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Seven Naïve, Amusing or Useful Observations from Our Trip to Paris

Rapid COVID-19 testing

Hopefully this won’t be needed a few weeks or months from now, but Paris is dotted with rapid COVID-19 test tents. You will see them in expected places, like in front of pharmacies and hospitals, but also in front of all major attractions since proof of vaccination or a negative test is required to enter. If was a joke between Mark and I—“wait, must be something worth checking out here, there’s a COVID test tent!”

I can imagine the new travel marketing campaign in Paris—“get tested in style, right in front of Le Louvre!”

Rapid COVID tests, place d'Italie, Paris
Rapid COVID tests, place d’Italie, Paris
Vaccination centre, place de l'Hôtel de Ville, Paris
Vaccination centre, place de l’Hôtel de Ville, Paris

This huge building is… the Panthéon

The Panthéon is basically a mausoleum—this is where you’ll find the remains of great French citizens, including Voltaire, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Victor Hugo, Émile Zola, and Marie Curie (and FYI, Mark, not Michael Jackson’s remains).

It’s probably not a top attraction in Paris for foreign tourists, yet I’m pretty sure most of them saw the imposing building from some viewpoint like the Eiffel Tower.

Saint-Étienne-du-Mont, Place Sainte-Geneviève, Paris
Saint-Étienne-du-Mont, Place Sainte-Geneviève, Paris
Panthéon, place du Panthéon, Paris
Panthéon, place du Panthéon, Paris
Panthéon, place du Panthéon, Paris
Panthéon, place du Panthéon, Paris
Panthéon, place du Panthéon, Paris
Panthéon, place du Panthéon, Paris

Giant teddy bears everywhere

Say “hi” to the teddy bears popping up all over local businesses in Paris—some are having a drink in their favourite café, some are getting tattooed, some are soaking up the sun sitting on public benches.

This is one of these gimmicky, weird and fun trends—just embrace it.

“Funny, eh. I’ve always thought robots would take over the world—giant teddy bears were not my top choice,” Mark said jokingly.

Val-de-Grâce, Paris
Val-de-Grâce, Paris
Quai de la Tournelle, Paris
Quai de la Tournelle, Paris

The new Navigo Easy card

Paris recently introduced the Navigo Easy card, a reloadable stored-value plastic card designed to replace the iconic single-use paper tickets. The card is €2 and it’s a great investment as you can reload it easily.

Just keep a paper ticket as a souvenir (or as a book mark), they are being phased out.

Grande Mosquée de Paris, 2bis Pl. du Puits de l'Ermite, Paris
Grande Mosquée de Paris, 2bis Pl. du Puits de l’Ermite, Paris

The fine art of peeing in Paris

Despite a fondness for beer and wine, France is stingy with public bathrooms and those available are usually either expensive (€0.70 at the Forum des Halles shopping mall, €0.80 at the Montparnasse train station, etc.), hard to access (in fast food restaurants you have to keep your ticket with a unique PIN code) or dirty.

It’s getting better, though. You’ll find clean and free public bathrooms along the Seine River, for instance. Most of my Parisian relatives also use an app to find the nearest free public bathrooms, and it works pretty well.

Rue du Banquier, Paris
Rue du Banquier, Paris

Cheap souvenirs are fun souvenirs 

Go ahead, just buy three small Eiffel Tower keychains for €1, three magnets for €5 or other cheap made-in-China souvenirs sold in front of major attractions. Chances are you can’t afford anything from Place Vendôme, and stealing artwork from Le Louvre looks complicated.

Rue Mouffetard, Paris
Rue Mouffetard, Paris

The Eiffel tower is totally worth it

Going to the top of the Eiffel Tower with Mark is one of my best memories this year. It’s totally worth it and it’s not that expensive compared to other “meh” attractions. Skip the Tuileries ferris wheel (€12) or the Arc de Triomphe (€13) and pay the €26.10 to take the elevator to the top of the Eiffel Tower, you won’t regret it.

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