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A Love Affair With The City Of Lights

View of the Eiffel TowerMy first visit to Paris was on my honeymoon. That visit sealed my fate. I was in love and in Paris and there isn't a more romantic place in the world to stroll with the one you love.

I've been back many times - for pleasure and business - and stayed in hotels and rental apartments. The memories of that first trip have never brought disappointment. Each visit to Paris is as magical as the one before.

A few hints to win the hearts of the Parisians and enjoy your Paris experience...

Speak a little travel French... I can say "Bon Jour" with the best Parisian accent. I always lead off with that. Sadly, my ability to speak French ends there. I've found that my cheery hello breaks many barriers. Waiters, shopkeepers, taxi drivers and Metro clerks... all are happy to help this fumbling English speaker. Either that or the few words I do try to say in French sound so awful that it is just less painful to speak English. I do know that not speaking French has never been a problem in my Paris adventures. I do point a lot, that helps. Always remember to say hello ("bon jour") BEFORE you ask if anyone can speak English ("parlez-vous anglais?") Politeness counts!

Know Your Paris Arrondissement... Paris is divided into 20 neighborhoods called Arrondissement. If you get a good idea of where each of them are, you'll have no trouble navigating around the city... and finding your way back home. Each one has a character that distinguishes it from the others and finding the right district to stay in is an important part of planning your trip.

Find the nearest Paris Metro... You can always discover your starting point by asking for the nearest Metro stop. The metro allows you to travel all over Paris quickly and cheaply. The stations are mostly clean and safe, although some areas do take a little watching. Paris does have some seedy neighborhoods. A word of caution. The Metro closes at 11 PM. Plan your trip home so that you are not caught in the station as they lock the gates or be prepared to spend the night!

Plan your time... The wait to climb the tower at Notre Dame or the Eiffel Tower or to gain entrance to the Louvre can be long. Try to get an early start to spend more time seeing the sights and less time waiting to get in, but be prepared to waste some time on lines. If you bring along a guide book you can read a bit about the things you want to see inside while you're waiting. Don't try to see everything in a day or two. The Louvre takes a full day to get to see just the spectacular exhibits - it really needs more than that to visit the best offerings. I don't think a lifetime is enough to get to know the whole museum.

Use the local food shops... The bread in Paris is impossible to resist - bakeries will sell you one ridiculously long Baguette that will be half eaten before you get it home. Paris markets are wonderful places to shop for the freshest foods, flowers and lots of other interesting things.

Take time to stroll... Along the banks of the Seine is a good place to start, but go and explore. You'll find many areas like the Marais District or the Latin Quarter that invite hours of wandering - with or without shopping!

Just remember when it's time to come home and you realize that you'll need months to taste every delicious dish and get to see and do all you wanted to... Paris will still be there next year - and each visit is more wonderful.


More about traveling Paris around the Web:

French travel phrases

10 must-see sites in Paris



chiff 25th anniversary

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