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Guide to Paris - Pt 2

Your razor or hair blower should have dual voltage capacity but you still need an ADAPTER to convert their plugs to the French outlets. For France, that's a plug with two round prongs sticking out that your plug fits into. BE SURE THE PLASTIC PART OF THE ADAPTER IS OVAL AND NOT ROUND!!! Many old French outlets have a prong sticking out and the round adapter won't fit - it must be oval. If you have older appliances without dual voltage, you'll also need a CONVERTER to change 220v to 110v. All can be purchased at luggage stores, Radio Shack, large stores with travel departments, etc. However, converters can be a problem. Better to upgrade to an appliance with dual voltage.

Many hotels are on the "timed lights in the hall" system. You leave the elevator or your room and the hallway is dark. Look for a tiny light on the wall - press it and the hall lights will go on for 30-60 seconds, giving you enough time to reach your destination or the next switch.

To see and do:
To fully enjoy France , bone up on your high school French or learn some phrases to help you (where is....can I much is....etc). Get the Berlitz "French for Travelers" or other similar - it has an audio tape from which you can learn simple, handy phrases. Larger bookstores carry it. If you're going to be driving in other regions of the country get Michelin maps for all areas of France from The French Bookstore (Librairie de France) at the entrance to Rockefeller Center skating rink off of 5th Avenue or call them at 212-581-8810 and you can charge it and they'll mail it to you. These show all the small roads, and there are a million of them, that the regular France road maps do not (see "Travel by Auto"). Get them for the area you'll be driving in.

Go to or contact the:
French Govt. Tourist Office - Maison de la France
444 Madison Ave.
NY 10022
around 49th St. - 16th floor.
Tel : 212-745-0952
Fax: 212 838-7855
on the web: http://www.franceguide. com/us< BR> e-mail:
open weekdays - pick up everything they have on Paris - guides to restaurants and hotels, museums, the Printemps or Galeries Lafayette Metro Maps - they're dept. stores - discounts to certain stores, and information about other areas of France if you're going to be driving outside of Paris (don't even THINK of driving in Paris). You can call them at 212-838-7800 and they will mail you information. If you really want to be able to get around the city, get the Plan de Paris at the French Bookstore. It's Michelin booklet #11 with which you can locate any street in the city. The other city maps don't show all the small streets, just the major ones.

There are several small French Tourist Offices to get information:

11, rue Scribe - 9th
75009 Paris

Carrousel du Louvre - 1st
99, rue de Rivoli

Eiffel Tower
Between the East and the North pillars

Also by Gare de Lyon and Gare de Nord

Naturally you'll want to see the famous spots - The Louvre, Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, Musee D'Orsay, etc. But there are a bunch of other places you should try to get to also. Go to the place de Tertre by the Sacre-Coeur Cathedral - best on Sunday but good anytime. Metro: Abbesses. Out of the station walk to the right to the corner, then right again on to rue Ravignon - walk up a block, then up some steps, then up a couple of more blocks, then turn left to continue walking up. The artists congregate on the square to the west side of the Sacre-Coeur. You can also take the funicular but then you don’t get to walk through some pretty streets in Monmartre.
NOTE: To leave Metro Abbesses, take the elevator (ascenseur) - it's a looong way up.

Walk in the Tuillerie Gardens (Metro: Tuilleries) and the Luxembourg Gardens
(Metro: St. Sulpice or Notre Dame des Champs).

Compass Tip: Streets in Paris are very complicated and disorganized.. They are a maze of thousands of tiny, interwoven streets, most of which change names every few blocks or less. Go to a sports or camping store and buy a cheap little compass. When you come out of the Metro or are looking for a particular area, it's great to know which direction is which so you know which way to walk. On the map it may show the street you're looking for is East, but which way is East? With a compass you'll know. Also, if you use buses, you'll know which direction to take them.

Go to the markets. If it's early go for breakfast - pick up a baguette, cheese - for lunch a chicken - walk to Luxembourg Gardens or the Tuileries for a picnic.

Some good ones: For a complete list and more information see "Markets" under "Paris A-Z"

Blvd St Germain Market - on Blvd St Germain right at the Metro station Maubert Mutualite at Place Maubert. Open mornings Tues, Thurs, Sat.

Montorgueil Market - good market on street with lots of shops - Metro: Les Halles (walk north on rue Montorgueil) or Sentier (walk south on rue Montorgueil - open 6 AM - 1 PM except Monday.

Raspail Market- good ,market on Blvd Raspail . Metro: Rennes. Tues and Friday mornings

Bastille - large, terrific market. On Blvd Richard Renoir between the Bastille Column and Metro Breguet-Sabin Bast. Thursday and Sunday mornings

Buci Market on rue de Buci by rue de Seine - open 9-1 except Monday. Metro: Mabillon or St. Michel. Mabillon - look for rue de Buci on north side of blvd. St Germain - walk north. St. Michel - standing in front of fountain and looking at it cross street on your right, then head up walking street (rue St Andre des Arts) - it becomes rue de Buci.

A quick list of the majors:

Notre Dame - on Ile de la Cite - Metro: Cite
St Chapelle - on Ile de la Cite - Metro: Cite
Musee d'Orsay - Metro: Solferino/Musee d'Orsay
Eiffel Tower - Metro: Trocadero/Bir-Hakeim
Louvre - Metro: Palais Royal
Place de la Concorde - Metro: Concorde
Arc de Triumph - Metro: Charles de Gaulle Etoile

Walk as much as possible. It's amazing how much ground you can cover just strolling along. For long distances the Metro is best - learn the system - Printemps and Galeries Lafayette put out metro maps. Should be in your hotel; if not, stop in any of the larger hotels and look on the counter in the lobby. Instead of individual tickets, buy "un carnet" (an carnay) at the booth in the station. It's a pack of ten tickets and is much cheaper. See "Metro" in "Paris A-Z."Children under the age of10 pay half price (for single tickets also). Validate your ticket in the turnstile machine and keep it until you are out of the Metro completely - they do check, so hold on to it. One ticket is good for unlimited transfers until you leave the system. On the bus there'll be a little machine behind the driver to validate it and it's only good for the one ride; no transfers. If you're going to be in Paris for many days, get a Navigo Pass - it costs about $24 and gives you unlimited use of the Metro and buses for 1 week - Monday through Sunday. It's sold at Metro station booths until Wed - not after that. You'll be given a small ticket, a card, and a plastic holder. You'll also need a small ID photo about 1" square - there are photo machines at certain metros (you can split the cost by switching after each photo is taken). I'd suggest bringing photos with you so you don't have to search for a photo machine - nothing fancy - just your face on a small 1" photo - use a Polaroid. Attach the photo to the card, insert it in the plastic holder. The easiest way to get it is to ask the metro cashier for a Navigo pass for one week (oon suhmen) and hand him the photo; let him put it together for you. The pass costs 5 euro and is good for five years. It must be charged in order to use it. To use it, swipe it over the purple Navigo design at the turnstile machines. Same on the buses but no turnstiles. This is especially good in bad weather or when you're tired - you can hop on and off buses all day. There is also a card known as the Paris Visite Card which gives you unlimited travel on the metro, buses, and the RER suburban trains for 2, 3, or 5 days. It also offers discounts at certain tourist attractions. You can purchase this at any of the larger metro stations.
Learn to use the metro. Study the metro map before you leave for Paris. It will save you a lot of grief to understand it. Each line is identified by the stations on either end and is color coded. If you want a station on that line, first follow signs to the line. The sign will say "Direction such - so". Then, as you walk in the metro, the sign will split: one way will be "Direction such" and another way "Direction so". Take the direction that goes towards the station you want to get to. If you're making a connection to another line (called a correspondance), to a line called "This-That", look for where the lines intersect on the map. Take the metro to that station and as you exit the train, look up for a sign saying "Correspondance Direction This-That". Then follow those signs until it splits into "Direction This" and "Direction That". Take the one that goes in the direction towards the station you want. Those colored lines can be a little tricky - try not to confuse one line with another of similar color. To be sure, check the number of the line on the map at the end station.

NOTE: Last train leaves the terminal at 12:30 AM to arrive at the last station at 1:15 AM. If you miss that train, it's "let's start walking."

What is the RER? I'm glad you asked. The RER is part of the train system but unlike the metro it also goes out to the suburbs. Within Paris it operates the same as the Metro. Your Metro ticket will enable you to use the RER within Paris.
Now the differences:
1) If you're going outside the city to the suburbs, Versailles, etc, you must buy a separate ticket for that destination (get a round trip while you're at it).
2) The metro ticket you must keep until you exit the system in case they check. The same with the RER ticket but in addition you must keep it to exit the station - you have to go through another set of turnstiles and you use that same ticket that you entered with.

Stroll the streets - it's not that big a city and you often have to walk long distances in the Metro if you are making "correspondances" (connections) from one line to another. It's often better to take the Metro to a station a little further from your destination or from a Metro station further from your location but which is on your line in order to avoid long walks in the Metro to make the correspondances or having to wait for additional trains.

Buses use the same ticket as the metro - you should have them when you board, you may not be able to buy them on the bus. If there's not much traffic they're good to take - you get to see a lot of the city - but they can be difficult to figure out and can be very slow in coming. Best map for the buses is the "Grand Plan de Paris" (grahn plan duh Paree). Just ask for it at the cashier in any Metro station - they're free. You have to follow the different colored lines, match them to the numbers.....well, you'll see. On the other side is an excellent metro map but it lacks the numbers and grid lines of the Printemps and Gal Lafayette maps so you cannot locate stations. But if you know where you are and where you're going, it's easier to read. Or buy a copy of "The Paris Map Guide" - shows all the routes (but still confusing).

Here's my "Sort of Guide to Buses to Various Places.” These buses won’t necessarily drop you at the front door - some will get you closer than others - but they will put you within a few blocks. Keep in mind, it’s your responsibilty to take the bus in the right direction (a compass really helps here) and to check a map so you know when to get off. I make no guarantees about the accuracy, and if you get off the bus and a sign says “The Chamber of Commerce Welcomes You to Ames, Iowa” one of us has made a mistake.

Arc de Triumph - you can take bus # 22, 30, 31, 52, 73, 92
Bastille - 20, 29, 65, 69, 76, 86, 87, 91
Eiffel Tower - 42, 69, 82, 87
Grand Palais, Petit Palais - 42, 72, 73
Hotel de Ville - 38, 47, 67, 69, 75, 76, 96
Invalides (Napoleon’s Tomb) - 28, 49, 69, 82, 87, 92, 93
Les Halles - 21, 29, 38, 47, 58, 67, 69, 70, 72, 74, 76, 81, 85
Louvre - 21, 24, 27, 29, 67, 68, 69, 72, 74, 76, 81, 85, 95
Luxembourg Gardens - 38, 58, 82, 83, 84, 85, 89
Madeleine, La - 24, 42, 52, 84, 94
Notre Dame, Ile de la Cite - 24, 21, 38, 47, 85, 96
Opera Garnier - 20, 21, 26, 27, 28, 29, 42, 52, 53, 66, 68, 81, 95
Orangerie Museum - see Place de la Concorde
Orsay Museum (Musee d’Orsay) - 24, 68, 69, 73, 84
Palais Royal - 21, 27, 29, 48, 67, 68, 69, 72, 81, 95
Parc des Buttes-Chaumont - 26, 60, 75
Parc Monceau - 30, 84, 94
Pere Lachaise Cemetary - 61, 69, 76, 26
Place de la Concorde - 24, 52, 72, 73, 84, 94
Place des Voges - 29, 69, 76, 96
Pont de l’Alma (Bateaux Mouches) - 42, 63, 72, 80, 92
Rodin Museum - 69, 82, 92, + those from Invalides but further
Sorbonne, Latin Quarter - 21, 27, 38, 63, 86, 84, 87, 89
St Michel/St Germain (Intersection) - 21, 27, 38, 63, 86, 87
Trocadero - 22, 32, 63, 72
Tuileries - same as those to Louvre with 24, 72 closest

If you call for a taxi, you will pay for the trip starting from where the taxi originated to where you're picked up. So the meter will have a charge on it when you get in. All international airports have change places where you can change dollars for euro. The exchange rate isn't good but for that amount it doesn't mean much.

Paying and Getting euros:
I suggest arriving with $100 in euro, just in case there are long lines at the ATMs or they have a problem. Also, when you arrive you're excited, nervous about getting to your hotel, and it's nice not to have to worry about getting money. Once settled in, you can get more at ATM's all over. However, always pay for everything possible with a credit card for best exchange rate, record of your purchases. In France they accept credit credit cards for almost everything, including tolls on the autoroute. Always try and pay with your credit card - best exchange rate, convenient, record of the transaction. Best to bring cards from two different accounts in case there's a problem with one of them. However, you will need cash - every place doesn't accept plastic, especially for small amounts.

To get euros-
1) ATM's - More and more all the time. Easy to use. Just punch in English option. You must have a 4 digit pin number. I used to advise that the first number should not be a zero, but lately people have said they're working now. Almost all the machines are for MasterCard and Visa, most have Cirrus. American Express is tougher - not many around. You can use an AMEX card at ATM's from Crediit Lyonnais. If you're depending solely on ATM's bring cards from two different accounts - sometimes they don't work. You can use your American Express card to get money at the American Express Office near place de L'Opera.
2) Change money at the Change Booths located all over. Be sure to check the "achat" rate, not the "vente" rate which is higher but doesn't apply to you. Generally the hotels have the worst rate of exchange. You get the best rate charging things on a credit card.

If you're coming from another country not in the eu, when you turn in that currency convert it directly into euros so you don't lose on the double transaction. If you don't use ATM's, the easiest way to get euro is with cash at a change booth - hand them the bills, they'll hand you the euro. Next easiest is American travelers checks - you'll need your passport. Hardest, amazingly enough, are French travelers checks. There are exchange places all over Paris (Bureau de Change).

If you're not coming into Paris first but heading out to the Provinces right away, I suggest you get euros at the airport. It can be difficult changing money outside of Paris, especially in small towns and many places won't accept credit cards, especially for smaller amounts. Cash in a couple of hundred dollars worth of cash or American Travelers Checks.

If you have money left over at the end of your trip, the easiest way to get rid of it is to send it to me. But seriously folks, you can change the notes to dollars at the airport. The change you should use to buy candy - you cannot change the change (unless there's a change).

So the bottom line is, have your credit card and use it as much as possible but also bring some travelers checks and tuck away a few $100 bills just in case. It pays to have backups in case your card gets a scratch and doesn’t work, there’s a problem with your account back in the states, even a .....heaven forbid, strike of ATM machine suppliers (see May, 2000.

NOTE: Before you leave, it's a good idea to notify your bank that there will be many charges from Europe so they don't put a hold on your card, believing your card had been lost or stolen.

Some English is generally spoken in Paris, more and more all the time. However, it's more fun if you learn some French phrases (Berlitz for Travelers) and the French will appreciate it too (think of them coming here unable to speak English and expecting you to speak French). Be sure of your phrases - you don't want to say to the waiter: "I'd like a purple cow on the roof with my bananas." The larger stores always have some people who speak English but the smaller shops may not. The same with restaurants and most restaurants now have English menus . Outside of Paris there's less English spoken. You learn to do a lot of communicating by pointing, pantomining, etc. Two things to remember:
1) Speaking loudly does not make someone understand English who does not understand English.
2) The French do not secretly speak English and only pretend not to speak it when Americans are around.

Always ask for the name of the nearest Metro to wherever you're going. Then you'll know how to get there and, even if you're not using the Metro, you'll be able to locate it on the Printemps or Galeries Lafayette map. Conversely, if you're not sure where you are, by finding any Metro you can look up its location on the map and you'll know where you are. NOTE: In many cases the same street changes names every few blocks and many streets do not appear on the regular city maps.

If you'd like to attend a Ballet or Opera while in Paris, here are two ways to do it:

Go to:
You can get both Opera and Ballet tickets from this site. Click in the center of the screen, click on "calendrier 2003-2004", click on the month you want. Opera Garnier will be on the left, Bastille on the right. Click on the one you want, then click on "reserver ce spectacle." The rest is self-explanatory. You'll have 5 minutes to complete the transaction - have your credit card ready. If you don't make it and it ends, just start over - you'll do better the 2nd time.

Write or Fax the Agence Cheque Theatre - 33 rue le Petier - 75009 Paris.
Tel 011-33-1-42-46-72-40. Fax: 011-33-1-48-00-93-93. Request a schedule. If you decide to attend, order the tickets through them - it's put on your charge card, they send you a voucher, and you pick up the tickets 30 minutes before curtain time at the desk marked "Agences" in the lobby.

To really enjoy breakfast you should do it the French way. Go to a brasserie or cafe and stand shoulder to shoulder with the locals. You will save quite a bit by having your coffee and croissant standing at the bar or sitting on a barstool - it's half the price of sitting at a table and you'll feel more French. There will be a little basket on the counter they'll put by you - take what you want.

TIP: The majority of hotels in France do not have washcloths. If using one is your thing, bring one. If you're traveling around, bring a plastic bag to put it in. For just Paris, bring an old one and throw it away.

Shopping is very expensive except for crystal (Lalique, Baccarat, etc). Go to Galeries Lafayette on Blvd Haussmann (Metro: Chausee-D'Antin or Havre-Caumartin or Opera) - there are next to each other - the main one, the men's store with Galeries Gourmet upstairs, and the house store across the street. The main store is beautiful just to walk through (check out that ceiling). If you spend over 175 euros (approximate at this time) you get back the VAT but you have to spend that amount in one store and on the same day to get back the tax. For more see VAT under "Paris A-Z." There's another on the left bank but the one on Blvd Haussmann is the one to go to. Printemps is right next door and is also very good for shopping.

And while we're talking about Galeries Lafayette, they have a wonderful fashion show - Fridays at 3:00 PM all year. This may change - it has several times - so check with the store. You must make reservations - it is limited seating. You sit at tables with a long runway down the middle - lots of fun, long legs, and high cheekbones. Lasts about 45 minutes. Refreshments are served. As soon as possible, stop by the store and make your reservations. You make them at the Welcome Desk It's on the ground floor (in France that's called the "Rez-de-Chausee" (ray duh show-say) or RC., in the southwest corner of the main store. Their 1st floor is one flight up, our 2nd floor. You can also send an e-mail to for the reservation. Can't book more than 1 month in advance. Your hotel probably has a card offering a 10% discount from Galeries and/or Printemps. To use the 10% discount, you must take the offering card from the hotel and present it at the cashier at the store with your passport or copy of your passport when you pay. Printemps also has a fashion show but it doesn't compare. If your hotel doesn't have one, stop by one of the larger hotels and pick one up at the desk. La Samaritaine has also started to offer the 10% discount.

If you're interested in buying scarves, check out the outdoor stands in front of Galeries Lafayette and Printemps and in some metro stations. They have the same scarves as the shops but you'll pay about 1/3 less - they just won't be wrapped as nicely. But tell them it's a present - say "an cah-doh" - they'll put it in a nice bag.

Don't listen to the terrible stories about the French. They're as friendly and helpful as anyone. Your attitude is very important.

Tip: Many people get colds after taking long plane rides. Decrease your chances by buying a Saline Nasal Spray in a drugstore and use it constantly throughout the trip. It will keep the nasal tissue moist, much better for warding off germs.

Transfers to and from airports:
When you arrive in Paris and you're not on a tour, there are several ways of getting to your hotel. The easiest is by cab - just walk outside the terminal and get on the line for taxis. Don't take the car/drivers just outside with signs on them offering to go to Paris - they're much more expensive. Get on the regular taxi line - have sign on roof "Taxi Parisien." If you don't speak French you should have the name and address of your hotel written in block letters on a piece of paper to give to the driver. Most do not speak English and may not understand names without the proper pronunciation (say Eiffel Tower and they won't know what you're talking about - it's "Tour Aifell" to them). Cost should be about $40 from Orly to central Paris and about $50 from Ch de Gaulle, depending on traffic and the value of the dollar. You may be charged extra for large suitcases. Add on a 10% tip - this is one time when you do tip in France. There are also buses you can take from each airport and a train from De Gaulle. The problem is, the buses and train drop you off in Paris and you still have to figure out how to get to your hotel while shlepping your baggage. There's also a private shuttle bus - some people like it, others had bad experiences with them. My advice - take a taxi. Start off your trip without aggravation.

Tip for women: Many streets in Paris are cobblestone. Don't wear shoes with high narrow heels. Be sure the heels are wide and "boxy" or you'll wear them out in one day scraping the sides against the cobblestones, not to mention twisting an ankle.

To get back to the airport arrange for a taxi a day or two before your departure. The concierge will do that for you.

on to Guide to Paris - Pt 3
Guide to Paris (c) 2000