25 July 2005

Tools of the tourist trade

Two indispensable tools I used to decipher Paris are TimeOut Paris, a British guide book, and MapEasy’s Guidemap to Paris.

A New York Times critic called the TimeOut city guide "the most hip and culturally savvy I’ve used." It’s written in a casual tone. TimeOut also includes loads of sidebars and ancillary information that other guides omit. With its brief history lesson and invaluable information on how the real Paris operates, this book has helped me on numerous occasions.

Its name includes the word OUT, which doesn’t mean that it is a gay publication (although it dedicates six pages to gay Paris.) TimeOut is actually a mainstream magazine that covers all the goings-on in London and New York. They also publish dozens of city guides, covering cities from Budapest to Boston. Try to buy the most recent version of the city guide you need. They’re updated annually. If your local bookseller doesn’t have a current copy, try the TimeOut Web site. This is a great book for those moving to Paris, as it includes information about utilities and locksmiths and such. It doesn’t, however, help you find an English-speaking stylist to cut your hair. Drat!

I like the MapEasy Guidemap to Paris because it includes little notations all over the map, giving obscure factoids. “It’s an interesting walk up the Cite Veron passageway,” it says about a narrow alley that you might otherwise overlook. It calls one hotel in Montmartre “unremarkable but dependable,” and shows you precisely where to find certain restaurants, shops and galleries. It shows illustrations of some landmarks and buildings, which is helpful as you navigate Paris – while trying to avoid daredevil scooter drivers and French pedestrians in a hurry. MapEasy also has maps for many other cities. I recall using one in Washington, DC. Even though it means less of the city appears on the map, the illustrations make all the difference.

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