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Help with early stages - first time to France!

Help with early stages - first time to France!

May 14th, 2019, 03:44 PM
  #1  
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Join Date: Apr 2017
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Help with early stages - first time to France!

Hi Fodorites, Hubs and I are hoping to visit Paris and somewhere else for a week or 2 (time likely to depend on budget). I've always wanted to go to Paris, and the hubs was persuaded by his desire to attend the opera Prince Igor, which is playing at the Opera Bastille late November through December 25. I'm doing my homework, but please forgive if I'm so excited that I can't wait to ask for some general suggestions, along with a few questions I've thought of!

We are thinking of dividing our time between Paris and some smaller towns or countryside area - maybe even going to northern Italy, which I've also always wanted to visit, but not sure if practical. I know that a month in Paris likely wouldn't do it justice. But we have typically been very happy getting a taste of "must do" cities (such as 2-3 night in Vienna) and then having some get-away time in a more rural area (such as Austria's lake district). We love art, museums, and architecture but also beautiful scenery, peaceful getaways, and quaint villages - and I think we would love to see some Christmas markets, if we can find some that aren't mobbed with cruise ship tourists. We are 60 and 61, and not up for actual hiking (bad knees), but have done fine with city walking and casual sightseeing.
Other questions:
1 - Am I right in assuming that (given similar accommodations) it would be less expensive to avoid staying the whole time in Paris?
2 - Could we do with public transportation for venturing outside Paris?
3 - Knowing that everyone will have a different opinion on this, at that time of year are there any favorite villages/towns for Christmas markets? Or other ideas to vary the city experience with other areas?
4 - Suggestions for which airline or airport to search for reasonable flights from the Orlando area?

I keep thinking of more questions but will stop now! Thanks for any and all suggestions!
Carolmom is offline  
May 14th, 2019, 03:49 PM
  #2  
 
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Could we do with public transportation for venturing outside Paris?>

Sure s super train system inside and outside of Paris - Versailles, Chartres, Reims and Champagne tours + cathedral; Loire Valley (not best at that time of year and Giverny and Monet's House, etc. Just buy train tickets at stations -for lots of French trains check www.oui.sncf; wwwseat61.com; BETS-European Rail Experts and www.ricksteves.com. Regional towns like Reims are likely to have Noel - Christmas Markets - in the town square area and Paris has several large Noel markets.
PalenQ is online now  
May 14th, 2019, 04:04 PM
  #3  
 
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November/December is not the best time to explore the countryside & small villages of anywhere in France or Italy. I suggest that you spend 80% of your time in Paris and the remainder in Strasbourg. Strasbourg is famous for it's Christmas market. If you want to visit some "cute little villages" - explore the ones just south of Strasbourg - Colmar, Obernai, Riquewihr, etc. There is a very fast TGV service between Paris & Strasbourg and CDG & Strasbourg.

Pre Christmas is our favorite time in Paris.

Stu Dudley
StuDudley is online now  
May 14th, 2019, 04:54 PM
  #4  
 
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Strasbourg is a great suggestion, but I would stop off in Nancy on the way. Nancy is a must see for anyone with any interest in Art Nouveau, and has one of Europe's best squares as well.
thursdaysd is offline  
May 14th, 2019, 05:20 PM
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And I'd stick to Paris, Strasberg and Nancy. The more places you add the more expensive it will be.
Kathie is offline  
May 14th, 2019, 05:38 PM
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Ditto ditto -- Paris + Strasbourg. You could stay either one night in Nancy or just stop over on the way to Strasbourg. All together, trains Paris > Nancy > Strasbourg will take about 3 hours so a morning train to Nancy, a few hour there and then a late afternoon/early early evening train on to Strasbourg.

But even better IMO would be to take the train right from CDG on arrival to Strasbourg (a little less than 2 hours) and do Strasbourg first. Then after a couple of nights, take the train to Nancy, and finish up with the rest of your time in Paris. That way you'll be in Paris for your flight home.
janisj is online now  
May 15th, 2019, 01:02 AM
  #7  
 
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As long as the weather keeps you inside and you wish to travel outside of Paris, on the way to Strasbourg, don't leave out an overlooked gem, Metz. Among the massive stained glass windows in the cathedral are those by Chagall. The Pompidou has a branch in Metz. Because Metz was part of Germany until after WWI, it has excellent examples of grunderzeit architecture that because of war damage are not in existence anywhere else except the German part of Strasbourg
Envierges is online now  
May 15th, 2019, 02:27 AM
  #8  
 
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"Smaller towns" is fine, if by that you mean small or mid-size cities. Quaint villages are likely to be close to dead that time of year, and aren't generally accessible by public transportation anyway.

I completely agree that Strasbourg should be your destination for a Christmas market (though Paris has some, too) and that Nantes and Metz are worth a visit. I'm baffled by your mention of cruise ships, though.
StCirq is online now  
May 15th, 2019, 04:28 AM
  #9  
 
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Some of the information you need is already available on this website. You can go to the Destinations menu and begin your research.

Other tools:

www.seat61.com

www.parisbytrain.com


https://en.voyages-sncf.com/en/

https://www.ratp.fr/en

Here is a possible itinerary to see some of the country on a relaxed pace:

Using a multi-destination plane ticket, fly from home into Provence Marseille airport; it will probably involve a plane transfer. From the airport, take the quick train to the picturesque small city of Avignon. A couple of days there, then the fast train to Paris. Fly home from there. But you must use a multi-destination search.

Every city in France has a busy civic tourism website; so does the Provence airport.

Another thing to be aware of: In December the days are very short in Paris and twilight starts to set in by mid-afternoon. That may effect how you move around.

The Bastille opera sometimes has backstage tours, maybe in English. Your husband already knows the Paris opera website, I expect, so he can sort out availability. Backstage is both bigger and more interesting than the auditorium itself.

Last edited by Southam; May 15th, 2019 at 04:31 AM.
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May 15th, 2019, 04:41 AM
  #10  
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Thank you all so much for all of those suggestions!
as for the river cruise comment, I suppose I was just assuming that there may be river cruises to Christmas markets in France the way Iíve seen them advertised for Germany. Guess Iím showing my ignorance of the geography, LOL!

I will get busy checking out the places and websites mentioned; youíve helped me narrow down my research! Thanks again!
Carolmom is offline  
May 15th, 2019, 09:18 AM
  #11  
 
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I think you are assuming France is Germany. Christmas markets are a German thing, perhaps you didn't know that. Some cities in France have copied them now for commercial reasons, but that is big cities. This is not a French tradition. At leats Strasbourg has German influence. Paris copies them to make money for vendors, as it's really commercialism at its apex. Most French Christmas markets are in Alsace or the east, in any case, like in Mulhouse, Strabourg and Metz. They do have one in Paris and Bordeaux and Rouen and Reims, though. I don't know if they even have them in the south, but wouldn't surprise me due to commercialism. Most Christmas markets have nothign to do with cruise ships in France, as they aren't on rivers usually.
Christina is online now  
May 15th, 2019, 09:42 AM
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There is one in Aix-en-Provence.
thursdaysd is offline  
May 15th, 2019, 12:32 PM
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>>>1 - Am I right in assuming that (given similar accommodations) it would be less expensive to avoid staying the whole time in Paris?
Donít assume. Compute actual time and cost using numerous online resources. Many things are market priced. Booking based on a rule is obsolete.

>>>2 - Could we do with public transportation for venturing outside Paris?
Depends on where you are heading to. Some places make so much more sense using trains while others are complicated without a car.

>>>3 - Knowing that everyone will have a different opinion on this, at that time of year are there any favorite villages/towns for Christmas markets? Or other ideas to vary the city experience with other areas?
If France, another vote for Strasbourg. Besides the scale of the market, practically the whole city core, the island part, is lit up for the holidays. I felt the markets in Paris, Nancy, and Colmar were more of regular markets with Christmas items while the ones in Strasbourg felt more Christmas centric. IfI visit Christmas market as the main objective, I would go to Germany instead.

>>>4 - Suggestions for which airline or airport to search for reasonable flights from the Orlando area?
Compute actual TOTAL cost including impacts on the ground part. You need to do a lot of what ifs. When you do indeed venture out far away from Paris, you might save time and overall cost by doing multi-city flight booking. In which case, there will be many options.

Pay attention to arrival and departure logistics. Returning early from a hard-to-get-to airport complicates your itinerary. Doing a layover at a potentially snow bound airport, e.g. EWR, IAD, etc, adds delay risk to your flights as well as a lost deposit at your accommodation.

Choosing days of the week for departure and return matter a lot especially when you are traveling around the Thanksgiving. Do a lot of what ifs with fare calendars with different dates and airports. The impact on choices of airlines, dates, and airports can make a breath-taking difference. There is no easy pat answer. The last Christmas market trip I did, I ended up returning home from CPH due to an idiosyncrasy with the airfare. It was much cheaper to fly home from CPH instead of FRA even considering an additional separate SAS flight from FRA to CPH and staying overnight in CPH at higher accommodating cost than in Germany. I got an unexpected visit to the Copenhagen Christmas markets.
greg is offline  
May 16th, 2019, 10:51 AM
  #14  
 
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Could we do with public transportation for venturing outside Paris?
Depends on where you are heading to. Some places make so much more sense using trains while others are complicated without a car.>

Even if going to some place like the Dordogne where a car is a must take the train there from Paris. But lots of day trips near Paris easily assessed by trains.
PalenQ is online now  
May 16th, 2019, 02:47 PM
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Or accessed. You can assess all you want, but access is another story.
StCirq is online now  
May 16th, 2019, 04:02 PM
  #16  
 
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You might try google flights or skyscanner to check on flights. With google flights, you can make destination "Europe" or "France" and see all the choices on a map. With Skyscanner, you can even type in destination "Everywhere" and see the list starting with the cheapest. Norwegian Air often has the best prices from Orlando to places like Paris. They are no thrills, but in the last couple of weeks we flew on nine planes (five separate airlines), and the Norwegian one from Malta to Copenhagen was the cleanest one we experienced.
whitehall is online now  
May 17th, 2019, 08:10 AM
  #17  
 
Join Date: Apr 2014
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End of November-December Norwegian Airline round tip to London from Orlando: 384$
round trip Paris: 489$

You can also buy one way: Orlando to London: 159$
can come back Paris to Orlando: 279$

The Low fare calendar Norwegian Airline is priced right; and in my experience for that time of year, it won't be cheaper. If I were you, I would decide on my itinerary and buy the plane tickets soon.

Note if you buy your tickets on Norwegian but either on the UK or France version (so in pounds or euros), it will be cheaper by about 40$ one way.
ToujoursVoyager is online now  
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