Paris Trip Report, Episode 77

Exported Shari and Craig in Paris 2015-07-04 09.34.21-2

Paris Trip Report with Shari and Craig

Shari and Craig are in France on their honeymoon and spent a few days in Paris before coming to Toulouse to explore the South West. In this episode they tell us all about their experiences in Paris and share some tips that will make geeks very happy. Many French language tips too!

To Prepare for Your Trip: Pimsleur method.

Places Discussed on the Show: RER B, Eiffel Tower, Orsay Museum, Luxemburg Garden, Arc de Triomphe.

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Paris Trip ReportHow can you tell if the RER you’re about to take is a fast train or a slow train?  What you have to do is look at the display on the platform: if it lists a lot of stops it’s a slow train. Do take a collapsible fan because it was very hot on the train.

inexpensive Paris hotel recommendation: Shari and Craig stayed at the hotel Marignan which is a basic inexpensive hotel with no elevator, no air conditioning, and some of the rooms don’t have a private bathroom. But it’s clean, there is a kitchen that you can use on site (tiny but functional), a laundry room, and is at a great location a few minutes away from Notre Dame, with a lot of restaurants and stores nearby. And they will give you a fan if you need it! Annie has stayed there also and it’s really not bad if you don’t want anything fancy.

Eiffel Tower: Shari and Craig went to the Eiffel Tower a few times. They recommend going up to the second floor and walking down to the first floor. There are new restaurants and shops on the first floor, all the details here on those restaurants. There are a lot fewer people on the first floor than on the second. There is also They also preferred going at night because it’s more romantic.

MusĂ©e d’Orsay

Craig found the Orsay museum very nice and not as intimidating as the Louvre. Craig likes to go to the very top and walk down. It’s not as crowded as the Louvre and more laid back. And there are a lot of pieces at the Orsay that you will recognize from popular culture. The line was very short at the Orsay Museum on the day they went.

Jardin du Luxembourg

Shari and Craig went on a Sunday and it was filled with locals. People were playing Boules (or PĂ©tanque). Most people had brought picnics as there aren’t a lot of food options in the gardens and it’s what locals do, so if you do it you’ll fit right in!

Arc de Triomphe and Champs Elysées

Shari had always wanted to see it, but she found it much different from in her fantasy. It’s busy and touristy and full of American chain stores.  They didn’t go up the Arc de Triomphe. It would be a nice place for shopping, but it didn’t suit Shari and Craig’s personalities very well.

American Cell Phones

Craig’s phone (CDMA on the Sprint network) doesn’t work in France. To make it work he could have gotten a local SIM card, but he chose not to. Annie’s French cell plan works in the US because it operates on GSM. Some US providers use GSM such as T-Mobile, and those would continue to work in France without changing anything, but it would be very expensive. Shari and Craig relied on WiFi at the hotel and in public parks.


In Paris you can get fee WiFi at public parks, look for Paris WiFi. But when you see FreeWiFi as one of the choices it doesn’t mean free of charge, it means it’s a hotspot from the French cell company called Free. If you are not a Free subscriber, you won’t be able to get to it.

How to Browse Google Maps Without a Data Plan

Use My Places on Google Maps. Center the map on the location that you want to save, go to My Places, Add New Place, it’ll ask you if you want to save that map. If you’re zoomed out too far it will be too big to save and the save button will be grayed out. Zoom in more and the save button will come alive. We’re not sure if it’s a searchable map. Let us know if you know! Always have a metro map with you!

Were You Shocked by All the Smoking in Paris?

Not too much, be beware that if you eat at a terrace, there will be smokers around you.

How Did You Choose Restaurants

Mostly by luck. Avoid touristy restaurants, look for people speaking French at the restaurant, don’t go somewhere they have pictures on the menu.

App that Translates for You

Google Translate has the option to download a language pack. If you download it at home you will not need any sort of data to get a translation. Part of Google Translate is a camera App that you can point at a sign and it will translate the sign for you. It’s not great, but it’ll give you the gist of it. In Paris menus are translated into English most places. Outside of Paris it’s not as common.

French Tips of the Week

This episode is chock-full of language tips, and some of those will save you a lot of money too, so be sure to listen!

  • Le Menu vs. La Carte

In France, if you ask for “le menu s’il vous plaĂ®t” you are asking for the daily special. If you want to see the list of all the foods that are served at this restaurant, ask for “la carte” as in “Ă  la carte”.

  • L’entrĂ©e et le plat principal

In French “entrĂ©e” means appetizer and “plat principal” is the main dish.

  • Un pichet de vin

If you want the house wine, ask for “un pichet de vin”. Most people in France drink the house wine, you will not stand out by doing that. Very often they’ll ask if you want the small or large pichet. Small is 3 glasses of wine, large 4 or 5. You can order wine by the glass and they’ll serve you the house wine, but if you’re going to get more than one glass, you’ll be better off asking for a pichet.

  • Une carafe d’eau

If you’d like tap water (free) ask for “une carafe d’eau”. If you don’t specify, you’ll get bottled water, usually in a glass bottle, and it’ll cost at least 5€.

  • Bonjour / Bonsoir / Bonne soirĂ©e

What’s the difference between these three expressions? Bonne soirĂ©e means “have a good evening”. When you start saying bonsoir vs bonjour is subjective, it probably starts after work.

  • HĂ´tel de ville = Mairie

It’s not a hotel at all. Neither is the “hĂ´tel de police” or the “hĂ´tel Dieu”.

American Chip and Signature Cards

American banks have decided to go chip and signature, which doesn’t solve your credit card problem in Europe for the most part. Even if you ask for a pin to go along with your chip and signature American card, they’ll consider any transaction you do as a cash advance, which can get expensive. In 2014 vendors were confused by the chip and signature cards, by now they all understand what to do, but chip and sign cards do NOT work at gas pumps where payment is automated or at toll booths. What can you do to avoid problems? Buy your gas at large gas stations that have an attendant. For instance on the toll roads there are always attendants, at least during the day. You won’t be able to us the inexpensive gas distributors at grocery stores as those are almost all automated. For the toll roads, make sure you have a lot of coins with you.

Parks and Gardens in Toulouse, Episode 76

IMG_3214Parks and Gardens in Toulouse

On today’s show Elyse tells us how long ago Toulouse was an overcrowded medieval city with dirt roads, no running water, no sanitation, and no public parks. Then a local visionary named Louis de Mondran fought the good fight to bring public parks to the city starting in the 1740s, and we still enjoy three wonderful adjacent parks at the center of Toulouse: the Boulingrin (or Grand Rond), the Jardin des Plantes, and the Jardin Royal.

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Continue reading Parks and Gardens in Toulouse, Episode 76

France on the Cheap, Bus Transportation, Episode 75

Regional Bus in Toulouse

How Do Buses Work in France?

Today is the first episode in a group of episodes that I am calling France on the Cheap where I explain some of the things you can do to save some money while in France.

Why is it important that you understand bus transportation if you never take the bus at home? Let me give you four reasons:

  • Strikes: For reasons that I won’t go into here, strikes are common in the transportation sector. Just last week there were Taxi strikes, SNCF strikes (train system), and air traffic control strikes are announced for this week. The ability to be versatile in your transportation choices will make you immune to those unpredictable strikes. If one way won’t work, choose another!
  • Buses are cheap: buses are the most inexpensive way to get around in France. They’re also more spontaneous. Flights for tomorrow may be full, but the bus probably has room.
  • WiFi on board: as the fleet gets renewed, the buses are also getting more comfortable. Some offer WiFi and plugs to charge your devices while on board. Not all of them do, compare prices and services.
  • Genuine French life: Buses are a wonderful way to get a feel for regular French people and interact with them. This is not going to be a bus full of tourists, as a matter of fact you’ll probably be the only tourist there.  These are regular French people living their regular French lives.

Trans European Buses

In this episode I also explain how buses to other European countries work, and list some of the companies you may consider. There is a lot of competition in this area because the bus is a vibrant mode of transportation in Europe.

Understanding the Bus System

How do you find out if a place where you want to go to is on a regional bus line? Since every department does it a little bit differently, you’ll need to search. Search for the following terms: bus rĂ©gional and the name of the department you want to know about. How do you know what department you’re in? Here’s the map of French departments!

French Departments and their Number
French Departments and their Number

Why You Are Better Off Without a Car In France

Driving in major French cities is not conducive to a relaxing vacation. If you need to rent a car, definitely park it at your hotel and either walk or use public transportation. There is a big cultural difference between France and North America when it comes to cars. French people who choose not to own a car or use a car are not strange in any way. Buses are popular and not seedy at all.

 Some of the Bus Companies You May Want to Consider

Isilines, IDBus, MegaBus, Bus Europe, Eurolines

French Tip of the Week

“j’ai besoin d’aide”, I need help. At the end of the show I also play a clip from a person who has a very strong South Western accent, so strong that it’s unusual.

To Prepare for Your Trip: Daytrips France

France on the Cheap, Bus Transportation
This group of people just exited their regional bus and are going towards the train station.


Sharing the Best of France