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Some Questions

We are just over 2 weeks out from our first trip to Europe. I believe we have everything just about ready. Health Pass, CDC cards, affidavits etc. We made copies of everything also. I am watching the weather to see when to book tickets to the Eiffel Tower. I hope we have good weather. I see they are unwrapping the ADT and we are happy about that. So a few questions!

  1. I bought the Orange Holiday sim card, when calling and texting the USA, do I add a 1 in front of the area code?

  2. I am watching the weather to see what day will be best for outdoor activity (Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame etc} should we buy tix online or just walk up?

  3. We are ditching the rental car in Caen and taking the train back to Paris. Our hotel is really close to the ET, which train station in Paris should we take the train to? And should we buy train tickets in advance? The are fairly inexpensive. First or second class?

  4. Getting gas for the rental car. If we dont have a diesel car, the diesel nozzle wont fit, right? I'd hate to put the wrong gas in the car. As long as the nozzle fits the tank, we can use whatever gas, right? I assume they have several different grades of gas there, so which would you suggest for the car?

Feel free to make suggestions. How about a couple of good restaurants close to the ET?

I may add some more questions later.

Posted by
104 posts

Hi there!
Your best bet I would think is to get tickets ahead of time. I’ve used Viator and Headout for different tours in the past. In fact, I just booked my Eiffel Tower/Seine cruise for December this morning via Headout. I hope you have a fabulous time!

(Btw I’ve done guided tours and plan to do it this time- reason I go to those web sites instead of the main ET website)

Posted by
21314 posts

Tickets will probably be cheaper if you buy them from the Eiffel Tower website.

As far as I can see, all the trains from Caen go to Paris-St-Lazare. Although there can be exceptions (I've seen it happen in London), it's very common in large cities like Paris for all the trains coming from a single direction to end up at the same train station. Most of the time you won't have a choice.

St-Lazare is about 2 miles from the Eiffel Tower. I'll leave it to those who know Paris well to suggest your best transportation options from the station to your hotel, but I think it would be helpful if you provided the name of your hotel.

Posted by
198 posts

What metro stop is closest to your hotel? It looks like you will arrive from Caen into Gare St Lazare. Use a metro app or map to determine the best way to get to your hotel.

For your train from Caen to Paris, it's about a 2 hour trip. Difference in experience between first and second class wouldn't be that great. Is it worth the extra $$ for a couple of hours sitting on a train?

Notre Dame is not open for tourists. Many museums and Eiffel Tower require advance timed entries.

I recommend a trip to Ble Sucre to get the best madeleines in Paris.

Enjoy your trip!!

Posted by
739 posts

A restaurant near the Eiffel Tower that many of us enjoyed on the Best of Paris tour in 2019, near our Hotel Duquesne Eiffel, is Le 7eme Vin. https://restaurant7emevin.fr/ 7eme is for the 7th arrondismont.

It is small and caters mostly to locals, though they did recognize Rick Steves’ name. The staff and patrons were all friendly.

Posted by
5265 posts

Here are our host's directions for calling a US number from Europe. You dial 1 as the US country code, then the area code and seven-digit local number.

After arriving from Caen, if you don't want to use the Metro because of bags or stairs, you can take a taxi to your hotel. Use the official taxi stand at the station. Have the hotel name and address written down to show the driver if necessary.

Posted by
186 posts

Regarding fuelling. In Spain, so it may not apply in France all the nozzles are the same. So be very careful, I inadvertently put gasoline in my diesel car. Stopped, finished the fill up with diesel and then topped up the tank once i was down a quarter of a tank. Did it three times and had no issues.

Be careful and do not make the mistake I did.

Posted by
8850 posts

they are unwrapping the ADT

?

Unless you have an exotic/high-power rental car 'regular' gasoline would be fine ( assuming its not a diesel)

I would not rely on 'the nozzle fits- it must be right' to be an absolute truth.

Posted by
1782 posts

ADT = Arc de Triomphe

Some of my favorite restaurants in the 7th are:
- Bistrot Le Champ de Mars (near Eiffel Tower)
- Alfio (Italian, near Eiffel Tower)
- Les Ombres (next to Musee du Quai Branly, great view of Eiffel Tower)
- Pasco (by Napoleon's Tomb)
- La Terrasse (by Ecole Militaire )

Posted by
2928 posts

I'd take a taxi from the train station to the hotel. The easiest mass transit route IMO is Metro Line 13 (direction: Châtillon Montrouge) to Montparnasse-Bienvenue and change there for Line 6 (direction: Charles de Gaulle-Etoile) and exit Line 6 at Bir-Hakeim. That should take about 30 minutes. There are faster routes but they require two changes and would save you maybe 5 minutes.
As to calling the US from your French sim-carded phone, I believe that you dial 00 (or hold the zero down until you get the + sign on the phone) before you dial the 1 followed by the area code and number. That has worked for me.

Posted by
8510 posts

Be vigilant when you add fuel because a smaller nozzle can go in the larger hole. It's not like square, rectangular, and round puzzle pieces. Your required fuel is marked on the tank cover. Bob was very lucky.

Paris, and a lot of France, is not far from the Atlantic with no natural barriers. Therefore, don't count on the weather report from even the night before. Just take it as a strong possibility but be prepared for change: layered clothes, sunglasses, gloves and scarf, and umbrella. You can rely on the hourly report from the same day somewhat.

As JHK said 00+1+area code+number.

Posted by
4182 posts

The rental car counter will tell you which fuel to use, and there should be a reminder sticker. If you put gasoline in a diesel car, you are almost guaranteed a severe breakdown not covered by insurance. Bob was indeed very lucky! The other way around is less serious, but still best avoided.

Posted by
7705 posts

Gas = Essence

Diesel = Gazole

Make sure you are at the right pump !! You in fact can put the wrong nozzle in the tank — but doing so is a *VERY EXPENSIVE * mistake.

To dial the U.S. from a phone operating from a French SIM, dial +1 then the area code and number.

You can’t visit Notre Dame as it is closed for reconstruction.

Your train from Caen will arrive at Gare St Lazare.

Posted by
6729 posts

Take the metro from Gare St. Lazare to your hotel; you don't get to choose which train station in Paris your train arrives. Each train station serves particular areas -- Caen trains arrive at St. Lazare. St. Lazare is a major change point for many metro lines and RER lines. Your hotel web site should tell you what your metro stops are; see if one of those lines is boardable at St. Lazare -- you may need to make a change.

on TER local trips there is no real difference between first and second class. On long distance TGV trips first is a bit plusher and worth it if the price difference is small. On TER trains you will be hard pressed to see a difference. Keep your luggage in sight or walk to the luggage rack area at stops if it isn't. Luggage rarely walks but rarely is not never.

Buy tickets from the official website of the attraction -- avoid middlemen

Posted by
4182 posts

Saint-Lazare to Eiffel Tower area is a bit awkward by metro (bus line 80 can be better, but it is not easy to find the right bus stop at Saint Lazare, and you would have to buy tickets beforehand anyway), and very quick by taxi (10-20 minutes depending on traffic): I would take a taxi, especially with luggage!

Posted by
9928 posts

I agree that there is NO need to buy Eiffel Tower tickets from a middleman at this time. If you go to the official website you’ll see there are times available every day although I did not go to each day to see the specifics.

https://ticket.toureiffel.paris/en

Viewing Notre Dame is just a walk by. You may find yourself in the area several times during your visit anyway. To me the better views are from the bridge on the East end of the Isle de la Cité.

I’ve enjoyed Di Felice restaurant on Rue de Grenelle several times recently. It’s a block east of Rue Cler. The 2 times I’ve been there lately the other patrons were all locals and known to the server/host. I also enjoyed Vietnamese and Indian restaurants on Rue Malar. Depends on how far a walk that is from your hotel.

Posted by
3360 posts

Bob was indeed really lucky, but might have damaged the engine giving the next person to use that car a nasty surprise.

Putting the wrong fuel in a car can be problematic. Especially if you put petrol in a diesel car. A petrol car will usually survive a bit of diesel but it will not like it. If you happen do it. The first thing to do is to not start the engine! Then you need to have the car towed to a workshop that can drain the fuel from the vehicle. It can cost a bit so it might be worth contacting the insurance company, but starting the car can be even more expensive. Petrol in a diesel car can damage the engine beyond repair.

Posted by
140 posts

Thank you all so much for the replies so far. So, if my rental car is not a diesel, the diesel nozzle will fit? I was hoping it wouldnt. I haven't been able to find a good Youtube video of someone getting gas in France. Maybe I'll make one after I get the hang of it.

We know that Notre Dame isn't open, we are hoping for good weather so we can walk to and from the places we want to see. We thought about adding Napoleons Tomb and Sainte Chappell to our list. Sainte Chappell looks quite stunning.

Posted by
140 posts

Regarding calling the USA from Europe, Rick Steves says this, "So to call my office in Edmonds, Washington, from anywhere in Europe, I dial 00-1-425-771-8303; or, from a mobile phone, +-1-425-771-8303."

We will be using a mobile. So we add the plus (+) symbol before the 1?

Posted by
2061 posts

There are two ways to call the US from France; (1) 001 425 771 8000 or (2) +1 425 771 8000. Either way works fine.

When you build your contact list in your phone, you should use +1 before each telephone number. This format will allow you to complete calls made from anywhere, within the US or outside the US.

Posted by
140 posts

I'm afraid my European dumbness will contaminate this forum! Ok, the +1 thing is confusing. When you say +1 you just mean add the 1 before the area code, right? You dont mean put the + symbol before the 1, correct?

Using my debit and or credit cards at the gas pumps. Both are newer and have chips. When I use my debit card, the pump will ask for a pin number. When I use my credit card, I dont have to enter a pin number. Both cards are Visa. Will this be the case in France?

Posted by
4182 posts

No, when we write +1, you need to input the + symbol. Which is typically obtained by a long press on 0, or can be replaced by 00.

As for nozzles... No idea really, they're all round and the mistake does happens, so just be careful? Diesel smells really foul and is quite greasy, so you should notice immediately as you pick up the pump.

Posted by
140 posts

Kim tipped me that diesel is pronounced Gazole. So, if our car is not a diesel, I'll stay away from that pump.

Posted by
4182 posts

The word "gazole" is gradually being replaced by "diesel" in everyday use, but pronounced dee-eh-zel, not dee-zel. Many gas stations sell 2 kinds of diesel (a basic one and a "premium" one, e.g. "Excellium" in Total gas stations): the cheaper one will do.
And gasoline ("essence") is sold either as "SP95" or "SP98"; all gasoline-powered rental cars can use SP95 which is cheaper. Sometimes you will see "SP95-E10" which is fine as well for a rental car.

Posted by
140 posts

Good info, thanks. Can someone help me with the Visa chip cards at the pumps. Like I said, here in the states, the debit card asks for a pin number while the credit card does not. The same in France? I dont have a pin number for my credit card.

Posted by
1131 posts

You can get a pin number for your credit card. You just need to call them and they will mail it to you or you can set it up online sometimes.
The contactless ones work the best we found. They often do not require a signature. You may need to call your bank and get a new one but they should have them.

As far as gas stations. We had success with most of them except we could never get Leclerc to work for us no matter what card we used. We had to go inside and pay every time, except for the stations that didn’t have anybody there. Then we had to move onto a different one. No idea why other than they just don’t want to except American bank cards because of the fees?

Posted by
1131 posts

Oh and as far as weather, just bring umbrellas and a lightweight raincoat. We walked around even in hard rain and it was fine. There didn’t seem to be a lack of traffic because of rain. Everybody just uses umbrellas.

Posted by
140 posts

Great, just added a pin number to my credit card. Hopefully all will go well with tolls, gas and purchasing whatever we buy while there.

Posted by
2061 posts

You can get a pin number for your credit card.

I am afraid it does not work that way. When you ask for a PIN for your credit card, it only gives you the capability to make a cash advance at an ATM; something you never want to do. Most US Bank issued cards are on-line, chip & signature. French bank cards are off-line chip & PIN meaning every transaction requires a PIN.

Most French gas pumps do not have an internet connection - there is no way to obtain an on-line authorization required by US on-line style cards. You can always pay at a cashier window if there is one, and it is open.

Some US cards have an authorization sequence that will allow off-line purchases up to a certain amount. I have a Chase Bonvoy card that has worked at every French gas pump I have ever tried - PIN not required. My Chase Sapphire card has never been accepted at any pay-at-the-pump location, even at the same locations where my Bonvoy card is accepted. The only difference is the card´s authorization sequence as determined by the bank and it´s association with Marriott.

Be very careful about driving in France with a car low on gas, particularly at night and on weekends. You may not be able to purchase gas when you really need it.

Posted by
13 posts

A restaurant we enjoyed just across the ET park from your hotel is Les Cocottes on Rue Saint Dominique. A couple other nice restaurants on each side of it as well.

Posted by
1131 posts

Yes most of the cards we used at gas pumps worked everywhere- but there was one in the first drive to Amboise where we had to enter the pin on one of the cards. It worked fine.

The contactless cards are the ones that worked the easiest. They worked everywhere except for Leclerc for some reason. We tried three different cards from three different banks- Chase, Citibank, and CapitalOne.

Posted by
47 posts

Just to confirm what others have said, the nozzles at French gas stations are all the same size. Be sure if your car takes gasoline, you are using the pumps marked "essence." Also, many of the gas stations now take contactless credit cards in France. If you have Apple Pay or Google Pay on your smartphone, they will work at pumps that have contactless readers. When I drove for a week in August, every gas station save one took Apple Pay. And if you drive on the autoroute, look for toll booths marked with green arrows, which have machines that take credit cards AND cash. Be sure to have cash on hand if the machine won't accept your American credit card (most do, but some don't--it's like Russian roulette out there).

Posted by
8510 posts

Credit card pins-- usually you can enter anything pin number with a US card in a French reader and it will work. I just hit 1111.

To answer Aimee's experience at Leclerc-- it's the card processor they use. Some won't accept any American cards except in person. Example: we can use US cards in the store at IKEA, Darty, Carrefour and more, but not online. The card processor accepts only French cards online. C'est la vie.

Posted by
1131 posts

Thank you Bets, we figured it was something like that! I did not know that Apple pay would work, or I would have tried that, but it sounds like it wouldn't have mattered at Leclerc.

Posted by
140 posts

Lots of great posts in this topic. very useful information for sure. Train tickets, buy from SCNF website? We leave Caen on Saturday October 30th for Paris. 73 Euros for the both of us on SCNF website. Buy now? Or wait till day of travel? We drop the rental car at Auto Europe close to train station around 8am. Does that give us enough time to make the 10am train to Paris?

No one commented on Sainte Chappell. Worth the visit? Pictures online are beautiful.

Posted by
140 posts

Awesome, We will stop by there as we will walk by Notre Dame Cathedral. Where are the crown of thorns now? That would be awesome to see.

Posted by
7705 posts

A definite yes for Sainte-Chapelle. It is absolutely breathtaking.

Posted by
4182 posts

You can buy the train tickets now, it could be a little bit cheaper. And if you drop the car off at 8 or 8.30 AM right by the station, then you can catch a train 45 minutes later - there is no paperwork when you drop off, and traffic delays from Bayeux to Caen should be minimal.

Posted by
1131 posts

We saw a concert there Saturday night, it was great-! Get tickets for afternoon so the lighting is good, go to a café close by afterwards to wait until you can get in line (I wish I could remember the name of the one we were at, it had the most delicious espresso martini!) go line up at 5pm, and enjoy!

Posted by
870 posts

Trblee,
We have stayed at the Eiffel Seine 4-5 times. Loved it the first few, and saw it begin to change over the last couple of visits. Our go-to now is the Relais Bosquet on the other side of the tower. https://hotel-paris-bosquet.com/

Depending on the room you got at the Eiffel Seine, be prepared for a VERY small room if it's one of the lower-cost rooms. Just want to prepare you ahead of time, as this is your first visit, and you may be shocked how small that small can be. The Superior room is their largest. Don't do the garden rooms unless they completely redid them. They will let you check your luggage in early if your room is not ready. They also have a hotel cat that roams the property. Forgot his name. There are several restaurants (all pretty much catering to tourists) around the hotel and a small grocery down the street. The Grenelle Market is definitely worth going to on Wednesdays and Sundays. It takes place between Dupleix and Motte Picquet stations which is across down the street from the hotel. https://www.paris.fr/equipements/marche-grenelle-5502 There really isn't really anything remarkable around the hotel. Rue de Commerce is somewhat nearby and has more local shopping https://www.parisperfect.com/blog/2011/09/shopping-rue-du-commerce/. The Eiffel Tower is about an 8-minute walk. Venture over to the Rue Cler area just to walk the market where it's lined with shops, restaurants, etc. https://www.ricksteves.com/watch-read-listen/read/articles/rue-cler-paris-market-101 You can catch the river boat cruise across the street from the Eiffel Tower. https://www.bateauxparisiens.com/index.cfm/page/LID/2/RID/4413/ Everything else will be a walk, so be sure and take advantage of the underground.

Edited for correction of Market Location

Posted by
4182 posts

Quick correction regarding the post above: the Grenelle market on Wed and Sun mornings is between Dupleix and Motte Picquet stations, not Bir Hakeim.

There are few good restaurants in the immediate area of your hotel, which I know very well as my parents live nearby. Towards Dupleix station, La Cantine du Troquet is worth a shot (Brasserie with SW French influence), and so is Le Volant Basque (hearty, mostly Basque food). If you are tired of French food, Erawan has decent Thai food (with a bit too much Chinese influence to my taste). There is also plenty of excellent Korean restaurants (such as Manna). And if you are after seafood, Vin et Marée, while not exceptional, is very dependable.

A bit further afield, you can go to the other side of the Eiffel tower for restaurants (around rue saint Dominique or rue Cler), or towards rue Lecourbe / rue Cambronne / rue de Vaugirard where there are many good places with a very local vibe.

Posted by
104 posts

We enjoyed Sainte Chapelle and then ventured to the Conciergerie after. Unfortunately it was a rainy day, so it didn’t give the stained glass justice but it was a memorable time.

Posted by
870 posts

Thank you Balso for the correction. We always think Bir Hakeim because if you face the station when you walk outside the hotel turn left you will walk a few minutes before arriving at the market. Couldn't remember the exact station location. But an easy 5-minute walk from the hotel!