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Seeking Comments on Paris Itinerary

Below is an itinerary for a late March/early April 2020 Paris trip for my wife and me. Paris is the “middle” section of our trip, following five nights in Madrid (itinerary posted in Spain section) and preceding twelve nights in London and southern England (itinerary posted in England section). We have purchased Paris Museum Passes in advance and we will soon pre-book Louvre tickets, but, as of now, we’ll pre-book no other museums. We will pre-book the Eiffel Tower, recognizing that might result in ascent on a rainy day. We value the certainty and the minimizing of time in a ticket line over the potential downside of rain and clouds. Plus, the view from the Arc is pretty good too, and we’ll have done that the day before. We will be getting Navigo cards.

All recommendations and comments are welcome, specifically regarding:

--Where to eat: We’re looking for “classic” French bistros/cafes/brasseries serving dishes like beef tartare, escargot, onion soup, steak frites, boeuf bourguignon, coq au vin, foei gras, cassoulet… Nothing fancy necessarily, just reliable, “authentic” places. Don’t worry about cost; we can sort that out. Also interested in creperies, bakeries, pastry places, and cheese places—ah yes, fromageries...There are a number of French “young” cheeses that are prohibited in the US that are on my bucket list—époisses, anyone?. Aside from a part of our first full day, we’ll be pretty much in the 5th, 6th, and 7th arr., plus Ile St Louis and maybe brief excursions into the Marais for eating IF recommendations seem promising.

--Any major goofs I’ve made in the itinerary (i.e., “the museum is closed on that day, dummy”). I don’t think there are any, but I’m always capable of making silly mistakes.

--Any brief “must-sees” since we’re “in (whatever) neighborhood”.

Thanks in advance for any and all advice!

Monday (March 30): Arrive CDG 14:25 from Madrid, so no jet lag. Stay Ile St. Louis (hotel already booked). Seine cruise on Vedettes de Paris (board at Pont Marie stop, end at Eiffel Tower), then Bus 69 back to (near) hotel.

Tuesday (31): Ste. Chapelle at 9:00 when it opens, then the Conciergerie. Bus (preferred) or Metro to La Defense and back to the Arc de Triomphe. Climb the Arc, then mosey one Metro stop’s distance down the Champs-Élysées (just because).

Wednesday (April 1): Orangerie when it opens at 9:00. Next, hit Rue Cler for a stroll (in honor of our host) and maybe to be able to assemble a picnic. Visit Quai Branly Museum and then ascend Eiffel Tower.

Thursday (2): Rodin Museum, Army Museum, Luxembourg Gardens

Friday (3): Louvre when it opens at 9:00, then walk through the Tuileries

Saturday (4): Depart Gare du Nord on Eurostar (already booked) for London.

Posted by
2403 posts

And we so hope the French labor-strikes have been settled by then.....

Posted by
132 posts

Your itinerary has a reasonable, almost relaxed pace with lots of opportunity for serendipity. One small tweak, if the weather is nice, I might suggest reversing the order of your Thursday and see the Army Museum (Les Invalides) first thing, then Rodin, then Luxembourg Gardens. We did a similar day last year during the same week you will be there. We spent the morning at Les Invalides then had lunch at the cafe in the garden of the Rodin Museum before going inside. The cafe has a typical sandwich and salad menu - but eating a ham and Brie on baguette is especially nice sitting outside among the sculptures.

Since you plan to be there first thing, I have a Sainte-Chapelle tip. If you are one of the first ones in line and through security, you could potentially have the place to yourself for a few minutes. After security, you walk through a courtyard and first enter the lower Chapel that is the gift shop. While everyone else is milling about, trying to figure out where to go, take the stairs to the left as you enter to the upper chapel and enjoy the space to yourself (or at least with just a few other people) for a few minutes before everyone else figures out how to get up there.

Posted by
292 posts

It all looks very reasonable to me!

One thought for April 1 would be that if you do get a picnic lunch together, the gardens at the Quai Branly Museum could be a nice place to eat it. It is the museum grounds, so it might be a little much to have a big spread, but I have a great memory of eating a sandwich and pastry from a boulangerie there while sitting under a rose arbor, and I wasn't the only person around doing just that. It's like stepping into another world in there after the bustle nearby for the Eiffel Tower.

Posted by
7005 posts

Pont Neuf is so close to the Ile St Louis that it makes no sense to me to take a bus back from there to the hotel. It is a lovely walk. It is a nicely central location where you can walk to many of the central sites.

A little visited but amazing spot on the Paris metro is Basilica St. Denis; if the metro is functioning consider adding that to the list. It is the oldest gothic church in Europe and the home of the tombs of the Kings of France. Their bodies were trashed during the revolution but the tombs were preserved as art and they are quite amazing.

Posted by
983 posts

Willy - I second Janets recc. to visit Basilica St. Denis. It was marvelous and there was hardly anyone in there but us. That was my second favorite site I visited on my last trip. My favorite was a day at the Parc des Buttes Chaumont for site-seeing and a picnic.

We had a very good steak dinner at Le Petit Chatelet next door to Shakespeare and Co.

Posted by
129 posts

Thanks, er...merci for the comments so far.

Pat: Yeah, I sure hope the strikes are settled!

Jen S: Great suggestion on doing the Luxembourg Gardens in the afternoon. I'm glad I thought of that! ;«) As to Ste. Chapelle; thanks again. Being "heathens", the religious aspects of Ste. Chapelle are of no interest to us, so "fast" is good. The main thing is to see the stained glass illuminated by the morning light.

Amy: Your Quai Branly picnic suggestion sounds fine--do you think a bottle of wine would be welcome? Also, just how do the French pronounce "Quai Branly"?

Janettravels44: The Seine cruise we're taking ends at the Eiffel Tower. That's why we think the bus trip back is appropriate. Bus 69 is one of the things recommended by RS, which is why we chose it. I will edit my OP to make things clearer. Thanks for the St. Denis idea! You too, Nance!

Posted by
292 posts

I'm not sure on the wine - I probably wouldn't personally, but I don't know that it'd be expressly prohibited. The vibe I got was more "people on their breaks eating lunch."

The pronunciation isn't too hard - it's a little like "kay bron-lee" with the "bron" being the hardest since it's got the r sound and a nasal - you don't technically pronounce the "n" but it turns the "o" into a nasal. Here's a couple recordings!

Posted by
7005 posts

Most of the local Seine Cruises are round trips. I had not realized there were any one way cruises.

Posted by
129 posts

Hi janettravels44: Yeah, there are thirty-minute, one-way cruises for €12. I did just do a double check on that and, comically, they aren't currently stopping at Pont Marie. Their website says: "Due to the heavy river current, the stopover at Notre Dame Pont Marie will not be served until further notice." I hope that'll change by the time we get there. LOL

Posted by
7005 posts

FWIW. we usually pay 12E for hour long round trip cruises.

The key to wine in public places is discretion; I have seen many people enjoying wine with picnic lunches although they do ban it on Champs du Mars due to rowdy drunk behavior. But discreet enjoyment during picnics tends to be tolerated. it is not necessarily 'legal' but it is also common.

La Defense IMHO is a huge waste of time with so little time in Paris -- I'd do a walking tour (get a self guided map) in Montartre (or the Latin Quarter or St. Germain or the Marais). or head to St. Denis, or do Pere LaChaise before heading to a soulless office park when you have so little time. (as soulless office parks go La Defense has some charm -- but not more so than almost anything you would choose to do in Paris.

Posted by
52 posts

Good itinerary!

Id factor in some outdoor stuff like riding a bike around or taking a parkour class.

As for food, Id go for crepes. They can be savory and like pizza, they care filling and awesome if done well.

I found this site straightforward and helpful for food:

https://theparisshortlist.com/best-comfort-food-in-paris/

There's also some pubs and bar info.

Id also do nightlife. See a concert of cabaret show. or hit up a club. Tons of good bars in Paris including pubs, French style brasseries, british pubs, and cocktail bars...lots of venues for rock like Guiness Tavern...jazz...depends what you like

https://www.residentadvisor.net/events/fr/paris

Posted by
129 posts

laffitejames: Thanks for the suggestions.

janettravels44: I recognize the La Defense is not a typical tourist worthy site, but that is exactly the point for us seeing it. It'll maybe take two or even three hours out of our day (including transportation), but we'll see a side of "modern Paris" that will contrast with the Paris we'll spend the rest of our visit in. Our itinerary is certainly full of the traditional sites, but I want more than that in the few days we have in Paris. Same with not doing a round trip Seine cruise; why retrace our steps when we can do a cruise AND a bus ride through "the heart" of scenic Paris?

I hope this response doesn't come across as cranky. My intent is just to plainly explain our goals and reasoning.

Posted by
129 posts

If intent on going to La Defense, consider then taking a town bus to Malmaison though time at St Denis well spent - depends on your interests. While staying on Ilse St Louis, visit Berthillon (sit in restaurant, not purchased from a window) for ice cream. You’re walking distance to Bowfinger - a restaurant well appreciated by locals and, near Luxembourg, Polidor which provides a very authentic bistro feel.

Posted by
8293 posts

Of course, you will take the elevator to the top at la Defense, and there are interesting photos to be had of the view all the way to the Arc de Triomphe. Also, one time there was a small art exhibit, which was surprisingly good.