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Does hiring a guide really make a difference in the enjoyment of a place ?

Does hiring a guide really make a difference in the enjoyment of a place ?

Old Feb 11th, 2007, 02:21 PM
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Does hiring a guide really make a difference in the enjoyment of a place ?

I am still undecided about hiring a guide for the Paris portion of my trip.This will be the first time to Paris for myself & my husband and we will have 8 days.

Being first timers, are we better off just wandering and exploring ourselves, or does hiring a guide really make that much of a difference?
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Old Feb 11th, 2007, 02:44 PM
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I think having a guide can make a tremendous difference as you have someone TELLING you the facts, particulars, etc., etc., about this or that building, neighborhood, etc.

BUT, once you have a guide then you have to stick with it throughout the period I would suspect. IOW, unless you are willing to pay the guide to take a break, linger here and there, and so forth, there's probably a "pace" that you have to keep up.

Perhaps this latter is a minor point.

Do you NEED a guide? No. Is it a really nice to have, especially if you like guided sightseeing? Absolutely.
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Old Feb 11th, 2007, 03:33 PM
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You might want to check out the AAA Spiral Guide - Paris. It contains several DiY walking tours that each take a day - plus street maps, Métro map, and miscellaneous travel preparation lore.

For a DiY bus tour, see here: http://tinyurl.com/ovpaw
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Old Feb 11th, 2007, 03:41 PM
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What I like about having a guide (and I should preface this by saying that I don't often use them) is the fact that you get memorable anecdotes about places that you wouldn't usually find in a guidebook, even if you do loads of research, as I am wont to do.

Of course, sometimes those anecdotes are actually major embellishments on the truth, or even totally fabricated (and I should know; I once trained as a guide to the cathedral at the Catholic University of America with a young man who used to stand thoughtfully and tell his group "there are over 3 million shades of mosaic in this ceiling!" to a chorus of oohs and ahs), but still, they make for sharper memories of a place for me sometimes, and sometimes a deeper understanding of context.

And if I am in a place where I don't speak the language at all or very little and the signage or handouts aren't in English, I am more inclined to use a guide to amplify whatever knowledge I've gained from my own readings.

But your question relates to enjoyment, and on that score I'd have to say no. I love exploring on my own, even if I'm not sure what I'm seeing (though I'll usually go back and try to find out what it was later), and everything about travel is enjoyable to me, even the hard parts and the mistakes. At least it's a lot more enjoyable than the same at home!
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Old Feb 11th, 2007, 03:50 PM
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Why don't you check out Paris Walks, a company that runs walking tours? The tours are inexpensive and really good; I took the Montmartre tour last May and was very impressed (and I'm hard to please when it comes to tours, in fact, I never take them). They have a varied schedule of all kinds of topics (the schedule is online at their website). Each tour runs about 1.5-2 hrs. Then you can take time to explore on your own AND have the fun of a tour if there's something specific you'd like to know more about. I do highly recommend the Montmartre tour; the guide (Iris) was first-rate and knew her stuff.

Personally I enjoy reading up in advance and doing things on my own (with the exception of said Montmartre tour--I succumbed to the siren call). But everyone has their own opinion about that!
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Old Feb 11th, 2007, 05:19 PM
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I find guides very much a mixed bag. We use them often for a 1/2 hour walking tour on a specific topic, which are generally good. And obviously most great houses/castles that you tour have docents either in the room or traveling with you.

But have been subject to "guides" on one or 2 day trips that didn;t even bother to read everything in the most basic guide books. they were either operating for the least common denominator - or simply didn;t know very much. And what they did provide was usually boring and/or pedantic.

(And this is from someone with a degree in history - who knows who easy it is to bring truly alive - but also to be deadly boring if you don;t care.)
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Old Feb 11th, 2007, 06:16 PM
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Consider Fat Tire Bike Tours. You can wait and sign up once you are in Paris.
Check the website.
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Old Feb 11th, 2007, 06:45 PM
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Guides are a mixed bunch. Good ones will give you such invaluable information about your locale. Bad ones will spoil your experiences completely.

With Paris, if you're uncomfortable with the French language, and prefer not to wander, then by all means, hire a guide. If you're willing to be adventurous with a map and a carte orange, know what you want to see and do, then by all means, go on your own.

Although I do like the idea of hiring a guide for half a day or so to get your bearings, and then going about Paris on your own (maybe even taking the train out to the country!).

I will tell you, I am not a person who likes being guided, although I have made a great friend with someone who did just that for us in Buenos Aires. Europe is very easy to navigate for the most part, and I'm very fond of DIY tours.

The other alternative I'd suggest is taking one of those hop-on/hop-off buses. Gives you the comfort of going alone, but the stength of numbers in other tourists and a drive-by guided tour of the city.
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Old Feb 11th, 2007, 07:50 PM
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I'm with StCirq on this one - rarely use them except when going solo might be difficult because of language or logistic issues. Last fall in Beijing it was marvelous to have a guide both for language and info on when to go to /avoid places. In Hong Kong I was fine on my own, mostly because of English signage and a well developed tolerance for unplanned side trips. Guides in East Africa were indispensable. A guide for the first visit to Prague was enjoyable, but not repeat visits.
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Old Feb 12th, 2007, 06:23 AM
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We feel that having a private guide or going on a commercial walking tour of a place, for a few hours, as early as we can, increases our understanding and enjoyment of the place. Then we go on our own, with guide books. That is what we did recently in Florence.
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Old Feb 12th, 2007, 10:30 AM
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Not for Paris specifically, but for travelling in general, we find that we like to do guided walking or biking tours that last a couple hours to a half day. We generally do a tour the first day or two in a city, which we find helps up get the lay of the land. Then we wander around by ourselves after that. We might take multiple, more specialized, tours over the course of a few days.
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Old Feb 13th, 2007, 03:40 AM
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After reading the replies here and on my other post about Versailles, I realise background knowledge can make a big difference to understanding the place you are visiting,and that is something I would very much like to try to do.

Now to decide between a private guide for a day, or a group walking tour etc..

Thankyou all so much

Karen
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Old Feb 13th, 2007, 05:22 AM
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It is not necessary to have a human guide get the idea of a place. Many sights offer audio guides that provide a useful overview. For a couple of bucks.

At Versailles, these are included in the packages called Forfaits Loisirs. But walking tours are available over the web, some free, some sold.

Some will argue that human guides offer more in the way of insight or background, but a) most don't, and b) audio guides are cheap or free. Humans aren't.
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Old Feb 13th, 2007, 05:30 AM
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I have yet to see an audioguide or any other thing like it that I wanted to go to bed with much less that could actually answer an off-the-wall question.
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Old Feb 13th, 2007, 05:58 AM
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Just be clear that getting off-the-wall questions answered has a price. As does going to bed with some random waif.
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Old Feb 13th, 2007, 12:32 PM
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Robespierre- thanks,I hadn't thought of audio guides.I'll look into that too. I don't understand technology, but could my husband download a tour/guide/commentary etc..to his ipod
or phone and use that to wander around with ?

Dukey-I'm pretty sure I won't be taking any guides to bed, audio or otherwise, but thanks for the laugh.

I can always research both options and decide when I get there.
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Old Feb 13th, 2007, 12:41 PM
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This is the Europe forum, not the Africa forum. You need a map, not a guide.
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Old Feb 13th, 2007, 01:21 PM
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We've always enjoyed hiring private guides for many cities. DH is SUCH history buff, he LOVES to spend time with someone knowledgeable and we've had some of the greatest guides throughout Europe and Asia.

I love the guides as they allow me to cover alot of ground I would otherwise not be able to do as efficiently for a first time visit. Subsequent visits, it is not necessary.

We love exploration on our own too, just a good start with a a good guide has proven invaluable to us.

And the guides have become good e mail pals over the years for us!

Eons ago in Paris we did have a guide and it was great. I've been to Paris too many times now to count, I can find my way around quite easily, but there is always something new happening and then I just call one of my Parisian friends and ask them about it.

You have 8 days, a wonderful amount of time. I'd suggest at least an overview tour, do it walking and then decide if you want more.
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