Trip Coach: October 23, 2007

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Sandra Gustafson, author of "Great Sleeps Paris" and "Great Eats Paris," answered your questions on Paris.

Sandra Gustafson: Bonjour! This is Sandra Gustafson here to answer your questions about Great Eats and Great Sleeps in Paris. My purpose during this time with you is to help you select well-priced hotels, restaurants that will make your stay in the City of Light truly memorable. So, let's book a flight, pack our bags, and go to Paris.

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Milwaukee, Wisc.: We are a family of 5 who are hopefully traveling to Italy this June and back through Paris for 2 days on the way home. Is there a cost-effective place to stay in Paris that will accommodate all of us?

Sandra Gustafson: Try the Port Royal Hotel in the 5th, an amazing value for a one star hotel.

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Denver, Colo.: What Paris hotel would you recommend for 2 young-middle age single women near the D'Orsay museum area, that will not be outrageously expensive, and easy to get to the Metro and bus lines?

Sandra Gustafson: I would suggest either the Hotel Varenne or the Hotel d'Orsay. Both are well located for the Musee d'Orsay and in a nice area of Paris.

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Concord, Ohio: My husband and I are going to Paris next July. With the exchange rate being so bad for Americans (hopefully it will improve by the time we go), we will most likely want to have most of our dinners in modest restaurants that are a good value. We are staying at the Marriott on the Champs Elysee, so what are some small moderately priced restaurants within walking distance of that area? Thank you.

Sandra Gustafson: You are staying in one of the high rent districts of Paris, but that does not mean you can't have a well-priced meal in the area. Aux Amis de Beaujolais at 28, rue d'Artois is a family run restaurant that is filled with locals for lunch and dinner. The terrace at Laduree, 75, avenue des Champs-Elysees is nice for a light meal. If you go upstairs, the food and the final bill will be much more elaborate. Finally, the wine bar chain l'Ecluse at 64, rue Francois 1er is a casual choice.

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Cambridge, U.K.: As an American living in the UK for a few years, should my wife and I consider Paris for Christmas, New Year's or a non-holiday break? We want to take advantage of the new Eurostar connection at St Pancras but aren't sure what's the best time in Paris.

Sandra Gustafson: I vote for all three! Christmas in Paris is beautiful. The Champs-Elisee is lighted with masses of white lights, the stores are aglow both inside and out, and neighborhoods all have their own decorations. New Year's is party time, the metro is a mob scene, many restaurants have special meals complete with champagne and hats. If you go at other times, Paris is still beautiful, you just won't have the whistles and bells of holiday celebrations.

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Fayetteville, Ark.: When we are in Paris, we often stay on or near Rue Cler, a market street. We would like to stay in other parts of the city. Are there other market streets in Paris that have reasonably priced hotels nearby?

Sandra Gustafson: My favorite market street is rue Montorgueil in the second. This is a happening area with the side streets full of funky boutiques. The only hotel on the street is the Hotel Victoires Opera. It is a 4-star, but they often have promotional prices. Hotel du Cygne is a budget choice about a 5 minute walk away. Mid-range is the Hotel Britannique. It is a 10-minute walk.

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Eustis, Fla.: Our family is traveling to Paris next May. I would like to buy euros now and throughout the coming months to hedge the expense. Where is a place to get them in Florida? Or elsewhere? Also any suggestions for a more frugal trip?

Thanks for your help,

Claire

Sandra Gustafson: It is a good idea to stash some euros now. Who knows what the rate will be next spring! Contact Travelex/Thomas Cook, 800/287-7362, travelex.com. They should be able to help you.

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Manhattan, Kans.: My husband and I are planning a trip to France next summer at the end of June. What kind of clothing would be appropriate to take? I always here that Europeans think Americans are bad dressers--I'd like to look nice and be comfortable. Any suggestions?

--Carol

Sandra Gustafson: Keep it simple. Wear light cottons, tailored slacks or skirts and avoid jogging shoes, baseball caps and wild printed outfits. Dark colors are best. Your husband will feel comfortable in slacks and a nice shirt, perhaps a turtle neck sweater or shirt and a jacket. He won't need a tie unless you are dining in fancy restaurants.

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Sun Prairie, Wis.: I want to use Hyatt Gold Passport points to stay in Paris for our very first visit to Europe. We will be spending 4 nights in Paris and there are 2 Hyatts other than the airport location. Which location would you suggest we stay at. My husband and our 19-year-old son will be traveling to Paris in May. Thank you.

Sandra Gustafson: I vote for the Park Hyatt Paris-Vendome, a luxurious hotel in a dynamite location.

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Lakewood, Colo.: We will be in Paris over the New Year's holiday with 2 teenage girls. Do you have suggestions for restaurants that are fun and not stuffy?

Thanks,

Gale

Sandra Gustafson: Brasserie Bofinger is a wonderful old brasserie near the Bastille. It has masses of mirrors, brass, stained glass and wood carvings dekpicting five continents. Reservations essential and far in advance for holidays. 01-42-72-87-82. Another festive choice is La Coupole in Montparnasse. This was the command post for the movers and shakers of the 20s and 30s in Paris. Today it remains as a Parisian favorite. Some nights there is dancing in the basement. lacoupoleparis.com, 01-43-20-14-20. Same reservation policy. I know they have a special meal for New Year's Eve.

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Woodbridge, Va.: We will be celebrating my fiftieth birthday in Paris, February 2008. We've never been to Paris at all, let alone in winter. From weather considerations to what activities are available--how best should we plan this trip?

Thank you,

Shirley

Sandra Gustafson: Happy Fiftieth Birthday! What a great way to celebrate. February will be cold and rainy, but that shouldn't hold you back. Pack a warm, lined raincoat, a hat, an umbrella, a pair of comfortable boots, silk long underwear, plus warm sweaters and slacks and you should be fine. Nothing in Paris shuts down due to weather conditions, so all the museums and churches will be open as will the stores. On clear days, plan a trip along the Seine in a Bateau Mouche, take a walking tour, and sit in a cafe and watch the world go by. Remember, less is more...savor every moment and don't try to do it all. Save some things for your next trip. Bon Voyage.

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Madison, Wis.: I have never traveled to Europe, and am thinking of making Paris my first destination. I'm a female in my fifties with some physical limitations (cannot walk long distances). What would you recommend for places to stay, things to see, method of transportation? The one thing I do want to see is the Louvre. Also, do most people speak English or will there be language issues?

Sandra Gustafson: Paris is not known for its handicapped facilities and there is walking involved and stair climbing if you use the metro. I would suggest you stay central to your interests and that you take a taxi to get around. Yes, it will cost more, but I think you would be more comfortable.

Don't worry about the language. Hotel desk staffs speak English and most restaurants have someone who can help you order. Many menus are printed in English. Hotel de la Place du Louvre or Hotel le Relais Saint-Honore are two hotels close to the Louvre. There are many, well-priced restaurants in the area, and you are close to Angelina's, famous for its hot chocolate and mont blanc dessert.

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Plymouth, Minn.: My husband and I are taking our 2 teens (ages 15 and 18) to France next summer as a high school graduation gift to my daughter (who has taken 4 years of French language and loves it). We'll spend 5-7 days in Claviers in Provence and 5-6 days in Paris. Since my husband and I have been to Paris and seen many art museums, what are the must-do things that will not bore my two teens? Obviously some art museums are on the list, but we'll see many of them in the south of France also. Anything new and unique they would enjoy? My daughter really wants to see Giverny (we've seen it) and also Versailles--would these be boring for my 15-year-old son? And is the Moulin Rouge just too much for teens, or a classic French experience? In your opinion, what is the best guidebook out there for us?

Thanks!

Ellen

Sandra Gustafson: Your 15-year-old son will probably be more interested in Versailles than Giverny, but since your daughter has her heart set on it, you should go there, and perhaps he will enjoy being along for the ride. Malmaison, where Napoleon and Josephine spent many happy hours, is an interesting side trip as is Vaux le Vicomte and Fontainebleu, home of 14 kings of France. As for the Moulin Rouge, I understand the new show is great. With all the junk in the media and on the Internet, this will probably be tame by comparison.

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Dublin, Ohio: What do you consider the most charming hotel(s) on the left bank for under 200 euros? We'd like a room large enough not to trip over our suitcases all week, but not be a "Plain Jane" room, but be more in the Provencal style. (Does the Saint Germain de Pres fall into this category?) What are your favorite bistros withing walking distance of this area that we don't normally hear about or are worth all the hype if we do? --Carol

Sandra Gustafson: You could probably get in under the wire at the Saint Germain des Pres, but the room will be small. I like the Hotel le Relais Medicis, which is charming. Rooms are bigger than most, and the location is super. La Bastide Odeon is consistently good and lives up to its hype. La Lozere serves cuuisine from the rugged Lozere region of France. If you are willing to go further afield, La Cerisaie, in Montparnasse, is that little bistro we all hope to find. It is run by a husband (he cooks) and wife (she serves) team. The food is wonderful and it is perpetually packed. Reservations essential. 01-43-20-98-98

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Woodbridge, Va.: My wife and I are going to Europe for the first time. Shirley is turning 50 and wants to do so in Paris. We will be there the week of Feb. 4, 2008. What is the best way for newcomers to approach Paris and environs?

Sandra Gustafson: Your wife Shirley beat you to the punch with almost the same question. Please see above. Have a great trip.

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Bethesda, Md.: Bonjour! Heading to Paris and will be there from Nov 15-20th. Looking for a small apt or cozy hotel on a budget for the four nights we are there. No more than $130 (US dollars) per night. Ideally in the St. Germain area or in close proximity to that. Any suggestions?

Thanks!

Molly

Sandra Gustafson: This is a tall order. Most apartments require a minimum of 5-7 days, but Kudeta Home is one that often lets very basic, simple apartment accommodations for just a few days. Dhely's Hotel in the 6th arrondissement is a budget basic with no frills.

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Seattle, Wash.: I am taking my teens (14 and 17) for a week in Paris this July. We are trying to choose between an apartment in the 15th--but at the border of the 7th. Sevres-Lecourbe area--and one in the 5th. Any advice?

Sandra Gustafson: Stay in the fifth. There is more to see and do here. The other areas are ok, but not as much fun for you teens.

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Qualicum, B.C., Canada: My husband, 13-year-old son and I will be traveling to Paris next April 5-10th. We definitely travel in budget style and have booked a studio apt. in the second district on rue d'Aboukir. Someone thought it may be in the garment district, away from it all. Can you tell me a little about this area? I also notice on the Bateaux Les Vedettes du Pont-Neuf website that there is a four euro per ticket discount if booked on the internet? Is the the boat tour you would recommend? I had heard that it was close to a food market so it cannot be that bad!

Thanks in advance,

Sandy

Sandra Gustafson: Please, don't worry about the location of your apartment. Yes, rue d'Aboukir is in the garment district, but it is minutes away from the rue Montorgueil, a fabulous shopping street with everything from patisseries, fresh fruit and vegetables, three supermarkets, a horse butcher and side streets filled with up-and-coming boutiques. There are two metro lines, several buses and it is an easy walk to the Palais Royal gardens and the Louvre. This is my favorite neighborhood in Paris. Most of the Bateau Mouches are about the same...they only travel up and down the Seine. Avoid the touristy and overpriced dinner cruises.

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Shelburne Falls, Mass.: Our family of four--including two children who will be ages 9 and 13--will be spending 4 days in Paris next summer and welcome any suggestions for age-appropriate activities and reasonably-priced, conveniently-located hotels. I am overwhelmed by the size of the city and hotel choices! Thank you.

Sandra Gustafson: Don't be overwhelmed. Paris is quite negotiable if you have the Plan de Paris par Arrondissement, an easy to use map plan of Paris. You should be able to order it over the Internet, and it is sold at all the news kiosks in Paris. Take your children to the Pompideau Center which is the huge modern art museum, on a boat ride on the Seine, to the top of the Eiffel Tower, the Luxembourg Gardens and walk along the Champs Elysees. If they like music, a trip to FNAC is a must. It is a huge warehouse-like store that sells it all. Finally, I can't stress this enough: don't try to do everything. Spend some time just enjoying being in Paris. Here are several hotel suggestions: Familia Hotel and Hotel Saint-Jacques. Both are in the vibrant 5th arrondissement. Grand Hotel des Balcons in the 6th is super budget bet.

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Fayetteville, Ark.: My fiance and I will be celebrating our honeymoon in Europe in late December 2007 and will be spending 4 nights in Paris. Our last night there will be New Year's Eve. What is a great way to spend New Year's in Paris?

Thanks,

Jessica

Sandra Gustafson: Have dinner at le Jules Verne restaurant on the second level of the Eiffel Tower. This will not be a cheap eat, but one you will never forget. 01-45-55-61-44. Reserve as far ahead as possible.

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Conway, Ariz.: Where do you consider the best people watching in Paris? Not for the youngsters only, please.

Sandra Gustafson: A sidewalk table at Les Deux Magots on boulevard St-Germain-des-Pres.

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San Francisco, Calif.: My sister and I plan to take my niece to Paris in July or August of '08 (10-14 days) to celebrate her 21st birthday. Can you offer suggestions for renting an apartment? Which month is better for getting a good rate? Also, can you provide ideas for low cost entertainment? Many thanks. --Kathy

Sandra Gustafson: July and August are tourist months, so reduced rates will be hard to find for apartments. It is not too early now to book your apartment at the price you want to pay. Haven in Paris, run by Erica Barman has wonderful apartments. So does
Guest Apartment Services Paris. Rothray never fails to please, but they usually want longer stays. However, please check with them because they are wonderful to work with.

Low cost entertainment might include concerts in one of the major churches, sitting in a cafe, shopping and finding a bargain that you would pay three times the price at home. Of course there are the big, splashy shows at the Moulin Rouge and Crazy Horse. Go to the last show...not the dinner show.

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Charleston, W.Va.: My husband and I, along with our 16-year-old son, are starting to plan a trip to Paris on Dec. 20th or 21st to visit our daughter who's attending school there this year and resides in the 6th arrondissement. Are there any hotels nearby that you recommend and are we crazy for trying to visit Paris at that time of year? Do restaurants in Paris serve meals on Christmas or is it like the U.S. where there is next to nothing available? We may split up our trip that will probably be 10 days in length with a visit to another European city, possibly Barcelona, Spain.

Sandra Gustafson: No you are not crazy for going to Paris at Christmas. It is wonderful...you will love it. The 6th is one of the most popular arrondissements in Paris, and hotels reflect this. Hotel Dauphine Saint-Germain-des-Pres has well-done rooms and a wonderful breakfast buffet. Hotel de L'Odeon had an excellent location. Hotel Luxembourg Parc, a 4- star with every comfort. You won't be reduced to a Big Mac on the Champs-Elysees. Most large restaurants and brasseries will be open, but many serve only a set-priced meal. Reservations are mandatory.

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Morristown, N.J.: What happened to the original hotel at LaTour Mauberg as mentioned in Ms. Gustafson's earlier book, Cheap Sleeps in Paris? Thank you.

Sandra Gustafson: Wasn't that a wonderful hotel as described in my Cheap Sleeps in Paris. The family sold the hotel to Victor and Maria Orsenne, who redid it, keeping the spirit of the original home. Several years ago they sold it to another hotelier in Paris who completely revamped the hotel again. While on my last research trip, it was still a long work in progress, so I could not review it. Hopefully, on my next research trip to Paris, it will be completed and I will be able to include it in Great Sleeps Paris.

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Sandra Gustafson: Thank you for your great questions. If I wasn't able to get to yours, you may send me an email by going to my website, greateatsandsleeps.com. While you are on the site, be sure to click on the camera for a virtual tour of Paris restaurants and food shopping sites that appear in the eleventh edition of Great Eats Paris.

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