Friday, August 10, 2007

A budget traveler’s guide to surviving PARIS, FRANCE

Paris is and will always be THE dream destination for many tourists of whatever age group or travel plans. The city has become synonymous over the years with finesse, expensive taste and the good life, and for a good reason: It doesn’t take much to feel classy in the capital city of France. A whiff of Parisian air combined with hints of Chanel perfume, the aroma of crepes and coffee in the outdoor cafes, and the fragrance of the Seine River is a constant reminder that the City of Lights is also the City of Life.

Wanna visit Paris? Prepare your classiest ensemble, practice your snootiest “Bonjour!” and conquer Paris with a bang!

1. Plan. It’s impossible to see Paris without proper planning. Take it from me: I flew in the now defunct Air Madrid that left for Paris with a three-hour delay. Upon arriving I didn’t even have a printout of the map of the city. And, to make matters worse, I wasn’t sure about the schedule of the tourist spots so it took me six hours to get up the Eiffel Tower and go back down. The view from the top, however, made my stresses evaporate right away.

2. See. Most emblematic monuments in Paris seem out of reach for many people. Au contraire. The Arch de Triomphe and the Seine River, for example, can be admired from the outside. A walk along the famous Champs-Elysées (altogether now, shamps-e-LI-seh) is gratifying and free, and is a feast for the eyes. There are also many green spaces and parks like the Jardin du Luxembourg and the Jardin des Tuileries to while away your time. It’s pronounced roughly as /jzar-DAHN/, in case you’re interested. Cap the day off by walking through the charming Boulevard St-Michel.

3. Reflect. The city also offers many opportunities to get acquainted with the divine. The Cathédrale Notre Dame de París, the setting of Victor Hugo’s classic story on a hunchback, is also the repository of many Catholic relics such as the Crown of Thorns (housed in the nearby Sainte-Chapelle). Also recommendable is the Chapelle Notre Dame de la Médaille Miraculeuse on the Rue du Bac where the Virgin Mary was said to have appeared to St. Catherine Labouré and entrusted to her the miraculous medal. You could also be a bit more secular, follow the Da Vinci Code route and visit the Église Saint-Sulpice on the Rue de Vaugirard.

4. Choose. There are many places of interest that are far away from the city center. The Basilique de Sacré-Coeur in the Montmartre area is famous not only for it spectacular view of Paris but also for the angelic voices of the Benedictine nuns that sing the liturgy of the hours. The Versailles and Eurodisney, on the other hand, can be reached through public buses or a combination of subway and train. If you have limited time in the city, you may have to choose which of these places to visit.

5. Gawk. The world’s largest museum, the Louvre, is a must-see. No one, and I insist no one, should leave Paris without entering the Louvre. The museum is very big so if you really are hell-bent on becoming cultured but are pressed for time, I say you should devote at least four hours to see a fraction of the museum’s art collection. The so-called “Louvre Light” route consists of: the Winged Victory of Samothrace, the Venus de Milo and Leonardo’s enigmatic magnum opus, the Mona Lisa. I also recommend seeing the Code of Hammurabi, the world’s first written law, and the statue of Cupid and Psyche, a strong artistic personification of love. If you still haven’t got enough, try visiting the Musee d’Orsay for your Renoirs and Gauguins and the Hôtel des Invalides for a healthy dose of Napoleon Bonaparte.

Marlon’s Paris route (1-2 days): Eiffel. Seine. Hôtel des Invalides. Champs-Elysées. Jardin des Tuileries. Arch de Triomphe. Take the subway to Louvre. Notre Dame. Take the subway to Sacre-Coeur. Choose between Disneyland and Versailles. This is a very difficult route and chances are, you won’t even get to marvel at any of these places. But if you’re *really* in a hurry and have cash to burn, this route will work out just fine.

Marlon’s budget tip: Do check in the Louvre if they have a free-entrance day over the weekend. That way, you would save up about 14€.


Anonymous said...

i live in paris, i would like to add:) all the national museums all always free entrance in the first sunday of the month. if a friend that you can stay rather that staying in the hotel. Disneyland is not worth to see, i prefer asterix park, and if you like to return someday, you have to go to Notre dame, there is a point zero that you have to go for wishing that you return.

Marlon said...

Cool! It makes me want to visit Paris again all the more.