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HELP! My first trip to Paris is in less than a month and I am SO overwhelmed...

HELP! My first trip to Paris is in less than a month and I am SO overwhelmed...

Oct 2nd, 2005, 01:07 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Aug 2005
Posts: 5
HELP! My first trip to Paris is in less than a month and I am SO overwhelmed...

My mom surprized me a couple of days ago with a 7 day trip to Paris for my 23rd birthday. I am so excited as this is my dream vacation. But, I have no idea how to pick what to do. I have been reading posting after posting and I am having the heardest time. I would appreciate any advise you all are willing to share (places to go, things to eat, things to buy... anything).

Here are some of the trip details:
*We will be going from November 4th-12th, 2005.
*We both love to travel and don't like to sit around too much (meaning we try to cram as much into a day as possible so we don't miss anyhing).
*Neither of us have ever been there, so we want to do some of the touristy stuff, as well as get a feel for the culture.
*We are staying at the Citadines Les Halles Apart Hotel near the Louve.

Thank you all in advance for you help. This is such a great forum with wonderful advise, I have already learned so much but am really begining to feel overwhelmed as I only have a month to plan....

My sincerest thanks,
Taylor1636 is offline  
Oct 2nd, 2005, 01:10 PM
Join Date: Jun 2004
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After you have carefully read the Fodor's guide (click "Destinations" above), check out

http://en.parisinfo.com/, then go here:

Robespierre is offline  
Oct 2nd, 2005, 01:25 PM
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..hit the guide books and thumb through them. The buy the green guide. They have a few walks which are great. Although you are young and energitic, you can't see everything and if you do, you will have missed what Paris is about IMO. Make a list of 10 things you "can't miss". Put these on a map so they are grouped and start to plan your trip. I put only 1 must do each day and then have several back ups..I don't usually use them..instead I tend to meander BUT I have done my home work so it is not aimless wandering. As it is your first time, it is very reasonable to take a 1/2 day toursist bus trip just to get oriented. Have a wonderful birthday!
travelbunny is offline  
Oct 2nd, 2005, 01:40 PM
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I have a Paris file that I'd be happy to send to you; if you would like to have it, email me at
[email protected]

Frommers publishes a book called
Memorable Walks in Paris. They are not overly detailed, not too taxing, but provide some interesting information, even tips for where to stop for a coffee or cocktail along the way.

Upon arriving in Paris, buy a carte musee at either a metro stop or a participating small museum. It will enable you to avoid the ticket-buying lines at the Orsay and Louvre museums.

Take with you very comfortable shoes or boots for daytime wear, especially since you are sightseeing crammers. You will also want extra dry socks as November can be rainy. (so can June, for that matter.)

Before you go, check the extended forecast at www.accuweather.com, which can also give you some info on historical weather trends for early November. No matter what the forecast says, take umbrellas and footwear that can take getting wet.

elaine is offline  
Oct 2nd, 2005, 01:44 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
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First of all take a deep breath. You have over a month to plan, so you won't be getting off the plane clueless. How cool of your mom to surprise you!

A good resource for first-time Paris visitors is Rick Steves. His website is at www.ricksteves.com. He also publishes a series of guide books, so head on over to Borders and pick up Rick Steve's Paris 2005 (or 2006 if it's available). Readreadread and you'll begin to get a sense of what you want to do. Start making a list, then prioritize and group so you're not running around the city.
Betsy is offline  
Oct 2nd, 2005, 01:56 PM
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My suggestion would be to pick two or three things which you really want to see. Then start walking. Paris is a walker's city and there are delights on every corner. You are twenty three...trust me, you will go back again and again and again. Don't try to see it all the first time. Leave some surprises for later.
cmcfong is offline  
Oct 2nd, 2005, 02:00 PM
Join Date: Nov 2004
Posts: 68

My advise is to relax and set a pace that works. Everything you see will be new and wonderful to you..so if you miss something you will see it next time. You will be back to Paris.
Try to just take it as it comes. Paris is one of those places where it is not necessary to do a checklist of things to do and see. Congratulations on the trip. Have fun.
grayland is offline  
Oct 2nd, 2005, 02:12 PM
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Taylor, I just got back from Paris a few days ago, and I think this was my fourth visit. What I finally realized this time is that Paris IS overwhelming.

I am always a bit anxious that I won't see and do everything I want to, won't eat at all the great places, etc. So as cmcfong said above, pick a few things you really want to see, and let Paris work its magic for the rest. Every day we encountered something strange and wonderful just walking around.
Marilyn is offline  
Oct 2nd, 2005, 02:27 PM
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Think about why it has always been 'your dream' - be sure to put at the top of your sightseeing the 2-3 things that confirm the dream of seeing Paris.

Make a list with 9 days on it.
Day 1, Day 2... the first and last days are "fly to Paris, fly home". The rest can have 1-4 sights to see on each day. Leave plenty of 'room' for just walking, enjoying a café, popping into little boutiques (an hour or two of 'nothing'). Use any of the guides mentioned above - tuck your list into the book - when you read about something that really interests you, put it on the list. Make sure it isn't closed for the day you've assigned it.

For practical matters, do you already have a passport? That would be job #1, if you don't. Do you have one-two pairs of very comfortable walking shoes? If you don't, buy them asap and start breaking them in.

After you've done these things, then you can search posts here and make a list of 10 places that sound good for dinner. You can actually go to these places or at least use the list as a backup in case you haven't found appealing places on your own.

When you arrive on Friday Nov 4, take the least stressful method of transport to the Citadines - if that means a taxi, so be it. Buy a carnet of metro tickets for Friday-Sunday (buy another if you run out). On Monday, buy a Carte Orange weekly pass for zones 1-2 for about 15.5€ - this will last until you leave on Saturday. Bring a small head-shot photo (1x1").

All the rest will be a part of your discovery of Paris and you'll love it!
Travelnut is offline  
Oct 2nd, 2005, 06:21 PM
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Those are great suggestions from the previous posters. But one thing I don't get is you mentioned your mom surprised you with the Paris trip a couple of days ago. But in August you were looking for a Paris apartment for three people. Oh well, maybe I don't get it. Anyway, you're sure to enjoy Paris.
francophile03 is offline  
Oct 2nd, 2005, 06:43 PM
Original Poster
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Thanks so much everybody! These are all such great suggestions... I just know I will be glued to the computer for the next month. I feel like I now at least have a place to start rather than aimlessly searching.

francophile03, to reply to your post specifically, yes in August I was looking at apartments. We had been talking about going but I had decided I couldn't afford it as prices were rising so quickly and my work schedule kept conflicting. So I gave up and quit thinking about it. But my mom persevered and looks like we are going to have a great trip after all. Thanks Mom as I know you are also following this posting rather closely.
Taylor1636 is offline  
Oct 3rd, 2005, 01:54 AM
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First of all, your title alone implies that you have your thinking straight--you speak of your "First" trip to Paris, apparently intending to take more so you can relax and not try to do absolutely everything. I think I've taken more than 25 trips there in my traveling career and still have places left on my "to see/do" list. Having traveled there often, I am often asked for help in planning the first trips of others. I am providing here an itinerary I fashioned for friends for their first trip. Obviously it was at a different time of year than you're going so you can pretty well eliminate the days that call for long walks in cold parks. Otherwise it's designed to group sights that seem to make for a good day or half day with a metro ride in between to get you from one set of sights to another. I have complete back up information with walking and metro directions as well as likely lunch and dinner stops if this interests you. Note that several of the days start with or include markets (one of my favorite things to do in Paris) so they are tied to the specific day of the week when those markets are open and cannot be done on just any alternate day of the week. Ditto regarding days with stops at museums. If you'd like the more complete information just e-mail me at valdisvikmanis at comcast.net or provide your e-mail address on this thread. Enjoy your "first" trip to Paris.

Saturday May 19
Trocadero gardens, Eiffel Tower, Bateaux Mouche (boat down Seine), Samaritaine department store, with views of the city

Sunday May 20
Hotel de Ville (city hall of Paris), Deportation Memorial, Ile St. Louis, Place de Voges, Bastille (new opera and surrounding area), Open air sculpture garden

Monday May 21
Notre Dame with stairs to roof and crypt, Ste. Chappelle, Samaritaine (if not done on Saturday), St. Eustache church, Les Halles area, Pompideau Center, Champs Elysses, Arc du Triomphe, Ave. Montaigne shopping street, Diana Memorial

Tuesday May 22
Aligre market (market hall, open air market, flea market), Baron Rouge wine bar, Rue Cler market street, Invalides and Napolean’s tomb, Rodin Museum with sculpture garden, Alexander III bridge

Wednesday May 23
President Wilson Market, Musee de Orsay, Place de la Concorde, Tuileries gardens, Louvre museum

Thursday May 24
Versailles including Grand and Petit Trianons and Hameau, Marie Antionette’s pretend farm

Friday May 25
Pantheon, St. Ettienne du Mont church, Rue Mouffetard market street, St. Germain du Pres church and street, St. Sulpice church, Luxembourg Gardens

Saturday May 26
Barbes Market, Sacre Couer and Place du Tertre including train ride around Montmarte, Madelaine church, Opera Garnier (the old opera), Au Printemps and Galleries Lafayette on Blvd Haussman (grand department stores), Palais Royale, Passages/arcaded shopping streets

Sunday May 27
Porte de Vanves flea market, Parc Ranleigh and Marmatton museum with Monet waterlilly paintings, Bois de Bologne—parc with Bagatelle gardens.

JulieVikmanis is offline  
Oct 3rd, 2005, 02:41 AM
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Don’t try and do it all. It’s a big place full of fun things. As others have said, leaf through a guide book (I like the rough guide), and pick out some things you really want to see and do. Also remember that some of those things will take a long time (eg until you get there you will have no idea how big the Louvre is. It’s very very very big!). Finally don't fret about what you may be missing - just enjoy what you're actually seeing!

Here’s my totally personal 10 things to do which will give you a flavour of Paris.

Eiffel Tower – You’ve got to really, and it is fabulous.

The Louvre – One of the best (if not THE best) museums in the world – get the guide book, don’t try and just wander around (it’s huge)

Musee D’Orsay – much smaller, but full of world class art

Notre Dame and the Ile de Cite – Touristy beyond belief, but for good reason

Pere Lachaise cemetery – Oscar Wilde, Edith Piaf, Chopin and Jim Morrison, plus many other notables. It’s also a lovely place.

Champs Elysee and the Arc de Triomphe. Shops and a big arch. What more could you possibly want?

Rue Strasbourg – How the other half shop.

Pigalle at night – Avoid the Moulin Rouge and Crazy Horse, but otherwise you’ll find this area eye-opening (and possibly eye watering).

Les Invalides – Napoleon’s tomb. They still love him you know.

Dinner at La Coupole – there are better restaurants, but none as “French” as this.

And number 11 - Versailles. You can see why the peasants were fed up with the king. It's vast and overwhelming.
david_west is offline  
Oct 3rd, 2005, 05:38 AM
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Near Notre Dame, don't miss Sainte Chapelle, with any luck on a sunny afternoon, but the stained glass windows are unforgettable at any time.

Outside the Musee Pompidou there are street performers and a fantastically whimsical fountain.

You can go to a fashion show at the Galeries Lafayette; you can reserve on their website.

The Cluny Museum has a wonderful concert on selected Fridays at 12:30 with the early music ensemble Ultreia. There is one scheduled November 11, while you are there. They use all sorts of fascinating original instruments. My daughter and I stumbled upon this one Friday when we were waiting for our hotel to be ready and were wandering around in a jet-lagged state. It was a highlight of our trip. Free with admission to the museum.
Nikki is offline  
Oct 3rd, 2005, 05:40 AM
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Relax. Everyone has given you good advice, here. Go to the library and check out a couple guides and as they say, pick out 2 or 3 things you REALLY think you want to see. Then go with the flow. Buy the Museum Carte for 5 days as you will get to enter through special entrances and save time waiting in line. Plan to take twice as long at lunch and dinner, just to observe everything going on around you. Have fun. You will be back for more.
uhoh_busted is offline  
Oct 3rd, 2005, 06:39 AM
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I am not big on planning ahead and found Paris a perfect city for this, so you will do just fine.

As others have suggested have a couple "for sure" things on your list for each day and a couple other optional ideas in the same area. Group things by the part of the city they are located to conserve time and money.

Besides all the planning you can pull together in the next month, supplement this after you arrive by picking up local entertainment guides at the news stand or at your hotel front desk. You may find fun local stuff that is happening only the particular week you are there.

If you have any French skills brush up on the language. If not, get a phrase book and work from that.

I never plan ahead for restaurants of things to buy, just keep your eyes open each day while you're out walking around. I always carry a 3x5 spiral notebook and jot down addresses and names of things I see that strike my fancy (you think you'll remember where that restaurant is but you won't -LOL).

Carry the business card from your hotel with you, Paris is tricky and easy to get lost or turned around. This way you can always figure out how to get "home" by asking directions or hopping a taxi.
suze is offline  
Oct 3rd, 2005, 07:16 AM
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I liked a lot of the advice given above, Taylor, but I found I liked ALL of Travelnut's hints. His/her approach is to creative flexibility within a totally non-taxing framework.

In fact, the only thing I would add to his/her advice is to consider buying a museum pass.

Please note the phrasing: "consider."

You may not want or need one. You might be persons who don't enjoy art(and that's OK!)or just want to see one museum for one or two hours for the entire trip.

If you think you will be spending a lot of time in art museums, though, I heartily recommend getting a pass. As mentioned, there is the line problem that sometimes occurs at Musee d'Orsay. Your pass would be a godsend there.

However, the main reason posters like me recommend the pass is to allow you the flexibility of leaving any museum when you feel like it and returning when you want to. I like doing the Louvre in bits and pieces. Some days we've spent hours there; other days we've spent 45 minutes. There are other museums I just didn't like and we left in 15 minutes, and yet others that I loved but would never have tried had it not be on the pass.

I love to research vacations; I hate overplanned ones. The museum pass for us is one of those "just right" compromises.
Oct 3rd, 2005, 07:44 AM
Join Date: Sep 2005
Posts: 124
Hi Taylor! What a great mom you have. You all will have a blast.

Everyone has given such helpful info. Really can't add anything.....EXCEPT Montmartre and Sacre Coeur. Touristy it may be, but an absolute "must-see". Get away from the jam-packed but lovely Place du Tertre and wander around the winding, hilly, cobblestone streets and just ENJOY. Frommer's MEMORABLE WALKS IN PARIS has a really good one of Montmartre. Don't miss seeing La Maison Rose, the subject of a famous Utrillo painting, now a pink-painted resto/cafe at #2 rue de l'Abreuvoir, corner of rue des Saules. I found the whole area (on top of the hill) magical.

An earlier post mentioned La Samaritane department store. It's closed for renovation, possibly for several years.

Also, don't think the Crazy Horse is in Montmartre. My map shows it on Ave. George V, just north of Pont de L'Alma.
CatFancier is offline  
Oct 3rd, 2005, 11:37 AM
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Hi Taylor1636,
I am excited for you, Paris is and always will be my favotite city, I hope it becomes yours as well. To add a little to the good info you have already.
Plan a Seine river cruise at night, fantastic to see buildings and Eiffel lit up. I live Vedettes du Pont Neuf for their location and smaller boats. I would consider doing a half-day bus orientation (Parisvision and Cityrama are two: http://www.parisvision.com/fr/index.cfm
Both happen to leave from near Louvre.

You will have several choices to get from the airport to your hotel: RER to Chatelet (long walk at that metro, not so much one you get out, to hotel), Air France bus to Opera then metro,etc.. A shuttle or taxi might be best for first time, then you can RER back to CDG.

Plan around the fact that your evening meals will start 7:30/8. This applies to restaurants, not as much so for cafes, bistrots. Restaurants will post menus and pricing outside, so you will get a chance to decide/translate before going in.

Your hotel will probably offer breakfast, I have found that I prefer to find a nice cafe with a patio nearby, where I go for my petit dejeuner, plan the day,etc.

Don't forget the parks! Tuileries, Luxembourg, Palais Royal, Place des Vosges are all worthwhile destinations.

Michel_Paris is offline  
Oct 3rd, 2005, 11:37 AM
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Louvre and Orsay are nice, but others like Marmottan, Jaquemart, Musee du Moyen Age (aka Cluny) and Rodin are very good 'bite-size' destinations.

If going to Orsay, a nice walk would be start on Blvd St Germain where its east end intersects Seine, then walk to Orsay. Nice shops along way, see St Germain des Pres church, perhaps lunch at Cafe de Flore or Cafe Bonaparte (or Lipp, Deux Magots). Also on this route you could check out Buci market, some of the old cobblestone streets Cour de Commerce, Ancienne Comedie / passages (if you like these, http://www.fodors.com/forums/threads...2&tid=34455833) Also Cluny, St Sulpice, are on this route. Sounds like a full day!

Notre Dame, and St Chappelle ( on a sunny day for best effect) are musts, but I would also add Ile St Louis. Nice 'villagey' feel to it, food shops, some good restaurants.

Consider a walking tour, such as Paris Walks http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/pariswalking/
Nice change to have someone to explain things to you, versus a guidebook.

A fine walk is starting at Arch de Triomphe, down Champs Elysee, Place de la Concorde, Place Vendome (Ritz/high end jewelry shops), Tuileries, rue Faubourg St Honore, Opera, Place de la Madeleine, and along Rivoli.

You could plan a trip to Versailles, but that would take most of a day. Is it worthwhile? At your time of year the gardens will be less than optimal, the chateau is interesting.

I use the Michelin Blue map as my guide, I know others can recommend theiur favorite. I also have used the Michelin Red guide for restaurant suggestions and have not been disappointed. Time Out was also good.

If it is to your linking, consider a mighttime classical music concert. The neat thing with some of these is that they are offered in the historic churches of Paris. Acoustics and ambience. There are also nighttime candlelit concerts at St Chapelle that are worthwhile.

more to come...
Michel_Paris is offline  

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