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First-time International Travelers to Paris

First-time International Travelers to Paris

Old Jun 5th, 2015, 02:01 PM
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For 7 days, just concentrate on Paris--and the things you can get to on the Paris Metro in the suburbs (such as Versaille). I disagree with people suggesting day trips to other countries by train. You would spend a lot of time getting back and forth and it isn't worth it.

I am off to Paris at the end of July for a week in connection with a home exchange in Spain which will follow my stay in Paris. I have been to Paris many times and have my list of things I want to see, but it is some of the less well known places. I can't tell you what to put on your list. You have to do that.

When you are there, as you know, it will be off season. That means cold and wet. If that happens, I would not waste time going up in the Eiffel Tower as who would want to do that on a rainy day. You might try Tour Montparnasse for an alternative--and you can SEE the Eiffel Tower from there.

You should make a list of what you want to see and prioritize them. You will not see everything on that list because exhausting will set in at one point with people shouting "enough". You could be in Paris for a month and not see everything. I won't do all of my list either. I will be staying with a friend, so we will be spending some time just chatting.

Paris is a great place to explore and have a wonderful trip!
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Old Jun 5th, 2015, 02:06 PM
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WE spent four months in Psris in 2012 and I blogged about a lot of it. You may find some of it helpful start with the post on my Tope Ten Paris recommendations....

Hope you have a great trip I agree a flat for a week is a logical choice.
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Old Jun 5th, 2015, 06:02 PM
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My daughter was doing her Junior year (of college) in Aix. I flew into Paris to meet her. I decided we should stay in the Latin Quarter (14th)because of all the "students" and young people there. Our hotel was on the Blvd. St. Michel.

This trip was during the last week of October and it rained every day. So cold and dreary that we had to go buy hats and were not as prepared for the cold and damp as we should have been. We actually spent Halloween night on the Champs d'Eliese. As Lauren_s_Kahn says the Eiffel Tower might be fogged or rained out which was our experience. We just went over the the l'Arch d'Triomphe just before sunset and after climbing to the top we had a very wonderful 360 degree view of Paris, including Montmatre and the Eiffel Tower flashing its lights every hour. Really worth the effort.

As I prepared for our trip, I kind of broke the city into sections, and found enough things to see and do in each section so we were not continuously cris-crossing town every day. We did a mix of museum, shopping and general sightseeing in each section each day. We did the Louvre at night, which has less people. Pay attention to when museums are open at night, it is less money and less people.

We also purchased "Cart Navigo Decouvert's" for one week. I think the name might have changed since 4 years ago. We purchased these at the train station at CDG airport before we left the airport. We took along from home our own very small head shots (almost smaller than a Passport size photo). The Carts require a photo. These carts actually saved our lives. We used them for every metro and every bus within most of the main arrondissments of Paris. We really felt like natives as we hopped on the bus or metro each time with our carts. The metros and buses are very easy to follow with well posted signs everywhere.

We had a "continental breakfast" with our hotel and since we were only 2 the cost of eating wasn't too bad. But do be prepared for high prices of all types of food. An apartment for the 4 of you might be better because you can eat in each morning, pack a "picnic lunch" to take along and then eat out at night. We did discover (or were told) that Pariseans do not eat or drink coffee while walking along the street. You would have to find a picnic bench in the park to eat your sack lunch.

Bon Chance et Bon Voyage!
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Old Jun 5th, 2015, 11:14 PM
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The crackdowns will continue throughout the year, for certain.

I wouldn't risk renting an apartment, but the suggestion of an apart'hotel is a good one. You don't have to worry about sending money to a perfect stranger, last-minute cancellations due to the crackdown (or any other reason), or any of the rest of that stuff if you book with an apart'hotel.

You'll still get to shop at markets, prepare your own meals, etc, and will be in interesting neighborhoods. You'll also have the support of the front desk staff - since this is your first trip to Paris, you will definitely need this.

If your budget allows, have a look at the CitadinesSaintGermaine, which is in an excellent location in the center of Paris:
Or, try the Helzear in Montparnasse, which is also an interesting neighborhood:
manouche is offline  
Old Jun 6th, 2015, 12:22 AM
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"Pariseans do not eat or drink coffee while walking along the street"

Civilised people don't
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Old Jun 6th, 2015, 02:33 AM
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I will again recommend the DK Eyewitness Guide to Paris because it very graphically gives information about sites in a given area and makes planning what to see quick and easy.
For museum planning I recommend the Michelin Green guide which describes various areas of the majors (Louvre, Orsay, etc.) so you can decide what wings to head for, etc.
PLEASE stay in Paris OR if you want to do a day trip, make the plans for it and leave it for the end of the week and then see if you "have time" or want to remain in Paris for what is still to be seen.
Take a taxi to your hotel or accommodation from the airport. Even with 6, if you go to the taxi queue, the master will find an appropriate size van. Have the address and maybe a little map to give to the driver.
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Old Jun 6th, 2015, 03:37 AM
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We have stayed in Citadines Bastille Marais which is on Boulevard Richard Lenoir and much cheaper than the one in Saint Germaine - it's near the market , metro , buses and close to the Marais
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Old Jun 6th, 2015, 04:51 AM
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<<I decided we should stay in the Latin Quarter (14th)because of all the "students" and young people there. Our hotel was on the Blvd. St. Michel. >>

That isn't the 14th arr., it is the 5th.
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Old Jun 6th, 2015, 05:30 AM
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After 15 trips to Paris, I am still a "taxi in" fan, too.
--Jetlag makes you vulnerable on the RER B to pickpockets who are depending on your excitement and fatigue.
--Shuttle services thrive on fears that four people will not fit into the taxi (just not true).
Dividing your costs by four, a taxi into Paris is relatively cheap per person.

<i>How you choose to get BACK to the airport is another matter</i>.

<b>Do make sure you get your taxi at the TAXI RANK, not inside via guys in suits that try to sweet-talk you into going with them</b>.

Also, I had voted early on this thread for staying in Paris for your ENTIRE 7 days and then doing day trips <b>IF you feel like it</b>.

I think you should feel like one for sure.

When people tell me they have three or four days in Paris and think they can fit in seeing Versailles easily, I always say, "Put that plan for your last day because you just might want to change your mind."

With seven days, I would put Versailles for sure on your list, and heck, you can put it in the middle of the week, especially since I also think you should get a <b>6-day Carte Musee (museum pass)</b>, for which it is included.

The price of this pass for six days is 69 Euros. That's 13 Euros a day to get into any open museum, for however long you want, even if it's JUST to use a restroom.

--For most things, you can skip lines.
--And you are allowed unlimited entry.

How does this work out to your advantage? With 6 days, you'll get your money back big time in entry fees, and then you can map out your days very creatively; e.g., the first time we spent a full week in Paris, we started EVERY single day at the Louvre. We stayed one to two hours, and then we would leave (Louvre-fatigue is a common Paris tourist tradition).

So you enter a museum, and YOU hate it. Or you are just totally tired and say, "I can't do this." LEAVE. It's your vacation--and you have the pass.

You <b>should NOT</b> buy the Carte Musee online ahead of time. Heck, you can now buy the thing at an airport http://en.parismuseumpass.com/rub-t-...m?cat=6&type=3

If you are students, do you and the brother need to buy the pass?

Well, if you and your brother knew you would always be with your parents, you may not have to buy the pass, because you can go through the available "speed lines" with your parents as long as you are UNDER 18 (the 26 and under rules only apply to EU students).

While I suspect most museums would let you slide, for for ultimate convenience, I'd actually recommend shelling out for four 6-day passes to give you four ultimate flexibility you'd enjoy.

The official website offers a lot of info: http://en.parismuseumpass.com/

So back to my point: for your seven-day stay, if a place like Versailles is one of your trip goals, I certainly would make it part of your overall museum pass list, and putting it mid-week would work.

Do download the brochure so you can see all that is included (there is a good map inside, btw):

Last weigh-in for now:
I like heights, but I have never really enjoyed visiting the top of the Eiffel Towers (and I've done so three or four times) AS MUCH AS I have enjoyed seeing it lit up from the ground or elsewhere. Plus entry is NOT included in the pass.

There are so many great viewpoints the tower, which actually do mean more to your pictures, from Trocadero, the Tour Montparnesse, Sacre Couer, Notre Dame, the Pantheon, the Centre Pompidou, to name a few, that end up being far more fun.

Luckily, at the time of year you guys will visit, you will not be pressed with all of humanity on the elevators, so you will certainly have more planning options. Heck, you might want to save that for your very last night, especially if it is clear.

So enjoy, enjoy.
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Old Jun 6th, 2015, 06:19 AM
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I haven't read through all of the other replies in detail so forgive me if I'm repeating previous recommendations.

We were in Paris for 12 days last summer (our family of 4, with daughters ages 11 and 14). We loved having that much time in the city because we didn't have to rush out every morning, nor did we feel rushed during the days. We were able to do sightseeing things (such as the museums, Eiffel Tower, etc, and also just leisurely walk around and enjoy the neighborhoods).
That being said, I think 7 days is a great amount of time to really soak up the feel of Paris, and you may not need any day trips.

We went to Versailles and it exceeded our expectations. We spent most of our time on the grounds and it was gorgeous in the summer (not sure what the grounds are like in Nov). Definitely worth it in my opinion. You can rent bikes there, rent row boats, etc.

We rented an apartment in the Marais (3rd arr) on Rue Charlot through Paris Deluxe Rentals and were very happy with the location and the apt. That area of the Marais is residential, which gives you the feel of being a "local" in Paris instead of a tourist. Paris Deluxe leaves a ton of information in the apartment and they are available by phone for any other questions.

One huge benefit of having an apartment is that you can make some of your own meals, which actually saves a lot of time. (Meals in Europe tend to be pretty leisurely.) For example, we could grab a quick breakfast in the apartment while we were getting ready to go out for the day. And one of our favorite things to do was to go to the markets and supermarket (Monoprix) to try different foods. Another benefit of the apartment is that there are 2 bathrooms.

Sounds like a wonderful trip - enjoy!
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Old Jun 6th, 2015, 06:36 AM
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There are several apps you should download to help you.
1. Paris Metro map
2. CityMaps2Go for Paris
3. A French-English dictionary
4. Rick Steves, esp. the audio walking tour of Versailles
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Old Jun 6th, 2015, 01:41 PM
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Wow, thank you everyone for the reply! I am reading every response, and they're so informative.

We are definitely going to visit Versailles. I've wanted to visit there since learning about the French Revolution, so now's the time! My parents also want to visit Normandy, and since they're paying for this trip I don't have much room to argue! LOL

Has anyone taken a day trip to Normandy, and if so, do you have any tips?

Even though it seems like I don't have much to say to each response, each piece of advice is very helpful! I definitely think something like the museum passes would be essential. Also, not knowing about the stability of an apartment makes me nervous, so an I'll definitely be looking into an ApartHotel further!

Again, thanks again for the informative replies!
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Old Jun 6th, 2015, 02:40 PM
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Keep in mind that to some of your questions, there IS no "right answer" - a lot of us have opinions that may not be the right answer for YOU. For example, I'd personally not do a day trip to Normandy, but clearly people do. If I were considering one, I'd start by googling. You'll probably find old threads about "normandy day trip" here and on other forums like Trip Advisor. No doubt you are hardly the first one to ask that question.

And remember: this will, let's hope, be your FIRST trip of many to Europe over the years. You don't have to see/do everything on your first trip. You can expect to return to Paris again in the future (especially if you love it). For me, each trip is a learning experience.
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Old Jun 6th, 2015, 03:18 PM
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Yes, we did a day trip to Normandy from Paris several years ago. We took a tour of the museum and beaches when we got there and also went to see the Bayeux Tapestry. Definitely do it.
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Old Jun 6th, 2015, 05:01 PM
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This is the transit pass mentioned above. Notes that it runs from 12:01 am Monday thruough Midnight Sunday. So if you arrive on Wenesday or Thursday, you won't get a full week as the pass isn't any 7 days, but specifically the time frame I mentioned.

You can either bring small head shots for pass or many metro stations have photo machines.

Also, you must add 5 euros to the 18.45 euros for the kit to make the pass; this is a one time charge, you can refill it - so keep it for future trips, you'll be back, trust me!

A better deal for the 4 of you is to buy a carnet of tickets, which is 10 tickets that can be shared. A single ticket costs 1.80 euros but if you buy the carnet [pronounced car NAY] it's 14.10 euros for the 10 tickets.
You do not take metro to Versaille, you need to take RER C which is a suburban train. You do not take metro.

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Old Jun 7th, 2015, 03:35 AM
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You'll find lots of Normany stuff on this site, just search Normandy in the top left hand corner.

However the bare bones include, you can hire a small tour from Paris that does you a long day trip along the coast with an expert. Not a bad way to go. You can catch the train and do the same from say Rouen. You could go and stay in say Bayeux (home of the tapestry and all to do with the invasion of 1066, rather than 1944) you can visit St Marie d'eglise with its war museum, you could visit Pegasus Bridge and the cafe there. You could even drop by Falaise (where the pocket was, probably the most decisive battle in the invasion. Useful to learn how important the Poles and Czechs were in what nominally a Western European/US/Canadian invasion.

If your parents are paying then you do need to give that element a real focus and time. I found with my father he needed time (and some space) just to read diaries at St Marie and to come to terms with what his cohort had done.
bilboburgler is offline  
Old Jun 7th, 2015, 07:01 AM
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I really think one needs at least 1.5 days to do Normandy. At least.

It's not the transit time.

We found ourselves wanting to soak up every single museum there--and we did. In addition, we feel that the Caen "Peace Museum" is a must. My sister and my parents, who were visiting a few years after us, thought we were crazy to insist upon it. But they did reluctantly include it, and they often said afterwards that it truly capped their experiences.

However, if you only want to do one day, I think biloburgler gave you the right info.
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Old Jun 7th, 2015, 07:14 AM
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The grounds in November at Versaulles will be barren. Not sure about Octiber. We went to Fontainbleu and loved it far, far more than Versailles and it has a lovely town as well. The crowds at Versailles at the end of November, when we went, were enormous and the disorganization was terrible.
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Old Jun 7th, 2015, 07:49 AM
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I know that this is the first of many trips to Europe and Paris for me, but I am not too sure of my parents. That's why I'm trying to include things they absolutely want to do, because this might be there first and last trip to France. If we have to skip Versailles, considering the time of year, I would be okay with that!

Again, thanks for the advice on Normandy! I'll search the forums for relevant topics when I get a chance.

Now, I do have a question on airfare. Obviously, I'm trying to find the cheapest. Unfortunately, we don't have miles due to our lack of traveling. My mom used to be a flight attendant back in the '80s and '90s - it's a shame those miles couldn't be carried over 20 years later! LOL But, all those frequent flyer programs and points are very confusing to me & I don't know how to decipher all of it! Would getting a travel agent be wise or should I just count on all the frequent travelers here? Planning the trip is exciting, but, frankly, I don't want to screw it up! Right now, I have a fare search open on Kayak & I set up a price alert. Do any of you here have any tips or pointers that could help me? Thanks for all the help!
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Old Jun 7th, 2015, 08:19 AM
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With airfares, I try to strike a balance of frugal and practical. I don't recall where you said you'd be starting out, but I would try to choose flights first based on the best connections to Europe you can get - that is, direct flights if possible, unless they are much more expensive than a simple connection. If no direct flights are available, then I'd choose a connection in Europe if possible instead of say connecting in the US. Weather delays at US airports could leave you stuck at a US airport and even delay your trip a day.

For me, for example, Delta is my preferred airline (to fly overseas, anyway) because they are the only airline that has direct flights to Europe from my home city. I still fly other airlines (sometimes I get award tickets, or sometimes one airline has an amazing sale) but default to Delta. Someone who lived in say Philadelphia might prefer American Airlines (formerly USAir) because they have a lot of direct flights to Europe from Philly.

I wouldn't get too hung up on frequent flyer programs, beyond signing up for them. But you'd be getting an account for each member of your family, and you can't combine miles...and they will expire anyway after probably 18 months unless you have account activity (you can earn miles without actually flying e.g. restaurant partner programs). I'd still prefer whatever airline has the most practical connections to Europe and at the best prices, within reason.

Some people buy their airline tickets many months in advance. I prefer to wait til a month or two before departure - but that's my personal preference. I hate to be locked into something in case something comes up and plans change, etc. (You can also reserve many lodgings in Europe with a refundable option. Some apartments may ask for a deposit in advance, but that's the kind of thing I'd normally avoid myself.)
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