Saturday, September 08, 2007

A few comments on our Paris trip

I wanted to write down some of my thoughts about Paris, outside the sights and attractions that we visited.

Metro system: Hubby did some surfing around pre-trip and found lots of comments about how great the Metro system was. Having been to London, we found the Metro system to be pretty similar in terms of how it works. However, we were a bit frustrated with the service. There were at times no one around to help us out. There was someone in our group that got stuck in the turnstile and we had to figure out how to get that person un-stuck. When we asked for help, people weren't' very helpful (I'm told this may be a French attitude, people are just not very helpful to strangers), or simply not there. I didn't know that I had to ask for a Metro map; in London, you can pick one up at any station. As navigable as the Metro system is, it's still daunting without a map (click on picture above to see what it looks like).

The Metro system itself isn't as efficiently laid out as I would have liked. It annoyed me that if I wanted to go from west to east in a straight line, I would had to take three different lines. It probably was faster for me to walk above ground, but I didn't want to get more lost than I already was. Paris is a very walkable city, but you do need a map. On the last day when I was out and about alone, I had a Metro map in one hand, and map of Paris with all the sights in another, and that helped me navigate through the city.

I was, however, impressed with the fact that there were people movers in between some of the station tunnel links.

Museum Pass: This we found to be a great idea, but it does require you to plan ahead and do a bit of marathon museum visiting, plus it doesn't include the cost of audio guides. The biggest plus is that you get to skip the queue for tickets and go straight in. We were able to do that everywhere except at Notre Dame. I noted that when I flashed my Museum Pass at the ticket check, that not everyone one took a close look at the date (you write the date on when you first start using it), so it may be possible to sneak in somewhere once your pass has expired and you managed to get a lazy ticket checker. Plus, most places will allow you back in more than once, which is nice as the gift shops were annoyingly inside and not outside.

Versailles: You cannot see everything in one day, it's exhausting and overwhelming. While this is partially covered in the Museum Pass, I'd actually suggest the alternative instead: There is a one-day pass that you can purchase at the RER-C stations that will be cheaper, especially if you are going to visit Marie Antoinette's estates. Buy the one-day pass on a weekday, and that will get you the following: train ride there and back, entrance to the main Chateau and Marie Antoinette's estates plus the audioguide. Go and visit the Chateau first, then the Grand Trianon then Marie Antoinette's estates. MA's estate also has some very nice gardens that you can get lost in. (There is a weekend pass that is a bit pricer that includes the main gardens, but trust me, doing it this way will be more fun and relaxing.)

On the second day, try to visit in the summer during the weekends. This is when they turn the fountains on in the gardens. The gardens themselves are MASSIVE, and the fountains, while already nice to look at, are even nicer when they are turned on. You will want to spend a whole day just hanging out at the gardens, trust me. You will have to pay to go see the gardens when the fountains are flowing, but it's totally worth the trip. (As a side note, I am pretty indifferent to gardens and fountains, they bore me. I'd rather pave over our own lawn instead of taking care of it, so you can better appreciate how mind-blowing this place is to have impressed me that much!)

For Versailles, definitely check out their website for information to plan your trip, as not everything is shown outside of the summer months.

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