When: May 6th- May 11th, 2012
Total length: 5 days
Area of Apartment: 14th arrondissement
Weather: It was generally warm (~18°C), with a day at 30°C
Note: This was a part of a three country trip (see London for the first country).
How we got to Paris: We took the Eurostar from London (St.Pancras Station) to Gare du Nord in Paris.
The Eurostar: The train was accessible, with myself and my attendant getting to sit in first class. We both had a reduced fare. Unfortunately my best friend got stuck in another car since first class is expensive. The ride is about 2 hours long.
There was a ramp to get to the train. I did not try to use the washroom onboard here (it was such a short trip and I did not look at the washrooms).
There are accessible washrooms by the exits at the Paris train station. It costs a euro to use. We got there and took a bus out front to get to our apartment.
Buses: All seem accessible. They announce the stops, but are in French. You enter through the front. There are no special fares for wheelchairs or attendants. We purchased our passes right at the station.
Note: Try and memorize (or bring print outs) of French phrases since people do not know English (or will refuse to use it). The most important being; Where is the elevator? (où est l’ascenseur?)
Note: Using Pay phones: In Paris, pay phones require prepaid cards. We tried to use our Credit Cards, but it was very confusing (and in French). Try and research this in advance if you plan on calling the homeowners of the places you are renting from.
The Apartment (Click here for website)
We decided to rent an apartment, something I recommend you do whenever you can. It was located in the 14th arrondissement, in a safe looking neighbourhood. We took the bus right to the last stop and walked to our apartment.
Note: Print out maps! I have never been more confused in my life.
This was a beautiful 2 bedroom apartment on the 6th floor. There was an elevator (tiny, I needed to turn sideways, untilt and only one person could squeeze in beside me). The building was secure, requiring a password and key to get in.
Bathrooms: The set ups for the washrooms were a bit odd;
–Room one: (picture not shown) Just a toilet. The room was small and I could only transfer from the wheelchair to the toilet through the doorway.
–Room two: (see above, Left) Here was a sink with a shower (small lip). It would have been perfect if I could have fit my wheelchair through the doorway! Check your dimensions of wheelchair against mine (see About me- Quantum 600). I had to place a chair in the middle of the room to transfer twice to the shower. Luckily I only had to do that twice.
–Room three: (See above, Right) This room had a stall shower (with mini seat), sink and washing machine. Again, my chair could not fit through the doorway. Note: There is no dryer, you need to hang your clothes on a drying rack outside. We took our clothes to a laundromat (not accessible) around the corner.
Bedroom One: Very spacious. There was a large closet. The room opened into the living room, and could be partitioned by a pocket door.
Living Room: There were two couches that I believe could turn into futons. I don’t think they would be entirely comfortable, but I did do that for myself and put my air mattress on top. There was a television with cable and a DVD player.
Note: North American DVDs won’t work in European players due to copyright and different release dates around the world. Wish we knew that before!
Internet: There was fast and unlimited wifi in the apartment
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Kitchen: (See above) Great kitchen with a small fridge, oven, dishwasher, stovetop, cutlery and pots and pans.
Balcony: The view overlooked the Montsouris park, which was gorgeous. We wish we had gone to look around our neighbourhood more. There was too much of a lip for my wheelchair to get over to the balcony, but the doors opened wide to the living room. The windows also opened up to let in the air. If you craned your neck (not possible for person in wheelchair) out the side, you can see the top of the Eiffel Tower!
Bedroom Two: This was a simple bedroom with a double bed. I was small enough to fit through the doorway.
Around the Neighbourhood:
Restaurants: There were a some nice restaurants nearby, but we didn’t have time to go see.
Grocery Store: Close by there was a Walmart like store. There is a service elevator (must go with employee in storeroom) to get to the first floor grocery store. The first floor’s entrance is on another street and would be confusing to get to otherwise. The grocery store had all the necessities and wasn’t too expensive.
Bakeries: There are bakeries around every corner for cheeses, pastries and breads. The first night we got there we went to a stall like store that had basic food supplies (pasta, bread, milk), but was extremely over priced.
Market: On weekends there is a flea market down the street, but we missed it.
University: The University de Citée was across the street from us. I’m sure you could get inexpensive food on the campus there. There was even a Canadian House!
Day Two (Grocery Shopping, Bakery, Laundry)
We were exhausted, so we spent the day lounging around, doing laundry and grocery shopping.
Day Three (Les Galeries Lafayette)
It was a National Holiday, so not much was open. We decided to do some shopping at Les Galeries Lafayette. We took a bus to get there. I have never been more bored of shopping in my life going here. I couldn’t afford a single thing. A tank top we picked up was 80 euros and clothing was tied to the hangers because they were so expensive. Also, it gets really busy and you wait hours for the elevator. There was a little kiosk in the middle that had costume jewelry. So we bought that and called it a day.
We ate at a Tapas place. I didn’t like it. Why we went to a Spanish restaurant in Paris, I have no idea. We were starving and still grumpy at not being able to afford any clothes.
Day Four (The Louvre)
Louvre: This was my favourite day in Paris. We spent 8 hours here!
Fares: The fare for myself and attendant was free. Students have reduced fares as well.
Nintendo DS: I would say these were a must in the Louvre. You could rent for 5 euros a Nintendo DS that would be programmed with the layout of each exhibit. You could click on a painting and it would give you interesting facts. It also would give you info on a particular room. Note: You need to leave a piece of ID with them to rent the DS.
Why are they a must? Well, all the signs are in French here (We were surprised that such an iconic museum wouldn’t have English translations). Even though I speak French, spending 8 hours translating in your head gets very tiring! The signs are also very small, and you have to get very close to it, therefore obstructing the view of the painting.
The Mona Lisa: As soon as you get into the room there is a large crowd, all pushing their way to see it. Don’t try, you will get an elbow to the face! I walked around to the side and noticed that there was a large gap between the barrier and the painting. I asked the guards if I could go stand in front, and they said sure. That’s how you get front row!!
Smaller Galleries: There are smaller, less known galleries. Since this is an old building, there are lots of stairs, going up 5 steps, down 5 steps etc. Therefore, a lot of mini elevators. After a while, we found the paintings to be boring (sorry!) and so we stuck to the main galleries.
Eating and Shopping: Underneath the Louvre there are a few really nice shops. We bought perfume and soaps. There is a large “Food Court”. I say this loosely because it was the nicest one I had ever been in. They had every food imaginable.
Day Five (Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, Parc)
We walked around to every stop that day.
We first took a long bus ride to the Eiffel Tower.
We did not go up the tower, because it was expensive and wheelchairs can only go up to the second floor.
We then walked to the Arc de Triomphe, and along the Champs-Élysées (expensive stores). The washrooms could be hard to find, so we went to a McDonalds.
We ate lunch outside and it was an okay meal.
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We kept walking along the Champs-Élysées, to a parc, eventually ending up back at the Louvre.
We ate crêpes (get chocolate!) and took a nice stroll in the gardens.
Note: to exit the parc, take the middle area. The sides where the trees are only lead to the street and has a foot drop to the pavement.
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Overall Thoughts of Paris:
-We didn’t really enjoy Paris. Only the Louvre (and the apartment) made it worth it
- The city is really dirty (bad economic times)
- There is not much to do here compared to London
- Everything is very expensive for what you get
- The food was not very good in the places we ate
- Next time, stay longer in London!
Next stop, Bruxelles!