Wednesday, March 7, 2012
Monday, February 20, 2012
Paris is separated into 20 arrondissements and the central parts with the tourist attractions not so far apart and most can be visited on foot. But if you have limited time or if you're a bit lazy like me, here are the means of transportation that'll help you around:
This is probably my favourite way of getting around The Parisian métro has 14 lines and goes pretty much everywhere. It's easy to find a station, no need to wait a long time for a train, and it runs from around 5 a.m. until 1 a.m., depending on the line. They run until an hour later on Friday and weekends too.
Each métro ticket is €1.70 and can be bought from the ticketing machines. A carnet of 10 tickets is a cheaper alternative though. Paris Visite passes are also available at the stations; these are passes that allows unlimited public transportation (trains, buses) for a number of days.
If you plan to spend quite a while in Paris, however, I'd recommend the Navigo pass. The card costs €5 and you can pay for a month or a week's worth of travelling on the métro, RER (in the selected zones), bus, and can even be used with the Montmartre funicular and the Velib (see below). A small ID photo is needed for the card as well, so bring that along, unless you want to have a go at one of those confusing photo machines.
Also: You should ask the ticketing booth for a map of the métro. It's free and portable and it'll make your life so much easier.
RER trains are a lot like the métro, except it runs further out to the suburban areas and goes to places like Disneyland and Fontainbleu. You can use your métro tickets or Navigo for these trains, but only for the city's central part. Special tickets are needed for journeys further outfield.
Luckily, the buses of Paris are pretty easy to use. They are clean, air-conditioned, generally on time, and not too crowded. You can use the metro tickets, the Navigo, Paris Visite pass, or you can buy a bus-only ticket that'll cost €1.40. Keep in mind that you'll have to pay etc as soon as you get on the bus, so get your coins ready or you'll be slowing everyone down.
These are buses that run from after midnight until five in morning. It's the cheapest way to get back home/to the hotel once the normal buses and the métro are closed. There aren't that many lines or stops though, so you might want to plan ahead if you don't want a long walk in the dark after a wild night.
The taxis in Paris are like the taxis in most places, so it's pretty straightforward to use one. It'll be pricey though, especially in the rush hour when the traffic barely move at all. There's a €5.50 minimum fee so you might end up paying a bit more for short rides than what it says on the meter. Taxis can be quite hard to find in the summer when the tourists flood the city but it's usually not a problem. You can always get one at one of the taxi stations as well.
Many locals bikes around Paris so the paths are good and it's a great way to explore the city. There are over a thousand vélib' stations around Paris. The fees aren't high and it's even free for the first 30 minutes. A credit/debit card will be needed to sign up in order to rent the bikes though.
Wednesday, February 8, 2012
So when, exactly, is the best season to enjoy Paris? The answer depends on how you'd like to experience it.
Spring is a great time for Paris. The flowers in the parks will be in full bloom, the weather will be mild, the atmosphere will be relaxed, the views will be at its finest, and everyone wants a share of this. Yes, I'm talking about thousands of tourists who will flood into the French capital during springtime. Queues will be longer, air fares will be higher, and reservations will have to be made. However, the upside of this is that since it's the high season, most shops and businesses will be open, and the city will be rather lively.
Summer is probably the most popular time for the visitors. There will be more tourists than Spring everywhere in the city. It's not ideal for those who wishes to experience the Parisian ways as well, since large numbers of the locals would've left the city for vacations in the likes of Marseille or Cannes. Many shops, from boulangeries to glaciers, will be closed. The weather can be very hot (around 30 degrees), and then become much colder and wetter on the next day (luckily, the Météo-France is usually accurate). It's not all bad, though. The sunny days are absolutely amazing, with locals lazing around the the parks and having picnics by the Canal Saint-Martin. Your photos would look amazing, too. Some also say that this is the most tourist-friendly season, and there will be a lot of free open-air activities ranging from the Paris Plage to the open air film screenings.
Free concert at the Parc de la Villette
Fall is for those who want a quieter time in Paris. There will be much less tourists and the locals will be busy with returning to business. Prices will drop, but so will the vibrancy of the people, and the days will be shorter and colder. Some, including myself, would appreciate the calmness though. It allows us to see the city in a different light, Paris in itself, without distracting crowds of people. It's a great time for visiting galleries for that very reason as well.
Winter will be cold, obviously. This could make it more difficult to walk around and explore the city; the days will be even shorter and some shops will be closed, but there is a certain charm of Paris under the snow. It's terribly romantic. Also, the holidays decorations and festivities are brilliant.
Thursday, February 2, 2012
Paris is a great place to both visit and live in, and I simply want to share it with everyone.
This blog is where I'll be posting primarily about the city itself and , occasionally, about my experiences there as well.
Before leaving for Paris, I really didn't know what to expect. Sure, I've heard all the hype about it, the "city of romance"; I've seen it countless times in the films, but I've also heard about how the people aren't nice ("everything in Paris is great except the Parisians!"), how the waiters are rude ("he laughed at me for wanting my steak well-done!"), how the streets are dirty, and many other comments like this.
After my first few days, I arrived at the conclusion that Paris, like every other cities in the world, isn't perfect; but it such a great place that the trivial things that the people complain about doesn't really matter. In fact, a lot of them didn't bother me at all. I honestly believe that it isn't possible not to be impressed, in one way or another, by Paris*. If you don't like the city at all, you probably don't know it well enough. The charms of Paris does not exist only in books and on celluloid screens, and there is always something here for everyone.
I hope that this blog will help make someone's trip more enjoyable, or, at least, just help someone kill time! I'll try to update regularly, but meanwhile, I'll leave you with this delightfully cliche song:
*Even though some people do get Paris Syndrome...Perhaps an open mind is needed here as well...