Prior to my Departure

In the beginning ...

I had always been keen to visit Paris for many years, but never had the opportunity. This, conveniently changed in late February 1998. It an unexpected turn of events I found myself with a weeks paid leave from work. I had initially resigned myself to wasting the week remaining at home but then it occurred to me - a week was more than enough to visit Paris ! So then and there I decided that the opportunity was just good to waste.

How to get there ?

After deciding to go, I started to work out how much it would in fact cost me. My initial research took me to Here I was able to punch in my origin and destination and get an idea of the cost of a flight. When I did, I found, to my pleasant surprise, that there were plenty of discount specials that I could take advantage of. For about US$ 400 I could fly to Paris and then return from London. It was a bit harder to locate a hotel but I thought that I would leave this up to a local travel agent. Why did I want to a return flight from London you may ask ? Well, at that point in time I had a cousin who was working in London and with whom I planned to spend the final weekend of my trip. This also meant that I could take the Chunnel or Eurostar train from Paris to London, under the English channel.

Once I had locked in my travel dates and plans I visited my local travel agency. Why would I do this after doing so much research on the Internet ? I had two major motives for using the traditional method of arranging my trip. Firstly, I needed a recommendation on where to stay and secondly, I still really didn't trust the Internet to be actually able to deliver my tickets on time and correctly.

The good thing about the research that I conducted over the Internet was the fact that I was well armed when I did approach the local travel agent. I was able to tell them the exact times and dates of the flights that I desired. My airline of choice was British Airways. Yes, there were cheaper flights, however I made this decision based on the fact that I was already a Qantas frequent flyer ( British Airways are a frequent flyer partner of Qantas ) and that they have a good reputation for safety and service. The drawback with this choice was that I would be forced to have a lay-over in London at Heathrow on the way - Oh well, that's the way it goes !

Where to stay ?

I was planning to stay somewhere in the north of Paris, since I would be near the Gare du Nord ( the station from which the Eurostar to London runs ). However, the travel agent suggested that I look somewhere else since that area of Paris "wasn't considered very nice". Since I had no real idea anyway, I left it up to them to select a suitable location for me. In the end they made the following booking for me :

Acadias Saint-Germain
151 Bis, Rue De Rennes
Paris, France, 75006
Phone : 33-1-45489738

which was located in the Montparnasse quarter ( in the south of Paris ).

What to see ?

Now that I had my flight and accommodation arranged, my next task was to work exactly what I wanted to see and how to get around. The Internet, once again, proved an invaluable tool in this respect. After trolling through all the search engines, I came across a fantastic Paris holiday log, much like this one. This site details a weeks trip in and around Paris as well as tips on what to do and see. One of the links contained in this site was that of Ticketsto. This is an organisation that allows you to buy tickets for Paris ( and London ) museums, Metro and even airport transfers before you leave. After examining the range of tickets available I decided on the 5 day museum pass and the 5 day city Metro pass as well as a bus transfer from Orly Airport to downtown Paris. I debated the merits of buying a ticket to the Palace of Versailles, but decided against it since I didn't believe I would get the opportunity. Once I had faxed through my order, my tickets arrived via courier in about two days !

With the museum pass, there is no admission charge to participating museums, no waiting in line and no limit to the number of times you can visit. It grants access to over 70 museums and monuments in Paris and the surrounding regions. The pass may be used anytime after purchase, all you do is print your name and the date of first use on the back. Upon entering simply show your pass, there will be no waiting or payments required and you can go straight to the top of the line. The museum pass does not permit access to temporary exhibits or guided tours. Generally most museums are closed on Mondays or Tuesdays and on January 1 and May 1 - so be aware. If you can't arrange to buy a pass before you leave then you can pick one up at museums, like the Louvre, in Paris.

Speaking the lingo

Now that I had my travel, accommodation and some idea  of an itinerary, my next task was going to be to try and learn some of the language. All my travels so far have taken me to predominantly English speaking countries, this was to be my first experience in a place where English wasn't the native tongue. I must admit that I did have some trepidation about this, but  was determined to enjoy my trip so I headed down to the local Barnes and Noble in search of some assistance. I was fortunate to locate a Jiffy French Phrasebook published by Langenscheidt's ( which also contained a one hour audio tape ) as well as quick reference card called "Instant French". Armed with these tools I now set about learning as much French language as I could. I listened to the tape to and from work each day and studied the phrase book in my spare time.

Travel guide

Having already purchased a copy of "Eyewitness Travel Guide to Paris" ( ISBN 0-75130-010-1 ) I set about working out exactly what I wanted to do and see as well as how to get around. I have always found the "Eyewitness" series of books to be excellent since they contain not only interesting photographs but current information as well a great graphics and maps of the city in question - I can not recommend them highly enough. My "Eyewitness" book would prove to be my greatest resource during my trip, as I would take it everywhere and refer to it constantly. Sure, other books probably have the same information but "Eyewitness" just presents it better. In many cases using these books and getting ready for the trip can be as exciting as taking the trip as you set you plans and start to get a "feel" for the place.

In no time at all, my time for departure was drawing near. After about three weeks of research and practice I felt that I was well armed to at least make an attempt at understanding and maybe even speaking some French as well as navigating the streets of Paris with some degree of confidence.