Saturday, September 19, 2009

France on $70 a Day - Paris - Tips

David is packing his suitcase and then it will be my turn. We leave for the Dordogne area tomorrow. Before we get on the train, though, I thought I'd share a few observations and precautions about Paris.

Just when you've succefully crossed a busy intersection, you can be mowed down by a bicyclist. Sidewalks, in many arrondisements, are divided with bike paths. Look both ways, just as you would on the street, before crossing them.

Should you yourself wish to use two wheels to whiz through the city, bike rentals are available all over town. Look for a line of bikes locked into posts, swipe your credit card in the nearby machine (one euro per thirty minutes), and take off. You can return the bike at any bike station in town.

Parisiens can run you down on the roads as well as the sidewalks. Drivers are aggressive. There's an accident every thirty minutes at the Arc de Triomphe roundabout. Even though you may see others cross before they see the green walk sign, it is dangerous to do so.

The good news about the highly efficient public toilets--round structures found on many street corners that ingeniously clean the toilet after each use--is that they are now free. The bad news is that, in the past ten days, I've only encountered one that was in working order. If you must use the facilities and cannot find a public toilet, try a cafe bathroom. You may have to pay a small fee or buy something, but that's preferable to being miserable.

While there are a few homeless people in Paris, there are not as many as there are in major US cities, and they're well-tolerated here. The homeless man in our neighborhood has a single mattress in a bus shelter where he sleeps during the day.

When I walk for seven hours a day, developing a rash on the calves of my legs is as inevitable as aching feet. Usually, when it happens, I use hydrocortisone cream (brought from home) to clear up the rash in a week to ten days. This time, remembering the help we got from the pharmacist when Mary broke her leg two years ago in Provence, I stopped at the pharmacy next door to our apartment to see if they could help me. Three women examined my legs, asked about medications and allergies, and then prescribed a cream called Dermeol. The rash was gone in two days! (Unfortunately, they told me there was no cream to make me look twenty years younger!)

And, last of all, to look like a Parisien, ladies, wear black and throw a scarf around your neck. You'll blend right in.

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