Thursday, May 07, 2009

Au Revoir Paris

The Eiffel at NightWe are now back after spending fifteen nights in the City of Lights. This was an amazing vacation for a number of reasons, but also because we had enough time to take it easy and not rush from one tourist spot to another. This is a city you can spend much time in, if you love one or more of the following: history, long walks, food & drink, art, architecture.

Paris is also one of those few places left where few speak English. I don't particularly mind that; after all, what is the point of foriegn travel if everything is familiar? I have ranted before on how globalization has simplied travel but reduced the charm of travelling to foreign lands.

I also think all those stories about the rude French seems like a myth. I have only found polite and helpful people here. It does help if you make an attempt to speak French - whatever little you know - they appreciate the effort.

Champs-ElyseesFor the rest of this final post of this trip, let me add some more tips for those who plan to visit Paris:

It rains often here. Get an umbrella and a raincoat for the kid(s) if you are going to be here longer than a few days. We were lucky - it only rained on one day!

At a Brasserie in Paris
Paris has the best subway system I have seen so far. It is more ventilated and less chaotic than the London underground. Newcomers won't have problems figuring it out: just get a metro map, check the name of the final station in the route, and find the line number. You can buy bundles of ten fixed price tickets good within the city.

Metro Station in ParisYou can get your pocket picked in the metro (especially, the tourist route between Champs-Elysees and Louvre) or in the Montmarte areas. Be carefully, but don't worry too much.

The parks are beautiful in the spring and there are many of them. All of them have children's areas to play. During certain days there are also puppet shows that are of high quality and are a uniquely Paris experience for the kids.

Medieval ParisThe GPS and Google Maps on my Blackberry came very handy, especially during those long walks in the inner roads of the city! Among guides, I would recommend the Frommer's (though I did my own research for restautants on the Internet).

I recommend Cityrama for day trips from Paris and FirstWay for a pickup or dropoff service from the airport (if you don't mind paying for a limo). There are several good day trips you can make from Paris: Belgium, Normandy Coast, Burgundy Wine Tours (check the season first if you wish to do a wine trip) and Versailles.

Interesting sundial on the side of an old Paris buildingIndians, you may want to check out a FOREX card that works with most ATMs (my experience with HDFC Bank was very good). This is way more convenient than travellers' cheques or credit cards (they are transitioning to chip-embedded cards in Paris which requires the entry of a 4-digit PIN during a swipe).

Annoying tourists from India seem to have left their mark in Paris.If you are a foodie, make sure you are packing some formal clothes for the restaurants. Reservations are almost always necessary; for three-star dining, make your choice and book well in advance. Also, stick to wines and cocktails; there are no good local beers in Paris.

If you were an Asterix fan like me during childhood, you may want to check out the Asterix theme-park on the outskirts of the city. BTW, the other comic-strip character from Europe, Tintin, is Belgian by origin. I had fun hunting for Tintin memorabilia during my trip to Bruges.

Prev: The Foodie in Paris
First: Bonjour Paris


Aathira Nair said...

Did you visit Parc Asterix? Its such a beauty to see it.. and a pleasant relief from Walt Disney.

Mahesh Narkar said...

Bonjour Shantanu,
Bienvenue a Pune
I have loved reading all of your Paris dispatches. Looking at this dispatch, I loved your Dil Chahta Hai photo :-)

We should get together soon

Final_Transit said...

Shantanu, nice conclusion to Paris series. Some day i'll be there :)

Deepti said...

wonderful post like all the paris posts ... :)
Still waiting for the French chocolates :D

Sank said...

Incredible vacation. I often find myself living vicariously though you my friend. Thanks for keeping us all up to date.
(I do have to admit I'm not sure which to be more envious off, Paris or actually having a 15 day vacation)

Anonymous said...

I'm glad you like Paris!

As for speaking English, it really depends on how old is the person. French between 15 and 35 years old all learned English at school, it's compulsory. So they may not be fluent, but they can understand!

French are not rude... only customer service can be rude. :D

Karthik Sankar said...

Really quick snapshot of Paris and Europe.Delightful to see the snaps...I hope to go there some day :)till then I can always watch your blog

Anonymous said...

@Aathira: It is certainly different from the usual theme parks.

@Mahesh: Hey! Long time no see here.

@Final Transit: Knowing you, it won't be long. :)

@Deepti: Understood. :)

@Sank: Good to see you here again, my friend. Re: 15-day vacations, haha, that's a rarity but I am glad I did it.

@Zhu: You are the expert here!

@Karthik: Thank you.

Chaitanya said...

Nice post ... The Apartment listing website especially was very useful.. I just wanted to tell you that we are opening a new restaurant called Tiffins in Pimpale Saudagar. If u can please drop by sometime...

Vamsee Modugula said...

Nice post...a fantastic series all together. 15 days in Paris sounds like an awesome vacation. I am glad you enjoyed it.

Anonymous said...

@Chaitanya: Thanks. Will try to come over when Tiffins opens.

@Vamsee: Yes, it was a fantastic vacation also because it was 15 days long!

Ashish said...

All the Paris posts make an interesting read, especially with all the pretty pictures. Glad that you and your family had a good time :)

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