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We want ~8 days in Rome, ~10 in Paris...this May. Help?

We want ~8 days in Rome, ~10 in Paris...this May. Help?

Dec 25th, 2015, 06:27 PM
  #1  
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We want ~8 days in Rome, ~10 in Paris...this May. Help?

We're hoping to go back to Europe this May. We went to London/Paris in April/May 2014, now we want Rome/Paris. So now I need help on some things. I'm 52, husband is 56. We don't really drink alcohol (I know! No beer in London, or wine in Paris or Rome--our meds seriously don't like it). We like to walk and wander through museums, shopping areas, and just the streets.

I realize that "better" and "pros/cons" are subjective, so I'm not going to have a hissy fit with anecdotal evidence nor with answers that disagree.

We're hoping to fly open-jaw from California into Rome, take the train/fly to Paris, and fly back from there. Extra days in Paris to allow time for Normandy and Mont St-Michel (both requests from Husband, so they are definitely on the list). I know we want to go to Rome first, and be in Paris on May 9--we have to set some kind of start, so we opted for that day since it's the start of the Bread Festival (best traditional baguette in Paris).

For Rome, we can figure out WHAT we want to see (the typical tourist stuff in Rome/Vatican plus general wandering around the city), but would like advice on the best WAY to see it. Passes? Guides? Tours? Tips to do or avoid doing? Suggestions about places to stay IN town, with a budget of up to US$150/night.

If we opted for a day trip elsewhere, suggestions? I'd be interested in Pompeii. Is that something better off with a group day tour or on our own?

We were told by friends that, for getting to Paris, we could just go the airport and take RyanAir (or something similar) for the 3-hour flight. Is that better--or cheaper--than an overnight train? What are the pros/cons, aside from the obvious: time?

In Paris, we have ideas of what we want to see more of and what we missed out on the first time. But Normandy.... We're interested in the battle sites and, as I posted, Mont St-Michel. Husband is NOT interested in driving there (neither am I). Are we better off going on our own by train? A day trip? A multi-day trip? I have no idea what the options are and what the pros/cons are of each.

Why Paris again? We really liked Paris and this allows Normandy/Mont St-Michel. Getting familiar with Rome will help on a future trip to Rome/Florence/Venice. We'll likely stop in London again on a future trip to areas outside London and/or Ireland. We want to spend time in one city, not rushrushrush, doing too much.

So, thanks in advance to any help.
propita is offline  
Dec 25th, 2015, 07:22 PM
  #2  
 
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You seem open to all ideas, so IMHO, I know it is doable, but a day trip from Rome to Pompeii would not be enjoyable for me, plus May would be a perfect time to see the Amalfi Coast. If you would like to see Pompeii (and I highly recommend it), why not combine it with a few days on the AC?

Also, if you go to Pompeii and stay on the AC, check on flights from Naples to Paris rather than going back to Rome.

You are coming off a long haul flight into Rome, so an extra day there would not be amiss. The Bread festival would certainly be fun, but there is always great bread in Paris, so you might consider cutting a day from France, adding it to Italy, splitting your time between Rome and the AC, including Pompeii.

Definitely fly from Rome or Naples to Paris. Book early for cheapest rates, read Ryanair website very, very, very carefully. People complain about them, but I have used them many times with no issues. Follow their rules on luggage and time to a T. Also check which airport they are using. Sometimes people do not notice that when it says the city, the airport is not the main one, but some place in the boonies where transportation may be costly and time consuming. Just a heads up on that.
Sassafrass is offline  
Dec 25th, 2015, 11:55 PM
  #3  
mjs
 
Join Date: Feb 2003
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We did Rome, Normandy and Paris in October from California so I might be of some help. We tend to stay in apartments and our budget is considerably higher than yours so I won't be of much help for accommodations. I will say however that everyone else at a cooking class in Rome was staying in an Airbnb at very reasonable rates so you may want to check into it for Rome unless you want a hotel. I too would not do Pompeii as a day trip but would book a few nights in the Amalfi Coast. You could do this in any number of ways depending on where you live in California. If you are flying out of LAX or SFO you could fly directly to somewhere like Frankfurt or London etc and connect to Naples or Rome. Train between Rome and Naples or vice versa and fly out of Naples or Rome to Paris. We tend to fly Easyjet and a one way ticket with luggage etc should be less than $100/person. Its actually quite easy to drive from Paris to Normandy and around Normandy with a GPS unit but if you don't want to you can transfer into Paris from CDG or ORY to the Gare St Lazare and take a train to Normandy. You really cannot do the Normandy Beaches and Mt St Michel in one day. We stayed in Bayeux at the hotel D'Argouges which was reasonable and in your price range. We took a one day Overlord tour of the D day beaches which was quite good. We drove to Mt St Michel but you could take the bus from the Hotel Churchill in Bayeux to Mt St Michel for a day trip. Normandy is a few hundred kilometers from Paris so you don't want to do multiple day trips. I found tours to Normandy from Paris to be quite expensive so with your budget I would do it by yourself.
mjs is offline  
Dec 26th, 2015, 01:36 AM
  #4  
 
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I would recommend an apartment for Rome given your budget and the length of your stay. I like to use the agency Rome Loft, and others are reporting good experiences with AirBnb for Rome. If you prefer a hotel, looking on booking.com and reading reviews there is usually the most efficient way of finding something in a location you like within your budget.

Logistically, Pompei is much more easily combined with Rome for a day visit than it is with the Amalfi coast. I realize that for many people, any trip south of Rome, it looks logical to bunch Pompei with the Amalfi coast. But it's only logical if you very much want to see the Amalfi coast at the expense of seeing Rome or your agenda for France. If you are able to fly into Naples, visiting the Amalfi first and then Pompei, en route to Rome, is the most efficient way to do it, so obviously you are not going to get more than a "day trip" to Pompei whether you start out from Rome or start out from the Amalfi. If you start out from the Amalfi. unless you hire a driver to take you Pompei from the coast (pricey), you will spend a couple of complicaetd early morning hours on crowded public transportation with your luggage getting from the coast to Pompei. Not the case on a daytrip from Rome.

Of course, if you can add more days to your trip, then taking on the logistics of getting into and out of the Amalfi coast doesn't mean sacrificing anything else of your itinerary. Or maybe once you figure out what you want to do in Rome, you'll discover you only need 2 or 3 days there for a satisfying introduction to the eternal city. However, you will probably need to up your lodgings budget a bit for a hotel on the Amalfi coast in May.

Other recommendable day excursions from Rome are Orvieto, Ostia Antica, Lago Bracciano, Florence and Tarquinia. You can do all these trips on your own, without a guide, using inexpensive train transport, and that is also true for Pompeii as a day trip from Rome. It is best not to book a tour in advance because you don't know what the weather will be. That is another issue for seeing Pompei as part of seeing the Amalfi coast. You will need to commit in advance to doing on a certain day in your itinerary. No flexibility there.
sandralist is offline  
Dec 26th, 2015, 03:31 AM
  #5  
 
Join Date: May 2007
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Read up on the Vatican's Scavi tour. If it's something you would be interested in then you must plan ahead and book the tour 90 days in advance.
roseclare is offline  
Dec 26th, 2015, 03:58 AM
  #6  
 
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I have taken day trips from Rome to Pompeii twice. Once was independent travel by train and the other time was a shuttle bus arranged through the tour company Enjoy Rome. This was quite a few years ago but I see they still operate the service, either with or without an included tour. We did not use a tour, just the transportation.

http://www.enjoyrome.com/package/pompeii-shuttle/

Both of these methods were fine. The independent travel allowed more flexibility in our schedule, but the shuttle allowed over four hours at the site and we did not feel rushed. The shuttle did not make any other stops for meals, touring or souvenir shopping, as some of the day tours from Rome seemed to do, so that was preferable and wasted much less time.
Nikki is online now  
Dec 26th, 2015, 06:51 AM
  #7  
 
Join Date: Feb 2006
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in April/May I see no reason why you shouldn't do a day trip to Pompeii, and Nikki's suggested method looks likes one of the easiest ways to do it.

4 hours at Pompeii is probably long enough for all but the most dedicated - it's a huge site but in the end there's a limit to how long you can walk round without barely any shade or cover from the sun, which we found was pretty hot even in February.

if you can fit it in somehow, I would suggest a trip to the National Archeological Museum in Naples before you go to Pompeii - the Pompeii exhibition upstairs is remarkable and would make Pompeii itself all the more interesting. if you were prepared to pay the cost of a night in Naples, one way to do it would be to get the train to Naples, spend a day and night there, then get straight to Pompeii on the circovesuviana train, returning that same day to Rome. There are plenty of other things to see and do in Naples that would fill the rest of your day.
annhig is offline  
Dec 26th, 2015, 05:45 PM
  #8  
 
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You may want to check out Ostia Antica as an alternative to Pompeii if it suits you.

We thoroughly enjoyed Through Eternity Tours for the Colosseum and Forum. Our guide was an archaeologist and gave us a wealth of information to digest but was still interesting and engaging (not too technical).

We loved the small hill town of Orvieto, about an hour away from Rome. Can't recommend it enough, lots of interesting tourist sites, beautiful streets and countryside scenery, and good ceramics shopping.

We found the gardens of Villa d'Este to be a refreshing break from the city. I imagine they'll be lovely in May.

As far as Normandy / D-Day sites / MSM -- we took the train to Caen from Paris and then picked up our rental car there. Since you don't want a rental car, you might be able to hire guided services to both MSM and WWII? You'd have to do a little research and seeing what is available. You'll probably want to make an overnight stop to cover both of these "stops". There might also be some overnight tours offered out of Paris?

If you visit Versailles, the official site offers incredibly affordable tours (€7) of the Private Apartments of the King. Groups are limited to around 30. Hang to the back of the group and you'll get the gorgeous rooms to yourselves just long enough to take it all in, imagine the kings and queens living there, and snap a great picture. Don't miss the outlying sites like the Petite Trianon and Hamlet.
candj83 is offline  
Dec 28th, 2015, 07:22 AM
  #9  
 
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We did a few small tours in Rome. We ordinarily are not big on tours but a few of these were attractive to us mostly because we could skip entry lines and learn more about the site, without too big of a group.

We used Walks of Italy for the Colisseum (we did the tour that included the top level and the "basement". Very cool to walk onto the floor of the Colisseum and learn about the behind the scenes activities happening below the floor. So many people tried to slip in behind our group to get on the top floor of the Colisseum. The tour also went to The Forum. Really good...we would not have known much about what we saw without the tour!

We also went with WoI for the Vatican museum and the Pristine Sistine tour. Stuart was our guide and takes you directly to the Sistine Chapel first....while it is still practically empty. Totally worth it. He is a fantastic guide and he works you back to the front by politely asking the guards to make a shortcut. You see everything and then end in the much more crowded Sistine Chapel.

We also did the Scavi tour at the Vatican. Great (as long as you aren't claustrophobic). We used a private guide for Hadrian's Villa and Villa d'Este. Even if you don't use a guide, Tivoli is a quick train ride from Rome and Villa d'Este is right in town. You would need a taxi or bus to go to Hadrian's Villa, I think. Villa d'Este is a "don't miss" IMO! We also enjoyed a day trip to Orvieto.

One less famous site in Rome is the Doria Pamphilj palazzo. It is in central Rome and is really pretty and has a good art collection. It's a little oasis in the middle of all the craziness in Rome...never crowded.

Paris....so many easy day trips by train. Fontainebleau/Barbizon, Vaux Le Vicomte, Chartres, Giverny are all options. Some of the lesser known places we love in Paris are: St Denis (burial place of French kings), Musee Marmottan, L' Orangerie ( huge Monet canvases). I have not been to Normandy but I would probably look into a guide to do that well.
denisea is offline  
Dec 28th, 2015, 10:15 AM
  #10  
 
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Better is subjective so no one can really say whether the train or flying from Rome to Paris is better by either method. I would never take an overnight train if I had a choice (been there, done that) in this day and age when you have such cheap flights. Flying probably is cheaper, of course, those overnight trains are not cheap unless you don't want to sleep and rough it. If you have your own sleeper room (which are not really that comfortable on a train, noisy, etc), it's often more expensive than a budget hotel. The train takes about 14 hours minimum, and you have to change trains en route, also, there is no direct train. I would never do it. The night train would probably cost you about 150 euro (second class) and I don't think that includes a bed. Airfare would be 75 euro or less.

I would ever take Ryanair myself, I fly Easyjet within Europe and like that airline a lot. Ryanair is rock bottom, although you should get there. It's up to you, compare what you get for a certain prices, all things included. Easyjet flies from FCO to ORY, also, which is the Paris airport that is smaller and closer in to the city, I prefer it. Ryanair doesn't even fly into an airport as close as CDG (let alone ORY) or with as good transportation options they fly into BVA. Even Air France flies that route and is often pretty competitive on some routes nowadays, but it flies into CDG. I wouldn't trust the advice of someone who told you to take Ryanair from Rome to Paris.
Christina is online now  
Dec 28th, 2015, 10:40 AM
  #11  
 
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If your friends told you to "take Ryan Air (or something similar" then I see no reason not to continue to trust their advice. The advice I would ignore is from people so emotionally they are in a freak-out state of dug-in resistance about anything.

If you have a variety of options for carriers, presumably you'll end up booking the flight that is most convenient relative to the others based on departure schedule, airport location, cost, and many factors. RyanAir has a fine safety record and is reliable (doesn't cancel flights, they leave on time, etc). But if you like Easy Jet's particulars better, or some similar airline, your friends have not steered you wrong.
sandralist is offline  
Dec 28th, 2015, 03:44 PM
  #12  
 
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I second the recommendation to search on Air France. I recently booked one way tickets for my family in April from Venice to Paris for $42 each plus $20 for a checked bag.
Sally30 is offline  
Dec 29th, 2015, 01:13 AM
  #13  
 
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I would ever take Ryanair myself, I fly Easyjet within Europe and like that airline a lot. Ryanair is rock bottom, although you should get there.>>

Christina - years ago I would have agreed with you about Ryanair but having been forced to take it a couple of times recently, simply because it was the only airline that went to where I wanted to go, I have changed my mind. They have for example dropped the insistence on only one carry-on bag, even if the second one is a handbag, unlike Easyjet who insist on that still, unless you pay them some more money. Furthermore in the last few months I have had less than stellar experiences with Easyjet who used a shed as their departure lounge at Bordeaux [rather than the lovely new airport building next door] and on several occasions kept us all waiting for ages to board with no seating or loos available.

so whilst I will continue to use both, I'm being a bit more careful about when and how I use Easyjet.
annhig is offline  
Dec 29th, 2015, 08:02 PM
  #14  
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Thanks, everyone! I will be reading and re-reading all of this as we plan!
propita is offline  
Dec 29th, 2015, 11:50 PM
  #15  
 
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I agree that Ostia Antica is a great alternative to Pompeii. It's about a 30 minute train ride from Rome. The difference is that it's a city that has been abandoned rather than buried in volcanic ash. We've been to both and enjoyed both.
cathies is online now  
Dec 30th, 2015, 05:02 AM
  #16  
 
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if you go to Ostia, take the time to cross over to the Burgo opposite and if you can get in, have a look inside the church. I gather that there are some lovely frescos in it, but unfortunately there was a private baptism going on when we were there and we weren't allowed in.

There are also a few restaurants there that might make a better lunch-time option than the official site cafe.
annhig is offline  
Dec 30th, 2015, 01:12 PM
  #17  
 
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I also would recommend checking out Air France. Last week, I booked Bologna to Paris in Mayfor $43 -- yes dollars (though there isn't really that much difference these days).

And I just now checked US Air France site...Venice to Paris is $43, too, for mid-week flights in mid-May. Weekends cost more.

ssander
ssander is offline  
Jan 2nd, 2016, 11:05 PM
  #18  
 
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If you will be in France in May, make certain to check the schedule of holiday closings - http://www.calendrier-365.fr/jours-feries/2016.html.

Many smaller businesses will close for "le pont" (a 3 or 4 day weekend). May 1 is probably the worst day to be in Paris, since almost everything is closed. May is also the traditional month for protest marches and general strikes, which can tie up transportation. You can Google for this information, which is released normally about one week in advance.

I wouldn't recommend a night train, which I find uncomfortable and IME don't ever live up to expectations, but would check with Kayak or another search engine for cheap flights. A 3 hour flight is not worth worrying about which airline gives better service, but I would definitely keep abreast of the possibility of transportation strikes.
fuzzbucket is offline  
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