FLASH!!! PARIS FOR DUMMIES IS THE BEST AND THE BRIGHTEST FOR YOUR TRIP
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FLASH !!! Update! I have just read Paris for Dummies (see adjoining display) and I hesitate to put it up in this blog because it TELLS EVERYTHING you need to plan your trip. (I have a few things they don't)
Go to the Amazon site and read the reviews of this great book ("with tips and recommendations form the experts at Frommer's"). You can always look at the pretty photos in other books (this book has only practical info)-and you could do it free at a bookstore. But this book is to be dipped into, studied, though over before and during your trip.
On p. 109 the author, Cheryl A. Pientka, tells you what to do if you arrive without a reservation. (I once did that in Hong Kong and I think I got the last room available in that giant city-it was the weekend of the Grand Prix of Asia. It makes sense: you go to one of the Tourism Offices of the city-in the Gare de Lyon, the Gare du Nord (gare=railway station) or the Opera-Grands-Magasins welcome center. BUT!! more than that, by going to these places you can find "rock-bottom" prices such as 3-star hotels at 2-star prices. They can also get you a room or bed in a student dormitory. The charge for the service is from $1.40 for dorms to $7 for 3-star hotels. Not much to pay to shave off a lot of money per night. (I've used these Office of Tourism in southern France and they work like a charm.)
In the early sections of the book there's great brief introductions to Paris history, food, air security, special interest traveling, including many resources for gay and lesbian-friendly travel businesses, as well as tours and books.
There's plenty of info to help you maneuver the gigantic and complex Charles de Gaulle airport and a number of all-you-need tourist maps.
The Metro is the a wonderful subway (and above-ground) urban railway on quiet rubber wheels. I rarely hail a cab in Paris-that is try to find the closest cab stand-since it is really hard to stop Paris cabs in mid-flight. But it seems at every turn there's a large rabbit-hole of an entrance to the Metro and often two or more within three blocks. The center, tourist area of Paris is just chock-a-block with Metro stations. AND the Metro connects with the RER urban railway line, which goes out to suburbs like Versailles (with the Palace of Louis XIV) about 14 miles from Paris center. There are 14 separate but connected Metro lines going east, west, north and south, all numbered and color coded in the logical Metro Maps included with every city map and city guide and at every Metro station and on every Metro car. The Metro is very, very fast, very, very safe and very, very inexpensive, especially if you buy a timed pass or at least a book (carnet) of ten or more tickets.
What's not to like? Summers when there a big events (like the all-night music festival on June 21 or the Bastille Day fireworks on July 14) the Metro can be shoulder to shoulder, hip to hip crowded day and night. Parisians are used to it and, as long as you don't get too friendly, they don't give it any attention. Also, of course, on workday rush hours the cars can be crowded. Don't get impatient if some trains whiz throught the station without stopping. That means there are extra trains put on to deal with the rush of people and another train will be there within five minutes. Of course, like any railway, there can be delays because of construction or repair, but there is plenty of signage warning about where and when such delays might occur. If you hear an announcement and recognize the word delai/delay (same in both languages) ask someone about it; there's sure to be an English speaker withing three rows. Frenchmen and Frenchwomen are conditioned from grade school up to be helpful to polite strangers. (Politeness is a very big deal in France, as it seems to be in California from my experience. Don't shout at people in English. How would you feel if a confused Frenchman in the U.S. started shouting at you in French?)