These are a few notes I made on this trip to the City of Lights, tips I hope you’ll find to be useful. (If you’re a woman travelling solo, I have a more in-depth post on this to make your journey a little smoother)
Make sure you’ve downloaded Google Maps. It’s brilliant for finding your way to anywhere. For locating cool eating spots / businesses, Yelp is great. Voice Map when touring solo or with a friend, is a pleasure- you can stop and start as you please, and it is so cheap with amazing tours created by locals in loads of cities around the world. Download your tours before you leave your hotel and you can set off, sans needing to be on wifi. And instead of shlepping huge fold out maps with you, download the relevant digital versions onto your mobile, like for the Metro.
Arriving at CDG (Charles de Gaulle)
If you need a local sim card, head to Relay or Casino stores (like CNA). A 10GB card will last you 2 weeks with 4G connectivity and costs about €39,99. If you’re using Orange Holiday, dial 222 to activate the service and you’re good to go.
Getting into and around Paris
Uber Paris is amazing but expensive from any airport into town, and lately there’ve been issues with Uber getting into the airport area. Without traffic the trip into Paris takes around 40 minutes and up to 1h15 if there is congestion. Go online and look for a shuttle service, one that offers share rides-this will cost a lot less, around €26 one way. Taking a bus or train is a mission if you have to shlep luggage, and if you’re new to the city, the former options are best and make for a less stressful time. A hotel pickup is also an option but can be very pricey as well. Personally I love seeing someone in a suit standing with a board with my name written on it as I exit the baggage collection area – it’s rather fab. Hashtag, I’m a diva. Uber in the cirty is fabulous- and their X cars are fabulous. None of those tinny Nissans we get in Cape Town.
*If in Paris for up to 3 days, buy a pack of 10 Metro tickets from the self service machine or one of the kiosks if there is one at the station; staff are generally friendly and it will cost you around €14. One tkt costs €1,90 so this a good deal if you plan on doing loads of sightseeing in a spread out area and using the underground to get from A – B.
*When leaving the underground station, you may notice the glass swing doors that are at certain (not all) Exit points are not closed. Even though you can walk right through, you must still use your tkt and push it through the slot because if you get stopped at a random security check point, you will be charged €35 for not doing so.
*Take a good look at your surroundings and the street you’re on before you descend into the Metro, so you have your bearings when you return. Exiting on the wrong side can be very disorientating and if it’s a big station like Place de la Republique you’ll likely end up where nothing looks familiar.
*Don’t film people performing on the actual train, or if you must, then do it discreetly – if they spot you they’ll take it as a sign you approve of their little show and will expect moolah.
*If you have no map app, the large Metro/RER/Bus maps on the subway walls are really clear and will tell you all you need to know – not necessary to work off a paper version as mentioned before; the route lines are colour coded and it’s easy to navigate the system. Be sure to take note of where each line ends so you know you’re headed in the right direction.
*Watch out for pickpockets on crowded trains and platforms, especially on those headed for tourist hotspots like the Louvre, Eiffel Tower etc. Bags with zips people, none of those open totes that invite sticky fingers..
Homeless people and their animals
Don’t try pat the dogs. Or the drugged up kittens, puppies or rabbits that sit with their owners on the sidewalks and are used to elicit sympathy and money from passers- by. Trust me on this, keep walking.
Cool spots- a few of my suggestions if you have two or three days only
My latest discovery: Rue des Martyrs in South Pigalle (SoPi), en route to Montmartre, for award winning baguettes (officially the best in all of France), and a host of artisanal stores selling delish things like salted caramel (Henri le Roux) toffees and chocolate-Monsieur le Roux invented the concept of salting caramel fyi
Wine bar: Inaro, Place de la Republique
Perfumery: Etat Libre D’Orange
Restaurant: Chez Prune in Canal St. Martin (divine cheese platters, good craft beer and Chilean wine)
Breakfast, lunch, wine, tapas: Café Ineko, Le Marais- try their chia bowl as well
Accommodation in le Marais: Jules et Jim Hotel
Museum with a garden: Rodin… breathtaking art by this genius and a a few paintings by Van Gogh and Monet, and a glorious garden to sit in with a book on a clear summer’s day, with Les Invalides in the background. Buy your ticket online to avoid the queues
Shows: The Lido’s Paris Merveille