By Norman Shabel
Paris in the fall! What an adventure for the lover of French baguettes, the Louvre Museum, the Eiffel Tower and the River Seine.
As we get older, and things we do in everyday life become monotonous, why not exhilarate your mind and body by escaping from everyday boredom to the everyday excitements of walks down the Champs-Élysées or sitting outside at Fouqet’s Restaurant munching on mussels meuniere and drinking a delicious red Bordeaux wine that has been sitting in the restaurant’s wine vault for a dozen years?
Preparing for such a mid-life escapade is less complicated than you might imagine. All it takes is knowledgeable planning of every aspect of the Paris adventure. Where do you start?
First, and foremost, you must think of money. How much to spend without breaking the bank? The Internet is the perfect place to start your research on the right hotels at the right amount of euros you want to spend. The first lesson of French Economics the astute traveler must learn is exchanging American dollars for euros and receiving the best exchange rate possible. Where to go for the best exchange rate can be a daunting task. Your own national bank is the answer. Most national banks in the United States have foreign exchange departments that will give you the best exchange rate for your dollars.
Hotels, hotels, hotels … again, that is the big question that you must answer before you consider dropping out of the Parisian sky. Location of the hotel is the next piece of the pie. Paris has twenty-one arrondissements (districts, for you neophytes). The Internet will describe each nearby attraction and you should select the one that has the Paris attractions that you can’t wait to experience. The Right Bank (of the Seine) is ideal for the classic Paris sites: the Arc de Triomphe, Champs-Élysées and the Louvre. The Left Bank is home to great avenues filled with scenery, restaurants and fascinating museums.
Some Parisian attractions you shouldn’t miss are the early morning antique market at the Old French airport, Le Bourget, and the antique and clothing market at Marché aux Puces in Clignancourt, just outside of downtown Paris.
A word of caution to those considering a visit to Paris: If you’re anything like me, you’ll fall in love with the city and want to make it your home, whether for a month, a year or a lifetime. The biggest challenge for a longer-term adventure is to consider your language ability. The Alliance Française on the Left Bank offers language courses to aid in breaking the barrier.
Of course, the question any maturing American must answer deals with the length of the stay in Paris. If you find yourself never wanting to leave, and decide to spend the rest of your life in the City of Light, one must explore a number of legal and economic considerations. Under Paris Rooftops is a glossary of important information for any reader who is contemplating moving either permanently or buying Paris real estate for occasional use. The book cites English speaking realtors, English speaking lawyers, and English speaking architects to use in the buying process. Also, the book will lead the reader to American clubs that the reader could join and enjoy.
Norman Shabel is the co-author of Under Paris Rooftops, a memoir of moving to Paris.