Saturday, August 25, 2012


Part One of Three

We thank you Yves and Carol immensely for the use of your apartment in the Marais. Having such a home-base really made it possible for us to see as much as we did in our dozen days in Paris. Exploring the city from a home there is much more rewarding than from a room in a hotel.

The fun began after a late afternoon flight to Paris from Cardiff. Trains from Charles de Gaulle Airport to the Gare du Nord, then No. 4 Métro to Réamur Sébastopol station would have been like a walk in the park had we not broken the first rule of traveling: PACK LIGHT! We ignored this rule, knowing that most our traveling would be by car and most accommodations long term. And after all, with part of a winter ahead of us we would need some cold weather things too. Bad decision.

Paris has not fully addressed accessibility issues for the mobility-challenged, so one does not want to be hauling around too much luggage in the subterranean maize of the Paris Métro (I had some Escher moments). Then had we not taken the wrong turn upon surfacing to street level we’d have easily bumbled along with our wheeled bags right to the door of the apartment at Rue Chapon,  lll Arrondissement.

When at wits end, one hails a cab. Naturally, the driver missed a few turns and the fare doubled. Oh well, suck it up. 

Once settled in we got instant relief with a nice bottle of vin rouge, graciously left for us by our hosts. We celebrated our first night in Paris with a late dinner with Queen Latifa at Le 404. She was a few tables away and great fans though we are, she failed to recognize us in the dark restaurant.



We have been to Paris several times over the years and Paris has never been far from our thoughts. Admittedly, we are just little sardines in the ocean of Paris tourists: like all the other small fish, we too have romanticized the big city. And like iron to a magnet, we have been drawn back again.

But this time is different. We just want to meander around, to go where our feet take us, searching out places that we missed in earlier visits; to jump on the metro or bus from point A to point B if we have to, then walk and explore again until we are so tired that we return home to ingest it all and to rejuvenate for the next day’s outing.

You are not from here, you don't know your way around enough, you don't even look like a local, so just just use the best maps, guidebooks and brochures. You will look more lost and stupid if you don't than if you do. And most importantly, stop for wine, beer, water, coffee and lunches. That's what the Parisians do; except, of course, they are never seen with maps, guidebooks and brochures.

Regarding all that hard copy you are consulting along the way (naturally, you are packing "the best of"),  well think again. We have decided that the best guidebook for Paris, or any other destination for that matter, has probably not been written.

The perfect guidebook should tell you which side of the track to stand on in the metro so you don’t find yourselves speeding off in the wrong direction.

For example, you want to go to L’Arc de Triomphe and not Gare de Lyon

TIP: know in advance the name of each station at the end of the line & you’ll pick the correct platform for your train.

Okay, so the tourist has to have some common sense. And after all, how much minutiae can any guidebook contain?

How about at least, a directory or a chapter on toilets?

Ou sont les toilettes?

I have a recollection of many years ago in Paris when there seemed to be pissiors everywhere. FOR MEN ONLY AS I RECALL. What happened to them all? Some of them have been replaced - GENDER NEUTRAL - by those great self-cleaning kiosks (have some coins at hand) but where are they when you really need one?

Where does one acquire the public toilet guide for Paris? Would that sell?

Ici sont les toilettes!

For more travel photography with local information visit Gary Karlsen's website.

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