first time in Europe

Old Sep 18th, 2000, 01:46 PM
Kathy Anderson
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first time in Europe

My husband is planning a trip for the two of us to Europe next summer. Neither of us has been abroad, and my main interests are Paris and London.

Is it advisable for novices to travel these cities alone, or is it best to take a guided tour -- even if that tour takes us to places we have less of an interest in?

Please advise!
Thank you!
K and M
Old Sep 18th, 2000, 02:06 PM
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Kathy, congrats! You will have a wonderful time. Now regarding a tour vs. do-it yourself. I think you will find that this board is home to a lot of do-it yourselfers. There are pros and cons to tours vs on your own. Off the top, both Paris and London are extremely tourist friendly, there is a ton of up-to-date information out there for you in guide books and on the Internet. If you do decide to go by yourself, you can see what you want to see when you want to see it, stay in a hotel that excites you because it was chosen BY you to match your criteria, (centrally located, romantic, inexpenseive, do you like Art Nouveau? Modernist? Pick a place that YOU want). You don't have to get up at 8 am everyday to march to the sights with a bus load of other people who might even be from your home town. You can sleep in until noon, if the mood strikes you and spend the afternoon at a cafe in Paris or at the national Portrait gallery in London. Plus when you travel solo you can involve yourself into the local culture, meet people who actually live IN Paris or London. Also if you see a little restaurant out of the way you can go in and be the only Americans there, sample the cuisine I have heard that tours tend to serve a lot of huge group meals so your menue choices may be limited. That said, if you travel solo you will have to figure out different money, book your own rooms, arrange your own transportation etc. etc. it's all a bit of work. When you get off the plane at Heathrow there will not be a tour guide waiting for you with a sign that has your name on it, telling you where to go next. You will land and have to get to your hotel all by yourself. To my mind the BEST way to do it is to arrange your own trip, do lots of research, then take day tours of each of the cities you will be in (plenty are recommended on this message board). You don't need to know French for Paris either, just learn Please and thank you, hello and goodbye and you will be amazed at how people treat you!You have a year to plan and you are starting at just the right time. Have a great trip.
Old Sep 18th, 2000, 02:12 PM
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London is VERY easy for novices to do alone and a great starting point for foreign travel since at least the language is (mostly) familiar. Take it from me. I went to London for the first time by myself at age 22 and found it quite easy & fun.

With regard to Paris, it depends. Do either of you speak any French? Even if you don't, it's a fairly easy city to do on your own, provided you're willing to invest a little time in learning a few basic phrases to be polite and are willing to read maps, etc.

Both cities have excellent public transport that is very easy to learn your way around and use.

I say try to do them yourself, unless you are both extremely timid travellers who speak no French and aren't interested in learning any, who have trouble adjusting to situations that are different than you may have anticipated. Assuming you do NOT fall into the above category (most don't; unfortunately some do), then I say try it on your own and have a ball.
Old Sep 18th, 2000, 02:18 PM
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This subject has been hashed over and over on this Forum!! Most everyone here is an independent traveler, hardly anyone will recommend a tour, including myself. London and Paris are probably the two most talked about cities on this Forum and both are extremely simple to "do yourself". You can, if you are a tiny bit reluctant to handle all the details yourself, book a "hosted" type tour through any of the major airlines. With that arrangement you get your air, hotel and a 1/2 day sightseeing tour of the city. Usually transportation to and from the airport is included. That may work for you if you do not feel you can handle the whole thing yourself .. but honestly, you are missing a lot of fun that way! Part of the fun of a trip is choosing hotels, planning day trips, etc. etc. for yourself. A full guided tour is a lot of up early, on the bus, and dinner at the hotel kind of thing, they frequently take you to places (shops) where they get a piece of the action so to speak too. You can easily arrange any trip from London or Paris alone, both cities are easy to navigate.
You can take a day trip (via tour company such as EvansEvans in London or Parisvision or Cityrama in Paris) to Windsor, Versailles, and umpteen other places if you want, but you can also get to those places yourself very easily and not be kept to a tour schedule. Everyone on this Forum is very helpful and will take the time to answer your specific questions should you decide to go it alone! There is a ton of info on the web as well. Since you are in the initial planning stages now prioritize what you want to see (both of you!) and just start doing some research and asking questions. Borrow some books from the library as well for the planning. There is so much to see/do in each of these cities you cannot help but have a great time. We've been many times and there are still "new" things to see each time .. altho now we tend to avoid the big tourist attractions having done them. If you are interested in seeing any shows while in London Ticketmaster UK's web site is great for ordering on-line. We've done that the last couple of trips over and have had great seats (but then I do plan far in advance!).
Good luck planning and ask any of us for help!
Old Sep 18th, 2000, 02:22 PM
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Almost forgot - you do not have to speak French to have a great time in Paris, nearly everyone in the "tourist industry" these days speaks English. We do speak French but honestly it is no problem to only speak English in Paris anymore. Everyone is giving you great advice so far.

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