WARNING: Ultra long entry ahead!
First things first, some basic information…
Your best bet if you are staying within Paris itself is to go on foot or by train. Now, the Paris network is split into two types – metro or RER (the train line leading out to the suburbs like Paris Disneyland, Versailles, airports and so forth). One way to know which is which is to look for for signs like “Metropolitan” or “M” to signify metro lines (stops within Paris itself) and “RER” (stops outside Paris city).
Prices are as follows:
- One way tickets WITHIN Paris – 1.60 euroes
- One way tickets OUTSIDE Paris – depends on where you are stopping (for example, Champigny to Nation/Gare de Lyon costs
There is a Paris Visit pass for those who intend on staying for 1, 2, 3, 5 or 6 days and this depends on how many zones and so forth. Prices and more info is available on the RATP (the Paris network) site here (in English but also available in Italian, German, French, etc). The site has information, fares and guides to help plan itineraries as well as maps too. If you’re looking for places to stay, tourist centers will have information on hotels, B&B, motels and luxury apartment rentals in Paris
Food and drink
Pâtissières, boulangeries and brasseries/cafes are the cheapest sources of food. Pâtissières and boulangeries are often grouped together as they provide access to baked produce like breads, cakes, pastries, sandwiches and so forth. The downside to buying from a bakery is that while it’s slightly cheaper than eating in McDonalds, there is no place to sit. So the next best thing is to head off to brasseries or cafes – sort of the French version of a diner whereby hot food is available throughout the day (unlike in restaurants where it only caters to the lunch or dinner crowd) and you can sit down for your meal or drink. It’s also cheaper than restaurants and just about the same price as eating at McDonalds.
Allow yourself anywhere from 10 to 15 euroes per person PER meal for a fulfilling spread. I had a lovely meal at a brasserie near Versailles (super chic and expensive area outside of Paris) in the form of a slice of quiche lorraine (very yum and filling) with a salad plus bread (bread is always free and readily available in France) for 6 euroes followed by a piece of very decadent brownie with crème anglaise and a scoop of ice cream for 4 euroes. Oh, water at the brassiere or cafe is free too. XD
Oh, when it comes to ordering food, you might want to pick up some of the local vocab:
- Chocolate chaud – hot chocolate
- Cafe/cafe creme – coffee/coffee with cream
- Coca – Coke
- L’eau – Water
- Biere – Beer
- The – Tea
- Plat du jour – Meal of the day
- Salade – Salad
- Frite(s) – French fries
- Entrecote/Fillet/Steak de bouef – Beef steak (and what type of cut)
- Porc – Pork
- Poulet – Chicken
- Roti – Roast
- Fromage – Cheese
- Pain – Bread
- Jambon – Ham
- L’addition – Bill
Don’t worry if you don’t understand French – most of the places in Paris cater to tourists or non-French speakers so it’s okay to speak English but at least greet (bonjour/bonsoir – good day/ good evening) and thank (merci) them in French!!!! ^^
Avoid cafes, brasseries and food eateries in the middle of tourist spots – you WILL end up paying more than necessary. When I was at Sacred Cœur (Sacred Heart Church at Montmartre), we stopped at a cafe (coz I had had had to pee) and Nil ended up paying 6 euroes for a hot chocolate and 7 euroes for a beer!!! (It normally costs less than 3 euroes.) The crepe with sugar was priced at 5 euroes (we didn’t order because I wasn’t about to get slaughtered again!). Later, further down from the church, we saw people selling crepe with sugar for 1.90 euroes and at a brasserie next to Le Lourve, Nil had a coffee for less than 2.50 euroes.
Free toilets are far and few in between in Paris – they are usually vandalised or not very clean. The ones that are require you to pay and the cost is the same as a cup of coffee. Hence why people often stop at cafes and such for a coffee AND a quick visit to the loo (which is usually cleaner and more comfy). ^^
When to visit and what to bring
Seriously, if you want to get some nice views – meaning greenery, nice weather (not the shitty fog during winter) and sunshine but not too hot, your best bet is to come around middle to late spring/early summer. The gardens will be in full bloom, the weather much better plus you don’t have to carry so many clothes and all. I’ve been to Paris in winter and now late winter/early spring and while some days can be lovely with plenty of sunshine, everything is brown, brown, brown. UGH. Oh, there is rarely any snow in Paris…so forget about capturing a picture of yourself in snowfall. XD
Depending on the weather, suitable clothes BUT comfy shoes are a must plus a small backpack where you can pack in some snacks and a bottle of water for your walking trips. You WILL have to walk – walking allows you to see the local culture and spots that you won’t normally see from a bus and so forth.
Beware of pickpockets – don’t worry about getting robbed outright but at least be alert and practise the usual safety precautions, ya?
Where we went
The largest Chinese quartiers (quarters) are located in the 13th arrondissements, along the streets of Avenue de Choisy, Avenue d’Ivry down to Porte d’Ivry. The area, according to trusty Wiki, houses nearly half a million Asians from China, Laos, and Vietnam (of course, other nationals also call this quarter home). It is one of the cheapest areas to stay in and is hardly worth a trip unless you wish to stock up on cheap/Asian goods. There is nothing fancy here – no lanterns, no pillars with Chinese carvings and etc. Just another place where real people do real things.
I wanted to check out the place just to see what I could get at the stores here and well, to take a look at the lifestyle of the Asians here – in fact, it’s what I do in almost every single major city or town I go to. A habit if you will.
Located in this quarter are two giant Chinese/Asian stores – Paris Store and Tang Freres. They sell a variety of Asian goods from vegetables to cuts of meat, cutleries to household decorations and so forth. The Paris Store here although not exactly bigger than the one in Lyon has a bigger variety of goods, including a nicely stocked shelf filled with baked pastries and goodies like, yes, yew char kuey or Chinese crullers (although it costs around 70 cents euro per piece). Still, after over a year of no Asian desserts, this shelf was a sight for sore eyes. It was also a comfort to hear people go about their shopping in Cantonese, Hokkien and other dialects…
Along the streets of this quarter, you’ll also find scores of Asian restaurants and yes, even shops selling things like char siew pork, roast pork, Peking duck, steamed paus (called brioche vapour) and so forth. Yums, really!
To get here, exit at the metro station of Porte d’Ivry or Porte de Choisy.
Montmartre is a village located north of Paris on a hill in the 18th arrondissements and surrounded by Pigalle, the red light district plus a largely Northern African community. Known as a nightclub district and to be the site of the Basilica of the Sacré Cœur, this area was once largely popular with the French for its cheap housing and vineyards. Today, it is one of the highlights in tours and popular with tourists (be careful of skyhigh prices) – everyone flocks here to see the Basilica of the Sacré Cœur and ironically, the red light district just down the hill.
If you don’t mind walking, head up the tiny streets for a view of quaint old buildings and shops with naturally, some scenic views along the way. Update: Deedeen just reminded me that there are heaps of cloth stores as well as a musuem here too…so you might want to check them out! But if walking is a pain – because it’s going uphill – there is a funicular service that runs from the base of the hill all the way up to the Basilica.
To get here, exit at the metro station of Anvers (to take the funicular) or Barbès Rochechouart (to go on foot).
On the border of the 9th and 18th arrondissements, this area is known as Paris’ touristy red light district with its hoards of sex shops, boutiques and theatres together with a museum – Museum of Eroticism which features collections of erotic art (different from pornography, mind you) – and yes, the Moulin Rouge. But it’s not just about sex, sex and sex. There are other things that the area is known for (Picasso and Van Gogh are some of the famous people who used to live here) and that is namely for music and music-related things like the sale of instruments and equipment.
Tourists usually drop by here at night to experience the other side of Paris – colourful, vibrant and sexy (not to mention raunchy) with its variety of cabaret, peep/topless/nude shows and what-not. We aren’t very big fans of the sexy side of any country even though seeing an entire building dedicate itself to the sale of sex toys, lingerie and what-not is dizzying (not to mention the rows and rows of X-rated shops).
Still it was on the way from Montmartre towards the Tuileries, so why not check it out for just the heck of seeing it?
To get here, exit at the metro station of Pigalle or Blanche (to see the Moulin Rouge itself).