Versailles/Champagne Tour Advice Needed

Jan 6th, 2013, 04:55 PM
  #1  
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Versailles/Champagne Tour Advice Needed

Although I visit Paris almost every year I've never been to Versailles or the Champagne region; I'll be visiting the city with my sister-in-law and my niece this summer and they'd like to see both places, and I suppose that I should finally see them, too. However, I have an intense dislike of the long lines and crowds that are found in tourist destinations (which is why I have never been up the Eiffel Tower) and so I'm thinking that a guided tour might be the way to go when we visit these spots.

I'd like to ask if anyone out there has a recommendation for a tour guide or tour group for either of these places? I'm perfectly willing to go out to Versailles and/or Champagne on my own if that is better, but I remember reading somewhere that, at least for Versailles, a guided tour is the way to go.

Merci d'avance to all of you smart and experienced travelers for your help!
dlejhunt is offline  
Jan 6th, 2013, 06:55 PM
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I've never done a guided tour of Versailles as I've always found the audio guide pefectly adequate. Buy your tickets ahead of time and visit the chateau when it opens or if you arrive later than the morning then visit the gardens first and visit the chateau after 3PM.

As for the Champagne region just what is it you want to do? Do you just want to visit some champagne houses? If so, just take a train to Reims or Epernay. Look at their tourist office websites to find out about visiting champagne houses or look for info about guided tours. You can also visit the region on your own if you rent a car:

http://www.reims-tourism.com/

http://www.ot-epernay.com/

You'll find even more info on the regional tourist office website:

http://www.champagne-ardenne-tourism.co.uk/default.aspx
FrenchMystiqueTours is offline  
Jan 6th, 2013, 09:09 PM
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Thanks FrenchMystiqueTours. In the Champagne region, I think, uh, know that we want to visit some champagne houses, but I would also like to see the cathedral in Reims because my undergrad French professor Jean-Luc drilled into my head, "RAHNZ...ville où les rois sont sacrés..." so many times that I have to see that damn cathedral. I'll visit the Reims website to see what we might do.
dlejhunt is offline  
Jan 7th, 2013, 01:45 AM
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We went to Reims on our own last month. The cathedral is within walking distance of the train station and the Tourist Office is next door to the cathedral. After we walked around the town a bit and spent some time in the cathedral, the staff at the tourism office called a taxi for us as we had a lunch reservation and Ruinart tour afterwards.
Judy is online now  
Jan 7th, 2013, 08:21 AM
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Just remember that there are 2 train stations in Reims and one is 8km outside of Reims but there is a tram that will bring you to the city center.

Also, you'll get the cheapest prices on TGV tickets by booking 3 months in advance. For train schedules and prices use www.voyages-sncf.com (in French) or its English language companion site www.tgv-europe.com. Look at this website for help with booking your tickets if using the tgv-europe website:


www.nickbooth.id.au/Tips/FrenchTrain.htm

The train schedules aren't posted more than 3 months in advance so you'll have to wait a few months to book your ticket.
FrenchMystiqueTours is offline  
Jan 7th, 2013, 09:40 AM
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You didn't mention you dates only as summer..A caution that we know is be aware of the lack of availability in the Chamgagne region during harvest..and many hotels have no AC..It gets pretty hot outside and worse inside a hotel room..We, (2 dd and 2 dgd and self loved our time in both areas during July but did feel the heat, especially at night. tha t said..the inconveniences are far outweighed by the experiences!!
amer_can is offline  
Jan 7th, 2013, 09:58 AM
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I enjoyed my visit to the Martel house in Reims. It's a smaller house and the tour guide was very funny and sweet.

And, at the end of their tour, you get to taste 3 of their champagnes (vs. the typical 1 glass in the other houses)!

http://www.champagnemartel.com/en/house/index.php

http://www.reims-tourism.com/reims-c.../foliot/0.aspx
joannyc is offline  
Jan 7th, 2013, 11:24 AM
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If by any chance you belong to a Country Club or similar or are an elite or well known customer of a wine shop you should ask if they have any suggestions or perhaps if their Champanage Rep has. You might be surprised with a freebee private tour courtesy of them. We had a wonderful experience this way both in Oporto, for port, and Epernay..Truly a much appreciated surprise and wonderful!!!
amer_can is offline  
Jan 7th, 2013, 12:02 PM
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You might also try Paris Vison tours at www.parisvision.com They offer a variety of tours. We took one to the Champagne district a few years ago. It included several tastings and visits to other sites in the area as well.
waterdog is offline  
Jan 7th, 2013, 12:22 PM
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I"ve never done a guided tour of Versailles, I'm not sure why that would be better than not. I know a lot about French history and read a lot, also, though, so know the basics already, and for everything else, an audioguide or just the curating notes are fine for me.

I'm sure you are aware that if you are in a guided tour, that doesn't do anything whatsoever to help the crowds, the crowds are still there. It can help lines, of course, if they get you access to some places. But if you sign up for a guided tour on-site, you aren't going to miss the lines to get in to it in the first place. I don't really remember any other lines at Versailles except the one to get into it, and I've been there in summer. But you can see some private apts with a guided tour that you cannot othewise, and they do have a separate entrance to the right of the main one, so that should help if you buy a ticket in advance online. YOu could do that anyway for the regular building.

YOu might as well use the private guides at the chateau, if you buy a private tour that starts from Paris, for example, you are going to pay a hefty price and the transportation is easy. The ticket is only 16 euro from their website.

I wouldn't buy a guided tour to Reims without a good reason, and lines aren't one of them in that location. If you want one for other reasons, okay, but I've never heard of lines at their museums or the cathedral.

I don't like champagne so didn't visit any champagne houses and can't advise on that point but given you can book those tours, I wouldn't think lines would be a problem there, either. For example, you go to the Veuve Cliquot website and they tell you how to contact them to make an appt for a tour (look under visits) http://www.veuve-clicquot.com/ I think others do something similar, like Mumms or Taittinger.
Christina is offline  
Jan 7th, 2013, 01:15 PM
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Went to Reims during the Fodor's Paris GTG last fall. Prems tickets on the TGV to Reims were 15 euro per person each way. Most of the historic stuff is within walking distance of the Reims train station. The Surrender Museum was very interesting and from there it's a quick walk to the Mars Gate (Roman) and into the historic center of Reims to see the cathedral. We toured the Ruinart champagne house (35 euro pp, reserve way in advance). Ruinart and several other of the champagne houses require a taxi ride as they're a substantial distance from the center of Reims.

When I visited Versailles, I took the RER and bypassed the long ticket line by using the Paris Musee Pass. The palais was very crowded until mid-afternoon when all the tour buses departed, but the gardens were lovely and quiet throughout the day. I enjoyed the Grand and Petit Trianon far more than the palais because they weren't crowded. It's all beautiful, though.
theflock is offline  
Jan 7th, 2013, 01:34 PM
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The 35 euro Ruinart tour/tasting does give you a glass of one their vintage (250 euro/bottle) champagnes. We thought it was an excellent tour. I've also enjoyed Pommery and Moet and Chandon tours.
Judy is online now  
Jan 8th, 2013, 12:47 PM
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I agree that the Ruinart tour is well worth the 35 euro price given the small group size, leisurely pace and a glass of Dom Ruinart or Dom Ruinart Rose at the end. As mentioned earlier, book well in advance as they have very limited space. We walked from the center of town (took about half an hour) but taxis and buses are also available. Taittinger, Pommery, Martel and Veuve Clicquot are also down in this area. The other champagne houses in Reims are easier to reserve and some do take walk-ins.

Both Reims and Epernay are easy to visit on your own.

If you want a guided tour of the Champagne countryside with tastings at small producers in the villages, I can recommend http://www.cristourschampagne-ardenne.com/index.php/en/ They can pick you up at the Reims train station.

We spent a few days in Reims and you may find something else of interest in my trip report http://www.fodors.com/community/euro...ims-report.cfm
Patty is offline  
Jan 8th, 2013, 08:58 PM
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Thanks everyone! I think we'll do Versailles on our own; maybe walk through the gardens late in the morning and then hit the house when the crowds thin out a little. I'd really like to see the gardens and so planning the trip on our own will give us the flexibility walk through them on a nice day.

As for Reims, I'll need to consult with my traveling companions; I have a huge passion for French history but don't think their enthusiam matches mine. We may be better off just doing a package tour, and I will investigate your link Patty, thank you for that.
dlejhunt is offline  

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