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Start on Your Travel Holiday to Paris and all France. Best guides, best airfare.

Updated on January 21, 2011


FLASH !!! Update! I have just read Paris for Dummies (see adjoining display) and I hesitate to put it up in this blog because it TELLS EVERYTHING you need to plan your trip. (I have a few things they don't)

Go to the Amazon site and read the reviews of this great book ("with tips and recommendations form the experts at Frommer's"). You can always look at the pretty photos in other books (this book has only practical info)-and you could do it free at a bookstore. But this book is to be dipped into, studied, though over before and during your trip.

On p. 109 the author, Cheryl A. Pientka, tells you what to do if you arrive without a reservation. (I once did that in Hong Kong and I think I got the last room available in that giant city-it was the weekend of the Grand Prix of Asia. It makes sense: you go to one of the Tourism Offices of the city-in the Gare de Lyon, the Gare du Nord (gare=railway station) or the Opera-Grands-Magasins welcome center. BUT!! more than that, by going to these places you can find "rock-bottom" prices such as 3-star hotels at 2-star prices. They can also get you a room or bed in a student dormitory. The charge for the service is from $1.40 for dorms to $7 for 3-star hotels. Not much to pay to shave off a lot of money per night. (I've used these Office of Tourism in southern France and they work like a charm.)

In the early sections of the book there's great brief introductions to Paris history, food, air security, special interest traveling, including many resources for gay and lesbian-friendly travel businesses, as well as tours and books.

There's plenty of info to help you maneuver the gigantic and complex Charles de Gaulle airport and a number of all-you-need tourist maps.

Get it! Paris for Dummies

Posters for sale at Paris news kiosk (click to enlarge)

Paris: Planning the Holiday

I met Jim by accident at the Borders Book Store in the Stonestown Shopping Mall in San Francisco, where I live. We were both browsing the travel guides for Paris; he to find the best guide for an upcoming trip with his fiancé to The City of Light, me to find quirky little guides that I didn’t already have, or to update the ones sitting on my Paris shelf at home.

It all rushed back to me: the confusion, the excitement, the anxiety, the wonder, of my first trip to Paris. I mean the first trip where I didn’t whiz through as a teen-ager or train-changer. I’ve been back to Paris many times which brings me to say something I really want to say: I truly hope your first trip will not be your only visit to Paris. Sex, drugs and a lot of exotic foods often take getting used to-getting into it. And that sums up Paris: sex (or at least a very high high), drugs (the same effect from fast heartbeat, altered states of mind, exhaustion, moments of disorientation, exhilaration), and exotic foods (sometimes only the name is exotic, frequently a sandwich is a sandwich, not a “croque monsieur”).

The second time around is really great. At least it’s different from the first time in Paris. Still exhilarating, but not so blurry. Sooooo, if you have the money or the frequent flyer miles, try to plan to return. I promise you, the second time you won’t be shouting English to make people who only talk French understand you. You won’t be paranoid about the long lines and long questions asked at Charles de Gaulle airport (2nd time around: “Oh, that’s just what they do.”). You won’t feel that you have to see Notre Dame and the Louvre in fifteen to thirty minutes. You’ll find yourself looking more intensely at what’s being offered.

Everybody’s different. If you’ve had a lot of experience traveling, then you probably won’t get “traveler’s paranoia” nor shout gibberish at the natives. (You know the cartoon about the dog listening to his master? What the dog hears is blah, blah, blah, blah, Fido, blah, blah, blah, blah, Fido, blah, blah.)

Do you like New York? Chicago? Tokyo? London? If you do, you’ll love Paris and get along famously. If you don’t like big cities, well, there’s a good solution that will keep you happy in Paris. It’s what many neophytes do. Get a comfortable hotel (more about that later), get a map of the cab stands in the city (it’s verrrry hard to get cabs other than at cab stands in Paris), figure out exactly what you want to see-leaving leeway for changes, of course-and just go to the monuments, museums, gardens, etc. And that will be a very good visit. It will be the basic tourist visit and you’ll be able to say you saw the monuments, museums, gardens, etc. But I’m not sure it will be legitimate for you to say you saw Paris.

So this gets me to a big topic that is important to deal with from the start. What do you want to do, see, feel, experience in Paris? I think before you go you should have some idea about why you are going. Just as a preview, let me suggest the following reasons for going to Paris.

As with my acquaintance, Jim, at Borders Bookstore, are you going for a romantic experience with your true love? Or: Are you going on business and want to get a taste of the city? Are you an art lover and want to go to the important museums to see important paintings and sculpture? Did you read the Da Vinci Code and got all excited about seeing Paris and London (thousands and thousands of people were inspired to buy plane tickets by Dan Brown’s novel and now there are several guidebooks and guided tours for aficianados of his thriller). Are you a history buff and want to see where they set up the guillotine and chopped off the heads of the King and Queen? Do you want to go to clubs in France, drink in French bars and brasseries? Do you want to imagine yourself in one of the many films set in Paris (I’ve heard that the word Paris is the word most used in movie titles). And, of course, everyone being an individual, I could go on and on about reasons to visit Paris. There must be a lot of reasons because Paris is the city most visited by tourists in the entire world.

So, in my next Hub, I’ll talk about orientations for people with different motivations for their visit to Paris-the guidebooks to look at, the internet sites to explore and places to go. I’m not going to offer an entire guidebook, but more of a plan for setting up your trip. The homework is up to you. I’ll also give some suggestions for finding cheap but good places to stay and where to look for low cost flights.

Bon Voyage


Paris: 24 Hours of Paris Compressed to a few minutes!

Paris, France: Books and Guides

The Smashing pumpkins - God & Country - Paris 2007

2007 Paris Fashion Show-Unbelievable!

Fascinating Woman Detective Stories set in sections of Paris


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    • htodd profile image


      7 years ago from United States

      That is really great..Thanks

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Great... going to paris in 3 days and needed last minute help, you gave me just that, thanks love

    • snarlmkiv profile image


      10 years ago

      i love your hub. really great source of information for first time visitors. makes planning a bit easier also. thanks for sharing.

    • profile image

      Travel Guy 

      11 years ago

      Thanks! I'm planning a vacation to France soon and am looking for travel guide books. This is better than any reviews I've read!


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