Rick Steves' Pocket Paris Paperback – May 3 2011
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About the Author
Rick Steves has spent 100 days every year since 1973 exploring Europe. Rick produces a public television series (Rick Steves' Europe), a public radio show (Travel with Rick Steves), and a podcast (Rick Steves' Audio Europe) ; writes a bestselling series of guidebooks and a nationally syndicated newspaper column; organizes guided tours that take thousands of travelers to Europe annually; and offers an information-packed website (ricksteves.com). With the help of his hardworking staff of 70 at Europe Through the Back Door-in Edmonds, Washington, just north of Seattle-Rick's mission is to make European travel fun, affordable, and culturally broadening for Americans.
Steve Smith manages tour planning for Rick Steves' Europe Through the Back Door and has been researching guidebooks with Rick for two decades. Fluent in French, he's lived in France on several occasions, starting when he was seven, and has traveled there annually since 1986. Steve's wife, Karen Lewis Smith, who's an expert on French cuisine and wine, provides invaluable contributions to his books, as do his two children.
Gene Openshaw is a writer, composer, tour guide, and lecturer on art and history. Specializing in writing walking tours of Europe's cultural sights, Gene has co-authored eight of Rick's books and contributes to Rick's public television series. As a composer, Gene has written a full-length opera (Matter), a violin sonata, and dozens of songs. He lives near Seattle with his daughter, and roots for the Mariners in good times and bad.
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The back of the book includes a detailed map of Paris, and a map of the Metro. These were invaluable to us, and much more informative the the tourist maps you get at the hotels, which are festooned with ads. They were sturdy too. Despite our flipping back and forth, taking the book in and out of backpacks, the map only ripped in one corner (the one attached to the book).
The remainder of the book contains several walking tours of major sites: Historic Paris (Notre Dame area), Louvre, Orsay Museum, Eiffel Tower, Rue CLer, Versailles. It gives detailed information on how to take the train to these areas and which stops to get off. Telephone numbers are given. We had kids ranging in age from 8 to 15 with us, and in general they did not want to see every sight on the tours, which still gave us plenty to see and do. In the back is a map of France. The Metro stops are marked on the main city map.
Note: this is a brief and populist guide. It is good for an overview, but not for any kind of detailed historical or academic treatise of the major sights. For this kind of information, I recommend doing research before your trip on the internet, as each major sight has a website. As well, the Blue Guides will bring more life to the tours. We learn interesting little tidbits of information: for example, that St. Denis holding his head is a signature statue above the left door of Notre Dame Cathedral (he was executed by decapitation but in true saintly fashion did not immediately die, but picked up his head and walked for some distance). If you want a more detailed book, you're going to have to buy (and carry) a heavier book.
We did not use this book for restaurant recommendations or hotels. We used a Tripadvisor city app: take the recommendations with a grain of salt, as they are not always unbiased.
So, why a guide book and not a smartphone app? Smart phone apps (maps, Tripadvisor, etc.) have an advantage in that your GPS location is available, and the distance to various sights can be accurately estimated. However, smartphones are difficult to see in the sun, and the information you want is not always easily searchable. It would be cool, for example, to wear Google Glass and have it link to Wikipedia. Great, but it's way cheaper to buy a $10 book.
1. Eat at Paul, a wonderful cafe on almost every corner in Paris - they are affordable, delicious, and almost all people who worked there spoke English.
2. Go to the comptior des catacombes (if you can stomach it) but get there early! We waited on line for 2.5 hours, but it was sooooo worth it!
3. In the Musee d'Louvre - the section Rick highlights in the book is good, but if you have the time, go to some of the other wings, especially the sculpture garden, the Egyptian and Middle Eastern art section, and Napoleon's apartment.
Overall, the guide was phenomenal. Am using it still to figure out where to go on my next visit to Paris!