Shortly after graduating high school the summer of 1965 found me in Paris visiting a Parisian exchange student, Jean Paul that had spent some time with my family the year before. At the same time a classmate of mine was also in Paris with her parents. For a few days Jean Paul, Beth and I hung out together racing around Paris in Jean Paul’s Citron 3.
Evenings usually found us in the park that cascades down the hill in front of Sacre Coeur. It was a gathering place for young people that included British rockers all decked out in their Union Jack clothing and spiked hair, American hippies, Algerian revolutionaries and Parisian rebels. It was full of guitar music, discussions about the Algerian freedom fight, the Vietnam war, art and our future. Often conversations travelled through three or four languages to include everyone and American and British rock songs were sung with a multitude of accents. The evenings broke up when the Gendarmes swept down the hillside with batons swinging to clear the park.
After that was bar hopping through Montmartre and Pigalle often stopping at street vendors selling french fries and mustard.
We slept late every day but did fit in some sightseeing here and there. Around that time Art Buchwald, an American humorist was in Paris and wrote a column in the American Times of Paris titled Breaking The Four Minute Louvre. It was shortly after American Jim Ryun was the first high school student to break the four minute mile and in the Spring of 1965 running the mile was in the news.
Tongue in cheek, Buchwald claimed that the worlds largest art collection actually contained only four pieces really worth seeing. Of course they included Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, but also Botticelli’s Birth of Venus (often called Venus on the Half Shell), the Winged Victory (a masterpiece of Greek sculpture, called the Winged Victory of Samothrace) and the Venus di Milo (an ancient Greek statue and one of the most famous works of ancient Greek sculpture). They were each in different galleries in the Louvre and Buchwald’s column claimed that nobody had yet entered the Louvre, looked at each piece and exited the museum in under four minutes, but the new record was near. It was a funny image offered up to American tourists visiting Paris but it had unintended consequences.
What red-blooded American youth visiting Paris could walk away from that challenge? The three of us accepted and while we were slightly hindered by being chased by museum guards we finished in a little over seven minutes. Getting lost could easily double your time and it was easy to do. I understand that the Louvre had to put up with crazy, running young people for most of that summer.
I actually met Art Buchwald in 1972 at a meeting of college newspapers in D.C. and asked him about that column. He laughed and said the French really have no sense of humor at all and he may still be persona non grata in Paris. Their loss.
Approaching The Netherlands from the North Sea cruise ships navigate the North Sea Canal. The canal runs from the IJmuiden locks to the Coenhaven. East of the Coenhaven, the waterway is called the River IJ (both letters are capitalized) and continues up to the Oranjesluizen locks located in the eastern part of Amsterdam. Than from the Oranjesluizen up to the Passenger Terminal in Amsterdam. Unfortunately ships that are transiting into Amsterdam often come in before dawn so as to be tied up early in the day. Passengers that are sailing out of Amsterdam late in the day get a much better appreciation of the systems that protect Holland from the North Sea.
Amsterdam is the largest city in the Netherlands famous for tulips, cheese, marijuana, red light districts and canals,. Many people call the country Holland but the true name is the Netherlands with Holland being the name of two of its states. The people are Dutch as is the name of their language.
The most important thing to know about Amsterdam is when walking in the city, pay attention and stay out of the bike lanes and watch out for bikes! Everyone rides bikes to get around in this city and in most areas there is a designated bike lane between the sidewalks and the street. The biggest mistake visitors make is seeing the traffic stop and step off the sidewalk without looking for bicycles. Keep you eyes open for bikes – a bicyclist moving at ten miles an hour can do a lot of damage to a pedestrian.
Where Your Ship Docks
Your ship will dock at the Cruise Terminal on the river IJ. The cruise facilities are modern with good access to public facilities. From the terminal it is just a 10-minute walk to the central train station. With the cruise ship at your back walk off to your right along the waterfront to reach the station and central Amsterdam.
The cruise terminal is only a 20 minute ride from Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport and just a ten minute walk to Amsterdam Central Train station. There is also frequent train service from the station to Schiphol Airport. Amsterdam has an excellent and inexpensive bus system
The city is laid out like a fan with major streets radiating out from the Amsterdam Central Train station. The major canals arc across the fan along with a number of city streets. Most major streets are serviced by trams which run every few minutes.
Traveling within Amsterdam by public transportion is easy to understand and very convenient. The network is operated by GVB throughout the central city and connects its neighborhoods with trains, trams, metro, bus and ferry. The least expensive and most convenient way to see the city is with GVB day passes. Available from 1 to 7 days, with prices starting from €8.50 per person, per day and valid on trams, buses and metros operated throughout Amsterdam. You can buy your tickets in advance from the GVB website HERE.
The Netherlands, like other members of the EU uses the euro as its official currency. You will often discover that to avoid the use of the 1 and 2 cent coins, many cash transactions are rounded to the nearest five cents in the Netherlands. Credit and debit cards a commonly accepted but U.S. Dollars need to be changed into Euros.
This is a beautiful city and great for walking (watch out for the bicycles!). Canals lined with boats are at every turn and like most major cities there are books dedicated to seeing this city. Museums, galleries, gardens and historic places are everywhere but often it’s just the cities neighborhoods that make a visit memorable.
Rijksmuseum – One of Amsterdam’s most popular attractions – and certainly its most important art repository – the Rijksmuseum was founded in 1809 to house the country’s huge collection of rare art and antiquities.
Van Gogh Museum – A must-visit for art fans and historians, the spectacular Van Gogh Museum has been one of Amsterdam’s top attractions since it opened in 1972.
Vondelpark – The largest and most visited park in Amsterdam, Vondelpark occupies 116 acres.
The Anne Frank House – On the Prinsengracht, the Anne Frank Museum is dedicated to the all-too-short life of one of the world’s best-known Holocaust victims.
If you are visiting in the Spring (between 21 March to 10 May, 2020) a must see is the Keukenhof Gardens, one of the worlds largest flower festivals featuring acres of tulips. Visit our article on the Keukenhof HERE.
Spending a week along the Rhône in France. Traveling up the river from Marseille, through historic Avignon, Arles, the Roman city of Vienne and ending up in Lyon, France’s culinary heart. This trip included time visiting the Beaujolais wine region and a number of quaint Provençal villages.
Located north of Lyon in eastern France, Beaujolais overlaps Burgundy in the north and Rhône in the south. The Beaujolais vineyards are located along the Saône River, where French winemakers have crafted delicious, fruity wines since the times of the Ancient Romans. It is said that the Romans taught the French tribes how to make wine but the French perfected the process.
Today the region is known world wide for its long tradition of winemaking, and more recently for the popular Beaujolais nouveau. The village of Beaujeu is the heart of the region and where Beaujolais gets its name. The French tradition is to name a region after a central town. This region is famous for its growing conditions with lots of sunshine and its granite-based soils lending a unique character to their wines. The Gamay grape is used to make all Beaujolais wines with the exception of white Beaujolais, or Beaujolais blanc, which is made of Chardonnay grapes.
Most of the harvesting is made manually in the Beaujolais region. Handpicking means entire bunches are vatted to allow a specific kind of maceration. This winemaking is unique to the Beaujolais region.
The signature Beaujolais nouveau is a red wine is produced in the Beaujolais region of France. It is the most popular vin de primeur, fermented for just a few weeks before being released for sale on the third Thursday of November. This ‘Beaujolais Nouveau Day’ is recognized everywhere, with races to get the first bottles to different markets around the globe.
Traveling through the hilly Beaujolais we were struck by the shear number of acres devoted to vineyards. From whole hillsides down to small backyard vineyards, grapes are growing everywhere and most everything seems to involve wine. We visited the Chateau de Varennes (facebook HERE) for a wine tasting. It’s an estate that is listed as a “VMF Historic Heritage” site and has been in the same family since 1809 with some buildings dating back to the 11th Century. The Château itself is a beautiful period castle from the 16th century, in the heart of vineyards and overlooking the Samson valley. It’s a beautiful location with panoramic terrace views and an impressive Renaissance entry court.
Cruising through Paris on the river is one of the most enchanting ways to experience this incredible city with its historic architecture, famous monuments and remarkable beauty.Most visitors to Paris want to add a cruise on the River Seine to their plans. Seeing this city from the river there is a wide assortment of excursions to select from. Either day or night this is an experience not to be missed.
There are a number of options to consider:
One to two plus hour sightseeing cruises starting at about $15
Lunch cruises from $45 (with live music from $60)
Dinner cruise from $80 (see the city lights while gliding along the river)
A Champagne Tasting Seine River Cruise from $60.00
Paris Hop-On Hop-Off Combo: Bus and cruise from $55.00
Additional gourmet, dancing and luxury trips are also available with a wide range of pricing.
If you are on a budget our choice for value, is the Hop-On Hop-Off Batobus. It features nine stops from Notre-Dame to the Eiffel Tower that also includes stops at the Louvre, Place de Concord, Champs-Elysees and more. A 24 hour pass (metered from the time of purchase) cost about $20 with 48 hours under $24. These boats run from morning to about 9:00 pm about every fifteen to twenty minutes and are a great way to jump from one destination to another throughout the day.
Located just upstream from Notre-Dame there is a bridge made notable by a tall, elegant statue at its’ southern end. Examining a map, the bridge is identified as the Pont de la Tournelle and it is just another example of the shear number of remarkable sites in this incredible city. The Pont de la Tournelle links the Ile St-Louis (the next upstream island from Notre-Dame De Paris), to the Quai de la Tournelle on the Rive Gauche. The Rue des Deux Ponts links the island’s two bridges in a straight line with the Pont Marie on the north bank.
In 1928, the City of Paris commissioned sculptor Paul Landowski to carve a statue of Sainte-Geneviève for the bridge. Paul Maximilien Landowski (1 June 1875 – 31 March 1961) was a French monument sculptor of Polish descent. He is best-known for his work Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Landoswki’s creation represents Sainte-Geneviève, the patron saint of Paris as a young woman protecting a child holding a vessel, the symbol of Paris. He sculpted the sixteen foot high statue directly from a single piece of stone. Mounted on a pedestal of equal height, the statue faces westward to symbolically protect the city from danger approaching from upstream. It needed to be tall to be seen from great distances. It is located on the spot where Saint Geneviève’s shrine stood in the year 885 before it was moved to its’ current home in Saint-Étienne-du-Mont Church.
A Note: At the time I took the photograph I had no idea what the bridge statue was about. I was simply drawn to the cormorant drying its wings high above the river. Only later did I research the statue and its sculptor – Paris is an amazing city…
Seeing the sites in Paris can be a costly adventure. First, the city itself is very large. On our recent trip we went from Notre Dame to the Louvre, up to Sacre Coeur and back to Notre Dame and clocked fourteen miles. There are a couple of hop-on, hop-off bus services like Big Bus Tours but expect to pay between 40€ to 60€ per person. Add in a Seine boat excursion and it climbs to 75 to 85€.
While Paris boasts one of the worlds oldest and largest subway systems (Metro) that includes 14 city lines, 2 Tramways and 6 RER express lines it strikes most visitors as just overwhelming especially with the language barrier.
Above is the official system map and it does look imposing. The color coded, numbered lines are the city Metro routes. The lettered routes are the RER lines that are an express underground or subway trains in Paris city centre, outside Paris it becomes a ground level commuter train connecting outlying suburbs. In addition, on the map there are 27 transfer stations along with connections to airport shuttles spotted around Paris.
Our recommendation is to put your fears aside, focus on your goals and go underground.
We created the map above to simplify the system and focus on routes that have the highest value to a new visitor. They include Metro routes 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 8, 10 and 12. It includes orange asterisks that highlight tourist attractions that include:
E – Eiffel Tower
A – Arc de Triomphe
D – Notre Dame
B – Sacre Coeur
C – Louvre
F – Champs-Élysées
B – Montmarte
We have also removed the RAR express train routes as the Metro will get you to almost all major visitor destinations with less confusion.
By simplifying the system you can now focus on where you will be entering the system, where you want to go and what lines you need to use to get there. To make sure you are going in the right direction make a note of a lines end stations as they are usually used to identify a trains direction of travel. If you are staying on another line simply locate your station on the general map and find the transfer point to get you onto a destination line.
For example, if you get on the Yellow Line at the Louvre and want to go to the Arc de Triomphe at the Charle De Gaulle Etoile station, look for a train with the destination of La Defense Grand Arche to be sure you are going in the right direction.
Tickets And System Cost
There are visitor passes available for one to five days on the Metro in Paris center:
1 day: 12€ (kids : 5.80€)
2 days: 19.50€ (kids : 9.75€)
3 days: 26.65€ (kids : 13.30€)
5 days: 38.35€ (kids: 19.15€)
In addition there is a card fro travel outside of the city center called the Mobilis Card for unlimited travel for one day in Zone 1-5 for 7.00€.
For most visitors it is often cheaper to buy one-trip tickets. A single ticket costs €1.80. A single ticket is valid for 1½ hours within the metro system but if unvalidated, will last indefinitely. The best buy is a ‘CARNET’ which is a pack of 10 single tickets. You won’t have to mess around buying tickets each time you use the train and you can split the pack with your companion. It is also cheaper buying a carnet than a single ticket each time. A carnet of 10 single tickets costs €14.10. Therefore a saving of 3.90 euros. Paris is a city of attractions and each stop can take a few hours to see,so buying single tickets can be much cheaper than a full day or multi day pass depending on your plans for the day.
Each ticket allows travel from an entry station to any exit station regardless of distance. Insert your ticket into the slot, when it comes out pass thru the gate. Be sure and carry that ticket with you until you exit the Metro above ground as tickets are occasionally check inside the Metro to confirm validity (fines if you cannot produce the ticket).
You can buy a single ticket, a Carnet of tickets or recharge Navigo Decouverte passes at a green colored machine in the Metro or at ticket counters, but ticket counters are not always staffed and not all of the staff speak English.
You can use Euros, coins or debit/credit cards if they have a chip. Some machines are used only for re-charging Navigo cards and most newer machines offer instructions in several languages. Most machines have touch screens but some have a large silver cylinder shaped scroll device below the screen. Gliding your fingers on this will scroll up and down the screen.
Using The System
Once you have your ticket, go to the turnstiles. Slip the ticket in the slot, move forward but wait for the ticket to pop out at the top, than move through the turnstile and hang on to your ticket and don’t discard it until you have left the system. If a red light appears, the card isn’t being accepted. If you know it is a new card, go to a ticket counter.
Be prepared to do some walking in Métro stations, especially if you transfer. Transfers are free and can be made wherever lines cross, provided you do so within 1.5 hours. When you are looking for the right platform, follow the signs by the color of the line, the line number and the line end destination. When you transfer, follow the colored line number and end-of-the-line stop to find your next train, or look for signs that lead to your next line. At the destination look for the blue-and-white sortie signs pointing you to the exit. After you exit the system, dispose of the used ticket.
The Paris Metro is a blend of a number of lines with different ages.There are three types of trains with three types of door mechanisms. The newer trains have automatic opening and closing doors. Another type has a green button when pressed opens the doors. The third has a handle, which you pull up and the door will open.
Upon leaving a train look for signs for your next line and the direction you need to go on the platform, looking for the line color, the line number and the end destination of the line. Also look for your exit and note if it has a number. As you walk through the station it helps to follow the number, rather than names.
Leaving The System
If the station has only one exit simply follow the SORTIE signs. Otherwise follow the SORTIE, exit signs to the right exit. On leaving you will find steel doors, there are two types; automatic and manual. You either push the doors open or you stand on a sensor pad and the doors will automatically open. In the larger and newly renovated stations there are turnstiles where you simply walk through.
There is also an APP for the Paris Transit System (the android app is HERE) for Apple and Android but thus far they reviews aren’t good.
NOTE ABOUT OUR MAP: We could not post a higher resolution map on this site and we do not have hosting that allows for downloads so, if you want a HiRes copy of our Paris Metro Map, email us at Intent2Travel@gmx.com and put ParisMap in the subject and we will email a copy back.
On a recent trip through France we spent time visiting the Tournon Lamastre Steam Railroad line which features open-air cars (in the warm months), beautiful old steam engines and fantastic scenery.
About 125 miles north of the city of Avignon along the Rhône River in southern France is Doux Gorges, located in Saint-Jean-de-Muzols, a commune (community) in the Ardèche department. The area features some of the most beautiful and remote wilderness in France and attracts tourists, hikers and bikers from all over.
A network of railway lines was constructed around Vivarais between 1898 and 1903 to provide access to markets for farms and vineyards in remote areas of the region. When the Vivarais railway network closed in 1968, a group of enthusiasts decided to acquire it and some of its’ rolling stock. In June, 1969 a tourist operation started between Saint-Jean-de-Muzols and Lamastre. The Meyzieu Tourist Railway Company (CFTM) was created, supported by a group of volunteers who restore and maintain the railroad rolling stock. In February, 1970 access was restored to the railway station at Tournon, and the new Tournon – Lamastre line, 21 miles long, was officially opened for full service in April 1970
Pulled by restored and maintained steam engines over one hundred years old, today’s train cars carry passengers into the most beautiful and inaccessible part of the Doux Gorges offering views of an untouched and rugged landscape. At the station of Colombier le Vieux – Saint-Barthélémy le Plain, the locomotive has to be turned round on a turntable and placed at the front of the train for the return trip. Watching the two men push the turntable is a sight worth seeing.
Offering full day or half day excursions, the Train of Ardèche travels through the mountainside overlooking the gorges. It is particularly popular with hikers and bicyclists (who can load their bicycles aboard) for the trip uphill to Lamastre and then the walk or ride back downhill through the gorge. The trains do not run everyday so it is important to check the schedule when planning the trip (official site link below).