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By Theadora Brack in Paris—
It’s almost summertime, and soon the touring and discount shopping in Paris will be easy. Feeling the love, rhythm, and a bright new mood, here are few tips to help you ease into your first day in the city. I will take you there!
(Here’s a shopping fanatic alert: “Les Soldes d’Eté” –the big summer sales–kick off Wednesday, June 27 and last until July 31, 2012.)
1. To cab or not to cab?
That’s always the question upon arrival. But if steps are an issue or you’re toting heavy luggage, for heaven’s sake, take a cab. No one’s gonna judge you. Heck, we’ve all been there. I’m no diva, but I’ve always thought Gare du Nord had one too many corridors, and two too many sets of stairs to count. So there, I’ve said it. I sometimes cab it myself.
My own Cheapo solution is to contact Lizza (also a concert cellist!) at firstname.lastname@example.org. With advance bookings, they’ll greet you at the airport with a spiffy sign in hand. The flat rate will be pre-determined during booking, and is based on your destination in the city, regardless of traffic jams. Who could ask for anything more?
Tip! Book in advance and tell her you’re a Cheapo. For the very lowest rate (especially if your flight is an early one), say you are willing to wait for a late or group pick-up at the airport café, just outside the baggage area. I do this often, and I’ve never had to wait more than one hour. After the long flight, I actually find the lull relaxing, and besides, check-in for hotels in Paris is usually in the afternoon. Plus, you can’t beat the sunrise people-watching action.
If you’re up for public transportation, check out our guide to getting in from the airport by bus and train.
2. Reading Material
While waiting for a taxi or before jumping on the RER train, pick up some reading material at Les boutiques Aéroports de Paris. You can’t miss their bright red signs. Getting you coming and going, there’s usually one located just outside of baggage.
I’d kick off my spending spree with a copy of L’Officiel des Spectacles or Pariscope. Both cover the week’s happenings from theatre, cinema and arts, to music and restaurants. Then while in transit, start making plans. Costing about fifty cents a pop, it’s your new BFF! (By the way, the rags can also be found at any newsstand or kiosk in Paris.)
Let’s not forget to pick up a few fashion magazines. It’s a great way to find out what’s happening on the streets of Paris before actually hitting the cobblestones.
Here’s another squeal! Often magazines like Be, Elle, Marie Claire, and Vogue include a free gift with purchase. I recently scored a scarf and cosmetics, along with a chic Édition Limitée Nuisette (nightie) by Princesse Tam Tam in a drop dead burgundy. Talk about a win-sin!
What to do? What to do? Follow my lead. In Paris, most super market stores are not one-stop shopping havens. Monoprix is the exception. Here’s the breakdown.
Pharmacies in Paris carry a wide array of plant-based soaps, shampoos, lotions, and conditioners, along with cosmetics, contact solution, eye-drops, and contact lens cases. They also stock aspirine and Ibuprofène. When making a purchase, ask for the marque générique because it’s usually half the cost of the name brands.
How to find one? Pharmacies are easily recognizable by their flashing green cross signs, dressed in neon and cool LED. In each neighborhood at least one remains open through the night (and any closed pharmacy will post a sign directing you to the nearest one that’s open). French pharmacists are licensed to diagnose and treat minor illnesses without doctors’ prescriptions. Look for the “conseils pharmaciens” sign outside on the shop’s window.
At grocery stores in Paris, you’ll find shampoo, soap, deodorant, and cosmetics, along with toothpaste and mod-looking toothbrushes (another perfect souvenir!).
Tip: Grocery stores in Paris, like Monoprix, Franprix, and Carrefour now have smaller “Mini Me” boutiques scattered throughout the city. It’s all about streamlining!
Prior to your trip, I recommend exploring your Paris ’hood via Google Earth, and jotting down addresses of nearby pharmacies and grocery stores. Yes, this message has been approved by the Girl Scouts du Monde.
4. Batteries Chargers and Memory Chips
Forget your battery charger or need a new memory chip? It happens. Hotfoot it to Fnac (pronounced “fuh-NACK”), the largest French entertainment retail chain.
The two biggest stores are at rue de Rennes and Les Halles. (The Saint-Lazare shop is my favorite because it’s smaller.) The camera equipment is usually located on the second floor, close to the cashier booths. Check out their good-looking shopping bag. It’ll make your friends back home green with jealousy.
Tip! Fnac also discounts its inventory of books. This includes the latest catalogs from current blockbuster exhibitions in Paris. With everything from laptops and DVDs to French comic books and concert tickets, in the entertainment realm, it’s one-stop shopping. You can also pick up museum admission tickets here.
Your tips for getting situated in Paris
Cheapos, Bon Voyage! And do let us know if you have a tip for your own first day in Paris. Curious trekkers want to know.