Paris Part Two- Planes, Trains and Automobiles

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Jay's Survival Guide to Paris 


Planning is the key but your flexibility and adaptability will be tested.
I book my flights before hotels; you have 24 hours to cancel any flight booked directly with most airlines.  A direct flight is best if possible but landing time is the most important.   You will want to use www.matrix.itasoftware.com (see previous travel posts) to find the best days  and cities to fly out comparing cost and landing times.  Ideally you will select a flight that lands between 11:00 AM and 2:00 PM.  It will take you up to an hour to get out of the airport and 45 minutes to get to Paris once you get out.   This puts you after morning rush hour and before evening rush hour and your room should be ready for check in or you can grab a bite to eat nearby after you drop your luggage in the lobby.  There is nothing more miserable than arriving at the hotel at 8:00 AM after flying all night, tired, and smelly and being told your room will not be available for six or seven more hours.


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After you find your flight make sure to check available seat, some flights are full some are more empty.  I prefer the exit row or economy comfort, the extra money is a good compromise to first/business class.   If you have status you have more access to better seats for free.  Unless you have money to burn I would save the money and skip the first class/business class option unless it is FREE/Award Ticket.  Check out www.seatguru.com or www.seatexpert.com for some advice on seats.   You will want to try to get the front most left side of the plane.  If there are three seats across take the two end seats and leave the middle open.  Best case you have an open seat and an extra tray to share, worse case you give up aisle or window to sit with your girl or convince the middle person to find an open seat before you take off.  My girlfriend will complain that she is feeling sick and that usually does the trick. ;-)
Hotels in Paris are expensive.  It is possible to save money bundling (see previous post) but you have more options keeping them separate.   For your first trip stay near the center of the city near the Louver or the Latin Quarter.  Most everything is in walking distance from there as well as a subway station near every corner.  Most European hotels have tiny rooms and tiny bathrooms.  I found www.Booking.com   to be the same rate as booking with the hotel plus free cancelations that some hotels do not offer.   
Charles de Gaul Airport – Is the busiest airport in the world.  If you took my advice above on seats you will be one of the first people off the plane.  Do not mosey around; walk with a purpose to immigration.  It generally goes pretty fast but planes tend to land in groups.  Each plane has 300 to 500 passengers, this is not Disney World don’t wait in line any longer than you need to.  Once through immigration which is much easier than landing in the USA, you and your bags have to make some choices.  First buy Euros, use an ATM from a large bank not the exchange booth people.  This does three things – get you a better rate, lets you know your card works and give you cash that you are going to need very soon. 
Transportation options depend on your situation.   Taxi is the easiest but beware of fake taxi drivers who make a living poaching riders from the real ones, a taxi is going to cost around 75e plus, for the 45 minute ride.  The train will be about 12e each plus you have to carry your bags to the train and then to the hotel.  Option 3 is arranging for a service, possibly through the hotel to meet you and take you and others to their hotel.   It should cost 30e to 45e for two people. 
Once checked in try to stay up.  Take a shower and walk the neighborhood.  Stop at a café and have an espresso and lunch.  Make it a fun day, do some reconnaissance, learn to use the subway.  It can be intimidating, learn to use the ticket machines, read the maps, figure out what direction you need to go, how to transfer to a different line.  Set a goal to get to the Eiffel tower by train and then walk back taking in the architecture, cafes, people, noises and sites.  Grab dinner and get to bed by 10:00PM.
We have found that tours are the best way to see a new city.  We love food and wine so those are our favorite tours.  www.tripadvisor.com is a good starting point as well as our blog posts for more insight.  There is also a www.parispass.com that gives you entry into lots of museums and activities that you would not normally pay for but since it is included with the pass you check it out.  Try to take turns doing what you want and what your partner wants.  Plan a full day but leave time for sitting at a café, or in the park people watching.  Talk to people, offer to take pictures of them in exchange for taking pictures of you. 
I think the best time to visit Paris is in late March and April.  The crowds are light, the weather is warmer and sunnier than November through January.   Airfares are still decent and hotels are not in season yet.    In my opinion 3 to 4 days in Paris is enough, if you have a longer holiday planned move on to your next city or to the country side.  Not speaking French can make Paris challenging.   Most people will try to help you but remember you are not in the United States, you are a guest in their country.  Yes they can be rude and snobby but don’t let that ruin your day.  
I find that Paris is generally safe but be aware of your surroundings, watch for pick pockets (this includes children)  on the streets and trains.   Pack light, bring good walking shoes, rain jacket (rains almost every day) and clear lots of room for photos on your phone.

 Bon voyage