For a more relaxing approach to sightseeing your way across Paris while avoiding the Metro stairs and escalators, get a day or period pass for the Batobus along the Seine.
Look on a map to see a canal a short wat east of the Gare de Nord. On a Sunday afternoon follow it north to see a giant flea market, live music and eventually a dock area with cafes to sit and watch the day go by. You can have a boat trip along it as well.
Arrive in Paris and hire one of the city’s (carbon neutral!) self-service bicycles –Vélib’. Locate the cycle station at Gare du Nord and discover – quelle surprise! – they’re all taken.
No worries, there’s another station a short walk away on my road, rue Louis Blanc. But it’s permanently ‘hors service’... Carry on then to the Vélib station at Jaurès for a chat in the long queue before finally getting your hands on the ‘deux roues’.
Cycle along the pretty canal for a picnic at Parc de la Villette before heading back to Jaurés for a canalside drink at the MK2. Voilà!
The Carnavalet museum in the heart of the Marais not only has a magnificent collection of Parisian history, from medieval shop signs to stylish art deco exhibits, set in a most beautiful sixteenth century palace but is, unbelievably, free. It is closed on Mondays, and open 10am to 5.40pm.
It's not remotely chic but it's run by two gorgeous, fearsome women, the most dapper doorman (Felix) , packed with a cool but friendly crowd - open till 2am when you can stagger across the road to the 'pub' which stays open till the last person leaves.
11 Rue Guisarde, 75006 Paris. + 33 1 4046 0830
If you arrive in Paris Nord and have time before taking one of the new TGV Est lines out of Gare de l'Est then dump your luggage at the station and walk for five minute east to the Canal St Martin and grab coffee or lunch at one of the restaurants springing up on the Quai de Valmy, in this increasingly improving area.
The canal is also great for a walk if you've time.
Take a small amount of euros in coinage: specifically 1 euro, 50 cent & 20 cent pieces.
This will facilitate a speedy entrance to the Metro system using the automated ticket machines, and a fast exit from the mayhem of Gare du Nord!
For a cheap look at the Eiffel Tower and to beat the queues you can use the stairs instead of the lift. It costs only pence, means you don't have to wait and you get to stop and be alone on the way up and get to look at Paris without hoardes of tourists shoving around. There are a series of great snippets about the tower posted on the way up too.
If taking kids to Paris you don't have to pay a fortune for a hotel.
We've stayed in campsites both within and outside the city, they are loaded with things to do for children after a day taking in the sights and these days caravans and even tents have facilities that more than match most hotels and a lot more besides.
In Montpellier, it is essential that you take the trams to the end of the line. If you get a pass it doesn't cost a penny extra, and when you reach the end of the line in either direction, prices drop dramatically.
This applies especially to the food, and there's no drop in quality - if anything I'd say that, out of the city, the quality is even better quality, as you get proper French produce. A case in point is the Auchan supermarket - it's brilliant. Plus, the tram lines are very inexpensive and very comfortable to ride.
Visit Bouillon Chartier, at 7 rue de Faubourg, (it was used in the film A Very Long Engagement).
It has changed little in the past century or so. It's huge, massively busy at lunch and surprisingly cheap. Lunch for two with wine and dessert is about 35 euro.
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