Je voudrais un Big-mac… Now please!

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Warning this blog post may massively offend French people and especially people from Paris. I decided to write a post all about food. I’ve lived in Paris for two years and the food is just wonderful. But I’m not talking about French food. I do think French food is wonderful, don’t get me wrong. It’s one of the best cuisines in the world and some dishes are beautifully complex. But there are probably over a million blogs and articles dedicated to the task of telling everyone how wonderful the food in Paris is. But if you are a bit like me, you guys probably will get a bit sick of the change and want some old fashioned American food.

 

First of all, if you feel this way, don’t feel guilty. It happens to the best of us. Just because I get a craving for stuffed potato skins or a pumpkin pie doesn’t mean I hate French food and it doesn’t mean that I’m turning my nose up at it either. It just means, there is a little part of me that misses my home and I wanna have a part of that … on a plate. After you have killed the guilt, you need to embrace the pride. If you say you are craving American food to some Europeans, they will literally expect you to either run into a movie theatre and demand popcorn or attempt to find the nearest McDonalds. We have good food and ok, it’s definitely not as respected worldwide as French or Italian food but we need to have some pride in our food. My country’s cuisine is not exclusively defined by fast food. So with this in mind, I decided to write a blog about my favorite American eatery.

 

The place I like to eat at, is called Breakfast in American (easy name, right). And it’s actually so good, that there’s two of them. I just discovered that recently when I was wandering the streets of Paris and found it. Both are pretty much the same. The one I generally go to is in 17 Rue des Écoles that’s in the 4th district of Paris. A nice area and pretty touristy and international so its possible you will be in the area anyway, either to sightsee or because you’ve rented a luxury apartment or a nice hotel room. Think of this place as a cross between a New York diner and a trendy Brooklyn brunch cafe. There are also many more great places dotted around the city, such as Ralphs in the 6th district or Joe Allen in the first district and many many more. Eat with pride my fellow tourists and never let your cravings make you feel guilty. Now if you will excuse me, I’m going to have a peanut butter sandwich and an Oreo milkshake.

Summer Reading

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As the peak Summer season draws ever closer, we are all getting prepared for our summer vacations. For some people this will involve months and months at the gym, as they work tirelessly to get into shape and get the beach body they’ve always dreamed of. For other people, it’s about getting all the accessories, the clothes, the glasses, the bags, the right suitcases ( because you really need to separate yourself from everyone else at the baggage collection point). Other types of people, who are better than I am, might even try to learn the local language and pick up some facts or general knowledge about the area. What a great idea, but not something I will be doing. I believe in relaxing during my holiday time. For me the preparation begins and ends with one thing – a good book.

If you have a wander around your local high street now, you’ll find every window display is full of ideas and suggestions for novels and stories you should take with you on your vacation. For me, it is so important to sit back and relax and get into a good story. Every summer, I rent a apartment for a couple of days in central Paris and spend a considerable period of time, reading outside a cafe, while sipping my coffee, or reading in a beautiful local park, or my personal favorite, on the balcony of my apartment in the morning and just after sunset.

I’m a pretty slow reader. A book of about 500 pages can take me well over a week to finish. I know some people, who love reading like me, can literally finish a book in 24 hours or even less if the story is that compelling. So I decided to write this post for all the tourists out there, who spend ages choosing their summer read and then finish it in rapid time and don’t know where to get another one.

Paris actually has a lot of English language bookshops. The vast majority of them can be found in the centre. Ok, it’s true, a lot of the iconic bookshops have disappeared and this is a terrible shame. It seems like a difficult business to try and create an independent book shop exclusively selling books in English in the heart of Paris. But there are still many options available, even if they are slightly on the more commercial side of things. For me, WHS is always nearby. It’s on the same street as the Louvre, so you will definitely be in the area (number 248). It’s also great for English and American newspapers, so you can catch up on the latest news, if you don’t have a T.V in your apartment. Another great option is Shakespeare and Company ( no connection to the man himself) Just across the river in the 6th, this place has a better stock and is less commercial than WHS, so you can spend some time here and get lost in the titles. So much better than ordering online and a great way to spend an afternoon.

Paris from a high

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I recently read a book called my 20,000 wonders of the world. It wasn’t a travel guide as you might think. It was a kind of an anti travel guide. The book encouraged readers to visit famous places but to see beyond the famous sites and discover something for themselves. I’m not sure, if I achieved exactly that, but I did learn an interesting fact. I love interesting facts.

A nice Japanese man informed me that the highest point in  Paris is….. wait for it……. hold on…. not actually the top of the Eiffel Tower. I always thought it was. It was a nice piece of friendly information, it was just a shame that he decided to make this announcement to everyone in the elevator. The elevator in the Eiffel Tower. There I was, speeding up at high speed in a metal box, only to be told… that its not actually the top of Paris. Some tourists in the elevator ( the ones, I’m guessing that could speak English) asked our Japanese expert friend what was, in fact the highest point in Paris. Any ideas? I think if you live in the city of Paris, it’s not that much of a secret but it’s not something I ever knew or gave much thought to. If you look at the skyline of Paris, it does look like the Eiffel Tower is the tallest building in Paris and this is true, it is. Although, I’m not sure if it’s correct, to call it a building. Lets call it a structure, just to keep everyone happy. Our Japanese friend told us that theres a big hill in Paris in the 18th district and on top of that hill there is a church, a rather famous church, that you can climb to the top of (with a lot of difficulty, if you smoke a lot, like me) – the Sacre Cour.

The Sacre Cour is not a secret to anyone. Apparently after Notre Dame, it’s the most visited church is Paris. But I never knew it was higher than the Eiffel Tower and when you take a picture of the Parisian skyline, its cool to have the Eiffel Tower included in it. .

After doing some basic research on the internet, it seems the largest structure in Paris still the Eiffel Tower but Bellville on the Rue du Telegraphe is the highest elevation point at 148 meters above sea level. The Sacre Cour is built on a 135 meters elevation. So while the Eiffel Tower is much larger, the church is built on much higher ground. So, I guess the Japanese tourist was right unless anyone out there cares to challenge him. I do always love a good debate and I hate when I don’t know stuff that’s apparently obvious to everyone.

New York or Paris ?

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A recent walk along the Seine, I noticed a replica of the Statue of Liberty. Yes, a replica. That’s what I thought and that’s what I said to my French friend when she looked at me in a facial expression that was a delicate mix of horror and humor. “This is the original one. The one in your country is a replica”, she replied. Was this something I was suppose to know? I must have missed it in history class.

Walking along the Seine, about 30 miss after the Eiffel Tower, away from the centre, you’ll find a smaller “version” of New York’s most iconic statue. I know the story behind the Statue of Liberty. It was given by the French to the U.S as a gift to celebrate American Independence. I think this is common knowledge in the U.S but I didn’t realize that our American one was the real replica.

I did a little bit of internet research and all I can say it God bless the internet, because although the iconic statue was given the U.S in 1886, the one I was looking at was actually a replica. Don’t get me wrong, it is interesting and to accidentally stumble upon it, without knowing about it was a real surprise indeed. But it was created after the New York one.

The nearest metro station is Javal, and the statue is on a tiny island on the Seine river. You just have to walk across the Pont de Grenelle. It’s pretty cool.

But the reason I wanted to write this post was because I actually found the “original” Statue of Liberty and she really is in Paris. It was constructed by Frederic Bartholdi. Before he made the absolutely massive one, he made a smaller one, 6ft in height and also constructed in bronze. My guide book told me I would find it in the Jardin du Luxembourg and beside her is a memorium to the 9/11 attacks in New York. When I went to look for her, she was gone. The plaque is still there but no statue. With no French, I didn’t know how to ask where it was.

Luckily, the very next day, while I was checking out the Musee des Arts et Metiers, I found her. Right outside. It was the second time in a few days, I stumbled upon the design. Apparently, there are a few other examples or replicas of the statue scattered across Paris and copies of the design can be found in places as far off as Beijing, Ireland and even our beloved Las Vegas, which pretty much has a copy of everything.

So I guess the moral of this story is too not believe everything you are told and see for yourself. Paris will surprise you everytime.

The Best Film Festival

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One of the many reasons why I love Paris so much, is because of the sheer volume of artistic and cultural offerings that the city has. Like New York or London, Paris is a multicultural city and a leader in the world of art. I recently experienced this at the annual Festival of International Documentary Films, or to give its correct French title – Cinema du Reel.

For 10 days every year, the city plays host to an inspiring array of informative documentaries from the around the world. What struck me most about this festival was the diversity of subject matter on offer. When the festival says global, they really do mean global. From immigration. The rules in Canada to the Amazon rainforests, politics and the environment took central stage this year.

The event is held around the middle of march each year and it just keeps getting bigger and bigger as more talented directors and producers attempt to capture your attention by showcasing the issues that really matter to them. It is a competition at the end of the day, but I have to say, as a viewer, I wasn’t particularly concerned with which one I thought was better or worse. I watched a total of 4 over the 3 days that I had off work.

Tickets were not that expensive. The average price was around 3 euros. For me, it’s things like this, that give Paris a massive advantage over other major multicultural cities – events are not that expensive. The competition is funded by the National Library of Paris and so the tickets are heavily subsidized by the organizers. Many people might disagree with me or hate for saying it, but in my opinion if events like these were in London or New York, they would cost triple the price. Art is so accessible in Paris.

The Cinema du Reel, has been going strong since 1979 and has always been hosted in the Centre Pompidou, although in recent years, screenings have been shown in different locations as it has become so big. Each movie is screened 3 times, so theres no need to panic if you don’t get the opportunity to see it first time round.

The reason why I choose to write a blog entry about this particular festival, is that I don’t think theres a a lot of content out there (in English anyway) about the modern art events that happen in this wonderful city. I mean, we all know about Impressionism and the Louvre and so on.. But it’s important to remember that this city is not only relying on its history to attract and inspire people. Events like this one, help remind me that I live in a very modern city. I’m surrounded by hundreds of years of history, yes, but I’m also in a central and dynamic place.

As for the films, although I didn’t think it was competition, I did have a favorite. The Indian production called The Battle for Banaras. It was incredible. It’s about the political story of India’s prime minister. But I guess that’s another blog post.

Passy

 

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The Parisian district of Passy has long been overlooked by tourists and rarely appears on ones list of things to see and do in the city. Located in the 16th district of Paris, it has traditional been home to some of the city’s wealthiest residents. Elegant, and quiet, Passy is a great place to stay for easy access to the city but having the comfort of staying in your own secret corner of the city.

 

Not famous for its monuments or museums, Passy is considered to be the real Paris. Walking along the streets for a couple of hours, you probably won’t hear a lot of English or see queues of people holding cameras, maps or guide books…waiting to get in somewhere. You will also probably notice that a lot of the restaurants don’t come equipped with menus in English, German and Spanish. This is where real people live and spending just a couple of days here will give a vast insight into real Parisian culture and daily life and if you choose to spend a few days longer, you’ll notice how vastly different it is from the rest of the city.

 

For me, I stumbled upon Passy accidentally, I think that’s how a lot of people tend to discover it. My first trip to Paris was a short weekend break to visit a friend. I had never been to the city before, and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to stuff every bit of sightseeing, into my schedule. I had to spend at least half a day in the Louvre, I had to go up the Eiffel Tower, party in the Latin Quarter and I had a long list of recommendations from friends about where I should go to eat. I enjoyed my stay a lot and even now, looking back at my holiday photos, I’m still impressed about how I managed to do everything. But experience has taught me a lot.

 

It wasn’t so much a holiday, more like checking things off a list. My friend, a old university friend who had moved to Paris to study a masters, had taken up residents in Passy. At first glance, I loved it. Its beautiful and unlike many parts of Paris, its quite green. But I literally did not spend any time there. I was too busy taking the short metro journey to the very centre of Paris and seeing all the things I needed to see. But I’m happy to say that the second time I went back to visit, I had a totally different experience.

 

When you visit the city of Paris, or any city for that matter, the most important thing to do, is not see all the famous stuff. The most important thing that you need to do is find the pace of the city. Paris is a remarkably lived in city and each district is a bit like a world of its own. Second time around, I got to know the pace of Passy. I didn’t leave the district at all really. I felt like I had discovered a part of the city just for me. So what’s so great about it then?

 

The off the beaten track feeling is great and as the number one destination for tourists in the entire world, you kind of feel a bit like you’re doing the same thing as everyone else… until you get to Passy. Secondly, its beautiful. Located on the river bank of the river Seine, you are never far from amazing views and a nice walk along the river. Surrounding the district are some of the largest parks and green areas in the city and the big boulevards lined with trees. Haussman designed it, (like most parts of the city) so its big and spacious. An interesting fact, which a very knowledgeable Passy resident told me, is that the 16th districts is one of the largest districts in the whole city but with a very low population density. The moment he said it, it quickly became so obvious to me. People don’t really live on top of each other here like they do in other parts of the city. You can breathe. In Paris, especially in the summer time, that’s so important.

 

What about food?

 

Passy is an up-market place and most of the city’s rich live here. It has a defining elegant and chic characteristic and that shows in the food. The restaurants here are top notch but are much less flashy and much more unassuming than places in the city centre. What draws local people to these places, is not the location (beside famous sights) or the decor, its the food. Nothing more and nothing less. For me, this a big plus and its super important to remember that while this city boosts some of the finest restaurants and cuisine in the whole world, you need to be a bit careful where you eat as you could end up paying a lot for a little. Like every other city, there are traps where tourists can fall into. I’m happy to say that I felt like in Passy, I could just walk in anywhere and never really felt like I wasn’t going to get good food or my money’s worth. It really takes a lot of the stress out of the doing the best activity in Paris … Eating.

 

Is it easy to get around?

 

Yes. But it’s not the centre. I specifically remember my friend telling me that it was 5 metro stations away from the Champs Elysees. 5? That far. Wow. I must really be in a deep suburb, I thought to myself. But this is absolutely not the case. Unlike other cities the metro in Paris, really only goes around the central part. So 5 stations, is not exactly what you might think at first. The stations are all super close to each other, almost a minute apart. So 5 stations, become 5 minutes, which makes it a lot nearer. That’s something to think about, when you are trying to chose a luxury apartment in a nice district of the city. Oh and perhaps the biggest selling point, is that you can walk to the Eiffel Tower, and what a walk that is. If you choose to stay in Passy, you can follow the river to the tower but you will approach it from a completely different direction. If you’re a little nerdy like me, this will also make you feel like a bit of a V.I.P.

 

Ok, so what is there to do in Passy?

 

It does have it’s fair share of museums and they are definitely worth a visit. The range of different options is quite impressive for a district that it considered residential. From the homes of famous French writers to impressive thought-provoking art galleries, Passy packs in a lot more than you would expect at first glance. And the great thing about these smaller galleries is they tend to have a lot of free exhibits. I got the privilege to go to a gallery opening, completely free, of a local French graphic designer. It was amazing and they gave me free wine. What could possibly be better? According to my friend, events like that happen all the time in Passy, but tend to go under the radar of tourists. For me, it was a defining event in my French experience.

 

 

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Some random facts about Passy, that you probably never knew,,,,

 

Benjamin Franklin lived here One of the most important icons in American history lived in the small corner of Paris for 7 years during the American Civil . The is now a street named after him called Rue to Benjamin Franklin.

 

Passy was only added into the city of Paris in 1860 and was one of the last regions to form the Paris we know today. Before that, Passy was a commune and was separated from the city. It is largely for this reason, that the place as has a village feel to it.

 

One of the museums, I hinted at earlier, is the Maison De Balzac, which Honoré de Balzac lived and wrote in Passy. I can’t call myself a book critic or literary expert and if you’re reading this and thinking to yourself ; I don’t know who on earth that is; don’t worry, I thought the same thing. Apart from of super famous names like Voltaire and Victor Hugo, I know nothing about French literature. But trust me, it is worth a visit. He is considered the father of realism and wrote several short stories and plays and the museum is interesting. I was dragged along by an art loving friend and expected to be extremely bored. I was hoping there would be a good gift shop. But I was pleasantly surprised and found the museum enlightening and educational.

 

So is it all amazing?

 

Well, no. Nothing is. I think when you are looking for a place to stay in Paris you have to think about the type of holiday you want to have. If you are young and want to party and be only a stones throw away from the biggest clubs and best party spots, Passy would probably be an absolute disaster for you. So think about that first before you travel.

 

If you like quiet, calm, upmarket, luxury and a delicate but not overwhelming level of art and culture, Passy is for you.

 

So where can I find more information?

 

Like most tourists, I use Tripadvisor a lot. I like that it is user generated, so I feels a bit more authentic and easier to get a more accurate idea of what you are looking for. I’m not a fan of guide books because they are normally too big to carry around with you, especially if you are also armed with your phone and a camera.

 

Tripadvisor has a lot of reviews about Passy, from tourists that have stayed there. None of them are negative, which I think is really cool. Some people have that it’s average and they were expecting a lot. I guess that’s why, you need to managed your expectations well. There is also reviews on restaurants, cafes and galleries in the district, you can figure out which one if the right fit for you.

 

If you are planning on only visiting Passy for the day, just to see a different side of Paris, Timeout has a great article. It offers suggestions on things to see and do in the district by following a particular route.

 

There are numerous hotel options in Passy, most of them are at the higher end of the scale, as is everything else here. They look luxurious but I have to confess, I’ve never stayed in them. I was lucky enough to stay with my friend in his apartment. He doesn’t live there anymore but I think if I went back I would probably try and find an apartment to stay in, instead of a hotel room. I feel a bit more free in an apartment and I kind of do this strange think, where I trick myself into thinking I actually there. Its nice to bask in a bit of happy delusion for a while. Why not, right?

 

Welcome2France offers a wide range of luxury apartment in and around the Passy area for couples, individuals and even groups. You can contact them for a list of their best suggestions. Happy staying in Passy. If you’re like me, you’ll love it .

 

A different kind of Spring break

 

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Have you been in this city for longer than a week? Do you need to escape it? Paris offers a host of attractions, but if you are staying long term, you might be interested in what lies further afield. If you go to the world famous Musee D’orsay, you’ll get a chance to see some of the best impressionist artists in history. Perhaps the most famous of whom is Monet. Wouldn’t it be interesting to look at a painting of Monet and think, hum, that’s just an hour out of Paris?

 

For many tourists who are here for a week or 10 days, the surrounding areas are normally limited to the Palace at Versailles and its beautiful gardens or a trip with the family to Disneyland (Florida’s little cousin). But there is a lot more to do than just those things. Giverny is a perfect mix of culture and nature. Ok, so it probably will not be at the top of everyone’s list of things to do, but it’s definitely worth it.

 

Despite having beautiful parks, the city can be a bit overwhelming at times. The tourist destinations can be crowded and stuffy, especially during the Summer. The small town of Giverny is only 75km ( roughly one hour by driving) north west of Paris. Monet actually lived here and painted most of his famous landscapes (such as Waterlilies Bridge) in his garden. Today, his home has been turned into a museum and you can walk freely around his beautiful and huge garden. It will be difficult to imagine that Paris is on your doorstep.

 

Giverny offers a break from Paris and its easily reached by car or train. In Paris, there are several luxury car rental companies in the city which will help you to travel in style. But if you are going to use public transport (which is excellent by the way), the train is quick, clean and efficient and also more cost effective. The train leaves regularly from Saint-Lazare station (another scene of a famous Monet painting) and takes just over an hour. Many (but not all) of the train services have a first class option if you want to travel with a bit more comfort. Entry tickets to his home and garden cost around 10 euros. But it’s worth noting that it only opens from March to November. Its closed during the winter except for special occasions.

 

The town of Giverny itself offers a delightful insight into rural French life and has a host of interesting and authentic restaurants offering amazing local cuisine. It’s the perfect day trip to get away from it all, explore some nature and escape the sounds of the city for just a couple of hours and see some art that you won’t see on the walls of the musuems in Paris.

 

Parlez – French…….. please?

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If you are like me, you probably really struggle with learning foreign languages and can barely master the English language. As languages go, French isn’t as difficult as say, Chinese or Russian. It’s got more or less the same alphabet and our own language borrows heavily from French. Words like difficult or interesting, are very easy to pick out when reading a French text.

 

If you are planning a short trip to Paris, it’s not really necessary to learn to speak French and despite what you have heard, it is possible to survive in the city for a few days with the basics of Bonjour and Merci. Visitors to the city, who only plan to spend a few days, will generally hang around the typical tourist areas, such as the Champs de Mars, to see the Eiffel Tower. Paris is a global city and the largest city on the continent of Europe. So, if you intend to stay in the popular districts around the famous landmarks, you can expect to encounter a reasonable level of English. Reception at the Lourve, for example, will understand you if you ask for a map, however – “avez-vous une carte” – will go down a treat with the locals. Likewise in restaurants. In the popular places of Quartier Latin, your waiter or waitress will probably understand the menu in English and will be able to help you.

 

However if you are planning to stay a bit longer and go beyond the typical tourist haunts of this great city, then yes, it is a good idea to get some French expressions, questions and answers ready to use. A good example of this, is the metro system. The metro is designed for locals, so if your metro card breaks or you don’t understand the map, don’t expect an English speaking attendant to be ready at every station. The French language dominates everyday life in this city and while the level of English is improving because of tourism, its not reasonable to expect everyone to understand you, particularly older people.

 

If you speak English, make sure it’s slow and with a smile and don’t be afraid to use your hands. If you’re going to try some French expressions, watch your accent. A good tip, is to try and mimic the most sterotypical French accent using English and then just transfer it to French. You might think you sound ridiculous but trust me, you are more likely to be understood. The list below are some phrases we at welcome2france think you will find helpful.

 

Je ne comprends pas. – I don’t understand

Je ne parle pas français – I don’t speak French

Pouvez vous parler plus lentement, s’il vous plait – Could you speak more slowly, please.

Pouvez-vous répéter, s’il vous plaît. – Could you repeat that please.

S’il vous plaît, je cherche…… – Please, I’m looking for (whatever you are looking for).

Avez-vous…. – Do you have…. ?

Avez-vous une table pour deux personnes? – Do you have a table for two ?

A quelle heure est-ce que cela ferme? When does it shut ? L

Combien ? – How much ?

Ou sont les toilettes, s’il vous plaît ?

Where is the toilet / washroom, please ? Listen

Ou est-ce qu’on peut trouver des restaurants, s’il vous plaît? – Where are there some restaurants, please ?

Un café et un café au lait, s’il vous plaît. – A coffee and a coffee with milk please.

 

 

If you are interested in learning the French language, Paris offers the best schools in the world. Check out places such as Alliance Francaise, Berlitz, and Accord Escole de Langues. Welcome2France offers apartments within walking distance of some of the best schools.

My one love and I …. in Paris…. !

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Last year, I had three weeks annual leave from my job and I decided I wanted to go somewhere. It had always been my dream to visit France and in particular the City of Love. Ever since I was a child and saw the iconic Eiffel Tower in a movie, I made a promise to myself that one day, some how, I would get there. I came very close about 5 years ago when a family tragedy forced me to go to London at the last minute. Paris was only a train ride away. Only 2.5 hours by train and only 20 minutes under the Channel Tunnel. But I never made it there. Why? Well, I couldn’t quite remember but I’m sure if was something connected to a lack of time and money. But last year I finally made it.

 

I decided to reserve a luxury apartment in the city in the most elegant district I could find. My plan was to rent a bike, so I would have access to the whole city very easily. My other plan was to eat, eat, eat. I love bread and I had heard and read a lot about the variety on offer. In fact, I had read an awful lot about Paris before I went. Whether it was recent politics to the history to the typical tourist information I wanted to absorb myself in the city and reading about it seemed like the best idea. But I didn’t bank on one problem.

 

I didn’t have anyone to go with. All of friends either couldn’t get the time off, or didn’t have the money, or, the most annoying excuse of all, – “I’m going to wait till I fall in love before I go to Paris”. Well, I hadn’t fallen in love but I wanted to go all the same. But I really wanted a partner. I searched and searched and in the end, without really knowing what I was doing, I took the only living thing I love must in the world …….– my dog. You might think it sounds sad, but I can’t be the only person who has done it or indeed thought it.

 

I have heard and read some horror stories online about people who travel with their pets and it needs to be said, that the French love their paperwork. There is paperwork and red tape for just about everything, it seems. But I was lucky as Clare (my dog, yes I know it’s a human name but I like it) had all the necessary paperwork in order. If you are traveling with your pet and you don’t know whats needed, then do the research. Pettravel.com is a great help to many people, offering good, solid advice. If you don’t do the research, don’t take your pet. You may be denied entry and I have read about this happening. Your pet must have a passport (not literally of course). For Americans, the animal “passport” is also known as an Annex II certificate. This certificate shows that your pet has all the necessary vaccinations that it requires, which includes but not limited to rabies. You need to make sure that your dog or cat also has a microchip.

 

When it comes to the paperwork, its not as complex as you think, but you need to be on the ball. Use FedEx to send your documents. This ensures that it is recorded, if lost. The USDA is amazing for advice and contact your regional department if you have questions about the paperwork. The rules for most of the European Union countries are the same, so its worth noting that if you have taken your pet from the States to say, Spain or Italy, the rules for France are pretty much similar.

 

The airline I traveled with was Air France and they were very helpful and accustomed to passengers traveling with animals. You can relax and know that your pet is safe. I can’t say Claire enjoyed it that much though, she looked a little shaken when I picked her up at Charles de Gaul airport. But I can’t blame AirFrance for that. If you are traveling with a dog, remember Air France has weight restrictions which are a bit stricter than typical American airlines like Delta. Exiting CDG airport was a lot simpler than I had ever dreamed. When I was in the UK 4 years earlier, I felt like I had been given a grilling by customs. Maybe it was because the police had no guns… I’m not sure. The French customs guy barely looked at my passport and I’m sure they even noticed Claire.

 

Claire and I took a taxi and made our way to our beautiful two bed apartment. Don’t go thinking I paid for a bedroom for the cat, that would be silly. I reserved a two bed room property hoping I would someone else to come with me. Not such luck. But I thought about canceling and finding a pet friendly studio in the same district but I just fell in love with the property from the online pictures and despite pushing me slightly over budget, I just couldn’t part with it. It was spacious with plenty of light and right beside the Eiffel Tower in the 7th district. Ok, you couldn’t see the Eiffel Tower from my balcony but the rental company assured me that I could have a great view from the public roof terrace and they were right.

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Paris was actually not as dog friendly as I has had imagined. I had this image of adorable dogs everywhere in the city but this is not really the case. If you do your research online, you’ll find that there is a French law (“Arrêté du 23 novembre 1979 portant règlement sanitaire du département de Paris, to be exact for any of you legal academics reading this) which states that dogs are not allowed anywhere where there is food, so this includes restaurants and food shops. In my experience this law is rarely enforced but I struggled to understand how to work around the system.

 

There were many occasions when I left Claire at home because I saw a fancy restaurant I wanted to eat in, only then to go to the restaurant and find mini dogs popping out of peoples handbags. If you have a small dog, it seems like you can take it just about anywhere and no one will notice. I tried, on a few occasions to bring Claire to the grocery store to stock up on some basic supplies.No matter where I went, for the entire 3 weeks, I was turned away by some rude attendant shouting in French. It was a bit embarassing but I didn’t really mind as it encouraged me to go to the local outdoor food markets, which were so much better, cheaper and had fresher ingredients and it also encouraged me to eat in restaurants and not stay indoors.

 

I was lucky enough to go to Paris in May. The weather was amazing and Summer was just starting but it wasn’t too hot just yet. If the restaurant had a terrace, I was generally permitted to sit down outside and enjoy my food and noticed a lot of other people doing the same thing with their dogs. It goes without saying that your dog needs to be on leash at all times, although in larger parks you’ll see dogs walking around freely. Most of the laws around dogs are not really enforced which is a good thing for owners but confusing and unreliable. Take, for example the metro.

 

There are a lot hazy rules about the metro in Paris. In three weeks, I saw two elderly people smoking and nobody said anything. I can’t imagine this happening in New York or London. The rules for dogs is basically that large dogs are not allowed on the metro. But if they have a leash and a muzzle most of the metro attendants are very lenient. In fact, I brought Claire on the metro several times and no one said anything. A nice French waiter told me that its normally cool just don’t take them on the metro – during rush hour 7.00 to 9.30 and 16.30 to 19.30. Makes sense I suppose. The same rule applies for buses but its important to note that RER ( that’s the regional train service that goes to the suburbs and further afield from Paris), dogs can always travel on these trains but you need to purchase a special ticket first. Don’t panic if you don’t know how to ask for a dog ticket in French. At the ticket counter, I just pointed to Claire and looked confused. The attendant understood and printed another ticket (2 euros) for her. Not bad, just don’t forget the leash and muzzle.

 

I was lucky enough not to read all the info I could find online about dogs in Paris. There is a lot of very different opinions out there and some people report having a horrible time and being mistreated because they have a dog and dirty streets of dog droppings. I can say, it might affect certain aspects of your trip and little bit more taxing but its interesting to note that for every 7 people in Paris, there is one dog. Dogs are everywhere. And when I say that Paris wasn’t as dog friendly as I imagined, I mean that although dogs are everywhere, they are not allowed everywhere. But people are generally friendly to dogs and have their own. In fact, Claire got much more attention that I did. I was quite envious.

 

But before my envy kicked in, I decided to give Claire a bit of a treat. You see, my logic (which the animal lovers will completely understand) was that I felt a bit guilty seeing the museums and the sights while for a large part of some of the days, she was at home, in the apartment. Ok, it was a really nice apartment, there was plenty of space for her to walk around but still, I decided she needed a treat. So I went online and found a really nice dog groomer in the area I was staying in. In fact, the dog groomer was just around the corner from my building and was apparently one of the best in the whole city. This is one of the reasons I love trip advisor. Never underestimate the amount of information that you can find on trip adviser, its not just restaurants and monuments.

 

The dog groomer wasn’t cheap but a holiday is a holiday and apart from the bi-annual trip to the local budget vet in my district, Claire has never really been to a dog groomer and why should it be only me that gets to see the City of Lights in style, luxury and elegance. In 5 hours, Claire got a bath, a haircut, her nails cut and a host of other things that I couldn’t understand. I just liked the look for the building, the smell of coconut lotion and the man that took her. I was 200 euros poorer when Claire came out but she seemed very very happy indeed.

 

All in all, as a tourist who plans every part of their visit before they go away, take my advice and don’t read too much that’s out there. Contact the USDA and make sure your pet has everything they need, after that, just go with the experience. The unknown is a great way to talk to locals and ask them questions.. if they can speak a bit of English of course. But if you can enquire in French, then already you’re a better tourist than I am.

 

Finding a pet friendly apartment in Paris is not easy. Welcome2France has a whole range of options which really helped me. You can contact one of their specialists today.

5 Paris Museums Perfect for Children

Musée des Arts Forains

Every family vacation is never complete until the kids get to visit Disneyland or the Jardin d’Acclimatation along Bois de Boulogne. Although the city is overrun with plenty of gardens and memorable landmarks, many families still find it difficult to find child-friendly destinations within the city’s inner districts.

If your travel itinerary is too brief for a day trip to Disneyland Paris, these 5 Paris museums for children should make good alternatives.

Musée de la Contrefaçon (Museum of Counterfeits)

No one likes counterfeits, but when they’re posed right next to their real counterpart in a wide museum, these counterfeits can be pretty entertaining for teens and children of all ages. The first museum in our list may not be your usual children-themed museum but the Museum of Counterfeits still makes for an interesting stopover if you want your kids to see how forgers have tried, time and again, to make clones of Louis Vuitton bags, expensive colognes, and even expensive children’s toys from cheap material.

How good are your kids’ eyes for identifying fakes from the real deal? Test their detective skills at the Musée de la Contrefaçon at 16 Rue de la Faisanderie, 75116.

Musée de la Contrefaçon

Musée des Arts Forains

A real children’s museum, Forains features the private collection of Jean-Paul Favand, a child at heart. Musée des Arts Forains is composed of three rooms each featuring a unique set of funfare objects: the Venetian Lounges, where you can find automatons performing an Italian opera and where you can ride a merry-go-round, the Theatre of Marvels, where you can find amazing pieces from the Belle Epoque, and Fairground Art Museum, where you can find 19th century games and exhibits.

Musée des Arts Forains

Musée de la Magie (Museum of Magic)

Also known as the Académie de la Magie, the Museum of Magic is a private museum located in 11 Rue saint Paul, 75004. It is situated next to the Museum of Automata so if your children find the magical props to be a little less convincing, their next door neighbor exhibits automatons from the 17th to the early 21st century. The museum is only open in the afternoons and an admission fee is charged from both adults and children.

Musée de la Magie

Musee des Arts Decoratifs

The Musee des Arts Decoratifs is not exactly a child’s museum either, but we know kids are easily entertained by visually appealing exhibits. If your children prefer something more inclined towards architecture and design, schedule a family trip to Musee des Arts Decoratifs in 107 Rue de Rivoli, 75001.

Oftentimes, the museum management invites designers and artists from all corners of the globe to showcase their work here. Before securing your tickets, make sure to check the exhibit schedule. Who knows, you might just get to meet the biggest names in the arts and design industry.

Musee des Arts Decoratifs

Musée de la Poupée

If you have little girls in your family who love dolls, the Doll Museum just might be the perfect museum to add to your travel itinerary. The museums at Musee de la Poupee are mostly vintage, porcelain dolls– they are extremely rare, extremely valuable, and amazingly beautiful and life-like. It took real artists to create these dolls although they may look like simple toys.

You can visit Musée de la Poupée at 22 rue Beaubourg, 75003.

Musée de la Poupée