First Trip to Europe (Paris and Rome)

Jul 29th, 2011, 10:06 AM
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Join Date: Jul 2011
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First Trip to Europe (Paris and Rome)

Hi All!

This is my first time here and after lurking/reading, thought I'd throw a few questions out there for expereinced European travelers.

My boyfriend and I are planning our first trip to Europe next May for 14 days. We would like to fly into Paris for 3 nights/4 days then fly to Rome for the remainder of the trip, as Italy holds a deeper interest for both of us.

1. Would it be more cost efficent to fly out of JFK (or a more northeastern airport) than Atlanta?
2. Any advice regarding airlines? i.e. certain routes to avoid, etc.
3. Best transportation from CDG to arrondissment 4? (I apologize if I just butchered the grammar)
4. Any "can't miss" spots in Paris besides the usual tourist attractions?
5. Recommendations for a good happy hour away from the tourists?
6. What is the most efficent way to get from Paris to Rome?
7. Any "can't miss" spots in Rome besides the usual tourist attractions?
8. Suggestions for keeping food/drink costs down.

I thank everyone in advance for their suggestions!!!!
Sfulton is offline  
Jul 29th, 2011, 10:21 AM
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Welcome to Fodor's.

Please tell us a bit about your interests . . . love/hate shopping, museums, hiking, music, fine dining? My "can't miss" may not be appropriate for you.

You can begin to get an idea now about the airlines that might work best for you by looing for sample itineraries. Booking sights may not show next May yet, but you can probably get a good idea of flights if you try dates for late September since it is considered a similar "season." is a good sight that will show choices across the airlines. You can also use the multicity option to try the three-flight itinerary Atlanta to Paris to Rome to Atlanta.
ellenem is offline  
Jul 29th, 2011, 10:26 AM
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Thanks for the airline suggestions...

Both of us are huge history nuts. We also love very low-key pubs with quiet music. Architecture is also very interesting to us.
Sfulton is offline  
Jul 29th, 2011, 10:48 AM
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On the airline question, ellenem gave you good suggestions. Just keep looking, using sites like and the airlines' own websites. From where we live, in the middle of the country, there's one airline that has a direct flight to their European hub. We prefer that, because we can then take an evening flight (after work), fly all night with no stops, then connect in Europe to our final destination. We almost always choose that, if if it's not the cheapest option.

Can't miss spots in Paris. It's so stupid, I'm drawing a blank. Other than wandering the streets and sitting at cafes, our favorite thing about Paris is all the museums, which I would classify as tourist destinations. Depending on your interests in art, you may want to visit a few of the smaller museums, such as the Marmatton, Andre-Jacquemart, Orangerie. In terms of history, find books (from your local library, to save costs) or audio tours that provide walking tours of the older parts of Paris. I have two books that may be more detail than most sane people would want, called "Around and About Paris," the first book is Arr. 1-7, the second is Arr. 8-14. They will provide a lot of info on the architecture, as well.

My best "happy hour" in Paris is sitting at a cafe having wine and people-watching. Doesn't really matter where, as long as it's a spot with lots of people passing by. For a better wine selection, l'Ecluse has several locations throughout Paris. And it's always kind of puzzled me: the 6th Arr. (St. Germain area) is spoken of as being very touristy. But every time we've sat at a cafe there, the other people at the tables have been primarily French (though they could be French tourists). I don't know where all the English-speaking tourists are, but they don't seem to be sitting at cafes in the 6th!

Paris to Rome, most efficient, fly.

In Rome, also, there are hundreds and hundreds of historically-significant places to visit. I've found the Blue Guide provides the kind of (excessive) detail that I like. Each time we visit Rome, the signage on the ancient ruins that seem to be found on almost every street seems to be better, so you actually understand what you're looking at! Get the most detailed guide book you can find (local library), and start a list of which sites appeal to you. Some of my favorite, not so high on many people's lists (but definitely found in any guide book) are San Clemente (church built on top of an older church, which is built on a Mithraic temple and a Roman home); Saint Cecilia's (beautiful sculpture); any church that houses a Michelangelo sculpture or a Caravaggio painting; the National Museum of Rome (Palazzo Massimo), for its mosaics; the National Gallery of Art (Palazzo Barberini), for its Raphaels.
Lexma90 is online now  
Jul 29th, 2011, 11:02 AM
Join Date: Mar 2007
Posts: 212
That sounds like a great plan for your first trip to Europe!

1. Use to search airfare. It is a great site that will give you lots of options to limit stops, length of layover etc. I also like if your dates aren't set in stone yet. ITA allows month long searches and show you the cheapest airfare available each day. So you might be able to save a few hundred dollars by flying on a Monday vs. a Sunday or vice versa.

Atlanta is Delta's largest hub, so Europe is well served out of Atlanta. Each airline has a hub in which many of their European flights originate from. US Air uses PHL, Continental uses EWR etc.. And then many airlines use JFK as a jumping off point for Europe. If you are Atlanta based, I think you will find flying out of ATL to be the best option.

2. Just my personal opinion is to avoid US Air. I think their domestic service is pretty dreadful, the thought of a long transatlantic makes me shudder. Alitalia has a reputation for poor luggage handling and uncaring customer service. Alitalia does code share with Delta, so just be aware if it's "Operated by Alitalia."

If you're flying out of Atlanta, Delta flies direct to both CDG & FCO. If a direct is within a couple hundred dollars over a flight with a connection I would say that is worthwhile. Anytime you connect you increase the risk of lost luggage, or if your initial flight is delayed, you could miss your connection. Not to mention JFK is not the most flyer friendly airport to connect through.

6. For the distance Paris to Rome, I think flying will be the most efficient and inexpensive. Use to search flights on Europe's low cost carriers. Vueling, Easyjet, Ryanair etc.. Before you book, read the charges and fees page very carefully. Luggage charges can add up to hundreds of dollars. I personally avoid Ryanair as I think their policies and fees are deceitful and extortionist, but that's just my opinion! They also fly in and out of out of the way airports, so that increases transportation costs.

8. For Paris, street food is fantastic, plentiful and cheap! Stop in a bakery for breakfast, snack on street food during the day, crepes, sandwiches, hot dogs in baguettes. Then for dinner find an inexpensive place to put your feet up with some house wine. The St. Germain area has tons of inexpensive eateries.
aimeekm is offline  
Jul 29th, 2011, 11:09 AM
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Oh ... and when searching for flights, use the "Multi-City" option. That is how you get open jaw flights to price as a round trip, not 2 one ways.

So it would be:

aimeekm is offline  
Jul 29th, 2011, 11:18 AM
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One more thing, which ever airline you choose, be sure to sign up for their frequent flyer program. Round Trip from the east coast to Europe is about 10,000 miles. After 3 European trips you will have enough miles for a free domestic ticket. If you only travel for leisure your miles will accumulate slowly, but it's free to sign up and collect miles, so it's worthwhile!
aimeekm is offline  
Jul 29th, 2011, 11:40 AM
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The fare is market based and dynamically set depending on the market demand. Use the booking sites mentioned previously to actually compute the prices of different routing rather than relying on a rule of thumb and look at one routing only.

The multi-city option works well for two segment trips: US-Paris, Rome-US. For three segment trips, I found fares to skyrocket if I spend more than >24hrs between flights at more than one time. Some cities, the only way to control the price hike is to accept only what the booking sites offer as a "layover." A budget airline to do the Paris-Rome would probably be more attractive - provided you understand what you ACTUALLY end up paying.

I have additional thoughts on trans-Atlantic flights. Having flown during the Eyjafjallajökull eruption last year, I am little bit inclined to take a route that stays away from Iceland on the south side if everything else stays the same. I would not trade a non-stop flight for this reason, however. Also I try to avoid layover in the SE during the storm season. Early May is usually not a problem
greg is offline  
Jul 29th, 2011, 11:44 AM
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Another question... is the 4 arrondissment a recommended place for first time vistors to Paris?

Thank you everyone for such detailed and helpful advice!
Sfulton is offline  
Jul 29th, 2011, 12:23 PM
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Fly Easy Jet from Paris Orly to Rome.
kybourbon is online now  
Jul 29th, 2011, 01:53 PM
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So much to think about.....not-the-usual-tourist places....

OK, here is the really short version (These are obviously still tourist places...just not the most-visited):


St-Denis Basilica - just a metro ride to one of the birthplaces of Gothic style, and the burial place of many French monarchs all the way back to Charles Martel and Clovis I. My wife and I actually like this better than Notre Dame.

Carnavalet Museum - in the Marais - super-cool museum covering the history of Paris - and free!


Santa Prassede - 8th century church less than 100 m. from the more well-known Santa Maria Maggiore. Contains the best mosaics in Rome, and perhaps in the west.

Day trip to Ostia Antica - A 30-minute train ride from the Porta San Paolo train station (southern part of the city) to probably the best-excavated city outside of Pompeii.

ssander is offline  
Jul 29th, 2011, 01:58 PM
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We recently completed our second European trip, San Francisco to Venice, then Rome to Paris via Air France. I studied for various flight options and soon figured out the consistent flight times of each airline. Air France gave me the best price for the multi-city options and times I wanted. In fact, because I had been watching the depressingly high ticket prices, I was able to pounce on an AF offering for multi-city that was cheaper than a RT to Paris only! Flying on Easyjet or RyanAir was not less expensive in this case. To me, it is important to fly non-stop. And was great for helping me sort all this out.
Good luck and have fun planning!
elnap29 is offline  
Jul 29th, 2011, 02:06 PM
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Do the passages in Paris, which will take you somewhat away from the usual tourist spots.

For some unusual architecture in Rome, go to the piazza Mincio:
Michael is offline  
Jul 29th, 2011, 02:10 PM
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1. You just need to do a little initial research. Go to a website like Expedia and just put in both for your dates of travel to get a general idea what's available. I am guessing the cost savings would not be significant for the trouble of going to NYC is you live in Atlanta.

2. I prefer European carriers over US ones. The still give you food and drink! Not 'routes to avoid' really but I try to get as few stopovers as possible and take care about allowing sufficient connecting times if you do have to change planes.

3. Same as any city in Paris you can take a taxi in from the airport. Or use public transporation which takes more time and effort but saves money.

6. Most efficient is to fly. The other choice would be train.

8. Shop at the grocery store, and local bakeries, etc. Learn the way around the neighborhood you are staying in. Have a lot of picnics. Try the 'street food'. Don't drink soda pop, it's expensive. Keep a bottle of wine in your hotel room (so you aren't always paying restaurant prices). Try eating your larger hot meal at lunchtime when the menus are typicall less expensive.
suze is offline  
Jul 29th, 2011, 02:12 PM
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The 4th arrondisement is the Marais. Some people prefer that location. We've always stayed in the 6th, St. Germain, which we generally prefer. It's quite central to many places, including ile de la cite, Notre Dame, Sainte Chappelle, Musee d'Orsay, the Louvre. It's also lively throughout the day and in the evening/night, and close to the Latin Quarter (5th Arr.), which is even livelier at night (and too noisy for my tastes).
Lexma90 is online now  
Jul 29th, 2011, 02:31 PM
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Since you are interested in architecture and you have plenty of time to plan your trip, I highly recommend you watch the 23 lectures in this free on line course about ancient Roman architecture from Yale:

It reviews many interesting sites that you might not find otherwise and gives a wonderful background for understanding what you are going to see.
Nikki is offline  
Jul 29th, 2011, 03:36 PM
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"1. Would it be more cost efficent to fly out of JFK (or a more northeastern airport) than Atlanta?"

Even if you did save a few dollars, I would NOT recommend this. Atlanta is a major hub, there is no reason to add another layover.

"2. Any advice regarding airlines? i.e. certain routes to avoid, etc."

Look at prices first, it depends on how much the cost savings differ, the flight times, whether it's non-stop, etc. There's no simple answer.

"3. Best transportation from CDG to arrondissment 4?"

It depends. If you only have one small bag each, the RER commuter train is quickest and cheapest. Other options depend on your priorities - Again, no simple answer.

"4. Any 'can't miss' spots in Paris besides the usual tourist attractions?

Thousands - and you'll miss most of them (THIS trip - you'll make it up over the next 40-50 years of returning to Paris).

"5. Recommendations for a good happy hour away from the tourists?"

I'm past the happy hour stage of my life. Here's a start to get your own ideas:

"6. What is the most efficent way to get from Paris to Rome?"

Fly - preferably on a budget airline. It's quickest and cheapest.

"7. Any "can't miss" spots in Rome besides the usual tourist attractions?"

There are more than enough "usual" tourist attractions in Rome to keep you busy for a month. Not sure you need more.

"8. Suggestions for keeping food/drink costs down."

Stay in apartments - NOT hotels.

Here are two agencies that get the most press on Fodor's - there are hundreds of others.

...and a general info site with many reviews of different vacation apartment agencies and different apartments. Spend some serious time poking through it:
bardo1 is offline  
Jul 29th, 2011, 04:12 PM
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I live in Atlanta and always fly Delta into CDG; have flown both Air France and Delta home. I don't want to make connections (more chance for delays/problems), so I wouldn't connect through JFK.

We always went to the local bar/cafe near our hotel. Mostly locals....last trip it was Le Danton at Blvd St Germain and the Carrefour Odeon/rue de Conde. We stood at the bar and always had a great time. We also enjoyed les editeurs for a relaxing drink and even dinner, if you decide to stay.

So much in Paris to do and I don't know what you are interested in, so it's hard to recommend non-tourist things. You are tourists and I am a tourist, so there is nothing wrong with going to the usual sites. I have never waited in line to go up in the Eiffel Tower, but have enjoyed most everything I have done in Paris.

I would just not over plan and let the city take you where it wants. I don't know Rome, so I can't help you with that.

If you decide on an apartment, take a look at Paris Perfect. But I don't know if they rent for only a few days.

Travel from CDG; if you are completely unfamiliar with Paris, take a cab. Otherwise, the RER....use the website below to get step by step instructions

Enjoy your trip.
denisea is offline  
Jul 29th, 2011, 07:45 PM
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We used the Paris Passages walk as a jet-lag fighter in May when we arrived in Paris. It seemed to work well, keeping us outdoors and moving, exposing us to melatonin. Here's a link to the Fodors' thread with details about the self-guided walk:
Mimar is offline  

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