"Bon Jour and welcome to the city of love... Paris, France!!"

Tour Eiffel

"Paris was continuously expressing the humanness of

humanity. Everywhere I sensed a miraculous presence,

not of mere children and women and men, but of living

human beings." - e.e. cummings

I've tried to categorize transportation, lodging, sightseeing, and other items and facts you might find informational. Be sure and email me to let me know what you think!

If you've always wanted to go someplace with history and romance, then set your sights on the international city of amore, Paris, France. From the Eiffel Tower, to strolling along the left bank, to enjoying a scrumpious meal at a sidewalk cafe, Paris will tempt, excite, and overwhelm you!!


"TRANSPORTATION"

MD 11

Depending upon which airline you fly, you will arrive in Paris at either Charles de Gaulle or Orly airports. Charle de Gaulle airport is located approximately 24 kilometers (15 miles) north of the city. Orly, on the other hand is actually a little closer, approx. 17.6 kilometers (11 miles) south of the city. Both airports are serviced by major airlines, but let me explain the differences.

Orly Airport

If you have decided to rent a car, and speak fluent french, then Orly is your best bet if you're headed to Paris. It's much easier to get to all major points, and as long as you don't attempt Paris' equivilent of freeways at rush hour, you should be fine. Keep in mind, however, that Orly is really not an international arrival or departure point for other European cities so it is far more difficult to find someone there that speaks and/or understands English. I would share my nightmare experience about trying to rent a car from the Hertz counter at Orly airport but it would take too long!!

If you do arrive at Orly, and do not want to rent a car, then take a cab to your destination. It will cost right around $50 American dollars. If you are not headed to the French countryside, then by all means, use the Paris Metro system, which is probably one of the finest transportation systems in the world - we'll talk more about that later.

Charles de Gaulle Airport

The international airport of Charles de Gaulle is literally a crossroads for people traveling not only within the European community, but a stopping place for people traveling world wide. For this reason, the word "international" truly describes the facilities. All signs are clearly marked in several languages, including English, so if you do not speak or read french, do not fear. Everyone we encountered spoke at least a "little bit of English"... just enough to get by.

Speaking of getting by, the Hertz Rental Car counter people at Charles de Gaulle were extremely helpful, and come highly recommended. If you do rent a car here, keep in mind that driving from the airport to the center of Paris can be quite hazardous to your health! The main highway is clearly marked (in French), and you do get to drive on the right side of the road, but if you're not really great with a street map, and aren't used to driving like a taxi cab driver in New York, then take the Metro railroad... believe it or not, it's much easier! (If you're not very adventureous a cab is always available.)

One thing I forgot to mention, it's also nearly impossible to find a parking spot in Paris - so forget the car. The train station from the airport is actually located right on the airport grounds. There are free shuttle buses that operate from the train station to the terminals and vs versa. Also, don't feel bad about dragging all your luggage on the shuttle bus and/or train, 'cause everyone does it. From the airport, you take something called the RER which costs approx. $11 U.S. dollars per person. You will transfer to the Paris metro system once you arrive in the center of Paris. You can purchase a great map from Frommers Paris at any bookstore that will give you more info.

Paris Metro

Metro Trains

If you do decide to take the Paris Metro, there are a few things you absolutely must know. First of all, you can literally take the Metro anywhere in Paris; to any museum, restaurant, or tourist location. The best thing about the Metro is that you can travel, changing trains as many times as you like, as long as you're going one direction for only one ticket. You can purchase a booklet of ten tickets for approx. $8 U.S. dollars.

The next thing to keep in mind is that the trains are very crowded, and you probably won't find too many people that speak English, so bring your map along with you. You will find detailed maps as well at every train station and transfer point. You also will want to know that since the Metro is underground, there are many vagrants that will be soliciting for money... travelers beware.

And finally, do not for any reason discard your ticket once you put it through the machine to board the train. There are people that I call the Metro police that on occasion will stop people and ask to see their "stamped" tickets upon exiting the train. If you don't have it, you will be detained until you pay up around $30 U.S. dollars. How am I sure you might ask... well it almost happened to me. We had been traveling for two days on the Metro without incident. On the third day upon exiting the train, we ran into the police. We had been throwing our tickets away so although we had a pocket full of unused tickets, we did not have a stamped one. After being detained for almost thirty minutes, they were so frustrated at being unable to understand our explanation (language barrier), they let us go. But I have heard of people being taken to jail... so heed the warning.


"LODGING"

Ritz Hotel

Paris is divided into 20 municipal wards called arrondissements. Each of these wards has its own mayor, police station, and central post office, sort of like small cities within the city! They are numbered from one to twenty. Each of Paris's arrondissements has its own unique style and flair. The best way to decide where to stay is to decide which district appeals most to you then look for lodging there. Keep in mind that you can take the metro anywhere, so no matter where you stay, you're only a train ride away from any sight you wish to see.

There are many hotel chains that operate in Paris. If you want to play it safe, you can stay at a Hilton, Holiday Inn, or a Novotel. But if you want to live life to the fullest, then try one of the approximately 2000 hotels in Paris that provide real french flavor. Be prepared to spend anywhere from $75 US dollars for a very rustic feel, to upwards of $400 US for the cream of the crop. Once again, it's whatever you're looking for in your trip. Now let me tell you about where I stayed and the reasons why.

Hotel du Cygne

It might not be the fanciest place you've ever stayed, but Hotel du Cygne has something a lot of hotels in Paris wish they had, and that's prime location. The address is 3, rue du Cygne 75001 Paris. The hotel is located in the 1st arrondissement (or district)and is within walking distance to the Louvre, the magnificent museum that holds some of the world's greatest treasures (more about that later). The first district also boasts of having some of the most elegant addresses of Paris, the rue de Rivoli, and near the Louvre, the most formal garden of Paris, Jardin des Tuileries, which was said to have been laid out by Le Notre, who was the gardener to Louis XIV. If you are headed to any other sightseeing destination, the Chatelet stop on the Paris Metro is only one block away.

There are several things to know about the Hotel du Cygne. Let's start with the best (besides the location), the price. There were three of us that stayed together in a room with a double bed and rollaway cot. The room also had a private bathroom with tub (no shower). There was a television in the room but all the channels were french so it was like not having a tv at all (definitely not cable) The price was only $79 US per night.

It was clean and the staff was extremely pleasant. They spoke a minimal amount of english, just enough to get by, but they were very helpful. A few drawbacks, the room was not air conditioned, and it was quite rowdy out on the streets at night, so opening the window brought in lots of outside noise. We stayed on the third floor, and there was no elevator. And finally, there were several adult entertainment establishments on the block, along with lots of great places to eat - a very economical place to stay - but you probably wouldn't want to stay there if you were traveling alone. (**PLEASE NOTE** The picture of the hotel shown above is not this hotel!)

The best part of the hotel stay was the offer of room service for breakfast. We took them up on their offer one morning and received a typical french breakfast, steaming hot coffee, freshly squeezed juice, crossaints and baquettes of french bread with jam... yummy! The total price of breakfast for three was only $18 US which was the most reasonable breakfast we had the entire time we were in France.


"FOOD"

food, Paris style

Your best bet for food is to ask at the hotel you are staying at, unless you stayed at a hotel like ours, where they spoke very limited english. In Paris you can find American food at places like the Hard Rock Cafe, but you should really experience french cuisine. We opted for a small continental breakfast. We usually purchased lunch from a sidewalk vendor - just like New York but without the hot dogs! The equivalent of the American sandwich is sold quite inexpensively but you will want to know that although the long crusty french bread is delicious, they only put meat and sometimes lettuce with it - no condiments - so it can be a little dry. Our tastiest lunch was found in the Latin district, not far from Notre Dame, where you could buy a gyro wrapped in a paper contraption, and piled high with everything you can think of, including french fries - quite difficult to eat but very tasty. Dinner can be quite expensive, but you really should splurge on at least one gourmet meal. Most small sidewalk cafes offer an all inclusive meal, from soup to nuts. But be prepared to pay quite heavily for the meal, anywhere from $30-$35 USD per person.

Any way you experience French cuisine will be quite an adventure!


"SIGHTSEEING"

There are so many things to do and see in Paris and the outlying areas that it would take several weeks to see them all! However, if you only have a limited time as we did, then there are certain sights you absolutely must see.

Cruising on the Seine

Seine River

The first thing you should do upon arriving in Paris is to take a short cruise on the Seine River. Bateaux-Mouches cruises depart on a regular basis on the Right Bank. The ride lasts approximately one and a half hours and only costs $7.50 USD. The tour is given in six languages, including English. You cruise by a mini replica of the Statue of Liberty, Notre Dame, among other various sites - very nice and quite informative.

Tour Eiffel

The Eiffel Tower

Everyone who visits Paris must experience the Eiffel Tour at least one time. It is quite an engineering marvel, and what a fantastic view of the city! To head to the very top level will cost you approximately $10.45 USD but there are several exhibits and the view is well worth the cost. If you can, go at nighttime for a magnificant glimpse of the city of lights.

The Louvre

Louvre Museum

No matter what the cost, if you don't see anything else in Paris, go to the Louvre. It is the most impressive museum I have ever seen. Be sure and allow yourself the majority of the day to savor the incredible treasures like the Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo, and works from all the masters. The cost is quite inexpensive, only $7.60 USD, and if you are in Paris the first Sunday of each month, it is free to get in. I wouldn't suggest visiting on the free day, we were there and the line was wrapped practically around the building. It's much better to pay rather than to fight the enormous crowds. When you are done in the museum, head for their bookstore for a huge selection of souvenirs.

Arc de Triomphe

Arc de Triomphe

The Arc de Triomphe is located at the western end of the Champs-Elsees and easily accessible by the Metro. The arch was commissioned by Napoleon in 1806 to commemorate his victories. Since its creation, it has become the focal point for state funerals. It is also the site of the permanent tomb of the unknown soldier. To view the site is free, but to access the observation deck and exhibition hall there is a fee of $6.10 USD.

Notre Dame Cathedral

Notre Dame

The entrance to the cathedral is a work of art. There is no charge to enter the cathedral but do keep in mind that services are actually held here so on certain days you might not be able to explore all the nooks and crannies. If you want to tour the towers it will cost $6.65. Be sure and cirle the entire building and don't miss the courtyards out back. It is quite peaceful there contemplating the majestic work of art before you.

These are just a few of Paris' wonders for the traveler to behold. Other sights are as varied as your own individual tastes. Enjoy your trip - and be sure and email me when you get back to tell me what you thought!!!

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