Paris:- Tuesday, 21. May 1996:- Like the old joke
about New York; Paris is a nice place to visit, but I
wouldn't live here - except that it's backwards. Let me put
it this way, if I didn't live here, I'm not sure I could
afford to visit.
But I do live here - last week I was in Tati looking at inexpensive rotten-weather garments, and I can afford them. It's just like - you are where you are, looking at the brochures and all the photos are sunny - just like the photos with this article, that I took last July - because I'd need a wind-proof underwater camera if I tried to take them this week, and I don't really want to throw a wet blanket on anybody's dream of Paris.
Ah no. I have to consider that, although you might be reading this now, in anticipation, your trip to Paris is planned for July - and Paris will be just as it was last July: sunny or possibly even balmy. When I took the photos, I was checking out the length of the lines waiting to get into sites or monuments. (Generally they were short.) No, this is a little comment about the prices of entry. Some of these may be mentioned in your guide book, but have you considered that there is no all-inclusive price for Paris? There are simply too many attractions for that.
I do not know if combination tickets are sold abroad; you should ask your travel agent. If they have none, you can certainly get them here. The Paris transit authority, RATP, has a variety of combination tickets for local transport. The simplest of these is ten métro tickets (called a 'carnet') for 44 francs, today. Compared to the single-ticket price, this is a big saving. Then there are tickets - cards really - for all-inclusive travel for, I think, one, three and five days. To save with these, you have to calculate how many trips you might take. If will be a lot, these tickets can save you money.
Some of these tickets on offer, include not only transport, but entry into sites and museums as well. Here again - they are not free - it is best to try and calculate what you intend to try and do. They would hardly be worth buying if, when you get here, you decide to sit in sidewalk cafés all over town for five days instead of running around.
Also, I am not going to put in the prices of these combo-tickets, because they may change - for residents transit fares generally go up on 1. August when the RATP and the SNCF think we are away in the mountains or out at the coast. (Maybe we could beat this by buying an annual ticket on 31. July, but who thinks like that?)
The Paris newspaper Le Parisien has been doing a fair number of features lately; promoting Paris and the surrounding Ile-de-France as places to visit - as if we didn't know! - but the paper knows who its readers are and many of these features have useful advice - and not just for residents.
For example, my kids have never been to the top of the Tour
Eiffel and I think it is about time they had a good, simple
thrill. When we go, it will make four of us going all the
way up. We can go anytime we feel like it though so the
price of airfare from Tokyo is not factored in - as in,
this is a once-in-a-lifetime-thing so it doesn't matter
what it costs - no, we do care what it costs, and we must
not forget to add the cost of the suburban trains tickets
Okay, so how much? Family of four, to the top? A walk up the stairs will cost 48 francs, because Max is more than four years old. We are old and tired and our kids are young, so we take the elevators: round trip bottom to top and back, 224 francs. Check the possible quality of the view before you go up. (I won't add the cost of the transport, because you may be staying in a hotel near the Champ de Mars.)
For the Orsay Museum, both permanent and temporary
exhibitions, Le Parisien has a tip. If the kids are under
18, ask for a 'twinned' ticket (jumelé) so you pay
55 francs for you and only 38 francs for number one son who
is trying to look small. Total: 186 francs for two adults
and two kids, and you can see everything if you have enough
The name, the City of Science, may be a bit exaggerated, but not by much and I don't care how blasé any member of your family may be; there is something in this techno department store for everyone. For adults it is 45 francs and for under-25s, 35 francs. This gets you all into the planetarium, the submarine thing, the cinema and the 'mediatheque' and totals 160 francs for four. The City of Enfants (for the under 12s) within the City of Sciences will cost 80 francs for four, but if the kids are that young, it is worth it. Then there are the Géode (giant panoramic screen) and the Cinaxe (super cinema something - I forget what exactly, but it's super!). There are a whole variety of combo-tickets, so I will just include the one for the Cité-Géode-Cinaxe plus Kid's City, for a grand total of 538 francs - without food.
Versailles is stunningly huge but if you are content to
just visit the gallery of mirrors, the gallery of battles
and the Queen's bedroom, it'll set you back only 90 francs,
if the kids are under 18. But why stop there? Take in the
King's and the Dauphin's chambres for an extra 84 francs
(if the kids are from seven to 17). I must try this
sometime, because you can go on to the quarters of Louis
XV, Louis XVI, the Opera, and the cabinet of
Marie-Antoinette and the royal family, for another 126
francs, and that rounds off the whole visit at 300 francs.
Altogether, the Tour Eiffel, the Orsay Museum, the City of Science and the grand tour of Versailles, will cost an average family of four about 1248 francs - not including food and transport.
That sort of leaves the Louvre out of the picture. The biggest museum in the world is the bargain basement of the Paris' cultural industry - two adults for 90 francs and kids under 18, free. As this is unique, and costs less than a neighborhood cinema, I won't even add it to the total for the other sites.
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