I am trying to plan a suprise trip to Paris for my wife next year and I have no clue as to what I should focus on first to get the planning phase off the ground. Any suggestions or comments would be helpful. thanks in advance
Have you been to Europe before? If not, click on the Travel Tips link at the top of the page you're reading now. You'll find a host of articles by Rick Steves which are condensed from his travel skills handbook, Europe Through the Back Door. Or buy the book. The 2010 edition is now available.
Go to a public library or a bookstore and browse through the guidebooks on Paris. See which ones best match your interests and are written in a style you enjoy. Then buy one or two. Personally, I like both the Rick Steves and Lonely Planet Paris guidebooks.
I just ordered Paris 2010, along with Amsterdam 2009 (which will not be updated this year).
I hate to point this out (sorry, Rick!) but the guides are MUCH cheaper when ordered from amazon.com, and you get free shipping if your order is at least $25.00.
Well you are already off to a great start. You know where you want your trip to focus on (Paris) and you got ETTBD. Next step for me would definitely to determine exactly how long I will be on this trip. From there you can start reading on Paris to get details on what you want to see. Rick does an EXCELLENT job of stating "if you have 3 days - see this. If you have 5 days - see this". And so on. Helps a ton. Then if you have more time left - get a map and see what is nearby for daytrips or side adventures. Once you read about it, figure out what the transportation costs are to get there. Realize that France is about the same size as Texas. So only expect to hop around Europe as much as you would hop around the US. Pick neighboring cities/countries and break it apart into pieces.
Only after I have my 'dream trip' figured out - then I start to look at budget and see where I need to trim or reduce.
So basically, you are at the fun part - plotting maps and dreaming big!
It would help to know whether your trip will be limited to Paris and the duration of the trip? Also, what time of year will you be travelling?
Europe Through The Back Door will provide lots of information to help put the trip together, including Itinerary planning.
What a great surprise that will be for your wife! Hopefully she won't be reading the HelpLine!
Your public library may be like ours,, free dvds and vidoes of travel destinations,, always fun to look at.
Also, I always book my hotels well in advance, most have very good cancellation policies( only 5 euro fee if you cancell a week out etc) and that allows me to book at good rates for nice hotels, I will cancel and book another hotel if I see a deal somewhere else. I have stayed in 200 euro plus rooms for half the price doing this.
On the other hand, if you are looking for budget lodgings, you may not be able to get reservations until 2-3 months before your trip.
What time of year are you planning to go?
If you regularly watch dvds, you should start sneaking in some that are set in Paris. "Julie and Julia" is still in theaters now. "Paris, Je t'aime" is a good one. Maybe even "Aristocats" or "Ratatouille." Don't do it to often so she starts to suspect, but just enough to put that in the back of her mind.
And could you talk to my husband about planning a surprise trip for me? I promise to act stunned!
I like the DK Eyewitness Travel series. Though not nearly as comprehensive as other guides, it makes a nice addition when planning as it emphasizes visuals and pictures. We have found it helpful in planning itineraries. Good luck.
Good advice provided thus far. You may also wish to reference www.franceguide.com and www.tripadvisor.com. Not sure if you’re planning to venture outside of Paris, but the Visions of France (Provence and The Riviera) DVD is excellent. I’ll second the film Paris, je t’aime and will add Amélie. You should have plenty to get started. How exciting!
Thanks to all for the advice. I have started reading Rick Steves Paris 2010. I have never been to Europe and planning to go in November around the 15 to the 24th. I am trying to keep this a budget trip but yet a once in a life time yet romantic all at the same time...
For that amount of time I would suggest staying in Paris and not moving around. There is so much to see and do in Paris, and it is less expensive if you do not move around. There are lots of great day trips from Paris if you want to see more than what Paris itself offers. Rick's Paris guide is very good. A great budget hotel is Hotel de L'Avre, it's highly rated on TripAdvisor.com. You can go to the hotel's website at hoteldelavre.com.
I disagree slightly Susan. Yes, you can spend a week in Paris and not regret one moment, but since you have essentially a week and a half - I say take the first 4 nights in Paris and then a bullet train down to Nice for the remaining 4 days. Then you can experience the Riviera. That's romance! Paris is spendy so leaving it might be better for your budget. Nice has a major airport so you can fly out of Nice to head home.
On the other hand,, Nice in late November is not exactly Nice as you think of it, it will be cool, possilbly rainy,, not summer Nice vacation spot.
I would stay in Paris and take a few daytrips, Versailles , Chartes, maybe Loire Valley for two nights to enjoy the Chateaus.
If you are staying in Paris that long, I highly recommend you rent an apartment rather than stay in a hotel. You will feel like a true Parisien if you stay in an apartment. Some good websites to look at would be parisattitude.com or lodgis.com. Prices are very affordable and comparable to other hotels. You'll also get the satisfaction that you don't have to worry about your personal items being stolen, which tends to be an issue in some European hotels. During my last trip to Paris, I rented an apartment literally right around the corner from the Montorgueil market street. It was awesome!
I think Pat's idea of a few days in the Loire Valley is great. Renting an apartment is also good, we're doing that next May, but a weekly rate on a apartment is not going to be less expensive than the Hotel de L'Avre, which I recommended above. We've never had a problem with stuff being stolen in any of the many hotels we've stayed at in Paris but that doesn't mean it couldn't happen. Also, I was assuming Patrick and his wife would only have 7 full days for this trip since he said they'd leave on or about the 15th and return on the 24th. Spending all 7 days in Paris gives them time to relax and really enjoy themselves. He also said he's on a budget, and moving around definitely ups the price of any trip. Everyone has their own opinion, but I don't consider Paris to be expensive. Lots of ways to be there on a budget and still have a great time. This is not true of San Francisco, where I live, it's at least 2-3X more expensive to vacation here than Paris.
You can start putting a budget together and checking out hotels. It's still too early for airfares, though.
Looking at hotel recommendations and prices for November 2009 will give you a good idea of what you can expect and what you can afford. There are lots of choices in Paris and you have time to narrow them down to fit your budget and your preferences (area, type of accommodation).
It is pretty easy to work out transportation costs and entrance fee estimates. Look at the Paris Museum Pass website, which will give you a starting point for sights to see.
There have been discussions on food budgets here which you can read using the search options Kent provides.
We have been to Paris twice. You can get ideas from the pictures from both trips that we posted at are our blog at: www.gadtravel.com
Gabriel is correct. Look at renting an aptartment. Can be chaaper than a hotel, but not always. You do get more privacy though. Also, you have the ability to cook some meals in and save some cash. Breakfast especially can be cheaper fixed in the apt. Also, you can buy pre-cooked foods from businesses that sell cooked chicken, vegetables, cheeses, breads, deserts, etc., and bring back and eat very cheaply.
As you'll have about ten days to work with, spending some time outside of Paris would probably be good too. Some possibilities to consider would be the Normandy area, south into the Loire Valley, or east to Reims, Colmar, etc.
There will be more information on the other areas in the France Guidebook, so you may want to have a look at that also. There's also lots of information on good places to stay, restaurants, etc.
As this is your first trip to Europe, don't forget to allow for the day you'll "lose" in flying to Europe. Generally speaking, you'll arrive the day after you depart.
Patrick, Read the description of Rick's Paris in 7 Days tour and see where they spend some of their time. That will give you an idea of what to start with in Paris and then plan from there. Read the reviews that people who have taken this tour write and pay attention to the things that they called their Wow Moments. And keep reading the helpline.
I definitely think that there is plenty to keep you busy in Paris for 7 days without feeling like you have to be up and running each day.
Keep us posted on what you decide and we definitely want to hear how the surprise goes!
Have a great trip!
Ok Patrick. So you're going to find out lots of places to go that are touristy, and you should definitely go to them. But I will suggest wholeheartedly that you make sure you spend about a day hanging around the square of Montmartre. My girlfriend and I spent only 2 half days here on the last days in paris and we felt cheated that we didn't find it until our last day (to see a pic check out some on my website: http://web.mac.com/soccer1759/The_Cheyne_Pages/France_08.html#76 some of the pics before and after will be of montmartre). In terms of romantic places to spend with your wife, I think this should be on your top priority.
Might I share just two other suggestions:
1. You said budget trip would help. You'll notice when you two go to have a nice little lunch in a cute cafe near the louvre that you are about to visit, that a mozzarella and tomato salad (small) is about 18euro. So naturally you will for novelty's sake try a few of these cafes but a cheap and romantic alternative is the following: a picnic. When you go to the nearby grocery or bakery on your way to the picnic you'll notice that a baguette is about 1 euro and you can get some apples a nice block of cheese and a "decent" (maybe not for a connoisseur) bottle of wine (you'll need an opener which i got at a souvenir shop for 4 euro) for about 12euro. Do the math there with the fact that you'll have a picnic in the park with your wife and you see my point. But be careful, although there is a "no drinking in public" law, if you are very discreet about it you will have no problems.
- The only hotel suggestion i have was the Hotel Maison du Pre which is in an accessible part of town and the prices are under 100euro per night and its a cute little spot for a couple.
let me know if i can help anymore...
Picnics are great for sure. But I have never seen an 18 Euro tomato and mozzarella salad at a cafe. The Louvre area is extremely expensive so I don't doubt there is one, but it is not the norm. We stay on Ile Saint Louis (the little island right behind Notre Dame Cathedral), one of the most expensive neighborhoods of Paris, our favorite cafe is there...it's not inexpensive but the most they charge for a large salad is 9-11 Euros. There are thousands of cafes throughout Paris that are extremely inexpensive and they're a great place to have good food and relax. And you can always look at the menu, before you sit down, and decide if the prices are fair. But I do agree, picnics are wonderful.
If Cheyne (post or two above) means the Place du Tertre behind Sacre Coeur when referring to the "square in Montmartre", then I disagree that is "romantic". It is crowded with other tourists almost all the time, the restaurants are 3rd rate and over priced, as are the artists. Maybe 25 years ago it was romantic but now it has a faux-Parisian air that is off-putting.
two quick thoughts on above discussions. If there were inexpensive cafes - I didn't find them. Most places we stopped for a quick bite, is was nearly shocking how much a light lunch would run. 30-50 Euro. Then when you take into consideration the exchange - ophf-da! had we not been drinking wine with most lunches - we probably could have shaved that down to 20 Euro...so I have no-one to blame but myself.
And then regaring Montemare. I feel like I missed something there becuase people rave about it and I was not a huge fan. The area immediately surrounding the church was TOURISTY and crowded and kinda cheesy. I enjoyed the stroll around the back roads finding where all the great painters lived back in the day. I also was smitten with the statue of the be-headed martyre. Such history. But by and large, it was not a neighborhood that I really felt wild about. The Dali Museum was overpriced. The Sex district was novel at best. The square where all the artist hang out and paint portraits felt staged and like a big sales gimic. Having said all that, I think I was really worn out that day - so maybe my mood was off. I am going to go back and explore it some more to see what people are raving about.
Check out www.feelslikehomeinparis.com for a wonderful apartment in Paris. Compared to hotel prices, this is a much better deal giving you a living room and kitchen. Great fun to shop the markets and prepare a few meals instead of pricey restaurants. We stayed in "Prestigious Montmartre" in October 2008 (2 couples). Great neighborhood and so easy to get around by Metro. Be sure to get R. Steves guidebook and do some advance research and planning. Paris and France are very pricey compared to USA, so be prepared for that. Also, learn a few French phrases and use them -- the French will respond in a much more friendly manner. Bon Voyage!
First, I would like to thank whoever seconded my notion that the cafes in the accessible areas are a bit expensive. I'm sure there are inexpensive ones, but I feel like most people stopping at a cafe are doing it en-route to their tourism fix.
Secondly, I completely agree that the "square" is a big gimmick but I remember specifically saying "around the square" haha. If you wander off around there your sure to find some really nice places. But I still felt that with the small buildings and cobblestone streets it was quite nice. I also found a small brassarie/restaurant which was extremely affordable and included live piano music from an old frenchman.
If you go to a cafe next to Notre Dame, the Louvre, the Arc de Triomphe, then yes, they will be expensive. But there are thousands of cafes, not next to tourist sites, that are inexpensive and great.
I have to agree with Susan. My wife and I've eaten at lots of cafes in Paris that were very budget friendly and really good. They're really easy to find, they're everywhere.
Hello. My husband and I are in our 60's. We just spent 6 nights at the Hotel Le Littre (6th arron.) in Paris, in June. We loved the hotel and its location. We are going back there in May of next year. Elaine
My husband and I just went to Europe for the first time this past August and we had a blast!! We went through "Europian Destinations" and stayed five nights in Paris at a bed and breakfast. Then took the night train to Florence and spent five nights at a bed and breakfast there. Everything (Flights/hotels/overnight train) cost us 3000 dollars for two.
We did one French day trip to Versailles and one Italian day trip to Pisa. We just totally followed the Rick Steves guidebooks and the eyewitness books in both places. The metro is great once you are in Paris.