish national poet Mickiewicz and bas-reliefs of music, drama, etc. for the Théâtre des Champs Elysées, inaugurated in 1913. It was inaugurated with a scandalous premiere of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring, danced by a rather lightly clad Nijinsky. That year Bourdelle exhibited work at New York’s landmark Armory Show.

Address:
18 rue Antoine Bourdelle
Paris 15th district
Open except Mondays and holidays 10 a.m.>6 p.m.
Full entry: €4.50; youth: €2.20; under 14: free.
Metro stations: Montparnasse, Falguière.

Just around the corner is the diminutive Musée du Monparnasse recalling such Roaring-‘20s Montparnasse denizens as Hemingway, Picasso and Modigliani. It opened its doors in 1998 in a quaint paved street (Chemin du Montparnasse) which itself is worth the visit.

The museum offers its visitors a treasure trove of photographs taken by such luminaries as Robert Doisneau and Henri Cartier-Bresson, and many watercolours and prints by Montparnasse artists.

Address:
21 avenue du Maine
Paris 15th district
Open except Mondays and holidays 12:30 a.m.>7 p.m.
Full entry: €5; reduced: €4;
under 12: free;
Metro station: Montparnasse

Still closer to the Gare Montparnasse is the Musée de la Poste, an offshoot of the postal administration - and a good place to take the prettiest mail-woman in your neighborhood.

Opened in 1973, it’s a museographical surprise: you take an elevator to floor five then spiral down, room-to-room, to the ground floor.

Goodies along the way include: an articulated-arm Chappe semaphore (ca. 1800), part of a France-wide network enabling messages to come 10 km. station-to-station in clear weather from, say, Calais to Paris in just over an hour until France imported Samuel Morse’s system in 1856; a lovely 1900 ceramic post office counter; and an explanation of Paris pneumatique system that, 1866>1984, air-propelled correspondence via underground tubes at a speed of up to 700 meters a minute.

Address:
34 boulevard Vaugirard
Paris 15th district
Open except Mondays and holidays 10 a.m.>6 p.m.
Full entry: €5; reduced: €3.50;
under 18 and mailmen/women: free;
Metro station: Montparnasse.

And now, for gruesomely comic (?) relief : Paris’ Crime Museum a.k.a. Musée des Collections Historiques de la Préfecture de Police.

Can you imagine what early handcuffs looked - and felt - like ? Ouch ! They’re there. As are: a genuine guillotine blade, perhaps used on the murderer of a nearby victim’s punctured skull, and stark temporary exhibits.

A recent one of these documented oh-so-graphically the trials and tribulations of bagnards - forced-labor convicts transported to hellish camps in e.g. New Caledonia and French Guyana as late as 1953. Among them was the escapee-author of 1970s U.S. best-seller Papillon.

Address:
4 rue de la Montagne Sainte Geneviève
Paris 5th district
Open Monday through Friday 9 a.m.>5 p.m.
Free entry (except for executed criminals)
Metro station: Maubert-Mutualité

For wine buffs I can think of no place better than the Musée du Vin (Wine Museum). It opened its doors in 1984, and hunkers in 13th century quarries reconverted in the 16th-17th centuries by monks to store their wine (grapes grew abundantly on the Passy slopes, now facing the Eiffel Tower).

Ranging through time from Roman domination, and signposted by mini-Bacchus figures, displays include viticulturists’ tools, a barrel-maker’s workshop, and vessels for testing, storing, transporting and consuming the beverage.

The visit ends with... wine-tasting. You can also lunch there. Thermal springs once flowed here, so the Wine Museum is on... rue des Eaux: Water Street!

Address:
Rue des Eaux - 5, square Charles Dickens -
Paris 16th district
Open Tuesday through Sunday 10 a.m.>6 p.m.
Entry: €8 (includes that glass)
Metro station: Passy

(written in collaboration with Arthur Gilette, a regular contributor to Paris travel guide www.Paris-Eiffel-Tower-News.com, who shares here his in-depth knowledge of Paris.)

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Does Paris have a nice aerial view?

When you want to view Paris from the top, four vantage points offer an easy access.

Take my word for it: there is more in Paris than meets the eye. Just look up, and you’ll discover statues, historical plaques, and interesting architectural details which you would completely miss if you were to walk and fixedly look in front of you.

Or try this: grab a map, climb an elevation, and look around, trying to place the monuments you see. Rent a top-floor apartment on the Montmartre hill, and you’ll see a whole new aspect of Paris.

To be honest though, you might have a hard time getting what you want in this respect: rentable top-floor flats located on a hill are in short supply in the French capital. That’s why I picked several easily accessible vantage points, so that you are able to soak in those panoramic views.

Granted, some of these spots were obvious picks. But I bet you don’t know a couple of them. Here is the story.

Tour Montparnasse

The Montparnasse Tower offers one of the most remarkable panoramic views of Paris. And not everybody knows that it can be visited. It is therefore my first pick.

The glass and steel tower was built over a period of 15 years in front of the Montparnasse train station, in the fourteenth district of Paris. It sits at the top end of Rue de Rennes, the shopping street which connects Montparnasse to St-Germain-des-Pres. Because the architects built the crescent-shaped skyscraper off axis, the perspective offered by Rue de Rennes extends beyond the horizon.

The Tower triggered a controversy which continued well after it was completed. Dwellers of the quaint old Montparnasse area hated to see a tall structure disfigure their area. They fought tooth and nail to kill the project. In vain. Constructions works started in 1958, and were completed in 1972. The Tower was inaugurated in 1973. Just a few months after the event, the City council passed an ordinance forbidding the construction of any building more than 7 floor high in Paris. Go figure.

A few more facts and figures: The Montparnasse Tower counts 59 floors and 25 elevators, and is 210 meter high. The top floor can serve as a helicopter platform. You can reach it in 38 seconds using the fastest elevator in Europe. But the bar on the 56th floor offers just as good a view without the chilly wind.

La Tour Eiffel

Yes, you did figure out this one. I picked it though as numerous subscribers to Paris-Eiffel-Tower-News.com ask me questions about it. I thought this would be a good opportunity to give you a few relevant figures.

The venerable tower was built for the Paris World Fair exhibition in 1889. It was meant to be dismantled after the exhibition but its architect, Mr. Eiffel, had other plans obviously. He even lived in the Tower for a while. The monument is 324 meter high at the top of the flag pole, and its steel structure weighs 7300 metric tons. The first floor stands at 57 meters above the river Seine, and the second platform at 116 meters.

To access each platform, you have a choice of taking the elevators, or climbing the 1665 step staircase. Sporty. I calculated that the waiting line to the ticket booth is 22 minute long on average.

You can have lunch and dinner on the Tower. Two restaurants grace its platforms: Altitude 95 on Level 1, and Le Jules Verne on Level 2.

Just a word of advice: wear a windbreaker when you visit the tower. The metallic structure is a big Swiss cheese, and there is absolutely no wind protection whatsoever on either of its platforms.

Arc de Triomphe

Going by the sparse crowd I met at the top of this monument in July of this year, I guess that not a whole lot of people know the Arch of Triumph is one of the best vantage points Paris has to offer.

This monument was erected to the glory of the French armies. Its four pillars bear the names of the killing fields where millions of European died uselessly to satisfy the blood thirst of one dictator or another. Commissioned by Napoleon I in 1806, the structure was completed 30 years later under King Louis-Philippe. At the base of the monument lies the grave of the Unknown Soldier, a Frenchman who was killed during WWI.

You can visit the inside and the top of the Arch. To get there, do not try to walk across the round plaza called Place de l’Etoile: use instead the tunnel which opens at the top of Avenue des Champs Elysees. The ticket booth is located at the other end of the tunnel.

On the rooftop, a round gazebo features a ceramic map on which you can orient yourself in relation with the various monuments around. When you face the Champs Elysees Avenue, the Eiffel Tower and the Montparnasse Tower are at 2 o’clock, the Invalides dome at 1 o’clock. The Concorde obelisk stands at 12 o’clock, and the Montmartre hill is at 10 o’clock.

Rue du Telegraphe and the Parc de Belleville

This venue isn’t quite as well known as the three others. I would even venture not many people are aware of it. Yet it offers a very decent panoramic view of the city.

When asked for the highest elevation in their city, most Parisians will reply “the Montmartre Hill”. Wrong answer: the highest point in Paris (altitude 128) is located at Rue du Telegraphe, No. 40. Right at the entrance gate of the Belleville Cemetery. This spot was used by the inventor of the telegraph, Mr. Claude Chappe, to set up and test his contraption under the French revolution (1789-95).

Down from Rue du Telegraphe, you are in the upper section of Belleville (literally “beautiful town”). This old Parisian suburb became part of the city in 1860.

Though renovation works started in the district in the 80’s, many streets have kept their old looks. Not all of them are safe at night, and I recommend you to visit the area in broad daylight only.

The spot I picked for you is at the top of the flight of stairs which ornates the Belleville Park, a green expanse of land which is bordered by Rue Piat, Rue Jouy-Rouve, Rue Julien-Lacroix, and Rue des Couronnes. Atop the stairs, you will enjoy a great panoramic west-southwest view of Paris.

Just a last word on Rue du Telegraphe: it hosts an interesting farmers’ market every Wednesday and Saturday, between 7 am and 2-3 pm.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Are sneakers acceptable footwear in Paris?

I can’t count the number of times travelers who asked me: ‘Should I wear sneakers in Paris?’ and other variations of the same question. American tourists especially are concerned about ‘not fitting in’ with inappropriate shoes.

That attitude is remarkable indeed. Dressing so as not to shock the sensitivity of the locals: how much more considerate can you get? I can only give kudos to all of you who ever asked the question or thought about it!

Parisians and sneakers

Many first-time visitors to France and Paris are convinced that all French women are picture-perfect fashionistas. This is vastly exaggerated, even though access to stylish clothing and everything fashion is easy in Paris where ‘Elle’ magazine still dictates what’s in and out.

Yet I don’t find such a big difference in perennial tastes in the streets of Paris and in New-York avenues. Though variations do exist, leading brands are international in nature, and they are imitated everywhere. Globalization and imitations tend to homogenize fashion, making everyday wear look similar in large cities like Paris, London, Milan, and NYC.

But the question about sneakers remains valid. Sneakers have become such a commodity in the US, how is it in Paris?

At first glance, I would venture there is hardly as many women wearing sneakers in Paris as in New York during the work week. The generally accepted business dress code in France looks down on sneakers. Therefore, unless her employer cultivates a younger, sporty image, the Parisian woman wears discreet-looking city shoes to go to work.

Yet sneakers are the ‘it’ shoe when they become design icons. Adidas, Puma and Nike each have their own stores in Paris, where dozens of different models are on display. Judging by the crowds these shops attract, none of these brands suffer from popularity deficit disorder in Paris.

So what’s the major difference in shoe-attitude between the American female consumer and the French female consumer? The latter will wear sneakers as design items, not as workaday shoes. She won’t buy sneakers for comfort. She will buy sneakers if they compliment dress-down pants and make them look smarter. She will buy sneakers which make her feet look thin, small, and classy.

A mere glance at the types of sneakers most commonly seen on women’s feet in Paris is telling: you won’t see any wide, cushy, comfy-looking, plain vanilla sneakers. You will see small, thin-looking, flat-sole, designer sneakers.

For the very same reasons, a pair of ‘escarpins’ by Stephane Kelian or Prada will always be favored over a pair of Pumas. Shoes are a fashion statement, and the more understated it is, the better.

And that’s another major difference between French and American woman. Understatement is a cardinal rule in French fashion. Anything that is too visible is considered garish. This is why the French little black dress is such a fashion icon, and why Audrey Hepburn and Grace Kelly will always be remembered as ‘the’ American fashionable ladies.

But back to sneakers.

Tourists and sneakers

Does all this mean you can’t wear sneakers when you travel to Paris? Of course not!

First of all, sneakers can be comfortable walking shoes. And walk you will, in Paris. The very best way to discover the city is to walk along its streets. Wearing shoes in which you feel comfortable walking 10 miles a day at a leisurely pace is a vastly important decision for the general mood of your stay in the French capital.

Do not back off from wearing sneakers if these are your best walking shoes. And if you have even better walking shoes, pack them, even if they make you look like you are on a trekking trip!

That’s my second point. Who cares about how you look in the street? Don’t be self-conscious; just be comfortable in your shoes. You are a visitor, this is your vacation time, your very own time! Jeans and sneakers are international. People won’t be offended by your looks. Unless you dress in pink tops and electric blue pants, with golden sneakers and Jackie-O shades, nobody around will have any second thoughts about your attire.

And if they ever notice your jeans, LL Bean trekking shoes, and Patagonia jacket, well, push come to shove, they might think you’re American. So what? In all likelihood they will appreciate your visiting Paris.

Restaurants and sneakers

Now, does it mean you can wear sneakers everywhere, on any and every occasion? Probably not.

Restaurants are a case in point. Can you dine out in sneakers?

Say, you are strolling along in your casual jeans and comfortable Lands End boots. It’s now dinner time, and you are looking for an enticing restaurant. There is it! The menu displayed outside is appetizing, prices are reasonably expensive, and the place is not too crowded... but guests are dressed smartly. Will they let you in? Will you fit in?

I have yet to see in Paris a door sign indicating ‘No Sneakers Allowed In’. True, some high-brow places will expertly leave you at bay: “Do you have a reservation? Sorry, we are full tonight”. But generally speaking, no restaurant will refuse to seat you because you wear sneakers.

The right question is therefore not ‘Will they allow me in?’, but ‘Will you feel comfortable entering a dressy place in sneakers?’  I daresay probably not. And being self-conscious is not the best way to enjoy your meal. Your attention should be in your plate and on your food, not on your shoes and attire.

So my practical rule is ‘Dress according to the place you go to’. If you plan to dine out at expensive, dressy restaurants when you are in Paris, just pack your Pradas. Even better: visit Stephane Kelian’s and Robert Clergerie’s boutiques in Paris, and buy yourself great-looking footwear by these typically Parisian designers.

Other places and sneakers

There are other places where sneakers just won’t cut it.

The Opera House is definitely one of them. But who would be so foolish as not to dress up for opera night? The sneaker point is moot.

What about a cabaret? I would say it is much better to dress up when you have dinner at a cabaret like ‘Moulin Rouge’, ‘Lido’, and ‘Paradis Latin’. Though only the stage is well lit in these places, the fact is people around you will usually be dressed up. You will feel much more comfortable in some more formal wear.

How about the boats on the Seine? If you are boarding a boat for a dinner cruise, don’t wear sneakers. This is a romantic experience, you will want to make the most of it. An evening dress is ‘de rigueur’. On the other hand, if you simply want to cruise up and down the stream, sneakers are fine.

Museums? Forget style, wear very comfortable shoes. Nobody will look at your shoes, art is on the walls. But walking down the Louvre galleries is a tiring experience: so much too see, so many galleries, so slow the pace. The good doctor’s advice: go with cushion and comfort.

Art gallery ‘vernissages’? Style is your cue. Art galleries are small, vernissage evenings are short. Evening dress, black preferably, nothing flashy, and good-looking designer shoes. No sneakers.

Wrap-up

Dress according to the place you go to. If in doubt, call in advance to understand the dress code. Pack up a nice pair of shoes, or buy some when you are in Paris. Bring a nice, understated evening dress.

But don’t shy away from sneakers for any not-so-formal occasion. Wear them in the street with no shame. You will blend in without any problem if you wear jeans and a pair of sneakers. Nike is an American brand, and it is very popular in France. Levi’s, Diesel, Wrangler, and Calvin Klein are American brands, and they rule the jeans world in France too.

So be comfortable in your sneakers, and enjoy the view.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Are French and US electricity the same?

If you are about to travel to Paris, do not forget to pack the right adapters for your small appliances. Otherwise, you will get yourself into trouble.

A higher voltage

Electricity in France—and more generally in Europe—comes out of the electrical outlets at 230-240 volts. In the US, the voltage is 110 volts. If your electric shaver is not meant to be used in a power band of 110-240 V, it will burn quickly when you plug it in a French socket.

Before you take this electric shaver or Discman with you, verify which voltage it supports. If it uses a transformer—a small device which converts the 110-volt current into a 9-volt or 12-volt curren, also called a ‘converter’—check the voltage characteristics of your transformer. It should be clearly stated on it which voltage band it accepts. If it only states “110 Volts”, that’s not enough. You will burn both the converter and the appliance by plugging them in an electrical stocket in France.

Pack only appliances which accept 110-240 volts, or a low voltage (like 9-12 volts) IF they come with a transformer which accepts 110-240 volts.

The transformers coming with laptop computers typically accept 100-240 volts. But check yours beforehand. If it only accepts 110 Volts, go to Radio Shack with your laptop, and buy yourself a multi-voltage transformer suitable for your model.


Check the voltage on the transformer (left) of your laptop (right)

Battery chargers for digital cameras and cell phones should be checked too. Some battery chargers accept the higher 240 volts, some don’t. Read the labels on your charger and on the transformer that often comes with it.

Plug differences

The electrodes (terminals) on US plug are flat. In France, the electrodes are cylindrical. And wall outlets are only made to accept this type of plugs.


A French two-pronged plug

A French wall outlet with a ground terminal

Therefore, you won’t be able to plug your flat American plug into a regular outlet.

Buy yourself a cheap adaptor. They come in various shapes and forms, the more sophisticated allowing you to plug your devices anywhere in the world.

You should be able to find uncostly adapters at your local hardware store. Call before you go, not all of them carry these items.


This adaptor allows you to plug almost everywhere

Adaptors are not transformers

Adaptors are simple devices which connect your US-model plug to a French or European-model outlet.

Converters or transformers modify the characteristics of the current which goes into your appliance.

Do not mistake one for the other. The converter is heavier because there is a metal coil in it. The adaptor is usually light because it’s all plastic with a bit of metal in it.

Sometimes, converters also double as adaptors. In that case, the shape of the male terminals will be for the shape of the female terminals.


A converter-adaptor

Hairdryers

Hairdryers usually require a large amount of power. If yours does not function on 110-240 volts, you will have to buy a large and heavy transformer. Just don’t bother to pack this appliance, and simply call your hotel (or go to their website) to check if your room comes with a blowdryer.

This article was written by Phil Chavanne in collaboration with Vincent Ramelli. Phil and Vincent share their knowledge of Paris in the columns of www.Paris-Eiffel-Tower-News.com a free Paris travel guide.

Proper behaviour in Paris: to tip or not to tip?


The restaurant-bar “Au Rocher de Cancale” at 78 rue Montorgueil

Sitting at the terrace of a sidewalk cafe in Paris and sipping on a Perrier while watching passers-by is a pleasure many travelers promise themselves to experience when they are in Paris. There is no shortage of quaint Parisian bars or ‘bistros’ as they used to be called in the 1900s.

But here comes the check, and with it the question: should I tip, and how much?


Sip on one of those while you watch foot traffic

Tip included

Contrary to dinners and bars in the US, Parisian restaurants and bistros add a 15% service charge to the check when they tally up your account. This is required by law as the French tax authorities assess their levy on tips as well.

Your check clearly shows the 15% service charge as well as the VAT charge (a distant relative to the sales tax) also paid to the government. The inclusion of the 15% tip is indicated by the words ‘Service Compris’, which means ‘Tip Included’.

The good thing is that prices marked on the menu are all inclusive. Both the VAT and the 15% tip are included. No surprise when you are given your check. What you planned on spending is what you spend in the end.

So no tips then?

Well, a small extra-tip is always appreciated of course. It’s the mark you were satisfied with the way you were served by your waiter (‘garçon’ in French, pronounced ‘Gar-son’ with the ‘on’ sounded like in ‘honking’ not like in ‘son’). It’s a sort of a ‘Thank You’ note. But you are under no obligation here.

Small extra-tips are also appreciated because they directly line your waiter’s pockets, unlike the 15% tip charge which is usually tallied up at the end of the day, and divided amongst all waiters. In some bars the owner may even keep the totality or part of the tip charge. French law does not require indeed that service charges be distributed to waiters. So your waiter might not even see a dime of it.

But once again, you paid your dues when paying your check, and you are under no obligation to extra tip.

How much should the extra tip be?

Extra tips may range from just a couple of Euro dimes for a coffee or a soft drink, to €1-5 euros for a lunch or dinner. A nice ‘Thank You’ is 5 to 10% of the total check. But once again, there is no obligation, and no steadfast rule as far as the percentage goes.


Extra tip

How do you tip elsewhere?

In many cases, tips are a valuable income supplement for their recipients.

Take taxi drivers for instance: the average salary of a taxi driver employed by a cab company is about €1,400 a month, which in Paris is more or less equivalent to a $2,500 salary in NYC. These guys put in 10 hours a day. Some years ago, they used to work 14-15 hours a day, 6 days a week, to make more income. French law forbids them to do so today. So they appreciate your tip all the way: 5-10% of your fare is a good rule of thumb.

At the theater, tip the lady usher: a couple of euros is fine at the opera house [these ladies are also paid on the evening programs they sell], 50 euro cents is good at the movie theaters. Years ago, the lady ushers were not even paid by movie theater operators. They lived on tips only. Even if they are on a salary today, it is doubtful they earn more than the minimum wage.

At your hotel, your porter will appreciate a euro per bag.

At expensive restaurants, classical concert venues, and discos, coat ladies usually take care of your belongings. Tip them a euro per large item when you retrieve your coats.

At the museum, you may leave a couple of euros to your guide if you went through a guided tour.

In summary

These are guidelines based on experience and custom. They are in no way a uniform code of conduct. These pieces of advice are also applicable elsewhere in France. In other French regions, where the standard of living is lower than in Paris, tips are even more construed as a mark of generosity.

In the final analysis, tipping is just that: a sign of your generosity, and of your appreciation of the level of service you have just received.

This article is a collaborative between Phil Chavanne, Senior Editor of Paris-Eiffel-Tower-News.com, and Vincent Ramelli, a street-savvy Paris-born writer and a regular contributor to Paris-Eiffel-Tower-News.com.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Can I leave my luggage at the Paris airport?

When you do not want to lug heavy baggage all the way to Paris when France is just a one- or two-day stop in your European trip, there is a solution to leave your luggage at Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG).

The “Bagages du Monde” counters offer just this convenience. They are situated in Terminals 1, 2A and 2F.

They will ask the day and time on which you intend to retrieve your goods, your passport and your flight ticket. Keep your e-ticket with you or a printout of your ticket confirmation if you bought your ticket online.

Where are their counters situated in the airport?

In Terminal 1:
Departures Level, Gate 20
Phone: 33 (0)1 48 16 34 90
Deposit hours: from 8 am to 2 pm
Retrieval hours: from 8:15 am to 7:45 pm


The “Bagages du Monde” counter in Terminal 1

In Terminal 2A:
Arrivals Level, Gates 3 – 4
Phone : 33 (0)1 48 16 20 61
Deposit and retrieval hourse: from 8:15 am to 7:45 pm


The « Bagages du Monde » counter in Terminal 2A

In Terminal 2F:
Arrivals Level, Gates 4 – 5
Phone: 33 (0)1 48 16 20 64
Deposit and retrieval hours: from 7 am to 7 pm


The “Bagages du Monde counter in Terminal 2F

Length of deposit and cost

How long can you leave your luggage with them? Up to 3 weeks.

How many suitcases and bags can you leave with them? Up to 10.

What’s the cost? It depends on the number of articles of baggage ("items" column in table below) and the length of your deposit.

# of
items

1 Day

2 Days

3 Days

4 Days

5 Days

6 Days

7 Days

8/14 Days

15/21 Days

1

€15

€30

€40

€50

€60

€70

€75

€90

€110

2

€30

€60

€80

€90

€100

€110

€120

€150

€200

3 – 4

€40

€80

€90

€110

€120

€130

€140

€170

€220

5 – 6

€50

€90

€110

€120

€130

€140

€150

€180

€240

7

€60

€110

€120

€130

€140

€150

€160

€200

€250

8

€70

€120

€130

€140

€150

€160

€170

€220

€270

9

€80

€130

€140

€150

€160

€170

€180

€240

€300

10

€90

€140

€150

€160

€170

€180

€190

€260

€320

This article is a collaborative effort between Phil Chavanne and Vincent Ramelli, a native from Paris who knows the street language and many other ethnic aspects of the real-life Paris.

How do I call the US when I'm in Paris?

  1. First you need to dial the number to get out of France: 00

  2. Then dial the US country code: 1

  3. Then dial the area code, and the remainder of the number of your party

    Your number looks like: 00 1 XXX XXX XXXX

How do I call Paris when I'm in the US?

  1. First dial 011, the international prefix which allows you to get out of the country.

  2. Then dial the international country code for France: 33.

  3. Then dial the city code for Paris: 1. For the purpose of telecommunications, France is divided in several regions, each with its own code. If you were in France and wanted to call a number in Paris, you would dial “01”. But since you are calling from outside France, you only dial 1.

    Your dialed number now looks like: 011 33 1

  4. Now dial the last eight digits of your number. If the full number of your party is 01 22 22 22 22, the last eight digits are 22 22 22 22.

    So you dial: 011 33 1 XX XX XX XX

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

What is the Mobilis single-day pass?

Let’s say you stay in Paris only for a day, and intend to see the city rather than just go to Le Louvre museum. It’s likely you will walk and take the metro and buses several times.

Rather than buying a ticket for every metro ride, buy the Mobilis ticket. You pay once, and you can access the metro and take any bus line as many times as you wish during the day. The ticket lasts the whole day, from the first metro train to the last one.

You can also use the single-day pass to take the RER (regional express railway) and even trains at the railway stations, as long as you stay within the number of “zones” of your pass.

“Zones” are concentric circles of varying diameters which determine the price of the fare. Paris is “zone 1” for instance. The immediate outskirts are “Zone 2 and 3”. The larger the circle, the farther from Paris you travel, the higher the fare.

How does it work?

When you buy your Mobilis single-day pass at any metro agent booth, tell the agent how many zones you need. If you intend to stay within Paris, just take a Zone 1 pass. If you need to travel outside paris to the suburbs, but are not sure how many zones you need on your pass, just tell the agent which city you need to travel to and from.

The agent will give you a magnetic pass, on which you must write the date of the day, and your name.


The Mobilis single-day pass

At each metro station entrance, there are tripods through which you enter the metro system. Place your magnetic ticket in the slit, and pick it up befor you pass through the tripod. Don’t forget it, or someone else will benefit from it.


Introduce the pass...


...and do not forget to take it back before you pass the tripod

Keep your pass in a safe place.

How much?

Zones

Cost

1-2

€5.40

1-3

€7.15

1-4

€9.00

1-5

€12.10

1-6

€15.35

1-7

€16.90

1-8

€18.40

Where can you buy Mobilis?

At any metro and RER station, as well as in all the railway stations within zones 1 to 8.

Paris Visite: what is it?

Paris Visite is a transportation pass which enables you to access any public transportation means: metro, bus, regional express railway (RER), and even the SNCF railroad system within the Ile de France region.

When you visit Paris for a few days and plan on criss-crossing the city, the “Paris Visite” pass is an inexpensive option. Buy it and you can take any bus, and the metro and RER at any time and any number of times.

This pass is valid for 1 to 5 days depending on the option you select.

The travel area is divided in “zones”: Paris is “zone 1”, the outskirts are within “zones 2 and 3”, and the greater Paris (airports, Disneyland, Versailles) extends to zone 5. The outermost areas encompassed in zones 6 to 8 comprise the forests of Fontainebleau and Rambouillet.

The cost of your pass depends on the number of days you buy it for, and the number of zones you select.

How much?

 

1 day

2 days

3 days

5 days

Zones 1-3

€8.35

€13.70

€18.25

€26.65

Children 4-11

€4.55

€6.85

€9.15

€13.70

Zones 1 -5

€16.75

€26.65

€37.35

€45.70

Children 4-11

€8.35

€12.95

€18.25

€22.85

Zones 1 - 8

€23.60

€34.30

€42.65

€53.35

Children 4-11

€11.40

€16.75

€21.30

€26.65

How does it work?

The « Paris Visite » pass is valid for up to 5 consecutive days, whatever the day you buy it. Your first day starts the first time you use it, and ends at midnight sharp, whether you actually used it for the first time at 6 am or 7 pm.

When you buy your pass at the agent booth, you’ll get a magnetic ticket (which you will use to pass the tripods) and a card in your name.

On the card, write your last name, and your first name. The card features a number which you need to copy on the magnetic ticket on the line showing « Carte N ».

Both must be presented to the metro control agents in case they ask to see your transportation ticket.


Your card


Your magnetic ticket

Each time you take the metro or the RER with your pass, place the magnetic ticket in the tripod slit, get it back (don’t forget it in the machine!), and go through the tripod.


Introduce the ticket...


...and do not forget to take it back before you pass the tripod

Keep the magnetic ticket in a plastic pouch or anything else where it will remain safe and dry.

Where to buy it?

You can buy the Paris Visite pass at any metro and RER stations, as well as in any railway station within the 8 "zones".


A ticket agent booth in a metro station

Other advantages

Besides its low price, the « Paris Visite » pass comes with other benefits. At the time you purchase it, the agent will give you a “Privilèges Checkbook ». Use this coupon book to get discounts from a variety of places such as the Moulin Rouge cabaret, the Bateaux Parisiens (on of the boat operators on the river Seine), the Galeries Lafayette department stores, and the “Sciences and Industries City” – a large themed-up complex on the north-eastern area of Paris (La Villette).

Monday, June 12, 2006

How to get to Roissy Charles de Gaulle airport by taxi?

Cabs remain a convenient way to travel to CDG Airport with heavy luggage.

Though it’s fairly easy to hail a cab in the street, it is also advisable to ask your hotel to arrange for a pick-up.

Be ready well in advance: your ride to CDG Airport may take between 30 and 90 minutes depending on your location and the hour of the day.

Depending on traffic, it will cost you €35-40 to go from downtown Paris to CDG Airport Terminals 1 and 2.

If you take a bus, a shuttle, or the RER to Terminals 1 and 2, but your airline departs from Terminal 3, you can take a free shuttle from either terminals to Terminal 3.

How to get to Roissy Charles de Gaulle airport by bus?

The Noctilien Buses

These may be convenient for travelers who take a night flight, and cannot afford a taxi ride.

You can catch this bus from several bus stops: Place d’Italie, Gare d’Austerlitz, Gare de Lyon, Place de la Bastille, Châtelet, Gare de l’Est, Gare du Nord.

Look for Line N120 and N121, and Line N140. Should you choose to use these bus lines, it is advisable to locate the bus stop nearest to your staying place and the schedules of the line long before your departure date.

From the “Châtelet” stop, a bus departs every hour from 1:26 am to 5:26 am.

The fare is €7.

Regular bus lines

Bus Line 360 departs from Gare de l’Est from 5:33 am to 9:30 pm every 15 minutes. Bus Line 351 departs from Nation from 5:35 am to 9:20 pm every 30 minutes.

The fare to CDG Airport Terminals 1 and 2 is € 5.5.

How to get to Roissy Charles de Gaulle airport by shuttle?

Roissybus

This shuttle operates all day thr ough. It depart every 15-20 minutes from 5:45 am to 11 pm, from the corner of « rue Scribe » and “rue Auber”, near the Garnier Opera House (9th district) . The ride lasts 45 to 60 minutes, depending on traffic, and the fare costs €8.40.

The Air France Shuttles

The Air France Shuttles operate every day from « Place Charles de Gaulle-Etoile » and « Porte Maillot », from 5:45 am to 11 pm. Count 15 minutes between shuttles.

There are 2 other stops you can use: from the “Montparnasse TGV” railway station (TGV = high speed train) and the Gare de Lyon railway station. This shuttle line operates from 7 am to 9 pm with a new departure every 30 minutes.

The fare is €12 wherever your depart from.

How to get to Roissy Charles de Gaulle airport by RER?

Taking RER B (Regional Express Railway, Line B)

It takes about 45 minutes to travel from the Denfert Rochereau station to CDG Airport Terminals 1 and 2, but only 25 minutes from the Gare du Nord station to CDG Airport.

You can take the RER B at 5 different metro stations, depending of where you stay in Paris: Denfert Rochereau, Port-Royal, Luxembourg, Saint-Michel Notre Dame, Châtelet-Les Halles, and Gare du Nord.

Intervals between two trains are 10-15 minutes long on weekdays, a bit longer in the weekends. The first train departs from Denfert-Rochereau at 5:18 am. It’s always a good idea to verify with your hotel if a metro strike is on the cards.

When you are in the metro station, look for the "Aéroport Charles de Gaulle 2 TGV" directional sign.

It will look like this:

A view of the RER from an overpass within the station:

To buy a ticket, go to the agent booth, and ask for a “ticket for Charles de Gaulle airport”. The fare will cost you €8, and approx. €6 for children under 10. It is free for children under 4.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Which Parisian hotels provide handicap services?

These hotels are disabled-person compliant:

Hotel Compliance
Hotel des Mines 1 room
Hotel Favart 1 room
Hotel Malar 1 room
Hotel Millesime 1 room
Hotel Monceau Etoile 1 room
Hotel Aberotel 1 room (twin groundfloor)
Hotel Elysees Ceramic 2 rooms
Hotel France Albion 2 rooms
Hotel Luxembourg Parc 2 rooms
Hotel Amandier 2 rooms and adjacent room for accompanying traveller
Hotel Jardins Eiffel 2 rooms and lift
Hotel Gotty 2 rooms groundfloor
Hotel Forum val de Loire Accès + room
Hotel Napoléon Large access door only
Hotel Victoires Opera several rooms
Hotel de la Bourdonnais YES
Hotel Little Palace YES
Hotel Paris Hotel YES
Hotel Residence des Arts YES
Hotel Waldorf YES

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Where are the good flea markets in Paris?

There are three major flea markets in Paris:

Where are the cheapest places to drink beer?

Go to smaller bars rather than centrally located ones. Beer is a rather popular drink in France, and most bars can offer you a selection of at least 5 or 6 different beers.

There are several bars and restaurants which specialize in beer:

Académie de la Bière
88 bis, Bd de port Royal
75005 Paris
Tél : 01.43.54.66.65
Fax : 01.46.33.85.23

The Frog and Rosbif
116 Rue St Denis
75002 Paris
Tel: 01.42.36.34.73

Au Trappiste
4, rue St Denis
75001 Paris

You can find more information on this topic here.

Are Paris buses reliable?

They are clean, and usually well maintained. They get crowded from 5 pm till 8 pm as most Parisians use the public transportation system. Bus speed is dependent upon trafic conditions. On certain lines, you can expect a bus every 5-10 minutes. On less frequented lines, expect a 15-20 minute wait between 2 buses. Bus stops are everywhere, and bus maps show you which lines to take to your destination (though they are often unclear).

Is it true one can get around on foot and hardly need taxis to see all the main sights?

Yes, 100% true. In fact, we highly recommend walking in Paris, and avoiding taxis as much as possible due to heavy traffic.

Which American cities have direct flights to Paris?

Here are a few of them: Philadelphia, Boston, NYC, Atlanta, Detroit, and Miami.

Is there a wax museum in Paris?

Yes:

Musée Grévin
10, boulevard Montmartre
75009 Paris
Tel: 331 47 70 85 05
Metro station: ‘Rue Montmartre’
Hours: Open everyday 10am to 7pm
Admission fee: Adults :€15.09, children under 14: €9.15
Web site: www.musee-grevin.com

What neighborhoods are best to stay clear of, as far as safety goes?

In our experience, the rowdiest neighborhoods extend:
  • North of the ‘Barbès-Rochechouart’ metro station to Porte de Clignancourt
  • North-East of the ‘Gare de l’Est’ metro station to ‘Crimée’
  • East of the ‘Jaurès’ metro station to ‘Porte de Pantin’
  • North of the ‘La Fourche’ metro station to ‘Porte de St Ouen’

Is Paris safe during the day?

Except for occasional pickpockets, yes, Paris is very safe.

Is Paris safe at night? Is it safe for 2 women to use the subway at night?

Most of the city is safe at night, yes. There are however certain neighborhoods which we would not recommend single persons unfamiliar with their surroundings to visit at night. If you take a metro map and follow the various lines, we recommend avoiding the following areas after 11:00 pm.
  • All stations on Line 4, from ‘Strasbourg Saint Denis’ to ‘Gare du Nord’
  • All stations on Line 2, from ‘Gare du Nord’ to ‘Colonel Fabien’
  • All stations on Line 5, from ‘Gare de l’Est’ to ‘Bobigny Pablo Picasso’
  • All stations on Line 7, from ‘Gare de l’Est’ to ‘La Courneuve’
  • All stations on Line 9, from ‘Maraichers’ to Mairie de Montreuil’
  • All stations on Line 7, from ‘Tolbiac’ to Villejuif’
  • All stations on Line 13, from ‘Plaisance’ to ‘Chatillon-Montrouge’
  • All stations on Line 12, from ‘Porte de Versailles’ to ‘Mairie d’Issy’
  • All stations on Line 9, from ‘Porte de St Cloud’ to ‘Pont de Sèvres’
  • All stations on Line 13, from ‘La Fourche’ to ‘Saint-Denis Basilique’

Is it true that hotel rates can be discounted up to 70% in Paris?

No, this is 99% pure hype. We cannot say it never occurs, but it’s so rare we’ve never seen such deep discounts in reality.

Is it true that I can get a better room rate if I deal directly with the hotel?

Most usually, yes.

What is the cost of a hotel in Paris?

Hotel rooms can cost anywhere between €50 and €2,500 a night, depending on the hotel category, location, and comfort. Here is an assortment of average rates observed over a number of months:

Cheap
2-star hotels

More expensive
2 star hotels

Cheap
3-star hotels

€50-€65

€65-€90

€70-€95


More expensive
3-star hotels

Moderately priced
4-star hotels

Expensive
4-star hotels

€90-€160

€170-€260

€260-€2500

What is the best way to get around Paris?

Use the subway to go quickly from one point to the other, and walk to discover Paris at your leisure. Avoid taking cabs if you can, traffic is usually too heavy and cabs are expensive.

Friday, April 21, 2006

What is the best area to cover Paris major sights?

There is no real ‘best area’ to this end for two major reasons: (a) the major Parisian sights are spread far and apart, and (b) Paris is a large city but you can quickly move from one area to another using the metro system. The metro system is easy to use, and generally clean. The subway system allows you to cross Paris along its East-West axis in less than 45 minutes, and along its North South axis in about the same time.

When is the Orsay Museum closed?

On Tuesdays, and usually during civil servant strikes. All national museums are closed on Tuesdays.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

What are the opening hours of the Orsay Museum?

Check this Web page.

What is the admission fee to the Orsay Museum?

It depends on the exhibition. Usually between €7.50 and €9.

What is the best time of day to go to the Louvre Museum to avoid crowds?

In the morning and in the evening. But the museum is so big, crowds are only a problem at the ticket booth. Buy your tickets in advance.

When is the Louvre Museum closed?

On Tuesdays, and usually during civil servant strikes. All national museums are closed on Tuesdays.

What are the opening hours of the Louvre Museum?

Check this Web page.

Can I buy my tickets to the Louvre Museum on line?

Yes, from several websites:
  • Go to Ticketweb.com and type “Louvre” in the Search box
  • Go to FNAC.com, and click on “Billet du Musée”

What is the admission fee to the Louvre Museum?

It depends on what you wish to visit.

As at April 18, 2006, they were as follows:
  • Full-day pass to Permanent collections: €8.50 (except to exhibitions in Hall Napoleon)
  • Pass to temporary exhibitions in Hall Napoleon: €8.50
  • Combined pass: €13
Discounted passes (Wednesdays and Fridays, from 6 pm to 9:45 pm):
  • Access to permanent collections: €6
  • Combined access to permanent collections and temporary exhibitions: €11

Is there a restaurant on the Eiffel Tower?

Yes, two: ‘Jules Vernes’ (upscale, second pillar) and ‘Altitude 95’ (first platform, cheaper).

At what latitude and longitude is the Eiffel Tower located?

Latitude: 48° 51’ 32” N – Longitude: 002° 17’ 45” E.

How high is the Eiffel Tower?

324 meters at the top of the antenna.

How many people visit the Eiffel Tower annually?

About 6 million.

Who owns the Eiffel Tower?

The City of Paris.

How many steps to the top of the Eiffel Tower?

1665.

Why was the Eiffel Tower built?

Probably because Gustave Eiffel was an uncommon man with giant dreams.

When was the Eiffel Tower built?

Between 1887 and 1889 (2 years, 2 months, 5 days).

What is the weather like in December in Paris?

Usually cold and rainy, sometimes snowy (about every 5 years).

How much does it cost to visit the Eiffel Tower?

These are the going rates as at April 18, 2006:

Elevator access

Full rate

Discounted rate

(Adults/Children 12+)

(Children 3 to 11)

1st platform

€4.20

€2.30

2nd platform

€7.70

€4.20

Top of the Tower

€11.00

€6.00

Staircase

Over 25

Under 26

1st & 2nd platforms

€3.80

€3.00

Monday, April 10, 2006

What is the best time of the year to visit Paris?

Several periods offer their own advantages: the first 15 days of January, and the period comprised between August 1 and August 15 are the best periods for hotel discounts. August is a great month until August 20 because car trafic is much lighter. May and June are usually great months for their mild temperatures. September can be great during an Indian summer, but the hotels get crowded. The period extending from right before Christmas to righ after New Year Eve is terrifically romantic.