If you’ve never taken a flight over to Europe, it takes about 7 hours to get there. I always take the chance to stand up as much as possible before getting on the plane. To help deal with jet lag, try to sleep as much as possible on the way over. Bring an inflatable neck pillow if it will help. You’ll need the sleep when you arrive. Also, drink lots of water or juices (apple, orange, or cranberry). Avoid coffee, tea, and alcohol. The first day in Europe I try to stay out in the bright sun and remain active so I adjust to the time faster. It might be a good time to rent a bike or go jogging in the afternoon.
On to Paris
All the standard sites are interesting: Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe (Arch of Triumph), a walk down the Champs-Elysees, The Louvre Museum, Palace of Versailles, Sacre Coeur and Montmartre. If you don’t have time to go up the Eiffel Tower, climb the stairs up to the top of the Arc de Triomphe. It’s an excellent view of Paris, the traffic, AND the Eiffel Tower…a good place for photos. Go through the tunnel to get there…don’t dodge the traffic and lose!
Take the metro (subway) everywhere. Once you learn how it works, it’s easy. The lines are designated by the destination at the END OF THE LINE. Hop on and get out where you need to. All the major attractions have stops. Now (July 2008), there is another option…rental bikes called Velib. They are everywhere in the city and make for a popular form of transportation. Take a leisurely boat ride up the Seine River from the Eiffel Tower to Notre Dame.
I just love to walk around neighborhoods, watch people in real life, or visit a small cafe. Most French people are very kind if you are considerate of them. They love to hear their own language…and if you make an effort to speak they will appreciate it. They may chuckle and answer back in English, but keep trying…it’s the thought that counts.
See a movie in French…maybe one you’ve already seen in America. Often, American movies will be showing. Make sure it’s “double” (dubbed) and not with “Sous-titres” (sub-titles) It’s kind of fun to see American actors speaking French. If it’s “version original”, then it’s in the original English…boring.
You can tell Americans because they often wear tennis shoes. French like darker colors in general.
Spend time in bookstores looking at the French books that people read. I especially like to look at children’s books, because they are easier to understand. It’s fun to see what kids read and learn with while they are growing up in France.
Often you can see some free street juggling or entertainment by the Centre George Pompidou. There’s an excellent street magician named Bebel who performs card tricks in the evening in the Latin Quarter (although it helps to understand French since he talks fast).
Food and Drink
France is known for excellent food. I love their breads and bakery items. They also have an incredible selection of cheese and yogurts. There’s nothing like it in the U.S. I don’t know why we can’t get it right.
Any bakery or “boulangerie” will have pain au chocolat (chocolate croissant) or pain aux raisins (a kind of a raisin danish). Both are excellent for breakfast with coffee, orange juice, water, or hot chocolate.
For lunch try buying a “sandwich au thon” (tuna sandwich), otherwise known as a Nicois. This is French “fast food”. It usually has tuna, mayo, lettuce, tomatoes, and hard boiled eggs on a good baguette. Orangina or a carbonated limonade are good beverages. French sodas aren’t as sweet as Coke. Road side stands sell good “frites” or French fries. Go shopping in a grocery store and try a yogurt. In France, yogurt is not a “diet” food.
French dinners can be a long event. Prepare to spend time, relax, and enjoy the experience of multiple courses. See if they have a “prix fixe” (fixed price) menu for the evening. This usually contains a good salad, entree, and dessert. Be surprised with something new and exciting.
The French have frequent and unannounced strikes. I’ve been stranded without a train or bus to the airport a couple times. It’s nice to travel to the airport the night before and just stay there. Then you’re assured that you’ll make your flight as long as you wake up for it. Last time I was there, the Charles DeGaulle airport terminal 1 (Roissy) has small and cheap pods (rooms) with showers called “Cocoon Rest Inn”. I had a hard time finding any info about it on the internet so I’m not sure if it’s still there.
It’s easier to adjust to the time on the way back but you’ll be very tired the first couple of days. You’ll easily wake up early in the morning. Make sure you don’t drive when you’re tired!
Have a great trip.