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Going to Paris - Some Tourist Questions

by name Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 10:37:38 AM EST

I'm flying to Paris next week with my GF. We'll stay for a week and intend to use the week to know what is worth knowing, look at what is worth seeing, eat what is good and within budget. Neither of us has ever been to Paris, except as transit passengers at CDG.

So: What should foreigners see there ? What are good places to go eating decent parisian food at affordable prices ? Eiffel tower is planned, the Louvre already has its day reserved. What else is there worth seeing/eating/feeling in Paris ? Are there public transportation tickets for a week ? Does public transportation work ? Is the water from the tap drinkable ?

What should one avoid in Paris ?

Is it true that the stork brings all babies from Paris ?

... ?

Do You Live in Paris ?
. Yes 10%
. Yes, but I would prefer to live elsewhere 10%
. No 40%
. No, but I would like to live there 40%

Votes: 20
Results | Other Polls
This is an awesome thread and one I can contribute on even if it's Friday afternoon.
Water from the tap is drinkable. Public toilets are a place to avoid by all means, as are the restrooms of any café.
Nice places to visit :
--the Guimet museum, not far from the Eiffel tower, if you are into Asiatic art ;
--the Cognac Jay museum, which is our local Wallace Gallery, less impressive though ;
--the Île St Louis and its famous Berthillon ice creams is also worth a check and you can go there from Notre Dame cathedral (5 min. walk)

The best brasserie in Paris is La Coupole, near Montparnasse, and it's quite affordable.
The tube works pretty decently, but is very messy and unkept compared to the London underground.
You can buy weekly passes as far as I know.  

When through hell, just keep going. W. Churchill

by Agnes a Paris on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 11:03:20 AM EST
Depending on your landing time at CGD, taking a cab from the aiport to the city centre is recommended or strongly to be avoided. If you land at Orly, it's much quicker and you have buses providing direct connection with Paris.
The Paris outer ring road is jammed between 8 am to 11 am and 5pm to 8.30 pm.
In that slots, better to take the suburban train (RER), not very sexy but a quick way to reach Paris within 45 minutes to an hour time. Taking a cab at peak hours may "cost" you more than 2 hours and a good 50 £, whereas the RER fare is 5£. Coming from the UK, you will find clothes, wine and perfumes incredibly attractive.
If your GF likes shopping, don't miss the Galeries Lafayette nigh opening (until 9.00 pm) on Thursdays.

If you need advice for nice hotels (unlike the Hiltons where you get neither bad nor good surprise, do not hesitate).  

When through hell, just keep going. W. Churchill

by Agnes a Paris on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 11:13:20 AM EST
thank you :-)

we are coming from vienna, will arrive at CDG about 17:30, leave at about 20:30 a week later. we are travelling backpacker style and will take anything over youth hostel and below 50 EUR/nght/room provided it makes a clean enough impression. we've had more-or-less that in brussels, munich and london. paris seems a bit more expensive.

by name (name@spammez_moi_sivouplait.org) on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 11:50:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Sorry, silly of me have figured out you were coming from London.
I'll try and find a couple of hotel details for you. Get back to you on Monday.

When through hell, just keep going. W. Churchill
by Agnes a Paris on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 11:52:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Youth hostels are fun! Go here and they've got places with single rooms. http://www.hostelworld.com/
by messy on Sat Feb 18th, 2006 at 04:07:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
We found a very cheap hotel called 'Le Pratique' in Le Marais. The location being the best thing about it. It is very basic but clean and cheap.
Definitely have a look around Le Marais, not much touristy there but its unlike other areas of Paris with narrow streets and loads of charm. Its very different to the typical 'Grandes Boulevardes" Parisian style.

I love the Kebabs in Paris - they put chips (french fries) in them but maybe they do that in Austria as well. No-one ever talks about the kebabs - I think they are called Sandwich Grec or Sandwich Turq (depending on who owns the shop).

by lemonwilmot (lemonwilmot at gmail.com) on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 12:08:32 PM EST
Other ethnic food definitely worth trying is Morrocan and Vietnamese. I've been to some great places for both but I can't remember the names or places.
by lemonwilmot (lemonwilmot at gmail.com) on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 12:12:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Marais is wonderful - partly Jewish, partly very gay, and unlike any other place. There's a very good falafel place as well.

My favorite bookstore, Shakespeare & Co., is on Rue de la Bucherie (on the left bank right opposite Notre Dame).

You have a normal feeling for a moment, then it passes. --More--

by tzt (tzt) on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 12:23:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Now that we're talking about books... Don't forget to check out the bouquinistes (street book vendors) on the bank of the Seine.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 12:28:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I've always avoided them. Mostly to ensure I don't become some sort of hobo haunting the shores of the Seine.

Though there are worse outcomes.

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 12:30:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I actually stayed at Shakespere and company for a week or so. If you say you're a writer they'll let you stay there for free. Or at least they used to....I was there back in the '80s when you could stay at places like the Henri IV for what would be about five euros a night.

Ah, to be young and in Paris!!!!

by messy on Sat Feb 18th, 2006 at 04:10:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Some touristy observations from a fellow tourist:

Skip the Louvre and go to the Musee Rodin, the Centre Pompidou or the Musee d'Orsay.  Or at least make it to the Rodin...

The Jardin du Luxembourg is a gem.

I'm not sure you can get a bad meal in Paris, so long as you avoid fast food chains.  And if you are on a budget, grabbing some bread, cheese, fruit, pate, etc. from the street markets is a very good way to go.  The Marais is a good area for Middle Eastern food.  And for a special treat, go to the bakery La Poilane.

People scoff at it, but I love, love, the 6e arrondissement.  It's kind of Disneyworld for intellectual types, but there is this area away from the cafe scene by the river where the streets are tangled and narrow (you will get lost) and it is all just utterly charming.  

The Hotel Nesle is a good solid step above a youth hostel, is totally, almost unbearably charming, and pretty affordable, but I don't think they take reservations.  Check them out, though.  That may no longer be the case.

Also, limbing the steps of Montmartre is worth it for the views, and the excersize.

I know.  Touristy.  I have no shame.

I guess a lot depends on what you are into and what your budget is.  There are Metro passes and Museum passes (I'd get the first and skip the latter) and the Metro is easy enough to use.

Here's my suggestion, see a handfull of the sights you really want to see, but allocate half your week, at least 3 days, to just be in Paris.  Leave the hotel with no agenda, spend several hours over one very tiny cup of coffee, take long walks and pop into shops or bars that don't look too inviting to tourists.  Buy pasteries on a whim, stroll along the Seine with your GF, soaking it all up.  Be a Parisian for a few days.

Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities. -Voltaire

by p------- on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 12:50:42 PM EST
Oh, yeah, the Rodin museum is wonderful especially if, like me, you appreciate sculpture more easily than painting.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 12:56:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
This is what I'm talking about I get to a diary late.... Lets just say great minds think alike. Yes Rodin museum is well worth it! Part of the sculptures are in the garden surrounding the 'hotel particulier' the rest of his collection is inside. The garden used to have a small cafe in the back but I'm not sure it's open year round. The garden is known as one of the Romantic dating hangouts of Paris. Some of the nicest sculpture pieces are in the garden.
by Alexandra in WMass (alexandra_wmass[a|t]yahoo[d|o|t]fr) on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 03:24:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think my favourite sculpture in the whole museum has to be the one with a giant hand holding a block of marble, on the top side of which are carved a naked man and woman in foetal position.

But there are lots of others. It's been half a lifetime since I was there.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 04:05:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Here you go:
by Alexandra in WMass (alexandra_wmass[a|t]yahoo[d|o|t]fr) on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 10:03:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Man, I went there when I was 18...and that was the one piece that super grabbed me deep! Amazing.

"Once in awhile we get shown the light, in the strangest of places, if we look at it right" - Hunter/Garcia
by whataboutbob on Thu Mar 2nd, 2006 at 02:00:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks for the compliment, by the way.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 04:06:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I totally agree with this. In fact I try not to do too much wherever I go. Its laziness really but I try to spend as much time as possible just pottering about having a look round.

My rule is: do one touristy thing a day and hang out the rest of the time.

I would advise taking a few hints from a guide book on restaurants, I've had quite a few, not bad, but very predictable and uninspiring meals in Paris especially when eating cheaply at a French bistro.

by lemonwilmot (lemonwilmot at gmail.com) on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 12:58:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]

The hotel Tobiac at  122, rue de Tolbiac near Place d'Italie on the edge of Chinatown is very cheap and clean if somewhat scruffy. The Viet and Thai restaurants down the street are good and cheap if you get bored with all that French food ;<)


Do not feel safe. The poet remembers.
Czeslaw Milosz

by Chris Kulczycki on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 03:10:13 PM EST
Another stop to just hang out is Le Jardin du Luxembourg.

Sit on one of the many chairs that can be moved into the sun and just relax for a bit after walking around the left bank. You can get very good macarons from the chic Dalloyau bakery near one of the entrances (they are not cheap but worth it even if just for one or two pastries).  Another very good pastry and bread place not too far from the Luxemboug and Place de l'Odeon is Patisserie Gerard Mulot 2 rue Lobineau 75006. As for places to eat there are many many many. A nice small place with good couscous and an interesting mix of culinary styles (French & North African) is Au Bistrot de la Sorbonne 4 rue Toullier 75005 PARIS  Tel: 01 43 54 41 49. You can get a good meal for a good price.

Walking around is one of the best parts of being in Paris. There are so many wonderful neighborhoods, the Marais, mentioned earlier, with the Place de Vogues in the 4th that then leads you into the Bastille neighborhood of the 11th and 12th, the Latin quarter with Luxembourg and a walk down Rue Mouffetard also in the 5th, Rue Lecourbe from the Subway or bus stop Sevre-lecourbe to the town hall square in the 15th is a great typical street with butchers, fish mongers, pastry shops etc..., Hilly Montmartre in the 18th, and the grand magasin (including Gallerie Lafayette mentioned earlier) on Blv. Haussman behind the Opera house just to mention a few.

For public transportation I highly recommend trying the bus. Nothing wrong with the subway but the bus will give you a real view of the city and it's people and is well worth the little extra time it takes to figure out the lines. You can get a subway & bus route map as well as ticket and passes for valid on both subway & buses from any subway station. If you take the subway in from the Airport get the map there. For a simple bus ride, but a little less of a local atmosphere (NOT one of those big tourist buses - it's a city bus just tends to have more tourists then locals because of the stops it has), you might consider "Balabus"

Balabus is a special sightseeing route which takes you around the majority of the capital's main sights, from east to west, from the Gare de Lyon to the Grande Arche de la Défense: Bastille, the Marais, Ile Saint Louis, Notre-Dame, the Louvre, Orsay, Invalides, the Eiffel Tower and the Champs-Elysées...
This bus operates from April to September, only on Sunday and public holidays, from 1.30pm to 8.30pm from the Gare de Lyon, or from 12.30pm to 8pm from the Grande Arche at La Défense. The circuit takes about an hour, with departures every 15 to 30 minutes.
It uses the same stops as the normal buses. You just need to look for the indication "Balabus" or "Bb".
The fare varies according to the length of the journey (from 1 to 3 metro/bus tickets). Travel passes valid for the zones traveled are also accepted.

If you haven't already you can check http://en.parisinfo.com/  (they include info on travel passes for public transportation) or even better just go the English language section of http://www.ratp.info/ . Again if you take public transport from the airport look into getting your pass there. Here is a bus map which you can also get in a pdf version.

For the more mysterious side the Pere lachaise cemetery. For a nice view of the city from up high you have the Eiffel tower but also the top of the Center George Pompidou (it used to be free but now you need a ticket from one of the exhibits to get to the top of the building), Top of the stairs at Sacré Coeur on top of the Montmartre Hill are free but touristy.

Most of all take your time and enjoy! A Heaven prelude I found online.

by Alexandra in WMass (alexandra_wmass[a|t]yahoo[d|o|t]fr) on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 05:17:09 PM EST
Ok this version of Heaven should work. Several beatiful photos: http://photos.bombippy.com/archives/paris_2005/
by Alexandra in WMass (alexandra_wmass[a|t]yahoo[d|o|t]fr) on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 05:22:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
  1. It's the ultimate tourist cliche, but the view from the top of the Eiffel Tower is worth seeing and worth waiting for. (And unless you go first thing in the morning, there will be a lot of waiting.)

  2. Montmartre is best visited by night. It is very touristy, but on Summer evenings it's also undeniably romantic. However - some of the bars are staggeringly expensive and (from a very small sample) the waiters do seem to be famously rude.

  3. A boat cruise on the Seine is a worthwhile way to waste some time.

  4. If you want weird and unusual, try the catacombs, which are full of bones and definitely one of the more memorably strange things you can see.

  5. The French have a bizarre fascination with geometry. There's a big glass pyramid at the Louvre, a huge cube at La Defense and a gigantic metal sphere at the science museum next to Parc de la Villette. Visiting all of these makes a rather pointless but surreal day out.

Paris is also the only place I've ever seen a crowd get unexpectedly enthusiastic about a piece a of heavily atonal avant garde music played on an accordion.

(Just so you know.)

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 06:47:34 PM EST
Wow, ET really IS an elite place, already 16 suggestions where to go in Paris and no mention yet of that must-go place in that cimitery to smoke the obligatory joint in commemoration of that US pop idol.

Btw: I just detected the grafitto of the 'Lizard King(s)' in the background. I still ride a Motoguzzi California of one of their founders. It is a group of rockers that run a scrap yard in Rome - Centocelle.

"The USA appears destined by fate to plague America with misery in the name of liberty." Simon Bolivar, Caracas, 1819

by Ritter on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 06:57:20 PM EST
Alexandra did mention it, but thanks for giving it the proper attention.  

Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities. -Voltaire
by p------- on Sat Feb 18th, 2006 at 01:17:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Not every one loves the Musee d'Orsay, but I do:

They put the impressionists next to the contemporary academic painters.  And of course there is a great clock.

A curiosity from the parc zoologique:

Yes, that's a human foot.

Don't forget the Conservatoire des Arts et Metiers.  The Parisians think it's a kiddy museum, but we know better:

And most of all, just hang out.  And don't whatever you do eat at Flunch near the Beauborg.  It's cheap for a reason.

Have fun!

by dmun on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 10:49:09 PM EST
I agree Musee D'Orsay deserves more attention...
by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Sat Feb 18th, 2006 at 03:06:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Seconded. A great interior and collection.

I will become a patissier, God willing.
by tuasfait on Sat Feb 18th, 2006 at 07:53:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes Orsay is also well worth it. Last time I was there there were some wonderful political caricatures in the main entrance hall of the building. A friend recommended to go to the top of the building and work your way down as fast or leisurely as you want. It was great advise.
by Alexandra in WMass (alexandra_wmass[a|t]yahoo[d|o|t]fr) on Sat Feb 18th, 2006 at 09:42:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
But do go to the Beuberg. The Pompidou center is one of the most delightfully ugly buildings in the world. Outside it's a permanent circus...or was twenty years ago.

Jeez! Now I have to go back to Paris....

by messy on Sat Feb 18th, 2006 at 04:15:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It's winter and typical touristical activity means you will be outside a lot. Don't get fooled by thinking that it's always springtime in Paris, at least temperature-wise. Think NYC-type climate.
by asdf on Sat Feb 18th, 2006 at 01:21:39 AM EST
I hope this diary doesn't scroll into oblivion.  I'm curious to hear suggestions from our resident native Parisian, Jerome...

Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities. -Voltaire
by p------- on Sat Feb 18th, 2006 at 04:29:17 PM EST

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