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Tips from Paris, reporting live...

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Hi Fodorites!

Way back when I discovered this forum, I was embarking on what turned out to be nearly seven lean years, as far as travel went. Now I finally have something to post about - hooray!!

I am writing to you from Paris. Yes, RIGHT NOW. Ask me anything!

In some ways this is not your typical Fodorite trip, if there is such a thing:
- I have a lot more time than money, this time around the block, which means cooking-and-walking rather than restaurants-and-taxis.
- There are few major attractions on the agenda (insofar as I have an agenda), due to a combination of having been here before, and just being more of a "flâneur" type. The goal of the trip is just to soak up this place; it's been many years since I was here and it will probably be another five before I'm back.

The following are a smattering of tips from my adventures so far. They relate to each other in no way, except that they're all Paris tips and they're focused to some degree on an on-the-cheap kind of trip. I'll be updating it as I think of things. (Please forgive me if any of this duplicates other posts; I confess I don't have the time to be as avid a reader as I once was.)

1. Sainte-Chapelle windows

If you go to Sainte-Chapelle consider taking a pair of opera glasses, or a good telephoto lens, especially if you're an art or history buff. Pick up one of the laminated cards inside the upper chapel explaining the imagery in the windows. English ones were hard to come by the day I was there but, based on how much I enjoyed the French one, I think it's worth hovering by the stand where they're kept until one is returned. I am a shameless history nerd and I was fascinated by the way the windows tell a story. (Nerdy insert: they seek to establish continuity from the Biblical house of Judah to the French kings, and they focus on the evils of idolatry, setting the stage for the Seventh Crusade. Note the way they combine fleur de lys images with those of a gold tower on a red background, which represents the house of Castile - the king's mother's lineage). Several of the interesting panels singled out in the text are up very high, but with your opera glasses you'll be in good shape.

Also, those COLORS. Obviously, go on a day when there's at least some sunshine, if you can. When the sun burst through the clouds, it took my breath away.

2. View from the Pompidou

It strikes me that the west-facing terrace on the 5th floor of the Pompidou (enter at the 4th floor and take the stairs up to the 1905-1960 permanent collection) would be a magnificent place to watch the sun set, if you were there at a time of year when sunset came before the announcement to clear out the rooms at 8:30 p.m.

Though you won't catch the sunset in early July, I was still amazed by the view to the Eiffel Tower to my left, the Palais Garnier to the near right, and all of Montmartre spread out to the far right. And if you're there on the first Sunday of the month like I was, then you're in for free, too!

3. Covered Picnics

This one's a tip-in-progress and I hope others will chime in. We penny-pinchers love our picnics, but it's such a downer to forego your lovely packed lunch in favour of a restaurant just because it's pouring. So, I've been keeping my eyes peeled for outdoor, covered spaces where one could eat under these circumstances. What's hard to find is a covered bench - suggestions please! - but here are some places you could eat if you feel like perching on a step or windowsill, or spreading your jacket out on the ground:

- 1eme: In the Palais Royal gardens, I noticed some young travellers doing exactly this on the rue de Montpensier side (west), where there's a large covered space before one exits onto the street. Maybe less than ideal as there are no steps or anything - it's a spread-your-jacket-on-the-ground spot - but it's spacious and a bit shadowy, so they were inconspicuous and not in anybody's way.
- Ile de la Cité: Hôtel-Dieu Garden, on the covered steps. Of course, this is not a spot to be raucous, as there are people in the building who need their rest! (I'd never been here before and I found it remarkable how a handful of tourists mingled peaceably with the occasional patient out for a promenade in his dressing gown, wheeling an IV.)
- Saint-Germain: the passage Dauphine has some low, deep windowsills where I think one could perch for a while without being rude. Correct me if I'm wrong on this point.

Any other ideas?

4. "Be Prepared"

I'm ashamed to admit this one, but hey, we can all use an extra dose of humility, right? If you are self-catering, remember that this is not the land of the 24-by-7 *anything*. Especially on Saturday, you need to think about whether you have all the food and wine you'll want before Monday (not impossible to find on Sunday, but a good deal harder than at home and really, wouldn't you rather just be ready than pound the pavement?) Chains and department stores tend to be closed, too - if you need a coffee press from BHV or a USB cable from FNAC, you're not getting it on a Sunday. Not that I would know! How embarrassing.

Oh, and this isn't a 'tip' like the other ones, really, but L'As du Falafel in the Marais, 34 Rue des Rosiers, actually lives up to the hype. I was sceptical, and then I went there and it was so good I almost cried.

More to come. And if you have questions, ask now--I have a few days to find the answers for you while I'm still here, and hopefully if I help some Fodorites out then my good travel karma will come back around!

- Quicksilver -

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