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1st Time to Paris & France - Help!

I am planning my first trip to Paris and France in mid-May and have picked out a few places to visit, but there is so much information to digest which leads to questions... The trip will be for 3+ weeks and I have a place to stay in Paris. So, I will have plenty of time to explore the City of Lights, and also plan to visit the Burgundy wine region (I am from the Sonoma wine region in California) for several days and also thinking about several days in Chamonix. Here are a few ?'s. Any and all replies and comments are appreciated!
Overall, not sure of the weather this time of year in each area.
Paris -
Is it worth getting the Museum Pass (must use within a 4 or 6 day period)?

What is the best way to get around the city?
Do you need tickets for the Eiffel Tower?
Chamonix -
I'd like to do some day hiking - any recommendations?
Will the weather in late May accommodate hiking?
It seems the tram ride up the alps is a definite activity.
Burgundy -
Any tips on specific wineries or places to visit?
Possible bike ride?
For both Chamonix and Burgundy - would you recommend staying in a hotel, B&B, airbnb rental, other? I would like to save on lodging costs.
Other - if I am left with 5-6 days after these travels, where else should I consider visiting? The France only train pass includes Barcelona. Belgium and Holland are not too far but would be additional train fares.

Thanks in advance for your input,

Posted by
786 posts

Re: Museum Pass

The best thing about the Museum pass is you get to avoid the lines. I used the Museum pass and the London pass. Financially, I broke even but saved a lot of time waiting in line. So you just have to consider what you want to visit and do the math.

Re: Transportation around Paris:
You name it, it's there. You can get everywhere through a combination of walking of the metro. They also have rental bikes throughout the city at little kiosks (I am not that brave). Paris also has a hop on/hop off bus system that it a nice way to get a feel for the city. Cabs are abundant.

How about the coast? Nice, for example? It will probably be too chilly to swim but gorgeous none the less.

Posted by
8293 posts

Here are two websites that can't be anything but helpful.

Posted by
2081 posts

Welcome CC,

when it comes to passes and such its best to do the math to calculate if it worth it to you.

but as you said, skipping the lines is a big bonus.

I would buy tickets to get into the tower. Lines were long when i was there but people have suggested to go real early or late. I didnt take that chance since my time was limited.

I used the subway most of the times since it was so fast and convenient. I did use a bus one morning but noticed that many delivery trucks were double parked causing some delay. but it was an experience anyway.

I also did alot of walking just to see the sights and i took a tour with the that was more walking.

happy trails.

Posted by
1976 posts

It depends on how many museums you want to see, and how many days you'll be in Paris.

I about broke even on the 6-day pass but avoiding long ticket lines at the Louvre, Musee d'Orsay, and Versailles was totally worth the cost right there.

I was in Paris for 8 nights and bought a carnet of Metro/bus tickets (10 total, each good for a one-way ride), plus 3 more individual tickets on my last full day there. The Metro is efficient and can get you almost anywhere in the city you want to go. I didn't take buses so can't comment on that. It sounds like you'll have time to do a lot of exploring on foot.

I'd also recommend learning a few important phrases in French (unless you know them already), such as "Where is...(the bathroom, a Metro stop, etc.)", "How much does it cost?", "I would like..." (for ordering food or buying tickets), "Excuse me", "Please", and "Thank you."

Posted by
4125 posts

Burgundy is great for biking and there is a shop in Beaune that rents decent machines. They will help you select an appropriate itinerary.
There are several places to start with wine right in Beaune such as the Marche aux Vins, where you can try many different vintages and terroirs. Many nearby towns with names you might recognize from wine labels. Pommard, Meursault, and Aloxe-Corton are very close by bicycle. Do not pass the whites by. The best stuff is up north (Chablis), but you do not have to go to a village to get wines from there.
I especially recommend a tasting lunch in Aloxe-Corton. Standard Burgundian fare plus flights of wine. Bikeable, though you might wobble a bit on the road back.
. .
Will you have a car? If the bike thing appeals, you can be good doing day trips out of Beaune for several days, otherwise there is not a lot to see there (though it is a fine base). Dijon is an easy trip by rail as a rainy-day backup. In which case, no car needed.
. .
But unless you arrange to have your bags transported (which you can do through the bike shop) or bring the right gear, you will not be able to visit Vezeley or the Fonteney Abbey or Semur or the Serien Valley without a car. And you will want to stay within walking distance of the train station; no auberges for you.
. .
The good news is that hotels are a lot cheaper away from Paris. Well, not sure about Chamoix, that is sort of a special case.
. .
Not able to address all of your questions but I hope you have a great trip and I hope this helps a little.

Posted by
183 posts

My wife and I spent 2 weeks in paris last sept.subways were a great way of getting around ,buy the carnet tickets ,very efficient ,lots of walking ,spend a day or two in Versaille ,bought ticket to the Eiffel Tower on line a few months before. The subway takes you the louvre underground and walked in the tunnel ,and no lineup to get in .Lots of cafes to sit and enjoy the sites. Also spent a few days in nice and Monte Carlo . Planning on going back in a few years .enjoy

Posted by
16834 posts

If you are spending that much time, get a Navigo Decouverte Pass. Bring a 1" by 1.25" photo of your self and buy at any train or Metro station. It has a chip and is the cheapest way to get around Paris on the Metro, RER, and buses. You can start with a zone 1-5 to cover your trip from the airport into Paris plus a RT to Versailles, thereafter reup zone 1-2. It goes from Monday morning until Sunday night. You can also set it up for Velib bike rentals. And the next time you're in Paris, you can just reactivate it.

Posted by
11613 posts

You can get to Vezelay by a combination of train and bus, but it's a long trip - I did it last year as a daytrip from Paris. Wish I had spent the night as well.

I liked the museum pass because I could skip the lines, and used it for some sights I wouldn't have visited without it.

To make the Paris metro pass advantageous, you would need to use it three times a day. I bought a carnet of tickets and asked for a free transportation map, which was very helpful.

Your schedule seems fluid, you can check hotel booking sites the day befor or even the day of your departure from one city to the next, or sign up for last-minute deal notifications. The large sites have all kinds of accommodations including hostels with private rooms. You can also read reviews (I like because they only use reviews from recent guests).

About rail passes: you can buy tickets well in advance at disounted prices, but you are locked in to a specific reservation that may have no or few change options. I would check the full-fare prices for individual tickets to see if the pass is really worth it. Some trains have reservation fees even with the pass.

Where to spend your extra days? Belgium is great, distances are short so even with additional transportation costs, it's not expensive. Or stay in France - you have Provence, the Loire chateaux, Normandy - each region is different and very special.

I went to France for the first time last year and loved it.

Posted by
27749 posts

My calculations for the Métro in Paris, and buses, using the current prices, is that 3 individual or 5 carnet tickets equals one Mobilis and 3 Mobilis equals one Navigo Decouverte.

Remember that using "t+" carnet tickets that you can change from bus to bus or Métro to Métro or RER, but not from bus to Métro or Métro to bus; and if you buy individual tickets on the bus you can't even change from bus to bus.

With Mobilis or Navigo Decouverte you have unlimited use across all types of transport within the zones you have bought, including the Montmartre funicular.

Posted by
74 posts

Thank you all for the good recommendations and information! I may skip the Barcelona idea and concentrate on other areas in France. What other day trips from Paris would you recommend? Versailles of course and it is included in the museum pass. Again I still plan to visit Burgundy and Chamonix - hopefully the weather is good in the 2nd half of May?!?

Posted by
11613 posts

Chartres is an easy daytrip from Paris.

I loved Reims. If you have a car you could follow the Champagne Road, or get to many of the smaller towns by bus.

Posted by
774 posts

I have an app for Paris Metro, it has a bus page too. I prefer the bus, less stairs! And you can see the sights. There are books you can buy in Paris with bus routes, but websites can give u lots of info, print or write it out to take with you. I rarely use my phone when out & about, I do take it for wi-fi, pronounced wee-fee en francais,but I do take it along. Came in handy as a compass once in a small Sicilian town when I had a poor map.

Paris is the best, imho. I love walking the Seine, around the Eiffel tower, how wonderful the city is. Enjoy.