Just got back from Paris - tips

Nov 27th, 2001, 05:26 AM
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Just got back from Paris - tips

I just returned from a twelve day trip to Paris. Had to connect from my town into Houston for a 4:00 pm flight. Bad weather in my town caused us to miss our connection and we had to spent the night in Houston and leave the next day at 4:00 pm. (NOTE TO SELF - always get to the city of the connection early because many european airports are not open all night so the flights are scheduled to arrive there in the daylight hours.

So I missed the opera in Paris - NTS -never plan an outing the night of the first night there. (The concierge really enjoyed my tickets-well, I guess so - the 12th row at Opera Bastille.

This time I spent a lot of time planning the itenerary. I located on a map all of the places I wanted to see and then divided the map into one day sections - listing all of the places I wanted to go. Then I printed a map of each section and plotted the locations of the shops and retaurants I wanted to go to - starting at the metro station and walking from there. This saved an enormous amaount of grief trying to decide how to get places and gave me more time to play.

(it is soo frustrating to realize at the end of the trip that the kitchen supply you wanted to visit was only two minutes from the place you had lunch two days ago.)

I had many aha moments on this trip. First and foremost I was thunderstruck once gain - more than ever before- by the sweet nature of the Parisians. Of course I am a single woman travelling with a charming little 9 year old girl - and I speak fluent french - so that gives us an advantage. But the people were so warm and kind to us:examples:
two mean sent us an apple crepe-one of their three- when we admired the flambeau effect when ignited for presentation.

A local parisian offered to share his cab with us when we were caught in the rainy traffic near the eiffel tower. He lived near the Luxembourg gardens and we were staying nearby. Not only that but he would not let us pay a penny and he dropped us off first. He even gave us his name and number so we could call next time we are in Paris.

When I tried to pay for our meal with a card other than American Express at a restaurant that only takes that card, the main waiter offered to walk with us to a nearby cash machine - because I did not know the neighborhood, it was late at night, and my daughter wanted to come with me, rather than stay in the restaurant.

Stores delivered purchases to our hotel, people gave my daughter candy and little presents, the list goes on and on. I have only witnessed about ten rude people in my six trips to Paris - that's how many rude people I met in two days in Los Angeles.

I think the reason I have had such good luck is that I am very conscious of the customs and protocol. For example, you never just walk up and say, where are the restrooms. You must always say, the equivalent of "bonsoir madame(or monsieur) - Excusey moi - Pouvez vous me dire ou sont les toilettes? Ah, merci madame, au revoir." And, please, do try to speak french. No one will laugh at you for making mistakes if you look like you are earnestly trying. They will help you finish your sentences. Many of them are practicing english so they understand.

My next post I will list the places we went and observations.

Nov 27th, 2001, 06:03 AM
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I also have found Paris to be quite easy for making acquaintances, and I have found the people to be just as courteous as anywhere else in Europe. The key, as already emphasized, is to be sincere, pleasant, use "thank you" and "please," and try to use the French language as much as possible. The only problem I ever had with anyone in Paris was with a waiter at the Brasserie Lipp, who became a bit impatient at my attempts to order the meal in French. Even then, his impatience was sprinkled with a bit of humor and leg-pulling. I honestly believe that people all over the world are basically kind and understanding; we just need to remember that in their country, we are the foreigners.
Nov 27th, 2001, 06:11 AM
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because we missed a day-quel horreur - we got there just in time for our reservations a Jules Vernes. NTS - never go there again - and if I do definitely do not get their overpriced and silly menu degustation - blech. Saw others getting some luscious duck thing with figs that I would have sold things for.

Then we wandered around the Champs de mar and piddled away the rest of the day just getting settled in our hotel and such.

The next day we went to the Notre Dame and wandered over to the Ile St Louis. wnt to The Brasserie de Isle St Louis on Ile St Louis - NTS - never go here for any reason. I thought the food was horrible - horrible. I did not like the atmosphere . The food had an off taste. I don't understand why people recommend this place- blechh!

Wandered down the rue St Louis en L'Ille and visited alot of hotels. I went to occitane- again I don't understand the allure of that place. Stuff smelled OK but not THAT good.

The 19th we went to the Arc de Triomphe and it was closed until 2pm for some odd reason. We went to the Rue Poncelet market - NTS- this place is closed on Mondays but no books say that. Walked down the Champs d'elysee. Went to see Louis Vitton and saw the big trunks that were in Joe vs the Volcano. Had luch at Laduree - very fifi la peu. Delicious chicken curry salad - to die for macaroons - expecially pistachio. That evening went to the rue de Buci. Bought a stunning bouquet of anenomes and roses for 200 francs that brightened our lives our enitre trip. It just kept opening every day. It was bagged in water. I have never seen anything like it. Buy one there at Aquerelle on the rue de buci. Then we went to the little cafe that has a guy cracking oysters in the front- had the oysters gratinee - OH my Gawd - to die for. Do this, even if you don't like oysters. Then got wantered through the markets to buy lychees, tangerines, raspberries, beaujolais, poilane bread and cheese for our room .

The 20th we went to the fashion show at Galleries Lafayette - NTS - why havent I done this before. IT was an absolute blast- ask to be seated right at the end of the runway. Now this was a stunning show - stunning. The models were gorgeous, the accessories were fabulous, and the clothes were marveilleux. Take your camera.

After that we went to the Musee Grevin - the was museum. We loved it - take your camera. IT was two hours of fun. That night we went to Chez dumonet Josephine. If you ever see morilles farci - order it and prepare to die. I went back for them but they said they didn't have morels. But our food was wonderful - wonderful.
Nov 27th, 2001, 06:32 AM
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"Chez Dumonet Josephine" is an old fav of mine, just like the whole Rue du Cherche-Midi. It's it just perfect for a stroll?

Sorry, you missed the Opera Bastille.

Nice post, merci beaucoup.
Nov 27th, 2001, 07:58 AM
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Mariacallas, this is fantastic! I'm getting ready for my 3rd trip to Paris in 4 weeks and you have many new and helpful tips!! Merci! More???
Nov 27th, 2001, 08:20 AM
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Mariacallas: Nice posts. I found it interesting that you liked the fashion show. Never have attended, but rec'd free tickets with Eurostar tickets (and thought it would only be a hokey tourist thing). Glad to hear that it was worthwhile. Also, refresh my memory, what is the subject of the Musee Grevin? Finally, did you mention where you stayed? If not, please identify with details (i.e. price, ammenities, etc.). Thx.
Nov 27th, 2001, 09:05 AM
Not Maria
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Dear trying, All of the tickets to the fashion show are free (you can even book online)and it really is a fun thing to do. For Mariacallas, thanks for the wonderful report and for your next trip, keep in mind that most (if not all) markets are closed on Mondays. That would be the perfect day for fashion shows and museums that are operating on Mondays. Have fun!
Nov 27th, 2001, 09:33 AM
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I am planning a quick trip to Paris next week. Is the show at Moulin Rouge worth seeing?
Nov 27th, 2001, 11:13 AM
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Hi Mariacallas

I was in Paris in September. It was my first trip but didn't do all the different things you did. Is it because with every trip you just get more knowledgeable with the city or is it that I'm stupid.

Enjoyed all the info.
Nov 27th, 2001, 11:50 AM
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Fun post, Maria. Thanks for the smile!
Nov 27th, 2001, 12:03 PM
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Man, I just read my posts. Please credit my typos to jet lag and a half. Musee Grevin is the WAX museum - unbelievabley cool- life sized figures of celebrities - my idol - Maria Callas was there in all her Diva glory. Julia Roberts, Madonna, historical figures - and tons of French celebrities.

It was wonderful. I stayed in Hotel Bonaparte - I think it was about 115 / night. I liked it- very room dependent- no frills - but for one who uses the room only for sleeping and getting ready to go out - it was perfect. I really prefer to spend my money on fine dining and gifts you cannot buy elsewhere = foi gras d'oie, fabric, clothes, accessories, painting supplies, etc.

Regarding the Moulin rouge. I have seen that, the lido, and Folies Bergere. I guess it's worth doing once, but you will probably not remember it in three years.

Nov 27th, 2001, 12:22 PM
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Kallie -- it's because it was your first time. I missed a lot my first time (and second, and third...) You just have to keep going back! Each trip is more leisurely than the last -- you don't feel like you have to cram a million things into a few days (or a week).
Nov 27th, 2001, 12:41 PM
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Chris - Thanks. You made me feel better. I did see a lot of things but it was your typical 1st time to Paris things to see and can't go home without seeing. Hopefully I am going to be going to Italy and Paris next September or October and will be far more knowledgeable.
Nov 27th, 2001, 12:44 PM
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Thanks for the memories! I enjoy reading all the traveloges on Paris. I am looking forward to my third trip in June. I am so happy to hear others say that the French are friendly. We have always felt that way but so many people I talk with do not like Paris. I met a woman the other day who said they hated Paris and that the people were rude to them. I realy am leary of people who feel this way! I guess to each their own! I agree with you that you must try to respect their customs and be polite and that makes all the difference.
Nov 27th, 2001, 12:56 PM
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Oh, while it's fresh on my mind, a few notes on preparing for the day of departure.

Detaxe is for anything over 1200 francs - what's that in euro?-or anything you ship. I recommend that if you need a bunch of stuff, start out at somewhere like Galleries Lafayette and try to get it all at one place so you can get detax. Then you can shop at other places to fill in the rest of your list. Plan to spend about three hours there minimim.

Don't let them -GL- talk you into that deal where they keep track of your stuff on a little form and the gather all your stuff in one place - unless you're sure they use the correct form. The guy who does that downstairs is an absolute buffoon who will drive you crazy - I'd like to stomp on his toes.

Keep all of your receipts and detax stuff in one place. Tally them all, subtract the tax out, and convert the total to US dollars, or else take a calculator on the plane. You'll need that for your customs declaration when you arrive back in the US.

While you're in Paris - go by a Tabac and get stamps for postcards- 2 per card- and also get stamps for all your detax forms.

Keep a copy of your passport with you while shopping - you need it to get detaxe.

When shopping, ask stores to deliver your purchases to your hotel so you don't have to shlepp your stuff around all day - looking like a tourist.

When you pack for departure, put your passport, receipts, and detax forms with stamps in one place. Put your purchased items in one bag. Put someone in the line from hell- to check your baggage - they need the airline tickets. Meanwhile you take your bag of items you purchased and want detax refund to the detax counter. They want to see the items you are claiming for detaxe and the want to see your detaxe form -out of the envelope- and passport. They will ask you some questions, then tell give you the green and pink copies of your detaxe forms. You put the pink copy in the corresponding envelope, seal it, stamp it. and go put it in the yellow - boite de lettre (mail box). IF you forget to get a stamp, get one from the tabac there in the airport. The whole process takes about twenty minutes if you already have the stamps and the stuff together. Then you can go check your bag or carry it on. I recommend checking as much stuff as you can these days cause it totally sucks to get delayed in security - and miss your flight- just because something you bought looks questionable in the xray machine. They are VERRRRRRRY particular in the paris airport.

Reserve some cash for buying stuff in the duty free stores and the airport - Don't even try to bring back french cheese - US customs won't let you. Be prepared for a very long line at the duty free shops. IF you want time to shops there, get to the airport at least three hours early - I recommend it.

Nov 27th, 2001, 12:59 PM
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My opinion on how to keep from being a target - why I have never had any problems - how to blend in.

Dress like the parisians - long coats, big wool dark scarves, dark shoes. Many parisians wear backpacks or big purses. If you don't have one for your extra stuff, carry around a plain bag.

Don't talk on the metro unless you speak perfect french. Do not stand near the doors to the metro - that's prime target for thievery. Sit still, don't draw attention to yourself. Don't wear flashy clothes, carry Louis Vuitton - flashy bags, or wear things with American logos on it. Don't walk around with a big american grin on your face - parisians don't do that to strangers - especially women don't.

Ask the information stand at the metro station for directions to your destination - if you don't understand the directions - ask them to write it down. "Monsier/madame, pouvez vous ecriver les directions sur la carte, s'il vous plait. If you hear the word changez, be sure you know where to change trains.

The RER is not the same as the metro. IT is a different system. Be sure you know how to do it before you launch off into that underworld. The chatelet RER stations is absolutely gigantic - bigger than that.

Metro stations usually have a big M lit up over the entrances.

When you plan your day, I recommend that you take a metro or tax to your furthest destination and work toward your hotel. Ask your hotel to call a cab for you at least thirty minutes before you'll need it. If you need a cab after five or on Friday or Sunday evening, ask your hotel to call and reserve it for you in advance. It's almost impossible to get a cab on Friday and Sunday nights due to all the commuters. There are 14,900 cabs in Paris and about 12 million people. Many of those commute on the weekends. Plan around it.

Learn where the taxi stations are near your hotel and be prepared to walk to them. Get a hotel near one and near a metro station. Learn this - "Pardons, madame. ?Ou est the station de taxi / metro le plus proche. (Where is the closest taxi/metro station?) Learn how to understand the following things so you can follow directions- A cote de- en face de - toute droite, tournez, a gauch, a droite, upstairs, down stairs - the beginning, the end.

More later.
Nov 27th, 2001, 01:58 PM
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A note on what you can pack in on a day. Just like anything, you need to set priorities. The first time to Paris, you need to learn how to get around. Generally you're just so taken with the whole concept of cafes, the architecture, the cosmopolitan feel, and the food, and the shopping.

The level of my planning was not possible without the WW web. I was amazed at the maps I could find, and all the info on restaurants, etc.

I highly recommend the new version of the food lover's guide to Paris by Patricia Wells. I took it with me each and every day. It gives the names, addresses, email and web addresses, and fax numbers of the restaurants, cafes, wine bars, and specialty shops in PAris. she recommends what to order. I was very happy with most of her recommendations - except for brasserie en l'isle.

The secret is to figure out how to work everything into the day in a logical way - dialing in mealtimes, lines, and weird hours. If you take the time to do this planning, it's amazing how much you can pack into a day.

I still have a lot more to tell you - I have only told you about four days. We were there for 9!
Nov 27th, 2001, 02:17 PM
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OK, now that I'm looking at my journal I can see that one morning we went to Poilane bakery and went down to see the oven. IT was very very cool. then we went to the Musee D'orsay but it was closed for the day for remodeling. So we went to the louvre instead. Then we went to Senneliers- across from the louvre and bought some art supplies - check out their pastel gift boxes and pads of pastel paper - awesome and good prices.

then we walked down the rue de seine and saw the art galleries. That night we went to Chez maitre Paul - very good fish in a cream sauce. Sweet waiters and nice comfy roomy atmo.

The next day we went to the Musee d'orsay and then to the Musee Jaquemart D'Andre - very very cool mansion in PAris. That night we went to the fermette Marbeuf - It is pretty but the food was nothing special. I notice now it's not in Patricia Wells book. I will not book anywhere that is not in her book - ever again.

The next day we slept late and then went to L'ami Louis for lunch at 12:30. Then we went to Houles - a place to buy tassels and trim - open only to the trade. That night we went to the Ballet- La Bayardere at the opera Bastille. Omigowd - I never liked ballet until I saw that one. Nureyev choreographed it for the PAris Ballet and it is stupendous. Really, I cried twice it was soooo beautiful. The dancers were excellent. NTS - the french do not really dress up much for the ballet. I was surprised - it looked like street clothes compared to what they wear to similar events in NY, Dallas, Houston, SF, etc. I like it that there were many kids there. The French are way up on Americans culturally - we tend to reserve the arts for adults - why? NTS - make sure to eat BEFORE the ballet. We were starving. Then we went to Cafe Flore for a late bite.

Nov 27th, 2001, 02:39 PM
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Mariacallas - Did you book your tickets for the ballet in the states or wait until you got to Paris. If here who did you book them through. Also it looks as though you were out late in the evenings. How did you get back to your hotel? Cabs are not always easy to find.

Nov 27th, 2001, 04:45 PM
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This is grace a Fred (thanks to Fred) who sent this to me and I took his kind advice. Thank you Fred. You were a big help to me.

''You can write or Fax the Agence Cheque Theatre - 33 rue le Petier
- 75009
Tel 011-33-1-42-46-72-40. Fax: 011-33-1-48-00-93-93. Request a
schedule. I got my tickets from them. Be sure you know exactly where you are sitting and call wayyyy in advance.

You can call your concierge.
You can go to: http://www.opera-de-paris.fr and can get both
Opera and
Ballet tickets from this site. Click on the British flag for
English or the
option "English." 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.''

I always got the restaurant to call a cab or hail one for me. I caught a cab in front of the Opera - guess I was just lucky. The Cafe Flore was a five minute walk from my hotel.

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