Paris For Dummies

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From the Eiffel Tower to the Louvre, Paris has so many sights, museums, shops, and restaurants that it can make your head spin. Relax! This easy guide is all you need to plan the perfect trip.
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From the Eiffel Tower to the Louvre, Paris has so many sights, museums, shops, and restaurants that it can make your head spin. Relax! This easy guide is all you need to plan the perfect trip.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780470085844
  • Publisher: Wiley
  • Publication date: 3/26/2007
  • Series: For Dummies Travel Series , #88
  • Edition description: REV
  • Edition number: 4
  • Pages: 366
  • Product dimensions: 5.42 (w) x 10.88 (h) x 0.84 (d)

Meet the Author

About the Author Cheryl A. Pientka is a freelance journalist and assistant literary agent. She's the co-author of both Frommer's Paris From $80 a Day and France For Dummies. A graduate of Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and the University of Delaware, she lives in Paris when she's not in New York.
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Read an Excerpt

Paris For Dummies

By Cheryl A. Plentka

John Wiley & Sons

ISBN: 0-7645-7630-5

Chapter One

Discovering the Best of Paris

In This Chapter

* Unveiling Paris's best sights

* Discovering Paris's best accommodations for every price range

* Endulging in glorious food, the best bars, a shopping nirvana, and the best culture, parks and gardens

Congratulations on choosing to visit one of the most beautiful and magical cities on the planet! With so much to do and see, you're probably wondering what you should do first, and frankly, what's a waste of time. You may be concerned that you don't speak French, and that a language barrier may prevent you from doing some of the things you'd like. If this is your first visit to Paris, you know you want to taste the delicious food for which the country is renowned. But facing the choice of so many different types of French cuisine - Provencal, Lyonnaise, Corsican, Alsatian, Basque, classic, and more - might be enough to make you want to stick to tried-and-true McDo (pronounced mac doh; French for McDonald's) and just have a cup of wine with your fries.

Take it easy. Know up front that, much as you'd like, you simply won't be able to do, see, and taste it all. Avoid the Griswold syndrome (think of the family in the movie European Vacation who rush to see all of Paris and suffer the consequences!), and take in what could be Paris's greatest attraction of all: a way of life in which relaxing in a cafeand watching the world go by are natural parts of the day. Bring a phrase book, but keep in mind that Parisians are much more eager to speak English with visitors than they were even a few years ago, especially with those visitors who make an effort to try speaking French first. After you realize that you don't have to tour to exhaustion, you can appreciate Paris the way it was intended to be enjoyed - in parks, on bridges, and along streets meant for strolling and exploring.

You'll discover that the Louvre Museum is as incredible as its reputation and that the views from the Eiffel Tower are stunning - but did you know that the views from the terrace of department store Samaritaine also are pretty spectacular? You'll find that taking a boat tour of the Seine is one of the best ways to see Paris, but rowing a boat in the Bois de Boulogne's Grand Lac can be much more personal. Whatever you do, you'll quickly discover that Paris (see the "Paris at a Glance" map) is more of an experience than merely a city, and each visitor experiences it in an entirely individual way.


This chapter is designed as an at-a-glance reference to the absolute best - the Best of the Best - that Paris has to offer. Each of these experiences and places are discussed in detail later in the book; you can find them in their indicated chapter, marked with a Best of the Best icon.

The Best Accommodations

With more than 2,200 places to rest your head in Paris - chain hotels, deluxe, palace-like accommodations, hotels that cater to business travelers, budget hotels, and mom-and-pop establishments - it's difficult to narrow things down to just a few. But the hotels here are the hotels to which, in my opinion, you'll want to return on your next visit (because no one can see Paris just once!). See Chapter 9 for more information on the accommodations I list here.

  • Hotel Minerve (5e) is a welcoming budget, kid-friendly hotel in the Latin Quarter. Rooms are decent-sized and have wood-beamed ceilings, exposed stone walls, carved mahogany wood furnishings, and ten have large balconies with a table and chairs overlooking rue des Ecoles, just around the corner from the Cluny Museum, a true Paris treasure.
  • For a just a few more euros, you can stay at the pretty Hotel de Seine (6e) in St-Germain-des-Pres. Each room is distinctly decorated with either French provincial furniture and flowered wall-paper or Provence-inspired jewel-toned paint and Louis XVI-era reproductions. Located on a street full of art galleries, it's a few blocks from the Seine and the pedestrian bridge Pont des Arts that leads to the Louvre.
  • Have the autonomy of an apartment with the amenities of a hotel at the Citadines Prestige Haussmann Aparthotel (8e). Part of a chain, Citadines Haussmann has 24-hour reception desks, satellite TV, and housekeeping services, as well as kitchenettes with dishware (if you prepare only a few of your dinners here you can save a bundle on your dining budget). Located near Galeries Lafayette and Au Printemps and within walking distance of the Champs-Elysees, the Madeleine church, and parc Monceau, this is one of the chain's most luxurious featuring rare wood furnishings and granite bathrooms.
  • Celebrate special occasions and bask in the privacy of the gorgeous deluxe Pavillon de la Reine (4e) right off place des Vosges. Rooms are simply divine: from the large standard rooms decorated with gingham wallpaper and Louis XIII-style furniture, to superior duplex rooms in which modern beds are located in a loft above a cozy sitting room with comfortable chairs and couches, to suites with four-poster beds and beamed ceilings opening onto the courtyard. You'll find all amenities here. For these prices you can have the extravagant splendor of one of Paris's palace hotels, but Pavillon de la Reine's intimate surroundings are just as appealing.

The Best Food

Mmmmmmm - Paris has some of the world's best restaurants and some of the tastiest regional dishes on the planet. It's no question that one of the greatest things about visiting Paris is finding out for yourself what a high-quality meal a la francaise can be. The following list contains some of my favorite restaurants (the information in parentheses indicates the arrondissement in which each establishment is located). See Chapter 10 for more information on the restaurants listed here.

  • Ze Kitchen Galerie (6e): This art gallery and kitchen serving melt-in-your-mouth Asian-inspired dishes has become so popular that First Lady Laura Bush even paid it a visit. The menu is broken down into four parts: soup, raw (usually fish), pasta, and grilled (a la plancha), and the innovative combination of flavors and the trendy atmosphere makes this restaurant a memorable one.
  • L'Ebauchoir (12e): A mural pays homage to the workers of the neighborhood in this well-worth-the-search restaurant in a part of the Bastille often overlooked by tourists. The superb yet homey food harkens back to the neighborhood's working-class roots.
  • Le Cinq (8e): This three-Michelin-starred restaurant in the Four Seasons George V is truly extraordinary from exquisite pull-out-all-the-stops food to its award winning sommelier and fantastic wine cellar. Dining here is a sumptuous experience!
  • Chainterelle (5e): The owners try mightily to make you feel as if you're visiting their home in the Auvergne, the rugged, pastoral south-central region of France. Little fonts contain essential oils made from native plants; a sound system incorporates native birdsong, rain, and church bells; and the door even says "moo" when you walk in. The peasant food is hearty and delicious; there's even a terrific vegetarian cheese, mushroom, and egg tart on the menu.
  • L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon (7e): You can't make reservations at this, one of Paris's hottest restaurants, so get there right as it opens for simple, exquisite French and Asian fusion food where the ingredients are the real stars. Seating is at a 40-person sushi bar that wraps around the open kitchen to give diners a "behind the line" experience. The food here is absolutely divine; the chef was France's most famous before he retired in the late 1990s. This restaurant is his first postretirement effort - which has truly paid off!

The Best Sights

For most people, the real reason for visiting Paris is to see the quintessentially French attractions for which the city is known. Are the sights really as great as returning travelers say? Yes, yes, and yes. Here are just a few of the best. See Chapter 11 for more information on the sights listed here.

  • The Eiffel Tower graces the city skyline with its lacy presence and twinkles for ten minutes each hour at night with some 30,000 bulbs installed in 2003. Upon its completion in 1889, it was the tallest human-built structure in the world. People have climbed it, bungee-jumped from it, and cycled down the tower's steps, but hopefully you'll be content just to enjoy its views!
  • Take a tour boat down the Seine and see the towers of Notre-Dame highlighted against the sky; at night, lights from bridges older than the United States cast reflections in the water. English-language commentary is included.
  • The Musee d'Orsay is the world's best-renovated train station! Take a moment at the top of the central staircase to envision where trains once pulled into the station under the curved roof. Then enjoy this wonderful museum's real claim to fame - its unsurpassed collection of Impressionist masterpieces (and a terrific collection of Art Nouveau pieces).
  • When you catch your first glimpse of the nearly 900-year-old Cathedrale de Notre-Dame, it just may take your breath away. Flying buttresses lend a graceful air to what would otherwise be an imposing structure. Play Quasimodo and climb to the top of the bell tower (get there early - the lines grow huge from late morning through closing) or marvel at the gorgeous rose windows and reflect on its history that included crusaders praying here before leaving for the holy wars, Napoleon crowning himself and his wife emperor and empress of France, and General de Gaulle rushing here to give thanks after the liberation of Paris.
  • The Arc de Triomphe is the largest triumphal arch in the world, commissioned by Napoleon to honor his army and its 128 victorious battles, but the real reason people visit is for the view - one that takes in the Eiffel Tower. From the top, 162 feet up, you can see in a straight line the Champs-Elysees, the obelisk in the place de la Concorde, the Louvre, and the Grande Arche de la Defense in St-Denis, a giant open cube built to be the modern equivalent to this arch.
  • Every phase of Picasso's prolific 75-year career is represented at the Musee Picasso, which includes more than 200 paintings, nearly 160 sculptures, 88 ceramics, and more than 3,000 prints and drawings. All of it is housed in a beautiful 17th-century mansion deep in the Marais, one of Paris's best neighborhoods.
  • The Musee Nationale d'Auguste Rodin has to be one of Paris's most relaxing museums. After taking in the sensual sculptures displayed in the beautiful former convent, stroll through the gardens here to see more of the legendary artist's masterpieces like The Thinker and The Gates of Hell.

The Best Parks and Gardens

From flowers, plants, and city views to puppet shows, pony rides, and museums, Paris has parks for every taste and interest. Here are some of its best. Chapter 11 has more information

  • The Jardin des Tuileries (1er) is Paris's most visited park and a great place to rest your feet and catch some rays on conveniently placed wrought-iron chairs surrounding the garden's fountains. In keeping with the French style of parks, trees are planted according to an orderly design and the sandy paths are arrow straight. During the summer, a carnival features an enormous Ferris wheel (with great views of the city), a log flume, fun house, arcade-style games, and snacks.
  • Relax with Parisians in their most beloved park, the Jardin du Luxembourg in the Latin Quarter. Children love it for its playground, pony rides, puppet theater, and the Fontaine de Medicis where they can sail toy boats. You can make use of tennis and boules courts (boules is a French game similar to lawn bowling and the Italian bocce in which players try to be the first to roll their balls closest to the small object ball called the cochonnet) or appreciate the art exhibited on the wrought iron fence at the garden's northwestern entrance near boulevard St-Michel and rue de Medicis.
  • Parc de la Villette (19e) is a modern park with a series of theme gardens, including an exotic bamboo garden and a garden featuring steam and water jets. Scattered throughout the park are playgrounds and other attractions - this is a must-visit if you've spent time at the huge children's science complex, Cite des Sciences et l'Industrie.
  • Located in the Bois de Boulogne on Paris's western edge, the Parc de la Bagatelle (16e) is perhaps the city's loveliest park, known for its flower and thematic gardens. A water lily pond pays homage to a certain famous painter (think Monet), and you can visit a chateau and an orangerie (a hothouse where oranges and other tropical fruit are grown) where Chopin concerts are held during the summer. But the highlight is the rose garden with 10,000 roses of 1,200 varieties, most of them peaking in June.
  • Parc Monceau in Paris's upscale 8th arrondissement, was one of Remembrance of Things Past author Marcel Proust's favorite haunts. In the 19th century, he strolled among such oddities as the Dutch windmill, a Roman temple, a covered bridge, a waterfall, a farm, medieval ruins, a pagoda, and Paris's largest tree, an Oriental plane - all still here.
  • Rock formations and grottoes in the tranquil Parc de Belleville (20e) are still around from the days when the hill was a strategic point for fighting Attila the Hun. Watch the sun set over western Paris and take in the wonderful (free!) views of the city. Topped by the Maison de l'Air, a museum with displays devoted to the air that we breathe, you can enjoy fountains, a children's play area, and an open-air theater with rock concerts during the summer.


Excerpted from Paris For Dummies by Cheryl A. Plentka Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

Paris for Dummies: Table of Contents at a Glance
Chapter 1: Discovering the Best of Paris
Chapter 2: Deciding When TGo
Chapter 3: Planning Your Budget
Chapter 4: Tips For Travelers with Special Interests or Needs

Chapter 5: Getting TParis
Chapter 6: Deciding Where TStay
Chapter 7: Booking Your Room
Chapter 8: Paris's Best Hotels
Chapter 9: Last-Minute Details & Other Things TKeep In Mind

Chapter 10: Orienting Yourself In Paris
Chapter 11: Getting Around Paris
Chapter 12: Money Matters

Chapter 13: The Lowdown On Paris Dining
Chapter 14: Paris's Best Restaurants
Chapter 15: Light Bites: Top Picks For Snacks And Meals On The Go

Chapter 16: Paris's Top Sights
Chapter 17: More Cool Things tSee And Do
Chapter 18: Seeing Paris by Guided Tour
Chapter 19: A Shopper's Guide tParis
Chapter 20: Four Itineraries and a Stroll
Chapter 21: Exploring Beyond Paris: Five Great Day Trips

Chapter 22: The Play's The Thing: Paris's Theater Scene
Chapter 23: The Performing Arts
Chapter 24: Hitting The Clubs And Bars

Chapter 25: Ten Great Places for a Picnic
Chapter 26: Ten Great Books about Paris

Appendix A: Quick Concierge
Appendix B: A Glossary of French Language Terms
This guide contains interior maps, cartoons, a 4-color map and a 4-color tear card.
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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 24, 2001


    I try to read most travel guides for Paris that come out because there is so much of interest to see there and I always hope to find something new I have missed on previous trips. This is appropriately titled 'Paris for Dummies' since it contains little information of interest to anyone who has been there before. For a first time visitor, it contains the basic information necessary to get around to most of the major sights. The best travel bargain in Paris, the Museum and Monument Pass, is barely mentioned, while other books elaborate on the benefits of the card and the many places it can be used to save quite a bit of money on your visit. I was really disappointed with this guide. It not only lacked great detail in its information, it also lacked any zip in its writing that would encourage one to visit, certainly nothing like the lively style of Rick Steves and other travel writers.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted December 30, 2008

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    Posted April 9, 2009

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