13 hours in Paris
June 14, 2006 8:47 AM   Subscribe

Arriving at Charles de Gaulle at 7:35am, departing from Orly Sud at 8:30pm. Help?

I have a (very) extended layover in Paris prior to heading over to Eastern Europe, and I'm wondering what the best way to spend that time would be. Also - how much time should I allow between each airport, and what are my best options for getting to them?

I unfortunately am an American monoglot, so I have that working against me. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!
posted by icosahedral to Travel & Transportation around Paris, France (11 answers total)
It depends on whether you want to sightsee, or if you strictly need somewhere to sit and kill time, and how much luggage you have. Any time I've needed to kill time in Paris I've gone to the cinema, but then I've seen the sights plenty of times. There are a lot of cinemas in Montparnasse and on the Champs Elysee, look for listings with VO after them (version originale) those are in English (or at least their original language.)
posted by fire&wings at 9:05 AM on June 14, 2006

The RER is what you'll need getting between the airports and the city. CDG > Gare du nord is about 30-45 minutes (RER B) and Orly is only a little longer. Most of the major museums will have spaces to stash your luggage and you should do fine speaking only english as long as you are polite and not rushed.

Depending on your interests, you should be able to find any number of museums or memorials, I would heartily recommend Centre Pompidou, the grand gallery of evolution and the holocaust memorial to pass the day (maybe not the same day, but two of those three are definitely do-able). Of course the Louvre and d'Orsay could easily occupy your day, too.
posted by jmgorman at 9:41 AM on June 14, 2006

I know only the most minimal of French and I had no problems whatsoever in dealing with the tourism infrastructure that is listed above. Everyone is really nice to English speakers (despite what you may have heard...except perhaps waiters at lunch near the big touristy areas but I can understand what torture that must be). The Centre Pompidou and the d'Orsay are both wonderful musuems if that is your thing. Frankly, I think Paris is one of the great cities just *to be in*. Not sure what it is and I'm not really a Francophile, but it just feels good to be there. Oh and the Metro is your friend. It will get you where you want to go and cheaply. If only we all could have such nice public transist.
posted by mmascolino at 9:54 AM on June 14, 2006

Seconding the suggestion to tour the city. You can go from the Arc de Triomphe down the Champs Elysees past the Louve toward Notre Dame ending at the Centre Pompidou in three hours taking your time (with a map :). The underground catacombs near Notre Dame are also fun and quick. And if you're an Amelie fan you might want to check out Montmartre (and Sacre Coeur, if you don't mind steps).

I wouldn't suggest the museums though. They're great, but if you have limited time in Paris, spend it in Paris.
posted by gsteff at 11:51 AM on June 14, 2006

Funnily enough, everyone I talked to in Paris spoke excellent english except the wait staff at just about every restaurant. It's very easy to get around as an english speaker in Paris. It really does depend on what you want to do for those 9-10 hours that you're not travelling to-from airports - it's very easy to just sit around on a patio and people watch. Lots of great instructions in there.
posted by antifuse at 11:53 AM on June 14, 2006

I second gsteff.

That sounds about exactly the trek my friends and I took while on a long layover in Paris recently. Just take time to enjoy the city. Find a great cafe, sit, eat, enjoy your day, walk around. The museums will take too long for you to truly enjoy them. Just take in the beauty of the city, the shops, the people, etc
posted by meeshelle39 at 2:51 PM on June 14, 2006

another vote for wandering around. go to gare du nord, stash your pack in one of the luggage lockers, then just go and get lost. walk down little streets, stop in little cafes for a coffee, buy a baguette, etc. a vague aim is always nice, so you would wander in the direction of the tower or arc du triomphe or the louve if you like. the important thing is to take your time and explore every little side adventure you find.
posted by twirlypen at 4:21 PM on June 14, 2006

posted by twirlypen at 4:22 PM on June 14, 2006

I really appreciate everyone that took the time to respond. You've put me at ease - thanks!
posted by icosahedral at 7:56 PM on June 14, 2006

hey, um, not to burst your bubble, but you are probably going to need to factor in a good amount of that time just to transfer. The airports are on other sides of the city and the trip can be really long. Not saying you shouldn't swing by Notre Dame if you can but don't miss your flight. Plus, expect some delays.
posted by BigBrownBear at 10:12 AM on June 17, 2006

Just to wrap up -- That first day was a killer, but I had a great time. Getting into Charles De Gaulle was no problem. I bought a day pass for the RER/metro for some 16 Euros - since I'd be all over the place that day. The RER was really quite easy to figure out -- a few stops on the B line, and bam - I was right in Chatalet.

I ended up doing quite a bit of wandering -- seeing as it was my first time in the city. I really wanted to see the catacombs, so I took the metro down to Denfert-Rochereau. Suprisingly damp under there, and somewhat of an interesting way to spend an hour. Hopped the metro back -- sat, people watched and had lunch in Montparnasse (Metro: Montparnasse-Bienvenue) Then I decided to see the Eiffel tower -- cause, y'know, I hadn't yet. So I went up to the palace near Trocadero (Metro: Trocadero) -- saw the tower, walked up Avenue Kleber -- saw the Arc de Triomphe. After kicking around the Champs-Elysees for I bit, I made movements to Orly.

Getting to Orly is a snap. Head down to the stop where the Catacombs are (Metro: Denfert-Rochereau), and there's a bus that goes straight to Orly. Took about thirty-ish minutes, and I was super early. The day pass covered that bus too.

So yeah -- In case anyone's in a similar situation, there's plenty to do. Luckily, I had a few days later in the trip to explore Paris in a less frenzied fashion. And - for what it's worth - the Parisians I met were extremely helpful and lovely people. No worries there.

Aside: Budapest rules!
posted by icosahedral at 3:47 PM on June 24, 2006

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