Friday, November 30, 2012

Paris on the cheap

 As you know, I was in Paris a few weeks ago when out-of-the-blue I discovered that two high school friends would be there for some days, one of them who was visiting the city of lights for the first time. I thought it would be handy to put together a list of tips. First of all, if by the time you book all the low-cost airlines prices have sky-rocketed and you discover that trains are not cheap either, the way to go is by bus. These buses are comfortable, with lots of space for you to sleep (if you take a night bus) and reliable. The downside, of course, is that the trip will take a bit longer, and you will make several stops (for example: Rotterdam, Breda and Brussels, before finally getting to Paris), but for the price I believe it is totally worth it.
 If you are planning to stay at a youth hostel, I can only recommend you do your homework and read lots and lots of reviews, or else you might get some... surprises. We stayed at The Loft Hostel (70 rue Julien Lacroix), and it was clean, modern and included breakfast. Moreover, if you are going in a group you can get your own room with 4 bunk beds and its own private bathroom. The main downside was that they provide a towel the size of a hand towel... so knowing this, I suggest you bring your own. It is located in the neighborhood of Belleville (where Edith Piaf was born), and nowadays is quite hip. There were several bars with an alternative crowd in the streets surrounding the hostel, and some very cool graffittis to admire. By the way, if you are into it, there are street art tours whose meeting point is actually the Loft hostel. From the hostel you can take the metro to Châtelet, and from there you can transfer to the main lines, or else you can start walking.
 Yup, I strongly believe Paris (as most big cities, actually) is to be discovered walking. You will accidentally  find hidden places, stumble upon palaces, fountains, bridges, gardens, cute little shops and bakeries. If you are not that into walking you could also travel by bike, using a system recently put in place by the city (where you can take a bike at one point, ride it to your destination, and drop it off there). And if you really must take a bus, by all means use the public transport: for the fans of Julio Cortazar, line 63 takes you to some emblematic places like the Jardin des Plantes, Sèvres-Babylone and Saint Germain des Près. You can buy sets of 10 tickets (that are good for metro, bus, RER and tram) or a card for 1,2,3, 4 or 5 days. More info on the public transport system here.
If you have already been to Paris, you can choose to avoid the mandatory museums (Louvre, Musée d'Orsay), wait for your friends at a café while you read a book and sip a cup of tea, and proceed to spend all your money on books and vintage suitcases.  Oh and I could not end this post without recommending Glaces Berthillon, possibly the best ice-cream in Paris. You can truly taste the natural, high quality, seasonal ingredients, and it is rather dense, rich and creamy. Their original shop is located in Île de Saint-Louis (29-31 Rue Saint Louis en l'île) and it is a small café with that grandma feel that I totally love. Their pastries looked scrumptious as well. Oh Paris, how I miss you.
Oh and by the way, I just found this video of Julio Cortázar speaking about his Paris:


  1. I recently read Bringing Up Bebe and absolutely fell in love with it, mostly because it seemed to be giving the finger to all the rest of the parenting books that seem to be telling me I'm guilty of being the worst mother on the planet if I don't sacrifice every ounce of my strength and time and life to my child. And since then, I've developed the biggest crush on all things French. So in short... Jealous. I wish I could make weekend trips to Paris.

    1. Oh I have been wanting to read that book forever, but I am kind of saving it for later. And I totally agree with what you're saying, please don't feel guilty, life goes on, and you are still you, just with an extra person to share adventures with.
      It is definitely one of the things I like the most about living in Europe, the freedom to just go. In Mexico (as in America) the distances are so huge that it is just not possible to change countries just like that.
      If you ever come let me know and we'll travel together ;)

  2. I also want to visit once there ...i want to see the lifestyle of people there and how adventures it is ...hope i will visit soon..thanx


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