As a doctor and parent and volunteer and adventurer and student, I have visited more places than most. Somehow Paris has escaped me. Last week I am happy to say that it was taken off my bucket list. Here are some of my thoughts and suggestions.
Airfares from Toronto to Europe are quite reasonable. If you are an Aeroplan member, however, the regular fare is about the same as the taxes on your “free flight”. So I used my Aeroplan miles for my hotel instead.
I used Uber for the first time. Truly a magnificent advance in service and at a lower cost. (I realize that there may be some downsides to it). Imagine if our medical system could be revolutionized in a similar way.
I stayed at the Best Western Anjou Lafayette, close to the Opera Garnier and Gare du Nord. Not the most trendy location, and I was urged in advance to stay on the Left Bank, but it was a relief to get away from the tourist areas at the end of each day.
Immerse yourself in the Metro as soon as you can. Between their extensive “underground” or “subway” and buses, you can really navigate Paris with little difficulty and quite inexpensively. I bought the carnet of ten tickets, which almost lasted me five days.
If you are asking for directions in a foreign country in your second language, it never hurts to get a second opinion!
There are several “passes” available, such as the Paris Pass, which will cover your transportation and admission (without the lineups) to most, though not all of the most popular attractions. I didn’t use one, and I think I came out ahead. If you do register on their website in advance, you will be blessed with daily e-mails encouraging you to sign up.
There is no additional GST and PST (aka taxes) on stuff in Paris, and tipping is not expected. So, while Paris isn’t cheap and the Canadian dollar is a bit anemic, it’s not as bad as you may think.
Try the Batobus for a day or two. It’s relaxing, not too expensive, and a good way to get from one end of the city to the other. Yes, Paris is great for walking and you can indeed walk most of the city, but a boat or a bus or the Metro might save you time and be easier on your plantar fasciitis!
Perhaps you enjoy playing the piano, like me! There are public pianos in all of the train stations, at Charles de Gaulle airport, and Shakespeare and Company’s bookstore. Along with the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe, finding and playing the piano at Gare du Nord was a highlight of my trip, and life!
Try and find the statue of Montaigne by the Sorbonne. It is believed to be good luck for students to rub his bronze toe before an exam. The statue is not sideways in real life! From there you can visit one of the world’s great bookstores, Shakespeare and Company, to browse or tinkle their ivories or both. Next door is a pleasant café.
The fallafel at L’As du Fallafel in the Marais district is really as good as they say. Don’t miss it.
I borrowed Rick Steeves’ guidebook from my local library. I would highly recommend it.
I don’t sleep on airplanes, nor do I get HBO at home. So I was well entertained by a full season of Veep on the way over, and The Night Of on the way back.
If you are planning on picking up your own wine in Paris, take along a corkscrew or get one there. There really isn’t much in the way of screwtop bottles over there.
I saw seven SLR cameras in Paris. Everyone is using a smart phone. Selfies are the norm, and selling selfie sticks seems to be a common occupation amongst newly arrived French persons.
Speaking French certainly comes in handy. Remember to say “bonjour” when you address people.
I suppose the end of October is a bit off season. It still seemed like a very crowded city, though the lineups at most attractions were short. The leaves were turning colours, just like back home.
I have a fear of heights, probably dating back to trips to New York in my childhood, and aggravated by canopy walks in Ghana with my children. That saved me shlepping up the Eiffel Tower. There is a beautiful, and free, view in all directions from the seventh floor of the Galleries Lafayette (take the escalators up).
I have never before been a fan of fine art, but the Monets, Manets, Chagalls, Van Goghs, Cezannes, Rodins and much more enthralled me with their beauty, as did the museums and galleries where they were displayed.
You can go crazy before you go doing your research on Trip Advisor. Here you can find the best hotel, best restaurant, best crepe or croissant, piano bar, and I am sure much much more. Pretty helpful, but sometimes it’s best to stumble on your own finds, and then, if you must, review them on TA.
As the Travel Doctor, I am exhaustedly used to warning people about the food and water, the bugs and advising vaccines. None of that was necessary for Paris. I think it is the most beautiful place I have ever been.
And, below, the best pizza in Paris, at La Villa Andrea, close to the elegant Gare du Nord.
There are several people who advised me and encouraged me to take this trip. I thank you.
Please excuse the picture layout. I don’t find this program easy!