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For someone first trip to Paris, do you have a plan or do you wing it?

For someone first trip to Paris, do you have a plan or do you wing it?

May 31st, 2007, 10:01 AM
  #1  
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For someone first trip to Paris, do you have a plan or do you wing it?

We have a list of places we want to see in Paris.

On your first trip, did you wing it? Did you have a general plan? Did you plan every minute? Did it work for you?

We were wondering if we should have a plan where each day is divided into 1/3's and we would plan one thing in the morning, one thing in the afternoon and another at night with leaving a few spaces open for being free to explore. Would yo do this?

We have 9 full days in Paris not counting arrival day. We have 2 days planned on L'open tour then, we have no real plan yet.

Our list included all the big sites but one of those 9 days is spent in Versailles. With 8 days, 2 of which are L'open Hop on/Hop off bus, would you make a plan or wing it?
We will also have a carte Orange (if sill available) for the rest of our stay.


Let me know what worked for you.

What mistakes did you make on your first trip.

Photobear is offline  
May 31st, 2007, 10:07 AM
  #2  
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Forgot to give our list.

Versailles on one day
Night Cruise on the Seine
Eiffel Tower
Pere Lachaise Cemetary
Notre-Dame
Sacre Coeur
The Louvre (1/2 day highlights)
Musee D'Orsay (1/2 day)
Pompidou Center and Fountains near it
Rodin Museum and garden
Sainte-Chapelle
Saint Severin (if we can fit it in)
Catacombs
Arche de Triumphe
Walk on Les Champs Elysees.

Does this sound like it can be accomplished in 9 full days in October?
Photobear is offline  
May 31st, 2007, 10:07 AM
  #3  
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Sorry for any and all spelling mistakes.
Photobear is offline  
May 31st, 2007, 10:09 AM
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Photo - on our first trip we had a list (more things than you could do in a month). We started out each day with one of them in mind, but let the day develop.
We normally knew where we wanted to eat that night (a few special places reserved) and that had a bearing.
We still folow that general plan - often just walking towards where we want to go be it market, museum, site, shopping area, cafe - and spend as little or as much time as we want. No rigid timelines.
I think a lot depends on what type of traveler you are.
robjame is offline  
May 31st, 2007, 10:14 AM
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On our first trip we rose each am and surveyed the guide books plotting out the neighborhoods and sites for that particular day. It was a great way to discover Paris.

Since you are a photo person(guessing from your name) there are so many "every day" opportunities for pictures in Paris. Please try to include Rue Mouffetard,Pere LeChaise(sp) cemetary and other stops. Even the playground in Place Vosage is worth a peek.
PamSF is offline  
May 31st, 2007, 10:15 AM
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And you absolutely have to see the Eiffel Tower at night. It's amazing.
PamSF is offline  
May 31st, 2007, 10:23 AM
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Looks good. I'd start to categorize things into days of the week, since some places are closed on certain days. Also group by area. For example Arc de triomphe, Louvre, Place de la Concorde, Place Vendome, Tuileries, Louvre would be a nice "package". Notre Dame, St Chapelle, Ile St Louis, Seine walk, Left Bank walk..another. Eiffel, Rodin together,etc...

I like the idea of not overplanning. On my last trip, my day would always start with breakfast at a cafe...by 10AM I was on the Metro. Do a guided tour in morning. Lunch at an outdoor cafe, afternoon would be walk around, another tour, a museum,etc...The magic of Paris is often found in just wandering "aimlessly".

I've never done L'Open. I can see its convenience. I can also see how taking Metro, walking to sites might give you a bit more of the neighbourhood.

Versailles, good idea. You can take a tour bus, or go by train. Train is not complicated and you can get there early enough to avoid crowds and be back early enough to do more in Paris.

I'm not a big fan of the Pompidou, but others here have enjoyed it.

You've got a good start!

Michel_Paris is offline  
May 31st, 2007, 10:28 AM
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I like your style. It is mine as well!
And yet, 5 times now and there are still things I am meaning to do. er..um..I haven't seen the Eiffel Tower up close & personal BUT have thrilled at it being in the distance. And at night, it is magical. D'Orsay is another. Spent a day and 1/2 in the Louvre poking around ... more my style of touring
Because, after all, I am on vacation.
SuzieCII is offline  
May 31st, 2007, 10:31 AM
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I don't know, I don't like the dividing the day into 1/3's thing. That just seems way to rigid. Paris is such an amazing city, I don't think it's best discovered with an overly planned day. Just head out in the morning with something in mind, and see where the day takes you. It's a great city for just walking around and exploring, and the metro is also very easy to use.

9 days is great! Also, don't miss Montmartre, my favourite area of Paris.

Enjoy!
MissZiegfeld is offline  
May 31st, 2007, 10:38 AM
  #10  
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I hear you all...

If we do split the days in 1/2's or 1/3's we will make sure that the parts of the day can meld well with the others that day. We might be able to do more that way and anything extra becomes a bonus.

We hope that we will happen upon nice parks in each area to relax and have a picnic lunch. Hopefully, it will work but I am still interested in what worked for other Fodorites...

Thanks all for your advice so far. I was afraid I had too much on our plate already.
Photobear is offline  
May 31st, 2007, 10:39 AM
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I tend to take the same approach as Michel_Paris.

I make a list of what I might want to do and then, following breakfast at a cafe (and I like to go to the same cafe pretty much every day because the waiters will recognize you and know your order, I just think that's cool and makes me feel like a native), I catch the Metro to whatever area I'm feeling like exploring. Lunch at whatever cafe in the area that catches my eye and then off to a different area of the city.

Oh, and every afternoon I stop for a glass of wine (or two) at a sidewalk cafe and just watch people.
janeygirl is offline  
May 31st, 2007, 10:42 AM
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You'll have to cafe sit. You'll find picnic foods and parks. (tip of the north Island, I want to say but am undoubtedly wrong but close - The Vert Galant, where the Seine flows by you on both sides. Love that little square!)
Anyway, I suggest remain flexible. The weather might not be all that cooperative, so your day to see Versailles could be "washed out", that's a good day to museum.
Michael's idea is the best to group things. Paris isn't all THAT big of a footprint.
SuzieCII is offline  
May 31st, 2007, 10:45 AM
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We leave in just over 2 weeks for Paris and I have done more planning than with previous European trips. I have discovered with 5 people (including 3 children/preteen), "winging it" provided more frustration than anything. I have a flexible plan with 2 main sites each day, with other filler options and we'll definitely be open to spur of the moment as well (against my nature, but I'll diversify ). If a few of those thirds are left open, I think it works well; there may not be much open time between the thirds.
djman102 is offline  
May 31st, 2007, 10:53 AM
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On my first trip to Paris (17 years ago! yikes), I winged it and didn't have a great time. I winged it because Paris was a last minute add-on to my first trip to Europe (to St Petersburg with my dad, tagging along on a business trip, and then stopping over in London). My ex-boyfriend (with whom I was still friendly) had just arrived in France to go to INSEAD and offered me a place to stay. So, I popped over from London, headed to Fountainebleau (where he was based) and took the train into Paris each morning for a few days. Frankly, I had a lousy time.

Of course, that might have had something to do with the fact that: a) I was staying with my ex (not a great idea); b) it was about 36C; and c) I was rather overwhelmed by the preceding 3 weeks of travel. But it was also because I didn't have a plan. And the result was that I couldn't seem to find my way off the Champs-Elysees except when I somehow landed in Les Halles. It felt like I was trapped in frying pan full of McDonalds Restaurants, movie theatres and Gap clothing stores. Where was the Paris I'd seen in the movies? In my dreams?

For my second trip, about 5 years later, I planned better (but not too much) and had started to develop a system for solo travel. I did read and bring a guide book, and I did make a short list of places I wanted to see. But they weren't the usual (walk along Champs Elsyees, see Arc de Triomphe, go up Eiffel Tower, stand in line for the Louvre) lists.

For trips, I usually identify 1 or 2 areas/neighbourhoods I want to explore during the day. I pick a shop (or shopping district), a restaurant (or street with several recommended cafes), a museum and something architecturally interesting. Window shopping gets me motivated, and I like to hunt for something unusual (like a local designer or a vendor of old photographs) that takes me to a part of the city that's off the main tourist track. I wake up in the morning, go out for coffee and decide which area to visit. I also usually plan several dinners in advance. I don't follow a strict plan, except that I do keep in mind the days of the week when certain museums are closed, and plan around that. I spend rather a lot of time wandering around the streets, poking my head into shops, stopping for coffee, hopping on and off the bus or metro, and just people-watching. I probably end up missing a number of the must-see sights (for example, I live in Paris now and still haven't been up the Eiffel Tower), but I'm more interested in seeing slightly off the beaten track sights - and in looking at real neighbourhoods.

My husband and I more or less follow the same system, now that we're married, except that he tends to take on the role of tour leader. (I do a lot of the planning and travel booking and suggest some places we might like to visit, but then rely on him to get my butt out of the comfy bed/cafe chair and into the museum.)

Also, I highly recommend Thirza Vallois' books about Paris. Go to http://www.thirzavallois.com/ If you're interested in history, she has written incredibly detailed descriptions of each arrondissement, with each chapter including a terrific plan for a walking tour. Her descriptions and tours are much more detailed than what you would find in the walking tours offered in general guidebooks. For a Paris newbie, the first book in the series would be sufficient because it covers the central arrondissements (1-7). It's best to read the chapter first and then take it with you when you go for a walk.

I would add to your list of places to see:

Musee Carnavalet (museum of the history of Paris; has great models of neighbourhoods through time)

Musee Marmottan (16th arr. - If you can't make it to Giverny to see Monet's garden, this is the next best thing as it has the largest collection of Monets in the world, and it's set in a pretty mansion with a garden view. A manageably sized museum (2 hours should do it) that can be combined with a stroll around the lakes in the Bois de Boulogne.

For anyone interested in how things work (e.g. engineers and similarly minded people), the Musee des Arts et Metiers is great. It's not so much a museum of science/technology as a museum of (mostly) French inventions. It's a good antidote if you start overdosing on fine art.

As for Versailles, plan to go relatively early in your visit and keep the plan flexible because you want to go on a reasonably pleasant day. It's not as much fun if its drizzly or raining (and it drizzles and rains frequently in Paris).
Kate_W is offline  
May 31st, 2007, 10:55 AM
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If you followed the first paragraph Michel_Paris' response very slavishly, you might end up with an itinerary. I would hate that (I think he would, too).

Yes, take note of what days certain things are not possible, but I suggest that beyond that, you do not program too much. You know what you want to see, and you have time enough to see all those things and also to accept some of the suggestions made here. Nine days is good!

I agree with Miss Ziegfeld about Montmartre, and suggest also that you find time for a stroll through the Tuileries and/or the Luxembourg Gardens. The parks of Paris are an important part of the character of the city.

Keep it flexible; it's more fun.
Padraig is offline  
May 31st, 2007, 10:57 AM
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We planned each day the evening before or in the morning over breakfast. We did not have anything planned ahead (from home) other than hotel reservations. Worked great for us, but then we are pretty relaxed travelers and don't mind "missing" something or feel the need to see anything in particular.

suze is offline  
May 31st, 2007, 11:09 AM
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Before my first trip to Paris, I thoroughly read the Michelin Green Guide and then tried to duplicate some of the walking tours once I was there. I jettisoned that idea after about two days. It just wasn't working for me and I felt I had gone overboard with the planning.

On subsequent trips, I've kept a simplified list of what I want to see. I have an itinerary of sorts, but a very sketchy one. That way, I can go with the flow and not feel too structured.

Your list looks very good. Enjoy your trip.
RickyB is offline  
May 31st, 2007, 11:21 AM
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I think Padraig interpreted me correctly.

Each day, I pick soemthing I want to do, but I keep in mind what is "around" when I'm there.

I did a walking tour of the Marais. When it was done, I knew Place des Vosges was a good place to spend some time, so went there for lunch. I spent 2 hrs there. On another tour, I also spotted an exhibit at a museum on the way by, so went back to see that. Afterwards, just walked the streets.

Likewise, when I did another tour that finished near St Paul metro, I knew that I had wanted to try the Brasserie de L'Ile St Louis (based on recs from this forum) so I scooted over there for lunch, then browsed Ile St Louis. Another 2 hrs...

So I guess what I'm thinking is to "get a feel" for where things are. I'd hate for you to go to the Louvre...and not spend some time at Palais Royal park, since it's only across the street!

So a typical day for me is one thing planned, possible lunch area, afternoon is open, with a list of possible things to do...I might go, I might sit on a park bench for an hour. I also have a list of restaurants that I'd like to go to...might, might not. Last trip I made it to 3 on my list, "free-formed" it for the other meals.

Some days, I just don't feel like crowds and the metro. Some nights I want to be out on the town, other mights just a classical music concert in a church or a movie will do. I think I'm over the feeling that my day was somehow not good because I never made it to XXX.

So...I've been 8/9 times, I still learn from people here of places and events to see in Paris, I have a list of restaurants that have never been tried...
Michel_Paris is offline  
May 31st, 2007, 04:16 PM
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Great ideas. We think we might just divide the day into 2 and just plan to see 2 things per day and anything extra that day will be a bonus.
Photobear is offline  
May 31st, 2007, 04:26 PM
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We had a different plan. We had a book which indicated the characteristics of the different arrondissements, and in a 2 week trip, we picked the most intriguing and varied ones, headed for that neighborhood and wandered around. In the course of doing that, we "took in" the Eiffel Tower, Bastille, Grands Magasins, etc. We went to a few museums, based on what we wanted to see (Monet's waterlilies for example, Matisse) and had faxed ahead to some top restaurants that we fit in between street food, wine and cheese in our room,etc. We went to American movies with French subtitles. At the end of 2 weeks, we had a "feel" for Paris and made it our own. I think we got to the Louvre about 2 trips later -- there are paintings you can only see in the Louvre of course - but when you think about it, the Louvre could actually be elsewhere than Paris! So you're not really "seeing Paris" when you are there.
Jess
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