I spent 6 days in Paris at the end of October. Half that was for business purposes; the other half paid time off. What follows is a brief trip report. No pictures, just Wikipedia or Flickr links - most of my pictures didn’t really turn out so well.
Getting there: Rule 1, never use a “codeshare” booking for the airline flight. It totally screws with your ability to select seats. Rule 2, don’t use PariShuttle.com . They have you meet in a vague area for pickup. Actually, it is quite explicit, but when you wait for pickup, you’ll wonder if you’re in the right place. Next time I go, I hope to have less luggage, and instead take the train into Paris.
Staying there: The Hotel Concorde La Fayette is where I stayed. Nice place; great staff; small rooms. It is attached to the Palais des CongrÃ¨s (a high end shopping mall and conference/event venue). This is on the west side of central Paris, with the metro M1 line and the RER C line. This is just a couple metro stops from Charles de Gaulle - Etoile (“hub”, pronounced “eh-twaw” to my ear), which provides connections to the M2, M6, and RER A lines . Above ground at this hub, is the Arc de Triomphe de l’Ãtoile.
Things to see: (lots)
Eiffel Tower: Very impressive in person. The tower is approximately 1000 feet, with the upper visitor deck above 900 feet. The view is pretty awesome from up there, especially as there are no buildings of significance nearby to impede on the view. At night, the tower periodically puts on a light show, timed to music. You can easily make out the light show (but not the sound) a few km awe. (Getting here: the RER C or the M6).
Arc de Triumph: Fairly impressive; probably more so had I gone inside. Getting to the monument can be a challenge at first - there is no street crossing that will reach it. Instead, you have to go to one of the metro tunnels; and follow the signs underground until you come up in the middle of the circle. Underground, this is home to Charles du Gaulle - Etoile.
Notre Dame: Beautiful structure. They do allow visitors to go inside; however, I didn’t feel right to go in on a Sunday when services were being held. (That didn’t seem to stop many people; I’m not sure if the tour is separate from services, or if services just puts up with the tourists). Just south of here, is quite touristy - tons of eateries and tourist schwag.
The Louvre: Huge place. Some of the works I saw from the Renaissance were impressive. The medieval exhibit, not so much - lots of space devoted to it, but few artifacts. Alas, I showed up late in the day, so I did not get to see much of this museum. Note: There is a metro station that directly takes you inside the Louvre; I recommend instead the palace exit, and get a good view of the place from the outside.
Getting around: Try the Batobas (water taxi). The view is quite scenic. Runs 90 minutes to go round trip up and down the Seine river; and has on/off privies so you can use it throughout the day. A few major stops would be near the Eiffel, the Louvre, and Notre Dame. Rail alternatives include the Metro (BART or DC Metro like; crowded, runs often, flat rate inside and outside the city centre); and the RER (heavy rail, more like Amtrak but with much older trains; fewer stops). Either one will get you through central Paris for 1,60â¬. Or, a book of 10 tickets (un carnet), for 11.60â¬. I never once took a regular taxi - getting around was too easy with the public transit options.
Food: Paris is supposed to be a food lover’s paradise. Sadly, I’m not a food lover (too damn picky). Mostly French food, plus some Thai and Italian. Common advice is avoid the places that readily speak English. Where I did look at menus, the common entres were some type of fish, duck, and steak tar tar. The steak would be a lot more appealing *cooked*… Most of what I ate was instead the street food of Paris - the Crepe. Jambone, Fromage, et Oeuf, svp! Unfortunately, 5 times is too many over 6 days to go for this option.
Nearby places: Paris is in a central location compared to many parts of Europe, with tons of locations accessible by Eurorail in hours (up to a day away). If you have the time take a look at the rail maps. I considered a trip to London by high speed rail; the trip is fairly fast (a couple hours). If you consider such, *plan ahead* and reserve tickets on Eurostar ahead of time. Otherwise, it becomes quite cost prohibitive. I nearly went _anyways_ but backed out at the last minute due to weather.
Getting back to the hotel airport: Another vote for not PariShuttle.com. I mentioned I wanted to be at the airport 3 hours before departure time. They scheduled instead for 2 hours. Worse, they were late. I got to the airport, where they had problems finding my ticket (did I mention, avoid codeshares?). Then, their computers went down, causing a 40 minute delay on checkin. I finally got to the gate as they were boarding - no chance to get an edible meal before the 10 hour flight..
Next stop: Beijing!