Results tagged airport from David Lebovitz

Roam Artisan Burgers, Blue Bottle Coffee & Wooden Charcoal Korean Village Barbecue House

Korean soup

Now I know why they call America – The land of the free. I had a trifecta on my first day; The (normally pricey) watch repair place fixed my watch for free, with a “Merry Christmas!” as he walked onto the next customer, the mobile phone company not only gave me a new SIM card so I could talk and tweet away (which isn’t free, unfortunately) but gave Romain one, too, and last night as we were coming home from dinner, we passed by Boudin bakery, where the bakers were up baking loaves of sourdough bread.

The baker, wondering who the weirdos were (which was odd that he was watching us, because we’re certainly not the only weirdos in San Francisco), who were peering in the doorway. We told him we were just looking and I mentioned my other-half was from France, so he handed us a hefty bâtard of San Francisco sourdough. I dunno, maybe after the trip, we kind of looked bedraggled and in need of some nourishment.

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Sicily

Sicily

I’ve been living in what is arguably the center of Europe for a while now (and I’m certain someone will get out their ruler and argue that technically, I don’t actually reside in the precise center of the continent – but let’s just go with that for the sake of the story), I don’t visit other countries as often as I’d like. It’s so easy to just stay home, not worry about airline tickets, packing, making sure you bring enough socks and don’t forget shaving cream, getting to the airport on time, the stress of unpacking everything to pass through security, and being herded onto, then cooped up in, a tight plane for a few hours in a seat that’s just barely big enough to hold a small child.

persimmons

The reward, however, is arriving somewhere, leaving the airport, and realizing you’re somewhere magnificent. Even if you have to nearly blow-up like a smoldering Sicilian volcano to get there.

Sicily

Sicily has been at the top of my list for a while now, but by the end of fall, less folks want to travel there. And because it’s not a popular winter destination, airlines heavily reduce their flights to Sicily and I had to do some sleuthing around to find out which one would actually take us there.

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Paris Taxi News and Tips

Taxi in Paris

Like many cities, taxis play a major role in getting people around Paris. However getting a taxi in Paris can be quite a challenge. And with only 4000 cabs added since 1937, from 14k to 18K, if you’ve ever been standing on a deserted street at 2am, then you don’t need me to tell you what a relief it is to find a taxi when you need it.

Also, as far as I know, Paris is one of the only European cities where the meters start when you call the cab. So be aware that if calling in advance, there will already be a higher fare on the meter than what is normally there if you just hail one yourself. (The Lyria train has a service where they will have a cab waiting for you at the Gare de Lyon, which I once used and when I got in, I saw the meter already had €17 on it. The total fare was €24 so most of it was “waiting time. I do recommend using a driver or making arrangements to be picked up by a service or taxi if arriving at the Gare du Nord via the Eurostar as there can be huge lines for taxis there. But at the other stations, it’s usually not a problem.)

A couple of new services have started in Paris. One are shared cabs, where you split the fare with someone. I’m not sure if you’ll save all that much on a trip within the city, but going to the airport can cut the far almost by half. Another development are véhicules de tourisme avec chauffeur (VTC), or taxi-like vehicles with private drivers. The government is trying to impose a rule that if you use a non taxi chauffeur, they have to wait 15 minutes before picking you up. Here are a few other caveats to know about taking a taxi in Paris:

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Stockholm

Swedish potatoes
Swedish bread ring

I had no idea what to expect when I planned a trip to Sweden. I think it was a friendly discussion between friends when we decided it would be interesting to go to Fäviken, the famed restaurant northward of Stockholm. (I’ll do a separate post on that since it was such a unique experience.) So we made a reservation, then decided to spend a few days before and after, wandering around Stockholm, seeing what’s good to eat in the Swedish capital.

Stockholm phone boothSwedish bread
swedish cookiesgrain bread at Scandic in Stockholm

There is a lot of talk of the new “Nordic” cuisine – which often uses old-style techniques for cooking, and celebrates traditional ingredients, reviving some that were in the process of disappearing. Other chefs are exciting diners with unexpected flavors and combinations. This modern cuisine sometimes relies on smoking, grilling, and cooking over fire. I was pretty excited to go and see what these young chefs were doing, but I was also interested in tasting anything that was traditionally Swedish as well, including the breads and confections.

organic flour & grains

One the whole, we ate very well. I’ve posted a few tips at the end for making a visit to Stockholm a bit easier on the budget. There were a lot of details on the plates during a few of the most lengthy meals. At those places, meals were meant to be experienced, and are not easily written about. But I was just has happy pulling up to a market counter and downing a plate of Swedish meatballs and lingonberries. Here are some of the highlights of the trip:

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Paris Safety Tips

Leave Us Alone!

Paris is a relatively safe city, as cities go, and recently, I was having a discussion with someone about places to be wary about traveling to and was told that the only place in the world that they felt unsafe was in….San Francisco. (And they were from Naples!) So anything can happen anywhere in the world and petty crime sometimes occurs in places where you don’t expect it, like museums, hotel dining rooms, and restaurants.

Sometimes it’s just bad luck. Other times, it’s a lapse of common sense. For example, if you wear fancy jewels or tote a pricey handbag on the métro, there is probably someone on there that loves your gold Rolex as much as you do. On public transit, it’s especially easy to “grab and go” things because once the doors shut and the train pulls away, the damage is done. (If that does happen to you, notify the driver at the next station; sometimes they will call security for you and alert others on the train to be careful.) In cases where your wallet is stolen, they will sometimes remove the cash right away and toss everything else in the trash, or even on the ground, as it’s hard to prove that a wad of cash is stolen. So sometimes you do get your wallet back. (A friend had the wallet lifted from her purse, which was next to her in a restaurant. After the diner next to her quickly left before eating, when she realized what had happened, the waitress found her wallet on the ground just outside.)

Wily pickpockets blend in well. It’s easy to categorize people by how they dress or look, or their nationality, but pros know how to mix in. Someone who leads tours in Italy pointed out the pickpockets at her outdoor market, some posing as young couples on their honeymoon and I never would have suspected a thing. I’ve shooed away a few young women “tourists”, looking lost as they tried to read their maps in Barcelona, using the maps to cover up their hands as they rifled through people’s belonging. I’ve seen the same ruse in Paris and it’s a shame that we have to be careful when helping someone who is ostensibly lost.

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Milan

Italian Breakfast

Even though it’s just next door, every time I go to Italy, I wonder why I don’t go more often. Before I moved to Europe, I used to wonder why Europeans didn’t travel to other countries more often. And now I’m one of them. I think it’s because just to go anywhere, whether it’s a 45 minutes flight or a 4.5 hour flight, you still need to schlep to the airport, arrive in a new city, find your bearings, and by the time you’ve finally figured out most of the good places to go, it’s time to head home.

babas

It also doesn’t help that when I returned from this trip, two airlines were striking at Charles de Gaulle airport, the RER train was closed for some unexpected (and unexplained) reason, prompting a few thousand of us to be bused to a deserted train station in the middle of nowhere, to wait in the cold pre-winter air until a train showed up nearly an hour-and-a-half later, well after midnight, making the trip from the Paris airport back to the city (which is a mere 23 km, or 14 miles), nearly four hours – or three times longer than the flight to Milan.

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Why is the food so abysmal at Charles de Gaulle Airport?

aeroports de Paris

Because they recently asked, since my last trip out of Charles de Gaulle airport, I decided that I would try to imagine the perfect airport in Paris.

I sometimes take a bit of ribbing because being a good American, I can’t go too far without having le snack handy. And with airlines requiring earlier check-ins and cutting down on food service, a number of airports have gotten with the program and realized that there’s thousands of people passing through daily, many waiting…and waiting…and waiting, with nothing to do but eat.

I’ve given up on the food on the trains since those plastic-wrapped triangular sandwiches look terrible. If I was famished, I’d sooner eat the armrests. They apparently gave up the pioneering sous vide cuisine that three-star chef Joël Robuchon created for the trains, and while rail technology was embraced and swiftly moved forward, the food unfortunately didn’t zoom exactly in the same direction.

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Paris Airport Transfers: Charles de Gaulle/Roissy

Bastille Day in Paris

Here’s a list of the various ways for visitors to get to and from the city of Paris from Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG), where a majority of international flights arrive and depart from.

The airport is undergoing a much-needed renovation, so give yourself a bit of extra time to catch public transit and find your way around once you’re dropped off. They’ve also added an extra security stop (passport control) before you can enter the satellites and duty-free shopping area, which you need to pass before you get to the gate area, lounges, and x-ray screening.

Even though they’ve made the airport a bit easier to navigate, it’s still confusing and things aren’t always where you might think they’d logically be. On my last trip, a group of us loaded with luggage followed the signs to the airport from the RER station—which led to a solid brick wall. Ouch!

Depending on traffic, the ride can take anywhere from a minimum of 30 minutes to 1 hour or more. Because schedules, fares, and hours of service change frequently, I suggest you check the website of the mode of transit you prefer for the most up-to-date information.



RER Train

The RER is fast and economical, and doesn’t depend on traffic patterns so even if you’re traveling during rush hour, it pretty much runs on schedule. The RER B line, the one to Charles de Gaulle Airport, travels through some dubious areas on the outskirts of Paris and I’ve heard third-hand reports of pickpockets and trouble, but haven’t experienced any of them firsthand. As always when traveling anywhere, be cautious, but not paranoid.

If you have a lot of luggage, schlepping through the underground métro and RER stations can be a big hassle, especially when the escalators and elevators aren’t functioning. If you do take the RER, when you arrive at the airport, you’ll need to hop on the tram (Terminal 1) or a shuttle (Terminal 2) to take you to whichever terminal you’re going to. Make a note of that before you get on so you’re not fumbling with paperwork during the scrum to get off the train.

The stations in Paris where the RER line B goes directly to the airport are: Gare du Nord, Châtelet/Les Halles, St. Michel, and Luxembourg. Some of these stations are very big and bustling so give yourself extra navigational time. Trains go every 15 minutes, from around 5am to 11:40pm and note the ‘B’ line splits, so make sure the sign on the platform says that the train is headed towards the airport before you hop on.

Frequent travelers might want to invest in a carnet aeroport of ten tickets, good for going to-and-from the airport. You get a discount for buying ten at once, and they don’t expire so you can use them on future trips. They can be purchased at the cashier’s desk, or in the machines, by scrolling past the single airport ticket option.

Website: Ratp.fr
(Click on country flag for other languages)

Roissybus

Takes 45 minutes to an hour, and leaves from the rue Scribe and rue Auber, just across from the American Express office. From Paris, if you take the métro, there’ll be signs in the station directing you where to go when you exit the train.

This is an inexpensive way to go at €9.40 and there are no staircases to contend with. Although unless you’re staying near the Opéra, you’ll have to take transit to get to the departure area in Paris, or vice versa. The other downside is that you’re traveling on surface roads and there may be traffic, especially at rush hour (although there are special lanes within Paris for buses.) Buses go every 15-20 minutes and run 5:45am until 11pm. There is a machine to buy tickets at the airport, or you can buy tickets from the driver.

Website: Roissybus

Air France Bus

These buses, called ‘les cars’ in France, depart from Charles De Gaulle every 30 minutes. Four various routes in Paris stop at Charles De Gaulle & Eacute;toile (Arc de Triomphe), Porte Maillot, Invalides, Gare de Lyon and Montparnasse. You can purchase tickets from the driver or the ticket booth in some instances.

The bus is inexpensive (around 15€) and relatively fast since they go on direct routes. They do travel on surface roads so travel time is subject to traffic.

Website: Les Cars Air France.

Noctilien Bus

If you arrive late at night, the Noctilien bus of Paris runs from 12:30am to 5am. You can get to the Châtelet, Gare de Lyon, Gare Montparnasse, Gare de l’Est and Gare St. Lazare using lines N120, N121, and N140.

Buses run every hour and the trip isn’t very rapid, so unless you’re really pinching centimes, my recommendation would be to spring for a taxi late at night.

Website: Noctilien

Semi-Private Shuttle

With these, you can pay in advance, online with a credit card, and you’ll be given a toll-free number to call which you do when you arrive at the airport. The operators and drivers usually speak English, but be sure to print out your confirmation with the number in case they don’t have it on record (which has happened to me.)

The best part of the shuttles are that they take you right to the front door of where you’re going. The downside is that you may end up cooling your heels at the airport waiting for others to arrive, or you may be the last to be dropped off in Paris, depending on where you’re going. The cost is usually close to 24€ for one person, with economical discounts for two or more. (You can tip the driver around 2€ if you wish.)

A few I’ve taken are Bluvan and Yellow Airport Shuttle. You can search for others online. One I’ve had particularly good luck with is Bee Shuttle which offers a “First Class” shared option, promising only two stops.

Taxi

You can get a taxi from the stand at the airport, although there can be a line waiting. In general, the fare to CDG is between 35-55€ and there’s a surcharge for each piece of luggage. Drivers will only take 3 people maximum unless they have a van.

From Paris, you can hail a cab although they’re technically not supposed to stop anywhere except at taxi stands, which are listed in your handy Guide d’Arrondissements. Since cabs can be scarce, especially in bad weather or during busy times, the hotel can call you a cab. Be aware that in Paris, the meter starts when the driver gets the call, so don’t be surprised to find a few euros on the tab when they show up. There is also a minimum charge in Paris. (You can scope out the cab stand near your hotel the night before, although see if it’s well-occupied which will give you an idea of availability the next day.)

Or better yet, get the phone number of a good driver you might have come across during your stay. Most drivers have mobile phones. A typical gratuity is 5%, or 10% for particularly excellent service.

You can also call G7 taxis direct or order one online. Their website has an English-speaking phone number and G7 also has over 100 wheelchair accessible taxis available (with advanced notice.)

Les Taxis Bleus has a bi-lingual website as well, and you can find more information here.

Private Driver

It’s possible to hire a private driver who’ll meet you as you exit customs. After a long overseas flight, it’s a nice luxury to have someone waiting for you with a sign with your name on it to take you right to your hotel or apartment.

Prices for drivers range from 75€-90€ per trip, although some apartment rental firms and hotels charge 4 or 5 times that for personalized service so it pays to check around. Since many drivers have their own vans, they can take more than 3 people and lots more luggage, which can mitigate the higher price. A typical gratuity is 5%, or slightly more—although it’s not required.



Note: Prices are subject to change and are noted just for informational purposes. Best to check the websites of the various operators for the most up-to-date information.



Links

General information about Official Roissy (Charles de Gaulle) Airport Transfer Information

Secrets of Paris Guide to Paris Airports

Top-rated Paris Travel and Dining Guides and Travel Necessities

Official RATP Website of Paris Transit (Multi-lingual)

Paris Trip Tips Transit Guide

10 Insanely Delicious Things You Shouldn’t Miss in Paris

More of my Paris Travel Tips