About

"The evolving Francophile..."

My husband Jack has always wanted to live in Paris and learn French. I thought it would be good for him to achieve his life time dream. Hence, we moved to Paris in 2008. My first year was difficult. I started "missives" to relieve some stress and chronicle my life so friends back in the US could read what I am experiencing. I currently write about my food and travel experiences, which is my passion.

It is definitely a challenge to live here, but each year it gets easier, and quite enjoyable, in large part because I value friendships over locale. I have a love/hate relationship with Paris as do most Parisians, mais La vie est belle (but life is good)!

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Au Bascou -- Restaurant Review


38 Rue Réaumur, 75003
Tél. : (+33) 1 42 72 69 25 
Metro: Arts et métiers. Lines 3, 11Check Website for operating hours
Website: http://www.au-bascou.fr/


Rating Standards: 5-Stars = Extraordinary; 4-Stars = Excellent; 3-Stars = Average; 2-Stars = Fair; 1-Star = Poor
€ = Inexpensive: 30€ and under; €€ = Moderate: 31€-49€; €€€ = Expensive: €50 -75; €€€€ = Very Expensive: more than €76 (prices based on minimum 2-courses)
1-Bell = Pleasantly quiet (less than 65 decibels); 2-Bells = Can talk easily (65-70); 3-Bells = Talking normally gets difficult (70-80); 4-Bells = Can talk only in raised voices (75-90); BOMB = Too noisy for normal conversation (90+)

3.25 - Star......................................................€€......................................................... 2 - Bell


I'm back. After a month long hiatus for most Parisians, looks like Paris is back to normal. How can most people tell? First of all, more people on the streets, stores and restaurants are reopening,  and it's almost impossible to find a seat on the metro, but that's city living.



So as soon as we returned, our friend J invited us out to lunch. Surprisingly, this restaurant was open on Monday, the first day of "La Rentrée".  As we got closer to the restaurant, I realized I had been there before. And, after entering, I immediately recognized it, since the interior had not changed, even though there has been a management change as well as a new chef de cuisine.



We perused the menu, they had a suggestion du jour as well as their regular menu on a chalk board. At first glance it looked well balanced and a nice selection.


ENTRÉE

Terrine de Campagne. (Country terrine). As a general rule, I really don't care for terrines, unless they're done really well. For the most part, for me anyway, it just tastes like compressed meat and/or fowl with some fat. But I have to say, I really enjoyed this terrine. It was well balanced with pieces of pistachios for texture. There were nice smooth and chunky elements, and the accompanying salad with the citrus cut some of the fat, so this was very good.




Pimentos del Piquillos Farci, Roquette (Stuffed red peppers with rocket). Simply and beautifully presented. The red peppers were skinned and very tender. It was stuffed with a sweet mash, and the accompanying salad, was a nice accompaniment, but honestly, I don't know why they called it a rocket salad, since I didn't see any arugula in the salad. Guess they must've run out and substituted it. A good, well composed starter.










PLATS

Caille Rôti, Mousseline. (Roasted quail and a mash).  Both Jack and I had this dish. Because I ordered a la carte, I had a larger portion whereas Jack had a smaller portion. I have to say I really liked this dish. I thought the meat was perfectly cooked and tender. The mash was a bit sweet for me, so I'm guessing he added sweet potatoes. Our friend J said he would've preferred the skin crispy versus a more braised version, I would agree that texturally it would've brought it to the next level. But overall, I thought it was a very tasty good dish. Reminded me of "Filipino chicken adobo" where the skin is not crispy.





Axoa de veau façon espelette Poterne vapeur. (Veal cooked in a clay pot). Axoa is a Basque dish which is typically mashed meat seasoned with espelette (Basque red pepper). I really enjoyed the sauce that it came in. However, I doubt it was veal, unless it was really old veal, because the meat seemed very stringy and rather than mashed meat, which is characteristic of "Aaxoa" the meat was in big chunks. The flavors were spot on, but the texture of the meat and chunks was questionable.


DESSERTS



Cheese. Ardi gasa, confiture a la cerise noire. (Basque sheep Cheese with black cherries confiture). One of my all time favorite cheese is sheep cheese. Probably because it's aged and has a nice salt component to it, and oftentimes crystallized. This was perfect cheese, full of flavor and the sweetness of the cherries added to it.












Sweet desserts: 

Tourtiere pomme et pruneau glace a la vanille. (Apple and prune tart with vanilla ice cream).  Jack ordered this dish and said it was a very good dessert, the crust was flaky and the filling had the right about of balance between the prunes and apples without being overly sweet.

Creme tendre au chocolat, espuma safran (Chocolate with foam of safran). At first I was trying to figure out what this dessert was. Was it a panna cotta, was it just whipped  cream. Then I discovered that "espuma" means foam in Spanish. So basically it was a foam of saffran, but it must've been a very mild application because I didn't really taste it, and chocolate pieces. I personally did not like the foam because I think of foam as an accompanied, but not as a main component of a dessert, but the chocolate pieces were fine.


WINES

We ordered a white and a red from the same vineyard.

WHITE. Ilori Les Jonquilles Irouleguy. Known for it's citrus notes, floral and fruitiness. I loved it.

RED. Brana Vigeron Ohitza 2016 Irougleguy. Known for its intense, small red fruits, spices. As for the palate, it has nice structure, creamy, chalky, and very balanced. The finish is aromatic and long.




SUMMARY

Not much has changed physically about the restaurant, from what I remembered the last time, granted from a different Chef, it still is a good restaurant. I thought the food was above average. The service was impeccable, but it also wasn't busy. It's in a great easy location in the "Le Marais".  With Basque food, I always think of the cuisine as being very hearty with influences from Spain and France. I personally enjoy it, since there's nothing pretentious about it. It's good wholesome food and depends a lot on the freshness of the products with a heavy emphasis on tomatoes and espelette.

The price ratio excellent, so overall I would go back. For 1-formule (included starter, plat, dessert), 1-entrée a la carte, 2-plats a la carte, 1-dessert a la carte, 2-bottles of wine and 1 coffee our bill came to 161€ or roughly 54€ per person, but also keep in mind 67€ of it was for the 2-bottles of wine, otherwise the price point would have been much, much lower.


Monday, July 23, 2018

August -- Vacation begins




"CLOSED FOR AUGUST" 

Vacations for most Parisians will commence starting now through August 31st, returning to normal after "La Rentrée" (return from the holidays) starting September 1. With that said, many restaurants are actually closed in August; however, a few tourist restaurants will be open. And, I too will be going on vacation starting Wednesday July 25. So there will be no reviews for the month of August.

BONNE VACANCE À TOUS 

Le Récamier -- Restaurant Review



4 rue Récamier 75007
Tel: 01 45 48 86 58
Metro 12 (Sevres-Babylon)
website: https://lerecamier.com/fr/
Opening: Check website for operating hours. 




Rating Standards: 5-Stars = Extraordinary; 4-Stars = Excellent; 3-Stars = Average; 2-Stars = Fair; 1-Star = Poor
€ = Inexpensive: 30€ and under; €€ = Moderate: 31€-49€; €€€ = Expensive: €50 -75; €€€€ = Very Expensive: more than €76 (prices based on minimum 2-courses)
1-Bell = Pleasantly quiet (less than 65 decibels); 2-Bells = Can talk easily (65-70); 3-Bells = Talking normally gets difficult (70-80); 4-Bells = Can talk only in raised voices (75-90); BOMB = Too noisy for normal conversation (90+)

4.25 - Star......................................................€€......................................................... 2 - Bell


At the recommendation of a friend who lives close by, she suggested we try this restaurant. I'm always game to try new restaurants. I've been told by several people that their specialty are the soufflés. I used to not like soufflés because I found them unsatisfying, but have become a big fan over the years.


As I entered the restaurant, I asked if we could have a table outside. Unfortunately, all the tables outside were already reserved. So, I had the choice of the indoor, which is quite lovely, or an enclosed terrace. The difference between the enclosed terrace and the outdoor was that you can smoke outdoors by French law. So, in a way it was fortuitous that we got this table in the enclosed terrace and being able look out to the courtyard. Our wait-person came by shortly after we got our aperitifs and said a table became available outside, but we opted to stay in, since we did see a few people smoking.


MENU. We perused the menu, and they had their suggestion of the day as well as their standard menu.  Oddly enough the menu suggestion of the day did not have any soufflé option.

We opted to share 2-entrées, and each get a soufflé for our plat.










Note: There was no amuse bouche served.



ENTRÉE: Smoked salmon with blini and a caviar of eggplant. We told our wait-staff that we would be sharing the 2, there were 3 of us. To our pleasant surprise the staff divided the entrées into 3 portions. Now that's what I call service.

Interestingly, our smoked salmon was not served with a crème fraîche, it was just plain. On reflection, I think it's very rare that I've ever been served smoked salmon with a crème fraîche, a french cream cheese called "St. Moret" or even yoghurt. So I did some research and apparently as in most things french, "ça dépend" (it depends). It's not uncommon just to serve salmon plain when served with a salad and to let the salmon speak for itself. Or if you're having an hors-d'œuvre it's oftentimes pre-prepared with e.g., crème fraîche atop the blini with the salmon topping that.  So, I'm thinking since it was served as a salad and there was already oils, balsamic and lemon, they excluded the crème. However, having some e.g., crème fraîche would've cut the saltiness of the salmon. The eggplant caviar was good. Smoother than I would've liked. And, the lemon and sweet balsamic vinegar added to the dish. A good dish, but nothing extraordinary.




PLATS. Soufflé. We all had a soufflé.  And, all the soufflés came out perfectly puffed and beautiful. We all had different flavors, chevre, rouget, and I had the escargot soufflé, so I'll speak to that. At first whiff, I immediately smelled the garlic, characteristic of any good escargot dish. The escargot pieces were served on top whereas the garlic flavoring was incorporated into the soufflé. All I can say it was very light, full of flavor and lovely. One of the best soufflés I've had in Paris. First thing Jack asked when I got home was, did you have garlic? haha.

As for my friends, they each thought, as I did, that their soufflés equally were delicious as mine.







Chef GÉRARD IDOUX, has been around the cooking world a long time. He was the master chef at Cicada, next door to Le Bon Marché and had quite a following. He opened up "Le Récamier" about 12 years ago and his fans followed. I can see why; he's quite personable and his food is delicious. He came to our table several times, I guess enamored by my beautiful companions, and who wouldn't be.








SUMMARY: The location can't be beat. It's in a courtyard, so away from the pollution and noise of the cars. You have 3-choices of seatings: interior, a closed terrace, and an open air terrace, the latter being only available during warmer weather. The service was really remarkable, considering they divided our entrée proportionately by 3, even though we only ordered 2 entrées. The entrées were good, but the soufflé much better. Very light and airy, and remarkable kept its shape throughout our meal. I gave it a high rating, because for me dining is about the WHOLE experience. Atmosphere, food, serve was top notch. Would I go back, IN A HEARTBEAT. I'd like to try the other dishes besides the soufflés on the menu.

So, with 2-entrées, 3-soufflés, 1-glass of veuve cliquot champagne, 2-glasses of Bourgogne chardonnay (one comped) and one coke, and 1-bottle of evian, our bill came to 152.40€ or about 51€ rounded up per person.




















Thursday, July 19, 2018

Baieta -- Restaurant Review


5 RUE DE PONTOISE
tel: 01 42 02 59 19
Metro line #10 (Maubert - Mutualité)
Check operating hours on website
Website: https://www.restaurant-baieta-paris.fr/


Rating Standards: 5-Stars = Extraordinary; 4-Stars = Excellent; 3-Stars = Average; 2-Stars = Fair; 1-Star = Poor
€ = Inexpensive: 30€ and under; €€ = Moderate: 31€-49€; €€€ = Expensive: €50 -75; €€€€ = Very Expensive: more than €76 (prices based on minimum 2-courses)
1-Bell = Pleasantly quiet (less than 65 decibels); 2-Bells = Can talk easily (65-70); 3-Bells = Talking normally gets difficult (70-80); 4-Bells = Can talk only in raised voices (75-90); BOMB = Too noisy for normal conversation (90+)

4 - Star......................................................€€€......................................................... 2 - Bell


At a friend's recommendation we went to Julia Sedefdjian's restaurant, Baieta in the 5eme. I am very familiar with the Chef's work. I was first introduced to her cooking at the well known French celebrity chef Christian Constant's restaurant "Les Fables de la Fontaine" in the 7eme. Please refer to my review "Restaurant review--Les Fables de la Fontaine"







Shortly after we went to Les Fables de la Fontaine, Chef Julia won a Michelin star.  At  21-years old, she was the youngest women in history to win, refer to this article,  "Michelin star awarded to Julia Sedefdjian". Afterwards, she opened her own restaurant Baieta.







The restaurant is centrally located in the 5eme, close to the Seine. As you enter, it looked very simply styled, but cozy. Although they did have air conditioning, for some reason they didn't have it on. They did however have a fan close to our table that we could use. As I mentioned in past posts, as a general rule the French have an aversion to air conditioning. The fan and sitting by the open door may have been a factor in our trouble hearing each other, so I'll let this pass.





MENU. The menu looked really interesting. A little bit pricey, but they did have a pre-fixe menu of 29€ of an entrée and plat (dessert not included) of their recommended  dishes, which today offered a gazpacho, and a choice of beef cheeks or fish.

I sent a note earlier to say that one of my friends is a vegetarian, apparently they didn't get the message, but they were able to quickly modify the dishes to make them vegetarian.

And, they had an "Initiation" menu, sort of like an introduction menu or tasting menu of some of their dishes of the day, which I eventually decided to do. But I asked for cheese instead of a sweet dessert, which they easily changed out for me.






NOTE: I am not going to review all the dishes we ordered, since I had the mini-tasting menu, but will provide a brief summary of the dishes below.



AMUSE BOUCHE. Although it was just that, a complimentary amuse bouche, this was my least favorite dish. It was a focaccia topped with caramelized onions ala "pissaladière" a French pizza of onions and anchovies found in the south of France. I found the bread portion to be quite dry around the edges. My friend who was a chef and I both surmised that they must've left it out too long, which created a dryness around the exposed area of the focaccia. I think they need to get rid of this dish or replace it with something else.  But my compliments to the chef as the waitperson indicated that one of the pieces was made without anchovies to accommodate our vegetarian. 






The focaccia was accompanied with a broth of tomato and celery. The flavors were intense, but not "trop"--too intense,  and distinctive and quite good. We were told to drink it after the focaccia, we decided since the focaccia was so dry we'd have it with it. And, it worked out well. Our guess is that they either boiled the vegetables down to get the intense flavor, or dried and reconstituted it, to get the intense flavor.  Regardless a very good broth that I could've continued drinking.









ENTRÉE, Gazpacho.  This soup was really refreshing. It was a soup made of watermelon, tomatoes and balled cantaloupes, what we believed to be a dollop of the soft center portion of burrata cheese. It did have a little saffron, which we all liked.

I absolutely loved this dish, although it sounds complicated, it really isn't and for a warm summer's day, perfect for the body and tastebuds. A hit.








PLATS

NOTE: I did have 2-plats since I ordered the "initiation" menu.

Fish.  Our wait person told me that it was a "Saint Pierre fish", which we know as john dory fish. The fish was accompanied by a fennel mash, with a thick creamy broth with a taste of saffron. It was served along side with an aioli butter and toast also with a dab of saffron.  Let me just say I loved this dish. The fish was perfectly cooked and all the flavors blended well to compliment one another. Even though it was accompanied by a creamy soup base the flavors were distinct and crisp.  I would definitely have this dish again.




Beef cheeks. Although the beef cheeks did not look very attractive because of the long braising, it was absolutely delicious. The beef cheeks were so tender and had just the right amount of fat that prevented it from drying out. It was accompanied by creamy pureed carrots and crispy sweet potato chips so you had the juxtaposition of something smooth and creamy and a crispy textural element. This was my 2nd plat so unfortunately I wasn't able to finish it, because I was already getting full. In retrospect I probably should've just gotten 3-courses, since I'm really not that big of an eater. Anyway, this dish was a hit and will be a hit for any carnivore.




DESSERT. Cheese. I try to stay away from sweets so I asked them to substitute the sweet dessert for a cheese plate, which they easily accommodated. They had a wonderful combination of cheeses for me: aged gouda (surprising since it's not french), camembert and blue. With it came confiture of rhubarb as well as an orange compote. It was accompanied with what looked like a sweet/savory toast of pistachios and dried fruit, which I've never been fond of because they remind me too much of dried fruitcake. Regardless the cheese was delicious. Like I always say, you can't go wrong with cheese in France.






MISCELLANEOUS DISHES others had.

1. Octopus
2. Vegetarian (melange)
3. Skate fish

Although I was not able to taste the dishes others ordered, they did all give me an overwhelming thumbs up. Especially for the Octopus and the skate fish.









Mignardise. I'm not sure if these little cakes were trying act like a yeast cake used in baba rhum. My guess is they were made with baking powder. Personally I found them very sweet and way too heavy and dense after such a big meal. But then again, I'm not that fond of sweets anyway.






SUMMARY. "I've always been a big fan of Chef Julia when I was introduced to her cooking in Les Fables de la Fontaine." I went a few more times and found it consistently good. With the exception of 2-insignificant courses, the amuse bouche and mignardise, the food was excellent. The tomato/celery broth was intense, refreshingly clean and cool. The gazpacho reflected a nice summer soup with fresh melons. I had the surf and turf, and both the fish and the beef cheeks were delicious and I would definitely have them again. Would I go back, ABSOLUTELY!

Now to the service. That's a different story. Although the wait staff were very nice, they really didn't seem to be fine tuned with the food. For example, one person asked for a "lemon pressé", she said OK, what came was water with lemon in them? I had pre-arranged a vegetarian meal, but no one got the message. I had to ask for ice 3-times to 2-different wait-staff. And, our gazpacho was served, but we had no spoons, so had to ask for spoons?

So, overall, I would've given it a much, much higher rating if not for the service being erratic, and not for the insignificant dishes of the amuse bouche and mignardise, which I've discounted in this overall review. As I always say, dining is about the whole experience.

For 3-prix-fixe menus, 1-initiation menu (tasting menu), 2-a-la-carte dishes, 2-bottled water and 2-coffees our bill came to 229€ or 45.80€ per person.







Friday, July 13, 2018

The Dude Restaurant -- Restaurant Review


84 Rue du Faubourg Saint-Denis
Metro line 4 (Chateau d'eau)
Tel: 01 45 89 40 24
Website: www.thedude-restaurant.fr
Closing July 31 so make reservations now.


Rating Standards: 5-Stars = Extraordinary; 4-Stars = Excellent; 3-Stars = Average; 2-Stars = Fair; 1-Star = Poor
€ = Inexpensive: 30€ and under; €€ = Moderate: 31€-49€; €€€ = Expensive: €50 -75; €€€€ = Very Expensive: more than €76 (prices based on minimum 2-courses)
1-Bell = Pleasantly quiet (less than 65 decibels); 2-Bells = Can talk easily (65-70); 3-Bells = Talking normally gets difficult (70-80); 4-Bells = Can talk only in raised voices (75-90); BOMB = Too noisy for normal conversation (90+)

4.25 - Star......................................................€€......................................................... 2 - Bell

This restaurant is located in a funky neighborhood of the 10eme that is up and coming, but can still seem a little seedy. I was debating whether to review this restaurant or not since they are closing the end of the month and rebranding themselves to build a new restaurant. Well I decided to write a review #1 to give them the accolades they deserve, and #2 we can follow the chefs to their new restaurant which will probably be opened around September after "La Rentrée," so hopefully this review will give you a sense of their food sensibility.




INTERIOR.  The interior is quite lovely, very sleek clean and welcoming. I was a bit surprised that only 3-tables were occupied, but our wait person told us they're not as busy for lunch as they are for dinner. The restaurant was opened by Geoffrey Rembert and assisted by chef Lucie Martin.




AMUSE BOUCHE. In the meantime, we got an amuse bouche of "panisse" which is a dish from Provence, typically served in fingers (almost like fries), it has a crispy exterior, and a creamy almost custard-like interior, reminiscent of polenta. And, the good thing about these nibbles is that they're low in carbohydrates and gluten free, for those watching your figure.














MENU: Just in description alone, the menu was quite eclectic and very creative. So, I was anxious to try all the appetizers, but decided it might be too much.


ENTRÉES

Pastèque (Watermelon). I loved this entrée, it was slightly grilled with a brushing of olive oil and salt and pepper. It was served with dollops of creme fraîche, which gave it some creaminess.  In its simplicity, it was quite refreshing and naturally sweet (no sugar added), perfect for a warm summer day.














Pain Gua Bao (Salmon steamed buns).  This dish really surprised me. It was quite creatively constructed in that it was a deconstructed bao with ingredients not normally associated with steamed buns. First of all, at first glance the buns were black, because they were made with squid ink. But the texture and taste was typical of a steamed bun, with slight ink taste, but not overwhelming. The salmon was gravlax and it was interestingly different since bao is normally served steaming hot, but actually in combination was delicious. I loved this dish for its uniqueness and creativity.






PLATS

MAQUEREAU. This was the fish of the day. Normally mackerel has a very strong, for a lack of better word, "fishy" smell and taste. But this mackerel was very mild and quite tasty. The skin was perfectly cooked and the vinaigrette sauce was a nice combination to cut some of the oiliness of the fish. The greens and apricots gave it some freshness. So, overall it's a well conceived dish.








POITRINE DE COCHON. (Pork Belly). I ordered this dish. Wow, it was a rich dish, in a good way. The meat was extremely tender, but this dish might not be for everyone since typical of pork belly, the fat is also eaten and not omitted. The fat was like butter. The peanuts added a nice texture to the overall dish. What I wish it had was a vinaigrette sauce or a salad added since it was quite fatty. But the meat itself was perfectly cooked.






SARDINES. This had to be one of my favorite dishes of the day. Hard to see from the photo, but the sardines were made into rolls and sat side-by-side atop some mildly flavored hummus, with a few sprinkling of peas. Typically, when you think of sardines, you think of canned sardines with its brininess and strong flavors. This was fresh, grilled and very tasty with a mild marinate. I would definitely have this again if I go before they close.






DESSERTS


We decided to share two desserts.:

BLACK FOREST CAKE. What a surprise. Who knew that basil would be a good match with chocolate. And, what a creative dish. It was a deconstructed "black forest cake" with sweetened marinated cherries, whipped cream with a chocolate mousse sitting atop a crumbly chocolate cake, which I could immediately tell was made of lots of egg whites because of the crumbly texture. So, texturally it had all the components of a very good dessert for chocolate lovers.

RHUBARB TART. Beautifully constructed was a rhubarb tart sitting atop a meringue type of crust. It was topped with some rhubarb cream and various cuts of rhubarb. The rhubarb itself was tart, the way it should be, and the sweetness from the crust along with the cream balanced it out.

These desserts were so extraordinary that Jack ran up to the pastry chef to ask if she was single because he would like to marry her!



SUMMARY

This find was bittersweet. What a great little restaurant in a funky neighborhood. The dishes were very creative, tasty and well balanced. All the dishes were good, only suggestion I would have is to add something citrusy or vinegary to the pork, to cut down on some of the fattiness. My favorite dish was the sardines, full of flavors, none overpowering the other, but very well balance.

Unfortunately, this restaurant will close end of July and rebrand itself after "La Rentrée" (September). So go soon and be on the lookout for these very talented chefs. I will post an update. If this is a sampling of their food, would I go to their new restaurant, you betcha.

For 2-entrées, 3-plats, 2-desserts, 2-bottles of wine, and 3-coffees our bill came to 131.70€ or 33€ per person, what a great deal.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

General tourist information about Paris




It's that time of the year again, where throngs of tourists will descend on Europe and especially the most visited city in the world, Paris. Jack put together some information that might be helpful to first time visitors as well as those returning.

In no particular order:






SAFETY.  In general, Paris is very safe; violent crime is rare however pick-pocketing is epidemic, and scam artists (typically Roma girls) are always hovering around tourist areas. Women walking alone at 3am generally will be ok.

Refer to my tips on avoiding being pickpocketed.  Click on following link. "Pickpocketing"


















MONEY/CASH. The Euro (€) is used throughout most of the EU and of course in France.  You will most likely not be able to use any other type of money.  The exchange rate varies widely but the Euro is stronger than the US dollar so if something costs 1€ it will translate to you as costing more than $1.  The small value coins are called centimes in France (but their legal name in Euro cents).  Prices are typically written 2€50.  The best way to get Euros is via an ATM rather than using an exchange counter. French banks rarely have cash; people wanting cash get it from an ATM.




ATMs. ATMs are everywhere but check with your bank if they have partners or networks they participate with, and how much is your daily limit.  I don't think French banks charge a fee but many American banks do and some American banks charge a fee (eg $5) per transaction plus an additional % (eg 3%) on the exchange rate!  But you will get the best rates using ATMs.  I do not recommend getting Euros ahead of time at a US bank as they give terrible rates, frequently take several days (you can't just walk in at most branches), and it is so easy to find ATMs in Europe.  Safety is not usually an issue (cover the keypad when entering your pin so the code can't be seen).  And of course using a credit card to get cash is very expensive.  ATMs will usually ask you what language you want.




CREDIT CARDS.  You should have no problems using your credit cards.  Visa and Mastercard are widely accepted, American Express less so, Diners almost none, and Discover not at all.  Hopefully you have a credit card from an issuer that doesn't charge the extra fees for international usage, eg Cap 1, Schwab, certain Citi, the Costco Visa card, etc.  If your card does not have a chip however there are some automatic machines like in train/metro stations that might not work at all, and some may not work even if you have a chip but no pin.  But if there is a ticket counter you will not have a problem.  However some online merchants have problems with US credit cards.  Do let your credit card and ATM providers know of your travel plans.




AIRPORT.  At the airport, if you are planning on taking a taxi do not use anyone who approaches you..use the regular taxi rank (some touts stand at the entrance to the taxi ranks; ignore them). Taxi fares FROM the CDG airport to Paris are fixed 50€ to the right bank and 55€ to the left bank.  Uber FROM the airport is not much better and more difficult to arrange the meeting point.  There are lots of other options such as buses and trains and shuttle services.  Given Paris traffic, the train may be fastest (when not on strike) but with luggage and the stairs, and the potential of pickpockets, it may not be the most pleasant.  And then you need to get from the train/bus station to your lodging.  Going TO the airport taxi fares are also fixed (same price point 50/55€) and Uber might be a better solution for you if you are not taking public transit.  CDG (Charles de Gaulle) is around an hour north of Paris and is the principle international airport and you need to know which terminal your flights arrives/departs (terminal 1, 2A,2B,2C,2D, 2E, 2F, 2G, and 3). ORY (Orly) is around 45 minutes south of Paris and has 2 terminals (Orly-sud/south Orly-ouest/west).  Fixed taxi rates to/from Orly are €30 to the left bank and €35 to the right bank.  Ryanair flies out of Beauvais which is reachable only by bus and is quite inconvenient.




PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION.  Paris has an extensive network of various integrated public transit systems, with the metro being the easiest option for tourists.  Once you are used to the way the metro works it is quite easy and will get you almost anywhere you want to go in Paris.  The public buses are difficult for tourists as the routes are somewhat byzantine.  The suburban trains are called the RER (or the Transilian) and you probably won't be using them. However the RER does have several stops within Paris and could be used like the metro.  Although the same tickets in Paris are used on all the Parisian transports, the tickets are paired differently with the Metro/RER being one pairing, and the busses/trams being another.  This is only a concern when transferring between modes; e.g. you cannot use the same ticket to transfer from the metro to a bus, but you can use the same ticket to transfer from 1 bus to another bus or tram, or from a metro to a Paris RER.  Within the metro system you can transfer between lines at stations where lines intersect (transfer is called correspondance). Tickets on the metro are good only within the system; once you exit a station that ticket is no longer good.  For the buses the ticket is good for 90 minutes.  Fares are 1 price on the metro, and within Paris on the RER and buses; fares going outside of Paris are variable depending on where you get on and get off.  You need a ticket to get into the transport but only need the ticket to exit the system on the RER/Transilian. However keep your ticket until you exit the system in case there is an inspector.  In general it is best to buy a 'carnet' of tickets (10 tickets) rather than individual tickets for a better deal and you get 10 tickets which you can distribute as you please (ie you and your travel companions can use the tickets; you don't each need your own carnet but you each need your own ticket).  Tickets bought from the driver on a bus cost a bit more and are not good for transfers, so buy your tickets from a machine or ticket agent at a metro or tram station.  The ticket machines are somewhat confusing and some only accept coins.  Some machines won't accept American credit cards but many do.  If there is a ticket agent and the machine does not accept your card then you can buy your tickets from the agent.



MOBILE PHONES.  Check with your cellphone provider on coverage and costs and making sure you have the international option turned on.  European cell networks use GSM (ie what ATT and T-Mobile use) but most smart phones usually have multiple protocols.  And be sure to turn off data roaming as you can run up huge bills very easily.  You can also get local sim cards if you wish.  To call US phone numbers on your cell use +1 and then the area code/number.  For French numbers use +33 plus the area code and number (remember to drop the leading zero, eg if the French number is 06.12.34.56.78 you would dial +33612345678.  The plus sign is generally found on the zero key on your phone.  French cell number start with 06 or 07 and calls to cell phones are charged extra.  Paris landlines start with 01 or 09.  There are a variety of 800 type numbers but they are generally not free and work more like 900 numbers in the US.  If you are on a fixed line, for calls to the US dial 00-1-area code-number.  In many lodgings (not hotels) calls to most of the world, including the US, are free.  Unlike the US, calls to customer service lines (eg airlines, online merchants, etc) are charged per minute despite being an 800 type of number.



FOOD/RESTAURANTS.  Most restaurants prefer reservations, which can be made the same day (unless you are talking about someplace famous), so if you see a place that looks interesting on your walk or someone has suggested a place, make a booking.  Remember most restaurants vs cafes/brasseries do not open until 7:30pm for dinner.  If you do walk into a restaurant and you don't have a reservation, and the place is half empty, don't be offended if they say they are full..the tables are probably reserved for a later time and they will not seat you in case you decided to linger.  Please refer to this blog, www.parismissives.com with restaurant critiques. At fancier places lunch is generally cheaper than dinner but is mostly the same food.  There are online booking systems (eg thefork.com) for many restaurants so you don't have to try to book on the telephone (in French).  Although the French might be famous for food, food in Paris is a real crapshoot.  You usually will eat well at good restaurants outside of Paris but in Paris you really need to avoid the tourist places.  Anything Rick Steves has written about is the kiss of death.  If you like spicy food forget Paris (and most of Europe) as they hate spicy food.  If you do go to a Thai or Indian place be sure to tell them you are not French and to make it they way they would eat it.  And never go for Mexican food in Europe; as you will HATE it.  Maghreb food (Moroccan, Tunisian, etc) is pretty good (couscous, tagines), as is Middle Eastern (Lebanese).  Paris probably does not have as big a choice of ethnic places (avoid Chinese, but Lao, Cambodian and Vietnamese are good) because, as the French would say, if you can eat French why would you eat anything else?

The biggest question often asked, do we tip?  Please refer to this link "Tipping etiquette in France". New to France, at some restaurants there is a space for "tip" on your credit card receipt, leave it blank. If you must leave a few Euros, leave it in cash to ensure it goes to the server and NOT the restaurant. Service, which for us would be "tips" by French law is included in the overall bill. Remember anything extra is a token of appreciation and not to supplement income since servers earn a living wage.




ONLINE TICKETS.   For many popular places like museums, Versailles, theatres, etc it is always
better to reserve ahead of time so you can skip the lines waiting for tickets.  But of course you then need to know, and are committed to, a particular date and time.  And some online systems might not accept a US card.  In general you will need to have a printer to print the ticket as not all places will accept a photo on a mobile phone.





TRANSPORT OUT OF PARIS. Trains (not so much the suburban ones around Paris) in France are excellent and the TGVs are fast.  EasyJet is a good low cost airline (although their carry-on policy is a bit strict).  Ryan air is super cheap, charge for everything, but they fly out of weird airports; eg Paris Beauvais airport is way out there and can only be reached by a long bus ride, whereas EasyJet flies from both deGaulle and Orly.  If you make bookings way in advance the Eurostar chunnel train is excellent, fast, and affordable, city center to city center (eg London St Pancras to Paris Gare du Nord), similarly the Thalys train between Amsterdam and Paris.  The Thalys train to Brussels is only 90 minutes... you could go there for lunch and back!




MUSEUMS.  Going to museums in the mornings tends to avoid the longest lines.  The first Sunday of the month many museums are free (not true for the Louvre Apr-Sep) and packed so a good time to avoid.  I think students 18-25 who can show residency in an EU country are also free.  If you are interested in seeing several Paris museums in a short period of time there is a museum pass.  The museum passes are great IF you plan to hit several museums in a row as the multi-day passes are for consecutive days (I am not familiar with the Paris Pass but in general they are usually not a good deal).  The Louvre and the Orsay are open late on different days so if you do a museum pass you do some of the minor museums during the day and then the Orsay or Louvre late afternoon.  Most museums are closed on Monday, some on Tuesdays (Louvre), and some have late hours certain days during the week.  Almost all the museums have a website, usually with English.  Also, most museums have an online ticket/reservation system so you don't have to stand in the long entrance lines to purchase tickets; look for a special entrance/line if you already have your ticket.

Our favorite museum is the Musee d'Orsay and it is doable in 1-day and the building is beautiful.
The Louvre is a zoo... way too big and really can't be done in a day.  If you go, plan ahead.  Figure out what type of art you like (eg period/region, Flemish, Italian, ancient Egyptian/Greek, objects d'art, etc) , where in the Louvre it is, and see what's of interest to YOU first, then if you have time and stamina, see other things.  The Mona Lisa is usually a madhouse and you might not even get close to it.  There is a terrific wing of objects d'art from Louis IV or VI if you like porcelain, crystal, etc, and the Napoleon Apartments.

The Rodin has a large garden with sculptures but if it is rainy that's probably not the best place.
The Carnavalet (history of Paris) museum I believe is free.
The quai Branly has 'primitive' art (Pacific Islander, totems, figurines, etc).

There are several Jewish museums but we find them very depressing.




SEINE CRUISES.  I always recommend if tourists want to take a Seine cruise, skip the Bateau Mouche/Bateau Vedettes/etc that just ply the Seine, and go on the Canal St Martin cruise (ParisCanal.com).  This boat starts (or vice-versa) at the Parc de la Villette up on the 19th district, floats down a series of locks on the Canal St Martin, goes UNDER Paris for 1.5 km, enters the Seine by Bastille and ends up at the Musee d'Orsay. It's 2.5 hours, smaller boat with only 3 languages (the big boats have hundreds of passengers and speak 10 languages) and is relaxing. Paris Canal fills up so it is almost mandatory you reserve in advance.



PLACES OF INTEREST OUTSIDE OF PARIS.  Versailles is stupendous but also a zoo and you should try to get tickets ahead of time online.  It is a short train (or bus) ride from Paris.

Giverny (Monet's garden) is also a nice day trip, as is Chartres.

Avoid the Marche aux Puces Clignacourt/St Ouen unless you are going to the very expensive antique part located behind the racailles who sell stolen clothes.









PRIMARY TOURIST ATTRACTIONS. Notre Dame, Sacre Coeur, walking by the Eiffel Tower/Trocadero (I don't think it is worth it to go up the tower), see the Pont Alexandre III bridge, walk along the Seine at night, see the Opera Garnier both during the day and when it is lit up at night.  There are lots of parks/gardens in Paris; the Jardin de Luxembourg is really nice and large, and Buttes-Chaumont is interesting, also the Palais Royal and Place des Voges. If you have young children the Jardin d'acclimatation and Jardin des plantes have animals.   A place that most tourists don't see/know about is the remains of a Roman amphitheater (arenes de lutece).  I don't like the Champs Elysees but the Arc de Triomphe is there but should be avoided it at night.

Don't forget you can generally reserve online for most things so you don't have to stand in a ticket line.


MOST OF ALL, HAVE FUN in our adopted city.