Walking around in Paris


This is a description of just one walk. So much has been written about the City of Light, the City of Love, the City That Never Sleeps. Yet every visit to Paris is a new experience. It is a huge city, but it is quite possible to walk around, enjoying the sights. When I mentioned my inability to read a map to a very smart young lady, she stared, and then said, “Nonsense! Where are you staying? I’ll show you how you can walk by yourself and not get lost”. She took my Google map, studied it for a few seconds; and then, instead of many complicated and confusing directions, drew a simple route for me which I followed, taking pictures as I walked. From CDG, Charles de Gaulle airport, one takes a direct train to Gare Du Nord. Directly opposite the new glass extension to the terminal building is the New Hotel Gare Du Nord;

as promised on the hotel site, you can actually see its sign once you emerge from the station to Rue San Quentin. By the way, I was warned many times that, first, the stations are often not announced; second, that train doors do not open automatically, so I was a bit apprehensive about my train journey. It was a pleasant surprise therefore when I heard all the stations announced in three languages, French, English and Spanish; and watched the doors open automatically too! Maybe it was a fluke. There are plenty of signs which tell you which exit to take. New Hotel is small, but very nice and clean; the rooms are soundproofed; and there is the quaintest little breakfast room in the basement.

The service is good, the personnel attentive, and they all speak English.

When you go out from the hotel, turn left, then take the first right, you will find yourself on Rue Lafayette. Walk along, look at the beautiful buildings and parks.

I’d advise everyone to check that you are still on the same street, especially when it turns or separates into two. The word TOURIST is sort of written all over us. Many people are very helpful, but not all of them. Be alert: as in any big city, there are beggars, pickpockets, swindlers. A very decent-looking woman stopped me with, “Do you speak English? I just came to Paris and I need some money urgently!” As it was the middle of the day, plenty of people around, I simply said that I also just came toParis, and also needed money. She ran away. But it is not an encounter which you would wish to have at night. Watch your handbag. If unsure, do not stop, no matter what they say to you.

At the end of Rue Lafayette, after about 20 minutes leisurely walk, you will see the famous huge department store Galeries Lafayette. If you love shopping, go inside and spend the rest of the day there 🙂 If you look to the left of Galeries, you will see the back of Grande Opera.

Take a few minutes to walk around and be sure to take pictures from various angles. Then, turn your back to the façade, and continue walking along Avenue de l’Opera. Past many imposing buildings, past the fountain near

Comedie Francaise, until you see Hotel de Louvre, and Le Louvre itself. If you have the time, you may visit the great museum, which is open every day of the week, but for Tuesdays.

Or you may walk to the right, around the corner, and on to the Notre-Dame cathedral.  

If you are good at backtracking, you will walk to the hotel by the same route. If you lose your way, don’t worry: there are plenty of signs which say Gare du Nord. After such a long walk, one needs nourishment. There is no shortage of places to eat in Paris, you will see plenty of cafes, restaurants, boulangeries (bakeries), especially near the train station. Look at the place carefully before you choose where to spend the remaining part of the evening. I saw a nice café full of men, could be a gay bar; another one had only black customers; yet another had no prices listed on the menu outside. When I saw a cozy little restaurant, with menus in several languages outside, all the prices clearly marked, with a wide choice of dishes, and with lots of families either sitting at tables, or going in, I stopped. A waiter appeared at once, asked me where I wanted to sit, brought a pitcher of water and a menu in English. When I chose my dinner, he left me to enjoy it in peace, stopping by occasionally to ask if all was OK. One warning: the dishes are quite big. If you take just one, that will be enough!

Paris is beautiful in any season. With a little preparation, one can have a great time, no matter how long or how short your stay is.


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