Your home in Paris is the adorably chic Hôtel Signature Saint-Germain-des-Prés, at 5 rue Chomel 75007 in Paris’ tony 7th arrondissement (city district), tel: +33 01 45 48 35 53. Your room is available to you starting from 3:00 pm, whether you will check in on Friday, June 7th or on Sunday, June 16th. Below are directions to the hotel taken from the hotel’s website. Your Metro stop, right around the corner from the hotel, is “Sèvres-Babylone” on line 10 (travels between Boulogne/Pont de Saint-Cloud and Gare d’Austerlitz), or line 12 (travels between Aubervilliers and Mairie d’ Issy).
By plane, from Charles de Gaulle (Roissy) airport:
- taxi: follow signs to official taxi stand at airport. Trip will take between 60-90 minutes, depending on time of day, and cost between 45.00-62.00 euro
- train and metro: take the RER B to “Notre Dame – Saint Michel” (10.30 euro, approx. 40 min) where you change to Metro line 10 (toward “Boulogne/Pont de Saint-Cloud”) by following the signs to Ligne 10 without exiting the station. Once on the Metro line 10, get off at “Sèvres Babylone,” (approx. 10 min) right around the corner from the hotel
- bus: take Le Bus Direct which will take you to “Gare Montparnasse” and from there take a taxi or Metro line 12 (toward “Aubervilliers”) or the bus 94 and get off at “Sèvres-Babylone”
By plane, from Orly airport:
- taxi: follow signs to official taxi stand at airport. Trip will take between 45-60 min, depending on time of day, and cost between 19.00-27.00 euro
- light rail and metro: take the Orlyval light rail train to “Antony” station (13.30 euro, approx. 15 min). From there, take RER B to “Saint Michel” and change to Metro line 10 (toward “Boulogne/Pont de Saint-Cloud”) to “Sèvres-Babylone”
- bus: take Orlybus to “Denfert-Rochereau,” where you can take Bus 68 to “Sèvres Babylone” or Le Bus Direct to “Gare Montparnasse” and from there take a taxi or Metro line 12 (toward “Aubervilliers”) or the bus 94 and get off at “Sèvres-Babylone”
- from Saint Lazare, Montparnasse or Austerlitz train stations, take Metro line 10 or 12 to “Sèvres-Babylone” station. From Gare du Nord and Gare de l’Est train stations, take Metro line 4 to “Saint Sulpice”: a 7 minute walk from the hotel
- You can leave your car in a private and secure garage 100 meters from the Hotel. For information and rates go to Indigo Sèvres-Babylone
WHAT TO BRING
Here’s a list of things to bring. These are just the basics:
– comfortable shoes. By far the most important thing you’ll need on this trip!! And I would recommend breaking them in well before our seminar
– a hat, sunglasses, light-weight, folding umbrella and a raincoat. The weather in Paris in June is extremely variable so we’ll want to be prepared. Check the weather regularly before departure to get a sense of what we might find on the other side of the pond
– a camera if you’re a happy snapper and, if you have them, maybe a very light pair of binoculars for better art viewing
– a comfortable bag in which to carry your things around town – backpack or shoulder bag or purse, whichever you prefer
– clothing-wise: layers, layers, layers! T-shirts and cotton trousers, maybe a pair of jeans, some light sweaters and jacket(s), skirts or dresses below the knee for women. Europeans are more conservative in their dress than Americans – you won’t see many shorts and tank tops on people of our age, though bermudas are perfectly acceptable. We’ll want to be dressed appropriately and comfortably. I find that cotton and linen clothes are the best choice. Scarves and shawls are a great idea as they can keep the hot sun off one’s arms or help keep in the warmth if it’s cold.
– a ‘nice’ change or two for dinners out. After all, Parisians invented chic. ‘Nuff said.
– lastly, a photocopy of your passport (see ‘Safety and Smart Travel Practices,’ below)
Here’s my favorite site for the latest currency exchange rates: http://www.xe.com/currencyconverter/
How to have access to money while in Paris:
The best system is to use the ATMs. You’ll want to make sure, therefore, that your credit card can be used in Europe and has a PIN number (the code you punch in once you’ve inserted your card into the machine) that is valid abroad. This is very important as, in my experience, the U.S. PINs and European PINs are of different lengths (I can’t remember which of the two has more numbers). Also, ideally, your card will feature one of those embedded security chips that have been in use for many years now in Europe and are recently becoming widespread in the U.S., too. Bottom line is, if you haven’t already done so, you’ll want to make sure your card can be used in Europe and you’ll want an international PIN (specify that it’s going to be used in France, just in case) that’s connected to the credit card. Also, you might want to see which credit card companies offer the most competitive rates since some charge higher conversion commission rates than others and there are several that don’t charge foreign transaction fees. It may be worthwhile to switch companies.
DO NOT bring traveler’s checks or assume you’ll do your currency exchanging at a bank. Dealing with European banks is notoriously time-consuming and can result in serious headaches that will spoil your trip. Not worth it.
Tipping in France is NOT REQUIRED. There is no percentage for tipping in France as all servers are on salary. At a café, I usually leave the change that I get from the bill I’ve paid (50 cents to a euro or two if there were several people) and at a restaurant I usually leave a euro a head. As for taxis, again, a euro or two on top of the fare does the trick. Simple. No calculating necessary and definitely no 10%-20%.
SAFE AND SMART TRAVEL PRACTICES
Take a photograph of your suitcase prior to handing it over at check-in. Bags do get lost and, while in my experience they are usually delivered quite quickly, it can be a real drag if you don’t know what your bag looks like. On the same note, carry basics (glasses, medication, contact lens solution, etc.) with you on the plane so that, if your bag should get lost, you can get by for a few days. And definitely bring any valuables (laptops, electronics, jewelry) with you on the plane. There have been reports of thefts at the hands of baggage handlers.
Please bring a photocopy or smartphone photo of your passport with you to Paris – the front pages suffice (where your photograph, passport number, and the date of issue, etc. are recorded). I will collect these so that if anything should happen to your passport, we can easily get a replacement.
As my mother has often said about Europe, “the great thing is that your body is always safe, though your belongings may not be.” I cannot sufficiently stress the importance of being vigilant about pickpockets in Paris. Be they young ‘gypsy’ children or women in the streets or adult French men or women on the bus, it is an unfortunate reality that pickpocketing is a regular occurrence in Paris. So, to avoid any unpleasant experiences…
– carry large amounts of cash on your person. It’s much safer to leave it in the safe at the Hôtel Signature.
– carry your passport with you. Again, leave it at the hotel.
– put anything valuable in back pockets.
– keep your hands on your valuables when walking the streets through a crowd, visiting a site (Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, Palace of Versailles), or on the bus.
– turn backpacks and purses around (carrying them on your front) when on buses or the Metro and put your hands across the pockets where you are keeping your valuables (money, camera, etc.).
– be aware of your surroundings! If anyone should try to grab something, shout, “NON!!” (No!) and “Au voleur!!” ([oh vol-ERR] I’m being robbed!) as loudly as you can.
PHONES, COMPUTERS, & GADGETS, OH MY!
– WIFI matters: Hôtel Signature has WIFI access throughout the building, including your rooms. You’re therefore welcome to bring your laptop or iPad or whatever you like to use for e-mailing and reading online material. Just make sure that you have a US-Europe plug adaptor that will attach to your power source. This can be bought at most electronics stores.
- Phones: if you want to be able to place calls during your stay in France, there are two ways to do so. 1) Get an international data plan for your already existing phone, specifying that you’re going to be using it in Europe, OR 2) Get a European enabled cell-phone that you can then put a French SIM card into that you would buy in Paris. Just keep in mind that the second option will require finding and working with a French phone store and may take a lot of time (and a lot of Advil to get combat the headache of it!).
PHOTOGRAPHING IN PARIS
Policies regarding photography vary from place to place. Some sites do not allow photography at all while others allow photography sans flash. It really depends on the place. I will find out in advance and will be sure to let you know on a day-to-day basis whether or not it is permissible to take photographs.
I hope all this helps!