My first words in French. Suffice it to say that the lady at the Metro station smiled quite a bit more than what I’m used to when I speak in Hindi. And if you think that’s laugh, you should’ve heard the operator when I called for a taxi from Gare Aulnay Sous Bois.
The good news is that contrary to popular belief, English will get you where you need to go as long as you stay within city limits. However, if you’re thinking of a trip, here’s a few things you should know:
First: a visit to the top of the Eiffel tower is not going to be the highlight of your trip. In fact, if you work above the fortieth floor of a building or have ever made it to the top of a reasonably tall hill, you’ve already seen it.
Second: any guided tour within city limits is a rip off – especially Cityrama’s Paris Historic tour. Take the Metro and set yourself a limit of no more than an hour or two at every spot. Yes, that includes the Louvre, unless of course, you’re an art fanatic. If you really want to break away from the crowd, try Paris Vision’s tour of Epernay or Cityrama’s tour of Giverny.
Third: even the best looking Parisian brasserie isn’t too far from the likes of your average McDonald’s. The food’s either inedible or doubled up in butter to make up for the former. Finding a good spot takes a bit of searching, and a good sommelier is all the more difficult to come by. Whatever you do, resist the temptation to try Chinese, Irish, Japanese and Lebanese food – there are probably three of them for every French restaurant in the city. Frommers has great reviews of the leading restaurants in the city – listen to them!
Fourth: if you’re looking for clean, no-frills accomodation, stay at the Ibis. Look for ones located close to the heart of the city and especially ones located close to a Metro station.
Fifth: Air France has a great experience all the way from the internet through to the boarding gate, but it’s a different story on board. On the way in, their in-flight entertainment system crashed when I tried to switch to English and on the way out, they had me on the waiting list for an hour, despite a confirmed reservation.