Passionate About Paris: 16th November 2011

Welcome to another post in my new weekly blog series, Passionate About Paris. Maybe you’re a first-time visitor, or like me a can’t-get-enough-of-Paris devotee. Perhaps you’re mildly curious about the City of Light. Whatever your feelings about Paris, I hope you’ll find in these posts some ideas to inspire, hints to help and a sense of sharing what’s great about this awesome city.

Last week we looked at obtaining information the Parisian way about what’s on, where – and how to get there. This week’s post offers some hints for easing the pain of queueing, especially for those blockbuster exhibitions. There’s nothing more disconcerting on a short visit to find that the event or exhibition you’ve been looking forward to for ages has a 3-hour queue for entry.

The Parisians never queue if it can be avoided (anyone who has ever travelled in the Métro knows this) and they use the internet and booking agencies to obtain special tickets – des tickets coupe-file – which allow you to go to the front of the queue, an absolute essential for any blockbuster art show.

These special tickets can be purchased online at www.ticketnet.fr. Click on ‘accès direct à Ticketnet.fr’ to go the home page with a link in English. Tickets can be bought with a €3 booking fee and printed out at home.

Tickets may also be bought online from www.fnac.com; however the website does need a little negotiation before you get to options in English: from the home page click on the drop-down menu ‘Tous produits’, then ‘Spectacles’ at the bottom of the list. Type ‘Louvre’ for example in the next box, then click the orange button ‘Rechercher’. The next page will have a link to the English section of the website from where you can book your tickets.

Try to avoid the expense of DHL delivery by picking up the tickets in person before the exhibition or show. It’s worth the extra effort to glide past the queue, especially when it’s raining. The Musee D’Orsay, for example has a special door, Porte C, for those in the know with their advance tickets. There may be a short queue, but it’s an awful lot shorter than the other one….

Another option is to go to a branch of FNAC, the large chain of music stores with several branches in Paris including one on the Champs Elysees and another in the underground shopping mall Forum des Halles in the 1st arrondissement. Beware though, that FNAC have a reservation policy so don’t expect to buy a swift entry ticket the day before you expect to see a blockbuster show.

These tickets may not be available from FNAC branches until a date two weeks or more ahead, which is why it’s wise to use the online ticketing sites to make a reservation. FNAC shops are worth trying for smaller exhibitions though.

If you missed the Chocorama event last week, all is not lost: if you like your drinking chocolate so think you almost need to spoon it from the cup, head to Angelina’s at 226 rue de Rivoli (metro Tuileries or Concorde). Something of a Belle Epoque Parisian institution, you may need to queue to get in but it’ll be worth it. Its ornate interior will distract you from the menu but the arrival of your hot chocolate in its own little pitcher on a silver tray with a dish of whipped cream alongside will really focus your attention. Their selection of cakes and patisserie includes their legendary Mont Blanc gateau (the recipe is a closely-guarded secret). Light meals are available too, but can be an expensive option.

Fortunately Angelina’s is just across the road from the Tuileries gardens, where you may need to walk off the excesses among the lime and chestnut trees.

A week of festive nights, including live music and clubbing is already under way in Paris, finishing on November 20th. Music bars, cafes, concert-halls and clubs will be hosting Les Nuits Capitales with new and established artists. More info from and http://nuitscapitales.com/fr which has an English link.

An exhibition with a difference is on at the Musée des Arts et Metiers at 60 rue Reaumur in the 3rd arrondissements. Archive footage and photographs take you behind the scenes to show the human and technical network that is the Paris Metro. A driving simulator will help to understand the complexities of the system; the exhibition is open until January 1 2012.

And finally… those travelling to Paris from the end of November can enjoy the spectacular Christmas illuminations: from rain showers of stars, through to shimmering garlands and fireflies, the city will get set for a sparkling Christmas.

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