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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?

Jun 2nd, 2007, 04:48 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 13,194
I bookmarked this earlier because I wanted to come back to it, with a similar question, but from a slightly different angle: how to plan (if at all), the _arrival_ day in Paris, on a first trip (also a first trip to Europe, ever).

Not _my_ first trip, of course, but we are traveling as a diverse foursome this September, as follows:

me: 7th trip to Paris, moderately fluent in French; still many places I have never been (or visited inadequately) - - Louvre (visited inadequately, and decades ago), Pompidou Center, Rodin Museum, l'Orangerie, les Invalides (less than ideal this year because of renovations indside?), Sainte Chapelle, the sewers, Fontainebleau, Vaux le Vicomte, Chantilly. My list alone is too long, since we only have a smidge under 72 hours. Probably _no_ trips outside the city make any sense; we later have four days in Burgundy (after two days in le Piemonte).

my wife - 3rd trip to Paris (once without me), sparingly fluent in French.

my wife's SIL - 2nd trip to Paris; first trip was not all that great (weather, and she was one of several chaperones to way too many teenagers, on a very rigid schedule); now a wine enthusiast, eager to see the "real" Paris, in a more relaxed, adult fashion.

my wife's brother - first trip to Paris/France/Europe ever; not so much the traveler, but eager to be a good sport and enjoy anything and everything. I suspect that he does not appreciate the assault on one's senses of a first trip to Europe (true of most first-time Europe travelers?)

The _arrival_ day is always a challenge anywhere in my opinion because of:

* fatigue/grumpiness from sleep deprivation on transatlantic flight, and time zone change.
* excitement; want to do it all
* blurred memories, because it is that first, bad/fatigued day
* vivid memories, because it is all so new...

We have one of the very latest flights (best for sleeping, in my view), depart Louisville 6:55 pm, with a 55 minute connection in Detroit, the depart 9 pm for 11 am arrival. Getting into the city is a little bit hard to predict - - 1 pm? (a challenge to make, say, a lunch reservation for Altitude 95, for example).

I think we should pick one thing, and maybe Altitude 95 for an early supper? l'Orangerie? Pompidou Center? It may be inevitable to choose Arc de Triomphe (I have never climbed the thing... maybe this time) - - it seems to be such a magnet; first-timers can not wait to go see it and Eiffel.

I realize that this thread has already grown considerable legs... like I said, I will probably also post separately, but this may add new life to _this_ thread, as well.

Thanks in advance for all replies... and...

Best wishes,

rex is offline  
Jun 2nd, 2007, 07:14 PM
Join Date: Apr 2004
Posts: 4,573
I second the hop on-off bus your first day, esp. if yo are feeling jetlag-y. You can just opt not to hop off, and enjoy the sights (did in London). I also make an agreement with myself, that on the first day if I am losing time because I am hesitant about transit, I get to take a taxi, just to get started (worked in Rome where buses confused me)
ninasdream is offline  
Jun 3rd, 2007, 04:45 PM
Join Date: Jan 2006
Posts: 32
The best advice a friend gave us for our first trip to Paris was "just show up"! How perfect this was -- allow yourselves time to just step outside your hotel and get lost in the magic of Paris...

Our mistake was that we didn't take advantage of the wonderful dining until the end of our trip and ended up regretting that -- oh well, we will make up for it when we go back!

Have a great time!!!
mslambert is offline  
Jun 3rd, 2007, 04:53 PM
Join Date: Oct 2004
Posts: 17,226
I did a chart of things I wanted to see and any important information ESPECIALLY the days museums are closed and their hours.

It was perfect. We could "follow our noses" as much as we wanted, but didn't show up at a place that was closed nor had any major disappointments. Lots of pre-planning and then more "winging it" once we were there.
starrsville is offline  
Jun 3rd, 2007, 07:44 PM
Join Date: Dec 2005
Posts: 172
I winged it and later wished I'd done some planning. It's easy to get distracted by what's in front of you and forget priorities without a plan.

The idea to list your absolute priorities and know the days they are NOT available is solid. We went to the Clignancourt flea market during the week not knowing it was closed. It's a short metro ride, but it took awhile to realize it was closed because of the layout and location.

Target things that are near eachother and don't over schedule. One museum before or after lunch is plenty. These things are huge, busy and exhausting.
Belledame is offline  
Jun 3rd, 2007, 07:58 PM
Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 4,129
Bookmarking, as I will need the wisdom from this thread for my current furious attempt at planning a last minute trip to Paris in late June!
mcnyc is offline  
Jun 4th, 2007, 02:13 AM
Join Date: Mar 2007
Posts: 15,411
I think 9 days in Paris sounds wonderful for a first trip. The main mistake I made on my first trip was not planning to spend that much time--so you are already way ahead of me.

I would not personally rate the catacombs as high as other sights on your list, and I have never seen the Pere Lachaise cemetery, but otherwise I agree you should fit in everything you have listed.

You don't say whether or not you have a good guide book yet. I really recommend something like the Michelin or eyewitness Guide that would give you ideas for good walking tours of various neighborhoods. Once you start walking in Paris you will also come upon various buildings you want to look up in the guide book(and photograph?)

When you visit Notre Dame, it is really worth climbing the tower for the view of the city and to see the gargoyles and the bell
Since this is your first trip to Paris I am not sure whether you have seen any of the major Gothic cathedrals before? If not and you really get hooked (as my husband and I did when we lived in Europe for a few years) Chartres is an easy day trip from Paris. Or St Denis is a closer suburban trip by metro.

I agree with the recommendation to spend some time in the Marais district. The Hotel Carnavalet museum mentioned by at least one other poster is there and very interesting for history of Paris. (The museum right near Notre Dame, at the far end of the square opposite the main portal) is also good for giving you an idea of that neighborhood over time)

When you see Sacre Coeur you should definitely plan on more time for exploring Montmartre.

You say "St Severin if enough time." I really think you will have enough time since you are being realistic about must sees. The St Severin quarter is a lovely section of the city. The museum at the Hotel de Cluny (Musee National du Moyen Age)is also well worth a visit. On the left bank, you can also see St. Germain des Pres and the Luxembourg gardens

Have a wonderful trip
Vttraveler is online now  
Jun 4th, 2007, 04:47 AM
Join Date: May 2006
Posts: 461
Hey Photobear - just curious about when you are going. I am enjoying reading the responses to your 'impression gathering' posts!
Canada_V is offline  
Jun 4th, 2007, 05:25 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Feb 2005
Posts: 400
We are planning on October if the doctor gives my husband the OK to go. He had a knee replacement and we were supposed to go last year and could not.

If we can't go this October, it will be October 2008 at the latest. I hope it will be this year because I can't take much more planning. I want to go.

If we can't go this year, we will go on another cruise or to an island in January after visiting my folks in Florida where they bought a house.

Husband has had many complications from his knee surgery so we may have to just go someplace else but I have my heart set on Paris.

If not, a last minute deal to just about anywhere is what we will do and wait another year for France...I hope this is not the case.

Thank you everyone for the great replies. I am really enjoying reading your thoughts.
Photobear is offline  
Jun 4th, 2007, 05:27 AM
Join Date: May 2003
Posts: 252
Wonderful information! Thanks!
mauitammy is offline  
Jun 4th, 2007, 05:28 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 6,019
Look at this way. Going to Paris and being in Paris is costing you several hundred dollars a day! That is an expensive event, at least for me and my income. I don't want to waste it by blundering around wondering what the heck I should do next.

The first time I went to Paris and I was young and naive. I had no plan and, in effect, my visit was wasted.

Many moons passed before I returned. That time I was better prepared. That is not to say I was on a minute by minute schedule. I had objectives, but not a timetable.

I read here where people plan their visits almost with a stop watch.

That is also a mistake in my opinion.
What I suggest is to have your lodging lined up. I do not want to have to search for a hotel, and waste time and effort. (MIght work in the slack season. My time for visiting has been September, which is crowded.)

Then I made a list of major attractions: The Musee d'Orsay, Musee Rodan, the Louvre, Ste. Chapelle, an opera at the Opera Bastille, a trip to Vaux le Vicomte and Fontainebleau, a visit to Notre Dame, etc.

But I also left time just to wander the streets of Paris looking and finding what for me was a new series of sights and sounds. I was rewarded; my time was interesting.

On subsequent visits, I had my hotel reserved, but I left time each day just to see what Paris would present to me.

I have yet to be disappointed. Visit Luxembourg Gardens, Place des Voges, and just watch how another set of people go about their daily lives. It is different, and it is interesting.

Have goals for your visit, but don't be slavish in planning every minute. You will not keep to your schedule anyhow.

Case in point. One Sunday we set out for the Musee d'Orsay. The idea was to get there early to avoid the lines. Well, we got sidetracked by a farmers' market along Blvd Raspail. That delayed us over an hour. Some minor attraction I had in mind for that afternoon bit the dust, particularly after Musee d'Orsay took longer than expected because we enjoyed it so much.

So have a list but don't let it dictate your enjoyment of Paris. It is a guide to enjoyment, no a drill sergeant.
bob_brown is offline  
Jun 4th, 2007, 10:14 AM
Join Date: Apr 2007
Posts: 24
Everyone is correct. Just remember you will need a day of downtime somewhere during this visit. I believe someone mentioned taking a bus tour -- spend a day just looking at the city. Visit the Sacre Cour on Sunday morning during service.

Good Luck
cklimon is offline  

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