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Some advices for inexperienced travelers.
If you are overweight, try to lose 2-3 pounds. The trip is a challenge for people who sit at desks all day and drive back and forth in cars. Your job is much easier than this trip.
Don't let them wake you up at night for food. The next day you will not be in good shape for your trip or business.
Don't forget to check your camera before leaving. I wasted 15 rolls of film and didn't get a single picture from the trip, because my camera was defective.
Here's what to expect in London:.
1. The British speak the original version of English.
2. They do not speak or laugh loudly, nor wave their hands around. They do not put their feet on the table. At the same time they are friendly, polite and attentive.
3. The subway is cleaner and more beautiful than in New York.
4. London is more expensive than New York.
Here's what to expect in Paris:
1. Paris is more expensive than London.
2. For some reason, the French don't speak English.
3. They may not like it when you do.
4. At the same time they'll always like the way your wife speaks, no matter what language she uses.
In both London and Paris...
Don't be surprised to find that the British and French have a longer history than the Americans or even the Russians. Consider this: Europe has a great past, America a great present, Russia a great future.
Have a nice trip!
For those who like fine art.
A museum that contains art from all the ages and all the styles does not exist in Paris. Louvre keeps art from Ancient Age till 1848. If you want to see Impressionists, you have to go to the museum d'Orsey. Its exhibition contains Fine Art and craft from 1848 till 1914 and involves styles from Barbison school to the Art Nouveau and Art Deco. Also, you can see the impressionists in the Orangerie Museum. It also can be named as the Museum of the Famous Names or Museum of the Weak Works of the Genius Artists. The next Modern age can be seen in the Art modern de la Ville de Paris museum. And finally, Centre Georges Pompidou - for those who like contemporary art.
If you expect to meet in the French museums such artists as Borovikovskiy, Tropinin, the art of the Peredvizhniky, Mir Iskusstv, Bubnoviy Valet or Golubaja Roza, you will be extremely disappointed. Also, you do not have a chance to see there Alexander Gerasimov, Glazunov, Nalbandjan, Shilov, Tseretelly - even educated Frenchmen did not hear about them. You may be much luckier, if you would like to find there Kandinskiy, Malevich, Suetin and small number of other Russian artists, who are considered as a foundation of the Western Fine Art of the 20th century. And in general I am deeply convinced: the best place to see Russian paintings is Russia.
Cemetery Ste-Genevieve-des-Bois is in suburban Paris, 1/2 of hour on a train from St Michel station, and then by bus. It can be recommended for both: Simply Russians and New Russians. However, if the names Zinaida Gippius or Sergej Bulgackov do not tell anything to your heart, do not waste your time and go to Moulin-Rouge. It is an exciting place and I guarantee you a lot of fun and full satisfaction for your money.
And finally, it is a very important document below. It was created by friend of mine Dan Stiefel, who is an experienced traveler. All his advise was extremely helpful for my trip to Paris and also to London.
A PARIS GUIDE 1993 (by Dan Stiefel).
PACK LIGHT and then half it again, a VERY comfortable pair of walking shoes/sneakers, Read guides BEFORE you go, no time later. Resist initial "camera finger"- every sight will look like a post card at first, at home they will be "another mysterious building picture". With time you will learn to choose your shots and pace yourself. For Jet Lag start adjusting your sleep schedule (leave tired -sleep on the plane) before you leave USA, drink a LOT of water on the plane and no ALCOHOL. Before you leave USA make sure you have and know how to implement your Medical Insurance in case of emergency Pack a prescription for Sulpha Methoxylol Trimethoprim 800/200mg (Bactrim) in case of intestinal trouble.
Restrain your judgment and ANGER when encountering Parisians different attitudes and customs or it will isolate and prevent you from discovering and experiencing their very different lifestyle which is based on a different sense of values (which is probably superior to ours if measured on a food, love, arts, style, index.). My guess is that if you can do this on this trip you will gain a different perspective and learn as much about the USA as you do about France.
FOOD: DON'T ever take a drink, food, etc. at any cafe facing a monument or spectacular view. The bill will be equally SPECTACULAR (Ex $8.00/coke) Go around the corner instead or a couple of blocks away. Food or a drink at the counter or bar is always cheaper than at a table. A beer or glass of vin ordinaire is cheaper than a coke throughout France. The tip is always included in the bill but you can tip for good service-up to 10%. If a waiter suggests something and you respond Merci -it indicates no not yes! When in a restaurant Best deal by far is to order one of the Prix Fix Menu's (all courses and drink complete) rather than a la carte. Menus always displayed outside. Middle eastern food is abundant, excellent and inexpensive throughout Paris.
MONEY I use VISA and MC (make sure you have your PIN numbers and they are working!) to obtain my spending cash from the omnipresent money machines (Cash advance) because it avoids banking hour and travelers check hassles. VISA & MC accepted everywhere but I avoid using them for small purchases as the unscrupulous can tack on extra service charges.
To US-from any public or private phone in France (except the pay variety found at the bar of a restaurant) 24 hr per day you can call the USA easily and at the cheapest rate (app. $2.50/connection & $1/min.) by using ATT Direct [without inserting a coin, pick up the receiver and dial 19, wait for the tone, dial 0011 and you will speak directly via satellite with a US ATT operator. You can reverse the charges or charge it to a ATT card. The French system is complicated and twice the price. MCI & Sprint have similar setup.
Within Europe: go the any Tobac shop or post office and buy a $5 or $10 plastic electronic phone debit card for the pay phones. There are no longer many pay phones in France that accept coins.
SHOPPING good luck-clothing is generally twice the price because unlike the USA, France protects its manufacturers and taxes the bejusus out of all Asian imports. (Most Europeans own fewer clothes of a higher quality) Tax is included unlisted. Reasonable prices and style in the dept. stores Galleries Lafeyette or Printemps. Left bank for trendy. Don't miss the three flea markets on Sat and Sun. Cligancourt, Vanves, Montreuil. Look them up in guide. also street market-rue de Buci/rue de Seine. Tue-Sun
TRANSPORT Metro , bus and RER best within Paris with Carte Orange or Carnet. After 12:30-1:00 A the Metro is shut- must Taxi. Outside Train best. Remember there are five SNCF train stations-each departs in a different direction. TGV IS GREAT (200mph) but requires a reservation (extra $3) as do couchettes (sleeping accom.) on other trains. 2nd class is a fine way to travel on regular trains. Might try 1st class one way on the TGV. (2nd class TGV is airline seating rather than typical European compartment style). REMEMBER on many trains and buses you punch/cancel your own ticket either on the train platform or on the bus.in the little colored metal machine on a pole. Don't drive in the big cities if at all possible. Parking IMPOSSIBLE. Remember cars entering a freeway or traffic circle have right of way. Fasten your seatbelts, grit your teeth, and run those gears like Parnelli Jones. It's totally different than American driving. Maybe you will live to tell me about it. Whatever you do, don't hesitate!
---Neck wallet-or put money in shoe, front pocket-or fannie pack, NO WALLETS OR PURSES
---One Student size nylon backpack. or similar. For camera salami, water, bread guide books, umbrellas sweaters etc. Have the man carry it or don't let it hang on a girls one shoulder.
---Camera film and dev. twice the price in France so ..... (35 mm point and shoot best option-full size becomes target for the gypsies)
---Small binoculars ?
--- several passport like photos (from mall machine) for Carte Orange metro pass
---Cheap key chain COMPASS. You will constantly get turned around in the small twisting streets
---Pocket phrase book and Pocket Dictionary (for either can substitute electronic version which is good because usually includes currency and metric converters Ex. SII Seiko Translator Eng-French, 40,000 words & phrases $20-25 in electronic or travel stores.
---Michelin green guide or other detailed guide. A pocket guide (Ex. Fodor's) to Paris is a good supplement because it is easy to access and carry.
---Take a zip lock of ivory snow, string and some plastic clothespins- Laundromats are rare, laundries expensive and sometimes problematic if you are on the move. Wash out underwear etc. before going to bed. Better to take few clothes and wash than lug monster bags.
---2 compact umbrellas
---Handiwipes, Toilet paper, toilets don't always have it and many times its the hard scratchy kind) medicated powder (great for the shoes and underwear), aspirin, bandaids etc., needle, thread, safety pins, spare prescription eyeglasses,
SEE & DO
---IMMEDIATELY in metro station get small and large scale metro and bus maps and buy for each either the Carte Orange-coupon jaune [(most probable) (remember to retrieve the coupon jaune from automatic turnstiles) for unlimited Metro, bus, RER traveling within Paris for a week. (app $10 each)], Tourist pass (More expensive-good if you will be traveling frequently to the environs of Paris) or buy normal tickets in a Carnet (10 pack reduced price)
---Go 2nd IMMEDIATELY to Eiffel Tower upon dropping bags in apt. You have arrived! Whenever you make the ascent (then or later) do so at a off tourist hour, walk the steps to the first levels, elevator to last. WHAT A HUNK OF IRON WORK!!!
---3rd IMMEDIATELY go to the nearest TOURIST OFFICE for maps and SPECIAL EVENTS and EXHIBITS information. These special events (festivals, exhibits, markets) will MAKE your trip.
---Notre Dame - Ile de la cite and walk the bank of the Seine at that point.
---Get up early and go 8:00 A to the Place Lepine -(Ile de la cite) flower market. All markets are fascinating -look for them.
----Left Bank: (Latin quarter) most typical (although touristical Parisian quarter. Good for exploring by foot. Blvd. St. Michel, Blvd. St Germain, Rue Bonaparte, Rue Jacob. Boutiques, antiques, galleries, restaurants.
---Shakespeare's used English book shop (near Notre Dame on the left bank close to Blvd St. Michel. Hemingway, Gertrude Stein et al used to gather here in their infancy with George who is still the owner and usually there. He used to have a standing offer. Read a book a day and help cook and you could stay in the rooms above the shop for naught.
---Sorbonne-Visit if possible, wander around the halls until you find and sit in a empty lecture hall. A powerful feeling and very different from US
---Montmartre-once at night (dinner and the view) and once during the day to see Sacre Coeur. Old artists hangout. good restaurants. Walk up the steps to it
---Walk from the Louvre through the Tuilleries, along the Champs d' Elysees (expensive eats) to the Arc de Triomph (Can climb) or visa- versa.
----Pigalle restaurants or clubs by night for good food and artistic "east village" experience
----La Saint Chappelle -I'le de la Cite see the lower and upper chapel MAGICAL!
---Seine River Cruise (from right bank) about $8, better by day.
--- Les Halles near Pompidou walk through.
---Place Vendome. The most expensive shops and hotels. An eyeful.
---Bois de Boulogne - 2000 acre park with many facilities etc. Nude prostitutes in warm weather!
----Versailles- outside Paris-can take the RER. count on the better part of a day. Pack a sausage-cheese wine lunch to eat in magnificent gardens.
----Fontainbleu?? another palace outside Paris.
---Monet's Giverny ??- 10 mi outside Paris.
----Chartres?? one of the greatest Medieval Cathedrals 55 mi outside Paris
MUSEUMS Carte Musee (museum card) available at Metro station or museums. A bargain if you will be doing many museums and it fits your schedule. 50f/day, 100f/3 days, 150f/5 days. Good for most museums. Will avoid waiting in lines. Most museums cost app.$5 but make sure you check to see if they have a free day (Many on Sunday and what their closed days are. Get a descriptive museum brochure from the tourist office (Bureau d' Tourisme)
----Louvre: maybe a good place for the $5/75min. English tour. You can't see all of this place in a month so pick beforehand what you want to see, get in and out. Maybe on two different days. The ongoing archeological digs outside Louvre are interesting
----Musee d' Orsay My favorite museum. Converted railway station. Incredible redesign. Best impressionism collection in the world. Don't miss cafe on 3rd floor behind clock with spectacular rooftop view
----AND many others particular to your taste (look at Bureau d' Tourisme)