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Queueing Par Excellence

Visiting Paris: First-Hand Experiences

Earlier this month we visited Paris because my family was eager to see & climb the Eiffel Tower and, let’s face it, I really needed to overcome my Francophobia. The Eiffel Tower turned out to be a bit of a disappointment because, unlike in the past, on the second floor it is not possible to buy a ticket for the lift to go further to the top, and we didn’t want to go all the way back down to get in line again to buy a new ticket to go all the way up. Allegedly the third floor (276 m) is not that great anyway, because it’s too small for the high volume of visitors. (But, let’s face it, that applies to almost everything in Paris.) The view from the second floor (216 m) is very nice too, but that didn’t stop my significant other from writing an angry letter to the Mayor of Paris to complain about the new procedures, and the fact that tickets for the top are not advertised at ground level.

When in Paris, you shouldn’t miss the Louvre, but once you’re in, it’s easy to miss significant parts of it: the museum, a 14½-km walk, is just too big to handle. You might want to pick one of the visitor trails to save yourself. Whatever you do, be sure to see Mari’s superintendent Ebih-il, the Code of Hammurabi, Venus de Milo, Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, Anne of Austria’s casket, the tapestry depicting the Battle of Zama and Eugène Delacroix’s Liberty Leading the People. There is no way to skip the line at the entrance, not even if you booked advance tickets, but you will find the queue in the Carrousel du Louvre shorter than the one at the pyramid. If impressionism is your thing (it sure is mine), the Musée d’Orsay with Claude Monet’s Poppy Field and Vincent van Gogh’s Starry Night and the Musée de l’Orangerie with Monet’s Water Lilies are among the delights of the city; a combined ticket provides access to both museums. (The Cluny Museum will be closed until 2020, so you have to come back later to see the six The Lady and the Unicorn tapestries.)

The Mona Lisa at the Louvre Museum in Paris
Flocks of people gathering at the Louvre to see the Mona Lisa

Books & food are all you need in life. Shakespeare and Company is your librairie anglophone indépendante selling both. Library-wise Paris has two treats: the Richelieu Library, with its magnificent Labrouste reading room and Rondel gallery, and the smaller Sainte-Geneviève Library, which is among the most beautiful in the world. It was certainly the first library I ever visited with a goblin casually hanging around. (On the opposite side of the street is the Panthéon; if you go there with your children, you might want to brush up your knowledge about the earth’s rotation before introducing them to Foucault’s pendulum.) From here it’s only a 15-minute walk to Berthillon; the rotation of the tongue is best observed licking his celebrated ice cream. Dining out in Paris is generally costly, especially if you have a lot of mouths to feed, but fortunately there is Bouillon Chartier, a typical Parisian restaurant that serves decent meals at a reasonable price — we loved it. Located further north in Montmartre is Café des Deux Moulins. Don’t expect Amélie Poulain to wait your table; it’s a bit of a cliché, but she is actually an actress and has moved on. And mentally prepare yourself: the bearded guy who now runs the place lacks her charm and wit.

The Paris Museum Pass is the museum pass you probably don’t need. It’s valid on 2, 4 or 6 consecutive days and costs € 24, € 15½ or € 12⅓ per day respectively, possibly making it a good deal if you are a museum buff visiting Paris for at least four days. Of course there is the advantage of not having to buy individual tickets, but please bear in mind that the queues are normally not for the ticket office but for the security checks. The other pass you likely don’t need is the Paris Visite travel pass. Valid for 1–3 or 5 consecutive days, it costs between € 12 and € 7⅔ per day for all public transport networks in zones 1–3. Compared to buying one-way T+ tickets in a pack of 10 for € 1½ each, a 5-day travel pass is economical if you use the metro for at least six journeys per day. (Single T+ tickets cost € 2; reduced-fare T+ tickets for children aged 4–9 are only available in 10-packs for € 7½.) Billet Île-de-France point-to-point tickets are the best choice for occasional journeys beyond zone 2 — to the Palace of Versailles, for instance. (If you’re under 26, you may also want to consider using weekend day passes.) Most features of RATP’s free Next Stop Paris app for Apple & Android seem rather clumsy, but it does a great job of planning metro journeys and it even works when your phone is offline. Paris is a lovely city, and in the city centre I’d recommend walking instead of travelling by metro to enjoy Paris as much as possible.

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The online exhibition The Construction of the Eiffel Tower shows how Gustave Eiffel’s tower was built between January 1887 and March 1889, requiring 7,300 tonnes of puddling iron and 60 tonnes of paint. It’s a Meccano set of 18,000 pieces, each traced out to an accuracy of one tenth of a millimetre, fixed together with a whopping 2½ million rivets.


For their album Everything is Love, the American musical duo The Carters, composed of Jay Z. & Beyoncé, recorded a music video for the song Apeshit at the Louvre. The museum now offers a 1½-hour visitor trail along the objects featured in this video.