The French telephonic system of information on a little box called the “Minitel” was long before the Internet appeared on the scene. Because of it (and a few other factors), they resisted getting “online” for quite a while. Americans caught on fast, as they do to anything new and different, and Web sites popped up like weeds.
While the Americans were posting sites of any size, shape and color, sophisticated or not (and not caring…”functionality” over “form”), the French were studying and preparing themselves for showing off their technical and design talents to make their first steps on the World Wide Web look like those of a distance runner.
(I point out these observations only to help you see the cultural differences more clearly — as in most aspects of life, the French will only leap after they have looked quite carefully so little risk (or none) is taken, while we Anglo-Saxons tend to leap and hope for the best.)
Last night, I was doing the necessary research online to prepare route maps for the 30 participants of the Ultimate Travel Photographer’s Workshop we are hosting next week here in Paris (May 25 – 28), who will be quickly moving from one part of the city to another to capture the ultimate shots. Then it dawned on me that I have come to take for granted the very clever French (and some American) Web sites I employ on a regular basis to keep life in Paris gliding along on a smooth and fast pace and that perhaps I should let you in on ten of my favorite “bookmarks” so that you can glide along just as blissfully…
It’s the French Yellow Pages, plus. Use it in English or French. Find any address, any phone number, any business, any anything in France. To find any person in France, switch over to the White Pages
For getting around Paris by train, tram or bus…in English or French, let RATP guide you from point A to point B the fastest, easiest way, even by giving you the route with the least amount of walking or transferring.
You just think my French is good. Ha! Think again. I can translate just about any text from English to French or French to English with the click of the mouse. ‘Course, the literal translations are rough around the edges, but with a sharp pencil, one might never know it wasn’t the years at Berlitz that made a difference.
Want to hop the train for London, Amsterdam or Nice? Book your “trajet” online, have the tickets sent to you at home and just show up at the station. Often, the site can make you nuts, because it’s not as functional as one might like, but it’s better than the alternative…standing in line at the Gare de Whatever waiting to book with a not-so-friendly “functionnaire.”
I love this site for getting from Paris to any point in France by car. It tells you absolutely everything you need to know to get there…where to turn, what routes to take, how long it will take, what it will cost, the mileage or kilometerage and even where you can expect speed surveillance cameras!
This City Hall site is tops for knowing what’s going on in the City of Light. Not for tourists, necessarily, but for t
hose who want to be in the know on civic and political issues, cultural events and who’s who in Paris. I visit this site just about every day for a “fix” and to feel as if I’m on top of the tower looking out on the city.
Maison de la France is loaded with info on Paris and the regions for a perfect exploration of La France Profonde. Pick a region, pick a place, pick an event or just discover…it’s all here, thanks to the country’s central information bureau.
Everything you want to know about property in Paris, thanks to the Chambre de Notaires. Some parts of the site are in English now, but if you can wade through the French, it’s filled with important statistics and commentary to help you make smart property-purchasing decisions.
A newsletter with today’s rate of exchange lands in my inbox daily, keeping me up-to-date on how the dollar is fairing against the euro. It’s convenient for a basis of information, but if you want to make a large transfer, click over to http://www.HiFX.com/ instead for the best rate of exchange and be sure to tell them Parler Paris sent you.
Wikipedia, the free-content encyclopedia that anyone can edit. In this English version, started in 2001, they are currently working on 563285 articles. Absolutely anything you want to know that someone before you knows, is there, and if you know something no one else knows, you have an opportunity to share it.
I warn you, though…since the French love complexity, so are their sites. They tend to be filled with “flying chickens” (animated graphics), won’t be as fast or as user-friendly as their American counterparts, but they are sure to make your life richer.
Isn’t that what it’s all about?
A la prochaine…
Editor, Parler Paris
Email [email protected]
P.S. There are a few seats left at the Working and Living in France Conference starting Friday morning through Sunday! Don’t wait another second to make your dream to live in France come true. Get the research that would normally take you three months in these three short days. Contact Schuyler Hoffman, Special Conference Coordinator, at 1-310-427-7589 or [email protected]