Paris, France

A cold and short visit to Paris. Click > to play video. Double-click the image to make fullscreen.

The weather turned greyer as we traveled east, with some rain in the outlying countryside, and in Paris it was downright misty. Because of Paris' reputation for high prices and coldness toward Americans, we had opted for just an overnight stay.

With no room reservations (we had declined to book with Cook when we booked the New Atlantic in London because they wanted a double fee to book in Paris), I walked about two blocks from the Gare du Nord where the Eurostar terminated, and found a double at the New Magenta Hotel for about $20 US each, toilet and shower in the hall, with in-room sink and bidet (French priorities!).

We counted ourselves lucky considering our serendipity. Though the room was modest, it had a French door-window with a railing that opened above the boulevard, offering a great view of the Gare du Nord and its adjacent business area. Tip: many hotels near train stations list prices on a small notice in windows, and train stations all over Europe seem to be flanked by budget accommodations. French francs were five to the dollar at the time of our visit, so a $40 room went for Ff200.

The Rose Window in Notre Dame CathedralWe had a very good mid-afternoon lunch at a Hippotamus (a Parisiene chain restaurant) near the train station, where we were provided an English-speaking waitress. We had steak and baked potatoes and the latter, especially, we thought as good as any we had ever had. Prices were about $10 US.

We bought a two-day transit pass for about Ff60 each ($12) and took the famous Paris Metro (subway system) with its rubber tires to Notre Dame Cathedal (Sante Michel station), and after touring the cathedral (where, unlike most English cathedrals, photos and videos were allowed) walked from there along the Seine (lined much of the way with booths from which vendors sell art prints, books, and souvenirs) to Invalides Hospital and the Eiffel Tower. Though the mist had blown away, the wind chill was downright biting. And a portion of both Notre Dame and the Eiffel Tower were netted for painting or other maintenance work. To add insult to injury, the toilets at the Tower were inexplicably closed, with no alternatives ("porta potties") provided, an inexcusable situation at a tourist Mecca. Still, it was Paris. We would not have passed up the experience, and wished we'd planned to be there longer.

Eiffel Tower - Not even a porta pottyAfter recharging our energy levels at our room for a while we went out on the boulevard for a late evening snack around 10 o'clock and were charged about double the menu price for some french fries and small, breakfast-size steak at a bistro near our hotel—about $15 each. Though smarting a little from the feeling we'd been ripped off, this was the only place that I walked away leaving my camera bag with both video and 35mm cameras, and the manager on duty did rush to the door with it as we were leaving, somewhat making up for our being gouged.

Daily expense tally—room, food, transit: $65


The next morning we ate breakfast at a cafe, found a laundromat a long walk from our hotel where Bob did his laundry, and caught an RER commute train from Gare du Nord to Charles de Gaulle airport (Ff7 each; it turned out our "two-day transit passes" weren't good for this bit of transit) for the first leg of our flight to Budapest, a Swiss Air flight to Zurich, where we had a four-hour layover.

 © Jon Kennedy 1996, 2009