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Touring Paris - Tour Guides/Tour Companies vs on your own

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Jul 6th, 2011, 01:57 PM
  #1
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Touring Paris - Tour Guides/Tour Companies vs on your own

I have 5 full days to see Paris completely on my own. Do you recommend a one day or two day guide with a professional group and then leave three days on my own? How about 3 half day tours with two days to explore on my own? I already contacted one Paris guide but he never replied back. My ideal tour would have no more than 10-12 people and would give adequate time to absorb the sights and soak in the local flavor without feeling rushed.

How does one manage a visit to the Louvre to maximize the experience?

Is five days too short to consider a one day hosted winery tour? I would love to do that but of course would need a driver and some experts. Any suggestions?

I am particularly interested in the names of tour companies with whom I can reserve in advance.

Your input is greatly appreciated.
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Jul 6th, 2011, 03:43 PM
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You might consider a bike tour; we loved it. We used BikeAbout tours because they were close to our apartment and had small groups (ours was about 12); Fat Tire bike tours is located near the Eiffel Tower.

Other than that, I haven't done a guided tour in Paris. I have read good things about Context Travel's tours.

O Chateau offers tours to Champagne, as do others. You can take the train there on your own, but I can understand wanting to go with a tour if you are solo.
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Jul 6th, 2011, 03:54 PM
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There's www.paris-walks.com, a cousin of the London Walks company, that covers areas and themes in Paris. We did their Montmartre and Marais walks to introduce us to those areas of Paris. Neither group was very large.

You can always do a bus tour introduction to the city. Some people recommend the Segway tour.
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Jul 6th, 2011, 04:53 PM
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I would recommend some tours. Paris Walks (shown above) offers very good 2 hour walking tours of small areas. I've done about a dozen of their tours and have really enjoyed them.

There is a free overview 3 hour tour:
http://www.newparistours.com/index.p...d=17&Itemid=30

And Notre Dame gives a free 1.5 to 2 hour tour, Wed & Thurs at 2:00; Sat at 2:30. I've done this tour twice.

Some museums offer guided tours by their own guides.

<< How does one manage a visit to the Louvre to maximize the experience? >>

Go to the Louvre web site, look at the floor plans, decide what you want to see and then figure out the order that will maximize your time. Or take a Paris Muse or Context tour of the Louvre.

<< Is five days too short to consider a one day hosted winery tour? >>

Yes

<< I am particularly interested in the names of tour companies with whom I can reserve in advance. >>

Context - http://www.contexttravel.com/city/Paris
Paris Walks if you take a private tour
http://www.parismuse.com/
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Jul 6th, 2011, 06:15 PM
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It should be kept in mind that those "free" tours are very misleading. The guides are hardly the best in Europe. And they are required to pay the tour company for each person who takes the "free" tour (yes, you read correctly). They try to recover their costs in tips, which is why they expect a fat tip at the end of a tour. They are not permitted to tell clients that they must pay the tour company (and not the other way around).

This is also true for some of the large tour companies: the tour director pays the company for each client, instead of the other way around. The tour directors make their money on commissions earned for the various "extras" they sell to tour clients. Surprisingly, the good tour directors can make a lot of money that way. But the "free" tour guides are often barely able to cover what they must pay to the tour company, and they are sworn to silence about it.
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Jul 6th, 2011, 06:21 PM
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We used French Mystique Tours for a 6 day guided tour outside of Paris, but I'm sure they could help you in Paris as well. very flexible, reasonable and fun - will attune the trip to your needs. Also could take you outside of Paris on day trips if you wanted. They do bike tours as well.

http://frenchmystiquetours.com/

I know I'm a rebel here, but I really wasn't wild about the Louvre - too big, too crowded, too much. I much preferred the smaller museums where you don't have to fight the crowds to see things (carnavalet, cluny, Orsay for example). If you can't resist the Louvre go on one of the evenings it is open when the crowds are less. enjoy!
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Jul 6th, 2011, 06:33 PM
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We do almost all our touring on our own. One exception is small scale walking tours of a particular area that lasts for 2 or 3 areas - as long as the group is small and it's an interesting area and a great guides. Most of the guides of the larger tours are least common denominator - with a patter of old jokes and a few comments on local sights - but little in depth or really interesting.

Caveat: my degree is in european history and before a trip I read everything that's not nailed down. If you can find a really good and interesting tour you can get the inside scoop. I find those by grad students or retired profs to be the most interesting.

As for the Louvre - go the web site, check out the various departments and see which you really want to see. Other wise you get the few famous exhibits - and not what YOU are really interested in.
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Jul 6th, 2011, 06:53 PM
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<< I know I'm a rebel here, but I really wasn't wild about the Louvre >>

I'm with you, Laura! Paris is full of many interesting, small museums that are practically empty.
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Jul 7th, 2011, 12:27 AM
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The Louvre is practically empty, too, if you stray off the tourist path to the Mona Lisa or Venus de Milo.

Some areas of the Louvre are almost always deserted, even in high season.

Florence wanted to borrow the Mona Lisa for an exposition, but the Louvre said no, because the painting is too fragile. The other, unspoken reason for the refusal, though, is that nobody would visit the Louvre if it weren't for the Mona Lisa. The artistic value of the painting is only moderate, but the commercial value is incalculable.
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Jul 7th, 2011, 05:02 AM
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<< It should be kept in mind that those "free" tours are very misleading. The guides are hardly the best in Europe. And they are required to pay the tour company for each person who takes the "free" tour >>

I have to disagree with this statement.

1. The Notre Dame tour is given by volunteers who do a wonderful job of explaining Gothic churches and Notre Dame. You do not register for this tour - you show up. You do not tip. If you choose to give the guide a tip, the volunteer turns the money into the church. There is no tour company involved here.

2. Sandeman's tours - again, you do not reserve, you show up for the tour. I would tip the guide for one of these tours as that is how the guide gets paid. Are you saying that there is someone monitoring the tours and reporting back about how many people took the tour?

3. One of the absolute best free tours I've been on was given by a graduate student at Ste-Chappele. Again, there was no reserving. I happened to be there at the right time to benefit from this tour. I gave the student a very large tip since she was exceptional. I can't imagine who would be reporting her to whom about the number of people she guided.

4. Another very good free tour was at St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. This was a teaser to sell the company's other tours. This tour was every bit as good as the tours of St. Peter's I had paid for.
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Jul 7th, 2011, 05:19 AM
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eurocheapo.com Paris excellent city guides budget tips

paris-walks.com nice way to do it at a good price

virtualtourist.com Paris many helpful locals

Personally always prefer self guiding tonnes cheaper&more fun

Happy Travels!
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Jul 7th, 2011, 05:25 AM
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I agree with adrienne. We took a Paris Walks tour of the Left Bank and the guide was a graduate student in history at the Sorbonne -- very knowledgeable and very personable. Excellent overview.
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Jul 7th, 2011, 06:34 AM
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I'm with laura and adrienne when it comes to the Louvre.
Our favorite museum is the Carnavalet in The Marais.
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Jul 7th, 2011, 09:27 AM
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I didn't mention the Paris Walks tours since they are not free but they are very good. The guides are certified which means they must take a knowledge test in two languages.
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Jul 7th, 2011, 10:09 AM
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Adrienne, yes, the tours are monitored, and the guides have to pay for each person who takes the tour. The ethics are highly questionable, but it's legal. I'm not sure why guides consent to do it, however. Unlike the major tours, there are no extras to sell or commissions to earn. It's possible that the guides don't need working papers, since they are paying the tour company, and not the other way around.
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Jul 7th, 2011, 10:44 AM
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I'm sure people don't pay to volunteer!
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Jul 7th, 2011, 01:34 PM
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The guides are required to pay the agency about €3 per participant. The agency does not employ the guides; it's the other way around, and the agency is paid to "recruit" clients. The guide makes money from tips. If he earns more in tips than he paid the agency for the clients, he makes money. If he earns less, he loses money, because he has to pay the agency whether he earns any tips or not. The clients are counted by the agency so that he cannot cheat. His contract does not allow him to reveal to clients that he is actually paying for the (dubious) privilege of being their guide.

Since the guide is actually a client of the agency, the agency is not obligated to provide any benefits or obey any employment laws, because technically it is not an employer.
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Jul 11th, 2011, 05:29 PM
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To all that contributed -thank you for all of your suggestions. now i have to get down to figuring all this out. I am not complaining but this a bit overwhelming. i need a vacation from my vacation planning......
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Jul 21st, 2011, 03:10 PM
  #19
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Just received a great referral in caseanyone is interested in artist tour: http://www.artventures-paris.com
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Jul 21st, 2011, 04:08 PM
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KA...you aren't the first to be overwhelmed by the amount of info and the fact that the opinions vary widely...

I am with the others who find other museums more interesting and fun than the Louvre (D'Orsay, for one). I do understand wanting to go there anyway.

I am more of my own girl and don't do tours usually. Have done a few outside Paris (as a work trip and they paid for it, or I probably wouldn't have done it). I just want to be on my own time frame and I read a lot prior to going, so while I probably miss some interesting points, but I prefer to go it alone.

Enjoy your trip...do what you enjoy and take the advice that suits your style. If you do what you enjoy, you can't go wrong in Paris!
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