Your Travel Questions Answered!

Could you give me some information about traveling in Paris, France?”

France, continues to be one my favorite places on the planet. I hope you get a chance to visit there.

At the age of 38, I visited Paris for the first time. A die-hard political/community activist and a committed workaholic, I was snobbish about the idea of devoting time to non-productive activity such as leisure travel. In my classic American fashion, I thought, “What, me relax? As a recovering Catholic with free-floating guilt, exacerbated by ingrained perfectionism, I figured I’d relax after achieving my career goals which included full equality for my race and gender. That was the attitude I took with me to France, a country where leisure and artistic pursuits are considered noble and laudable in their own right.

Paris provided me with a unique cultural shock which, once I adapted to it, became a delightful revelation. Americans “live to work” – the French “work to live”. Paris taught me the importance of bringing balance to my life, of making time for beauty, music and play. I discovered an entirely different way of being alive and it instilled in me a new joie de vivre (the joy of living). Paris, its people, its museums, cafes, languorous night life and savoir faire, slowed me down and softened me up enough to finally see and feel how short, fleeting, unpredictable and precious life really is. Paris showed me that I could get far more pleasure from life than I had been allowing myself to have. I knew before my visit was over that even when I returned to America, my life would never be the same. And I was right.

It was in Paris that I first discovered that travel was the music of my soul. Travel, with its unparalleled ability to bring magic and joy into my life propelled me to launch a new career as a travel writer. I claim Paris as a kind of birthplace of my creative spirit, my lust for personal freedom and for making me a traveler for life.

And to think that my reluctance to travel there almost kept me at home. As an African American, I instinctively projected onto other European countries, like France, the racism I had experienced in my own country. I assumed that France would turn out to be another country full of white people who, by means both subtle and overt, would make me feel like a less than welcome stranger in their homeland. My apprehensions about vacationing in France were quickly quelled as I came to realize that much of the racism that I experience in America would not be replicated in Paris.

Before taking that soul-defining trip, I was skeptical about the wonderful things I had heard from African Americans that I knew and loved about this magical city called Paris. However, when a dear friend and her professor husband went to live there again, for another one of his 6-month sabbaticals, they invited me to share in their French lifestyle and I decided to give it a try. I fell in love with Paris, hours after arriving there and have been traveling there regularly ever since.

Bonne Journee, Elaine Lee

No city seduces as skillfully as Paris. With a sly, knowing wink, the City of Light steals your heart with one clear, small joyous moment after another. Linger too long on the Pont des Arts and passion may nudge your slumbering spirit awake, or kiss your lips, or turn you into a whimsical work of art. H. Thompson

It’s true, Paris is where I became possible. Its where I became free.” Janet McDonald

“I have become parisianized…the great merit of the place is that one can arrange one’s life here exactly as one pleases…there are facilities for every kind of habit and taste, and everything is accepted and understood.” Henry Jame (1876)

“I cannot tell you what an immense impression Paris made upon me. It is the most extraordinary place in the world!” Charles Dickens (1844)

Below you will find a list of books, websites and tips compiled by Elaine Lee that might help you plan a journey there.


  • Maison de la Culture Noire Américaine –
  • – guided walking tours of Black Paris
  • – this site has a comprehensive guide to Black Paris
  • – Personalized Itineraries for Independent Black Travelers


  • – Paris Noir: African Americans in the City of Light by Tyler Stovall, Houghton Mifflin Company, 1996, 366 pages, $24.95. (Chronicles the life and times of the African American presence in Paris)
  • Soul on the Seine: Your Hip Guide to Black Paris Book by Robin Bates, La Jolie Noire Publications, 200 pages, February 2008, $15 (It is a unique travel publication that looks at a modern, urban Paris from an African American perspective.)
  • – Black Girl in Paris by Shay Youngblood, Riverhead Books, 2000, 256 pages, $12.00. (An intriguing examination of the twentieth century African-American history in the French capital through the dreams of a young expatriate)
  • – Eugene Bullard: Black Expatriate in the Jazz-Age Paris by Craig Lloyd, University of Georgia Press, 2000, $26.95 (profile of a jazz drummer and freedom fighter who live in Paris during the early part of the 1900’s)
  • – Black Paris: The African Writer’s Landscape by Benetta Jules-Rosette, University of Illinois Press, 2000, $17.95 (Focuses on the Parisian Negritude movement from the perspective of writers of African descent. Includes interviews, poetry and insightful essays)
  • – Richard Wright’s Travel Writings, edited by Virginia Smith, University of Mississippi Press, 2001, $18.00 (Chronicles the author’s travel writing from 1946 to 1960)
  • – Kattraxing Through Paris by Kat St. Thomas, Regent Press, 2002, $20 (Veteran tour guide provides the inside scoop on travel to Black Paris)
  • – Paris Reflections: Walks Through Black Paris by Christianne Anderson and Monique Wells, McDonald & Woodward Publishing Company, 2002, $17.95 (The book outlines six detailed walks through Black Paris)

Another book to consider is mine, of course! Go Girl: The Black Woman’s Book of Travel and Adventure by Elaine Lee. Included in its 52 RIVETING TRAVELS TALES are four stories about traveling and living in Paris.

Here are a few GENERIC Paris/France travel books that I found helpful:

  • – When In France by Christopher Sinclair Stevenson
  • – Walking Paris by Christopher Turner
  • – A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway
  • – Paris Handbook by Lonely Planet

Bookstores with Books in English

  • Shakespeare & Company 37 rue de la Bucherie 75005
  • Berkeley Books 8 rue Casimir Delavigne, 75006
  • The Red Wheelbarrow Bookstore 9 rue de Médici, 75006
  • San Francisco Book Company 17 rue Monsieur le Prince, 75006


Housing is often the most expensive part of a journey to Paris. If money is an issue, consider sharing or swapping an apartment with a French person/family by joining a home/hospitality exchange club such as, which has quite a few Parisian members.

If you have a bit more financial latitude, why not renting an apartment.

Here are several Paris lodging websites that you can use to accomplish that task:,,,,, and,,fusac,,, chambres chez l’habitant,franglo, sabbaticalhomes, parisexpat.,  vrbo and have lots of rentals (short and long term) as well as home exchanges. (There are lots of crooks on this site so you have to be careful. If its too good to be true it probably is). I have friends who go to craigslist new york and go to the apt or vacation rental section and put in Paris and they find americans who have apts to rent in Paris.

If money is not an obstacle and/or you prefer residing in a hotel consider the following:

High end

  • Murano Urban Resort, 13 Boulevard du Temple, 75003 Tel : 01 42 71 20 00
  • L’Hotel, 13 rue des Beaux Arts, 75006 Tel: 01 44 41 99 00
  • Plaza Athenee, 25 avenue Montaigne, 75008, Tel: 01 53 67 66 65

Mid range

  • Hotel Parc Saint-Severin, 22 Rue De La Parcheminerie, 75005, Tel: 01 43 54 32 17
  • Hotel Massenet, 5 bis, rue Massenet, 75116 Tel: 01 45 24 43 03
  • Hotel des Grand Ecole, 75005 Rue des Cardinelle Lemonias 75005 Tel: 01455679

LOCAL EXPATRIATE events are held every Sunday at the homes of Jim Haynes as well as Patricia Collins

Sampling of African, African American and Caribbean Restaurants

Armelle et Henri – Caribbean Cuisine, 3 rue Aduran, 75018 Tel: 01 42 52 36 97

The Equator- African Cuisine, 151 rue Saint Maur 75011, Tel: 01 43 57 99 22

La Petite Dakar- African Cuisine, 6 rue Elzevir, 75003, Tel: 01 44 59 34 74

Chez Omar, North African, 47 Rue de Bretagne, 75003, Tel: 01 42 72 36 36

Below is a list of some of my favorite restaurants

Empire Celeste – classic Chinese – 5, Rue Royer-Collard (75005) near Pantheon

Restaurant Coreen – Korean Faire – try their amazing fried chicken wings! 6 rue Blainville (75005) near Mouffetard

Nouri Lebanese Restaurant has amazing chicken sandwiches. 27 avenue Marceau (75116) near Champs Elysees

Mirama has yummy soups and delicious basic chinese food. 15 rue Saint Jacques (75005) near Saint Michael metro

Le Petit Zinc has delicious French cuisine in a whimisical setting, 11 rue Saint Benoit (75006) in Saint Germain de pres neighborhood near Café Flora.

La Closiere de Lilas, 171 boulevard du Montparnasse, (75006) nice place to stop for a drink—it was one of Ernest Hemingway’s favorite hangouts.

Le Relais de Venise is a my favorite steak house, yummo! 271 Blvd Pereire near metro Port Maillot. Its usually very crowded so you have to get there for lunch or before they open up for dinner at 5pm otherwise you will be waiting.

La Couple has good French food in a upscale dining environment – 102, bd du Montparnasse(75014) Subway : Vavin

“Since Paris is so expensive, I usually stay in apartments where I can cook my own meals. I enjoy exploring Paris’s numerous neighborhood farmers’ markets where the food is more affordable than grocery stores. I rarely dine out but when I generally eat at cheap ethnic restaurants”.

Food Markets

Street and covered food markets provide a splendid, tempting array of all kinds of food and are popular with both local parisiens and tourists alike. The real street food markets usually start between 07:00am to 08:00am and generally start to close down at around 13:00. The popular Paris food markets include:

Bastille – Bastille Square, Boulevard Lenoir, open Sundays

Belleville – Boulevard de Belleville, open Tuesday and Friday

Buci – Rue de Buci and Rue de Seine, open Tuesday to Sunday

Carmes – Place Maubert 5e, open Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday

Convention – Rue de la Convention, open Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday

Dejean – Place du Château-Rouge, open Tuesday to Sunday

Enfants-Rouge – 39 Rue de Bretagne 3e, open Tuesday to Saturday

Monge – Place Monge 5e, open Wednesday, Friday and Sunday

Montorgueil – Rue Montorgueil 5e, open Tuesday and Sunday

Mouffetard – Rue Mouffetard 5e, open Tuesday to Sunday

Place d’Aligre – 12e M° Ledru-Rollin, open Tuesday to Satuday

Port-Royal – Boulevard de Port-Royal 5e, open Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday

Porte-St-Martin – Rue de Château-d’Eau 10e, open Tuesday to Sunday

Raspail – Boulevard Raspail, open Tuesday, Friday and Sunday

Rue Lévis – 17e M° Villiers, open Tuesday to Sunday

Rue du Poteau – 18e M° Jules-Joffrin, open Tuesday to Saturday

St-Germain – Rue Mabillon 6e, open Tuesday to Sunday

Ternes – Rue Lemercier 17e, open Tuesday to Sunday


One of my favorite music event locator websites is lylo –

LOCAL ENGLISH INFO MAGAZINES/webzines—CHECK OUT Fusac and Paris Times magazine useful english language information and resource guides.

Pariscope, a weekly with all the listings for films, concerts, and everything else. Cinema info online at its in french

Webzines, entertainment and info sites in english,,,

You can pick up monthly music event pamphlets outside clubs like sunset or duc de lombards.

• Attend a jam session at Duc de Lombards.

  • check out paris newest jazz club – Le Bal Blomet in the 15th, 33 rue rue Blomet

For more info for Americans, visit the American church resource center.

Check out – Alliance Francaise is a resource center for people who want to learn more about France, the French and the their language. They have centers in France and in the USA.

France 24 France’s new 24-hour cable news station with one channel in English; has a definite air of being government-run, but some excellent reporting.

A fun club scene with a lively cabaret show that includes patrons dancing on the table tops…is trois mailletz. its located in the latin quarter.


For info about the amazing  Paris salsa scene visit or try one of the following clubs that he suggests you try.

Thursday-la pachanga, rue vandamme in the montparnasse area

tuesday and thursday, le balajo, rue de lappe in bastille area

saturday – the retro on faubourg de temple

sunday evenings

  • Balrock – 161 rue montmartre (metro grands blvd)
  • o’sullivans, place blanche close to le moulin rouge
  • Le Théâtre du Renard
    Adresse : 12 Rue du Renard, 75004 Paris
  • June to September check out the wonderful salsa scene on the plaza near Seine, Quai St. Bernard, in the 5th Arrondissement (Métro stop Jussieu or Gare Austerlitz)

Travel tips

  • Take a boat ride down seine at twilight then you can get day light one way and nite light on the way back. if that is not possible then a day trip is great! Batobus :
  • I get money via atm’s in Paris, unfortunately most u.s. banks charge a conversion fee but its better than trying to deal with traveler’s checks or changing money over here.
  • Capitol one bank and Barclays are two of the few credit card companies that don’t charge a foreign conversion fee, so it might behoove you to order one before you go.
  • Learn french via your iphone – google translate
  • Consider visiting a traditional north african steam bath Hammam les bains maures, they have one for women and one for men.54 boulevard de la Chapelle;(18th)
  • Paris train stations named after people of African descent –

Bicycling in Paris

If you watched the Tour de France arrive in Paris, you may have seen the 365 Vélib riders cruising down the same route along the Champs-Elysées, a symbolic gesture to celebrate one year of municipal bike service. Aside from three deadly accidents and the high cost of repairs and theft, the Vélib has been a huge success, and has migrated to 16 other French cities.

Unfortunately, unless your credit card has a microchip in it (you can see it if it does), then you can’t use the bikes. There are still alternatives if you’d like to feel a bit of wind in your hair and enjoy the relatively uncrowded Paris streets.

The site (under “Pratique” and “Vélocistes Parisiens”) has bike rental shops listed by arrondissement. Another great site is, who h ave two locations in the Latin Quarter. The Roue Libre site ( seems to be under construction, but they have two shops, one at the Forum des Halles (on the Rue Rambuteau side) and at the Place de la Bastille (on Boulevard Bourdon) with inexpensive daily, weekly and monthly rentals.

10 Terrific Tips to Help You Enjoy Paris

by Evelyn Hannon of

SIP A CUP OF CHOCOLAT CHAUD — The Fall is one of my favorite times of the year to explore Paris. So what could make a quiet, relaxing fall or winter day in Paris even better? Sipping an unbelievably rich cup of hot chocolate in a cozy café while you watch the world go by. I’m always on the lookout for a truly delicious ‘chocolat chaud’ (pronounced ‘cho-ca-lah show’). My latest find is a comfy little café, Ragueneau, located around the corner from the beautiful Palais Royal. The chocolat chaud is wonderful and generously served in a pitcher, ask for the Viennoise if you prefer delectable whipped cream. It is pure milk and cocoa, no artificial powdery stuff here, Parisians take their chocolat seriously. Visit in the late afternoon and linger peacefully over your chocolate feeling pampered and very Parisian. Ragueneau, 220 rue St Honore, 75001; Paris. Tel:

SIGHTSEEING IN PARIS IS A HOOT! — Discover Paris in a 2 CV. Venice has its romantic gondolas, London its impressive double-deckers. What will you ride in Paris to feel sooooo French? There is no better way to discover the city than to ride a 2 CV. It is not the most comfortable, it is not the most luxurious, but it is the Frenchest. Even with a 9-hour jetlag, there is no way you will fall asleep and miss the view in the bumpiest car in the world. And you know what — you’ll love it! With ‘4 roues sous un parapluie’, your chauffeur will take you to the best parts of Paris (also available in Lyon), French style. Many different tours are available (from 30 minutes to 4 hours, and even weekends). Click here.

A MANAGEABLE MUSEUM — One of our favourite places in Paris is the Marmottan Museum. It‘s situated in the up-scale 16th arrondissement. We take the #63 bus from the Rue Cler area to its end in the 16th and walk a block to this lovely old mansion. It’s small and manageable — just three floors including the best works by Claude Monet and works by Camille Pissarro and Renoir and Sisley. The highlights are scenes from Monet’s garden at Giverny including his famous water lilies. After our visit we usually meander through the delightful Jardin du Ranelagh where children are given rides on donkeys and the world stands still for a few moments in time. We stroll down rue Passy admiring the stately 19th and 20th century buildings along elegant tree-lined streets. The 16th is less crowded and more devoted to the local clientele. Some stores to visit in the area are Etam for bags and shoes and Franck et Fils a very old-world department store as well as L’Entrepot with its abundant housewares.

MORE HOT CHOCOLATE — If you’re looking for the best hot chocolate in the Paris, or even the world, look no further than Angelina’s, a lovely Viennese café on the Rue de Rivoli just opposite the Tuileries Garden and the Louvre. It’s the perfect post-museum spot to luxuriate in the rich, thick hot chocolate served in a pitcher with a mound of whipped cream on the side. The pastries there are equally sumptuous. Try their signature dessert, the Mont Blanc, a true zenith of a dessert, comprised of a meringue base piled with chestnut puree and whipped cream. Address: 226 Rue de Rivoli, 75001 Paris. Metro: Tuileries

EAT WITH THE LOCALS IN HIDDEN KITCHENS — When you are next in Paris why not eat with the locals — even better, in their own hidden home kitchen. Hidden kitchens seem to be popping up around the globe (US/NYC, Italy, Asia for starters) and the latest one in Paris is receiving rave reviews. When you make your arrangements to go for dinner at someone’s private home, this is truly an underground experience (home by day, restaurant by night). Step one is to request a seat by e-mail, they set the stage and the menu, you pay for the meal prepared, not knowing what the menu will consist of or who will be seated next to you. The price of dinner is 80 Euros, this includes an aperitif, the ten-course tasting menu, wine pairings with most courses and coffee or tea to finish. The dinner is set is a large, beautiful Haussmanian Parisian apartment that seats up to 18. It is the perfect venue for groups traveling, solo travelers and also for meeting new people. They do either communal seating (one big table) or two separate tables depending on the occasion. This experience is highly recommended when you are in Paris, definitely find your way there! See:

Bonus! Save money in this cafe… I’m an American living in Paris for three months. I learned about Cafe Convival (in the 18th arrondissment) from my girlfriend who lives here permanently and knows about the little out of the way places that are moderately priced.

Cafe Convival is open for lunch on week days only. It’s run by Katrine and her daughter and their specialty is quiche and salad (5.50 euro). In a word, yum! I had 2 pieces of quiche (1 would have been enough) with greens, a creamy desert of sour cream and chocolate bits, plus an espresso. Everything is home-made. It was out of this world. All for 9 Euro.

The quiche is the real deal. No fillers. The deserts are beautifully displayed and you help yourself. The coffee is made as you order it. The menu is quite extensive. Now, if you’re in a hurry, forget it. There are only the two women, they do everything, and the place is crowded. If you need an extra napkin, get it yourself. I absolutely love, love, loved the experience, and almost hate to tell anyone about it. There are plants outside the door, it has a wonderful ‘down home’ atmosphere, and I walked out with a smile. Guess where I’m going for lunch tomorrow? Address: 82 Joseph de Maistre.

Here are a few dispatches from travelers to Paris

April in Black Paris, By Michael Andre Adams, Special to AOL BlackVoices

Paris, known throughout the world as the “Ville Lumiere” or City of Light, is the quintessential city for glamour, romance and the arts. With seasons parallel to weather in the United States, spring is the perfect time to pack your walking shoes in search of a cultural connection.

Throughout the 20th century, a small group of blacks from America sought liberation from segregation and institutionalized racism in the French capital. Most noted among these are James Baldwin, Richard Wright and Josephine Baker, who has a square named in her honor. Place Josephine Baker, located beside the Montparnasse Cemetery in the 14th Arrondissement, salutes the singer’s efforts during World War II to aid the Red Cross and spy for the French Resistance.

Tap into black culture and other major offerings that have attracted so many African Americans to Paris. Here are the don’t-miss experiences:

Lay of the Land: The architectural design of Paris buildings, monuments and 32 bridges makes for a breathtaking skyline. To get the big picture, think of the city as a snail divided into 20 districts, or arrondissements. The River Seine divides the (southern) Left Bank or Rive Gauche from the (northern) Right Bank, also known as Rive Droite. The Left Bank tends to be more residential and generally more affluent. The Rive Droite is where tourism thrives. Take a boat ride down the Seine to get a good understanding of the layout of the city.

Immigrants, the hip and the trendy populate the 18th Arrondissement, home to the largest residential community of blacks of African descent in Paris, affectionately referred to as “Little Africa.” Here, you’re likely to find people dressed in African garb, as well as foods from various African cultures. Barbes, a community dominated by Arabs, is another immigrant neighborhood with mom-and-pop businesses catering to residents specific needs.

What to See and Do Beginning with the Eiffel Tower, easily the most recognized landmark is Paris, you will never run out of things to see and do. Of the 2,000 museums, the most celebrated is the Louvre, where nearly every culture is represented. Arts and Civilizations of Africa, Asia, Oceania and the Americas, as well as Egyptian Antiquities are two permanent exhibits spotlighting masterpieces of particular interest to people of African descent.

Throughout the area of the Champs Elysees, you’ll find boutiques every known designer/haute couturier. From Bulgari and Louis Vuitton to the African art gallery Espace Atepa, there is never a shortage of shopping, restaurants and nightlife.

Place de la Madeleine is an off-the-beaten-path neighborhood for best buys on shoes and designer clothing, childrenís clothing, perfume, French country home furnishings and epicurean delights. Also check out Rue de Paris, known as the spot for the best crystal and porcelain France has to offer, as well as high fashion shoes and bags, custom- designed hats, luxury furs and a unique art gallery with an emphasis on food — all at bargain prices. H&M and the more upscale Zara are other retail options for discounted, trendy and chic fashion. Also, La Vallee Village at Disneyland Paris Resort offers everything from Armani to Versace at outlet prices.

Dining Tips

Dining is typically late: fashionable Parisians typically eat out dinner between 9 and 10PM. You’ll fall in love with incredibly creamy and delicious soups that are served pretty much everywhere and those fabulous French Patisseries shops where the smell of butter meet you at the door. Most noted are La Duree on the Champs Elysees, where youíll enjoy the macroons and pastries of life, daily!

Should you become homesick, take solace in Thanksgiving restaurant. At Thanksgiving, English is spoken and Louisiana favorites (including jambalaya, file gumbo and Louisiana bread pudding with bourbon sauce) are served with a French twist.

Nightlife The VIP Room and Barrio Latina are great for dancing. The Impala Lounge and Le Jazz Club Lionel Hampton are excellent options, too. Where Paris magazine (in most hotels) is great for an up-to-the-minute entertainment lineup citywide.

Connecting With Black Paris

Guided tours by English-speaking African American Monique Wells of Houston, is an excellent choice. her tour explores the businesses established and created by African Americans, and sites of historical relevance; she also offers Afrocentric art tours; culinary excursions; history and literary walks — all throughout Paris.

Cíest La Vie It is human nature for birds of a feather to flock together, wherever we go. While this is true in Paris, things aren’t as segregated as we know them to be in America. In other words, there is no such thing in Paris as an all-black club, or anything else. Just as you may find a group of African Americans hanging out in Paris, you’ll also find Parisians from many other races and cultures having a good time together.

Thats not to say that racism doesn’t exist. Case in point: While African Americans tend to be openly received, Africans from the Motherland had better come laden with educational credentials and associations to assimilate into the French culture.

On the subject of the happenings, here’s a dispatch from Burgess Byrd,

Hi all! I just returned from Paris in August and I luckily stayed in an area that had plenty of nightlife nearby in the Bastille/Marais district. I would suggest the Barrio Latino. I had alot of fun learning some sweet salsa moves. The men their apparently j’adore African American women. Must be those diamonds in our hips! Also, in the same area there are a lot of clubs and energy. Gets very crowded after dark. Oh, their is a nightclub called Queen on the Champs Elysees that was very hip! Lots of pretty hipster types,clean cut men and women and had a few drag queen sightings. The Champs Elysees is very lively with tourists and general folk so you could find something to do every night on that aveneue your entire trip. Please don’t forget as sometimes I did, ,the Metro stops running at 1:00 am and alot of the clubs are just starting to get hopping at that time so cabbing in Paris is affordable. I hope this helpful and have a great time.

Here’s a couple of other scenes to check out:

*L’Atlantis *LA SCENE BASTILLE : 2 bis rue des Taillandiers 75011 Metro-Ledru-Rollin, Chase has a wonderful church to recommend. check out the website They speak english!! and it was like an oasis in sea of french speakers. people from all nations attended. We went on the church retreat and they have activities for all ages.they have also opened Genesis House in a happening area of Paris. it is basically a christian hang out. You will not be disappointed. Tell them Anika and Earl Chase from the United States sent you.

Share This!
Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Scroll to Top