BONJOUR, PARIS!

You who have never been to Paris know,and you who have never been--go!
-- John Ruskin,
A Tour through France


Paris is the city of lights, and travels in and around Paris can light up your life. Here's a quick guide to easy, affordable travel in one of the world's most romantic cities.

FORGET PARIS? Never! "We'll always have Paris," said Rick to Ilsa in Casablanca--and he's right. Once you've visited this romantic city, the memory of this place will stay with you forever.

When in Paris...stay on the The Left Bank (5th arrondissement/district) near the Sorbonne. You don't want to stay anywhere but a hotel or apartment in or around the Latin Quarter (to get there, look for the Saint-Michel - Maubert Mutualite Metro stop, or if you're using the RER metro train, get off at the the Saint-Michel - Luxembourg stop). If you're near that, you're going to have a good time and you'll be able to get around easily to all the places you'll want to see in Paris. You'll also be fairly close to the Gare de Lyon train station when you want to take side trips out of Paris.
My favorite little neighborhood hotel in Paris is the Hotel Claude Bernard; I've been there time and again and recommended it to others who have enjoyed it as well. The Hotel Claude Bernard located in the Latin Quarter and Saint-Germain des Pres, the heart of the city, is close to all these places reminding of Paris prestigious history: Notre-Dame, Cluny Abbey, the banks of river Seine and the second hand book- sellers, Saint Michel and Saint Germain, Beaubourg, the Louvre and Orsey Museums. In this lovely place, full of charm and character you will appreciate the art of good living while making your stay a moment to remember. The address: 43 Rue des Ecoles, Paris, 75005 France. (It runs about $117 a night, US--but ask for a better rate and they always try to work with you if they can. However this is a reasonable rate for a nice Paris hotel). http://www.paris-hotel-booking.com/

If you're a budget traveler and you just want the basics--nothing fancy--and you don't even mind sharing a bathroom down the hall, I know of a clean well-lighted place with rock-bottom prices. The Hotel du Commerce on Rue de Montaigne is a 1 or 2 star hotel, and it is like a hostel in many ways, but it is clean and inexpensive, and its location is just great. I've stayed here a few times when I needed just needed a room for the night before meeting an early morning train or plane.
Visit their Web site at www.commerce-paris-hotel.com, Located in the heart of the Latin Quarter, near Saint Germain, the Hotel du Commerce is just a few blocks away from the Cathedral Notre-Dame de Paris, the Panteon, Sorbonne University and the Seine river banks. At It is an ideal place for travelers, students, professors and families. Located just around the corner (a couple blocks away) from the Hotel Claude Bernard, it is located in the 5th district in the Latin Quarter near the Sorbonne at 14 rue de Montaigne Sainte Genevieve, Paris 75005, France.
Staying near a university like the Sorbonne ensures that there will be plenty of sidewalk cafes, jazz clubs, music venues, museums, art exhibits, shops, and affordable lodging nearby. This is the neighborhood of poets and artists, and famous writers like Hemingway lived on the Left Bank, too. (I love to walk by the apartment where he lived on rue Cardinal Lemone).

What to see during your Paris vacation:
Yes, you simply must see the Eiffel Tower, but first walk around the Latin Quarter and visit the cafes, outdoor markets, and old churches (they have great music recitals in the old neighborhood churches almost every night), and stroll along the river Seine. There you'll not only behold the stalls of artists and street vendors, you'll come to a breathtaking view of Notre Dame Cathedral. Did you know it's over 700 years old? Its gothic majesty, gargoyles, stained glass windows, and statues are sure to astound you. Be sure to go inside and take time to climb the bell towers (Quasimodo watch out!). Located on the Ile de la Cite, surrounded by the Seine, it is a spectacular place to start your tour of Paris.
Then, visit the Louvre or any one of the many, many museums in Paris such as the Musaee d'Orsay, the Rodin Museum. Musee de l'Art Moderne de la ville de Paris. There are museum passes you can buy that will grant you entrance into as many as 80 museums in Paris alone!
At this point, I'd hop on a double-decker bus (an inexpensive way to see all the major attractions of Paris in 24 hours, and a good mode of transportation all day long in the city). This way you'll see things like the Eiffel Tower, Hotel de Ville, Bastille Square Sorbonne, St-Germain-des-Pres, the Champs-Elyses, Arch of Triumph, Invalides, Concorde Square, Madeleine Church, Opera Square, and the Place des Pyramides--to name just a few of the most lovely places in Paris.
When you're tired and hungry, go to the top of the
La Samaritaine, a department store which occupies four buildings in the center of the city. The best kept secret of the locals in Paris is that there at the department store, a cafe on the roof of store number two, offers a 360 degree view of Paris. Have an inexpensive lunch and take great photos. You'll know you've seen la vie en rose when you dine here with a glass of wine or a cup of strong, hot coffee on a clear, lovely Paris afternoon.

Want the most romantic dinner experience one of the world's most romantic cities? Propose to your girlfriend here, and she'll swoon ! You'll both remember it as the most romantic dinner ever. Le Train Bleu restaurant is located at the Gare de Lyon train station, so it's easy to find. It's very formal (read expensive), but extremely romantic. Make reservations in advance for a special evening of fine dining at Le Train Bleu, Gare de Lyon - place Louis-Armand - Paris 75012. Tel : 01 43 43 09 06 - Fax : 01 43 43 97 96, Subway : Gare de Lyon
Seats : 250,Open 7/7
And while you're there making plans for the future, make plans for a side trip to other enchanting towns outside of Paris. Buy a Eurail Pass (they have country passes that are good for not only France but other countries in Europe!) and make reservations on trains headed to locations throughout France such as Avignon, Dijon, or Lourdes! Even beautiful Venice, Italy, is a just romantic overnight train trip from Paris. You'll be there on the Grand Canal to cross the Rialto bridge by mid-morning the next day. Eurail has great prices, clean, fast trains, good service, good food, efficient schedules, and passes to countries throughout Europe as well as discounts on Ferries and other travel means and destinations. See http://www.eurail.com/ for all the information on the services this fabulous company has to offer travelers.


"If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then whenever you go for the rest of your life it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast." -- Ernest Hemingway
Even after a short stay in the city of lights, memories of Paris stay with you for the rest of your life. So what are you waiting for? So Bon Voyage and Bonjour, Paris!


Janis Turk, Travel Writer