Anyone here have Paris/France Travel Tips?

Discussion in 'Fred's House of Pancakes' started by ggood, Mar 31, 2009.

  1. ggood

    ggood Senior Member

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    My wife and I going to take advantage of the cheap airfares to Paris, with possible side trips to the Alps and/or to the south of France. Anyone here have any helpful suggestions for itinerary and accommodations? Probably about a 10 day trip. I'm an art lover, so will probably spend a fair bit of time in the Paris musems, and maybe try to hit the Van Gogh museum in Arles.

     
  2. Wildkow

    Wildkow New Member

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    If at all possible DO NOT fly into or out of Charles de Gaulle (CDG) you will wait forever on a good day. Orly (ORY) is your other choice but I have never flown in there so I can't tell you if it is better or worse.

    First thing in town take a double decker bus tour around just to get your bearings. Then take individual tours whatever your tastes dictates. Try to learn a few key phrases they enjoy very much the fact that you are trying to speak the language. We only had one small problem the whole time we were there and the rudeness wasn't directed at us we just got caught in the cross-fire.

    Try not to take to many pictures of the HUGE phallic symbol in the middle of the city. Otherwise when you get home you'll wonder WTH! happen to the rest of Paris and your friends will start question your sexuality. :D

    BTW! One of the best trips my wife and I have ever taken, and I'm no real fan of the French but I would go back in a heartbeat because of all the history you can experience there.

    Have a blast.

    Wildkow

    p.s. Wear a coat to the Eiffel Tower it's cold up there and sometimes it takes a long time to get on the elevators. I can't remember the name of the tall building south of the Tower (50+ stories about 2 miles away) but take a tour there, it is the best view of the city. See the pic it will give you an idea where its located and it pretty much stands alone so it shouldn't be too hard to find.

    [​IMG]
     
  3. qbee42

    qbee42 My other car is a boat

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    Make sure to check museum schedules in advance. Some of the museums, even large ones, are open only on certain days or limited hours. Even if open, only certain wings may be open on a given day. Pay attention to the details.

    I have flown into and out of both Charles de Gaulle (CDG) and Orly (ORY). Orly is smaller and less crowded, but both will work. Like any major airport, things can get snarled up at both. Public transportation is available from both, and I highly recommend it over using taxis. Taxis should be your last choice, unless you budget is unlimited. Besides, you get a better feel for an area from public transportation.

    Public transportation in Paris is excellent. The Metro is inexpensive and reliable. Be aware that Paris closes at night, unlike New York, so if you don't pay attention you may miss the last train and have to walk. Speaking of which, Paris is a very walkable city. Plan on doing a lot of walking if you can. It is by far the best way to see the city. I like to take the Metro to a specific area, then walk from there.

    As a tourist, you are eligible for a discounted Metro pass. It is well worth it. You can get one for just Paris, or one that also includes regional train service. The regional trains will get you to Versailles. I recommend buying the pass right at the airport and using it to get to your hotel. The pass will be good for a certain number of days with unlimited rides. With a pass you are more likely to be spontaneous. More than once my wife and I have said "I wonder what it's like over at..." and decided to jump on the Metro and just go.

    In France you are always at risk of a strike. Striking is a national pastime for French people. You may get there and discover the trains are no longer running, or there are picketers at the airport. Be prepared to be flexible.

    Try not to schedule too tightly. Leave some time for wandering about. The French are serious about eating, so expect that to take some time too. A cheap way to eat is to grab some food from a bakery and sit on a bench. You get good food for cheap, plus you get to people watch.

    As for hotels, I prefer to stay in a smaller local hotel than one of the big Americanized chains. The Internet makes it a lot easier to find them, but if you need specific advice, PM me and I will oblige.

    If you like Chateaus, the Loire Valley is not too far south of Paris. Some of the most magnificent Chateaus in the world can be found there. If you would like to stay overnight in a Chateaus, I can give you a contact for that too. If you go to the Loire Valley, make sure to see Château de Chambord and Château de Chenonceau:

    Château de Chambord - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
    Château de Chenonceau - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    Just for motivation, here is a photo of my wife looking at Chambord:

    [​IMG]

    Tom
     

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  4. jayman

    jayman Senior Member

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    As far as airports, most of my business in Europe has me flying into Heathrow in England, or Schiphol in The Netherlands. I've found that Schiphol offers very good train connections - through Amsterdam Central - to the rest of Europe

    For example, I've taken the Thalys between Schiphol and Brussels. The service from Brussels to Paris is a high speed link. I booked what we would call First Class and the meal service was excellent

    Be aware that you should have your passport handy at all times

    I've only briefly stayed in Paris and it was completely overwhelming. You really have to spend 10 days minimum. As I'm reasonably fluent in French and German, I had no problems at all, and the French are very warm and friendly once they spot a Canadian flag on you

    As usual, watch out for pickpockets and other petty thievery. Serious violent crime is rare.
     
  5. Dipena

    Dipena Senior Member

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    Moi, j'adore La France and les Francais. It's been awhile, but...

    Berthillon on Ile St. Louis for ice cream (to die for). And Ile St. Louis is an adorable little neighborhood of 17th-18th century buildings, so it's great to get an ice cream (glace, I think it's called) and walk around there.

    I really enjoyed going to Versailles, which is just outside of Paris.

    The Jeu de Paume is a lovely smaller art museum in Paris, leaning more toward contemporary art.

    I highly recommend Ste. Chapelle if you love historic sites. Definitely go to Notre Dame, but Ste. Chapelle is beautiful as well. It has the most exquisite stained glass.

    You can get many high-end cosmetics and fragrances there in the drug stores and apothecaries for better prices than over here. The Sephora store there is huge.

    Everyone always talks about how expensive the restaurants are over there, but generally even a crepe bought on the street is better than most US food. You can eat very nicely just from boulangeries and patisseries and all the other -eries.

    It is very nice just to buy a sandwich or pastry and sit in the Luxembourg Gardens and pretend that you have all the time in the world.
     
  6. hyo silver

    hyo silver Awaaaaay

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    Well, if it were me going, I'd visit in early June and see the Le Mans endurance race. And I could spend several days just watching TGVs fly by - any major rail station in the country would hold my interest for hours. Then, I'd be off cycling the countryside, making my way down to the Mediterranean.

    I'll ask my daughter if she has any recommendations for Paris.

    I wouldn't bother with a Canadian flag if I were you - a Texan accent will give you away as a poseur.
     
  7. jayman

    jayman Senior Member

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    Ou??

    I wasn't in Paris 48 hours, barely enough time to walk out of the hotel, take a look-see, and think about getting packed again.

    Next time I will stay at *least* 10 days. Hopefully I can see the attractions you mentioned

    Ou est-il?

    Avez-vous une carte?

    Merci!
     
  8. jayman

    jayman Senior Member

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    Funnily enough, some American tourists try that. If the accent doesn't give them away, their passport certainly does. They can then expect rude behavior

    My German is better than my French. I once got tongue-tied trying to order a meal on the Thalys train. I *knew* what I wanted, but just drew a blank, which caused the server to give me an odd look

    So I humbly apologized, showed the server my Canadian passport, and he immediately rushed away from me. "Well, now I've done it" I thought

    Within half a minute he returned with a female server, had a conversation in rapid-fire French (I barely caught one word out of five), then the nice female server asked me, in flawless textbook English

    "Welcome. What would you like to order?"
     
  9. daniel

    daniel Cat Lovers Against the Bomb

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    It's been more than 40 years since I was in France. After a year of high-school French I spoke a few phrases, and had a dictionary, and made a real attempt to speak their language. I was treated very badly, though not nearly as badly in France as in Germany. In Mexico, in contrast, much more recently (1995), speaking a little Spanish badly at the time I was treated wonderfully for using what Spanish I had. (Eventually I became relatively fluent.)

    I've been told the French are nicer now, but I still remember the bitter taste of their unfriendliness. I liked them better after they refused to toe the American line on Iraq.
     
  10. moxiequz

    moxiequz Weirdo Social Outcast

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    My international travel experience is pretty limited and I haven't been to France so I can't really speak directly on traveling as an American in that country - or Europe in general. However I've never hidden the fact that I'm American and I've never encountered (to my knowledge) anyone who treated me rudely or poorly because of my nationality. If that did ever happened at least, from my perspective, it was indistinguishable from run-of-the-mill rudeness and I generally find less of that overseas than back here at home. And I was traveling around during the height of the W years.

    I'm not saying those folks aren't out there and obviously some places in the world are going to be less welcoming to Americans than others but the whole idea that Americans are some sort of automatic pariahs - anywhere in the world - is really overstated. I think it really boils down to your behavior where you're traveling. A loud and obnoxious Canadian (I've heard rumors they exist) is going to attract just as much disapproval as an American behaving the same way.

    Frankly I'm not interested in dealing with anyone who's going to look down on me because of my citizenship anymore than people who look down on me because of my gender or hair color or whatever. Well, to my face at any rate. If they're laughing at me behind my back there's not a whole hell of a lot I can do about that.

    A couple more points - take or leave 'em as you will:

    I've talked to a few Americans who have traveled in France and to Paris specifically. The vast majority of them had no trouble whatsoever and said that the French people were generally very warm and welcoming. Less so Paris but that can be expected of just about any major city in the world.

    One of my co-workers is French (from Lyon I believe) and he hates traveling in Paris. He's convinced that Paris people do have a "superior-to-thou" attitude but not just against Americans - against anyone who isn't Parisian.

    As long as I'm ranting I gotta say it really irks me when Americans proudly claim they're Canadians when they travel (again I'm talking about normal day-to-day travel in 'safe countries' here). If you're polite enough to pass as a Canadian then why not represent your country and do your part to dispel the the reputation of the loud and obnoxious Yank?
     
  11. Prius_SGP

    Prius_SGP New Member

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    I think that Tom (post 3) summed it up quite well.

    For traveling though, whilst in Paris DO NOT DRIVE. It is usually quicker and cheaper to use the metro to get to where you want to go - don't forget that a lot of the museums have there own stations with exhibits in the tunnels....

    I'm sure you'll realise why I suggest not to drive in Paris after a few hours - lthough everything is signposted, it always leads to the center first and then your stuck driving in circles trying to force your way through the traffic to get to the right exit. Parking is a real nightmare as well - I don't know if you have the same anedotes in the US as we do in the UK but theres one to do with parking that is perfectly true with respects to Paris. The French will park anywhere, includung in themiddle of the street.

    You mentioned that you want to maybe do a little tour of France aswell - for the most part you have 3 options: Car, plane, PT.

    Once you fly out of Paris, you can usually get to most of the larger cities and hire a car from there and explore, although this does mean that you miss all othe the rolling countryside.

    Once on the motorways, the going is real easy. The French don't tend to use the motorways much outside of the larger cities (the bypasses are the main usage) so once out of Paris, travelling by car is real easy. Just remeber that there are tolls on the autoroutes - I suggest having either a 100 euros in notes with you or a visa card for the booths. The Visa route is the easiest as you just swipe the card and go - there are never any queues.

    Public Transport isn't too bad, but you have to watch out for strikes (grèves)the national pastime of the French. If you get on the TGV you'll be able to cover the large distances very easily at a reasonable pace.

    For my money, driving outside of Paris is the bet option then taking the public transport in the cities.If your doing long ditances (ie Paris- Lyon, Paris-Bordeaux) driving at night is the best bet as theres never very much traffic. Make sure you have a GPS with you or a good map reader.

    Good luck.

    Oh and as for trying to speak French - in Paris don't get undetterred. If you can speak French , even only a little, try. You may get funny looks but ignore them. The Parisians tend to be rather "pompous", you'll find that outside of Paris the French respond much more favourably.

    If you go to the Loire, then try to get on a vinyard tour - you'll get to smple a lot of good wine and if you play your cards right, you'll may be get a reasonable discount if you want to buy any.
     
  12. jayman

    jayman Senior Member

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    That's why I brought it up. Not sure if these Americans were trying to hide something, were traveling overseas the first time and were worried about the rumors, etc etc

    I bumped into them - literally - at the Brussels platform while waiting to board the Thalys down to Paris Nord. One of them had a large duffle bag, got up, and literally thumped it right into my chest.

    I saw he had a tee with a Canadian flag, and growled at him, asking if he was from the "dumb" part of Canada. He sheepishly admitted he was from Des Moines!

    Oh boy ....

    I was ticketed a comfort 1 seat and never saw them until we got off the train again. Given my usual luck, there they were, like confused seals, going AWRP? AAAWWWWRRP!? AAAAAAWWWWWRRRRRPP!!

    Leaving Schiphol, if they had been bumped into First Class nest to me, I would have pulled the emergency handle on the door and jumped out ...
     
  13. AussieOwner

    AussieOwner Active Member

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    I accidently stumbled on a great tourist bonus when I was last in Paris. On the first Sunday of each month, all the government run museums and art galleries have free entry. Big queues for places like the Louvre, but other places, such as the Arc de Triumphe you can almost walk straight in.

    Another suggestion is to buy an evening tour ticket - there are a number of operators, and you can buy over the internet, but they offer tours such as dinner at the Eifel Tower, a boat tour on the Seine and a show at the Follies Bergere. It is a great way to see the city at night, and everyone should see the Folies Bergere - it is a really entertaining show.

    As others have said, just trying to speak a little French goes a long way. I found that even just greeting waiters and shop staff with a "bon jour", or a "bon soir" in the evening, will get you a nod. The phrase "Parlez vous Anglais?" will soon find an English speaker in most places - or at least enough to order your food.

    In Paris, be prepared to walk. I tend to walk any new city I go to, just to help getting my bearings, but I found that it was much quicker to get around Paris by walking, or by using the Metro, than any other way.

    And be prepared to just stroll. Don't set an agenda that has you rushing from one place to another - take your time and enjoy the sights - everyone else is doing exactly the same.
     
  14. jayman

    jayman Senior Member

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    Great tip! Merci
     
  15. daniel

    daniel Cat Lovers Against the Bomb

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    I've been told that there can be very long lines at the ticket booth at museums, especially the Louvre. Check before you go to see if the concierge at your hotel can get you tickets and save the waiting in line. Or maybe you can get tickets on-line nowadays. I don't know.

    Apologies if this has already been mentioned.
     
  16. ggood

    ggood Senior Member

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    Thanks everyone for your tips so far, keep em coming. LOL the Texas accent. Like most Houstonians, I'm originally from somewhere else, in my case, Omaha (think blank newscaster voice). I think a smile and a patient demeanor goes a lot further than a flag! No French, so I'm just going to have to hope for the best. Someone at work suggested getting a Metro pass and also a museum pass. They had also stayed at a Chateau for a couple of days, and rented a car for seeing the local countryside (but not while in Paris).
     
  17. carolejohn2000

    carolejohn2000 New Member

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    Hi as dont much familiar about museum there, from my part i can give you some safety side of the country. you can go here mysafetravel(dot)com/landing(dot)php (as i can give you the link please understand over this.) and check about the countries safety side. I think this may too helpful for your travel
     
  18. GrumpyCabbie

    GrumpyCabbie Senior Member

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    Whilst you're in the area you should pop over here :)

    One little bit of advice for France. It's a lovely country and the people (outside of Paris) are very friendly and accommodating. But do TRY and attempt to speak French. You don't have to be any good and they mostly speak English, but if you don't at least try they can be funny with you. If you do try, they will appreciate it and try and help you out.

    That's what I found when I've been and the number of French words I can speak you can count on one hand!

    You will love France though. It is just beautiful.
     
  19. putty

    putty Member

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    vacationinparisDOTcom is were we get a small apartment instead of a hotel, never had a problem at Charles de Gaulle airport, you could get a car service or the Rossy bus is cheaper and has several drop off points from the airport, Paris is a great walking city but the metro is the best way to get around, the Louvre has a 1 hour english speaking tour which is a great way to see it, there is a good bicycle tour of the city too, can't remember the name (fat tire or something), there is plenty of english spoke in Paris, when you leave the city there is almost none, there are many Prius in Paris, have fun
     
  20. Mjolinor

    Mjolinor New Member

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    Go and see the Pont Du Gard.

    I will stress again, if you know any French words at all then try to use them. You will be amazed how many French speak English but they will not use it until you have shown that you are trying to speak French.
     
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