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CNN Today

Summer Travel: France the World's Most Popular Tourist Destination

Aired June 16, 2000 - 1:20 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: How about visiting France this year? Today we conclude our "Summer Travel" series with a look at Paris. Our guide: CNN's Jim Bittermann.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JIM BITTERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Last year, more than 60 million people visited France. There were more tourists here than French. And while there are plenty of reasons why this country is the world's most popular tourist destination, at least two of them are because there's so much to see and it's so easy to see it.

Still, picking up a little advice from your fellow travelers is never a bad thing.

DAVIS VOSS, TOURIST: It's about as far as from there to there, just over there a little bit.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh.

VOSS: Is that all right? Can we walk it?

BITTERMANN: David Voss and his family were finding their way with no problems at all. So what was the smartest thing they did before charging off on their holiday?

VOSS: We actually used the Internet extensively, took a look at a lot of different chateaus in France, and also the hotels here. They're on the Internet. You actually get breaks on the price if you do that, as well.

BITTERMANN: But planning can actually cost you money for some things, and money is one of them. Worrying about getting change or buying traveler's checks in advance is often more costly than doing what the Stroups of Florida were doing. Living on their credit cards and ATM machines, and avoiding the expense of changing American cash to francs.

MARK STROUP, TOURIST: When I stopped at the airport and checked the exchange rate, they seemed to be getting 10-12 percent off the exchange of what was printed in the "Wall Street Journal" that morning. So when I come here, the banks guaranteed on this side they're going to charge a point and a half, and on the American side they're going to charge a point and a half, so I'm only losing 3 percent in the transaction.

BITTERMANN: There are all sorts of ways to keep the losses to a minimum: Dining out the way most French do at simple, neighborhood restaurants is one way, staying at one of the city's hundreds of small hotels is another. The Hotel Perfect, for instance, may not be as perfect as one of the five-star palaces, but, hey, the rooms are clean and to be city center at $40 a night for two, who's complaining?

And there could be few complaints either about the transportation option. Ride the subway and buy 10 tickets at a time, as Natalie Ryan (ph) did for her family, and the price goes down to 80 cents a ride.

Up on the surface, there are other ways to get around, including on the surface of the Seine. There are the tour boats, of course, but a more cost-effective river ride is aboard a bus boat. One $10 ticket gets you on and off all day long. And there's the same flexibility on one of the guided tour buses, although at twice the price.

Still, many Americans in Paris these days are not that concerned about prices.

(on camera): With exchange rates favoring the dollar, American tourists are riding high this summer. In fact, more than 10 percent higher than this time last year. But exchange rates can and do change. Just last month, for instance, the dollar was worth almost 20 percent more than the year before.

(voice-over): Of course, exchange rates and multi-ride bargains are an attraction, but it's the distractions that draw tourists to Paris: temporary ones, like a ride on the big millennium ferris wheel or the world's largest picnic scheduled for July, and the unchanging variety -- the monuments and museums, which, like watching an artist at work, taking in the view from Montmartre, or a kiss in the sun, cost little or nothing at all.

Jim Bittermann, CNN, Paris.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WATERS: A lot of those in Paris.

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