Friday, April 9, 2010

Guide to Paris, Part 1

Where to stay

We stayed at the Hotel du Louvre which is in the 1st arr. If this is your first trip to Paris I would HIGHLY recommend this hotel. We were within walking distance to everything (museums, amazing restaurants, national monuments). My husband was skeptical about taking the Metro and our location was so helpful that we really didn't need it.

If I were to go back to Paris, having been there already, I would stay here instead. The Royal Hotel Arc De Triomphe is steps from the famous Avenue des Champs Elysees and the Arc de Triomphe. It's situated close enough to famous monuments, but in the heart of the prestige boutique district with many amazing restaurants, theaters and cafes close by. The nice thing about this hotel is that it's a few meters away from the Air Bus France Terminal, so you can take a bus into Paris from Charles de Gaulle Airport.

Getting There

We flew in on a Continental International flight. If we were to fly Continental again, I would use my frequent flier miles to upgrade our seats to first class. I will never fly coach on an international flight again. I got ZERO sleep, felt like a sardine in a can, and I had a very obtuse French woman sitting behind me who was playing video games on the seat's monitor (located directly behind my head) and so I literally was getting shoved every thirteen seconds. Pay for the upgrade, especially if your trip is short, you will be happy you did.

Getting From Charles De Gaulle to Paris

There are options to take the train or a bus from CDG into Paris, but if you're a first time visitor I recommend just taking a taxi. Unless you speak French, the city can be somewhat hard to navigate (even worse if you are carrying several bags) and it's honestly just easier to be dropped off at your hotel's door front. The taxi should cost about 45 Euro.

*NOTE* When you are in the terminal trying to figure out how to get out of CDG (that airport is like a hampster cage) make sure you go fully outside of the airport to catch a taxi. There are illegal taxi drivers who will approach you in the airport and ask if you need a taxi. We were charged 70E for a trip to Paris (but talked the guy down to 60E thank goodness!) Never get into a taxi without a meter!

Speaking of Taxis…

This is the one area that we really got taken advantage of by Parisians that knew we were tourists and that our language skills were limited. If you take a taxi there are two things you must know. #1 you do not tip in Paris, the fare is inclusive of a tax that represents a service charge, so you do not need to tip your driver. #2 make sure you get into the taxi with lots of coins, in addition to small bills. This way when your paying your fare you can give the driver exact change or as close to exact as possible. 

One of the issues we encountered was drivers giving us incorrect change and then pretending they didn't understand us when we argued that we were missing money (anywhere from 3E to 5E, which when you do the USD translation is around $5 to $7!)

For the most part though, Paris is easy to traverse by foot (and much more enjoyable that way too!)

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