Paris is without question best explored on foot and, thanks to Baron Haussmann’s mid-19th-century redesign, the City of Light is a compact wonder of wide boulevards, gracious parks, and leafy squares. When you want a lift, though, public transportation is easy and inexpensive. The métro (subway) goes just about everywhere you’re going for EUR 1.40 a ride (a carnet, or “pack” of 10 tickets is EUR 10.90); tickets are good for the vast bus network, too.
Paris is divided into 20 arrondissements (or neighborhoods) spiraling out from the center of the city. The numbers reveal the neighborhood’s location, and its age: the 1st arrondissement at the city’s heart being the oldest. The arrondissements in central Paris—the 1st to 8th—are the most-visited.
It’s worth picking up a copy of Paris Pratique, the essential map guide, available at bookstores, and souvenir shops.
Paris is by no means a 24/7 city so planning your days beforehand can save you aggravation. Museums are closed one day a week, usually Tuesday, and most stay open late at least one night each week, which is also the least crowded time to visit. Store hours are generally 10 AM to 7:30 PM, though smaller shops may not open until 11 AM, only to close for several hours during the afternoon. Some retailers are still barred by law from doing business on Sunday, but exceptions include the shops along the Champs-Elysées, the Carrousel du Louvre, and around the Marais, where most boutiques open at 2 PM.
Saving Time & Money
Paris is one of the world’s most visited cities—with crowds to prove it, so it pays to be prepared. Buy tickets online when you can: most cultural centers and museums offer advance ticket sales and the small service fee you’ll pay is worth the time saved waiting in line. Investigate alternate entrances at popular sites (there are three at the Louvre, for example) and check when rates are reduced, often during once-a-week late openings. Also, most major museums—including the Louvre and the Musée d’Orsay—are free the first Sunday of each month.
A Paris Museum Pass can save you money if you’re planning serious sightseeing, but it might be even more valuable for the fact that it allows you to bypass the lines. It’s sold at the destinations it covers and at airports, major métro stations, and the tourism office in the Carrousel du Louvre (2-, 4- or 6-day passes are 30, 45 and 60EUR respectively; for more info visit www.parismuseumpass.com).
Stick to the omnipresent ATMs for the best exchange rates; exchanging cash at your hotel or in a store is never going to be to your advantage.
Restaurants follow French meal times, serving lunch from noon-2:30 PM and dinner from 7:30 or 8 PM on. Some cafés serve food all day long. Always reserve a table for dinner, as top restaurants book up months in advance. When it comes to the check, you must ask for it. (It’s considered rude to bring it unbidden.) In cafés you’ll get a register receipt with your order. Gratuities (service) are almost always included in the bill but it’s good form to leave some small change on the table: a few centimes for drinks, or 2EUR -3EUR at dinner.
What to Wear
When it comes to dress, the French reserve athletic-type clothing for sports. Sneakers are fine as long as they’re not “gym shoes” (think urban hip). You’ll feel comfortable wearing jeans just about anywhere as long as they’re neat, although before you head out for the evening make sure to check if they’re acceptable.
The Parisian reputation for rudeness is undeserved. In fact, Parisians are sticklers for “politesse” and exchanging formal greetings is the rule. Informal American-style manners are considered impolite. Beginning an exchange with a simple “Do you speak English?” will get you off on the right foot. Learning a few key French words will take you far. Offer a hearty bonjour (bohn-zhoor) when walking into a shop or café and an au revoir (o ruh-vwahr) when leaving, even if nobody seems to be listening (a chorus may reply). When speaking to a woman over age 16, use madame (ma-dam), literally “my lady.” For a young woman or girl, use mademoiselle (mad-mwa-zel). A man of any age goes by monsieur (muh-syuh). Always say please, s’il vous plaît (seel-voo-play), and thank you, merci (mair-see).
Posts Tagged ‘food’
Here a list of some different restaurants of ParisAngora
240, rue de Charenton, tel: 01 44 87 02 08, (M: Dugommier). Open each day except Sunday. Totally out of the way, but worth the schlep for their extraordinary lamb kabobs.
A La Biche au Bois
45, Av Ledru Rollin, tel: 01 43 43 34 38, (M: Gare de Lyon), about 2 blocks from the Gare de Lyon train station. Not fancy but a lot of fun, and great food. Order one of the fixed menus and save room for the cheese course. For starters, try to get through a gargantuan salade Perigordine, topped with a big chunk of foie gras. Many game dishes depending on the season. Closed weekends.
Au Trou Gascon
40, rue Tain, tel: 01 43 44 34 26, (M: Daumesnil). Gascon cooking, and here you can find a crisp confit of goose and other specialties of the southwest. Dessert should be a perfectly-thin slices of caramelized warm apple tart with flaky Gascon pastry. Somewhat of a splurge, but lunchtime features a fixed-price menu.
18, rue Jean-Nicot, tel: 01 53 59 96 96, (M: Invalides, or La Tour-Maubourg). Great tapas-style bar, more upscale than anything in Spain, with fabulous hams from wild acorn-fed pigs. For dessert, stop down the street at Poujaran bakery for an almond-scented financier.
109, rue Vieille du Temple, tel: 01 42 72 13 77, (M: St. Paul or St. Sébastian Froissart). Terrific crêpes and buckwheat galettes, right in the middle of the bustling Marais. Using organic buckwheat and Bordier butter, wash your meal down with sparkling apple cider or lait ribot; Breton buttermilk.
10, rue Belzunce, tel: 01 44 53 06 20, (M: Gare de Nord). During the winter, there’s a chalkboard with “hunters specials”, which features superbly fresh game. On my last visit, I had a mound of tiny scallops piled up in their shells, drizzles with luscious Brittany butter and herbs, then a succulent wild pigeon with foie gras, ending with an unfortunate chocolate soufflé with little flavor. Now I never leave without ending a meal with a classic Breton kouign aman which oozes and butter and caramel from every delectable crusty layer. Reservations essential.
Cuisine de Bar
8, rue Cherche-Midi, tel: 01 45 48 45 69, (M: Sevres-Babylon). Open-faced tartines, or sandwiches, served on pain Poîlane, the famed bakery next door. I am addicted to the sardines and olive oil with crushed salt as well as the sliced chicken with garlic mayonnaise and capers. If the French had come up with the sushi-bar, it would be like this. No reservations.
62, rue de Seine, tel: 01 40 51 00 09, (M: Mabillon or Odeon). A favorite place to sit and have a lunch or dinner, grazing on the best Spanish hams, simple salads, and the best olives and wines from France, Italy, and Spain. Be sure to pick up a bag of Pimandes and chocolate-covered sauternes-soaked raisins, too.
25, rue Cail, tel: 01 42 05 44 04, (M: La Chapelle). The only Indian food I’ve ever liked. I go early since I love to explore the wondrous ethnic food markets in this lively, slightly-funky neighborhood before dinner.
La Rôtisserie du Beaujolais
19, quai de la Tournelle, tel: 01 43 54 17 47, (M: Sully Morland or Cardinale Lemoine). Spit-roasted meats spin continuously, at this Seine-side restaurant. Roasted game and chicken are good bets. Open Sunday.
L’As du Falafel
34, rue des Rosiers (M: St. Paul), closed Friday pm and Saturday. The best falafel anywhere! Join the crowd clamoring at the window while they prepare your falafel with lightning-fast speed. Certainly a dive, and definitely a must.
12, St. Germaine-des-Prés, tel: 01 44 07 23 66, (M: Maubert-Mutualité). Superb Moroccan food; think couscous and tagines. Not too fancy nor pricey considering the lovely tile work, good food, and gracious service just across from the fabulous Institute du Monde Arabe. Vegetarians will love the variety of seafood tagines when they’ve become tired of feeling short-changed by the meat-heavy menus in Paris.
70, rue Baudricourt, tel: 01 45 70 91 75, (M: Tolbiac or Maison Blanche). A favorite spot for Vietnamese food. Inexpensive and authentic, expect your find yourself jammed elbow-to-elbow with fellow diners. Closed Monday.
10, rue du Marche Saint-Honoré, (M: Tuilleries). Authentic Parisian wine bar and a great place for a rustic lunch or simple sandwich at the counter, washed down with a glass (or two) of wine. I like to stop in late afternoon for a sip or two, accompanied with a most generous plate of their good charcuterie.
3, rue Sainte Beuve, tel: 01 45 49 10 40, (M: Notre Dame-des-Champs). Compact restaurant serving excellent cuisine traditionnelle, using the freshest of ingredients.
19, place des Vosges, tel: 01 42 78 44 64, (M: Bastille). Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner everyday, this is a great spot to sit under the arches of the gorgeous place des Vosges. Standard French fare (the fixed menu is your best bet), generous salads, and Berthillon ice cream. No reservations or credit cards.