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January 3

Postcard readers have asked me for specific information about the City of Light. Here's where to start:

There are three official French government tourist bureaus in the U.S.: 444 Madison Ave., New York, NY 10022; 9454 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 715, L.A., CA 90212, (310) 271-6665; Consulate General of France, 205 N. Michigan Ave., Suite 3770, Chicago, IL 60601. The central information line is (410) 286-8310 and the website is www.franceguide.com.

The Maison de France responds to phone requests for information but does not have a visitor center open to the public. From the U.S., 011-33-1-42-96-70-00; in Paris, dial 01-42-96-70-00.

The Paris Convention and Visitors Bureau (25 Rue des Pyramides, Paris 75001) charges by the minute for phone information and has a visitor center, with hotel booking, near l'Opéra. In Paris, dial 0892-68-3000. By Internet, www.paris-touristoffice.com.

Ile-de-France regional tourist information is in the mall underneath I.M. Pei's pyramid at the Louvre Museum. It sells concert, event and train tickets, has English speakers on staff and is rarely crowded. The address is Galerie du Carrousel du Louvre, Place de la Pyramide Inversée, 99 Rue de Rivoli. In Paris, call 0-826-166-666. Or go to www.pidf.com.

Montmartre, the fabled village within the City of Light, has its own tourist information office, the Syndicat d'Initiative de Montmartre, 21 Place du Tertre. In Paris, dial 01-42-62-21-21.

There are many -- maybe too many -- books about Paris. If I had to recommend just three to someone planning a trip to the city, here's what I'd choose: For the contemporary scene, try "Paris to the Moon," by Adam Gopnik, a New Yorker writer who lived in Paris with his family; "Seven Ages of Paris," Alistair Horne's immensely readable, ingeniously organized history of the city; and -- though I hate to say it because I've never been much of a Papa fan -- "A Moveable Feast," by Ernest Hemingway, which makes you feel as if you're Paris in the 1920s, drinking wine in the afternoon at La Closerie des Lilas, looking at pictures with Gertrude Stein, rambling around the city and living like a king with only a few francs in your pocket.

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