I am fortunate in that I get to travel a lot and mix with people from all walks of life. After some prompting I’ve decided to start sharing brief snapshots of some of the cities I’ve visited, so that others, as business travellers or tourists with only a limited time available may benefit.
You’re only going to get a real feel for the place on foot but different parts of Paris have a totally different feel so you’ll probably want to take full advantage of the Metro system too. You’re best deal is to buy a ‘Carnet’, that’s ten individual Metro tickets costing around £12. Tickets are valid for a single journey. You can buy your tickets from the kiosk or the automated machines with English instructions. Metro lines are numbered. RER lines have letters. You can also use a normal Metro ticket on the RER trains in the central two zones, the Metro runs until between 1230am and 1am. Like I have said before, different parts, different feels. You’ll know where you want to go but after you’ve done the obvious Louvre, Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame you’ll find yourself near one or more of the areas below:
- Rough n Ready – Around Gare Du Nord and walking to the west to Place Pigale near the Moulin Rouge (northern edges of the 9e and 10e).
- Village Charm – Montmartre (18e), more fun to work your way up from Place Blanche and gradually walk uphill to Sacre Couer. You can walk down through the gardens and take your photos looking back.
- Marais (3e), you’ll get lost but just weave through the streets. I recommend a brief visit to one of the few free museums ‘Hotel Carnavalet’, 23 Rue de Sevigne (10am to 6pm except Monday) and then heading to Place des Vognes, an open square a few hundred yards away. Lots of galleries and shops but head for ‘Carette Salon de The’ at 25 Place des Vosges, sit outside and enjoy a hot chocolate served from a silver pot into your porcelain cup.
- Designer and Class – Get off the Metro at St. Germain des Pres on the south bank. Opposite the church you’ll see Deux Magots, great for a coffee, the former haunt of Satre, Camus and Hemmingway (don’t worry it’s not a dodgy French dish, a Magot is a grotesque Chinese figurine). Just around the corner on Bld St Germain de Pres at 173 you’ll find Le Flore, another classy but reasonable place. From there you can head south to the Luxembourg Gardens, meander up to the Pantheon and Rue Descartes and call in the ‘Mayflower Pub’ for a Belgian beer.
- Big Buildings – If you’re not fussed about traipsing around the museums but want to see the sights you could head from Bld St Germain to the 7e to the National Assembly, Hotel Des Invalides (where Napoleon is buried), take in the Eiffel Tower, the Arc De Triomphe and walk down the Champs Elysees to the Concorde and the Louvre.
There is much to do but remember that museums are closed on Monday, not a bad thing when every museum will cost you around £10-£15 each. I hate organised stuff but sometimes you can find out so much by tagging along and you can be spotting places that you want to return to. If the Paris Catacombs take your fancy the entrance is at Denfert Rouchereau Metro station. Though it’s too much for a short visit the medieval village of Senlis, 45 minutes north east of Paris near Chantilly, is the birthplace of the French monarchy with gothic cathedrals, half timbered houses and cobbled streets (recommended to me but I haven’t made it yet).
Generally you’re talking about £7 for a pint and £4 for a coffee. The cheap places are crap and nearly as expensive, while the classy places aren’t always a lot more expensive. Beware of the tourist rip-off places though, €22 for a coke is the record I’ve found, don’t worry I didn’t pay it!
The French – generally they are far from ignorant. They really don’t understand you unless your pronunciation is spot on and I usually get in trouble. English and German use concept words whereas with French it is the whole sentence and its context which brings meaning. I’m told that I pronounce Monsieur, like Mon Chien (my dog); Excusez moi, like excuse mes nois (excuse my nuts). Biere a la Peche, is beer with peach syrup but when I pronounce it I ask for goldfish in a glass, Biere avec Pesce. It’s hardly fun living in an attic but I thought that I was being sophisticated describing how I lived in a Pommes de Terre. Pied e Terre, is a small flat used by folk who only need a small base midweek which translates as a foot on the ground. I on the otherhand was telling everyone that I lived in a potato. Now you can see why it’s never boring when I’m away.
And the French, well they have an unusual take on me too. One client told his colleagues, “We like the way he speaks his mind. He can express himself in a way that is shall we say… virile. That’s rare these days, and it’s good to see.” Well flattery is always welcome so thank you to a certain member of France Télévisions too who said, “Who cares if he’s English! You’re our oldest enemies but we like the way he talks! In many ways Andrew fulfils the expectations in France of what an Englishman ought to be like. He’s seen as stylish, slightly eccentric, gentlemanly, outspoken, and humorous.” Oooh la la – Vive la difference!
All rights reserved © 2013 Andrew Hutchinson