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London/Paris for First Timers

My husband and I are looking into taking a once in a lifetime trip to London/Paris next September or October. We never travel in our country let alone outside of it so we decided that London was a more comfortable starting point. We are NOT interested in art or theater but do enjoy historical sights and good food (although not snails, duck or seafood). This is our anticipated itinerary. I will be purchasing advanced ticket and fast track passes to sites as available.
Day 1 Arrive early (0700) in London, Check-in/Drop-off Luggage, Hop on Hop off Bus Tours, London Eye, River Thames Cruise

Day 2 Burroughs Market, Harrods, Explore London
Day 3 Tower of London (3 Hours), Millennium Bridge (25 Minute Walk from Tower), Explore
Day 4 Windsor Castle Day Trip (5 Hours), Explore London
Day 5 British Museum
Day 6 Take the Eurostar Train to Paris, Check-in/Drop-off Luggage, Seine River Hop-On Hop-Off Sightseeing Cruise

Day 7 Visit the Catacombs (2 Hours), Eiffel Tower (2 Hours), Explore Paris
Day 8 Day Trip to the Palace of Versailles

Day 9 Explore Paris
Day 10 Day Trip Tour to Mont St Michel
Day 11 Fly Home
We have also considered adding another day in Paris and making Day 10 and Day 11 a road trip to Mont St Michel and the surrounding area with an overnight stay in the area. Then we would fly home on Day 12.

I would love to get any advice on this itinerary. Also, how difficult would it be for two adults who don't speak French to navigate renting a car on the outskirts of Paris and doing a road trip to Mont St Michel with an overnight stay in the area? Thank you in advance for any assistance you can give.

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Posted by
5011 posts

Oh boy...some red flags here.

On what you are calling your "Day 1" you will be jetlagged, exhausted, not in the mood to do anything but find a place to sleep. Don't expect too much from yourselves that day. Yes, stay outdoors in the fresh air and keep moving as much as possible - that will help you stay awake. Just don't plan on accomplishing a whole lot.

Your "Day 1" is your arrival day, and your "Day 11" is your departure day. So you really have 9 full days to work with. That's a very short trip, when stretched across 2 countries 9even well-connected places like London and Paris). It's doable, but won't feel like a liesurely pace.

Doing Mont St Michel as a day trip is problematic for two reasons. First, it'll be a loooong day, leaving you wrung out. Second, it puts you there (for just a few hours) at the absolute worst time, when the place is literally crammed with day trippers. Hope you like crowds. MSM is wonderful outside mid day but if all you get at a couple hours shoulder-to-shoulder with a few thousand might want to save it for another trip when you can spend the night on MSM itself, see it at its best, and see more of Normandy which is both beautiful and historic. You don't need to speak French (just learn a few key words and "polite phrases". Driving in Normandy is easy and delightful (with the exception of in Paris itself).'ll break your heart if you just blow past all the many other great things there - Normandy deserves at least a few days.

My best advice: take a longer trip if you can. If you can't, so be it, but most of all, stop thinking of it as "once in a lifetime" and think about going back.

Hope this helps.

Posted by
1727 posts

Overall it looks like a good itinerary. If you plan on doing a day trip to Mon St Michel, then I'd skip the day trip to Versailles.

Even if you are not a big art lover, you've got to spend half a day at the Musee d'Orsay. It is extraordinary. Also, you need to go to a good restaurant and have escargot. I'd never had it until last year when my wife and I were in Paris. It's scrumptious!

I also suggest you splurge and take the Paris Tour in a Vintage Citroen 2CV. We had a great time! Take the 2 hour tour and start at 8:00 p.m. There will be less traffic then. Also make sure you spend some time visiting. the Pere Lachaise cemetery. It is beautiful and there are a number of famous people buried there, from Chopin to Jim Morrison.

You don't mention how old you are. My wife and I are in our late 60s and when we went to London/Paris on a business trip, we walked 10-12 miles a day according to our iPhones. Of course you don't have to walk that much, but we loved walking from St. Peter's to Westminster or walking the Champs Elyse from the Arch de Triomph to the Museee d'Orsay.

Some folks may feel your first day is too ambitious, but we like to fight jet lag be hitting the ground running. Be aware that by the time you go through customs and get from Heathrow to downtown, it will be lunch time. Splurge and fly at least Economy Plus.

Posted by
18892 posts

If I sat down on a HO/HO bus or boat on my arrival day, I would fall asleep within 5 or 10 minutes. I suppose I might be able to stay awake for the London Eye, but that's not something I'd want to test, as expensive as it is.

Posted by
5975 posts

noting that even if your flight arrives on time, it can take you 2-3 hours to get into London (immigration, customs, transportation), etc. Then your hotel may not let you check in until the afternoon anyway. HOHO is a way to get oriented, but you can spend a lot of time in traffic, and, if you hop off, waiting for a bus with space to show up to hop back on. It can take up a lot of your time just getting from one place to the other, even if you are familiar with navigating the Underground. Also, don't assume there are no lines for the Eye or any of the other attractions you are planning on. Go anyway, just be flexible.

Posted by
29 posts

Thank you all for your responses. I very much appreciate it!
I realize that our game plan for Day 1 looks a bit daunting. We are planning on packing VERY little (2 carry-ons) and the check-in/drop-off is simply to stash our bags at the hotel if we can. If not, we will keep them with us. We were also planning on taking the Heathrow Express into the city to save a bit of time. We don't actually expect to do any hops on and off the bus. We were hopping to just get "a lay of the land", so to speak by riding the red line loop. We will absolutely buy the fast track pass for the London Eye. I also doubt we will actually do the River Thames boat tour, it just comes with the passes I found. We'd much rather do a Seine River boat tour later in the trip. I am in law enforcement and crazy shift work is the norm so we plan to sleep on the flight and hit the ground running to acclimate ourselves, then crash at night! Missing Versailles is not an option. I've wanted to see it since I was in Middle School! My husband and I will be 39 and 40 when we take this trip. My husband says that he feels comfortable adding a day onto the trip to drive to Mont St Michel and spend the night. Any suggestions on things we should see on the way there? How about taking three of the days and driving to Versailles, the Loire Valley and Mont St Michel?

Posted by
4697 posts

Why go out to Versailles, back to Paris, and way out again to Mont-St-Michel? Instead, how about this?

Day 8 -- RER to Versailles (Rive Gauche station), tour the palace and grounds, then pick up a car there (Europcar has an office on Rue des Chantiers, take a taxi there) and drive as far as you want toward MSM. It's about 4-5 hours from Versailles to MSM so you'll want to spend the night along the way -- maybe Rouen or Caen, both with worthwhile sights if you have time, or a smaller town.

Day 9 -- Up early and finish the drive to MSM -- or spend some time in Rouen or Caen or elsewhere and plan to reach MSM late this day. Spend the night on or close to the island.

Day 10 -- Drive back to Paris, dropping the car somewhere along the way (could be Versailles but could be elsewhere, maybe Caen?) and taking a train or RER into the city for your last night. This assumes that your flight on Day 11 leaves in the afternoon so you have time to get to CDG three hours ahead.

Alternate Day 10 -- If your flight leaves in the Day 11 morning, drive back to CDG, drop the car, and spend the night at an airport hotel. Along the way you'll have time for more of Normandy. Maybe Bayeux or beaches or Honfleur or Rouen if you missed it before.

Of course, extending the trip to a 12th day makes everything easier.

Posted by
29 posts

What about this:
RER to Versailles, after visiting Versailles rent a car and drive to Loire Valley, spend the night.
Next day check put the area, in the late afternoon drive to Mont St Michel, spend the night and view the island at night.
Next day tour the island prior to tour groups arriving and then drive back to Paris.

Posted by
5011 posts

RER to Versailles, after visiting Versailles rent a car and drive to Loire Valley, spend the night.
Next day check put the area, in the late afternoon drive to Mont St Michel, spend the night and view the island at night.

Be careful - I don't think you are being realistic about how much time you will consume simply by picking up, moving yourself to a new location, and settling in there. That typically burns half to 3/4 of a day, if you are fairly efficient. When you have a day planned like "get up, visit X, travel to Y, visit Y..." you are slicing things too thin.

Above, you are not accounting for travel time and time consumed with basic life requirements (mundane but necessary things you do every day). Yes, you can drive from Versailles to the Loire Valley in a day. You can not "visit Versailles" then renta car and drive to the Loire Valley in a reasonable day. Yes, you could drive from the Loire Valley to MSM in a day. You can not wake up, see the Loire Valley in a morning, drive to MSM, and see MSM at night.

Anytime you see yourself plotting a day that looks like those, you are not being honest with yourself about what's possible (been there, tried to do that, regretted it and then ended up skipping half of the things on my list just to keep up with the unrealistic schedule).

You Do Not Have Enough Time for all these things, period. You have just nine days - nine! You can't move around England and France and actually see things that are geographically scattered with just 9 days. Double the length of your trip, now you're talking.

Posted by
29 posts

I don't care to stop at the Chateaux along the way in the Loire Valley. I'm just looking for good views from the car, does that make this more doable or am I better served on a different route?

Posted by
8231 posts

I suggest you add the extra day. It's still a short trip, but every day matters. Plan by how many nights you have in Europe. Don't count the arrival day (which will be the day after you depart the U.S.) or your departure day.

Looking at your original schedule it looks like you would have 10 nights in Europe. Is that correct? Have you ever taken an overnight flight? I fly from the west coast and it's a long trip. I've never gotten much, if any, sleep. Not that I don't try. I hit the ground running on arrival day, as I don't like to waste time. I would definitely advise you to skip the HOHO bus that day. I know it would lull me to sleep in no time. I try to stay outdoors as much as possible, and go to bed around 9:00 p.m. The next day I'm good to go.

If you have 10 nights and split them evenly between London and Paris you would have 4 full days in each city. Be realistic about how much time you actually have. You can't do it all, even if you had a lot more time. Prioritize what you really want to do. I don't think you have time to do a road trip to Versailles, the Loire and MSM. Versailles is a priority, so go as a day trip from Paris. It's an easy day on the RER from Paris.

Things can take longer than you think they will, and you have to account for the time it takes to get from one place to another. If you can choose between September and October, you will probably have better weather in September. I've been to Paris in October twice and it was fine if that's when you need to go.

Posted by
4666 posts

For your scheduling, note that Borough Market is only partially open on Monday and Tuesday and closed on Sunday. On Saturdays, it is often unbearably crowded and not worth visiting.

Posted by
1069 posts

With a few adjustments you are probably already making mentally, this a decent itinerary, especially if you add a day and follow Dick’s suggestion to rent a car in Versailles and spend a night along the way to Mont St Michel. It would still be a long day. If you hit the crowds the next day there, you just hit the crowds. With the extra night, though, you could then drive on to a night’s stay near/at Mont St Michel, before returning to Paris for your flight.

Day 8 Paris
Day 9 train to Versailles, Palace, rent a car and drive partway. Overnight per previous suggestions
(Really long day)
Day 10 drive rest of the way to MSM, visit, overnight.
Day 11 Drive back to car drop off location, overnight in Paris
Day 12 fly home

Don’t get sidetracked by the Loire Valley this trip. I would also say that it would probably be just as wonderful to simply skip MSM and spend that time in Paris.

Regarding Day 1, just choose your priority and do it first - probably the London Eye and cruise - and have information ready on what to do if you actually feel like it. Looks like you have prioritized your other days in London already!

There are no right or wrong itineraries - everyone has their own list of what they want to see and do. Have fun!

Posted by
2157 posts

I don't know your typical energy level, but I see nothing terribly wrong with your day 1, especially arriving so early--the HoHo bus tour will give you an overview, riding the Eye should be interesting and then a cruise. You may be quite tired by mid to late afternoon, so maybe don't buy advance tickets for anything after the Eye--might be time to get an early dinner and get to the hotel. I was in London last Sept--arrived at 8 am from SF, little to no sleep, but I dropped my luggage at the hotel and headed straight for the V&A where I had a timed entry for the Frida Kahlo exhibit at 11 am. I drank oodles of coffee that day...after that it was over to the Tower to spend 3 hours with the ravens--I'd seen the rest of it previously. By 4 pm I was close to crashing, so got a sandwich at a pub and was in my room by 6. I should add this was my second trip to London so I already knew my way around and had a good idea of the time & energy needed to do what I did the first day. I think overall you've set up a good itinerary in both London and Paris--enjoy!

Posted by
5011 posts

I don't care to stop at the Chateaux along the way in the Loire Valley. I'm just looking for good views from the car

I'm sorry, but your plan for seeing the chateaux of the Loire on a drive-by is not realistic, and would not be a good use of your limited time.

You say you want to go to the Loire Valley on the way between Versailles and Mont St Michel. The Loire Valley is not exactly right on the way between the two, it's going to require more than a little time to get there. But now you're saying that you want to drive there but not get out of the car and see the chateaux, in order to save time.

You seem to have the notion that they're all lined up by the side of a highway, and all you need to do is roll by, get a nice look at them, and shoot some photos through the window of your car as you pass by - like it's a ride at Disneyland. That is just not how things are.

Each chateau is off on its own, surrounded by its estate grounds (many of which are vast). They are not all in the same town or even near each other. To get to each one of them requires getting off the main highway, driving a while, entering the grounds for that individual chateau, parking and walking to the chateau itself. With a full day there, you can see one, two or maybe three of them in a long day. But you don't have a long day (or even a short day) there. And "there" isn't just one spot on a map: the major chateaux are scattered around the region, not conveniently clustered by a single highway exit.

I am sorry to have to tell you that you do not have enough time to do all the things you are trying to do. This attempt to squeeze in a "drive by" peek at the chateaux of the Loire, "on the way" from Versailles to Mont St Michel illustrates that.

Posted by
224 posts

After flying to London, I’m always pretty jetlagged so anything that requires much sitting or even standing still tends to make me nod off. I’ve found that if I can walk around outside the first day, it helps. Even with the Heathrow Express and carry on bags, it takes a while to get into London and to the hotel.

If you want to get a sense of the city, instead of the Hop On Tour, you might check out London Walks, which do have afternoon walks. That will keep you moving and outside if the right tour coincides with your arrival day.

Renting and driving a car in the French countryside isn’t too difficult. I can’t imagine trying to drive in Paris, though, so the advice to consider taking the RER to Versailles, then renting and driving from there is a good idea.

If you can add a day or two to give you more time to drive to MSM and spend the night there, that would be great. It’s less crowded early in the day and in the evening which makes it more enjoyable, and seeing it at night is magical. Staying on the island is a great option, but more expensive. I found a nice AirBnb run by a retired English couple only a few miles from MSM.

Posted by
4873 posts

You want to visit Harrods Department store but not go to Westminister Abby, Parliament, Buckingham Palace or St. Paul's Cathedral!

There is nothing special about Harrods that you wouldn't find at Macy's in the USA/

You have one day in Paris to see the Lourve, Notre Dame, the Sacre Couer and so much more. Mont St. Michel is quite a distance from Paris on the border of Normandy and Britany. Consider saving that for another trip where you visit Normandy and see the Bayeux Tapestry, D-Day beaches and Cemetery.

Posted by
8293 posts

Unless it has been a lifelong dream to see Harrod's, think about skipping it. It is only a high priced department store with a lot of snobbery attached to it.

What does "explore London" mean for your first day? Will you take a tour? Will you ride the bus? If you have nothing in mind, your precious hours will be wasted.

On Day 5 after you have been to the British Museum, you might consider a much smaller and kind of amusing and unique museum very close by ...... the Sir John Soanes.

I wish you a wonderful first time trip to two of the world's great cities.

Posted by
6507 posts

I don't care to stop at the Chateaux along the way in the Loire Valley. I'm just looking for good views from the car

Don't go to the Loire then! You already are trying to pack way too much into the little time you have. You are really shortchanging Paris itself.

Posted by
1782 posts

Just a quick comment about Harrod’s. I loved that place and I’m not even a shopper! If nothing else, see the bottom floor with all the food stalls/counters. I haven’t been there in 20 yrs, but I still remember being amazed!

Posted by
8293 posts

Yeah, the Food Hall is pretty amazing but have a look at Fortnum and Mason’s when next you are in London.

Posted by
4697 posts

I'm not especially into Harrod's but it's more interesting than Macy's, at least for this ex-New Yorker. ;-)

David and Kim are correct about the Loire chateaux. They're not "drive by" sights. Many aren't visible at all from the road unless you stop, park, buy a ticket and walk through the grounds at least a little way. Some are visible from roads but hard to stop and see unless you want to cause a traffic jam. I remember "seeing" Azay-le-Rideau from a moving car for about two seconds. My wife got maybe five seconds' view as the passenger. There was water. (Fortunately I had visited, a real visit, years before.)

Don't try the Loire drive-by. It's a scenic valley and beautiful river, but there's scenic driving all over France and you'll see plenty on your way to MSM if you follow that plan.

Posted by
321 posts

Here's a thought: If you don't care about seeing the chateaux in Loire, then will you really want to see Versailles? We loved the chateaux in Loire (mostly loved the grounds, though) but really hated our Versailles experience. Crowded and felt like sardines being funneled through an IKEA store with a one-way route through the place. (I do recognize that I'm in a minority on this opinion...but we really disliked it.) Again the grounds were lovely but still not worth it to me. That's just me.

So, if you took out Versailles, maybe you just rent a car outside of Paris (you could even rent it in Versailles) and then drive to MSM and stay overnight.

But that still leaves you going AND coming back to catch your flight in Paris.

Here's another option, which could work for you if you are willing to try something different and would give you different scenery on your way to MSM:

Take the train from London to Portsmouth and get on the ferry to Caen (I dropped my son and his girlfriend off at Caen for a ferry they were taking to Portsmouth last year at this time...Nice town! And Portsmouth is wonderful, too.) Rent a car in Caen and drive along the Normandy coast until you get to MSM. Stay overnight in MSM. Then drive to Paris, drop off the car and end your trip in Paris.

A bit different, but we try to avoid backtracking if at all possible.

Posted by
321 posts

And just to add...Normandy isn't a "drive by" experience, either. If you can add a few days, do it! You won't regret it. Otherwise, maybe just take out MSM for this trip and enjoy Paris without the day trips. :)

Posted by
12334 posts

Looks good for London after finishing with Border Control and Baggage Claim.

The advantage of the HOHO bus is being able to shoot photos from above, as long it's not raining. My first day in London after landing, lunch, and leaving the luggage at the reserved B&B is to take the Tube to the Imperial War Museum, or go out to the theater area. By 3:30 pm at the very latest I'm there at the Museum, in spite of my dilly-dallying, it opens until 6 pm.

Keep in mind that unless you are sure of it, not everyone gets jetlag upon arrival...I don't. If you think you might, then plan accordingly.

Posted by
8 posts

We did London and Paris last summer. The first day, after not sleeping much on the overnight flight, we did a lot. We visited the V&A museum, and then got on the HOHO bus. It was a good way to get an overview of the city. You do sit in a lot of traffic on the HOHO bus. We went to St. Paul’s and even climbed to the top of the dome all on just a few hours sleep (and we’re a lot older than you)
As for Paris, I recommend at least one more day there. No advice on Mont St Michel as we did not go there. As for the catacombs, we prebooked the timed entry ticket on their website. Well worth the extra cost to bypass the long line.
Good luck with your planning. It’s a great trip.

Posted by
33 posts

I completely agree with what DougMac said...don't miss Pere LaChaise, don't miss the Cluny, take the Citroen tour! All were super fun, beautiful, evocative, one-of-a-kind experiences.

I also totally agree that you should spend the money and fly an upgraded class. We flew Norwegian airlines in their 'fancy pants' class (not called business, not called first class)...whatever they call it, it was worth every penny. Even the food was good...and I had fish...on an was yummy!! Their new fleet of Dreamliners has technology that helps fight jet lag...we flew Boston to Paris and were jet lagged nonetheless...but we were able to stay up all day until 9 PM. (Both in our early 60's).

It may be very tempting to try and cram as much as you think possible into your trip so as to get as much as possible out of it (as we all know, travel to Europe is expensive!) but I urge you to seriously consider paring down your travel plans to accommodate exhaustion, time change challenges to your bodily functions, and , most importantly, serendipitous finds and unexpected, wonderful experiences that always happen when you least expect them. Relaxation and time to mentally digest the wonders of other countries is tres important, je crois!

Posted by
32 posts

I have not been to MSM. A friend who has says "You have to REALLY want to go there, it takes time." They stayed overnight at MSM and really enjoyed the experience and - as someone mentioned here - avoided the tourist crunch by arriving there LATE in the day, spending the night, and then being up first thing in the morning to experience it. They were leaving the island as the hordes arrived.

In our trip last year - we spent 5 weeks in London & a week in Paris. Neither was enough, we only went to Windsor as an outside-the-city trip & we return in May.

Plan what you want to do / see -- REALLY want to do / see -- and make sure your have ample time to get those things in. Stuff - in general - will take longer than you think. My friend's top item was MCM - and she knows she missed tons in Paris to do it. But, she was happy.

Oh, and there has never been any Macy's (or Nordstrom) - anywhere - that is anything like Harrod's or Fortnam & Mason - or Liberty.

My 2 ¢

Posted by
449 posts

I would avoid the HO/HO bus in London. The traffic is unbelievable and the bus is amazingly SLOW. I did it last year and it is my biggest regret as it was a huge waste of time.
If you want a bus tour of a London pick one night and do a night bus tour (starts and stops from one location with no getting off just a guided tour) that was pretty fun but even that had some traffic issues.
In Paris the HO/HO is not bad.

Note I love bus tours of cities but London is a problem because of the traffic mess.

I would just do the Eye and the boat if I was you. They are right together so you can do both without having to travel.

Posted by
29 posts

How about this for an itinerary:
Day 1 Arrive in London, Check-in/Drop-off Luggage, Explore London

Day 2 Hop on Hop off Bus Tours, London Eye, River Thames Cruise

Day 3 Tower of London, Millennium Bridge, Explore London
Day 4 Windsor Castle Day Trip, Explore London

Day 5 British Museum

Day 6 Take the Eurostar Train to Paris, Check-in/Drop-off Luggage, Seine River Hop-On Hop-Off Sightseeing Cruise

Day 7 Visit the Catacombs, Eiffel Tower, Explore Paris

Day 8 Explore Paris

Day 9 Explore Paris

Day 10 Trip to Palace of Versailles, Rent Car, Drive towards Mont St Michel

Day 10 Mont St Michel

Day 10 Return to Paris

Day 13 Fly Home

Posted by
557 posts

We like to take a free walking tour on our Day 1. Our experience has been wonderful; the guides are great storytellers. It’s a great way to get your lay of the land in both cities, suggestions for restaurants, etc.

Companies offer walks all times of day. You can look up companies on TripAdvisor or just Google. I was just going to post here to inquire about companies :) I haven’t used any of them In London, but there is:
Strawberry Tours
FreeToursbyFoot (in Paris too)
Sandemans (in Paris too)

People on this board and TripAdvisor love a company called London Walks which runs 10-15 GDP per person.

Posted by
2788 posts

You said you like history-so I think you should prioritize Westminster Abbey. I would add one more day in London and save Mont St. Michel for another trip. You would also enjoy the Museum of London, which is near St. Paul's. I wasn't impressed with the Thames Cruise. Flying home on Day 12 to give yourself more time is definitely a better plan.

Posted by
12 posts

Hi, We are headed there this September. It's my 3rd time to London, and my husband's 2nd time to Paris, and my mother-in-law's first time out of the country. We are doing Airbnb in both places. Here's our itinerary:

London Day 1 (just landed so a bit chill-out day) Rock-n-Roll tour Walk around town/parks maybe stop in at Kensington Palace

Day 2 Hop On and Off Bus, British Library, British Museum, Jack the Ripper and/or Sherlock Holmes Tour

Day 3 Day Trip to: Windsor (Palace)/ Stone Henge/ Bath (any combo), Cambridge or Oxford, The Cotswald

Day 4 Tower of London, Cross Tower Bridge and walk down the Jubilee Walkway passing by/stopping at: Borough Market, Globe Theater , The Eye, Maybe a Play (I'd love to see Agatha Christie's The Mouse Trap)

Day 5 Big Ben/Parliament, Westminster Abbey, Churchill's War Room, Trafalgar Square, Convent Garden, Historic City Walk following the Strand/ Fleet Street (and I think 2 other names) which goes past and or stops at a ton of places including St. Paul's Cathedral

Paris Day 6 The Chunnel (Eurostar) to Paris (still leaves the entire day) Historic City walk, Notre-Dame, Sainte Chapelle, Orsay Museum

Day 7 The Louvre, Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, Champs- Elysees

Day 8 Pere Lachaise Cemetery Or Versailles Or Giverny (Monet's Place)

Day 9 Fly Home

The first day is tiring, I suggest you modify your wake/sleep cycle as it gets closer so you can enjoy the time in London sooner. I like to shower once I get to the flat so I can feel fresh and ideally more awake. Decide what you'd like to see no matter what and start that the second day so you can function better. The first day, I'd just get the lay of the land. As far as Paris goes or renting a car, I would think that there will be little difficulty, review your own car insurance for their coverage overseas as well as you're credit card coverage insurance for the same. In other countries (except Ireland) that coverage has helped.
With the help of this crew I've decided to do the oyster card from leaving the airport to get to London, and I'm not expecting any issues using the metro in Paris.
Enjoy!!! I'd love to hear about your trip!

Posted by
1044 posts

A few thoughts.

Day 1 Arrive in London, Check-in/Drop-off Luggage, Explore London

Since you say you do not tire easily, you can probably plan a number of activities on day one, but I advise you to not book anything on that day. Make a plan for what you want to do if you are fresh, or tired. E.g. Plan where to walk (don't drive) to "Explore London". Favor parks, the river side, but also look into Print out a number of tours on your arrival day and take the one you feel for when you are there.

Day 2 Hop on Hop off Bus Tours, London Eye, River Thames Cruise

Have you researched HO-HO buses? If not might be a good start. We took the "original tour" which included a river trip from Tower to Westminster, which was convenient to visit London Eye.

Posted by
1009 posts

Some of the people posting here have been on overseas flights before. As a first time overseas flyer especially in coach, unless you can sleep anywhere, you won't get much sleep on the plane. My first time in London I walked in a fog through Heathrow and everything felt like a dream. I couldn't even tell you what I did that day other than stop at a cafe for a coffee. Anything requiring concentration or going into museums I'd leave until the next day. We arrived in the morning and had to leave our bags at the hotel to check in. I think we just walked around South Kensington and the Park and admired the shops and the fact that we were in the UK.

If you're interested in history I'd spend more time in Paris and forget the road trips. Four days in Paris will give you a nice flavor. For history, San Chapelle chapel is lovely and Notre Dame. I'd also go on a Paris Walks trip of a neighborhood. We did the Montmartre walk and learned about all the artists and painters that called the neighborhood their home and saw some sights that I never would have seen if on my own. Paris is great for just walking around.

Posted by
29 posts

So, we've decided that a trip from Paris/Versailles to MSM is not something we are prepared to do on a first international trip. Hopefully we will be able to come back someday and do it and if not, we can live with it. So, this is our planned itinerary. These are for dates in September 2020. If anyone has any suggestions I would love input. Thanks!
Day 1 (Monday 14)
Arrive in London early in the morning. Take the Heathrow Express to Paddington Station. Take public transportation to hotel. Check-in to hotel and ask them to store our bags. Explore the area around our hotel. Get to bed early.
Day 2 (Tuesday 15)
Take a Hop on, Hop off London Bus Tour through Big Bus London Tours. This will also get us a Fast Track ticket for the London Eye and a River Thames Cruise. Use this opportunity to get a feel for the layout of the city.

Day 3 (Wednesday 16)
Visit the Tower of London when it opens at 0900. It takes about 2-3 hours to tour. At about 1200, walk to the Millennium Bridge which is about a 25 minute walk from the tower. Afterwards, explore anything of interest in the area (Borough Market, The Shard).
Day 4 (Thursday 17)
Take a train from Paddington Station to Windsor and Eton Central at about 0900. The train ride is between 29-47 minutes. It is a 10 minute walk from the station to Windsor Castle. Be sure to arrive there at opening which is 1000. It should take about 2-3 hours to explore the castle. Take a return trip to London at about 1300. Upon arrival explore anything of interest near Paddington Station (Kensington Palace, Hyde Park/Kensington Gardens). Could also remain in Windsor longer to explore that area as well.
Day 5 (Friday 18)
Arrive at the British Museum at opening which is 1000. After touring the museum, explore the area around the museum (Buckingham Palace).
Day 6 (Saturday 19)
Check out of the hotel in the early morning and take public transportation to the London St. Pancras Station (Check out Platform 9 3/4). Board the Eurostar Train for Paris. The train ride is about 2 hours and 15 minutes. Arrive at the Paris Gare du Nord Station (10th Arrondisement) around 1300. Take public transportation to our hotel. Check-in to hotel and ask them to store our bags. Explore the area around our hotel (Pere Lachaise Cemetery).
Day 7 (Sunday 20)
Relax and explore! (River Seine Cruise?)
Day 8 (Monday 21)
Visit the catacombs when they open at 0900. It takes 45 minutes to tour them. Explore the area around the catacombs when done (14th Arrondisement). Take public transportation to the Eiffel Tower. Ride the elevator up to the Summit and enjoy the views. Afterwards, explore the area around the tower (7th Arrondisement).
Day 9 (Tuesday 22)
Relax and explore Paris!
Day 10 (Wednesday 23)
Take the Metro C line RER from the Invalides or St. Michel stations to Versailles-Rive Gauche station. Walk 13 minutes to the Palace of Versailles. Try to be there by opening which is at 0900. Purchase a skip-the-line ticket ahead of time. It takes about 2-3 hours to tour the palace.

Day 11 (Thursday 24)
Check out of hotel and fly home.

Sounds good. A couple of notes: HoHo buses in London can be very frustrating due to slowness of traffic and the frequent stops. Can take many hours to do the full circuit.

Buy your Eurostar tickets well in advance as prices rise steadily. Like airlines rather than trains in terms of pricing. I think you can buy six months in advance. You’ll need to be at St Pancras around an hour ahead of time.

Posted by
11262 posts

Depending on where your hotel is, the Heathrow Express may or may not be an efficient way to get there. Once you've determined which hotel you're using, post it so people can tell you your options.

Posted by
980 posts

Your latest plan sounds good. I’m glad you decided against going to the Loire and MSM and concentrate on Paris instead. I’m going to Paris for the 5th time in September and still have so much I want to see. A couple of suggestions- for Versailles book the Kings Apt tour at your planned arrival time and you will bypass that long security line to get into the main entrance. It has its own entrance on the right side. Once that tour is done (it’s guided) they will walk you up to the security checkpoint to get into the main palace. For Eiffel Tower, book your tickets for an hour before sunset so you can be on the tower when the twinkling lights are turned on. It’s magical! And make sure you go to a patisserie and get a ham sandwich on a baguette. Oh so good!

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145 posts

Versailles - When you said 2-3 hours- if you meant the palace, maybe 2 max, but don't remember it taking even that long. The gardens and Petite Trianon however, I spent much more time exploring. The lines were painfully long for the palace when I arrived, and I got there not long after it opened, so I bypassed the line and the palace and went to Petite Trianon first. Then I explored the gardens for quite awhile and then went to the palace last, and I just walked in, with no massive crowd or lines. It was wonderful doing it in that order. For quite awhile, we pretty much had Petite Trianon to ourselves. Take your time to explore the grounds.

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145 posts

Oh, and get hot chocolate from Angelina in Paris. So good.
Nice to sit down if you don't mind waiting in line to do so, or get a cup to go and go explore.

Posted by
130 posts

Lots of interesting thoughts in this thread. I'm excited for the ability to say I've been under the Chunnel on the Eurostar, but I hear the trip is not that exciting so we're doing one direction by a quickie flight from London to Paris (Eurostar on return). I hope to see some countryside on the flight and interested to see what a one hour budget airline flight is like.

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29 posts

Why are you taking a trip back to London from Paris? It would make more sense to have an open ticket and fly out of Paris to home.

Posted by
89 posts

Hi! I think the latest version of your itinerary looks good. Have a wonderful trip. A few things we did when we were there: Westminster Abbey...I am not a museum or church person, but I adored walking through the Abbey. Truly magnificient, so if you have time, I would recommend it. Also, in Paris we did a 1 hour photo shoot with the company Localers. We did the edited version they offer and it only took one hour but we have fabulous photos from it. Photographer was named Olaf and he was great. So, if you are into photos, I highly recommend that in Paris. And be sure to have a crepes at the crepes stands in Paris. Yummy!

Posted by
1682 posts

Everyone is different and if you're one of the few lucky people that can really sleep on a plane, then you'll be in decent shape upon arrival. For most of us arrival day is a bit of a fog. Supposedly simple things like ticketing machines can become complex.

Agree that being outside walking and moving is the way to go. If practicable a short nap in the afternoon can re-charge your batteries just enough to power through until bedtime at 2100-2200, but keep the nap short to no more than 30-45 minutes or you'll be up that night. Any time you're sitting around that first day you will tend to nod off.

This plan works for us and the next morning we're ready to go!

Posted by
2788 posts

Since you're interested in history, you must include Westminster Abbey. I was underwhelmed by the River Thames cruise. Harrods might be a good visit on your arrival day-so that you can enjoy the eating places there-our favorites are the pizza parlor and ice cream parlor.