First-timers in paris

Aug 25th, 2003, 01:34 PM
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First-timers in paris

My boyfriend and I are planning a trip to paris for new years. Basically, we will be there during the end of december and the first of january for about 8 days. We have used a travel agency to find our flights and hotel, but we're not sure we want to book a whole tourist package. I'm just wondering how easy it would be to just wing it for 8 days, or would we be better off with an actual itinerary? I think we could just plan things once we arrive. Then again, I've never been there, so I could be getting in over my head. Any advice?
katie660 is offline  
Aug 25th, 2003, 01:46 PM
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Hi katie,

I would wing it. But, that's what I've always done. You'll have to do some reading and planning what to see and check which days/hours museums and sights are open. 8 days is a wonderful amount of time for your first trip. It gives you enough time to sightsee as well as leisurely walk around the city, shopping or eating fabulous pasties.

For tourist-type guides in Paris you can take a hop on hop off bus, use the services of a private guide, take the guided tours or audios offered in museums, or take walking tours.

There's lots of information on this site to get you started. Do a search on Paris and do some reading and then ask questions when you're more familiar with what you want to see and do.

By the way, check a map to see where your travel agent has booked your hotel. Some agents claim that a hotel is center city when it is not.

Have a wonderful time, adrienne
adrienne is offline  
Aug 25th, 2003, 01:50 PM
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Thanks Adrienne! The hotel is Trinite Plaza. It's located in the 9th district, which I was told is a pretty good location and not a bad hotel for people on a budget.
katie660 is offline  
Aug 25th, 2003, 01:55 PM
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I'd just buy a guidebook specific to Paris and look at it ahead of time to see what you want to do. We've been there a couple of times and never had reservations other than for our hotel ahead of time so I wouldn't worry about that. If you decide to do a daytrip or guided tour somewhere, your hotel will have information.
swalter518 is offline  
Aug 25th, 2003, 01:56 PM
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When I plan trips to Europe, I like to "wing it" from an itinerary. I make plans to have at least my "must sees" in some sort of schedule, along with some "possible sees" that aren't quite as important.

I find this route keeps me from missing some of those things that I really want to see and do. I try to get to the "must sees" each day and don't worry if I get side-tracked and don't get to the other items on my list.

Just another option for you, Katie. Happy planning!

Statia is offline  
Aug 25th, 2003, 01:57 PM
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There is a lot of info right here in the forum... in the search box, type in 'desiree' and highlight France, then click 'Find'. It should bring up a thread w/ 119 comments about " 100 Favorite things to do in Paris".
You can view info about your hotel here:
If you are interested in the grand museums, ie. Louvre or Musee d'Orsay, make sure you plan around their closing days (either Mon or Tuesday).
Be prepared for cold, possibly damp, weather. You are near a Metro stop, and this is a great way to navigate; many sights are within walking distance of each other, although not so much from your hotel location. Just try to "group" your activities so you can take the metro to the first place, then walk to the subsequent places, and avoid crisscrossing the city too many times.
Most of all, be sure to relax, people-watch, stop in the stores, maybe go to a concert - just enjoy!
Travelnut is offline  
Aug 25th, 2003, 01:58 PM
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First, don't wing it. You will just end up spinning your wheels and miss a lot of the best Paris has to offer.

Secondly, get two or three good guide books and plan your own trip. Tailor the visit to your interests.

I have been to Paris 4 times. The first time, I arrived totally unprepred at the end of a 7 week European Odyssey.
I was clueless as to what to see and ended up wasting a lot of time.

The next 3 times, I planned what I wanted to see. I never have gotten to the bottom of the list because I keep adding to it.

Third, don't over plan. Even in winter, Paris has a way of unfolding as you go. In a way, there is no place like it for street scenes.

Fourth, if you like music, you definitely need to plan and acquire tickets by consulting various schedules. The good people who contribute to this board can and will happily tell you where to look.

Fifth, with 8 days there, you will have time to take a great day trip if you desire. Versailles is the league leader, but some people don't like it because of its opulence and the crowds.
Other trips like Chartre, Rouen, Fontainebleau.

You should gets lots of advice here on what to see. The people who go to Paris and contribute here know their stuff and can discuss with great insight and knowledge many many aspects of a trip to Paris.

I find that if I don't plan and know what I am wanting to see, I don't get nearly as much out of it. Paris is the king of them all when it comes to variety. You can see a lot and do a lot. Just be prepared.
bob_brown is offline  
Aug 25th, 2003, 02:48 PM
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Hi Katie,

After reading Bob's comment above about winging it I though I'd clarify my definition of "winging it." I don't mean don't have an itinerary. I was responding to your question of a "tourist package" or "winging it" with winging it defined as your personal itinerary without constraints of a group.

Definitely plan what you'd like to do, otherwise you will end up wandering around helplessly and aimlessly. I have an itinerary from my recent 12-day Paris trip - email me if you'd like to see it. Of course, we didn't strictly adhere to the plan but it helped with what to do each day. Some things we never got to but we did other things instead.
adrienne is offline  
Aug 25th, 2003, 03:00 PM
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You hotel is not in a "bad" area but is close to some areas you would not want to be around at night. Hopefully you got a great deal...this hotel is listed on all the discount hotel sites: "70% off" etc. In a more positive vein, you are three blocks from the 12 Metro line which will take you to Place Concord and the left bank without transfering. I suggest spending a few dollars more to stay in an area more like the Paris you are probably envisioning. Good luck!
oakglen is offline  
Aug 25th, 2003, 03:10 PM
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Don't over plan, but also don't underplan. Its also a good idea to group attractions together so you reduce travel time and don't race back and forth across town all day. As far as scheduling, prioritze what you want to see and do and hit them first. Get a good map now and figure out how to get to where you need to go ahead of time and not on the steps of the Metro.
Aug 25th, 2003, 03:20 PM
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Just a few things.

If you want to see a lot of musems, you might want to purchase a museum card. You can get them for one, three or five days. You then get in free to a lot of the museums and, more importantly, skip any long lines (like Musee D'Orsay for instance). You can buy them at most major metro stops.

I was in Paris for about seven days in late December a couple of years ago. Since I'm from California and we get cold when temperatures dip below 70, I brought some long underwear that helped on the coldest evenings.

Know the places where you want to go, but like Bob Brown before stated, don't overplan. Paris has a way of leading you to some great places and events you never dreamed you'd see.

Have fun and drink plenty of vin rouge.

maitaitom is offline  
Aug 25th, 2003, 03:33 PM
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Katie, everyone has said really useful things to you. I'll add two of my own. Check in here on the Europe forum at least weekly. Everyone loves Paris and it gets talked about every day! You'll pick up quite a bit just by listening in on the conversations, as it were. Also, using the text search box, type in "paris trip report" or other variations on that theme, so you can peruse the fantastic reports. Read bookchick's--hers is a joy to read!

Next, use the internet. Again, using variation on a theme. You can type in "paris travel photos" or "paris walking tours" or "paris museums" etc. etc. You'll be amazed at the interesting things you will pull up just by doing that! You'll find things by accident that might turn out to be little gold nuggets of info.

One last thing: Paris is romantic and wonderful and you and your boyfriend are in for a treat.
Aug 25th, 2003, 05:00 PM
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Good info so far! May I recommend that on your first day you do a bus tour. I find that this gives you a good overview of the city, which you can then follow up by visiting the places that interest you (e.g. like to see eiffel tower but not go up it...bus tour gives you that.) Also, an evening Seine boat cruise would be a nice way to finish a day.

As the others have said, plan...but don't be ruled by a plan. You might do something like...morning at the Orsay, afternoon walking back to Ile Notre Dame. One of the pleasures of Paris is just stopping at a cafe for a nice cafe creme and pain au chocolat...then watching the world go by.

A good map is the Michelin Blue book. Not only does it show streets, but also buildings of interest, metro stops,etc...

I have also found that sometimes I want to go beyond a guide book and have someone show me around and explain the why and wherefore...that is, take a tour! Last january I took a couple of Paris Walks tours and found them to be very good. Given in English. They take you places not in the guide books, and tell interesting stories:

Hope this helps.

Michel_Paris is offline  
Aug 25th, 2003, 05:25 PM
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I chose the Trinite Plaza through some choices that a travel agency gave me. I'm trying to keep w/in a budget, but I would still like something nice and in at least a fairly good location. Does anyone have any suggestions about hotels for the budget-minded?
katie660 is offline  
Aug 25th, 2003, 05:33 PM
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Hi Katie,

How much are you paying for the hotel and how much would you like to pay? There are lots of budget hotels in Paris. Also, the Trinite is a 3 star. Is that what you're looking for?
adrienne is offline  
Aug 25th, 2003, 05:50 PM
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Well, the Trinite Plaza is about $105/night, but a previous message suggested I could do better. I am also looking at the Relais de Paris Gare de Lyon, which is actually a little cheaper. It's only a 2 star, but it claims to be in a good location. The same for Relais de Paris Gare du Nord. There's also the Relais de Paris Cambronne near the Eiffel Tower that's cheaper also. I'm begininng to think that I could actually do better than my travel agent. It's just really getting overwhelming! I would just like something nice, in a decent location, and not more than about $110/night. Is that too much to ask?
katie660 is offline  
Aug 25th, 2003, 06:13 PM
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Another question: Has anyone booked hotels thru the website If so, do you have to pay for the hotel right away, or are is it simply reserving the room?
You guys have been such a great help! Thanks a bunch!
katie660 is offline  
Aug 25th, 2003, 06:34 PM
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Hi Katie,

I'm sorry you're overwhelmed. Travel planning can get that way at times. I wouldn't do anything about your hotel for a couple of days. Why don't you think about it. When I went on a web site to get rates I came up with $120 per night for the Trinite so your travel agent did get you a discount.

I usually like to stay in the 5th or 6th arrondisement but that's just my opinion. I feel comfortable there and it's near things I want to do.

One hotel that has been recommended on this board that is less expensive than $110 is Grand Hotel Jeanne d'Arc in the Marais. It a great location and very safe. I stopped by during my last trip and took a look and thought it was quite charming. The staff was friendly. A double room is 78E including tax ($90). The Marais is an area I hadn't explored very much until this last trip and I liked it a lot and kept going back to it.

They have a web site which I was going to paste here but it's very long and will mess up this post. Go to and do a search. Also so a search on this board and see what others have said about it.

The best thing to do is figure out what you want to see in Paris and then you'll know if your hotel is too far away from they things you want to do.

I just took a look at my Paris map to see the location of your hotel. It's not exactly in the thick of things and you'd probably want to be a bit closer to the river and more accessible to the sights so you're not so dependant on the metro, busses, or cabs. I think you should look for a better location - try the Jeanne d'Arc.

Let us know how you make out.


adrienne is offline  
Aug 25th, 2003, 07:16 PM
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You could easily get a budget hotel on your own, probably for that rate, if you do some research, but I know you can spend a lot of time doing that. There are budget hotels on or or, for a few good sites. Do be aware that the period you chose is high hotel season, though.

That hotel is discounted on a lot of web sites and in a lot of packages, but I know the Trinite Plaza area and it's fine, I like it a lot. The church there and plaza are quite nice and there are lots of good shops around there (food, cafes, etc). It is not a bad or dangerous area. However, a lot of firsttimers might want to be a little closer to the Seine, maybe more so in cold weather.

I'm reading between the lines, but if you are under 30 and just want to wing it and wander around, I suspect you might like it in the Latin Quarter near the Seine or the Pantheon. There are lots of budget hotels in that area and there is a big advantage that in January, you won't have to worry about street noise as much because you'll have your windows closed.

I don't think you need a day by day itinerary. Just get a guidebook and have some idea of a few of the major things you want to see so you don't miss them.
Christina is offline  
Aug 25th, 2003, 07:20 PM
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oh, BTW, if all those hotels you are naming (Relais de Paris ....) I think the Trinite Plaza might be one of the best choices of that bunch. I would not prefer the one at Gare du Nord at all, and probably not Gare de Lyon. The one near Cambronne might be okay. None of these are really much more central, though, so there's not a lot to gain.

If you have time to look, check out some of those web sites above for the 5th arr., such as Hotel Parc Saint-Severin, HOtel Cujas Pantheon, Hotel College de France, etc.
Christina is offline  

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