Paris - First time in February

Jan 21st, 2010, 02:25 AM
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Paris - First time in February

Any advice for planning our itinerary? We have about 7 days and want to make the most out of it. I've heard you need to "try" to speak a little french and you'll get more respect... otherwise the french can be rude? Is this true? Are the beaches of Normandy worth visiting this time of year? Versailles? Is it best to take a taxi from the airport to our hotel or try a train? What are the safest Taxi's.. rather than independents?
tammylang is offline  
Jan 21st, 2010, 04:16 AM
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My daughter was there for about 10 days last February. Now understand, she is 22. It was cold, rainy and windy. She exclusively used the metro and rail systems to get around. She stayed at a great youth hostel, St. Christophers, about 15 minutes from Notre Dame. She had created, like her old dad does, a daily itinerary of things to do and places to go.

She saw everything she wanted to see, including trips to Versailles and a day trip to Chartes. While being cold and wet, she loved every minute. She does speak passable French.

She used the metro to get from CDG to the hostel. Also keep in mind she lives in NYC, so being solo and riding subways is no big deal for her. She was on a tight budget. She loved it, but said that she did not care if she ever returned or not.

She used her museum pass extensively, not just to see the places, but to also be able to pop in and warm up whenever she wanted.
daveesl is offline  
Jan 21st, 2010, 04:28 AM
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Two friends and I traveled to Paris two years ago during February school vacation. We stayed at a delightfully quaint hotel called Hotel Des Trois Pousins (The Three Chicks) in a little Parisian neighborhood off Rue des Martyrs; in one of Paris' most famous neighborhoods. If you want to experience "real" Parisian life, you'll find it here. Metro station was a three minute walk from the hotel. We took a one day trip to Normandy from the hotel ($125 per person) well worth every penny. We were six people with a private quide. The hotel made the reservation for us. I LOVE PARIS!!!!!!!!!!! AND THE PEOPLE TOO!!!!!!!!!!!!
lindacormier is offline  
Jan 21st, 2010, 04:57 AM
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I have met very few rude people in France. The problem is that the rules for courtesy there are different than the ones in the US, so sometimes visitors think the French are rude while the French are thinking the visitors are rude.

This seems to be less and less the case as more and more people in Paris speak English. But it is considered polite in France to greet people in shops before asking them for help. So when you enter a shop you say, "Bonjour, Madame" or "Bonjour, Monsieur" before you say anything else. It feels awkward for us but it is basic courtesy for them. Beyond bonjour, au revoir, s'il vous plait, and merci, it is really not necessary to speak French. Most people with whom you come in contact will speak enough English to communicate with you. Of course the more you learn, the more rewarding it can be.

I have not heard of unsafe taxis in Paris. You can either hail a taxi on the street, find one at a taxi stand, or call for one to pick you up. I prefer a taxi from the airport because of luggage, but the commuter rail (RER) is a less expensive option that many people use.
Nikki is online now  
Jan 21st, 2010, 05:12 AM
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How lucky you are to be seeing Paris for the first time! It won't be the last for certain. I'm sure you have done quite a bit of planning but before you go, find the topic "100 Great Things to do in Paris" on this forum. It has lots of great ideas and always puts me in a great mood whether for a trip about to begin or one that is further in the distance.
Speaking a little French makes it more fun for you and is a courtesy to the Parisians. I have never found the French to be rude - to the contrary, most of them are delightful and really appreciate your efforts to speak their language.
mamcalice is offline  
Jan 21st, 2010, 05:28 AM
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Couldn't agree more with the 2 posters above. Each trip I think more and more people in Paris speak English and have never had anyone be rude to me. Quite the opposite, I find the French by and large try to be very helpful. I like the saying Bonjour (or Bonsoir for good evening) upon entering a place of business and then au revoir & merci upon exiting. Seems so nice and so easy 2 do.
We tend to visit Paris a lot in the winter months so skip Versailles since the gardens will not be worth seeing and to me that is a part of the visit. In any case with just 7 days, u will find plenty to keep u busy in Paris itself, so I suggest saving any excursions for future visits -- and I'm betting there will be other visits to Paris. Enjoy your trip!
yestravel is offline  
Jan 21st, 2010, 05:54 AM
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I've been in January. Nice time of year to go because the crwowds will be smaller.

For the airport (CDG), there are several ways to get into Central Paris. The Metro does not go there, but the 'commuter train' (RER) does. This is the cheapest and fastest way to get into the city. The RER line shares stations with the Metro so you can switch from one to the other. The line originates at the airport, so getting a seat is higher probability. Some here say not to take it on first trip, tough with luggage. I'll let you decide. Alternatives are the Roissybus, that is a shuttle bus that drops you off near Opera, the Air France bus, that has several stops in the city (you don't need to be an AF pasdsenger to use it), shuttle buses (that you can book before going) that pick up a bunch of people and drop them off as it goes along, and taxis.

Within the city, I buy a carnet, which is a book of 10 tickets for the Metro/bus. I find it the easiest and most conveninetn for me. The Metro is everywhere. Paris is a great walking city, and if you stay in the right area you can optimize your walking. But, the sites are not all in the same are, so some public transit will be required

For money, I might consider getting a little, say 100 euro, beofer going, but bank machines are everywhere.

Where are you staying, waht are your interests?

Unless you have a real passion, I'd skip Normandy. With the time you have, you will not be able to take in all of pairs. I've been 10/11 times and still need to go back to see places. Versialles could work. It is on the commuter train line. It is a half to full day visit.

When you start planning, realize that the landing day will be mroe like a 1/2 day by the time you get out of airport to hotel, check-in,etc..and...jetlag. Last day, you need to get to airport early,etc so part of that day gets used also. So your 'on the ground' time is a bit less.

I'd start by buying a good guideboook,Fodor, just to see what's "on the menu". Then, with some possibilities, we can help design you a trip plan.

The French are not rude, but they are reserved. For example, Your waiter will not introduce himslef to you, and be your friend. But you will get prompt service, and they will not foist the bill on you until you are ready to leave. Yes, just a few phrases will be fine. A Bonjour on entering, and a Aurevoir or Bonsoir on leaving is good. I find the French are sticklers for this. Merci...s'il vous plait..couple of other good ones. Note the restaurants will post their menus outside, so you can translate before going in. In Central Paris, you should not have issues.

Sights? As a swag..Eiffel Tower, Champs Elysee, Arc de Triomphe, Tuileries, Louvre, Palais Royal, Opera Garnier, Place des vosges, Notre Dame, Sacre Coeur, St Chapelle, Ile St Louis, Luxembourg Gardens, Musee Moyen Age, Musee Rodin, Orsay, Musee Marmottan, Seine River Cruise, Versailles, St Germain area, Marais area, etc..

One thing you could also do is a 1/2 day bus tour to 'get a feel'. Paris Walks also does some nice english tours diffrent areas of the city.
Michel_Paris is offline  
Jan 21st, 2010, 07:18 AM
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I, too, would skip Normandy at this time of year. I was there in May of '05, and it was cool/cold, windy, and rainy; it was still very, very interesting. I can imagine that Feb. along the beaches could be even colder, etc.
grandmere is offline  
Jan 21st, 2010, 08:05 AM
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I recommend starting with the sights in Paris and then seeing if you have time for day trips at the end (here's a good Day Trips from Paris list:

As for the French, it's nice to try to speak some French, but much more important to remember to say "hello" "good-bye" "please" and "thank you".
amazingview is offline  
Jan 21st, 2010, 09:06 AM
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I don't think French are rude if you don't "try" to speak French and not rude if you do try. They often don't really like people "trying" to speak French who completely butcher the language. I think just be polite, whatever language you use. I have encountered rude French people, believe me, they are there, of course, but I wouldn't worry about everyone being rude. Even French people think a lot of them are rude, especially Parisians.

Don't take "independent" taxis, if you can even recognize or find one (they will approach you at CDG, but I don't think anywhere else it would even be that easy to find one).
Christina is offline  
Jan 22nd, 2010, 09:38 AM
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Thanks for all your replies. Michel_Paris... we are staying at the Westin. We would like to take a river cruise (any suggestions as to which vendor would be best?) visit some museums... and just loaf around and enjoy the city, restaurants, shopping etc. Also confused about the VAT tax. In one book I read that you have to spend, say 145 euro's in one shop per day, to even qualify. Is it true that if we use a credit card, some of those taxes are removed when processed thru the charge in the states? Learning bits and pieces from everyone, just hope I can retain it all! lol
tammylang is offline  
Jan 22nd, 2010, 09:47 AM
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The river cruise I've taken, and that other people seem to like, is Vedettes du Pont Neuf. It is located at the western end of Ile de la Cite, down below the bridge. There is also a nice small park there. You can get discounts coupons on the their website.

They are a smaller boat. I like their location because you can easily have dinner on the Left Bank then walk over to their location.

Note that you will see Seine diner cruises. Concencus seems to be that food in not that great.

Place d'Almma has some of the other, bigger boats.
Bateaux Mouches and Bateaux Parisiens
Michel_Paris is offline  
Jan 22nd, 2010, 10:02 AM
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To get a VAT refund, u must spend 175€ at one time in one store. Here's a web site that gives info on how to get the refund
yestravel is offline  
Jan 23rd, 2010, 06:19 PM
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Thank you! Just rented 2 movies about Paris and you all are much more informative!
tammylang is offline  
Jan 23rd, 2010, 06:31 PM
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You will not get any of the VAT back just from using a credit card. However, most US credit card issuers charge a "currency conversion fee," often 3%, that gets added to the cost of your charges. Some add only 1%, and Capital One still does not add anything.
d_claude_bear is offline  

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