Travel Dates: June 9-16, 2012
Participants: College graduation trip for my daughter age 22, my husband and me (50), and my in-laws (70). My husband and I have been to Paris twice before, it was the first trip for the rest of our group.
Where we stayed: Large luxury apartment in Marais rented through www.parlerparisapartments.com.
Transportation to and from airport: www.airport-transfers-direct.com, $85 from Charles de Gaulle to Marais.
Highly Recommended Private Tour Guide for Normandy: Danielle Duboscq. www.Normandyours.com
I started planning this trip about 6 months before our travel dates. We have stayed in apartments, usually rented through vrbo, for the past several trips and prefer them over hotels. I had a limited selection because of the size of our group (initially we had 6 traveling) and booking only 6 months ahead during the busy summer travel season. Given that we were able to use frequent flyer points for the flight, we splurged on the apartment (http://www.vrbo.com/323382). We loved the location, right in the heart of Marais, about 3 blocks from the St. Paul metro station. It is a popular area, but not as touristy as some and we felt like we were staying in the midst of Parisians simply living their life. Restaurants, bakeries, and the best crepes ever were right outside our door. A big draw for us was the balcony, but we ended up not using at much as we thought, partly because of the weather and also because you don’t have a great view when sitting at the table. Overall, we loved the apartment, it was well appointed, very comfortable, and a great spot to explore the sites of Paris.
If you don’t want to deal with the trains or buses to reach the airport, I highly recommend Airport Transfers Direct. Our driver was waiting for us as we left the baggage area, holding a sign with our name. He was very courteous, patiently waiting for me to purchase museum passes and metro passes before we left. We paid him in cash just outside our apartment door. They were equally as prompt for our return trip to the airport.
After studying travel guides to determine what days certain museums were open I came up with an agenda to maximize our use of 4-day museum passes. We ended up varying the agenda some, but overall it worked out well.
Saturday: Arrived in Paris direct from Atlanta, van to the apartment, unpacked, had lunch/dinner in Marais, bought some groceries, forced ourselves to stay up until 9 pm.
Sunday: Fat Tires Bike Tour (meets near the Eiffel Tower), 4 hours ride around the city with a fabulous tour guide. We were in a group, so it felt safe to ride on the streets. Our favorite activity! It was a great way to get an overview of the sites without riding on a tour bus. Visited the Army Museum late in the afternoon. We should have left more time for this large museum. The men in our group wanted to see more (it was my daughter’s least favorite though).
Monday: Louvre (arrived at opening, very crowded, but a must see). We used Rick Steve’s audio tour for a couple of the museums, but should have used the one included with admission. Our agenda said we were to do the Historic Paris Walk (4 hours/3 miles). Ha! Said the rest of our group, they were done after a long day at the Louvre. My daughter and I did the Marais walk, including a visit to the Pompidou Museum in Marais. The building and art here was extremely unique. The present-day modern art was hard to appreciate but they also have interesting, more dated modern art pieces, by Warhol, Picasso, and Matisse.
Tuesday: Versailles by train. Make sure you get on the correct RER train when you transfer, they don’t all end at the same destination. Our plan was to tour the palace, then the gardens and Trianon, but the weather didn’t cooperate. We toured the palace and had lunch in town before heading back to Paris.
Wednesday: Orsay Museum (our favorite museum), arrived at 9:30, close to opening. Walked to the Orangerie Museum in the Tulleries Garden (Monet’s Water Lillies), over the Locks of Love bridge. Walked down Champes Elysees to the Arc de Triomphe & used the tunnel to see the site.
Thursday: Family did day trip to Normandy with private tour guide: Danielle Duboscq – cell number: 33 6 79 04 35 73
Normandyours.com. If you are looking to do a private tour of Normandy, I highly recommend Danielle, she is a native of the area and has many interesting family stories. It’s a long day, but our group felt it was well worth the time and enjoyed it very much.
I stayed in Paris and completed the historic Paris walk (used Rick Steeves audio guide), toured the Conciergerie and Sainte-Chapelle
Friday: Train to Monmarte and toured Sacre Coeur (free), toured the artist area at the top of the hill, took the train to a stop near Rue Cler, walked down the beautiful street with different types of food markets and florists. Great selection of wines, cheeses, meats, and pasteries. I have always loved the Monmarte area and the view from the church on the hill.
Overall, it was a very good trip and we were happy with our selections of activities.
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Travel Dates: June 9-16, 2012