I am leaving on February 18th for my first trip to Paris with my daughter who is studying in Spain. We will be staying 5 nights in an apartment on ile Saint-Louis and I am looking for any last minute travel advice. We already have tickets to go to the top of the Eiffel Tower Saturday night @ 8 pm. We have talked about going to Versailles on Friday, but in February, what kind of crowds can we expect? Also, I was reading about the Chateau of Vincennes and was wondering if that might be worth our time (though I know that you can't compare Versailles to Vincennes). I also came across a restaurant called La Jacobine close to ile de la Cite and was wondering if anyone had experienced it? Any other suggestions for our stay would be greatly appreciated. Thanks, Mark
You're staying in my favorite neighborhood in Paris :) There are many good restaurants on Ile St. Louis, our favorite was Cafe Med - very inexpensive, good food, great atmosphere. Our favorite cafe in all of Paris is also on Ile St. Louis, it's called La Flore en l'Ile - it's at the western tip, by the pedestrian bridge. More fun in summer when you can sit outside but good food. Lots of good shopping on Ile St. Louis, fun little stores. Don't miss the Luxembourg Gardens... wonderful park. Don't know if you and your daughter would be interested in an historical mansion open to the public, we really enjoyed it... it's called Musee Nissim de Camondo and is next to Parc Monceau near the Arc de Triomphe. There's a good cafe a 1/2 block east of it at Place de Rio de Janeiro. My favorite thing to do in Paris is walk all around Ile St. Louis, Ile de la Cite, then along the river to the Louvre, or a bit farther to Place de la Concorde, cross the bridge and walk back to Notre Dame.
I would skip the Chateau the Vincennes. It's nice in summer because of the park, but that's it. You and your daughter should definitely visit Versailles! Do visit the Crypte right in front of Notre-Dame and the Cluny museum a short walk from where you will be staying - both very short stops. Also meander a bit on the other side, in the Marais district - especially in the evening. Plan a half day, including lunch, just exploring Montmartre. Finally, take your daughter shopping for a present at Le Bon Marché (Rive Gauche) or Le Printemps. :-)
Dress really warmly to go up the Eiffel Tower. My sister and I were in Paris in September and we wanted to go up the Tower one night. It was windy and cold on the ground, too cold for her to wait in line for tickets, so we skipped it. If it's windy on the ground, it'll be a lot more intense high up.
Ride the Metro just before sundown to the Trocadero Station. Come up the escalator and the sight of the Eiffel Tower towering above you (with the strobe lights firing) is absolutely incredible. Be sure not to carry any purses and use a money belt. Drink wine, not beer, when in France.
Take lots of Euros, 'cause the place is expensive--as are any large European cities.
Paris is WAY cheaper than San Francisco.
The Fous de L'Isle at 33 rue des Deux Ponts is a great little bistro open daily 10 am to 2 am. We were at the tower Saturday in weird weather, in 10 minutes it went from sun to rain to sleet and back again at level 2. Go ahead to the top, as the level exiting the elevator is enclosed. You can decide if you want to brave the elements on the upper observation deck. The strobes go off for 2-3 minutes exactly on the hour.
I think there are always crowds at Versailles, but surely a Friday in February is as good as it's going to get (except the gardens won't be attracting any great numbers of people so maybe the palace itself is just as crowded??) I live near the Chateau de Vincennes and can't say that it's too exciting. I would spend more times in the neighborhoods or as suggested at a small jewel like Nissim-Camondo or Jacquemart-Andre. But of course it depends what your interests are -- if you like medieval fortified architecture, then by all means go to Vincennes!! Sounds like you've chosen a great home base. Have a wonderful time!
We were at the tower on Saturday for a 5 pm reservation, and they went off at 6 pm while we were there. Monday night, we saw them go off at the stroke of midnight from Place de la Concorde.
Thank you all for your replies. I really lucked out on the apartment which I found on vrbo. I will let you know how it went. Thanks again!
When my husband and I went the Louvre was at the top of our list and it was wonderful! But what I wasn't expecting was my reaction to the art in the D'Orsay. I cried. If either of you like art, go to the D'Orsay. The view of the city from Sacre Couer is spectacular. We climbed up into the bell tower for an even better view. From where you'll be staying you won't be too far from the Jewish Quarter and we got some excellent take away there several times. Spent many hours walking and eating.
I took my daughter to Versailles and we did the bike ride around the gardens. It was the highlight of our trip. If it is not too cold, you should give it a try. There is more info in the RS book about where the bike rental shop is on the Versailles grounds.
A day pass on the Batobus gets you unlimited boat travel up and down the Seine with stops near the major sights. No narrative like the tour boats but a fun easy way to see a lot of places. We did it on our last day in Paris and said goodbye to some of our favorites. Ditto to previous posters re the Archeological Crypt in front of Notre Dame, the Cluny Museum, and the Luxembourg Gardens. If you have the energy, a multi-day Paris Museum Pass will pay for itself and includes Versailles, Louvre, Orsay, Cluny, and many other sites. It also encourages you to check out "lesser" sites that you might otherwise skip. The Rodin Museum has a great sculpture garden (with cafe) you can access for only one euro, I believe. The museum itself costs more and might not be worth it unless you're a big fan of his. I doubt if Versailles (or anything else) will be very crowded in February, and the gardens might not be worth more than an overview from the terrace. Go as early in the day as you can, preferably a weekday, to minimize crowding. And if you don't use a Museum Pass, try to get your tickets online beforehand to save standing in the ticket line (which is separate from the admission line). Besides the Metro, ride some of the buses to get around. They're easy to use, with the same tickets, and you see a lot of street scenery on your way from Point A to Point B. Have fun!
I was completely wrong about the hours that the tower sparkles in winter. My brain did a flip. Of course the tower starts sparkling earlier in winter since it gets dark earlier. sheesh!!! disregard my earlier comment!
Thats Ok Kim, Paris can be very distracting!
Thanks Sam, you're too kind!
Thanks again for all the responses. One final question. When I arrive at CDG (I can't believe I leave in a week), do I need to purchase a separate ticket for the RER to go to the stop at St Michel/Notre Dame (Line B) or can I use one of the metro tickets from the carne that I will be purchasing? Thanks again, Mark
Yes, it's a separate ticket if you plan on buying a carnet. I believe it is 5.50 Euro.
Separate ticket, one out of the carnet pack won't work. The cost is 9.50€.
Sam and Ed are right about the carnet, but just to elaborate: the usual carnet people buy is for tickets good for all of the Metro (some of the stations are outside Paris city limits, but you can still use them), and for the RER within city limits only. The airports and Versailles are outside this zone, and need different tickets. To use the Metro, you only need a ticket to enter. To use the RER, you need a ticket to both enter and exit. Therefore, if you're in Paris, you can get on the RER Paris with a ticket from your carnet, but you won't be able to get out at the Versailles or airport end with it. You must, in advance, buy the correct ticket for your destination.