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Paris With the Pros

April 18, 2011 By: Jena Tesse Fox Travel Agent



Arc de Triomphe
A great way to experience Paris is with a morning walk from the Louvre to the Arc de Triomphe.

Agent specialists have plenty of advice on just how to savor the city.

When asked about their own memories of Paris and the advice they give their clients heading there, every corner of the city seemed to conjure up some new treasure for the agent specialists with whom we spoke.

Sally Fedrizzi of Vagabond Tour and Travel, Baldwinsville, NY, says that spending time in Luxembourg Gardens is a great way to get a “snapshot” of local Parisian life. She suggests taking “a stroll through the paths at the back of the garden and watch a bocce game in progress. Wander past the ‘kindergarten’ playground and see the children at play, or just meander through the paths and see all of the locals out to get a bit of air on a sunny afternoon.”

Sherrie Funk of Just Cruisin’ Plus, Brentwood, TN, suggests visitors walk (or ride) up the steps of Montmartre to the Sacre Coeur for a spectacular view of the city. “Visit Place du Tertre while you’re there,” she says. “Artists will try to paint or draw your caricature, which some people enjoy as a souvenir. It’s a good place to pick up some souvenir-type things and nice small postcard-size artwork/canvases.”

Everyone recognizes the Louvre as one of the best museums in the world, but the Musee D’Orsay is also a popular option. (Tip: From the top floor of the Musee D’Orsay, visitors can look out over Montmartre through the old glass clock that was the timekeeper when the building was a train station.)

Once your clients have toured the bigger attractions, Fedrizzi suggests visiting some smaller establishments. “My favorite small gallery is the Dali Museum in Montmartre,” she says. “His style fits in with the crazy zigzag of streets that make up this most notorious district and you can then watch a few contemporary artists practicing their skills right on the street.” But, she has a word of advice: “Just avoid the wandering sketch artists.” Funk recommends visiting the Galeries Lafayette.

Cemeteries in Paris are also great places to wander in and observe, Fedrizzi says. “The architecture of the monuments rivals any building and you will find yourself among old friends, with all of the famous artists, politicians and writers who are buried there.”

To make the most of a day in Paris, Fedrizzi suggests getting a daily on/off boat pass and enjoying the many attractions along the Seine. “Be sure to take your last ride after dark when the river and its buildings and bridges are lit,” she says.

Similarly, Paris specialist Janet Staton of Esprit Vacations (which is affiliated with Travel Planners), Las Cruces, NM, recommends a Hop-On-Hop-Off sightseeing bus pass. “It stops at all the major attractions,” she notes, and is a good option for a rainy day.

Unique Places to Stay

While there are plenty of iconic hotels throughout the city, there are also smaller places for visitors on a budget. “An old favorite of mine, the Queen Mary, is on a street that even taxi drivers have a hard time finding because it’s not on most maps,” Staton says. “It’s an English-themed place with a good breakfast and just a few rooms.

“There is a Comfort Inn, in the 18th near the bottom of the Montmartre funicular on Ave Cligancourt. The nearby neighborhood, including the area around the Moulin Rouge, is a bit ‘iffy’ for picky clients.”

Musee D’Orsay
The famed Musee D’Orsay is housed in a former train station.

Funk encourages visitors to avoid chain hotels and stay somewhere traditionally French. “We loved the Hotel  du Rond-Point de Longchamp,” she says, for its location (close to the Metro and restaurants) and view of the Eiffel Tower. “Another typical old Parisian property is the Hotel Lutetia.” She adds that these hotels are for people who want a more French hotel experience and for whom budget is not a concern. Also, make sure your clients are aware that hotel rooms are much smaller in Paris than they are in the U.S.

Of course, Paris is famous for its cuisine, and there are plenty of out-of-the-way eateries for an only-in-Paris meal. “There are a lot of tiny creperies in the ‘back’ of the 5th arrondissement where it abuts the 13th. I’ve never found a bad place in that area,” says Staton.

Funk says that a Parisian friend recommends Le Bistro du Peintre in the 11th arrondissement as an authentic Paris dining experience. “Another is Chez Paul, but her favorite place to eat was always in her neighborhood cantine,” Funk says. “Hers was at Place de la Nation, called Chez Prosper—perfect place for sitting in or out and watching people, and definitely not somewhere you are going to find Americans.”

A true gourmand, she adds, should sit and drink wine at a restaurant or outdoor café for more than three hours to just enjoy the French restaurant experience.

The worst thing a visitor to Paris can do, Fedrizzi says, is overschedule their stay. “Take time to plan your trip day by day around a theme and stick to it,” she suggests. “Don’t try to see and do it all. Leave time for savoring the city. This is a city to be felt, not just seen. Cozy up in a café for an hour or two, and watch the locals and how they relax.”

Funk acknowledges that the obvious attractions are important to visit, but getting beneath the surface provides a much more valuable experience.

Fedrizzi appreciates how accessible Paris is and, hence, ideal for a leisurely stroll or walking tour. “You can walk anywhere, and I have literally crossed the city on foot on more than one occasion just because it was a nice day.”

Funk agrees. “Walk along the Seine and across one of the beautiful bridges—Pont Alexandre is gorgeous and Pont des Arts is a pedestrian bridge. Maybe a morning walk from the Louvre (the arc in front of the Louvre), Place de la Concorde, ending at L’Arc de Triomphe, and stop to have a coffee on the Champs-Elysees.”

But what truly makes Paris special, Fedrizzi says, is the city’s diversity, “No matter what you are in the mood for…it is all at your fingertips if you know where to go.”

Staton says, “Paris is Paris. New York is New York. London is London. There can be no mistaking those places for any other.”

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About the Author

Jena Tesse Fox
Jena Tesse Fox covers Europe, Africa, Australia/South Pacific and business travel for the Questex Travel Group's publications. The daughter of history teachers, she can spend...

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By Jena Tesse Fox | April 18, 2011
For clients who have already made the trip to Paris, there are still many surprises to be explored.