Hotel rates in Paris are sky high, but there is a better, less expensive alternative – rent an apartment. A friend suggested I check out a New Jersey-based company, Vacation in Paris, where we found a centrally located one bedroom, one bath apartment for about $170 a night. It was only about five blocks from Les Invalides, where the Army Museum and Napoleon’s Tomb are located. Don’t miss either. The Eiffel Tower is only about ten blocks away.
The real appeal of our apartment at 70 Rue St. Dominique was living among Parisians, grocery shopping in stores in a three-block radius, and visiting Rue Cler, a pedestrian-only street about five blocks away which is chock-full of restaurants, a huge cheese-only shop, and others selling pastries, pate, fruits and vegetables, and of course the iconic fish market.
The company (www.vacationin paris.com) has a wide range of apartments ranging from studios to luxury two bedroom, two bath units.
Want to take a really comprehensive tour of Paris? Then take the Hop On, Hop Off bus which operates every 30 minutes in low season and every 10 minutes in high. The system divides Paris into four zones, each one taking about two hours if you stay on for the full circle, which we did to take note of where and when we wanted to stop. Cost is 29 Euros (about $43) for one day and 32 Euros (about $48) for two, and to see all four zones while stopping would take a minimum of two days. We spent four days and really didn’t cover all of the stops we wanted to make.
Yes, the buses stop at such well-known places as the Louvre, Place de la Concorde, Champs d’Elysee and many more. There are also options for cruises on the River Seine and of course a variety of tours ranging from Versailles to Monet’s home in Giverney.The company is L’Open Tour, a Gray Line affiliate. www.parislopen tour.com
While we ate in two restaurants close to our apartment, we found that the best bargains were in the Latin Quarter near Notre Dame Cathedral. Many restaurants are hidden away in a warren of alleyways and pedestrian streets. Three-course prix fixe lunches range from 15 to 18 Euros (without wine) – about $22 to $27. Typical are salmon, mussels (prepared in many different ways) and the traditional creme brulee. Of course, as in any city, you’ll find restaurants offering hamburgers, salads and other less expensive food.
Charles deGaulle Airport is huge, and a real nightmare. When flying back to Miami, plan to be at the airport at least three hours ahead of time and prepare to walk at least a mile and a half. A good option going to and coming from the airport is Paris Shuttle, which charges $38 Euros (about $57) for two. It’s faster and more convenient than using the train. Taxis are much more expensive.
Most travelers to Europe are well aware of the currency exchange, but checking it in your local newspaper is somewhat misleading. When we departed, the rate was 1.32, but that is the interbank rate. It really is close to 1.50. The best place to exchange money is at the post office.