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An unusual guide to Paris

Updated on January 25, 2013

A guide to Paris, France: Paris quiz, Paris photos, scams in Paris, what to do in Paris

Unusual guide to Paris. This Paris guide goes outside the regular Paris tours: what to see in Paris besides the usual Parisian attractions. Test your knowledge about Paris, the French capital, browse some beautiful Paris photos. Spare yourself some grievance by reading about the most common scams in Paris! Oh and I almost forget: read about dog poo in the street of Paris. Welcome to me personal one of a kind guide to paris!

The intro photo of Palais de Justice and bridge to exchange, Paris, France is in Public Domain

This Paris Quiz and Guide webpage was last updated by Fanfreluche on January 18 2012

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My first Paris Guide: Tardi's Adele Blanc-Sec - I was 8 years old when I discovered Paris

WARNING: do not read below if you haven't take my poll! this will be cheating!

I must have been around 8 years old when I first picked "Adele et la bete" (First translated in English as Adele and the beast, recently retitled Pterror over Paris) by Tardi at the local library. I was hook on the dark, scary (for an 8 years old) stories and got the second volume (Le demon de la tour Eiffel) the morning after because I just love Adele. She became my Hero. I was intrigued by the city she lived in (Paris), filled with old monuments, secret passages, funny looking cars, big and dark cemeteries. All of this in an always foggy depressing light.

22 Years later, when I first visited Paris I remembered everything from these books and went on a pilgrimage: visiting all the spots depicted by Tardi: Parc Monceau, Jardin des Plantes, tour Eiffel, Pere Lachaise cemetery and gare du Nord among other.

Credits for the Adele Blanc-sec images: @Tardi, Editions Casterman.


Blanc-Sec is not a real French surname, it means dry white wine.

The Extraordinary Adventures of Adle Blanc-Sec: Pterror Over Paris / The Eiffel Tower Demon (Vol. 1)

The first two books, in English. These are real classics. You will be back in time, in the early 1910, Paris. Strange, occult and weird incidents are happening in the busy capital and Adele Blanc-Sec, a reporter is investigating. A gallery of weird and weirder characters complete the set for the most unusual stories ever told!

Adele Blanc-Sec movie - Luc Besson

What to visit in Paris: my favorite, not mass-invaded attractions in Paris

Visit Pere Lachaise cemetery - It's much more than Jim Morrison tomb!

I love taking photos (mostly for the fun of it, I am absolutely not a photograph) and this well known cemetery is an amazing playground for me. If you need a little quiet time, the cemetery is great. you can walk hours without hearing a single stressful car honk! And this place is beautiful! there is much more to it than Jim Morrison (and other celebs) tombs. In fact I was very disappointed by most of the celebs tombs after having seen all those unknown mausoleums, tombs and crypts.

Old door details in a Paris Cemetery
Old door details in a Paris Cemetery
Sainte Chapelle
Sainte Chapelle

Visit La Sainte Chapelle

I know it is a "must visit" in all self-respecting Paris guide. Hence nothing unusual or original. But I wanted to tell you something:

DO NOT visit without a guide. Really you should invest in one. This is one of the rare monument/museum I would recommend paying for the guided tour. You will enjoy every single bit of it. Why? Because you will learn HOW TO READ A STAIN-GLASS WINDOW! Yes you read all right. You can read stain-glass windows. There is a specific way to do it. The guide will show you.

You see, in the middle ages, stain-glass windows where not there to make pretty. They had a purpose, they told a story. And when you know how to read them, you understand the messages.

Please invest in a guide for the Sainte-Chapelle. I did years ago and it was one of my most interesting visit ever.

Photo use under creative commons, thanks to Ollie-d

How to Read a Church: A Guide to Symbols and Images in Churches and Cathedrals

Just in case you cannot or don't want to pay for a Sainte Chapelle guided tour, here's a book that can do the trick. There is a section on stain glass windows.

Visit Le Jardin des Plantes - Not only a botanical garden!

The Greenhouse of le Jardin des Plantes
The Greenhouse of le Jardin des Plantes

I love le Jardin des Plantes (AKA Musum national d'histoire naturelle / Natural history museum), it is one of my favorite place to hang out in Paris. The greenhouse was originally build between 1834 and 1836 with added buildings later on. The one in my photo is the Tropical rainforest glasshouse, build in 1936 with a magnificent Art Deco entrance.

The greenhouse has been closed for a couple of years for renovation. It is now reopened and well worth a visit!

There is also a nice little zoo and the famous "Grande Galerie de l'evolution", a paleontology museum and a mineralogy museum. If you want to see everything, you will need more than a day. Kids won't be bored and will be delighted to see the dinosaurs skeletons.

There is 2 souvenir shop on the site: one is the Grande galerie de l'evolution and one in the paleontology museum.

See the beautiful greenhouse for yourself!

Visit Le Quartier Latin

Dragon at Fontaine Saint michel
Dragon at Fontaine Saint michel

Fontaine Saint-Michel is consider as a meeting point. In the center of the Quartier Latin, where no one sleeps. Lots and lots of restaurant, bookstores,student cafe,cool shops and the famous quais de Seine with the outdoor book sellers. I love to eat on a small street call rue de la Harpe. Many nice and cheap restaurants. After, a long walk to check all those books!

Visit Le Parc Monceau - In Paris 17em

Parc Monceau
Parc Monceau

Tired? Need a break away from the tourist filled monuments? Have already seen all the over populated parks listed in your Paris guide? Then Parc Monceau is for you! It is quiet, not too many tourists, far enough from most of the Parisian attractions. The only day you should avoid it is Wednesday because young kids don't have school and they hang in parks with their "nounous" (nanny).

Drinking coffee on a Parisian terrace

Your first cup of coffee may come as a shock to you. It is easy to order coffee, no worry there. Just ask "un Caf s'il vous plait" (or simply: caf). No, the surprise will come when you see what your coffee looks like. It is not your regular big mug water downed cup of brew. A "regular" coffee in France is a tiny cup of espresso. And there is no such thing as a "refill". Anywhere.

Now maybe you don't feel like getting that much cafeine and would prefer a "like at home coffee". You can. You just need to know what to order.

I will not reinvent the wheel here. There is already an excellent guide on coffee written here: Coffee (Caf) in Paris, France

Now that you know, you'll be able to enjoy your cup of coffee sitting at a table or, like parisian, standing at the counter.

Drugstore in Paris
Drugstore in Paris

An headache in Paris, France?

It can be a pain on Sundays!

Headaches and other minor pains such as heartburns can be mildly annoying. If you have no Aspirin, Tylenol or Tums on hands, you usually just go out to the nearest corner store, supermarket or pharmacy and get some. At any time. Night or day. That is if you live in North America.

If you are in France, it is another story. These products are sold exclusively over the counter in "pharmacies" (drugstores). Not much of a problem, there is pharmacies everywhere (French are huge consumers of medications and pills), you won't even have to look too long to find one. The problem will arise if you are in dire need for aspirin (or whatever) on Sundays! Almost everything is closed on Sundays. Including most of the pharmacies. You will need to find a "pharmacie de garde" (one that stays open, while all the others stay closed. They do that on rotation, so every week, it changes). To find one you either check online (see my link below) or walk around to the nearest pharmacie and check the door for the updated listing of "pharmacie de garde".

Pharmacie photo courtesy of @rgs under CC

I can't manage to cross the street to see Arc de Triomphe!

Of course you can't

True story. My cousin, a couple of years ago, visited Paris. One day she went to see the beautiful Arc de Triomphe. The Arc is in the center of Charles de Gaulle Etoile BIG roundabout. You know what she tried?? She tried to cross the roundabout. A huge roundabout of about 6/7 cars lanes (well in Paris the word lanes mean nothing because everyone drive like there is no rules). Imagine the honking she got. She spend at least 15 minutes trying.....before a good Samaritan told her to use the underground passage that goes straight under the roundabout to the feet of Arc de Triomphe. Now you have been warned, you do not cross a roundabout, you either go AROUND it or UNDER it. There is enough car honks and foul mouthed Parisians, no need to give them an excuse!

Street traffic in the Place de l'toile as seen from the top of the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, France photo used under creative commons, thanks to: BrokenSphere / Wikimedia Commons

Yes Paris is clean... mostly

It was not always the case

Paris still has this undeserved tag about being a very dirty city. It use to be true. The first time I was here, 10 years ago, I remember pestering about all the dog poo in the street and the dirty subway stations. And 10 years ago was much cleaner than 20 years ago. Paris has come a long way trying to give a sense of community into its citizen. And how do you make Parisians care about the cleanness of their city? By reaching for their pockets via hefty fines!

It started about 10 years ago. The first real target was uncaring dog owners. The city had enough of paying workers to clean all the poo from the street. There was even a special brigade of "motocrottes" ("motorpoo": small electric motorbikes specially designed for poo picking). So begin a long and difficult learning curve for the dog owners. Fines was the best education for them and after close to 10 years of repeated advertising and fines, Paris is now almost poo-free.

But the education continue and this year, the new advertisment are pretty in your face and I love them very much. I am showing you a couple here:

The first 2 posters read "Scandalous? In Paris too! Garbages are pollution. Leaving them in the street will result in a 183 euros fine." The last one reads "Disgusting? In Paris too.

Some little things you should know about Paris - or France in general

  1. Tips is included in restaurants
  2. Emergency numbers: dial 15 for medical emergency, dial 17 for the police and dial 18 for the firefighters (they can also be called for most emergency, so if you want to remember only one number, remember the 18.
  3. On Sundays, most stores and groceries are closed. Plan in advance or be stuck with small and expensive corner stores
  4. Mailing postcards? To Europe it will cost you 0.75 euros, To USA/Canada and rest of the world: 0.87 euros
  5. On Wednesdays, you will see lots of kids in the parks, that's because there is no school on Wednesdays

Fanfreluche lives in Paris - And will share some addresses

I live in Paris. Since a couple of years, with some break to see family in Canada pretty often. I miss Canada a lot. I am Canadian. But I also miss France when I am away. Complicated. So I just want to share some of my favorite addresses with you, next time you visit you can see for yourself.

My addresses are certainly not in any Paris guide. they are neither the best of, or the most expensive of.... They are just shops I love and they offer quality products.If you want the BEST OF, you better buy a guide (Michelin, or Gault-Millau for the food).

  1. My favorite croissants: Boulangerie Maeder Raoul (also known as boulangerie Alscacienne): 158, boulevard Berthier 75017 Paris. Great buttery crispy croissants, also a very decent old fashion baguette (la retro). Avoid the quiche they are too rich and bland. They are closed on Mondays and Sundays afternoon.
  2. My favorite quiches Boulangerie Lohezic 65 Rue Pierre Demours Paris 17em. Amazingly tasty mouthwatering quiches! My favorite are: "goat cheese and spinach", "leeks" and "provencal". You won't regret it! They also offer a good old fashion baguette and delicious pastries.
  3. My favorite crepes (thin pancakes) L'Etoile d'Or 12, Rue de Montenotte, 75017. Certainly not the best in Paris BUT they have original choice (try the chicken, onions and reblochon cheese), the plates are well filled, the have nice cider and prices are affordable. Good place for the hungry!

Gault Millau Guide to Paris 2009 (French Edition) - For the food lovers

Gault Millau Guide to Paris 2009 (French Edition)
Gault Millau Guide to Paris 2009 (French Edition)
This is THE book for food lovers! If you love food, if you want to discover the best and most unusual eating places in Paris (or in France) you want the Gault Millau guide. They are the reference in France. You can settle for an earlier edition with no problem. Some restaurant may be closed, some may have lost a star, but you will still get the essential. Cheers!

1. Under the Roman Empire, Paris was named:

  1. Vindisca: was the Roman name of Venasque, a city located in the Southeastern part of France, in Vaucluse department.
  2. Lugdunum: was the Roman name of Lyon, the 2nd largest city in France. Lyon is located in Rhne-Alpes region
  3. Lutetia: good answer! Lutetia was the Roman name for the city of Paris
  4. Rotomagus: was the Roman name of Rouen, the historic capital city of Normandy

Lutetia or the First Plan of Paris, from Caesar, Strabo, Emperor Julian and Ammianus Marcellinus

2. The oldest church in Paris is:

  1. Saint-Germain des Pres: good answer! Dates from the 11th century. Saint-Germain des Pres is the last romanesque architecture relic of Paris.
  2. Notre-Dame de Paris: the most famous church of France. The first stone was put in place in 1163 but Notre-Dame de Paris was finished in 1345!
  3. Eglise St-Severin: this church, as we know it, was started in the 13th century.
  4. Eglise des Invalides: 17th century

Saint-Germain des pres
Saint-Germain des pres

Saint Germain des Pres photo, courtesy of darek rusin under creative commons.

3. The first Paris metro (subway) line was inaugurated in:

  1. 1898: wrong
  2. 1900: good answer! The first Paris subway line was inaugurated in 1900 during Paris World fair.
  3. 1905: wrong
  4. 1919: wrong

Paris metro photo
Paris metro photo

Art Nouveau Paris Metro entrance photo, courtesy of Mr. T in DC under creative commons.

4. What French comic book artist wrote a series of graphic novels that recreates the Paris of early 20th century where the moody

  1. Herge: probably the most famous French language comic book artist. He is the father of the reporter Tintin and his dog Milou as well as the foul mouthed Captain Haddock! Tintin adventures take place all over the world, not in Paris.
  2. Enki Bilal: another famous French comic book artist. Known for his dark futuristic tales
  3. Rene Goscinny: creator of the famous Gaul heros Asterix and Obelix
  4. Tardi: Good answer! Meet Adele Blanc-Sec, a too curious girl who happens to run into the strangest adventures. Set in a early 20th century Paris.

5. The Eiffel Tower was inaugurated in:

  1. 1945: wrong
  2. 1919: wrong
  3. 1905: wrong
  4. 1889: Good answer! It was build for the 1889 World Fair. It is the tallest building in Paris and the most visited!

6. The city of Paris received a well known military medal in 1900, which one?

  1. The Victoria Cross: has never been awarded to a city
  2. The Legion d'Honneur: Good answer! Established by Napoleon Bonaparte, the Legion d'Honneur medal has been given to 69 cities (64 French cities and 5 foreign ones)
  3. The Silver Star: can only be awarded to a member of the United States armed forces
  4. Victory Medal (Inter-Allied War Medal): This medal was instituted only in 1919

La lgion d'Honneur
La lgion d'Honneur

Medaille de chevalier de la Legion d'honneur photo, courtesy of sunfox under creative commons.

7. Paris is divided in " arrondissements" ( neighborhoods or administrative districts), how many are there?

  1. 5: wrong
  2. 10: wrong
  3. 20: Good answer!
  4. 25: wrong

8. The name Paris come from:

  1. The Latin word for "the craftsmen": wrong
  2. The Celtic Gallic word for "big river": wrong
  3. The name of a Gaulish tribe: Good answer! Parisii is the name of the tribe
  4. A medieval word meaning "walls": wrong

Gallic Helmet Found at D'Amfreville, Eure, Site of Alesia Battlefield Where Caesar Defeated Gauls

9. Parisian "slang" language is called:

  1. Aligot: an excellent but artery clogging French dish: mashed potatoes and Tomme cheese, well blended until the preparation gets stringy.
  2. Beur: name given to French people born from North African immigrant parents
  3. Argot: Good answer!
  4. Le spleen de Paris: is the title of prose poems by Gothic poet Charles Baudelaire

10. In a Parisian bistro, if you order a "chevre chaud" ("warm goat") you will have to eat/drink this:

  1. Lentils with Walnuts and Goat Cheese: a real recipe, but not the right answer!
  2. A green salad with grilled goat milk on bread: Good answer! It's really good, and an easy recipe to make at home too.
  3. A tea served with frothy goat milk: I made that one up
  4. A traditional Curried Goat

chevre chaud salad
chevre chaud salad

Chevre Chaud salad, courtesy of lejoe under creative commons.

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