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5 wonderful days in Paris - Detailed trip report from first time visitor

5 wonderful days in Paris - Detailed trip report from first time visitor

Aug 13th, 2010, 01:24 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jun 2010
Posts: 33
5 wonderful days in Paris - Detailed trip report from first time visitor


We are two women travelers coming off an organized tour through Europe (London – Amsterdam – Cologne – Heidelberg – Lucerne – Paris). Paris was the last stop of the tour, and we decided to stay a few extra days and explore on our own. What a wise decision!

Random thoughts/practical tips:

1. Metro: we are not used to using public transportation, I’m very easily lost, and we don’t speak French. I was worried about using Metro. But it was so easy. The hotel gave us a tourist map with a Metro route map. I asked the concierge to write the directions for our 1st outing, and after that I felt competent to navigate on my own. Everything is clearly marked. And the subway seems safe and clean. We got a 10-ticket pack at a discount price. That was all we needed.
2. Museum pass: someone mentioned the pass on this board. I got a 2-day pass. What a smart decision that was. We visited Louvre, d’Orsay, Pantheon, Sainte-Chapelle, le Concierge, Notre Dame for the tower climb. The best thing is you get to skip the line (not for Notre Dame), just Louvre alone is worth the time saved. My daughter got free admission and she was able to cut the line with me.
3. Hotel choice: I had a choice between Marriott River Gauche in the 14th, and Hotel Abbatial St. Germain in the Latin Quarter (but very close to 6th too). Price is about the same at 100 euros per day. I asked for advice on this board and most people said Abbatial St. Germain has a better location. So I went with that. I couldn’t be happier! From the hotel we can walk to the major sights: Notre Dame 3 minutes, Seine 3 minutes, Pantheon 5 minutes, Louvre 15-20 minutes. Basically the main sights are all within walking distance. From Notre to Louver is only 1 -1.5 miles I think. The hotel itself is very clean, everything is meticulous, the staff all very nice and speak perfect English, wi-fi was free (everywhere else in Europe we got charged rather steep prices for internet), and we had a charming balcony facing St. Germain Blvd. There are so many restaurants, cafes and food stalls nearby, and we were in food heaven.

Day 0:

I say Day 0 because the tour bus drove us from Lucerne to Paris that day. We left Lucerne at 6am. By the time we got to Paris and checked into the tour hotel (Crowne Plaza Republique), it was about 5pm. We were pretty tired from sitting on the bus all day, but decided to take the optional excursion offered that evening. The guide took us to Sacre Coeur in Montmartre, and we were given 2.5 hours to have dinner and explore on our own. We had a wonderful meal at a restaurant (I never remember names, we just randomly walk into places). Once the lights came on, we had a wonderful view of Paris. After Montmartre, the bus drove us for an illumination tour. The highlight was that we saw Eiffel Tower twinkle on the hour. I believe it was 11pm by then and we were pretty toast. For $35 bucks, I thought the tour was great.

Day 1

AM sightseeing is included in the tour’s basic program. We drove around in the city (interesting to see the city in daylight), and went to Eiffel Tower. The line was incredibly long. We had a reservation and we saved at least one hour standing in line. To make things more interesting, we took the stairs to get down. That was a lot of steps. We also got to stroll on Champs Elysees.

Soon it was lunch time, we grabbed crepes for a quick bite, and we were off to Versailles. This was an optional excursion offered by the tour. I debated whether or not we should join, and decided to go. Again, a good move I think, the lines were super long. But we went in directly as a group, and we got split into two smaller groups with two local guides. Versailles was packed with tourists that day and the place was chaotic. We were glad we went with a group.

The tour ended right here. We were on our own!

Day 2

For the first time in 10 days, we didn’t have a morning call at 6am. That was nice. Slept until 10:30, wrote postcards and mailed from the hotel, checked out and left the luggage. I consulted my map and the items for the day were Opera and Galeries Lafayette, because they were nearby. Out new hotel is in the Latin Quarter near Notre Dame.

We used Metro for the 1st time. Very easy. Galeries Lafayette has a great building. I did my shopping there. We got back to the hotel around 3:30pm, retrieved our suitcases and took a taxi to our hotel. It was a short ride, about 9 euros.

We checked in. The room was small, but charming and has everything we needed. We asked for directions and walked to Pantheon, which is 5 minutes walking distance. My original plan was to buy a museum pass there because the line will be short. But we got there at 5:40pm and were told they stop selling the pass at 5:30pm. Oh well, we enjoyed looking the building from the outside, and then walked aimlessly to explore the side streets. We stumbled upon Sorbonne and Garden de Luxemburg and some other sights. Got back to the hotel around 9pm and we were toast again.

Day 3

Museum Day! We headed out to d’Orsay in the morning. Arrived around the opening time, and the line was short (got very long when we left) and I got my pass. Spent the morning there, crossed Seine, passed Jardins des Tuileries, and walked to Louvre. The line was soooo long. But, since we have the pass, we used the separate entrance, and went in directly. We spent the afternoon there. After that, we strolled along Seine back to the hotel. By then my daughter was really tired and refused to walk again. I still felt energetic and I went to Pantheon on my own. After that, we had another great meal at a neighborhood café (again I don’t recall the name but the foods we had were all wonderful). My daughter was happy to chat with her friends on MSN, so I went out on own again and went to Notre Dame. There was a very long line. I asked and they said it’s the line to climb the tower. It was 9pm or so and the last group they let in is at 10:15pm. I figured I had a good shot. I waited for about an hour and chatted with some fellow tourists. Each time they only let 20-25 people go up. Then finally it was my turn. 400 steps. It was so easy. Must be all the hiking I do back home.

Day 4

Today was our easy day. To take advantage of the 2-day museum pass, we went to Sainte Chapelle and le Concierge in the morning. They are next to each other. For lunch I had to eat the mussel dish I had again at a place near our ex-hotel in Republique Square, so we got on the Metro. After that we took Metro to the LV store in the 6th in St.Germain, and I got my shopping done. Strolled back to the hotel along Seine and bought some books from the book stalls.

Day 5

Another easy day for us. We went to Notre Dame and got into the Cathedral. In the morning there was no line. As we exited, the line was looking scary. We explored Île de la Cité and got our souvenir shopping done. Then we walked along Seine to Pont Neuf to catch the one-hour cruise. That was relaxing. We didn’t want to do an evening cruise because by the time it’s dark around 10pm or so, we would be pretty tired already.
After the cruise we had another slow and wonderful meal at a neighborhood restaurant. And got back to the hotel around 3pm. My daughter had enough walking. So she took a nap, and I got ready to meet a photographer I hired before my trip to take pictures of me. My daughter hates having her pictures taken. I think she is just going through a phase. The photograph session started at around 4:30pm and we were done by 8pm. The photographer was a nice young man, very patient. I walked in high heels from Notre Dame and Louvre and back. That wasn’t so easy. The picture idea was great and now I have many nice pictures to remember my trip.

I got back to the hotel, he transferred the photos to my laptop and left. By then it started to rain. But we still wanted to go out. So, my daughter and I went out in the rain and walked to the nearby small food places and got some sandwiches, drinks and desserts. We took them back to the hotel, opened the balcony door and while we ate, enjoyed looking at the street scenes. There were still a lot of people walking in the rain, without umbrellas.

After that there were no more agenda items. I packed our suit cases.

Day of departure:

In the morning we took a shuttle arranged by the hotel to CDG. There was no traffic. My flight was from Paris to Heathrow, then a connecting flight from LHX to Los Angeles. I was confused about where to process VAT refund. When I got to CDG, the line looked OK, I waited maybe 15 minutes and got various forms stamped. I got cash for purchases I chose the cash option. But for credit card option I had to drop the forms in a nearby mail box. Hopefully the credit will show up soon. I think next time I should just go with “cash back.” The difference was between 12% and 10.8%, not a big difference anyway.

As a side note, Heathrow wasn't fun. For our connecting flight, we had to go through immigration, pick up my bags, check in again, go through two layers of security, take a train to a terminal far away, and walk an incredible distance to the gate. And there was another security check at the gate. We had more than two hours but barely made our flight. If I had to process VAT in Heathrow, I wouldn’t have had time anyway.

In summary, everything worked out and we had the most wonderful time in Paris! I wish to thank everyone for your terrific suggestions!
Raindrop92620 is offline  
Aug 13th, 2010, 01:44 PM
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 1,577
Sounds like a wonderful trip! I stayed near the St. Germain hotel in May, it was a great location. The balcony would have been a nice touch! Thanks for sharing your experiences!
cls2paris is offline  
Aug 13th, 2010, 01:58 PM
Join Date: Jul 2010
Posts: 100
Thank you Raindrop, I enjoyed reading your trip report. Am off to Paris next April with my husband so was glad to read your report on the hotel.....will give it a go!
Jennywren58 is offline  
Aug 13th, 2010, 02:23 PM
Join Date: Jul 2006
Posts: 16,505
you want to claim back vat in the country you spent the money. Different vat rates and different currency.

Heathrow is always a bit of a nightmare. Schipol appears to be easier but I reckon the aircraft spends an extra 20 minutes driving to and from the landing field to the gate.

I love the idea of getting a pro to take photos, what was the result?
bilboburgler is offline  
Aug 13th, 2010, 03:40 PM
Join Date: Mar 2007
Posts: 191
Thanks so much for your detailed report! Bookmarking.
Keiracaitlyn is offline  
Aug 13th, 2010, 08:22 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jun 2010
Posts: 33

The photograph session was great. Lots of fun. I now have more than 300 terrific pictures

I forgot to mention that at Galeries Lafayette, you can go to the rooftop and there is a wonderful view of the city. Also check out the massive gourmet food floor. We had a lot of fun there too.

Next time I think I'll rent a charming old apartment
Raindrop92620 is offline  
Aug 13th, 2010, 09:25 PM
Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 4,252
Lovely trip report. Never would have thought to have professional photos. What a great souvenir!
travelgirl2 is offline  
Aug 14th, 2010, 02:21 AM
Join Date: Mar 2008
Posts: 6,628
Very nice report. Interesting idea to hire a photographer but probably I am more like your daughter, don't or rarely like photos of myself. Do you plan to post yours?
Cathinjoetown is offline  
Aug 14th, 2010, 06:46 AM
Join Date: Oct 2007
Posts: 2,009
lots of good information. many thanks. bookmarking for a Paris fix.
taconictraveler is offline  
Aug 14th, 2010, 12:29 PM
Join Date: Aug 2010
Posts: 175
What a wonderful vacation. My 3 sisters and I took a trip to Paris and Roma the last week in December of 2007.... A once in a lifetime experience was eating lunch at the JulesVerne restaurant in the Eiffel Tower with my sisters while over looking Paris. We cruised the Seine river, saw a show at the Mouline Rouge, visited The Louvre and walked around Paris with each other.
awygn is offline  
Aug 15th, 2010, 07:34 AM
Join Date: Aug 2010
Posts: 21
Thank you for the trip report! Glad you had fun! We're planning to go to Paris too next year. Can't wait!
cokes is offline  

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