Port of Paris
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Paris is so much more than the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe, Notre-Dame and the Louvre. This trip, stroll the Marais and shop along rue des Francs Bourgeois or walk under the arches of the oldest square in Paris, Place des Vosges. Take time to explore the Latin Quarter to see the church of St. Severin, the Sorbonne and rue Mouffetard -- not just because it's where Joyce, Orwell, Balzac and Hemmingway once lived, but also for the rows and rows of fresh food glistening like bouquets of colorful gems under the street market's faded French-blue-striped awnings. Stop by the bookseller's stalls along the banks of the Seine around Notre-Dame for antique and second-hand books, comic strips, post cards and posters at great prices.
Saint Germain-des-Pres and the stately Church of St. Sulpice's beautiful Delacroix murals are a must-see this trip -- as is the St. Germain Church, the city's oldest church -- before heading down its enchanting streets, through the old squares and artists' studios that surround it. Don't forget to leave time to head up to the little village of Montmarte and the old cobbled streets where Renoir, Lautrec and van Gogh lived and worked; there are wonderful views of the city.
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Where You're Docked
Good to Know
When using mass transit, validate your ticket in appropriate machines. On the buses, there's one at the front and one more to the rear. It's an honor system, so the driver has nothing to do with how you pay -- nor does he care if you punch your ticket or not. For the Metro, the machines are at the line's entrance. Keep your ticket until you reach your destination, since plain-clothes inspectors check at random on both systems to make sure you've canceled ( used) it. They are seriously rigid about fining offenders, including tourists and senior citizens.
Taxi drivers very, very rarely take more than three passengers at a time, and there's a charge for luggage, sometimes large packages and absolutely for fourth passengers.
Currency & Best Way to Get Money
The national currency in France is the euro. Currency exchange can be made in most banks, post offices and train stations. In France, a sales tax of 19.6% (VAT) is tacked on to almost every purchase; however, if you spend 175 euros or more at any one participating store, you can get the VAT refunded (with some exceptions). ATMs and credit cards make traveler's checks nearly obsolete. For the best exchange rate, use ATMs found almost everywhere.
Note: Many French ATMs display only numerals on the keypad. For pin codes that include letters, commit to memory or jot down the translation to numbers. Credit cards are widely accepted in Paris.
French. Although English is understood and generally spoken throughout most of Paris, it's not uncommon to find that many waiters, shopkeepers and taxi drivers don't speak English. It's considered impolite by the French to assume everyone speaks English, so it's best to begin by first asking if English is understood. The gesture is appreciated. Monsieur, madame or mademoiselle (for young girls) should follow bonjour. Merci should always precede a departure from any shop, whether you were helped or not.
A well loved copy of Hemmingway's “A Moveable Feast” purchased on the Rive Gauche from a secondhand bookseller.