ambitious itinerary for Paris virgin

Old Aug 27th, 2008, 09:30 PM
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ambitious itinerary for Paris virgin

Hello my fellow travelers!
I am planning my 1st trip to Paris the 1st week of November. Trying to see most of the usual top attractions in only 4 days...eeck! Will plan to walk ALOT & use metro whenever possible to accomplish this. Considering the time of year & possibilities of weather, wondering whether to skip gardens?

Day 1 Thursday
arrive CDG in early AM
check in Hotel Castille 1st arr.
New Paris tour - to get acquainted w/city
Musee Nat'l de Caramique
Musee D'Orsay

Day 2 Friday
Notre Dame, Sainte Chapelle
& Islands
Marais, Belleville, Vosges
Centre Georges Pompidou

Day 3 Saturday
Montmartre, Sacre Coeur, St Pierre
St Denis
Opera Garnier
Jardin du Palais Royal
Jardin Des Tuileries
Place(s) Concorde & Vendome
Rue St Honore

Day 4 Sunday
St Germain, St Sulpice
Jardin Luxembourg
Eiffel Tower, Trocadero
Arc down Champs Elysses
Ave Montaigne
Grand & Petit Palais

Whew! Once itinerary is set will seek advice on restaurant recs.

Thanks everyone!
auntcindy is offline  
Old Aug 27th, 2008, 09:49 PM
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A few thoughts:

If you are as interested in ceramics as your itinerary suggests, do not give short shrift to the ceramics collection at the Louvre.

Your itinerary suggests an intense interest in art. If that is correct -- and I hope it is -- I would not make a special effort to see the Champs-Elysees, the Arc, the Eiffel Tower, Belleville, Place Concorde and Vendome or -- here's the heresy -- Montmartre or Sacre Couer.

Unless there are exhibits you dearly want to see at the Grand and Petit Palais, save them for another trip.

Part of the reason I am suggesting these drastic cuts is to give you some time to just wander a bit at some point.

Go to mass at St Sulpice if you can to hear the organ (or spy on Catherine Deneuve!)

If it is not sunny, try to switch things around so you are not seeing stained glass without the sun.

To the greatest extent possible, go to museums at night.

This is just me, but I would sooner go to the Musee Marmottan than D'Orsay. I might look at the Pompidou without going in -- and might miss it completely without regret.

Unless you have a special interest in opera, I think you can save the Garnier for another visit.

Are you going to Avenue Montaigne for the fashion houses? Unless I was going to the theater there, I wouldn't bother.

zeppole is offline  
Old Aug 27th, 2008, 10:00 PM
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Hi auntcindy,

Don't worry about restaurants as you won't have time to eat with this itinerary!

Best advice is to grab crepes from street vendors and keep going! Bring your in-line skates to get around.

Are you planning to go into any of the places you mention or are you content with walking by them looking at the facades.

Looks like your only question is whether to skip the gardens. The Tuileries has lots of sculpture so you might want to see that and you're already going to the Orangerie & the Louvre so you'll be right there on 2 days. The Luxembourg Gardens closes at sunset so you should get there early. I would see what the weather is and then decide to go to the gardens. They're not much fun in the rain.

How long is the new paris tour on day 1 as the Ceramic Museum closes at 5:00 so you might not get to see much of the museum.

If you're doing this is the order they're written you won't have time for the opera on day 3 as the tours are 11:30 and 2:30.

I would decide which are the top things you want to see and do them first to avoid disappointment at not seeing what is really important to you. With this itinerary you'll only get a very brief view of each sight.

I would leave off St-Denis as it's outside of Paris and takes time to get to and to see the church. I'm presuming you're going to see the church rather than wander the St-Denis area.

Day 2 do the Marais early before things shut up which they will do early this time of year. Not sure you'll have time to wander around Belleville after you wander around the Marais and do 2 large museums plus church, chapel and the Seine islands.
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Old Aug 27th, 2008, 10:01 PM
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I admit that I am not a museum person like you perhaps are - but I would think that two museums on the day you arrive, when the average overseas traveler will have trouble simply staying awake mid-day - might be a bit much. I would try to be outdoors that first day as much as possible and see the gardens (at least one of them) if weather permits.

To me, walking the streets of Paris is the highlight of any visit there. If the museums really are a high priority, I would cut out a few other things and give yourself more time to relax and wander, rather than needing to rush from place to place to maximize your time during the days. You can always visit again if you don't fit everything in.

Andrew is online now  
Old Aug 28th, 2008, 04:24 AM
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I think you itinerary will assure that you never go to Paris again. You will be so frazzled exhausted and grumpy that your trip wil not be a success- you will neither remember day 1 or wish to return as it is far too ambitious. In addition, you will miss the essence of Paris..wandering and finding your own hidden places. I do agree it is reasonable to take a half day tour to get oriented. If you have done an overnight flight that plus maybe 1 gallery at the Louvre would be more than enough. Please rethink.
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Old Aug 28th, 2008, 04:36 AM
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Wow! We were in Paris for a week last time, and we didn't do 1/3 of what you're proposing to do. The real allure of Paris is wandering about and discovering wonderful things. Your itinerary hardly gives you time to take a breath. I would suggest concentrating on 2 "must do" things (for you) each day, with a lot of time to just explore. Otherwise, all you will remember from your trip is rushing around to "be somewhere." Please re-work your itinerary and come back again. The great people on here can, and will, help you get the best experience.

Good luck.

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Old Aug 28th, 2008, 04:51 AM
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For the first time traveller to Paris, Rick Steves offers some great self-guided tours of both the city and many of its museums in his guide book to the city. He also offers some sample itineraries that I assure you are the most you can jam into a day or three days, and his are leisurely by comparison to your proposed one! He also has a handy one page 'daily reminder' giving which days of the week are closing days for which museums, opening hour information, etc.

I like your idea of some kind of leisurely walk your first day to introduce yourself to the city, (I assume the New Paris tour is the free one.) I'd suggest the 1 p.m one, as it takes longer than you think to get out of CDG, into town, drop bags, etc. And you might want at least a bowl of soup before hitting the streets for a 3.5 hour walking tour. I see it essentially goes from Notre Dame up to the Champs Elysees/P de la Concorde area and back, so it will cover some of the places you're interested in.

As an alternative in case you are not up to walking that day or it is pouring, you could check out the Eiffel tower. On the top level there are excellent panels that enable you to identify the various buildings you can see.

That said, that's all I'd suggest for the first day.

Second, try to pick only one museum per day. (Yes, I know given your interests that will be hard.) An exception might be Saint Chappelle since, given that it is small, you could pair with a second one.

Bon voyage!

Sue_xx_yy is offline  
Old Aug 28th, 2008, 04:52 AM
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auntcindy, You rock! If you are in tip top shape, you can do this. I think you've grouped things well geographically. Some specific thoughts:

Day 1: What time is your city tour? I don't know Ceramics museum. If it is large, you may need to choose between it and D'Orsay or run out of time (and energy!).

Day 2: Again, Pompidou and Louvre are large (well, huge) and you may need to decide which you want to see the most.

Day 3: I don't know Orangerie's hours but be prepared to rearrange or swing by there first to check out lines. St. Denis is fantasic but again, time may dictate that you choose between it and Montmarte/Sacre Coeur.

Day 4: Your time eaters might be Eiffel Tower, L. gardens and the 2 Palais. In November Eiffel lines probably won't be so bad but you might want to check that out first. The Palais' are big also.

I'd bring extra cab money so you can get to some of these places faster. If I remember correctly, St. Denis has awesome windows and we stayed a while, but it took an hour each way by metro (our hotel was in Montparnasse). Please please please report back about how this went.

I agree with adrienne-decide upon your top choices and go to those first.
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Old Aug 28th, 2008, 05:58 AM
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The Basilica St Denis is one of the most important and rewarding artistic and historic sights in France, let alone Paris, and therefore I strongly disagree with the advice to skip it. Also, it is not outside Paris. It is within the Metro system, and only a few steps from the metro. It all depends, I guess, from where you start, but it took me less than 20 minutes to get there. No need to take a cab.

I also suggest that you cut things to allow time to simply follow your nose for part of your trip, but comments stating that the "essence of Paris" or the "real allure" of Paris is "wandering around" are simply subjective. When I go back to Paris (I formerly lived there), I go for the art, as I did when I was a virgin, and I mainly go for the Louvre. When I want to enjoy Paris, I sit in a garden (not always possible due to weather) or a cafe.

You'll notice when you're there that Parisians are among the most purposeful walkers you've ever seen. And they spend much of their own free time in their own great museums.

I have seen plenty of Rick Steves's recommendations for travel and I'm sure you can live without using him as a guide for how much you can or can't do in Paris. Or even what interests you. I have never found what he finds interesting actually interesting.

If you are interested in a certain period of art history (and perhaps art photography) and Parisian history you might want to visit Montmartre. (I can never see a reason to visit Sacre Couer.) But if I had to choose between Montmartre and St Denis, I would most certainly pick St Denis.


If you've picked all these museums and art sites because guidebooks tell you they are the top attractions in Paris but you never visit art museums or seek out architecture in the US and at home , then by all means pick a different itinerary, and there are plenty of posters with minimal interest and knowledge of art to steer you toward something else in Paris.

Paris has a great metro system and museums that stay open at night. Be sure to double check opening and closing times.

Have a great trip.
zeppole is offline  
Old Aug 28th, 2008, 06:16 AM
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Musee de la Ceramique is in Sevres, not IN Paris. From cenral Paris you need a minimum of 45 minutes by metro plus some walking to go there (and it closes at 17h) : you may have to chose between this and the Orsay
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Old Aug 28th, 2008, 06:34 AM
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Remember that the daylight will end early in November. I would do the paris overview tour the 2nd 1 I would wander because if you are flying from the states you will feel like you are in a fog. Since you are near the Champs Elysees I would wander there and go to the arc and then maybe hop the metro or a cab and do the eiffel tower...all weather dependant of course. I would narrow your itinerary will go back to paris....enjoy and savor. Find 1 thing you really want to do and do that each day...Paris is about Paris and it will bewitch you if you take the time.
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Old Aug 28th, 2008, 07:52 AM
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If you've been anywhere in the mid-Atlantic area of the US or NYC or areas like that, you will have an idea what gardens in November are like. Being in central Paris, you can't miss some of the big ones, at least going by, so you can decide how much time you want to spend in them. Obviously, don't expect big floral displays.

I think you do have way too much planned. Day 2, I'd skip Belleville, for sure. Of course this depends on your interests, you can't even do what is on Friday as is, with or without Belleville, as you have two major museums in there, also (Louvre and Pompidou). For me, that day without Belleville and Pompidou and Louvre would be about right, but adding in the Louvre might make sense as it is near the islands (I presume you are the kind of person who stops in for an hour in these museums, from how many you have planned).

On Sat, I'd skip St Denis, also. Yes, I think it is a great historic cathedral, but does involve a trip and you have too many other things that I would put of higher priority for a first-timer. It is on the metro line so easy to reach, but is not actually in Paris, Saint-Denis is a city of it's own and a commune north of Paris. It's a suburb of Paris.
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Old Aug 28th, 2008, 11:24 AM
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Each one of your days has at least 2 days worth of content. You will need to do more research and cut off at least half of the places.

(Louve can take multiple days - but IMHO fewer than 3 hours or so is a waste. Similarly you need to leave at lest 2 hours at the Musee D'Orsay.) Also - you don;t seem to have allowed any time for:

getting from one place to another


sitting in a cute cafe with a glass of wine and just soaking up the atmosphere for an hour

exploring one of the cuter neighborhoods

And the day you arrive you will be totally jet lagged and probably not good for much besides a walk and looking at a neighborhood or one sight (Eiffel Tower perhaps?).
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Old Aug 28th, 2008, 11:53 AM
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Thanks everyone for your replies. My itinerary is indeed ambitious! You all make very good valid points & I will definitely rethink my itinerary. I usually do plan my trips as if it's the only time I will be there but I can see that I need to slow down so I can drink in the joie de vivre that Paris is!
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Old Aug 28th, 2008, 12:00 PM
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It scarcely matters that St Denis is not "in Paris" because it is on the Paris Metro system and no trouble at all to reach once you leave the station. Certainly closer than Sevres -- which I've never seen before on any Paris virgin's list -- but why not if that's one's interest?

It's fine to tell auntcindy that St Denis wasn't and would never be a priority for you, but she shouldn't be told it's too far to go when it isn't.

In general, I am repeatedly perplexed by the reactions on Fodor's when a poster expresses an interest in seeing a tremendous work of art or museum or site as part of their first trip to a city or Europe, and others deem that selection "not for a first-timer."

I can understand telling somebody "don't rent a car for your first visit to Paris" or "don't stay in high number arrondisements for your first visit to Paris" but I can't see telling somebody don't go to this or that museum or church. Someone who picks St Denis over other churches in Paris is hardly confused about what the important monuments are.

For all I know, auntcindy will come back and thank you all profusely for liberating her from the idea that she should gorge on art while she's in Paris, because deep down inside she wanted to spend several thousand dollars and 10 hours getting there to sit in a cute cafe in a cute neighborhood.

But these formulaic ideas about how to tour Paris or Italy or wherever are a crock.

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Old Aug 28th, 2008, 12:33 PM
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"she should gorge on art while she's in Paris"

"Your itinerary suggests an intense interest in art."

People who love and know art would hardly cram Musee D'Orsay at the end of the first day in Paris (or advise anyone to do so ).

Gorging on art (or anything else) can only make one feel slightly sick!
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Old Aug 28th, 2008, 01:21 PM
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If you are going to quote me, at least don't quote me out of context. I didn't say she "should gorge on art." But if she wants to, that's up to her. Gorging on art never made me sick in Paris. Try it sometime. You might like it.

And as I said in my very first post to auntcindy, D'Orsay would not be a priority of mine at all for the entire trip. Apparently you didn't read what I said.

But more importantly, I would never say that somebody who had it on their itinerary for their first day in Paris that they "didn't love art" and was trying to "cram it in."

How do you know that person's stamina or what they want to see in there? If I wanted to go to the D'Orsay to see the Courbets my first night in Paris, you make those kinds of judgments?

Can't take it seriously.

zeppole is offline  
Old Aug 28th, 2008, 01:26 PM
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Sorry, I meant to type: Can't take you seriously (as the sorter-out of who is and isn't an art lover).

"The dogma of balance is fine as far as it goes, but it doesn't apply to everyone. For those committed to greatness, for instance, it should be anathema. For those who passionately love their work, it's a lot of guilt-inducing folderol. And even for the rest of us, it is rhetoric that doesn't quite equal the reality, because the world would be a lot poorer without people willing to throw themselves heart and soul into whatever they're doing."

Or as Steven Millhauser wrote:

''For what is genius, I ask you, but the capacity to be obsessed?''

Do you have any idea how long the artists who painted those pictures that hang in the D'Orsay spent hanging out in the Louvre?
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Old Aug 28th, 2008, 02:21 PM
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Ummmm, shall we lighten up?

I stand by my first post, auntcindy. There are 10 kazillion worthwhile places in Paris.
Choose the ones that call out to you and try to "do" those first.

Everyone makes valid points but has his/her own point of view. Hub and I crammed a lot in on our first visit also. Enjoy and please please report back and we'll see how much humble pie we have to eat!

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Old Aug 28th, 2008, 02:23 PM
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I haven't read every word, so forgive me if I'm being repetitive, but with so much that you want to do, you should definitely invest in a museum pass so that you can skip all the long lines.

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