I Learned On My Christmas Holiday
intend to start a religion and its deity will be the person that thought
up the frequent flyer airline mileage program. Services will be held
in cities all over the world, mostly off-season.
2) Think of Brussels as Paris' third airport. You can get from the airport
to downtown Paris in two hours for less than $60 per person round trip.
You take the airport express to the Brussels South train station (20
minutes, $2.50 each way) and then the Thayls-TGV high speed train from
Brussels to Paris (1hr, 20 minutes to go 200 miles, $55 round trip if
you book ahead via the Belgian railroad web site http://www.b-rail.com/).
3) One hour is not enough time to make a connection through Manchester
(England) airport at 8:00AM on a Sunday morning. You'll make it, but
your bags will not.
4) If you charge your tickets on American Express OR charge the tax
on you frequent flyer tickets on American Express you'll be able to
avail yourself of their most excellent baggage delay insurance. It'll
give you $500 per person to spend on clothing.
5) There's a superb restaurant on the 2nd level of the Eiffel Tower
called the Jules Verne. It's expensive but the food is great and the
view is to die for. Go for lunch, you'll see more out the window and
the price will be slightly less than dinner. A side benefit is that
after lunch you can go to the top of the tower for an extra $3.50. Make
reservations well in advance (tele: 01.45.55.61.44, fax: 01.47.05.29.41)
6) There's a superb restaurant on the east side of Paris (the 20th arrondissement)
near the Pere-Lechaise cemetery. It's called La Boulangerie and it's
at 15, Rue des Panoyaux, a short walk from the Menilmontant metro station.
It's inexpensive (you can get away with paying $50 for two people including
wine but splurge on the pate to start with for $10 more) and the food
is great. Get a bottle of their "Wine Of The Month" for $14.
Not much of a "view" but it's a lovely place with a wonderful
neighborhood feel and the folks that run it are as nice as can be.
7) A freshly baked baguette for breakfast is one of life's little miracles.
8) If you're in Paris and you need a news fix buy a copy of the local
paper Le Parisien and look at the weather page at the back. It'll have
a few weather maps at the top of the page and a little map at the bottom
that show road closures, construction and all the demonstrations that
are to be held in Paris that day. Want to see a trade union protest
against nuclear power? Want to photograph a demonstration against Israeli
occupation in the West Bank? Do you want to see a demonstration by hunters
against restricting their rights to hunt STARRING HUNDREDS OF HUNTING
DOGS FOWLING THE STREETS, BARKING LIKE MAD AND TRYING TO MATE INDISCRIMINATELY?
It's all on the map... And it's fun.
9) And most important of all.... If you have a GSM compatible cell phone
from an American cell phone provider they might offer you Europe-wide
service for, say $1 per minute. That's $1 per minute for outgoing calls
and $1 per minute for incoming calls. If you go to the pleasant young
hackers at MKPhone near Place Gambetta (or any one of a number of places
through-out Europe) they can plug your cell phone into a laptop computer
and "unblock" it (or "deblocage" as the French say)
so that you can buy and install a GSM cell phone pay-as-you-go chip
from a French (or German or Italian, etc.) cell phone provider. It'll
cost you $50 for the unblocking and the service chip. You'll have a
French telephone number and $15.00 worth of talk time AND ALL YOUR INCOMING
CALLS ARE FREE TO YOU. Give the number to your friends, family and business
associates in the U.S. It'll still cost them the price of an overseas
call.... But it won't cost you a cent.... Outgoing calls to the U.S.
will be anywhere between 45 and 75 cents per minute. When you get back
to the U.S. just re-install your American chip and you're back on the
American cell phone network. The next time you go to Europe you'll probably
have to buy some more European talk-time (at just about any cell phone
store) but it's cheap and it's easy.
© James Colburn