Paris – Part 3

Paris – Part 3

Part 1 – of this three part blog is about speaking French and free things to do.
Part 2 – deals with must-sees and getting to and from airport.

Markets

Les Halles translated into English means – the markets. There are food markets galore. Find them – hereherealso here and lastly here. Self catering suits me. Western European countries, apart from Italy, are hell for vegetarians. French cuisine may be all that, but I gave their bistros a wide berth. I wasn’t willing to risk ordering something in French and not know what I might be getting. Plus, the French are inclined to sneak meat into most soups, salads and vegetable side dishes.

Bicycle hire

Instead, we stocked up on French wines, cheeses, breads and pastries. We bought yummy fresh fruit and vegetables from the markets and we ate well. The few times we ate out, we went to one of the many Lebanese restaurants where the food was well priced, full of fresh salads and excellent quality. And it worked out infinitely cheaper.

Entrance to our apartment
Paris self catering apartment
River Seine

When it comes down to it, you have to decide why you travel. Do you want to visit every museum and place of interest? Or do you want to see how other people live and experience another culture. With Paris that question is particularly relevant. You can run yourself ragged posing in front of every tourist spot for pics to take back home or post on facebook. I tend to pick just a few must-sees and focus more on soaking up the vibe. I love nothing more than to walk about, get lost and just enjoy exploring a new place away from the hoards of camera ready tourists. I like to pretend I am a local. No big camera at the ready or obsessive massive map following all the while missing the  views. Nor do I do tourist clothes. The safari pants and jackets with a million pockets and survival gadgets – not me. 

With that in mind, my must-dos are –

The Seine from Eiffel Tower
  • An evening stroll along the banks of the River Seine crossing back and forth over the bridges
  • Wandering along the Champs Elysee to window shop
  • A coffee and a pastry at one of the street cafes
  • Visiting the food markets in Les Halles or any of the other excellent food markets
  • Relaxing and enjoying your market food in one of the many beautiful gardens
  • A trip up and down the River Seine on one of their boats
Bon voyage!

Go to – My Holidays and Trips – at the top of this page to read about other places we have visited. Or just click on – this link.

Paris – Part 2

Paris – Part 2

Champs Elysee

In – Part 1 – of this blog last week, I discussed speaking French and free things to do.

Sorbonne

The classic Paris must-sees are –

  • Notre-Dame
  • Centre Pompidou
  • The Louvre
  • The Arc de Triomphe
  • Montmatre
  • St Germain-des-Pres
  • Jardin du Luxembourg
  • The Eiffel Tower
  • Musee d’Orsay
  • Versailles Palace
Montmatre

Moulin Rouge

Most guided tours include a night at the Moulin Rouge which can work out very expensive with a meal thrown in. We found there are a few cabaret shows and you don’t have to have a full meal. Don’t be suckered into the expensive options. There is a cabaret at half the price of the touristy ones.

The Louvre

There are two airports in Paris. Charles de Gaul and Orly. I arrived at Charles de Gaul and took a train into the centre of Paris. One snag was that the rail staff were all on strike. So I couldn’t buy a ticket to exit the station. I couldn’t figure out how to use the auto ticket vendors either. Thank God my husband was meeting me at the station. He had spare tickets and he passed one over to me so I could exit through the turnstiles or I may have had to do like a couple of other people and jump over with my luggage. When we left Paris, the train staff were on strike again, so we both took the Roissy which is actually a better option.

River tours of the Seine

My husband is a great planner and I leave him to plan things furiously. He does a good job and he seems to enjoy the planning as much as the holiday. He found us a self catering apartment via Loving Apartments in the Les Halles vicinity. Les Halles is located in the 1er arrondissement. Paris is divided up into arondissements or districts and each has a number.

The smaller the number, the closer to the inner city. It follows that the bigger the number the further out the district or arrondissement. The great thing about being in Les Halles – it was central. My advice is to try and base yourself as close to the centre as possible. Acommodation in Paris is not cheap. Most places are minuscule. Our little apartment was the size of a small garage for a car yet it had a double bed, dining table, a kitchen and a bathroom. We were amazed at how they managed to make an apartment in such a small space. But it had all we needed and we were out most days anyway.

One piece of advice for Paris. Pack old tired walking shoes. You may be visiting the style capital of the universe but the streets are littered with dog mess. And if you come from a country like Australia where you have to make sure your shoes are clean before coming through the airport, rather buy a swanky new pair of shoes and toss your old ones at the airport. Much easier.

Part 3 – next week talks on eating in France and my recommendations for things to do.

Go to – My Holidays and Trips – at the top of this page to read about other places we have visited. Or just click on – this link.

Paris

Paris

Travel in Paris in 2008

The Paris blog is done in 3 parts which I post weekly.

Eiffel Tower

Some say Paris is The City of Love. Others call it The City of Light. Paris is a lot of things to a lot of people. It’s also the biggest tourist destination in the world. Almost eighty million people arrived in France in 2011. Most of them in Paris. see more here We went in low season and there were more tourists in Paris than I have ever seen anywhere before. High season must be dreadful in Paris.

Arc de Triomphe
Paris skyline from Eiffel Tower

The French have a reputation for being rude so why would people flock there? Paris is steeped in romance and history which is evident in their architecture. The French make sure they enjoy the best food, clothing and life style. They resonate pure class. I don’t actually think the French are rude at all. I think it’s the visitors who are rude. Imagine a Russian arriving in China and insisting on speaking Russian? It wouldn’t happen. Yet people from English speaking countries rock up in France and make no effort to speak French or even ask if it is OK to speak English. I’m with the French on this one.

Sacre Coer

We first did a – Michel Thomas – basic French speaking course and found that if we tried to speak French first, the French people almost always spoke perfect English back to us.The Michel Thomas course was our second attempt at learning French. We did a proper course at a language school and after weeks we still couldn’t speak French. They focused too much on grammar and tenses and we never got to learn how to actually speak. Michel Thomas takes phrases and gets you to very basic French fast. Which is all you need.

The other thing we found helpful in understanding the French were Stephen Clarke’s books. They are written from the perspective of a Brit, but with a brilliant sense of humour. read about him here

There is so much to see in Paris. We stayed a week and we still never got to see all we hoped. Our plan was to take a tourist map and divide the city into parts which we walked each day making sure we included the main attractions. 

It is possible to hire a bicycle and ride around Paris. What is handy as you can drop the bike off at bike stands they have all over the city. Read more about that – here. All the key attractions – except Versailles – are in the city. Paris is not an inexpensive destination but it is possible to cut costs. We discovered that on certain days, some major attractions are free. 

Metropolitain

Here are two links to freebies in Paris – Paris logue – and – 10 free things to do in Paris.

Only thing with main attractions – free or not – you queue for hours to get in. An early start is vital. We got into the Musee d’Orsay for free but sharing space with thousands of people is no fun at all. Seriously, it can take nearly all day to get to see the Mona Lisa at the Louvre, coz everybody is doing the exact same thing.

George Pompidou

You have to really badly want to see something and then you need to know that you are seeing it at the expense of having time to explore other aspects of the city.


Next week in – Part 2 – I deal with must-sees and getting to and from airport and in a fortnight in – Part 3 – I talk on eating and my recommendations for things to do in Paris.

Go to – My Holidays and Trips – at the top of this page to read about other places we have visited. Or just click on – this link.

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