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Tip on Using the RER in Paris
How 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.
Different Restaurants at the Eiffel Tower
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.
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.
FreeWiFi in Paris
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.
The 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.