SUSAN’S GUIDE TO PARIS

which is about absorbing the atmosphere & life of this magnificent city.

 

It is good manners and essential to say ‘bonjour’(bow-jour) hello to shop keepers, hotel clerks,waiters, etc. before asking for anything, or upon entering lifts, shops, etc.

Please: see vous play   Thank you : mare-see

How are you? : sa-vah?             fine and you? : bien eh vou?

Goodbye : oar-re-voir             Have a good day: bon jour-neh

Have a good evening : bon swar-eh

 

Security in Paris:

Watch for pickpockets or anyone trying to give you flowers, string, or a gold ring. Give no eye contact & totally ignore people carrying plastic cups, clip boards, or pieces of card asking if you speak English. Be careful in crowded tourist areas, on stairs and viewpoints.  If someone drops something, do not help them pick it up.  Make sure all zips are shut and watch is tight on wrist.

Spring 2014: Paris is suffering a problem with Smartphones being ripped out of people’s hands in the metro, on the street, off café tables, or fished out of coat pockets while you’re walking down the street listening to music (that little white cord from your headphones leads thieves right to the pocket or purse holding your device). Keep your Smartphones and tablets tucked away until you’re in a safe place.
Summer 2016: There is a new scam: The imposter metro officials. Couples & triples posing as ‘helpers’ stand beside the metro ticket machines. They are well dressed, with official looking name tags. They inform the person that the machine is not accepting coins, only card (or vice-versa) & they help them get the tickets. They end up selling them kids tickets or used tickets or whatever, but naive travellers are just accepting that they are legitimate assistants.

 

GETTING AROUND

The Paris metro system has 300 stations and 16 lines.  It is daunting due to the size, but one of the best and easiest metro systems in Europe.  The trains come every 2 minutes, dropping to every 8-10 later at night.  There are maps everywhere, and lots of signage.  Once you have your ticket, go to the barrier and put your ticket in the slot.  When it pops out the top, pull it out the gates will pop open.  *Don’t be alarmed if someone comes up close behind you and pushes through the gate on your ticket.  Some locals don’t like to pay, or to wait behind tourists.

For those of you who have never used an underground transport system, it is quite simple. Some stations are single track or maybe 2 lines crossing, while some like Chatelet can go on for several city blocks.  If new to the metro, maybe keep to the smaller ones. (You can identify them on the metro maps that you find everywhere).

Every metro line has a number, 2 station names and colour. Follow the signs for the line colour and number you need; (for instance Purple 14). Once you come to the station entrance, you will have 2 end-of-line station choices, (for instance Purple 14 Olimpiades/ St. Lazare).  Chose the one that travels in the direction you need to either reach your destination or to transfer to another line.

Metro: Runs every day from 5.30 a.m. to 00.40 a.m. and to 1:40am on Saturday night.Timetables are posted in the stations and on the platforms. Soon to be discontinued are the Single metro ticket (zone 1), the Carnet (10 single tickets) , the Mobilis Day Pass/ Available at Ticket windows or machines.

Summer 2018 : It has been announced that the new tickets will be magnetic cards. The initial card will cost €2 and you can put credit on it.  Tourists can get one card and pass it back and forth if needed.   You only swipe the card on the way in to the metro system.

*The doors close quickly, whether you’re on, or not (listen for the warning sound)      sortie = exit

 

THE BEST SITES IN PARIS 

Always check for closed days (usually Mon or Tues)/ late night openings/ free admission days

To avoid queues, have an early breakfast & get to Eiffel tower before it opens, or use the stairs

Eiffel Tower:  There are three levels and 2 different lifts.  The first lift (and the stairs) cover the 1st and 2nd level (the chunky legs of the tower), with the third smaller lift whipping you up to the top viewing tower.  You can buy a ticket to climb the stairs, and then pick up another for the lift to the top, or you can buy tickets for one or as many lifts as you wish.

Be aware a lot of queuing will be required regardless.  You queue for the tickets, then for each lift and stairs going up, and the same coming down. The only people who ever got up and down in an hour, were first in line in the morning.  If you wait until afternoon or evening during the summer, you can take 2-3 hours to complete your visit. Seven million people visit the Eiffel tower each year, so do the maths.  The security measures in place will add to the waiting time.

Try to book online before you travel.   You can also book a table at one of the expensive restaurants and this will get you a lift ticket to the first or second floor.

There are different queues at the different legs: one for stairs, one for pre-bought tickets, one for lifts; so make sure you are in the correct one.  Each queues can be hundreds of people long and they snake around underneath the tower.  If this is a problem for you, you can always hop on the metro and visit the Tour Montparnasse.  It is a black skyscraper you will see in the distance from your massive Eiffel tower queue. (scroll down for info).

Eiffel tower: Summer (Jun 17 to Aug 28): 9am to 12.45am; final lift at midnight; final lift for top at 11.30pm; stairs close at midnight. Elevator to 2nd Floor,  Top Floor , or take the stairs to 2nd Floor

Winter (Aug 29-Jun 16): 9.30am to 11.45pm; final lift up at 11pm; final lift to top at 10.30pm; steps close at 6 pm in winter.

M: Bir-Hakiem or Ecole Militaire

–Pick up a chocolate waffle to eat on the way. 

 

*Next cross the river, go up the stairs to Chaillot Palaces terrace & turn right down Ave Kleber to:

Arch de Triomphe:.  Daily Summer (Apr 1-Sep 30) 10am-11.00pm.  Last entry 45 minutes earlier.  Daily Winter (Oct 1 to Mar 31) 10am to 10.30pm. Closed Jan 1, MAY 1(am), July 14 (am), Nov 11 (am) Dec25.  Free for EU passports up to 26. The top can only be reached by climbing up its 40 stairs.         M: Place Charles de Gaulle-Etoile

*walk down the Champs Elysee.

Stop at Laduree (green façade) and choose a macaron.  #75 Ave Champs Elysee

This is a decadent tea room from 1862/ famous for flower & spice flavour macarons; small, round, crisp cakes with cream filling. Go inside for a look if nothing else and enter another world.

Street of fashion houses:See the fashion houses and showrooms of  Chanel, Dior, Pucci, Valentino, Luis Vuitton, Givenchy, Jimmy Choo and more.  Ave de Montaigne (off Champs Elysee) window shop with the rich

Petit Palais: It is free to visit this stunning building, which houses some lovely artwork, a breathtaking art deco staircase and a secret sanctuary.  Have a refreshment in the cafe or open courtyard, which is a quiet oasis in the middle of all the bustle and crowds.  Reasonable prices and free public toilets.

*continue on to Place de la Concorde, & walk through the Tuillerie Gardens, or stop at the belle époque Angelina’s Tea Room (226 Rue de Rivoli) on the way to the Louvre for some of best desserts in the city. Famous for l’Africaine hot chocolate & Mont Blanc (a ball of meringue, whipped cream & sweet chestnut).

 

Stop at one of the greatest art galleries in the world –  the Louvre.  

*Once at the Louvre, plan to spend an hour inside and stick to it.

Louvre:   TOP TIP don’t queue by the glass pyramid = on Rue de Rivoli, by the arches, there is a canopy and door to: Carrousel du Louvre.  This takes you down into a shopping mall with food court and Louvre ticket machine.  Follow along to inverted pyramid and back entry to Louvre.  Go through scanners, then to more ticket machines and entrances to 3 wings of Louvre.

Must sees:  Venus de Milo, Mona Lisa, Napoleon’s apartments, The coronation of Napoleon painting

Open Wednesday to Monday 9am to 6pm.  Open until 9.45pm on Wed and Fri. Closed every Tuesday.  Closed Jan 1, May 1, Nov 11, and Dec 25.   Free EU passport holders 18-15   /M: Palais Royale-Musee du Louvre

For a look at art you will recognise, the impressionists, cross the street from the Louvre to the 

Musee D’Orsay: 19th :Cezanne, Monet, Manet, Latrec, Renoir /across from Louvre/ Open Tuesday to Sunday 9.30am to 6pm. Open until 9.45pm on Thursdays. Closed every Monday.  Closed Dec. 25, Jan 1, May 1EU passport holders 18-25 Free .

The building was once the old train station, and is worth the visit itself.

 

*walk down the Seine until you get to the Chatelet column.  If you go into the side streets from Chatelet,

you will find lots of small shops, retro clothing and a big mall called Les Halles;

also the Pompidou Centre: modern art gallery housed in futuristic building/ all insides on the outside/ fantastic courtyard with weird fountains.                                   Open daily except Tuesdays, and May 1st.  11am to 10pm.  Late opening on Thursdays til 11pm. Last admission 8pm. CLOSED TUESDAYS.  Reduced price for under 25’s. Free 1st Sunday of month

M: Rambuteau   Panorama ticket gets you lift to the top for views of city.

 

*To the right and on the larger island is Notre Dame Cathedral: Daily 8am to 6.45 pm (Sat and Sun till 7.15)  Admission is free.  Mass at main alter Mon to Sat at noon and 6.15pm.  Sunday various masses from 8.30am to 12.45pm and 6.30pm (usually by archbishop).  Saturday 6.30pm: Sunday mass at main alter.  Veneration of Crown of Thorns every first Friday and every Friday during Lent at 3pm.  Also all 10am-5pm on Good Friday. Last access 45 minutes earlier.  Treasury: Mon to Fri 930-6, Sat 930-630, Sun 1.39-630  M: Cite

the next street over is St Chapelle and the Conciergerie:

St Chapelle is a Gothic cathedral with amazing stained glass windows.  Winter (Nov 1 to Feb 28) 9am to 5pm.  Daily Summer (Mar 1 to Oct 31)  9.30 am -6pm. Last admission 30 minutes earlier  Open late on Wednesdays May 15 to Sep 15, last admission 9pm.  No sharp metal objects. Free for EU Passport up to 26.

Where you see the street queue, that is only the security line.  Once you pass through this, you need to follow the path back and around to the church queue.  Once inside, the main floor is information and some historical items.  Head towards the entry and go up the stairs to the show-piece chapel.  Once inside, you look at the glass, stand on the outer balcony to view the intricately carved facade.  It is beautiful, but it does take longer faffing about to get inside, than you might actually spend in it.  TOP TIP If you are there in July/Aug, check to see if they still offer late opening times (9:30 pm) and if you get there around 5:30 pm, everyone still thinks they are going to shut at 6pm, as they leave the normal sign up.

The Conciergerie is the oldest remaining part of the Palais de la Cité, the first royal palace in the French capital that was used as a prison during the French Revolution. Open daily 9.30am-6pm.  Free for EU citizens under 25.  (Unless you have the time and are really keen, there is not much in here. A film, a couple of displays, and a large empty hall).

You can also ask for joint ticket / M: Cite

In the middle of  the smaller island is Berthillon Ice Cream  since 1954, this famous family has been producing totally natural ice creams and sorbets/ also café/ 29-31 Rue St Louis on Ile St Louis  10am-8pm

 

Latin Quarter: on left bank of river near Notre Dame/   Look for the huge red marble monument of St Micheal fighting the devil & follow crowds into medieval streets. Lots of food and souvenir shopping.

La Guillotine pub/ Le Caveau des Oubliettes  a small pub in the Latin quarter that has the only guillotine left  in Paris. Jazz club by night.  52 Rue Galande    M: Saint Michel (check to make sure guillotine is not away on film set)

 

North of the Louvre near M:Opera

Opera Garnier: Visit this stunning Opera House designed by Charles Garnier. The Phantom of the Opera was set in this building’s underground river. The great staircase, foyers, museum, and the auditorium can be visited unaccompanied every day from 10:00 am to 5:00p m (last admissions 4:30 pm) as long as they don’t have anything going on (always check first).  From July 16th until Sept 2nd included, visits will close at 6:00 pm.  Look for schedule of Guided English tours.

Printemps: Department store located behind the Opera house.  Go inside for a look at the glass domed ceiling, modelled on the Opera House.  Then make your way to the roof top restaurant for free views of the city.  There are 3 buildings and 25 floors of shopping, which make up Printemps.

The Galleries Lafayette, in the same area, are also popular for shopping.  The main domed shop is another must see.  This is a shopping experience like you have never seen before.

 

Other areas to visit

Sacre Couer & Montemarte: Highest hilltop in Paris, with domed basilica on top. Quaint cafes, shops & artist’s quarter behind church.   Open daily 6am to 10.30pm.  Free Entry.  Dome (300 steps, no lift) visits 9am to 5pm (8pm in Summer)  Sometimes possible to visit the crypt. M: Anvers –Walk up grand set of stairs and winding walkways in the park; or look for short funicular to the left hand side of the park; or take the straight up set of steps beside it.

This is a high crime area for pickpockets and persistent buskers and artists.  Just ignore them.

Catacombs – ‘The empire of the dead’ contains 6 million bones/ city emptied cemeteries in 1785/ 14 degrees, so bring a jumper. This site gets very busy with one hour wait not unusual.  If you go late, they normally will tell you if you are too far down the queue to get in that day.

To find the entrance, I recommend looking on google earth first.  If you find the Lion statue in the middle of the street, he is facing the entrance, but his head is turned away.  The entrance is an unassuming green building which looks like a garden shed.  After your visit, you come out of the Catacombs onto rue Remy Dumoncel, further south of Denfert Rochereau.

Tuesday to Sunday 10am to 5pm.  Last admission 4pm. Closed Monday. M: Denfert Rocherau

Eglise de Dome(Nap tomb) and Hotel des Invalides  (ArmyMuseum)    In the Eglise, visit the tomb of Napoleon in it’s massive granite plinth, before carrying on through the military museum.  Filled with old tanks, cannons, uniforms, sabres and guns, It is a history buffs delight.  See one of the first tanks, Napoleons stuffed horse, dog and  tri-corner hat.  M: La Tour-Maubourg

Cimetiere du Pere Lachaise (Cemetery) This small city contains graves of 100s of famous people: Chopin, Moliere, Edith Piaf, Oscar Wilde, Chopin, Jim Morrison, etc/ buy map from florist shop by gate, or look for one of the signboard maps and take a photo of it for reference. Admission is free.  Metro: Pere Lachaise

Musee Rodin.  The man who created The Thinker.  The Garden is only a few euros entry and a great place to sit with a picnic lunch and admire his great sculptures in an oasis of greenery.  EU passport holders 18-25 = free.

Musee de l’Orangerie.  If you want to see the incredibly beautiful Water lilies by Monet, this is the place.  It’s also a good place to pick up a joint ticket for the Musee D’Orsay if the queues are too long over there.  M: Concorde

Tour Montparnasse   The Montparnasse tower is Paris’s only skyscraper and a great way to get a view of the entire city from the top.  It’s the best view of the Eiffel tower in the city.  The lift goes up 56 floors in 38 seconds.   Open until late so you can watch the Eiffel tower light show. Cafe and restaurant on top     M: Montparnasse

Chateaux around Paris

The Palace of Versailles can be visited by RER train. This is one of the grandest Royal residences in the world, built by the Sun King, Louis the 13th. All in all, count on taking an hour to get there, and you will need 3-4 hours or more to see everything.  It is stupidly big and stupidly busy all year round. It is best to arrive very early if you can. Closed Mondays.  (access via RER C5 to Versailles Rive Gauche which is last station).  Trains come every 25 minutes and the RER journey as about 35 mins.  There is an array of sites and ticket prices, but to visit the Palace only: Apr 1 to Oct 31 Tues-Sun 9.00 to 6.30pm (last Admission 6pm).  Nov 1 to Mar 31 9am to 530pm (last admission 5pm).  A Passport Ticket will get you into everything.

The Palais Fontainebleau
Is a mini Versailles, for those who want to experience the grandeur of the French aristocracy without the crowds. It takes an hour to get to the small town on the RER train, and you will need 2-3 hours to see everything. From Gare de Lyon, take train to Montargis Sens or Montereau.  Get off at Fountainbleau-Avon and take the A bus in the direction of Les Lilas to the Chateau.

Chateau de Vincennes is just on the city perimeter and can be reached by metro.   Metro line 1 or RER A to Chateaux de Vincennes

Chateau de Chantilly  If you want to see a spectacular chateau with no lines and no shoving crowds then you really should visit the Château de Chantilly, just 25 minutes north of Paris by train. The magnificent château houses the Condé Museum of paintings, while the thatched roof Hamlet (great for lunch or strawberries and Chantilly cream for afternoon tea) is hidden beyond the canal within Le Nôtre’s vast formal gardens.

RER Paris-Chantilly : from Gare du Nord SNCF grandes lignes (24 minutes)  Exit at Chantilly-Gouvieux, and take 5 min taxi ride to grounds or walk 20 mins following signs.    There are a range of tickets avail depending on what you want to see. Mar 29 to Nov 2 10am – 6pm

If you have two days or more in Paris consider the Museum Pass.         Available from any of monuments/museums it covers; FNAC Stores, the tabac in the Louvre underground shopping centre.   Gives free access to specified sights, without queuing at cash desk, though sometimes you will queue at the special signed entrance at the site.  You may revisit the same site multiple times. Name and date must be written on pass  and no mistakes, deletions, alterations are accepted. Do note that many sights in Paris are free to EU Passports under 25 or are discounted to foreign youth.  Covers most of the big sites except the Eiffel Tower and Catacombs.