Views of Paris From Above

In my opinion the most splendid view of Paris rooftops is from the towers at Notre Dame Cathedral. The best part is the cathedral's location in the heart of Paris where you can see everything important close up and intimate.

History comes to life as you wander the ancient corridors! If you're the kind of person that likes to walk the side streets this is a great view to remind you of every path taken, or map out new areas to explore. From the heights you can identify the Pantheon, Musée d'Orsay, Invalides, Eiffel Tower, Saint Chappelle, Louvre, Pompidou Center, and Sacre Coeur.

   Plus you get to climb the original stone spiral staircase, visit a conference room perched in the heights, get friendly with the gargoyles, and commune with bells of Quasimodo! The singular bell in the south tower weighs 13 tons.

Entering the cathedral itself is free to the public from 8am to 6:45 daily. Visiting the towers is not free, however. You will find the entrance to the towers on the left (or north) entrance on the side of the building, they are open from 10am to 5:30pm (except they're closed from 12:30pm to 2pm on Saturdays). Entrance fee : 5 euros.

With its 387 steps to the top this visit is not recommended for persons of reduced mobility.

Definitely the most visited look-out tower in the world. It's worth a visit while you're in Paris, but I have always preferred staring up at the magnificent tower than looking down from it. Now, when I accompany people to the eiffel tower, I go straight to the coffee shop on the first floor while they visit the sights. I truly believe the view on the first floor is better than the other levels as it is already well over the treetops and rooftops you can already see as far as you're going to see. To go any higher means you are simply further away from the sights you want to see, building become miniatures difficult to distinguish, and cloud cover can get in the way of your view.

The first floor boasts a classy restaurant, a simple café/snack shop, a free cinéma about the eiffel tower (always a hit on a cloudy day) and three science installations (an 1889 hydraulic pump, ferOscope, and real-time observation of the tower's oscillation)

Elevators open from 9:30am to 11:45pm (final entrance at 11pm) Second floor 8€, Third floor 13€
Stairs open from 9:30am to 6:30pm (final entrance at 6pm) Second floor 4.50€
All entrances from June 13th to August 31st from 9am to 12:45am (final entrance at midnight)
The glass elevator ride to the third floor is not recommended for people who are afraid of heights or elevators.

Who hasn't dreamed of walking on the rooftops of Paris? Here's your chance with the Sacre Cœur Dome Tour. The basilica is a bit far from the city center, but the rooftop tour is an unforgettable experience. The tour climbs quite a few stairs and pops out a little door on the side of the left spire. Guide rails lead you as you ascend the rooftop to the dome where there is a proper porch around the dome offering a 360º view.

The basilica is one of the most solemn church visits in Paris they still insist on silence and no photography permitted inside. The basilica is open to the public with free admission from 6am to 11pm. With the dome tour you also get to tour the crypt as well, all for only 5€. The entrance for this Dome & Crypt tour is down the stairs on the left side of the building.


Currency Exchange

The best way to exchange money is to bring a credit card with you.

Archaic methods such as foreign cash, money orders, or traveler's checks are difficult to exchange and will be penalized with HEAVY transaction fees.

To get the best exchange rates possible on any given day simply pull out your credit card and charge your purchases directly. VISA guarantees the best rates of the day, and charges no extra middle man fees.

Warn your bank that you will be traveling out of the country so that they don't see your purchases in Paris as fraudulent. It's simple, just call the bank, explain how many days you will be gone and which countries you expect to be visiting.

You will need a four digit pin number with each purchase you make with your card. Plan ahead. You may need to ask your bank to remind you of your four digit pin number - which they will most likely have to send to your home address by snail mail, so don't wait till the last minute with this one.

Some credit cards have a daily purchase limit, while others have a monthly purchase limit. Talk to your bank counselor and inquire about yours. Changing the credit limit is as simple as a phone call.

YES, but... In France small markets and family businesses are still unhappy about the cost of providing this service. (I think VISA charges shops a couple cents for every transaction.) So you'll find many café's and groceries that have minimum purchase limits. While every establishment accepts your credit card they may be unhappy if you want to swipe plastic for a ten euro purchase. So we recommend that once you arrive you withdraw twenty euros and keep it in your pocket just incase you stumble across this kind of situation. If you're planning on making lots of little purchases, take a minute to figure out how much fast cash you need on hand.

NOPE. This is the best part of using your credit card. ATMs in France process your withdrawal as if you just purchased something from the store, so they do not charge you any additional fees. Some of us have banks that charge foreign transaction fees, but even half of those charges never get billed because when you withdraw cash at the ATM on the street corner your bank thinks you just made a purchase at a department store.

In Paris there is only one bank that has started charging foreign card fees. So if you are serious about cutting out extra fees avoid using the bank called La Banque Postale. I think they charge something like two euros to outsiders who withdraw from their ATMs but it's a pretty easy fee to avoid.

Sorry, this one is going to be unavoidable. IF your contract with your personal bank authorizes them to charge a transaction fee for every purchase you make outside of America, you can be sure they won't miss a thing when you start making withdrawals in Paris. But, don't worry, no matter what they are charging you it is a LOT cheaper than if you had to pay the currency exchange rates other methods of exchange bring upon themselves. You can control these overseas transaction fees by withdrawing at an ATM all of the cash you expect to use during your visit in one transaction.

Your card is very different from a French card. There will be a few cases where you will notice this incompatibility and you will need to use an ATM and come back with euro cash. One of these situations is purchasing metro tickets.

There are two ways to pay for the metro. The self-service distributors only accept European cards containing a microchip. Your foreign swipe card will not function in these machines. You will need to go to the ticket window and talk to a real human being. Start your plea with, "Bonjour," the staff should have a swipe machine behind the counter.

If you haven't waited till the last minute there are a few plastic options available to you. Ask your father to add you to his account. If he has good credit his bank can issue you an access card on his account for while you travel.

As a last resort, with several drawbacks, VISA Gift Cards can be purchased online but will need to be purchased for you by someone with a credit card. VISA Gift Cards are not accepted everywhere in Paris. It looks like a credit card, and the restaurant will try to swipe it as a normal card, but 50 % of the time the transaction will be denied. The credit card exchange rates are always the best, so if you want to use this method to save money we suggest you take a moment upon arriving and try all of the distributors until you find one that likes your card and withdraw all of the cash you will need at one time, thus saving you the hassle of being refused several times a day. Click the GiftCard photo to create your GiftCard now.

Here's what you can do. Bring over American cash and walk up to any one of the hundreds of these CHANGE counters on the streets of Paris. You will be greeted by a real live person who speaks English and who needs to make a living adding extra fees to your transaction. The exchange rate may not be the best of the day, but the margin he adds pays his rent. And he will charge you commission including a transaction fee, and a service fee that go towards feeding his family.

Today if you took a credit card to an ATM and withdrew 50 euros, your credit card bill would be charged $71.28 (plus your bank's $2 overseas transaction fee). If you simultaneously took $100 in cash to the CHANGE counter you would walk away with about 55 euros. Then you would say you got ripped off, but you didn't get ripped off. That's just the normal going rate. So the moral of the story is this : Those who bring plastic enjoy more coffees.


Eau de Paris

Tap water in Paris is not only safe, it's delicious!
In Paris water is a human right, intended to be appreciated by the masses for FREE!

Drink EAU DE PARIS with pride.

In fact Paris water is the most highly controlled product produced in the city.

It's a source of pride for the mayor, as well as the citizens.
Paris water has it's own marketing campaigns always featuring cutting edge designers and artists. Run your cursor over the EAU DE PARIS header and appreciate their magic on their website
dedicated to nothing other than Paris water.

Fresh Springs

Four underground springs are the source of the majority of Paris water.
It's clean, healthy and yummy.
Need I say more?

Wallace Fountains

Dehydration is the number one cause for illness when traveling. Hydrating with good clean water is the best way to fight jet lag.
Paris actually has 108 public fountains where city water runs continually. Simply hold out your willing water bottle under the stream to carry this life source
with you wherever you go.

"Une Carafe d'Eau S'il Vous Plait."

Don't be fooled, water is always FREE at restaurants. Now, it does happen now and again that tourists walk into a restaurant and get duped. Here's what you need to know ...
If it looks like you don't know French, then they'll assume that you don't know their customs, therefore, if you order, "Water, Please." They'll most likely bring out a bottle of water and add it to your tab. If you order like a Parisian you'll say, "Une carafe d'eau, s'il vous plait." and they'll bring you tap water in a pitcher without hesitation.
On the right, you'll see a restaurant that has decided to charge by the glass. They can do this legally but it must be printed on the menus and posted visibly inside and outside the restaurant.
I might add that fancy restaurants make an exception to this delightful rule. If you are paying more than 10 euros for your main dish, they will only serve you bottled water - on the grounds that it is more classy.

Souvenir Water

You may have probably heard of Evian bottled water, but did you know that Evian is a city in France with fresh spring water on tap? If you go to visit you will find that the water running through the pipes is the same quality as the water they market in bottles.
So, why haven't you heard of Paris brand water? Maybe because Evian has amazing marketing plan. Maybe Paris water will be the next big fashion. While you're in Paris you may want to take home a unique souvenir, this carafe conceived by the fashion designer Frédérique Daubal is intended to be sold to Parisians and refilled endlessly with EAU DE PARIS. You can pick one up at a shop near the Louvre called Machupichu 4, rue des Pyramides, and at a shop not far from Notre Dame called La Marchande de Couleurs 10, rue Lagrange.


Fly Liquid Free

I have just discovered the most amazing invention, and I'm totally addicted. You're going to laugh ... it's Solid Shampoo! It's actually not a new invention at all, it's just that recently it's become more fashionable and so we are seeing it more.
Not only is it practical, it's also ecological - one bar of soap is equivalent to three bottles of shampoo!
So this new little fascination of mine has got me thinking... Somewhere in history we switched from solid shampoo, to liquid because it was more marketable. As a frequent traveler I have become aware of the hassles of traveling with liquids (carry-on restrictions, and spills within checked-in bags, not to mention the overall weight of liquid products). So, as you see, I'm sold on this product, at home and away. And, while the shampoo discovery is the purpose for this post, I thought it would be fun and useful to remind my readers of the wide variety of the other liquid free cosmetics that exist - just in case you're thinking about starting a liquid-free fetish!

Solid Shampoo
Godiva Solid Shampoo $9.25

Good Old Fashioned Bar Soap
Demon in the Dark Soap $7.50

Solid Lipstick (no lip gloss please!)
Long Last Soft Shine Lipstick $14.oo

Cake Mascara
Paula Dorf's Cake Mascara $20.00

Foundation Pressed Powder
Stay-Matte Sheer Pressed Powder $19.00

Loose Powder
Blended Face Powder and Brush $19.00

Deodorant Powder
Coconut Deodorant Powder $7.65

Cake Deodorant
T'EO Deodorant $8.15

Tooth Paste
Peppermint Tooth Powder $4.53


Buttes Chaumont Parc

Hills, cliffs, streams and waterfalls ... you won't believe you're in Paris!


This is our favorite park to picnic in. You'll never be bothered by park rangers asking you to stay of the grass, this park is designed to be enjoyed. Its winding paths and varied terrain offer lots of great nooks for a private picnic. When my husband saw this post his first comment was, "You don't have to tell everybody about our little secrets." I think he's jealous the park might get overrun if my readers flock there. So just visit one at a time, please. ;)

Island Cliffs

This park has the most fantastic scenery. They raise ducks on the lake, and there's a floating ferry service too. You can order a crêpe at the little café down by the lake.

The park is located at the metro stop Buttes Chaumont on the ligne 7 bis. It lets you off at the top of the hill, where you can stroll through the winding slopes and lawns. There's a bridge from the hill to this island cliff in the lake and it's cute litte gazebo.


Natural Beauty!
Even if the city of Paris has cemented all of the boulders in place, the waterfall is for real. They just want to preserve it so you can run through it and get a little dirty.

Bring shoes that aren't afraid of the dirt, in case you fancy leaving the paved paths in favor of the uncharted lawns and rocky terrain.
You'll find an abandoned railway line, and plenty of chestnut trees just waiting to be ushered home and rosted over an open fire.

Breathtaking Views!

With the peaks and cliffs come amazing views of the city, notably an unobstructed view of sunshine and skyline.

And it's all free! This park opens at dawn and closes at dusk all year round. Weather you bring your favorite Alexandre Dumas or a picnic basket full of goodies, this park has a calm and natural beauty that will make your visit a lifetime memory.


Hotel Star Ratings in France

What to Expect For Your Money

There's no way around the fact that hotels are expensive, but you deserve to know what your getting.

One Star Hotel 70-120 €
Simple clean hotels with at least running water, both hot and cold, in every room.
One star hotels must have at least six guest rooms.
All hotels will have ample heating systems.
The majority of the rooms do not have room for both the toilet and the shower in the room. One or both of these amenities will be found in public restrooms in the hall.
Public restrooms are gender neutral (just like home).
Paris Sparkle says : Bring your own soap, this is a hole-in-the-wall motel. The risk you take is that you may see the paint pealing, the carpet stained or perhaps the sheets tattered, but probably not all on the same day. ;)

Two Star Hotel 120-215€
A small hotel, of at least ten guest rooms, where someone speaks at least two languages.
Half of the rooms must offer private toilets and showers. (40% minimum)
Public restrooms are likely gender neutral.
An elevator is required if the building has more than five floors.
The furniture will be a bit more comfortable than a one-star room.
There may be a breakfast room and a simple coffee and toast breakfast offered at an extra cost.
Paris Sparkle says : Live like the neighbors. A lot of Europeans travel with these accommodations. The hotel will be more charming and authentique, not likely a modern building.

Three Star Hotel 215-550€
A medium sized hotel with a reception desk and multi-lingual staff. One of the languages spoken must be English.
Generally every room has a private shower and toilet (80% minimum). There will be courtesy soaps in every lavatory.
Ladies and Gentlemen public restrooms.
An elevator is required if the building has more than four floors
The hotel may or may not have air conditioning.
The rooms are more spacious and comfortable for lounging around. In addition each room has a TV and telephone. Internet acces is not required to be in this category, but it is highly likely.
The hotel has a breakfast room and offers a buffet breakfast.
Paris Sparkle says : This is the comfort most Americans are accustomed to receiving at the Holiday Inn.

Four Star Luxury Hotel 550€+
A large first-class hotel with a nice reception area and plenty of staff waiting on your every whim.
Generally every room has a private shower and toilet (90% minimum). There will be courtesy soaps in every lavatory.
An elevator is required if the building has more than three floors.
The hotel will offer more amenities and the buffet breakfast will be more hardy.
A private parking lot will be available.
Conference rooms will be available. You'll find high speed internet in each room.
Paris Sparkle says : In Paris the Hyatt is a four star hotel.

Five Star Superior Luxury Hotel
Porters greet you at the door, all aspects of the hotel are spacious and luxurious.
Every room must have a private shower and toilet.
Five percent of the rooms are sweets that can be transformed into apartments.
There must be a gourmet restaurant on the premises.
Amenities may include a spa, entertainment or other resort services.
Paris Sparkle says : You guessed it - the Ritz Carlton. Probably not within the budget for most of my online readers.

Doesn't sound like the criteria you're used to ?
As of today there is no international star rating standard. Each municipality rewards stars at its own discretion. The preceding criteria are based on expectations developed by the Paris office of tourisme and corresponding rates for fall 2009. Classification is based on 100 criteria categorised in three categories including amenities, cleanliness/quality and customer service. A hotel must 90% of the required criteria to be awarded the corresponding star.