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!


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.

Musée 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 Pétanque). 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 plaît" 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 "à la carte".

  • L'entrée et le plat principal

In French "entrée" 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 soirée

What's the difference between these three expressions? Bonne soirée means "have a good evening". When you start saying bonsoir vs bonjour is subjective, it probably starts after work.

  • Hôtel de ville = Mairie

It's not a hotel at all. Neither is the "hôtel de police" or the "hôtel 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.

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Discussed in this Episode

  • RER B
  • Eiffel Tower
  • Orsay Museum
  • Luxemburg Garden
  • Arc de Triomphe
  • Honeymoon in Paris



12 Replies to “Paris Trip Report, Episode 77”

  1. Note about cell phones. If you have a GSM phone (T-Mobile or AT&T) your phone should work fine. Our T-Mobile account worked great – unlimited texting and 1 mb free internet for France and most countries. And phone calls were $.20/ minute. Our entire phone call charge for two weeks was $9.00. And everyone in our group used our phones since their I-phones were useless (Verizon).

      1. Hi Annie, I have been hoping around the episodes and listened to more than a few, it is a great resource for our upcoming trip! A quick question that has me in a bit of a panic is; if we arrive in early August and rent a car to drive to Annecy are we insane? I know from your “vacation in France” episode that traffic can be a nightmare heading south. We have already booked hotels and b&b’ sin the alps and Alsace, are there any tips you might have?

        Merci mon ami!

          1. Marvelous! We have already booked our hotels, car rental, and have the day trips planned out (from your advice), I would not have been able to do all of this without your podcast, so thank you again! On another note, the free app DuoLingo uses the same language learning method as discussed in episode 77 in a friendly interface.

            Thank you again!

  2. Hi Annie. Had a tour with Elyse in Toulouse. She is great.
    In Paris now to see the Tour de France finish on the Champs Élysée. But was in the Pyrennes without wifi or TV where I was staying (room in a house). For the first time I rented a tiny Hippocket wifi device to use with my cell phone and iPad. Best thing I ever discovered in France besides a new restaurant. Not plugging for this company. It saved me from boredom and kept me in contact with outside world. This works separate from your US phone plans. I ordered online and got the device the next day by mail delivery in a 216 population village in the mountains!!
    Easy to use and get it working.

    1. Thank you for sharing, this is exactly the sort of information we need, and it sounds like a great service to me too. When you’re in a 216 person village in the Pyrennees you NEED internet access!

  3. Hi Annie,
    Would you please clarify the name of the hotel Shari & Craig stayed in? The link above is broken and when I search on that hotel name it does not seem like it is in the same location they described.
    Many thanks,

  4. Annie,

    Just an awesome episode! Like my history I like my travel advice in the first person from the people on the ground. Exactly the kind of thing I want when heading to a new place.

    Shari & Craig are so encouraging. The work they did with learning to speak French was great. The way they embraced the difference is also an inspiration. I felt like I just had a conversation with a friend about their trip to Paris.

    It is so interesting how they loved “The Tower” when other say it is a waste. It is all in your perspective. They make me proud to be from the same country. Not all American travelers are ugly.

    Again, just a great episode thanks for all the hard work.


    1. Thank you for the kind words Randy, and yes, Shari and Craig are wonderful. Last night I attended a wedding in my village and the assistant to the mayor (who met them last summer) asked about them. The vast majority of American visitors are wonderful, no question!

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