Wednesday, September 05, 2007

American in Paris

Despite the horrible press Paris gets as the rudest city in the world, it remains one of my very favorites. Once you realize the French don’t just hate Americans they hate everyone, it becomes much easier to bear the insults, criticisms and bad customer service. My friend Steve, who is visiting the city of lights, probably has a jam packed itinerary visiting old friends from his time studying in France, but I still wanted to share some of my favorite places:

Where to Stay:
As one of the tourist capitals of the world, Paris has everything from Grand Hotels to modest accommodations. I have a small list of places to stay, having only visited 3 times and would love to hear comments on other places to stay.
  • Intercontinental Paris Le Grand Hotel (9th Arrondissement)
    Traveling on a business budget? This is your place with impeccable service, beautiful location and opulent décor. The hotel is right next to the Opera house and set amongst the city’s most upscale shopping.
  • Paris Marriott Hotel Champs-Elysees (8th Arrondissement)
    The location of this hotel cannot be beat; it is right in the middle of all the great places to see and be seen. The rooms are modest by American standards, but large for Paris. The service at the hotel leaves much to be desired.
  • Hotel France Eiffel (15th Arrondissement)
    This hotel was incredibly modest. It has been nearly 10 years since I stayed there and remember the bathroom being so small that my hips touched the walls on the toilet and the beds were outdoor lounge chairs with mattresses on them. Even with the modesty in decor and furniture, the location is convenient to the metro and in a quieter and more “Parisian” feeling neighborhood.
  • Note to readers: I have never been in the Paris Hilton.

Where to Eat:
Even a 1 star restaurant in Paris is the most amazing culinary experience you can ever have. Stop in a café and take your sweet time grazing on the fine food and people watching. Slip into a charcuterie (butcher shop) and purchase some fresh meat, cheese and bread and take a picnic on the Seine.
  • Cafe Max (7th Arrondissement)
    A small little bistro where Max is the chef, water, bartender and host. The food is excellent but the atmosphere is top notch. The establishment is filled with nothing but locals. Note: Opens at 7 for dinner. 7 avenue de la Motte Picquet Phone: 0147055766
  • Café Runtz: (2nd Arrondissement)
    Next to the noted theater of Salle Favart, this friendly bistro has a cozy but elegant atmosphere, with old brass gas lamps on each table. The Alsatian dishes are both excellent and quite filling. Order a pitcher of Riesling or other Alsatian wine to go along. This meal at Café Runtz had my Mother famously declare that it was the “best pork I ever had.” Métro: Richelieu-Drouot. 16 rue Favart La Bourse Phone: 0142966986
  • Léon de Bruxelles:
    Yes, it is a chain, but it is not a chain that has made it to the United States so it is well worth visiting. Huge Heaped plates of mussels and other Belgian specialties, such as anguilles en vert and fish soup, are continually served, accompanied by arguably the best french fries in town.
    CHAMPS-ELYSEES 63, front of the Fields-Elysées (8th Arrondissement) Phone: 0142259616
    MONTPARNASSE 82 (a), data base of Montparnasse (14th Arrondissement) Phone: 0143216662
    St-GERMAIN 131, data base German St (6th Arrondissement) Phone: 01 43 26 45 95
What to Do:
You cannot do it all in one trip (or two, or ten…) and every person has a different agenda for their trip. Here are my favorite places to visit and things to do.
  • Eiffel Tower (7th Arrondissement)
    Even if you are afraid of heights (like me!) this is a must do. It is still pretty by day, however, the most spectacular views are at night. The city just sparkles below.
  • Notre Dame Cathedral (4th Arrondissement)
    The only thing more impressive then the beauty and architecture of Notre Dame is the view of the city from the top.
  • Disneyland Paris
    It is not a must see for most people, but this Disney kid was trilled to hear Mickey Mouse speak french and learn that the French do not understand the concept of waiting in line for a ride.
  • Museum Pass
    This is a must purchase item. You can get a minimum of 2 days... they are available at most places you can buy a metro ticket and it is so worth the investment. Access to around 60 museums, and the best part is the bypassing of the line (queue for those from England) with the card. With the pass you can visit a few of the smaller museums for an hour or two without feeling like you have to spend the whole day.
  • Musee' Rodin (7th arrondissement)
    We discovered the Musee' Rodin because it was on the Museum Pass list and it quickly became one of our favorites. The Thinker is all that more impressive when you can see it in person. Rodin’s sculptures are breathtaking. This museum is included on the pass.
  • Musee d'Orsay (7th arrondissement)
    A beautiful train station converted into a top notch museum, if you have any love for the impressionist movement, you will spend a whole day here. This museum is included on the pass.
  • The Arc d' Triumph (8th Arrondissement)
    Climb the stair day or night and look down at the most famous traffic circle in the world, where drivers enter at their own risk (insurance does not cover cars in this circle). Cars move like dancers in a ballet to get through safely. The view of the rest of the city is not too bad either. This is included on the museum pass.
  • Musee du Louvre (1st arrondissement)
    Major draws include the Mona Lisa and the Venus de Milo which draw huge crowds. After seeing the big draws, find an emptier part of the museum far away from tourists and take in the beauty of both the art and the building. Keep your eyes open for Da Vinci Code followers looking for the chalice. This museum is included on the pass.


Steve A/K/A "Nursedude" said...

Hi Chelle, thanks for the shout-out. We leave on Monday the 10th, and I am SO psyched.

I can agree 100% with what you said. When my wife and I were in Paris 3 years ago, people in Paris could not have been nicer. When we stopped by a map of the Metro, people asked us if we needed help finding a place, at Gare de Lyon train station, somebody asked my wife if she needed a hand with suitcase getting it up the steep steps. I remember this lady at a souvenir shop by the Louvre, who told me "Please tell your compatriots we don't hate them-we may not like your President, but we don't hate you as a people."( 3 years ago, a lot of Americans were boycotting going to France) Anyway, thanks for the restaurant ideas. There are SO many to choose from, and like you said, I have had WONDERFUL meals and experiences in little 1-star restaurants.

Explosive Bombchelle said...

Nursedude, have a wonderful time and if you only take one suggestion, may it be the museum pass (although Cafe Runtz is to die for).

Mommy said...

Paris was a remarkable city. We had a wonderful time when we went. But it might have just been the company I was with. My daughters and their significant others. But the people of Paris suck lemons. They were rude and nasty. One man walked up to Kris and gave her the Bronx Cheer, very rude. The service in several places were horrible. Would I go back, maybe but there is so much more to see in Europe before I do.

NeeNee said...

I actually didn't think the people were that bad, except for the old man who spit in Kristen's face. But otherwise those waiters on New Year's were great, and alot of the people were nice, but a little smelly.

And who is that handsome man in that picture? Loves him

Nursedude said...

Yo 'Chelle, we DID get that museum pass, which should help us get our money's worth. To be honest, as much as I like Paris, there are other cities in France that I like more, like Biarritz, Aix en Provence, Rouen, Saint-Malo, Reims and Montpellier. Of the big cities in Europe, I have to say that Rome was my favorite. I thought Romans were very friendly, the food was great, the history, art and architechture(spelling?) were breathtaking....and then there are all of those pretty, stylish and FRIENDLY Italian girls(there IS a reason I have always loved the name Gabriella)...just don't tell my wife I said that...

Ronald said...

I'd also recommend a trip to the Palace at Versailles just outside of Paris (easy to get to by train). Pretty much the definition of "opulence" but also very beautiful (especially the gardens).

husband said...

couple of thoughts... yes, Parisians are rude, but as Chelle says, they are rude to everyone, even each other. Versailles is wonderful (Chelle and I just need to go when it isn't winter). The thing I love most about Paris is that even an average restaurant is 20 times better than most restaurants in the U.S. Hope you have fun!!!