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Help plan our trip to France!

2

Replies to: Help plan our trip to France!

  • sylvan8798sylvan8798 6647 replies140 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    edited July 13
    Wow, so many great suggestions already.
    1) We will have more discussion with the group about the timing. We are constrained by the academic schedules of 3 of us, so there is no hope of "off season".
    2) Some members of the group have been in France briefly, although no one for any extended time. DD's BF and I both speak a little French.
    3) Paris is a must. While in Paris each couple would be free to explore some on their own (or regroup as interests dictate). I know H will be at his limit with ONE museum.
    4) I'm sure we will want to see a lot of touristy things. In discussion with H, I'm trying to keep him from dragging us all over Europe a la "European Vacation."
    5) I have some issues with walking, although I managed to walk 25 miles in the three days we were in NYC in May, so I'm hoping I can manage. Mountain climbing is out. Wineries are also out.
    6) Definitely looking to stay in vrbo, airbnb, apartment type arrangements as much as possible. With 6 of us, not having to eat in restaurants every meal is key.
    edited July 13
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  • yucca10yucca10 1241 replies37 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    I would spend several days in Paris and then rent a car (or two if you go together) and explore Normandy and Brittany.
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  • Bromfield2Bromfield2 3558 replies35 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    You should go to a Bistrot or a Brasserie while in Paris. Foodie husband choose two after lots of researching and questioning folks with a food background, i.e., classically trained French chefs. We tried Bofinger, supposedly the oldest brasserie in Paris. The food is from Alsace--we had choucroute (a classic). It's sauerkraut and sausages and lots of other stuff. We also went to Bistrot Chez Georges, which was amazing. Highly recommend one meal like this.
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  • mathmommathmom 32248 replies159 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    And just in case you have not read the other what should I do in Paris threads, go have ice cream or sorbet at Berthillon's on the Isle St. Louis. http://www.berthillon.fr/
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  • ClassicMom98ClassicMom98 128 replies1 threadsRegistered User Junior Member
    My parents have taken us (and my sister's family) on a few European trips. We just got back from one all together through Nice/Monaco and Barcelona & Rome. We did hit Paris with my parents in 2015.

    I would second/third the airbnb, vrbo, and homeaway. Those are the ones my parents use. In Paris, we stayed in a cute little apartment 2 blocks from the Louvre. It had A/C (definite must for us) but it was cheaper because it was up 4 flights of stairs. It did have an elevator, but VERY small. 1-2 people at a time. I took the stairs.

    Things may have changed since 2015 and tripadvisor can be your best friend. But, we got a museum pass that saved us a lot of $$$. But also pay attention to hours. The museums can close on odd days. I want to say the Louvre was closed on Tuesdays.

    If you go to Versailles, research the heck out of it, because I hope they have improved the experience. It was AWFUL for us. The worst management I have ever seen. We went in early/mid July. We had our tickets (museum pass) and got there early, but still had to stand in a 2 hour snaked queue in the sun with ZERO water/food available. The only bathrooms were inside where you had to push through another huge ticket line and there were maybe 4 stalls. Once inside it was so crowded you couldn't move. We are a tall family, so we could at least see a little. My tall S got several requests from strangers to take pics over the crowd's head. And it didn't even seem particularly nice. It felt worn and run down. Schonbronne palace in Vienna was SO much nicer. We also preferred the Napoleon apartments in the Louvre to Versailles. After the tour, you were able to go to the bathroom - but you had to push through the cafe food line full of hungry frustrated people. And once you got your food? No seats. We (including my 70s y.o. parents!) ate on the floor.

    We did the river cruise which was nice. The Eiffle tower - we by-passed the lines and saved some $$$ by walking up to the first level. We are not foodies/wine people or shopping. On the Champs D'Elysee my favorite thing was a 3-5 story twisty tube slide that cost a couple of Euros. :) The Musee d'Orsay was a nice surprise for me. I enjoyed that a lot. My Dad (as always) loved the military museum. I think he's been to every military museum in Europe. Lol.

    Nice is probably too far for you to visit, unless you would enjoy the train ride scenery. I loved NIce and wished we had more time to do day trips. But the most memorable thing for the 5 kids (ages 17-23) was to drive and/or ride with a professional driver in a Ferrari that began in Eze (medieval village between Nice/Monaco) It was pricey, but definitely a highlight. But the kids have also been to dozens (maybe hundreds!) of museums, castles, roman ruins, etc. It was definitely different for us old, used Hyundai/Ford owners!
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  • momofsenior1momofsenior1 6995 replies50 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    I also second skipping Versailles, especially in the summer.

    Musee d'Orsay is my favorite museum in Paris too and their dining room (reservations required) is spectacular. Nicer than the Hall of Mirrors in Versailles.

    What was a nice day trip for us was going to Giverny to see Monet's home and gardens. It was an easy trip via train.

    There are also all of the Loire Valley Chateaux which is close to Paris (I would rent a car for that though).
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  • MYOS1634MYOS1634 41774 replies450 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    Paris' main museums are Le Louvre, Orsay, and Beaubourg/Pompidou -respectively everything till mid 19th, impressionists and all the 19th/early 20th art, and contemporary art. If you had to pick one I'd go to Orsay - more manageable than the Louvre.
    If you can allocate the time, staying a bit longer overall and choosing budget accomodations may be a better ROI wrt plane tickets. This way, you can take side trips to Chartres(1 day trip), Normandy(3 days), and Dordogne(3 days) -- you take the TGV to Bordeaux - Ouigo is the budget one but the main differences I can see compared to the regular trains is that the color palette is brighter and you can't take a huge suitcase with you (a big one is okay -size is listed), Bordeaux is 2h30 from Paris and even if you're not interested in wineries, visiting La cité du vin is really cool, as is the city, although it was built on blood money from slavery. From there, rent a car and drive to Dordogne: Sarlat, as mentioned previously (medieval), Lascaux (Dawn of time), and Périgueux (Roman Times).
    For Versailles and Provence, I'd go during the Christmas vacation. ;)
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  • mikemacmikemac 10307 replies150 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    edited July 14
    Starting from your 6-7 days together time budget... Since Paris is a must, I'd suggest spending 3 days there. Museums, walking tours, strolling around parks and the boulevards, Eiffel tower, etc. can easily use up those 3 days. Then I'd pick one other destination. Wines don't sound like a big thing so that would rule out Beane and Bordeaux. Basically all of France is a train ride away from Paris; about 6 hours all the way down to Nice, much less for other destinations such as Normandy/Brittany or the Loire Valley. So if you like castles, cave paintings, and perhaps river rafting then the Loire. If you like seafood and the coast then Normandy/Brittany. Or you could consider Provence.
    4) I'm sure we will want to see a lot of touristy things. In discussion with H, I'm trying to keep him from dragging us all over Europe a la "European Vacation."
    Don't compromise on this! It takes 1/2 day or more when all is said and done to leave a hotel, get to the train station in time for the train, go to another city even if just 1-2 hours away, get to the new hotel, drop the bags, and get out exploring again. It isn't much faster with a car, and can be slower over a distance since the trains go 180mph. You really only have time for one other locale other than Paris, unless you have a real fascination with travel infrastructure because if you're changing locations every day or two that's most of what you'll see.
    edited July 14
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  • Singersmom07Singersmom07 4139 replies82 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    We stayed a week in Paris but took a day trip to the Normandy beaches. It was a very moving experience and interesting to have a guide with a French point of view of the history. We were planning day trips to other sites around Paris but it was flooded when we went and many places including the rivers were closed.
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  • sabaraysabaray 7049 replies80 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    D and I are headed to Paris for a week in about a month, so I’m following with interest. Paris by Mouth still has tours available- the Left Bank and Marais - any thoughts on differences we may experience other than the obvious?
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  • ArtsyKidDadArtsyKidDad 33 replies4 threadsRegistered User Junior Member
    edited July 14
    For our most recent stays, while DD was learning French at summer schools, we were enjoying several spots along the Mediterranean coasts. Antibes was beautiful but Côte d'Azur was brutally expensive and unpleasantly ostentatious (those Russian oligarchs with their entourages), Montpellier vicinity was great but the coast was not the prettiest there. Last year, however, we found a true gem - gorgeous, inexpensive, with tons of things to see and do, just south of Perpignan, the last major city along the coast.
    We stayed in the medieval village of Laroque-des-Albères, in an AirBnB but the entire area is fantastic - look at the map. You can stay by the sea, anywhere from Argelès-sur-Mer to Cerbere at the border, or a few km inland. Farmers markets, oyster farms, music festivals in castles. Towns you see in endless paintings in world museums, almost unchanged. And just across the border, a village by the sea where Salvador Dali spent most of his life, and you can walk through his house - as well as his great museum in Figueres. And I didn't even scratch the surface.
    edited July 14
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  • garlandgarland 15983 replies198 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    edited July 14
    We were in France exactly a year ago--FB keeps showing me the pictures! We stayed 6 days in Paris, then four days in Normandy (Honfleur). We had an Airbnb tiny house in Paris in the Canal St. Martin area--truly a once in a life time experience, though much cheaper than a hotel. It was just so cool to have our own house. Musee D'Orsay was our favorite museum, though possibly tied with L'Orangerie. My personal favorite experience was a combined night-time bike and boat tour that took us past the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, Berthillons for an ice cream break, the Louvre at night (fun biking around the Pyramid) then night time boat tour--wine included. We booked it through Fat Tire. I can't say enough how much fun it was. Bike, boat, ice cream, and wine. Plus gorgeous views. Pretty much everything I want in life, lol.

    After Paris, we stayed in a B and B outside of Honfleur--this is an adorable town at the mouth of the Seine. Besides enjoying it (fabulous restaurants), we used it as a base to explore Etretat, a ciderie, and the seaside towns to the south. Just a wonderful area. We rented a car outside of Paris and used this for the remainder of the trip. stopping on the way to Honfleur at Givenchy to see Monet's garden and home. Had an amazing late lunch there.

    I think the two places gave us a good start, even only ten days ( we also Chunneled over to London afterward, which might have been too much. I'd been there before and just wanted a quick hello. It was fun, but a bit tiring. Tried to pack a lot in in a small time.)

    I totally agree on eschewing hotels in favor of small places like airbnb, B and B's, and/or rental apartments. We did one of each and all worked out well. I also like that we had a rental car outside of Paris as it made choosing what to see much simpler than trains would have been.

    Hope you all have a blast!
    edited July 14
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  • garlandgarland 15983 replies198 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    I also want to add that my commenting here is partly paying it forward because of all the great advice I got here last year! :)
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  • TS0104TS0104 866 replies26 threadsRegistered User Member
    Paris question! I'm trying to buy my Versailles tickets ahead (going early August) and trying to pick a tour at Versailles. I think we will just go with one of the palaces own tours (not a third party company), my question is, is the "Splendors of Versailles" their basic Palace tour? I don't think we want to do the Kings Apts even though I've read they are highly recommended. We are more into seeing the highlights and the gardens than a super comprehensive day. If anyone knows about the tours that you book with your ticket through Versailles ticket office themselves, let me know, thanks! I have learned that their email help option is either really behind, or they just don't answer it!
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  • yauponreduxyauponredux 727 replies25 threadsRegistered User Member
    @sabaray either one would be good, so if scheduling is better for one than the other or if one takes you to an area that is new for you or unlikely you will visit otherwise , let that be your guide. I will say that the Marais, being a very old part of the city, has twisty turny streets that make it more challenging to navigate and a guided tour helpful.
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  • lookingforwardlookingforward 33548 replies367 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    We had a small apt near the Eiffel Tower, could walk out at night, watch the changing colors. Local bakeries, a small chain grocer, and an outdoor market. It was not as convenient to tourist spots, but worth it.

    In all the times I've been to Paris, never went up the Tower, the lines were always long. But we did do the Notre Dame tower, in the past, and views are great from Montmartre. Every bit of historic Paris is great.

    We loved buying croissants and pastries in the am, bought sandwiches early and had lunch by the Louvre pyramid or in a park.


    Our personal tour was at night. For us, what made it special was it was just us and a young man, much like a couple of hours with an old contact leading and talking.

    Versailles? I'd do the inside first, if you've never been. Last time, there was some shuttle that would take you around the grounds.

    We also did the sewer museum, a once in a lifetime thing.

    Make sure you know which museums are open what days and plan accordingly.
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  • ClassicMom98ClassicMom98 128 replies1 threadsRegistered User Junior Member
    @TS0104 Ask this on the tripadvisor Paris forum. They are really helpful at answering such questions. All I can say is in 2015 those who went through with private tour groups got to skip the line ahead of those who did not. We got there when it opened and stood on line (with tickets in hand) for 2 hours. But that was 4 years ago.
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  • stradmomstradmom 5010 replies50 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    At Versailles, I found the Hameau de la Reine to be a nice place to spend some time in the gardens. Also recommend the advance tickets to beat the line.
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  • mathmommathmom 32248 replies159 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    Boy Versailles has a confusing website. Eons ago I did this and it was great: https://en.chateauversailles-spectacles.fr/programmation/the-musical-gardens_e1941
    Versailles itself is easy to be disappointed by. The Hall of Mirrors is not that shiny. Baroque architecture is pretty ugh. But Louis XIV was such an important figure that if French history interests you, you probably should see it.
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  • lookingforwardlookingforward 33548 replies367 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    edited July 16
    I agree to see V for the historic reference. Last time we were there, we darted out when it got to be too much.

    If you miss it, so be it. As long as you get balance overall, in the monumental, a few museums, get to walk, wander, and people watch. I'm one one believes you can just do a couple of hours at the Louvre, eg. See what you feel are the musts, then move on.
    edited July 16
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