Smart Tips for Your First Time in ParisEUROPE, SERIES, STAFF, TRAVEL PREP — By Estrella Azul on October 31, 2011 at 01:31
By staff writer Estrella Azul. Photos Copyright © Estrella Azul & Ian Fraser.
IF YOU EVER visit a city of which you don’t know the language, I advise you to do proper research before leaving. It may or may not be that mild case of OCD I suspect myself of having, but nonetheless I think it’s a good idea to imagine any scenario in which you might get lost. Come up with solutions to solve any problems which might occur, make a list of train/Metro/bus stops so you’ll know where to switch lines, and look up museum/attractions’ schedules/fees/parking.
Cheap flights are possible, so that’s another aspect worth researching. And, of course, carrying a good guide book and a phrasebook is essential.
Imagining any scenario was what helped me to not simply land in France and have the surprise of not being where I thought I should be. I seem to have drawn the short straw regarding airlines and landed in Beauvais-Tillé Airport. This airport is located outside of Paris, an 80-minute bus ride away from Porte Maillot, Paris. I was so glad I took the time to research the airport a bit and not simply assume, as I did at first, that it was in Paris.
That said, since I love traveling so much, having to take the bus wasn’t as unpleasant as I thought it would be. I had fun during the bus ride looking out the window while listening to music, enjoying the picturesque scenery. From Porte Maillot I took the metro and switched lines once to reach the hotel.
One of the most important things for survival there is keeping in mind those overly protective warnings your mother and grandmother have instilled in you and beware of traffic. It’s a nightmare, or at least to me it was. I said this in a previous article (Walking Through Paris), but it’s worth emphasizing: you know how sometimes you wish you could just pull over at the corner? Well, people in Paris actually do it. You need to watch out for cars when crossing the road—you might not see the oncoming traffic on account of the awkwardly-parked cars on street corners.
Public transit is a bit difficult to understand, but if you’re attentive enough and manage to figure out which way you’re supposed to be heading and then stand on the right platform, everything else falls into place.
You only need one ticket to use the metro and you can switch lines as many times as necessary. Just be sure not to go through the wrong door while trying to get from one platform to the other, even if it looks more accessible, or you’ll get too close to the exit and will need to purchase another ticket. Yes, I learned that one the hard way.
By law, all prices in Paris include tax and tips—everything from restaurants to taxis—so don’t feel obliged to leave a tip as you would back home.
Although my friend and I didn’t plan the trip around it, it just so happened that we visited Paris on the first weekend of March. The neat thing about this is that on the first Sunday of the month many attractions have free admission (we visited the Louvre that way on Sunday). Be sure to get there early if possible.
I found a very helpful list of attractions and their free admission schedules on the Paris Convention and Visitors’ Bureau website (see Related Topics below). When you visit, be sure to click on the links provided for further hidden treasures. For example, if you’re a European Union citizen and under the age of 25 you can benefit from free admission on special schedules or some percentage off the regular fees. I was able to use this twice in Paris (and once before, while in Sicily, which is the only reason I knew to look for it).
I found a thorough article by Katie Knorovsky (see Related Topics below) that also helped me a lot as I was building the list of places I wanted to visit and things I wanted to try.
P.S. The pigeons are scarier than they look, especially if you happen to be standing between them and food. They will fly directly at you, so think fast and duck!
Estrella Azul is a young emerging writer, passionate about reading, floral art and photography, with an artistic personality and a soulful outlook on life. She is a Hungarian girl living and writing from Cluj-Napoca, Romania, the capital of historical region Transylvania. Estrella is our European correspondent, and she dreams of embarking on a round-the-world trip. To read more of her creative writing, her thoughts and daily happenings, visit Life’s a stage – WebBlog©.