Just returned from a week in Paris

Here is what I did this past week. Accommodations – I stayed at a B&B in the Marais district; a room in a house that was a 5 minute walk from Île de la Cité. It was like staying with a friend who makes coffee and gives great insights. Tip: This type of accommodation works best when one adopts a Paris/vacation life-style; do not expect hotel-style amenities or early breakfast (9:30am is about right). My B&B: La Lombarde.
Sightseeing – I purchased a multiday Museum Pass. It let me cut in front of the security check lines at all museums except the Musée d'Orsay. You have to stand in line to get one, so make the d'Orsay your first stop. On Saturday evening, on the recommendation of my hostess, I walked along the Seine, the left bank. I started at Petit Pont about 4pm and walked along the river (at the river's edge). There were impromptu bands and dancing (as you get closer to Jardin des Plantes). The quality of the music was quite good (not your usual street accordion player). My hostess told me that the music and dancing increases later in the evening. Many Parisians were having a picnic dinner. I will do it next time! Caution: No alcohol is allowed. Police do patrol the area, however, a group near me were pouring a beverage that looked suspiciously like wine from a thermos. ?

Posted by Michael
Kaiserslautern
13 posts

Eating – I ate sandwiches while out because they were a good price (compared to a sit-down lunch) and fairly consistent all over Paris, although the better ones were at independent shops. I relied on my hostess for dinner recommendations. At better restaurants, dinner begins at 7pm, reservations are recommended as is nice attire. Best restaurant: Le Louchebem near Le Halles (a meat lovers restaurant). Ice cream; there is only one place, Berthillon on Île Saint Louis. 29-31 Rue Saint Louis en l'ile. They are closed until September 5th. Other place serve Berthillon. My favorite is around the corner on Rue des deux ponts.
Getting around – I purchased a "book" of 10 Metro T+ tickets. I found that Paris buses are much better than the crowded Metro, and that I could sight-see while I traveled. I saw a lot of Paris on my bus trip to Montmatre that I would have missed on the longer, and less convenient Metro ride. In addition, my B&B was a 10 minute bus ride from the train station; the Metro was 20 minutes. What I wore – I do not like to stand out when I travel, but as a 50+ American male, I think it's useless to try and "blend in" completely. I noticed that most men over 25-30 dressed casually, but well, and it is difficult to over dress. I noticed that the best seats in restaurants went to the best dressed patrons. During the day I wore long, light weight, non-baggy cargo pants, a shirt with a collar, and tennis shoes (not the athletic type), and a hat when in bright sun for prolonged periods. Most nights eating out I wore a sport coat and leather shoes. Both Recreational Equipment Inc. (REI) and Patagonia make men's non-baggy cargo pants that have hidden (not noticeable) extra pockets.

Posted by Michael
Kaiserslautern
13 posts

I forgot to mention my favorite form of transportation along the Seine, the Batobus. It's a relaxing way to travel up and down the river to see all the sites that are closeby (such as the Louvre, Eiffel Tower, and Notre Dame). I turned it into a mini-tour one day by taking a Batobus on its complete circuit. It's similar to a hop-on hop-off bu, but please note, it's not a tour boat, so they do not explain the scenery.

Posted by Dawn
Denver, CO
258 posts

Thanks Michael! Lots of good info. Sounds like a great trip!!

Posted by Andrea
Sacramento, CA
4871 posts

Thanks for the report. I have to agree about the batobus. It sure beats being underground on the metro!!

Posted by Andrew
Durham, USA
71 posts

I actually find the Batobus a more relaxing way of cruising up and down the river because they don't have the explanations blaring over the speaker. Not the most economical, but fun on a nice day.

Posted by Michael
Kaiserslautern
13 posts

You're right. The Batobus isn't cheap, so I bought a multiday pass and probably used it more than I would have if the price had been lower. The regular bus is a better deal for getting around. Maybe it's just me, but I always found the Metro crowded (great for pickpockets). The temperature was in the high 70s (high 20s in C), so the Batobus, with it's clear roof, was a bit toasty. But I sat back, relaxed, and enjoyed.

Posted by Karen
Vancouver
4 posts

Hi Michael,
It was with great excitement that I read your helpful comments. I have rented a studio apartment in the Marais District near the St Paul Metro for a week in September to relax after a whirlwind tour of London. Will definitely have a walk along the left bank per your recommendation and had planned to purchase a 3 day museum pass on arrival. Good to know it's worth! I've also booked a bike tour out to Versailles to see it via a new perspective after visiting there 7 years ago. Lovely reading about your adventure and happy future travels! Karen in Vancouver, Canada

Posted by Michael
Kaiserslautern
13 posts

Hi Karen,
A bicycle tour sounds fun. I was on one in Valencia. After a day or two of walking in Paris, I was looking enviously at people on bicycles. One can rent them in Paris, but the next time I go anywhere for a multi-day stay, I will bring my bicycle if at all possible. That's easy for me to say because I live in Europe, but I have seen some very compact bicycle carriers.

Posted by Sarah
Stuttgart, Germany
2012 posts

Great trip report and good tips! Agree with your take on how people dress in Paris and that your way of dressing was appropriate. It often gets overlooked in discussions about fashion here, but it's not that people have to be fashion plates, but I think many will feel more comfortable if they take a little extra effort while there. And while no alcohol is technically allowed, in my experience if you are not obvious about it there is no problem. I had a picnic dinner along the Seine on Ile de Cite one evening, and the banks were lined with young Parsians drinking wine and beer. We followed suit. There was a police car cruising the area but they left everyone alone. Just my experience!

Posted by Michael
Kaiserslautern
13 posts

Thank you Sarah. Next time I find myself in Paris on a warm summer evening I will definitely have a picnic dinner along the river, with a beverage of my choice! ;)

Posted by Sarah
Chicago (formerly St. Louis), IL, USA
1311 posts

Thanks so much for the trip report! My sister and I will be in Paris for a week in mid-September and I found your tips most helpful. Do you mean that the Musee d'Orsay doesn't accept the Museum Pass? We will purchase the six-day pass and plan to go to the Orsay. Should we visit it first and buy the pass there? We were planning to buy our passes at the CGD TI. Also, we want to go up the Eiffel Tower. Did you do that? We're fine with taking the stairs to the second floor and buying tickets there for the top. Any advice on this idea with regard to lines?

Posted by Michael
Kaiserslautern
13 posts

Musée d'Orsay does accept the museum pass, but it is the only one of the 3 museums that I visited that did not let me go to the front of the line/queue. I went to the d'Orsay, the Louvre, and the Pompidou Centre. There were long lines to inspect bags and backpacks at all three museums. But, the Louve and Pompidou Centre had separate lines for people with passes/tickets. There was only 1 person ahead of me at both places. Très bon! My suggestion is, if you are going to purchase the Musum Pass at one of the museums, purchase it at the d'Orsay. You'll have to wait in line anyway. The pass was so convenient that one day, as I was walking past the Louve, I had to use the facilities. Rather than search for a toilet, I went into the Louve. There was no one ahead of me in the Pass line. :) Have a great time. THe bakeries will be open again. :)

Posted by Harold
New York, NY, USA
2852 posts

The Musée D'Orsay has different entrances. Entrance A is for individual visitors; Entrance B is for adult groups with reservations; Entrance C is for those with tickets or passes; and Entrance D is for school groups with reservations. This is from their web site: http://www.musee-orsay.fr/en/visit/access.html and click the word "access" over the Flash map. So, having a museum pass or pre-purchased ticket allows you to use Entrance C. When I went, there was a line, but it was shorter (and moved faster) than the one for Entrance A.

Posted by Cindy
Chalfont, PA, USA
30 posts

I purchased my Museum Pass at the Tourist Info desk near baggage claim at Orly Airport when I arrived. I assume you can do so at the other airports. The pass is not activated until you date it at the first site you visit. The TI also advised me out of my confusion btw the various methods to get from the airport to my hotel. It was fabulous to just breeze into the passholders entrance at the Louvre and skip the long waiting line for those needing tickets! There is also a Tourist Info (as RS mentions in his book) btw the train station and entrance to Versaille that will sell you the Museum Pass if Versailles is your first site. Bus over Metro a hearty "yes" from me. Not only are the buses more pleasant and you do see more of the city, but you need to remember that unless your trip is on a single line of the Metro, you may have an very long walk to change lines. Rule of thumb, the more lines that intersect at a station, the longer it will be for you to change lines.

Posted by Michael
Kaiserslautern
13 posts

Maybe I went at a busy time. I went in at entrance "C", but there were easily 60-80 people ahead of me. We all had tickets or passes. The good news was that the line moved rather quickly; maybe 10-15 minute wait. I was just surprised after not encountering lines at the Pompidou and Louvre at about the same time of day.

Posted by pat
victoria, Canada
7827 posts

Karen in Vancouver ( and others interested) the Museum pass comes in 2, 4, or 6 days only.

Posted by Michael
Kaiserslautern
13 posts

Good point. I opted for the 4-day pass. That let me take some time off from museums. I am an art fanatic, but I can easily get "museumed-out" after a couple of hours. Besides, in my opinion, Paris is too nice to spend much time indoors.