Miscellaneous Paris Tips

Apr 2nd, 2004, 07:24 AM
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Miscellaneous Paris Tips

Let's pass on some tips about Paris...the kind that may not be in the guide books. I'll start:

1. At the Eifel Tower, remember that they sell tickets at more than one "leg." Almost everyone tries to buy tickets at the first leg they come to, which is the same leg if you arrive by metro, RER, or via the Trocadero. If you walk to the opposite leg, the line is almost never as long.

2. Really really think about when you want to visit the Eifel Tower, esp. if you visit on a weekend or the height of "tourist season." We were there on a Wednesday in mid-March, at dusk. There wasn't much of a line to buy tickets or get up, but waiting for the elevators to get down was crowded and stifling. I just can't imagine what it's like in August!

3. I'm no expert, but I gathered over the course of the week that when riding the Metro, you don't need your ticket to get out, but when riding the RER, you need to put your ticket through a machine to get the doors to open to let you out. So don't automatically discard your ticket once you get on, until you get the system down.

4. It's not easy to get take out food in the evening at all locations. We were staying in the 1st Arr. For dinner the first night we thought we'd just bring in some food since everyone was tired. Alas, by very early evening, the bustling market street was a ghost town. I'm sure that's not the case in the Latin Quarter, but plan ahead if you think you want to bring food in at night.

5. The Paris Maps Guide was great. It includes a metro map. Study the city map and the metro map very carefully before you book accomodations. Some hotels are "close to a metro stop", but the metro stop won't get you to very many of the typical tourist places without 2 changes in trains. The distance from a useful metro stop may tip the balance in favor of one hotel vs. the other.

6. Look on these boards and elsewhere for recommendations for the best menu guide you can find, unless your French is supurb. We had taken some French lessons, and I thought I had a good phrase book, but it was useless at most restaurants. Look at a menu at a sit down restaurant in your home town. Likely the menu items aren't decribed as "beef" "chicken" "pork". There are lots and lots of words used, so find the best help you can if you want enjoyable meals in Paris.

7. When making fairly substantial purchases that you can plan in advance (e.g. Museum Passes, Carte Orange, tickets to Bateaux Mouche), add up what it should cost. Be prepared for some changes (e.g. the price of museum passes went up right before our trip) but speak up if you think the charge is way off...(if you are shameless you can even have a calculator handy). When buying our Carte Orange/metro tickets, there was a miscommunication between me and the non-English speaking lady who sold us the tickets that cost us about 20 Euro. I knew the price was more than I had estimated, but it took me a day to figure it out. After that, I just had to keep repeating in my head "It's only 20 Euro, it's only 20 Euro..." It takes quite a bit of guts to question prices with a person who doesn't speak your language, so you just have to decide if every Euro is vital, or if you can just go with the flow.

8. The tendency is to spend change since you can't change it back upon your return home. However, keep some around for public toilets. For example, at attended toilets, it costs 41 cents for a stall and 30 for a urinal. The street toilets cost 40 cents, but they don't take a 50 cent piece.

9. It takes a long time to work your way through all the various pastries offered, so choose a bakery and start early in the week so you have time to discover your favorite!
missypie is offline  
Apr 2nd, 2004, 07:44 AM
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good idea, although it seems to me there's another useful gathering of Paris tips from fodorites somehwhere here, maybe someone can find it and post the url here as well.

There is more than one way to get into the Louvre. If you don't have the carte musee, try to access the Louvre via the Carrousel shops, or via the Louvre-Palais Royal metro stop (from within the metro.) There also used to be another entrance at Porte des Lions, between the Arc du Carrousel and the Tuileries Gardens--can't say for sure if that is still open as it has been a couple of years since last I was there.

Orient yourself to the Louvre before you go, it helps you make best use of your time.
www.louvre.fr Louvre tickets and guide, and calendar of openings and closings, excellent for pre-visit planning

A good article to give you an orientation to the Louvre: www.canoe.ca/TravelEurope/louvre.html

For a suggestion on a three-hour walk-through of the Louvre:

On another topic, if you do plan to picnic in your room or elsewhere at any time, pack in your checked luggage a corkscrew, some plastic utensils and paper plates and napkins. These are not given out when you buy takeaway food.
elaine is offline  
Apr 2nd, 2004, 09:12 AM
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1) Purchase the handy, dark blue "Paris Pratique" guide, it is approx 5x7 in size with maps of each of the arrondissements listed in chronological order, including a Metro, RER, bus plan, and overall map of the Paris vicinity. They sell them in newspaper/journal stores. A French friend of mine gave it to me upon arrival and I couldn't have been happier to have a compact, concise guide without having to carry separate maps, directions, etc. It worked great for walking places because the streets and areas were all very easy to see.

2) Buy a Carnet - 10 Metro tickets discounted. It saves time trying to work the machines or stand in line at the Metros and can be used on any line, any direction.

3) Bringing food in at night (eating in hotel room) was very easy. You don't have to rely just on the daily open market. Go to the neighborhood Franprix, Monoprix, etc (there were 3 in the 7th Arr near my hotel) and stock up on fruit, cheese, bread, cold cuts, water/soda, etc and you have the makings for a fine picnic or dinner. Besides changing the daily routine and saving money on restaurants, it is fun going to French grocery stores and buying things you wouldn't ordinarily buy in the US stores. I second the other poster, bring along some plastic utensils in your suitcase. The hotel can loan you some plates.

4) Often many cafes and small brasseries have a "minimum" purchase on a credit card. Unbeknownedst to me, I had stopped in on a brisk, cold afternoon to get a cafe au lait and a chocolate chaud for my 4 year old. We were told that there was a 15 euro minimum for using AMEX, so ended up buying a fancy dessert to split between us and let the restaurant keep the remaining 3 euros balance. Not a big deal, just something to be aware of!

5) You are not compelled to order bottled water (Evian, Perrier, etc) when eating out. Most Americans figure water will be on the tables, having to buy it per bottle, per person can be a surprise to most. I am not a big wine drinker, so from the start, I order "de l'eau en carafe" and both of us drink that with our meal. It is just regular (usually cold to tepid) water served in a large carafe. It saves the cost of buying 3,50 euros/per bottle (sometimes spending nearly 10 euros on water!) everytime we want something to drink with our meal. In Provence, we found that water in carafes were just automatically put on all the tables, without asking, which was nice!
Huitres is offline  
Apr 2nd, 2004, 10:53 PM
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Just a minor clarification re: Paris Metro ticket. While it is true you can technically exit from the metro without your ticket, if you are stopped in the metro by a controller and you don't have a cancelled ticket to show him the fines are rather hefty.
klondike is offline  
Apr 3rd, 2004, 01:13 AM
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here's a quick one...buy the Paris Visite pass...its a metro/bus pass for several days i think 3, 5, or 7 days....its WORTH it since u take the metro EVERYWHERE! they're not too expensive either! ill think of more at some point in time
frenchy227 is offline  
Apr 3rd, 2004, 03:59 AM
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The "miscommunication" of the original poster's Carte Orange was probably for CO for more than the 2 zones you usually buy. Right on about the Metro ticket--keep it until you exit although you don't need it to get through the turnstile.
For a menu guide I copied Patricia Wells' food glossary. There is a Marling guide but I do not find it as complete or organized as just a glossary--but it is small and portable.
Gretchen is offline  
Apr 3rd, 2004, 04:25 AM
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I have the Marling Menu guide too and found the indexing too complex for surreptitious research at the dinner table. The size is good though. I have Bon Appetit French-English Menu Dictionary by Judith A. White. I found that it had most things that I looked up and was happy with it.
AGM_Cape_Cod is offline  
Apr 3rd, 2004, 06:34 AM
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I recommend having a menu guide also. I have used "Eating and Drinking in France" part of the "What kind of food am I" series by Andy Herbach and MIcheal Dillon. I have found it to be invaluable. They have an Italian one also. Easy to use, small so it fits in my purse and I have never found a food on menu that was not in the book. I wouldn't travel without it.
cls2paris is offline  
Apr 3rd, 2004, 06:56 AM
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Take the bus! You can see where you are going and how things connect on the bus.

Go to the smaller museums. Carnavalet (the history of Paris) is great and in the Marais where the stores are open on Sundays because it is the Jewish neighborhood and many stores are closed on Saturday.

Eat dinner early at 7:30 before the restaurants fill and you are choked by the smokers.

Don't look confused and lost in metro. That makes you a prime target for the pickpockets.
Tobler is offline  
Apr 3rd, 2004, 06:59 AM
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Versailles: when visiting the Petite Trianon, return to the Chateau to exit. Don't take the road that goes beyond the Petite Trianon as it is a most difficult journey back to the train! (Took us two hours to find the Vicks RG train!)
allisonm is offline  
Apr 3rd, 2004, 06:20 PM
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I remember one place in the Metro system where you need your ticket: It's inside the massive Montparnasse station, and there is one transfer that requires exiting into an area that is "outside" the system, walking across an small underground plaza, and re-entering the system. You validate your ticket exiting into the plaza and use the same ticket exiting back into the Metro. Never discard your ticket until you leave the Metro!

Don't miss some of the best take-out in Paris: The food basements of the big department stores, Galeries Lafayette and Bon Marche. A zillion choices of breads, cheeses, coldcuts, prepared foods, wines, vegetables, fruits, deserts, chocolates, etc. etc. at decent prices and readily available in small portions. GF also seems to have temporary booths for interesting visiting artesanal food purveyors.

If you use the Lion's Gate entrance to the Louvre, not only will you avoid the lines, you also will be only a stairway away from the most amazing collection of "primitive" art you will ever see -- Africa, Oceana, American Indian, and more. It's the perfect remedy for Old Master Syndrome. After you see it, go see the sculpture work at the Picasso Museum.

Most restaurants will have a house wine by the bottle, or sold by various fractions of a liter, or by the "pichet" and the price will be very low relative to the quality. The brand will be "rouge," "blanc," or "rose" and the year will be "last week" and it will taste great with your food for less than the price of bottled water.
AJPeabody is offline  
Apr 3rd, 2004, 07:19 PM
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Fr menu help, see http://www.fodors.com/forums/threads...2&tid=34467078 with special reference to intimatefrance.com

Best wishes,

rex is offline  
Dec 21st, 2004, 09:39 AM
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This is a great thread with some really useful information that I have not seen elsewhere. I wonder if there are any other suggestions, pieces of advice, tips that might help us first-timers? Think of it as a Christmas gift from you experienced travelers.
robjame is offline  
Dec 21st, 2004, 09:44 AM
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Hi r, you may find the Superthread useful.

I'll link this thread there.


111op is offline  
Dec 21st, 2004, 11:57 AM
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FYI, the "minimum" purchase level that some French shopkeepers demand in order to use a credit card, though sadly common practice, is ABSOLUTELY ILLEGAL. Unfortunately, no one, including the French, has the guts to discuss this with the shopkeeper. So I guess it's even more difficult as a foreigner to argue "with a person who doesn't speak your language", as the OP awkwardly puts it. In my book it would rather be: "with a person whose language I don't speak". Talk about Freudian slip...
Art_Vandelay is offline  
Dec 21st, 2004, 12:03 PM
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We purchased the Carte Orange for our stay. We needed the one day pass, Carte Mobilis, for Monday (leaving Tuesday). The Metro agent would not sell it to us! So we walked to the next one (a few blocks) and were sold one. So if this happens, just try the next one.
gomiki is offline  
Dec 21st, 2004, 02:24 PM
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perhaps that first metro stop office had run out of that exact "carte". it does happen. it would not be the first time something like that has happened to me in spain for unusual reasons.

my tip to anyone thinking about getting weeekly travel card anywhere that may require photo: take some wallet size photos you have from home hanging around to avoid having to get one on trip. usually you only need one.(Maybe they have done away with the photo passes these days... my reference is from MANY years ago.)

-general travel tip: Call/email/write away to the tourist office of city/country you are planning to visit. you will receive FREE maps,etc., that many countries now are CHARGING for at their in-country offices. we just paid for map in brugges at tourist office, and england charges for most everything at their tourist offices, too, but i have received TONS of free info through post.

lincasanova is offline  
Dec 21st, 2004, 02:29 PM
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Don't discard your metro ticket either until you get out--the RATP police may demand to see it and you had BETTER have it. You do need your RER ticket in order to exit.
Gretchen is offline  
Dec 21st, 2004, 08:27 PM
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This is somewhat elemental, but I'll note it for first-timers.

If you find yourself yearning for a coke or soft drink, seek out a grocery store. We had been warned about cafe prices for them, but on our last day we both ordered cokes at lunch. Then the bill came. 8 euros...EACH! Ouch.
JeanneB is offline  
Dec 21st, 2004, 08:37 PM
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One other tip for first timers:

Immediately upon arrival, get yourself oriented with where your hotel is in relation to the Seine. Figure out which arrondisements/landmarks are in which direction. Doing this from the start can save you much backtracking during your visit.
JeanneB is offline  

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