traveling in Paris

Before I went on my trip to Paris in April '01, I wasn't sure where I should stay. After all, there are a gazillion hotels, motels, and inns to choose from! Thanks to the organization called San Francisco Women on the Web (SFWoW), however, I've met people who were able to give me some suggestions. I had done some research on and found the Golden Tulip Cayre Hotel; it is supposed to be very close to all the major museums. I posted a question about it on SFWoW's email discussion group, and below are responses from the members of the list. Some are specifically about the hotel itself, but you will also find excellent tips about traveling in Paris.

This is my original post:

So, I'm planning a 7-day trip to Paris in April, and gave me a package that includes a stay at the Golden Tulip Cayre Hotel in the Left Bank at 4 Boulevard Raspail, which is supposedly very close to the Louvre, Musee d'Orsay, Musee Rodin, Notre Dame, among other places.

Here's my question: Has anyone heard of this hotel, or is familiar with the Golden Tulip chain? Is it a pretty safe area to stay by myself? Anything I need to watch for? This will be my first time in Paris, so any tips would be appreciated. I've already purchased the Dorling Kindersley Eyewitness Travel Guide: Paris, Rick Steves' Paris, and a street map of Paris. Just need to hit that Purchase button and off I go!

Many thanks in advance....

Jeannie :)

The responses to my question follow below. Please note that I do not claim credit for them. I am grateful to all the SFWoW members who took the time to reply and give me these wonderful tips about traveling in Paris.

Jeannie..I don't know the hotel, but it is my favorite neighborhood, and Rue de Raspail my favorite street. There are wonderful nooks and crannies...the hotel address sounds as if it is very close to the Seine bridge over to the Tuilleries (and Louvre is at that end). Push the button! And have a wonderful time...Jane

Hi Jeannie,

I'm not familiar with that hotel, but if it's where I think it is, then yes, it's a good area. I think it's in a great shopping area and safe to be there at night or during the day. The area right around the Louvre is pretty safe. I think it may be some blocks away (Raspail, that is). I've been to Paris three times and I'm jealous cause I've never been there in the Spring! Enjoy!

Lynn :-)


Congratulations on your trip to Paris! And good for you to go off-season. The trip will be better because of it. I spent a couple of weeks in France last October-November.

In Paris, you get what you pay for. I don't know this hotel chain, specifically, but let price be your gauge. The Left Bank has a number of attractions, so you'll be in the company of tourists. It's crowded and on the loud side (do you like to sleep in the morning?) because tour buses, food stands, and t-shirt shops are open and looking for business. I've always chosen to stay on the Right Bank to be closer to the Parisians. The underground railway is the best in Europe, IMO. Hold on to your ticket, though, until you get onto the street. They have people who check tickets and they'll not understanding if you lose or toss the ticket in advance. Make a point to travel across Paris via the underground at least one afternoon.

Give 2 days for the Louvre (headphones are good). It's big, it's wonderful, and deserves more than a cursory visit. The Eiffel Tower at night is great, but my neice prefers the Arc d'Triomphe view at night. The other thing I love about France are the price tags. When you get to the check-out stand, the price on the item is what you pay. Tax is already included. I LOVE THAT. (You can count on the tax being approximately 25% of the total price, if you're interested.)

Last, the French say "Thank You Bye" rather than just "Thank You" when leaving a store, restaurant, asking for directions. Even if you don't speak French, remember "Merci au Revoire." Have a great time!


I've been to Paris three times, my longest trip was a few months, my shortest three weeks.

I don't know the hotel of which you speak, but the arrondisement is fine, somewhat upscale and safe. Actually all of Paris is pretty safe - I feel safer there than in San Francisco - although I am one thick skinned bird!

Learn a little French before you go - read my travel tips on my website. Walk everyday, eat everything, sit in a cafe at least once a day and watch life go by! :)


I was in paris a few years ago, for a while. I found that traveling on the metro at night is okay if you remember the closing time, and don't wander around looking like a tourist. If you're not familiar with Paris, I wouldn't recommend staying in the Latin Quarter (though, it might have changed int he last few years since I was there... I was nearly mugged there my first night in Paris). If anyone is looking for a nice, clean hotel, the Hotel Leveque (on Rue Cler) is quite nice (and they finally installed an elevator so you don't have to lug your bags to the third floor).


Hi Jeanne,
I love Paris anytime! I think the Golden Tulip chain is pretty big and well known in Europe - it sounds familiar from my biz travel days. To add to the comment that the French always say goodbye and thank you... they also always say "bonjour" upon entering a store - it's directed to the proprietor primarily but includes the other customers who are there too. These two things - saying hello and goodbye - made a huge difference in my experience in the kind of reception and service I got. Below is an email I sent to someone who was moving to Paris. I doubt you'll be able to fit it all in in one week, but at least you'll have some targets. cheers and bon voyage,

----- Original Message -----

Lucky you! I have lots of suggestions for you, having spent oodles of time in France and particularly in Paris.

First off, a book that I found really useful was French or Foe by Polly Platt. She's great at understanding the cultural differences btw Americans and French, and explaining them in a way that is respectful of both cultures. Sometimes the French just make me want to scream, and this has helped me deal. My friend read it just before leaving France after working there for 2 years, and said it would have made her experience there a lot easier.

They do admire intelligence, so the more you know about your country and theirs, and the more interest you show in their history, language, culture, etc., the better your experience will be (and you'll shatter a few of those anit-US stereotypes as well!).

A colleague of mine had a book called Cheap Eats in Paris which we used whenever either of us was there. We always had great luck. Some of the recommendations below are from that book.

I lived in Tours for 6 months in college, and the first week, our French teacher gave us a list of her favorite things to do in Paris/must-sees for visitors. This was 10 years ago so I can't vouch for everything being current. But here they are:

  1. Champs Elysees: walk up and down Paris' "5th Ave", see the Jardin des Tuileries, the Place de la Concorde, the Arc de Triomphe, and the president's residence. In the Jardin des Tuileries is l'Orangerie, which houses Monet's huge waterlily paintings in a big round room downstairs. Stunning.
  2. Notre Dame: Mass with the big organs is supposed to be beautiful, though I never made it (not Catholic, not real inspired to go to mass). There are also free concerts. Walk along the Seine near here and poke around in the used book bins.
  3. La Sainte Chapelle: near ND.
  4. Montmartre.
  5. La Tour Eiffel.
  6. Le quartier St. Michel: the Jardin du Luxembourg, le Senat, le Pantheon (burial place of important folk), la Sorbonne.
  7. Le quartier St. Germain des Pres (the intellectual quarter): Have a beer at the famous Flore or Les Deux Magots, hangout of famous writers from Voltaire to Hemingway to Simone de Beauvoir and Sarte and the existentialists.
  8. Le quartier des Halles: Centre Beaubourg (known to Americans as the Pompidou museum modern art) and it's fountain.
  9. Le Louvre et la pyramide.
  10. Le Musee Picasso.
  11. Le Musee Rodin and les Invalides where Napoleon is buried.
  12. La Cite des Sciences de la Villette.
  13. La Grande Arche de la Defense: in line with the Arc de Triomphe, but out in Paris' version of Silicon Valley, an area called La Defense.
  14. Le quartier de Maris: This was the old Jewish quarter, and la Place des Vosges is its centerpiece; La Comedie Francaise, where Moliere put on plays, is also here.
  15. Le Faubourg St Honore: the haute-couture district. Good for window shopping and celebrity sightings.
  16. Les Galeries Lafayette: France's Bloomingdale's.
  17. l'Opera: rumored for centuries to be haunted, it inspired the story of the Phantom of the Opera. The ceiling murals were painted by Chagall when it was renovated this century.
  18. Le Musee d'Orsay: impressionist museum featuring all the famous names, housed in a former train station. Really beautiful building to match the collection.
  19. A ride in a Bateau-Mouche under the Pont Neuf: these are the boats that cruise up and down the Seine showing off points of interest. Can't vouch for this personally.
  20. Librarie Shakespear & Companie: English language bookstore? Supposedly owned by a descendent of Walt Whitman, but I went in and asked once and the staff snorted "That's what HE says."
  21. Rue de Rivoli/les Arcades: across from the Jardin des Tuileries. Angelina's Tearoom and another good English language bookstore are here.

Here are some suggestions I sent to a friend who went last year:

Chez Angelina
226 Rue de Rivoli
You can't miss this!
Must order the Chocolat a l'Africain, la specialite de maison. They don't let you split an order, and it is way rich. Especially if you stir in additional whipped cream. Good for an afternoon snack if you aren't planning on dinner until 8 or 9! Be prepared to wait in line for a table.

Bistrot Le P'tit Troquet
28, rue de l'Exposition, 7th
ferme le dimanche
Great little bistro, assez romantique, friendly people who own it and daily changing menu. Can't remember if we had reservations or not.

La Table de Fes, restaurant marocain
5, rue Sainte-Beuve, 6th
ferme le dimanche et aout
Excellent couscous, we went here for my birthday last year. I can't remember what it was called, but we got the traditional pot of stew to spoon over the couscous (second group of items on the menu). The owner is Liliane, she's really nice and very chatty. You won't need reservations.

Asian, French pan-Asian
30, avenue George V, 8th
Hip and hot new restaurant with prices to match. Gorgeous decor. We had the menu de degustation, which was amazing and the best way to try more of the menu. The duck in red curry was my favorite. If you have a choice of desserts, go with the fruit as the pastries are unimpressive for the most part (ca suprise a Paris, n'est-ce pas?!). You definitely need reservations here.

17, rue Malar, 7th
Another cute little bistro that was a favorite of my friends and among the American expats. (Lots of French like it too though.) The owners are American. Food was good, service was friendly. We went here the night I arrived though, so I don't remember it well.

Le Reconfort
37 rue de Poitou
75003 paris
01 42 76 06 36 - You must book the table in advance!
They are closed til early September. I have not been here, but it comes highly recommended from my Parisian friends. It's provencal cuisine.

La Coupole
don't know the address but it's on Blvd Montparnasse about 1 or 2 blocks west of the big Galeries Lafayette mall, on the south side of the street. My publisher took me here for lunch, it was great. Apparently one of the oldest and best brasseries in Paris.

Random bits:

Nadine Libert
20 passage Moliere, 3rd
Cute, tiny pottery store; lovely plates and bowls and such. Don't make a special effort but if you're in the neighborhood (near the centre Beaubourg) it would be fun.

Place des Vosges
in the Marais, one of the oldest parts of Paris. We went at night when it's all lit up beautifully, and there are a few cafes with sidewalk seating. We were also lucky enough to see inside someone's apartment, they had left the window open and the light on, and we saw a beautiful old wood beam ceiling.

Bois de Bologne
I always meant to go there and never got there until my publisher took me this time (in a car). I still think it might be hard on public transit — there's a metro stop but the park is huge. However, once you get in, it's like being in the country, and you can rent canoes on the lake and paddle about.

Les Catacombs
For a really wacky day, go on a tour of these subterranean tunnels. As San Francisco dug up its dead and shipped them off to Colma once upon a time, so Paris did with some of its cemeteries. I think monks were the ones who collected the bones and piled them up in bizarre artistic formations. If you're at all claustrophobic (like me) and from earthquake territory, it's a real adventure!

Bon voyage et bonne chance!

Hi Jeannine!

I go to Paris for at least a month every year. EVERYTHING in Paris is close to everything else. I love the Left Bank, and prefer that part of Paris for my lodging.

I think you will be fine at 4 Bvd. Raspail, but if you decide you want to check out other options, here are some hotels in the Latin Quarter and St. Germaine des Pres that are within five to ten minutes (walking) of the Seine, Musee d'Orsay, Louvre, etc. (Of course, if you take the Metro, you are within five to ten minutes of those places no matter WHERE you are!) I made this list for a friend who is also considering a trip to Paris in April!

Say hello to Paris for me, and tell her I'll be back soon.

Marie Robertson

In case you haven't come across it, a most useful site on the Web for planning your Paris trip is actually the Paris Tourist Office site. (Quel suprise!) It's at:

Hotels (all bed and breakfast style, not too many American-style "room service" type hotels in Paris for $100/night, if any!):

Le Clos Medicis
56 rue Monsieur le Prince, Paris, 75006
phone +33 (1) 43 29 10 80
I love this bed and breakfast hotel. A very generous breakfast, and an excellent location, along with a superb bilingual staff. If you get a room overlooking the street, you get a show every night as gutsy Parisians navigate automobiles and bikes between parked cars on a street that was constructed in about 1811! Don't pass up the Restaurant Thailandaise/Chinoise next door.

Odeon Hotel
3 rue de l'Odeon, Paris, 75006
phone +33 (1) 43 25 90 67
I know people who stayed here and thought it was charming. I think it was recently remodeled.

Ecoles Odeon
19 rue Monsieur le Prince, Paris, 75006
phone +33 (1) 46 33 31 69
Several people from the European Studies Association program stayed here when they weren't able to get single rooms in our dormitory. They liked it quite a bit. Very quiet and quaint.

Michelet Odeon
6 Place de l'Odeon, Paris, 75006
phone +33 (1) 53 10 05 60
I think this is the swankier of the hotels I've listed with "Odeon" in the name (they aren't related, they're just all in the same area). Again, people from the Paris 98 program stayed here after the program ended, and enjoyed it.

De L'Odeon
13 rue St. Suplice, Paris, 75006
phone +33 (1) 43 25 70 11
A very pretty little hotel in a 16th-century building ... but they're all pretty much 16th-century buildings around here! Highly recommended by a couple of friends of mine from the Paris program.

Grand Hotel Des Balcons
3 rue Casimir Delavigne, Paris, 75006
phone +33 (1) 46 34 78 50
Despite the name, this is not exactly a "grand" hotel. It is a nice two-star hotel, in the same general neighborhood as the others. ESA staff stayed here rather than in the dorm with us pitiful students.

Oh, if you should hit the lottery between now and March, you WILL want to stay at:

Relais Christine
3 rue Christine, Paris, 75006
+33 (1) 43 28 19 80

Don't miss:
Eiffel tower *at sunset* (it's a cliche for good reason)
Boat down the Seine (the funky one is more fun than the fancy one)
Mariage Freres (a quintessential tea shop in the Marais and a perfect Paris experience; go there just to see and smell the place even if you aren't a tea lover)
Le Train Bleue (a restaurant in Guare de Lyon, the train station; again, go there if only to see the place)
Musee d'Orsay (more beautiful than the Louvre and offering an extraordinary insight into modern art)
Versaille (especially Marie Antoinette's hameau, which makes the inevitability of the French revolution immediately apparent)

Dunno if any of any of my French spelling is correct, BTW.

Also, for good insight into French culture and customs, read Culture Shock France, one of a series of books that offer information about how best to get along with people in various countries. If you say hello, please, thank you, and goodbye at the right times and in even the most fractured French, for example, you will encounter little or none of the notorious Parisienne attitude toward Americans.



Check out Rick Steves' Paris city guide. He specializes in Europe guidebooks and has traveled extensively to Europe for about 25 years. His guides offer very practical travel advice.

Have a wonderful trip,

> If you say hello, please, thank you, and goodbye at the right
> times and in even the most fractured French, for example, you
> will encounter little or none of the notorious Parisienne
> attitude toward Americans.

Have to disagree slightly, the notorious Parisienne attitude extends beyond just Americans. I am English, and on the occasions when I have been to Paris I have encountered this attitude in abundance (and I like to think I am very polite). In fact I don't know anyone who hasn't experienced it. However, the place is absolutely gorgeous and I would recommend it wholeheartedly. It is one of THE MOST beautiful cities that I have been to. I hope that you have a wonderful time!

> > Le Train Bleue (a restaurant in Guare de Lyon, the train
> > station; again, go there if only to see the place)
> I can strongly second this one because of the beautiful
> historic decoration (and the desserts are fabulous).

I haven't eaten there, but I've heard great things about the restaurant. Plus Gare de Lyon is a cool train station.


Don't forget a day trip to Giverny where you can visit Monet's house and gardens. It's about 1 hour outside of Paris and an awesome thing to stand on the famous bridge, overlooking the water lily ponds. It's a not-to-be-missed adventure.

Also, when you visit Sacre Coeur in Paris, ask someone how to get to Place du Tertre. It's right behind Sacre Coeur but a lot of people don't know about it and miss out! It's a great little square with lots of artists painting portraits, cute little shops and restaurants, etc.

As for restaurants, try Les Philosophes in the Marais district. I had a fabulous meal there.

I am SO jealous :-)

Have fun and tell us all about it when you return,


I went by myself and what I did a lot of was booking myself on day tours with a little tour company. I think it's this company...they are directly across the street from the Louvre on Rue de Rivoli.

I booked myself on a tour of the Louvre (even though I'd been to the Louvre already), a tour of Mont. St. Michel, Versailles, and the Chateau Country. I hooked up with lots of people (some Australians, two American Travel Agents), directly from the tour and gained shopping and dinner companions. It was lovely, plus I didn't have to worry about driving or taking the train. I was also lucky because I hooked up with family members who live outside Paris and some business associates as well so I did get to see parts of Paris that I'm sure I would have never seen.

I can also give a hotel recommendation to include.

Hotel Alcyon (near the Place Bastille)
17 Rue de Prague
Paris XII
a proximite des Gares de Lyon et d'Austerlitz
01 43 43 66 35
01 43 43 55 59 (fax)
Metro: Ledru-Rollin
Gare de Lyon

Lynn :-)

My pleasure. You'll have a wonderful time — and I agree with whomever it was that said Monet's house was wonderful. I actually admired Monet's gardeners more than Monet! And even if you're there so early in the spring that most of the garden isn't blooming, the house itself is a delight.

I really didn't like impressionism before I went to France....

Anyway, have fun. (I know you will.)

Hi Jeannie -

I can't speak to the location of your hotel since I only went to Paris once, briefly, in high school....however, I recently stayed in a Golden Tulip hotel in The Hague, Netherlands. I wasn't sure either what my hotel would be like...if it would be a huge, blah hotel. It turned out to be an old, charming, small hotel. I had a room overlooking the town square. I really liked it; it had a lot of character. From what I understand, Golden Tulip is American-based(?) and has an 800 number you can call to make reservations through them at one of many world-wide hotels, which probably span the whole range of hotel while it may feel like you will end up in a big, blah hotel, you might actually be in a smaller charming one in Paris somewhere. Try looking up the Golden Tulip website, there might be a page about your specific hotel, with a picture etc.

Have fun!

Read Jeannie's Paris Restaurant Recommendation