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Practical Paris : Doing it right! 
Practical Paris : Doing it right
by Jason Salzenstein

EDGE National Style & Travel Editor
Saturday Nov 17, 2007

Paris is a fabulous city- I needn’t tell you that. Unfortunately, it also has a bad reputation in America as being a difficult city for tourists, especially if you don’t speak the language. Well, I’m here to tell you that not only can you ’do’ Paris without knowing the language, but you can also cast aside any negativity you’ve heard about Parisians and have a great time.

Like any big city, Paris offers something for everyone. Of course the art, architecture, fashion, and culture are known worldwide, and are a major draw for many visitors. Having so much fabulosity- along with so many famous landmarks- has instilled a great sense of pride in most Parisians- and it’s this pride that has often been mistaken for rudeness. Well, that and their reacting to all the fat, loud Americans who come to the city and expect everyone to not only speak English but bow to their whims and customs. If you’re reading this though, you likely don’t fall into that camp, and needn’t worry about it.

There are definitely some easy things you can do when planning and preparing for your trip that will help make it easier and more enjoyable. I’ve assembled a few tips and tricks to help you on your way to discovering (or re-discovering) one of the best cities in the world- and my favorite!

Getting there

Getting to Paris is easy; most major US and international carriers offer daily flights from major US cities. If you’re flying from the East Coast, you can be there in about six hours, direct. During the spring and summer, Air France offers a late-night flight from Boston and NY, which puts you in Paris late morning and allows you to actually sleep overnight; we like that. I find that any major travel site comes up with about the same fares; the one that I trust when deciding when to buy tickets however, is Farecast.com, which will tell you not only what airlines have the best deals, but compare them with up to four travel sites, and let you know if you should buy a ticket now, or wait a bit when they predict (with incredible accuracy) that prices will go down.

There are a lot of websites for planning trips to France, both mainstream and LGBT-focused.


Planning Your Trip

As for guidebooks, save yourself a LOT of time in the bookstore or on Amazon.com, and pick up these three: the Wallpaper* City Guide, the Lonely Planet Paris Encounter guide, and the Moleskin City Book. All are fabulous in their own right, and each serves a different purpose.

The Wallpaper* City Guide is dedicated to the best design-focused places in Paris; landmarks, hotels, restaurants, boutiques, and shopping. They also include suggestions for late-night experiences, 24-hour stopovers, and design-tours. Small, compact, and to the point, it’s the be-all-end-all for true haute aficionados.

Lonely Planet’s Paris Encounter guide on the other hand, is down to earth, easy-to-read, and full of great suggestions, including quite a few not found in larger guidebooks (but not so obscure or particular that you’ll get lost trying to find it, or feel like a weirdo once you’re there). This is a great guide to read before you go- while you’re still planning your trip- because it offers a good insight into the city. It includes highlights and itineraries, as well as info on sights, shops, restaurants, etc. for each quarter or neighborhood. This book is great for those times when you find yourself walking around the city on a whim and decide you want to see some art or grab a cocktail because you can easily find something near you. The only thing it’s missing? Hotels.

Being fortunate enough to have spent a considerable amount of time in Paris, the one thing I’m never without is my Moleskin City Book. The quote by Aldous Huxley says it perfectly: "For every traveller who has any taste of his own, the only useful guidebook will be the one which he himself has written." And while I wouldn’t yet dispose of my other guidebooks, this one has become the one I go back to most often. Aside from great maps for the Metro, the city and neighborhoods, and a few pages of references (measurements, phone numbers, etc.), this book is largely blank. Sections are divided however, so that you can take notes, write your own directory of shops, restaurants and hotels, and jot down anything else that you’ll want to remember and return to on subsequent trips. It’s truly the best ’little black book’ you’ll ever have.


Once You Arrive

Of course, if you take my advice, you’ll have no problems when you get on the ground- you’ll land, grab a café, croissant and/or (in my case, definitely "and") a pain au chocolat, and be off and running. However, if you’re looking to ease into Paris- especially if you’re on a long holiday- you may want to consult with someone on the ground who knows the (gay) city like only a local can.

The folks at Paris Gay Village are experts on Paris, and everything gay within the city. They’re also incredibly welcoming, and love to share their city. Every Saturday from 4-6, members are available to advise and share at the city’s Gay and Lesbian Center (3 rue Keller, 11th Arrondisemont, Metro Bastille). They also offer guided tours, and will even meet and welcome you at the famous local LGBT bookstore, providing you with a welcome kit with "gay" maps, coupons, invitations to bars and parties, and suggestions based on your interests.

Another great gay website is ParisMarais.com. They offer information on small gay-owned and gay-friendly hotels and apartments, as well as a shopping guide and practical information about the gay neighborhood.

book your hotel online :

http://www.parismarais.com/3-star-hotel ... -paris.htm


Getting Around

If you haven’t been to Paris, getting around is easy via the Metro. Buy a weekend, week, or 10-day pass and plan on using it as much as possible- not only will it get you where you want to go quickly, you’ll also see things you’d miss in a taxi. I recommend walking as much as possible for the same reason; Paris is a city best seen on foot.

If you want to keep in touch with friends and family back home, make sure that your mobile phone will work overseas, that you’re signed up for the correct plan, and that it won’t cost you $14/minute. A great alternative is to buy a Mobal World Phone for $50 and skip the hassle. It’s not free to use, but usually much less than your American phone service.


Jason Salzenstein is the National Style & Travel Editor for EDGE Publications. In addition to writing, he’s a design consultant, professional shopper, and has contributed to numerous national and international magazines. For more information, go to www.JasonSalzenstein.com Jason welcomes all questions, comments and concerns at jsalzenstein@edgeboston.com


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