Tips for getting around London and Paris

We recently went to London and Paris and took several modes of transportation: plane, taxi, Tube, bus, private car, Eurostar, Metro, bus, RER, the Heathrow Express, and, of course, lots and lots of walking. Here are some tips.

Use Your Smart Phone

First of all, get a data roaming plan or SIM card for your smart phone to use. It’s expensive, but well worth it to be able to find a great restaurant a few blocks away, figure out which bus will take you back to your hotel, or just get you oriented.

Mobile System Maps and Trip Planning

In London, use the Transport for London site on your smart phone to find Tube and Overground maps, route trips, or even call a cab. Unfortunately there’s no official app, but a number of third party apps are available.

Source: ratp.fr

In Paris, use the official RATP app from the iTunes App Store or Google Play for Metro, RER, and bus system maps, route maps, and route planning.

Paying your Fare

In London, get a rechargeable Oyster card to take the Tube, Overground, and buses. Oyster users get a significant discount on bus fare over single ride tickets. Tube trips within a zone are around 2GBP, but more expensive multi-zone trips are fairly common. Bus trips are a little over a pound. Money stored on the card remains on the card (my card still had a few pounds on it from four years ago). If you ever plan to return to London, you can dump all your leftover coins onto your Oyster card instead of carrying them around.

Source: 20minutes.fr

In Paris, things are a little less straightforward. RATP offers single ride tickets and multiple-day Paris Visite passes for riding Metro, RER, and buses. Which you choose depends on your needs. The multi-day Paris Visite passes make sense when you intend to take 4 or more trips a day, but start by getting a 10 pack of single ride tickets. If you are getting in to Paris in the afternoon or evening, you don’t want to “waste” a day by buying a pass right away. If you think you’ll end up taking the bus more than the Metro, getting a pass will let you easily hop from one bus line to the next.

Mode of Transportation

In Paris, consider taking the bus instead of the Metro. I’m slightly biased in favor of riding trains, but in Paris the Metro stations are full of long corridors and stairways, which is painful when you’re lugging around a kid and kid accessories (like a stroller). The city’s buses can often take advantage of dedicated bus and taxi lanes to cut through the traffic effectively, and the view out the windows is often more interesting and pleasant than the dark Metro tunnels. Moreover, the greater frequency of stops can actually get you closer to where you need to go.

In London, the absence of an all you can ride option like the Paris Visite pass makes jumping bus lines impractical. The breadth of the city is also such that you’ll probably opt to take the Tube or Overground to get around more often than the bus. In the central parts of the city, congestion and the lack of bus lanes can slow traffic to a crawl, making the bus less desirable. That said, if you can figure out a single bus line that will take you to where you want to go, it’s probably more cost-effective than taking the Tube.

Express Trains

In Paris, use the RER to get to some of the farther-flung stations within and outside of the city. This system is separate from the Metro, but accessible through some of the same stations. Depending on where you want to go (Charles de Gaulle, Gare du Nord, Disneyland Paris), RER might be a viable or preferred option. The cost is slightly higher than the Metro if traveling to an outer zone, so be sure to get a special ticket for the RER. You’ll need it to exit the station.

In London, consider the Heathrow Express if you’ll be anywhere near Paddington Station, Kensington Gardens, Hyde Park and going to Heathrow. Trains depart every 15 minutes and only take 15 minutes to get from Paddington to Terminals 1 and 3, and Terminal 5. Tickets are pricy, but the time and aggravation savings may be worth it.

Source: wikipedia.org

Between London and Paris, the Eurostar gets you between St. Pancras station in London and Gare du Nord in Paris in just over 2 hours. Much better than schlepping it out to the airport, going through security, and paying too much for the pleasure of being a sardine in a can. Buy tickets in advance to get bigger savings.

Kids Meals

I think it’s safe to say that 90% of kids meals should not be eaten by anyone. No reasonable person would consider chicken fingers, fish sticks, mini pizzas, quesadillas, fries, ice cream, and soda to be appropriate foods for kids. How do I avoid the trap of giving in and letting the kid eat garbage on a regular basis?

How to keep your political career

Some free, but useful advice on how to stay in politics.

12 things to avoid:

  1. Don’t take pictures of yourself naked.
  2. Don’t take pictures of your reproductive organs while wearing something tight/revealing.
  3. Don’t engage in sexually explicit conversations over the Internet or by text message.
  4. Don’t do anything remotely sexual with an underage person.
  5. Don’t have an affair in a foreign country and lie about it.
  6. Don’t have a relationship with a call girl.
  7. Don’t pay for a prostitute with a check.
  8. Don’t have an affair with someone who works for you.
  9. Don’t have an affair with someone who is married to someone who works for you.
  10. Don’t solicit strangers for sex in airport bathrooms.
  11. Don’t have illegitimate children and deny responsibility.
  12. Don’t make advances on the children of your donors.

If you do decide to ignore my advice and go ahead with any of these activities, then please pay attention to the following tips.

6 things that will make it worse:

  1. Campaign based on your squeaky clean image.
  2. Championing family values.
  3. Public and loud criticism of other people’s indiscretions.
  4. Anti-homosexual rhetoric, especially if you’re closeted.
  5. Covering up with hush money.
  6. Firing or threatening people who are involved.

And finally, when you are caught (and you will be), come clean as quickly and openly as possible. Learn how to shed a tear in public, but try not bawl. Look and sound sincere. Keep a low profile. Work hard. And then maybe, if your constituents feel like they have a connection with you, they’ll let you keep your job.

Facebook vs. Twitter vs. Google+

There are plenty of things that are different among the services, but the fundamental difference is relationships and how they affect what people see.

Facebook: Friends are bi-directional relationships in which both sides have to agree to the relationship. In general, the things you post are viewable by all your friends, and show up in the News Feed if Facebook chooses to show it.

Twitter: Following is a unidirectional relationship in which only the follower needs to agree to the relationship (mostly). In general, the things you post are viewable by everyone, and show up on the Home page of your followers.

Google+: Circles are a unidirectional relationship in which the circle owner defines the relationship. The things you post publicly are viewable by everyone on the Internet, but show up on the Home page of people who put you in a circle. The things you post to one or more circles are viewable only by people in those circles, but again only show up on the Home page of people who put you in a circle. To further complicate things, you can add people to circles who are not Google+ users and opt to share things via email with them. Unlike Google+ users, they don’t have to opt in to get your posts.

So while Google+ superficially seems like a social network site akin to Facebook (it has profiles, friends, photos, sharing links/photos/whatever into the stream), the relationship model is much closer to Twitter’s. The question is whether real people will adopt Google+ with its targeted broadcasting model and full set of features over Twitter with its simple broadcasting model and lack of “clutter.”

All that said, it’s a little misguided to compare Google+ directly with Facebook or Twitter. A ubiquitous Google bar with notifications on Google, YouTube, Blogger, Gmail, Maps, News, Android, Chrome, etc. should go a long way toward increasing unique visitors and time spent across all Google properties.

Six Quick Tips for Mega Jump

Mega Jump is an awesome free game for iPhone and Android that I’ve been playing a lot lately. You’re basically a little critter that jumps and grabs coins. Each coin you grab boosts you vertically a little farther, and you try to keep jumping from coin to coin to keep going. Along the way you can get power-ups that will help you get coins, go higher, or protect you from harm.

Here are a few tips to get you started:

  • Don’t “tilt” the game. You’ll figure out what this means.
  • For every 100 coins you collect, you’ll get 10 MP which you can spend on stuff in the store.
  • Characters don’t have any special powers, so don’t buy them expecting any.
  • Power-up upgrades change the power-ups you find in the game, they’re not weapons you can activate from your inventory.
  • Upgrade the magnet power-ups first. They’ll help you get coins faster, which means you’ll be able to upgrade the other power-ups faster.
  • Enter my mega code 6vgk7 to get 500 MP right from the start. Full disclosure: I’ll get 500 MP, too.

What are you waiting for? Download it now from the iPhone App Store and Android Market.