Through the Eyes of a Child
Ironically enough the Eiffel Tower is the resaon we go back time and again. Everyday that we spend in Paris my daughter insists that we spend time playing anywhere near the Tour de Eifel. She loves the water fountains across the street, as well as the park/ playground and of course the merry-go-round. I, on the other hand, love everything about Paris, even just the feel as you walk down the strret. From the moment I stepped foot off the EuroStar I fell in love with this amazing city that never sleeps. I didn't think that i would the Eifel Tower because I had seen it in movies, pictures, statues etc. I felt that it was over done. And yet!! Paris is the city of love, and when i see the smile on my daughter's face as she innocently runs around then stops to gaze up at her favorite tower, hoe can I not love Paris, my favorite place on earth. The picture of my Daughter with the biggest grin I've ever seen and eyes wide with amazement is due to the fact that in 2004 the Olympic tourch was carried to the second story of the Eifel Tower and then passed off to man who zip-lined down. It was spactacular to see what looked like someone flying through the air holding a torch.
There are two main visitor passes to the various attractions and monuments of Paris. Both offer the convenience of skipping the lines at the ticket office. Neither include free access to the Eiffel Tower. Buy in advance and validate and date from the first use. Neither will gain entrance to temporary or special exhibitions. Check the closing days, most attractions are closed on either Monday or Tuesday. Passes are only good for consecutive days.
Gives access to most top sights of Paris plus has a transport pass for the Metro, busses and RER in zones 1 - 3. In addition, you can also take a tour on one of the open top busses or a Bateaux Parisienne cruise. You can get the pass for 2, 4 or 6 days, adult or child prices. 2 day adult pass is 79 euro and while that seems a bit high, remember that the transportation is included. You can make unlimited visits but you can only make one entrance per day (i.e. can't enter and leave in the morning and go back again in the afternoon but you can go back the next day)
Paris museum pass
Covers most major museums and monuments and the outlying areas including Fontainbleu. Many attractions included here are also included in the Paris Pass but there is no transportation included of any kind. It might be a good idea to buy the less expensive museum pass and buy a carnet of 10 tickets, depending on how much you plan to do. It's only really worth while if you visit two major attractions per day. Most places average 7 euros per adult ticket A two day pass is 30 euros and you can get 2, 4 or 6 day passes. You can make unlimited visits so you can take several days to "do" the Louvre. Buy them at any museum or tourist information centre. There isn't a child version of the pass but children quite often are admitted free to some of the monuments and museums. Museumpass.com offers these two passes that may or may not be a bit of a discount with your exchange rate (but there will be a fee to ship it to you). The advantage here is that this site has a few more flexible versions such as a teen version of the Paris Pass and also offers some passes just for transport, one for the bus tour and cruises, and they offer packages and day tours.
The other very useful pass is called the Carte Orange. This is usually not offered to tourists but most websites say you shouldn't have any trouble buying one at a local RATP agent, Metro or RER station in Paris. You can't buy it ahead of time and it's good for one week, Sunday through Saturday only. You can't start it for any consecutive 7 days. You can also get the pass good for one calendar month. The passes are sold for zones, and zones 1 and 2 are the main central Paris zones. You need a small passport size photo. Current 2007 prices for one week: 16 euro. Compare that to the 3 day Paris Visite card and it's still cheaper. It might be worth buying a one week pass even if you aren't using it for the full week. More information about the pass here. The RATP site is mainly in French
Another transport-only pass is the Paris Visite card. This is what you want if you're visiting for a shorter period or for non-Sunday to Monday weeks. You can get the card for 1, 2, 3, and 5 days, adult and child passes available. Adult prices are (euros) 8.50, 13.95, 18.60 and 27.20 respectively for a zone 1-3 card. Day passes are convenient and good for the Metro, bus and local RER trains. For comparisons, a one way trip at full price is 1.40 euro and a carnet of 10 is 10.90 full fare. At 1.40 per ticket, it will take nearly 6 trips to break even so depending on how much time you plan to spend zipping about Paris, the carnet might be your best bet.
Helmets and bicycle safety
Hardly anyone in Paris wears a bicycle helmet, except me and this lady in the photo.
As I have mentioned on some of my other pages, I consider bicycle helmets to be a sensible precaution especially for children and for us elderly folks, but I am not in favor of compulsory helmet laws because they dissuade people from cycling, and the damage caused by not cycling far outweighs any slight increase in safety that a helmet might provide.
I have discussed this in more detail in a tip on my Amsterdam page called Why the Dutch don't wear bicycle helmets.
Also I have written a tip called Why I still wear a bicycle helmet even though the Dutch don't.
In any case, there are other precautions that are MUCH more important than wearing a helmet, and the main one is:
Don't try to pass motor vehicles on the inside!
Five Velib' riders have been killed in Paris since the system went into operation in July 2007, and in all five cases the situation was the same. The cyclist tried to pass a truck or bus on the right, got into that vehicle's blind spot and was crushed to death when the truck or bus made a right turn.
Wearing a helmet would not have prevented any of these deaths.
For more on how to prevent this kind of accident, see "Collision Type #3" on the website bicyclesafe.com, which is all about "How to Not Get Hit by Cars".
These five Velib' deaths were front-page news in the Paris papers, unlike the traffic deaths of pedestrians, motorists, motorcyclists or non-Velib' cyclists, which are barely mentioned.
In fact, bicycle safety has improved considerably since the beginning of Velib', simply because there is safety in numbers. The more cyclists there are on the streets, the safer we are.
I noticed this particularly the other day at the tricky intersection by the Hotel de Ville where Rue de Rivoli, Rue du Renard and Rue de la Coutellerie all come together. I used to get off and walk this one, but now I was in a group of about a dozen cyclists all going the same direction, so it was no problem to ride through the intersection together.
Statistically, bicycle use has gone up by 24%, but injuries only by 7%.
If you're planning to visit Paris, make sure you learn some French words, once the French people don't speak much English or, as it happened to me, refuse to speak any language but the French. However, I found the Parisien nice people.
Keeping tourists dry!
When it rains the little stores and bookstalls in the tourist areas put up their plastic "walls" and put out the "parapluie" sign. An umbrella for 4,50 euro isn't too bad! As you can see this is a typical small shop in the Latin Quarter selling post cards and scarves!