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Health Care Tips for Travelers to France

pharmacy in Paris

I recently spoke at Bloom Where You’re Planted, a program intended to introduce newcomers to the sometimes perplexing differences of life abroad. I stayed after my talk for a seminar on French health care. While I was familiar with some of the information, some of you might not be, especially those who are traveling to Paris.

This post includes numbers to call and places to go if you need medical attention. Of course, nothing here is meant to be construed as medical advice and you should always speak to your personal health care provider, who can advise you on the most appropriate actions in the event of an emergency or if you have a health-related question.

France has excellent health care and it is open to all. Care is not rationed out and you are guaranteed care regardless of your ability to pay or pre-existing condition.

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The A-Z Guide to French Food

When I was taking pastry classes at Ecole Lenôtre years ago, they had a shop at the school filled with all sorts of great professional baking equipment. Aside from the room where the croissants were freshly-baked (and handed out) every hour, it was my favorite place at the school.

paris menu

PIled up on the shelf was also a stack of slender books: The A-Z of French Food. I flipped though it and was impressed by how much was in this comprehensive little guide, so I bought one. Since then, I’ve used it countless times, and it’s the book that I inevitably reach for first when I have any questions about French dishes, ingredients, or cooking terms, from the normal, to the obscure.

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In fact, I wished I’d had it the week before, when I was sitting in a restaurant and the waiter proudly presented me with a big, steaming cassolette, piled high with tripe. And there I was, thinking that I’d soon be digging into cassoulet, the classic Gascon dish of beans and duck confit. Quelle déception!*

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Paris Transit Options

water taxi

Here is information about Paris transit passes. (Please note that fares change, so check the RATP website directly for latest information and fares.) Tickets and passes are available in métro and bus stations, as well as RER and train stations, and kiosks at Orly and Charles de Gaulle Airport. You’ll also find a link at the end for a listing of other places in Paris to buy transit tickets and passes.

Please note that many of the métro stations have changed and the people in the ticket booth no longer sell tickets. The major stations, however, are still manned by cashiers. Most of the transactions are now done by bilingual machines which don’t take American credit cards, although the machines they do take cash and coins in euros. I recommend bringing exact change in coins when you go.

Also prices are subject to change and for the most up-to-date information, follow the links provided to check on prices directly at the website(s).

Paris passes are generally good for zones 1 and 2, which are sufficient for most visitors. Tickets to the airports or to Versailles (which are other zones) are best purchased separately since you will likely only be making that trip once or twice, which isn’t enough to justify the higher-priced pass

In my opinion, if your arrival dates jibe with the ones for the Navigo Découverte, that’s the best pass as it allows unlimited travel so you don’t have to fumble and worry with tickets and transfers.

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Ten Great Things to Do With Kids in Paris

I’m often asked about kid-friendly things to do in Paris. Since I don’t have any kids (at least I don’t think I do…) I asked my friend Paul Bennett, a writer who runs Context Travel and has three small children, to contribute a guest post: Top Ten Things to Do in With Kids in Paris. Thanks Paul!… -DL

square trousseau

It always sounds glamorous when I tell people that my wife and I split our time between Paris and Rome. But that runway-model images wears off pretty quickly when I mention that we have three kids and a dog and spend far less time sipping kirs at sidewalk cafes than stacking the kids on top of each other in order to fit ourselves on the metro during a rush-hour dash to school, debating the pros and cons of each arondissement’s public pool, or waiting desperately for the ferris wheel to open in the Tuilleries–the high point of a kid’s year in Paris, let me tell you.

Is Paris child-friendly?

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Mon Dieu! A Hospitel?

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If you’re into staying in odd hotels, the most unusual one in Paris is part of Hôtel Dieu, called Hospitel. Occupying the top floor of Paris’ enormous public hospital, the hotel is adjacent to Notre Dame and features one of the most beautiful hotel lobbies in the world: a sumptuous, verdant courtyard framed by a sprawl of archways.

The location of the Hôtel Dieu was apparently chosen due to its proximity to Notre Dame. (Hôtel in French can mean a large mansion-like building, not necessarily as hotel as we know it.) It was thought that people leaving a house of worship might be more charitable on the way out. Eventually rooms were rented out on the top floor for people visiting patients in the hotel, and thereafter, the hospital opened them up to the public. For those of you that are concerned about noise, I doubt you’ll find anywhere that’s quieter than a hospital.

The rooms are serviceable (think of an Ikea-decorated college dorm room), but hospital-clean without a lot of extraneous decoration.

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Paris Favorites: Eating, Drinking and Shopping

A number of folks consult the site for information about Paris, but it’s always best to get some second opinions. So I asked a few friends and in-the-know colleagues about their favorite places around the city, and I’m happy to share them with you.

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Included are links, when available, for complete addresses and additional contact information. Hours change and places close in Paris without notice so it’s best to call first before visiting. For restaurants and wine bars where food is served, reservations are strongly advised.

If there any Paris favorites that you’d like to share, please feel free to do so in the comments. I’d love to hear about them.

lucques olives


Favorite Outdoor Market

“Paris markets are one of my favorite subjects. I can go to the same market every day of the year and still always find something new. I regularly visit the boulevard Raspail market, a “regular” market Tuesday and Friday, organic (and expensive!) on Sunday. The fish merchants there are incredible on all days, and I adore the poultry people at the Tuesday and Friday market. I love testing one fish market or cheese stand against the other, grading them on each purchase. For 20 years I lived near the rue Poncelet market and still have a soft spot there, especially for Alléosse cheese and coffee beans from Brûlerie des Ternes.”

“When I have time, I also love the President Wilson market on Wednesday and Saturday, where of course one finds the famed produce from Joël Thiebault but also wonderful fish, fresh crêpes, and Lebanese specialties. The market is near my dentist’s office so I always schedule a Wednesday morning appointment.”

Patricia Wells, of Patricia Wells.com
(Author: Bistro Cooking and The Paris Cookbook)

Favorite Steak Tartare

“As an American in France, getting into the French staple of steak tartare means getting past it’s resemblance to an uncooked hamburger patty. At Les Fines Gueules (2, rue la Vrillière, 1st) near place des Victoires they have cap-and-gowned the French standard by hand chopping Limousin beef (the best in France) and tossing the raw meat with white truffle oil, parmesan and sun dried tomatoes. Certainly not a traditional preparation, but an unbelievably delicious part of this American’s weekly diet.”

Braden, of Hidden Kitchen

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The Chocolate Cake Recipe I Found on a Men’s Room Wall

cake

I was having dinner at Racines a few weeks ago, and excused myself during the meal to run upstairs and use the facilities. While up there, I had a few minutes to stare at the wall in front of me, which was covered with pictures and pages of text from various books. One page stopped me mid-moment, it was are recipe for something called Gâteau Zoë.

It was a pretty simple-looking recipe and when I finished up and went back downstairs, I noticed it on the menu, so we ordered it. And it was delicious! Because I’m a terrible journalist and never seem to carry either at the same time—and obviously, inspiration can strike in the most unlikeliest of places…at the most unlikeliest of times—I ran back up to the bathroom to jot it down.

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#2: DOT Paris

I just spent a long weekend in the French countryside, trying to enjoy the last bits of summer before the rentrée, when everyone in Paris returns en masse, usually bronzed to an unsavory crisp.

And because last Friday was a national holiday, I spent a prodcutive morning at a vide grenier, an enormous and pretty fabulous flea market in the town of Esterney.

blue pitchermini gratin dishes

Like anywhere, once you get out the big city, prices drop substantially and I can’t believe the stuff I hauled back to Paris!

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