On the coast of Normandy is Le Havre, which is translated as "The Harbor." It's not a destination in and of itself (it retains little charm after having been heavily bombed during World War II), but it is a convenient gateway to some of the most exquisite destinations in France, particularly if you are arriving by ship because it is the closest seaport to Paris. It puts you within driving distance of the wind-swept beaches where the Allies landed during the decisive battles of World War II, the sun-dappled landscapes that enraptured impressionist painters like Claude Monet, and the sights, sounds, and smells of the City of Lights. Of all these excursions, perhaps a trip to Paris is the most popular for cruise-ship passengers. You can be strolling along the Champs-Élysées, gazing up at the Arc de Triomphe.
Where you're docked Coming Ashore The port is about 1½ km (1 meter) from the center of Le Havre. There's nothing of interest near the cruise ship terminal, so you might want to take a shuttle into the city. Better yet, skip Le Havre altogether and head out on a shore excursion.
Currency The euro (€1 to US$1); exchange rates are accurate at this writing but are subject to change.
Hours Generally, banks are open weekdays from 9 to 5. The usual opening times for museums and other sights are from 9:30 to 5 or 6. Many close for lunch noon-2. Shops are open 9 or 9:30 until 7 or 8.
Shopping Shopping In the most beautiful city in the world, it's no surprise to discover that the local green grocer displays his tomatoes as artistically as Cartier does its rubies. Shopping doesn't come much more chic than on Avenue Montaigne, with its graceful town mansions housing some of the top names in international fashion: Chanel, Dior, Céline, Valentino, Krizia, Ungaro, Prada, Dolce & Gabbana, and many more. For an array of bedazzling boutiques with hyper-picturesque goods -- antique toy theaters, books on gardening -- and the most fascinating antiques stores in town, be sure to head to the area around Rue Jacob, nearly lined with antiquaires, and the streets around super-posh Place Furstenberg. The elegant and eclectic shops clustered in the 18th-century arcades of the Palais-Royal sell such items as antiques, toy soldiers, cosmetics, jewelry, and vintage designer dresses. The Marais is a mixture of many moods and many influences; its lovely, impossibly narrow cobblestone streets are filled with some of the most original, small name, nonglobal goods to be had. The magnificent 17th-century Place Vendôme, home of the Ritz Hotel, and Rue de la Paix, leading north from Vendôme, are where you can find the world's most elegant jewelers. The graceful, circular Place des Victoires, near the Palais-Royal, is the playground of fashion icons such as Kenzo, while Comme des Garçons and Yohji Yamamoto line Rue Étienne Marcel. A fashionable set makes its way to Rue St-Honoré to shop at Paris's trendiest boutique, Colette.
Keeping in touch Internet There are no Internet cafés in or near the cruise ship terminal.
Telephones The rare French person who doesn't have a mobile phone uses télécartes (phone cards), which you can buy just about anywhere. These phone cards will save you money because the rates are the best you will find. They will also save you time, as it's virtually impossible to find a phone that will take coins nowadays.