The key to planning for any big vacation is the map. Getting a feel for the geography of a place helps me prepare the site-seeing battle plan with better effectiveness and efficiency and also helps facilitate moments of fruitful improvisation that are often necessary during even the best planned trips. While preparing for a recent trip to Paris I knew I had to have the Streetwise Paris map. I have had good luck previously with other Streetwise maps, including Chicago, Seattle and London and knew that Paris was my biggest challenge yet.
Caractéristiques et Détails
Streetwise Paris is constructed from heavily laminated card stock paper, forming a durable, waterproof and easily transported map that is 4 x 8.5 inches (10 x 22cm) when completely folded. It opens like an accordion to reveal 10 panels, stretching to a full length of 40 inches (100cm). The hinges move easily and it folds back up with no difficulty. The front of the map has the Louvre and Notre Dame in the center and includes most of downtown Paris. The map is flipped over to reveal the northern and southern edges of the city. The full map (both sides included) reaches from Montmarte to the north, Bois de Boulogne to the west, Pere Lachaise cemetery to the east and Tour Montparnasse to the south, using a scale of 1:14,000 (1 inch = 1,167 feet). The Roland Garros tennis stadium is even tucked in at the far southwest corner. To the west, La Defense business complex, featuring La Grande Arche, is not on the map. The first ten arrondissements (regions or neighborhoods) are included almost in their entirety, while the last ten are only partially included and the 20th is not included at all. The legend and indices use both English and French. The revised 2007 edition I used cost eight dollars.
The map background is a grey color with the streets in white, providing adequate contrast. Every street (even tiny alleys) is labeled in a crisp, black font, occasionally using tiny, but still legible print for the smallest cobbled paths. This is no small accomplishment given the chaotic nature of Paris street geography. Tiny arrows indicate one-way streets and five color codes are used to indicate museums, major hotels, shopping centers, governmental buildings and tourist sites. Special symbols are used to indicate churches, synagogues, hospitals and taxi stands. Arrondissements are labeled and bounded in bright yellow. Metro and RER stations are labeled with a special font and each train line is numbered and color coded. The route taken by each Metro line appears as well so that consecutive stops on a given line can be easily visualized. The major monuments (castles, museums, towers, etc.) are actually drawn to scale on the map, showing even tiny windows and steeples in a 3D perspective. The massive Louvre museum is a full two inches long and appears in impressive detail.
A street name index is included that has all but the very tiniest streets for easy localization with alpha-numeric coordinates. Alphabetically arranged lists of Metro stations, hotels, museums, parks, shopping centers, train stations and other tourist sites provide helpful coordinates as well.
A map of the Metro and RER system is included, as well as a small (4 inch square) map of France and its borders with adjacent countries.
This map gives you incredible power to find anything in Paris. It contains a vast amount of information in a tiny package that fits easily in your bag or a coat pocket. Unlike most maps that involve a recurrent folding nightmare, this maps accordion style makes folding simple and its durability withstands heavy use. I used it daily for a week, pulling it out of my bag dozens of times a day and it shows virtually no wear and is begging me to go back for more. The accordion style allows you to easily open the map like a book to peruse only the area of interest and the fact that it includes even the tiniest alleys in the heart of downtown Paris or out at Montmarte helped us find our way home on multiple occasions. The excellent font selections helped me distinguish between streets, monuments and Metro stations with ease.
Only two small quibbles. First, the border areas on the map where the map of the center city flips to other side for the north and south city are problematic. There is appropriate overlap at each border, but if you are in the border zone it can be a bit tougher to find your way. The choice to arrange the map this way is obviously a compromise that allows the most visited center city to be on one side and I dont really see a way that it could still be as useful and small without this compromise. Lastly, the small additional Metro map is not as good as the small standard map published by the Metro which we used frequently.
If youve never been, you may picture Paris as a city with fabulous grand boulevards and gorgeous vistas and it is such a city, but much of its street geography is quite medieval with narrow, cobbled mazes of streets. The Streetwise map overcomes this considerable obstacle with panache; however it doesnt come with any sort of sonar safety device. I found myself repeatedly pulling the map out while rapidly strolling down a small crowded street. The chance of walking into another pedestrian, tripping on a curb or cobble, stepping in a dog poo, smashing into a wall or getting mowed down by a 45mph scooter while squinting at a tiny map detail is considerable and Im surprised I survived unscathed. It is probably best to stop walking and make sure youre not in excessive danger before looking at the map.
Do not drive in Paris. This map is not for driving. Please, dont drive in Paris.
This map is not for the optically challenged. You may need a trip to the optometrist or at least some reading glasses before you tackle this map with vigor.
The Streetwise Paris map is for the tourist who plans to walk, Metro, taxi or bus around Paris, for a few days or a few weeks. If you have your own personal French driver you may not need a map, but even then it can help you appreciate and understand the city more completely.
Bons Mots Finaux
This Streetwise map accomplishes its formidable goal of smooth Parisian navigation handily. It kept us out of trouble repeatedly and made our trip more enjoyable and relaxed. We spent less time fumbling and wandering and more time marveling and savoring. Other than a valid credit card and passport, the Streetwise Paris map was the most important item we brought with us on our recent trip to the City of Light.
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