Sunday, October 21, 2007

Travel Stories from Paris!

I truly shone in using my French. My teach yourself French book didn't leave my sight during the flight, okay so I dozed off a few times, spent some time eating my meal, which by the way I had to choose al a carte from le menu provided by the elegant Air France air host and was distracted a few times by the in flight movie, License to Wed, which was a ridiculously futile attempt at creating a romantic comedy --apart from all this I was studiously and diligently studying my French. Needless to say that on my first day; at Chateau de Versailles and in need to find a washroom, I asked "Who is the toilet?" instead of "Where is the toilet?". Fabulous! I have to admit though, it is very true that learning a language where it is spoken is more effective. From pronunciation to sentence structure, all can be learned more efficiently, and in my case memorably, while interacting with and/or listening to native speakers.

The "Top 10 Paris" book, Mike Gerrard & Donna Dailey, was my number one --the best-- asset on this trip. Thank you Lisa, for lending your book to me. 10 is the magic number when you are spending a limited time there, because the number of things to see and do in Paris is just overwhelming. We spent 5 days, I am telling you we squeezed every minute in an hour, and thanks to this book, efficiently rode le Metro but still we ran out of time. Pick up the latest edition, because admission fees and hours of operation change on a yearly basis.

When is the best time to travel to Paris? The number one inhibitor in seeing the sights is the wait time in the queues to get ticket, except for du Musee du Louvre which has efficiently turned its ticket kiosks to ticket dispenser machines. Before traveling I heard and read horrifying stories how can this gobble up one's time; we are talking about hours of wait time. I guess traveling during off season saves one both money and time. We were there the first week of October and the maximum time we spent in any line was 45 minutes and that was to get to the top of Eiffel tower. Besides the weather was not too bad. It rained only once in the evening and the rest it was partly sunny part cloudy with temperatures in the 20C/68F range.

Where to stay? Every provision has been made to make a tourist's stay both affordable and memorable. After all, this city has not become a major tourist attraction yesterday; they have years and years of experience and have perfected the art of accommodating tourists of all ages, tastes with different budgets. It is helpful, however, if you decide on where you want to stay before looking for "accommodation Paris" on the Internet, hit the travel section of your public library or walk in any travel agency. le Seine has divided this city into the right and left bank. Top destinations on the left bank are:

  • Eiffel Tower
  • Musee d'Orsay
  • Napeleon's Tomb and Hotel des Invalides
  • Musee du Louvre
  • Basilique du Sacre-Couer
  • Arc de Triomphe

Top destinations on the right bank are:
  • Champs Elysees
  • Avenue Montaigne
  • Place de La Concorde
  • L'Opera
  • Montmartre
We stayed at one of Cistadines Apart 'Hotels, equipped with a kitchenette. I'd say this setting is more suitable for longer duration visits. Nevertheless it worked well for us. We had a grand breakfast, crepe, baguette, croissant and delicious very fatty French fromage, every morning.

What is the best way to get around? Given that we arrived early in the week, Tuesday, our best bet was to purchase Carte Orange for 32.10 euro. We conveniently hopped on and off train and/or bus without having to worry about zones and exact change. Carte Orange Covers zones 1-6. This includes CDG airport and Chateau De Versailles.

Why visit Paris? Paris is viewed by many as the most splendid and attractive city in Europe, if not the world. No matter if you go for business or pleasure, your visit to Paris will leave you with deep impressions, from the fashions of the Champs-Elysees to the arts of the Louvre; from the rich history of the Notre Dame cathedral to the modern design of the Centre Georges-Pompidou to the relaxed air of a small cafe -- Paris truly has something to offer everyone.

Viva La Paris!