Paris: Honeymoon Edition (October 2012)

Hello! I received TONS of help on here when I was planning my last European trip (Switzerland and Italy), and I am VERY fortunate to have the opportunity to go back to Italy this fall on my honeymoon. This time, we'll be starting in Paris, and I couldn't be more excited. I have the Paris 2012 guidebook and have listened to all the RS Paris podcasts, but I still need a little help (and maybe reassurance). Here's our itinerary: Friday: Paris (arrive ~9am) Saturday: Paris Sunday: Paris (free day in Paris, first Sunday!) Monday: Paris - Night train to Venice Tuesday: Venice Wednesday: Venice - Day train to Rome Thursday: Rome Friday: Rome Saturday: Leave Rome at 11:30am My initial questions:
Is a EU215/night standard double (15sq m) in a nice hotel near the Luxembourg Gardens good for a honeymoon that also happens to be our first time in Paris? Should I consider other neighborhoods instead? The similarly price/quality hotels near Rue Cler are booked :-/ (I think the Hotel du Champs de Mars has a RS tour group staying there actually...). I am considering the Marais, but also there are a couple nice places near the Arc de T. that are reasonably priced. What should and shouldn't we do on the first Sunday of the month in Paris? I want to take advantage of the free day, but not feel like we struggled to enjoy our time. Should we try to get to Versailles? If so, which day? Any thoughts on the Thello train? We have a private sleeper car and plan to take a picnic dinner. I would also like anyone's opinions/thoughts/suggestions on honeymoon MUSTs when we have basically 2 full days, and 2 semi-full days (arrival and departure). Thank you!

Posted by Bets
Bloomington
1964 posts

Luxembourg Gardens is a lovely area at the top of Bd. St. Michel in the 5th, next to St. Germain in the 6th and romantic to boot. Lots of Midnight in Paris was shot nearby. Glad to see you've found that there is life outside rue Cler. I really don't understand this rue Cler thing tho I've lived in Paris on and off for about forty years. The Arc is too far out of the way and not a particularly interesting neighborhood. Agreed with the other poster that the little bit you save on a free day isn't worth the hassle of getting to the museum at opening to save a few euros, especially on your honeymoon. Relax and enjoy Paris on a Sunday. There are a lot of free concerts on Sundays, park strolling, boat rides, etc. If you want to absolutely see a chateau but avoid the Versailles crowds, why don't you take the train to see Fontainebleau instead. I've taken both couchettes and sleeping cars and sleep just fine, unlike a lot of others, but I got used to sleeping on trains pretty young. I used to travel in couchettes and sleepers both within France and frequently on the Paris-Vienna route, which used to be 18 hours. If you have a compartment to yourselves, you must be in first class. It will be a very old world experience in that case. The porter will make up the bed with sheets, blankets, etc. A picnic dinner in your private compartment sounds lovely. Enjoy.

Posted by Andrea
Sacramento, CA
4864 posts

Congrats!! Paris hotels - I have never spent nearly that amount on a hotel, but it is your honeymoon. You have to judge if it is worth it. As for the area, I like the 4th (Marais), 5th (Latin Quarter) & 6th (St. Germaine) arrondissements. Try to stay close to the river to be more central and walkable to many places. I stayed on Rue Cler my first trip. It is a nice, quiet neighborhood that in my opinion is not close to anything besides the Eiffel Tower. The Arc is not a great location either. My first trip I was there on the 1st Sunday. Yes, museums are free. They are also a total zoo! Long lines, crowded, etc. You will be in Paris a fairly short time. You could probably squeeze in a trip to Versailles, but it will take you over half a day, especially if you plan to see more than just the chateau. You might want to do that on a future trip. Have you considered flying to Venice from Paris? I have never taken a night train, but have heard horror stories. With such a short time in each place you will have to plan your time wisely.

Posted by Grier
Carmel, IN
1054 posts

How about the Hotel des Grandes Ecoles? I think staying near the Luxembourg Gardens is a fine idea. I agree with the others, the first Sunday will be mobbed in the museums so you might want to check them out on Saturday. I would skip Versailles since you only have a few days. Fontainebleau is a good idea.

Posted by Janet
Colorado, USA
506 posts

I've been home a month from my very first trip to Paris (at 67 years young!). We had 12 days and did two day trips, leaving us 10 full days. We got through maybe two-thirds of my list! In my opinion, you shouldn't leave Paris. You'll be tired the first day anyway. My honeymoon musts would consist of wandering: along the Seine, Ile de la Cite, Place des Vosges, Montmartre, Canal St-Martin, Stravinsky fountain, Trocadero fountains, Luxembourg gardens, Rue Mouffetard, Rue Montorgueil. I also would not take a Seine cruise. We did the Vedettes de Pont Neuf nighttime cruise and I did NOT find it romantic! I enjoyed doing the Bus #69 sightseeing tour at night more than the cruise. I would make it a point to watch the Eiffel Tower light up as it gets dark and be there for a top-of-the-hour display. Have a wonderful trip.

Posted by BG
Albany, CA, USA
1409 posts

I agree with Janet above on good things to do, and would add have a nice lunch or dinner at a cafe and enjoy this scene. Fontainebleau is a wonderful chateau to tour as well as Versailles, but it is twice as far from Paris. Even though lines there are definitely shorter and it's much less crowded, I don't think you will save any time going there.
I would stay in Paris, once you get there you probably will not want to leave anyway.

Posted by Sarah
Stuttgart, Germany
2012 posts

If you're only going to be in Paris for 3 full days I would skip Versailles. There's just way too much to see and do in Paris itself. I would consider maybe cutting Venice out to give yourselves more time in Paris and Rome. You could fly directly between Paris and Rome, saving time and exhaustion on the night train. Unless you really really wanna do Venice. I haven't been, I have heard mixed things from people who have gone. Yes, it's pretty, but it's extremely touristy and not necessarily worth the hassle of getting there if time is limited. Just something to consider. I love the Luexembourg Gardens area, it's very convenient to metro stations, attractions, and St. Germain. I would stay in that neighborhood over Rue Cler any day.

Posted by Adam
Michigan, USA
39 posts

Andrea, Bets, thanks! I have never spent that much either, but honestly, after A LOT of research, ~EU200 is about the average for most of the recommended hotels! It is totally ridiculous... I'm glad you both mentioned that Rue Cler and the Arc area aren't that great to stay in, as it confirms what I guessed. It probably depends on whether or not someone minds taking a bit of a walk/bus ride out of their area everyday. Bets, we do have a "first class" private compartment, although they don't consider it first class accommodations, just a first class privilege to have it to ourselves. My fiance is particularly excited about the night train (I'm not so much based on recent reviews). Grier, I just sent a booking request for Hotel Grandes Ecoles to check the price. I'll let you know. I think we'll be skipping Versailles and Fontainebleau this trip. Janet, thank you! I also find strolling along the water much more relaxing/romantic than going on a "river cruise". I've taken a few of them in the past and have never really enjoyed them. Sarah, we were in Rome for four days and loved it. That's why we're going back to spend two more nights, but we want to see Venice together before it sinks and gets much more touristy :) I've heard from many people that the locals are leaving and other people are just buying up the property/businesses and the city is losing its charm at a slow, but constant rate.

Posted by Nigel
East Midlands, England
8732 posts

I spoke about the night train in your other thread.

Posted by Lexma
Denver
536 posts

I would definitely suggest staying in the St. Germaine area. It's lively, with lots of cafes and restaurant, and closer to a lot of the places you'll want to see (and walk to). Two hotels we've used are Hotel Le Regent and Hotel Millesime; they should be at or below the price you mentioned. In terms of visiting places in Paris, I agree to skip the big museums, etc. on the Sunday free day. You might want to visit someplace smaller, such as the Marmatton or the Rodin museum, if those places interest you, that might be a little less crowded. Also note that many places are closed on Mondays (but not the Louvre), and the Louvre is closed on Tuesday.

Posted by Adam
Michigan, USA
39 posts

Yep, saw that reply. Thanks. Fatigue from a sleepless/restless night is a concern, but we hope having our own compartment will help. Also, the reviews of the Thello I've read cite three major concerns: too hot in the compartment without any air conditioning, the dining car runs out of food very fast, and the bathrooms aren't kept clean. Other reviews I read were by people who were unfortunately unprepared and/or unable to prepare for the night train. They had high expectations and were let down. I can understand that. I think by lowering my expectations and preparing for the worst, I can avoid some frustration. The man in seat 61 says there is a hopper window that can be opened. I hope this is true and since it'll be October, I think it will be cool enough out to somewhat make air conditioning unnecessary. Of course this will increase the noise, and who knows will be an acceptable fair trade-off. We plan to pack a picnic lunch and avoid the Restaurant car's microwaved food. And perhaps the bathrooms will be gross. I don't know, maybe we'll bring some disposable cleaning wipes and be prepared to use a few extra in the bathroom. If anyone else has advice for the overnight train, please let me know. It could be a miserable night, but I'm hoping it can be fun and convenient. -- Hotel Le Regent is booked full according to their website, and Hotel Millesime is EU250/night. Thank you for the suggestions, though, Lexma!

Posted by Karen
Marin, CA
440 posts

I am not a big Rue Cler fan but really enjoy staying on Isle St Louis. Last year we stayed at Hotel St Louis in a non premium room for 169euros. The Lutece is nice but a bit more. I think RS recomends both hotels. We hit the first Sunday in June last year and the weather was wonderful and the crowds awful. Sounds like a lovely honeymoon.

Posted by Adam
Michigan, USA
39 posts

Both Hotel Saint-Louis en l'Isle and Hotel Lutece are booked. Wow, I might be stuck where I have a reservation! :) I reserved it back in April though. Had I looked closer for a better deal then...

Posted by Eileen
Texan in CA
3578 posts

I checked my favorite hotel in Paris for a weekend in Oct; you can stay here for €98/night. It's across the street from an award-winning boulangerie, very close to the Bois de Vincennes, great restaurants in a beautiful residential area, and there's a metro stop right outside the door. The metro is a very convenient one that makes an east-west arc across the city. Everyone I've talked to that has stayed there has said the time on the metro is well worth it! It's completely refurbished every few years, and they've recently finished yet another redecorating. €200 is NOT 'the price' for staying in Paris; I actually consider €98 a bit of a splurge ;-) I would forget the free Sunday deal, unless you use it for the lesser-known sites. Forget trying to visit the Louvre on Sunday :-( The first day is for walking the city - a huge site in itself - and seeing the Eiffel Tower after dark to see the twinkling lights on the top of the hour! Less is more on this trip, I'd think. You'll be tired after your trans-Atlantic flight and wedding, so take it easy on arrival day. Personally, I'd skip Versailles. But that's me. I'd rather wander the city and eat crepes and drink wine ;-) Your hotel should keep your luggage for you on departure day so that you can see some more sights before your night train to Venice. Figure in time to retrieve your luggage, wherever you stay... Congratulations to both of you!!!

Posted by Dan
Denver, Colorado
3 posts

My wife and I went to Paris, and stayed at the Hotel Saint Christophe, down in the 5th District. The rates vary throughout the year, but we were able to get our room for 110 Euros per night. It's a quick walk from a Metro Station, making it easy to get around town. We enjoyed staying in the 5th, it was very easy to shop for picnic dinners there. We went to Rome last October for our honeymoon, and stayed at Rome Armony Suites - which we highly recommend. It fills up quickly, as the air conditioned doubles start at 100 Euros per night. The owner was great - very personable and willing to assist in booking reservations to restaurants and museums. Enjoy your trip!

Posted by Susan
Sausalito, California
3198 posts

Hotel de Lutece has always been my favorite but since it's booked...Eileen's recommendation looks fantastic. And you can't beat the price for what you get. I like staying in the 4th, 5th or 6th because you can walk out the door and easily walk to most places, but for what you get at Hotel de la Porte Doree and the price, I would stay there in a heartbeat.

Posted by Adam
Michigan, USA
39 posts

Thanks Eileen, Dan, and Susan! I'd be interested in your thoughts as to the trade-offs of staying there, though. At Hotel de la Porte Dorée I could save EU60-100/night, but would be further from the center of the city making it less convenient to pop back into the hotel in the middle of the day. Seems the hotel also has some thin walls and the Metro runs underneath it shaking the hotel and causing some noise. I'm not a light sleeper, but there are a few things to consider. For example, an hour walk to Notre Dame vs. a <15min walk from the Latin Quarter... Then again, the Metro stop is right outside the doors of Hotel de la Porte Dorée. The Hotel de l'Empereur which is on the western edge of Les Invalides has very nice rooms with a view for ~EU165. Again, that's in the 7th and further away from the Marais and Latin Quarter where almost everyone has recommended we stay on our first visit.

Posted by Susan
Sausalito, California
3198 posts

It's a difficult choice... it all comes down to price vs location. That's the bottom line. The price I see online for Hotel de l'Empereur is 205 E and the price I see online for Hotel de la Porte Doree is 75 E (cheaper if you choose the no cancellation price). For me personally, Hotel de l'Empereur is still not the location I prefer. It would not as easy to stop in during the day as it would be in the 4th (which includes Ile St. Louis, my favorite), 5th or 6th. I also like the Hotel St. Jacques in the 5th on rue des Ecoles, a couple blocks from Notre Dame and one block to a good metro stop (Maubert) on Blvd St. Germain. From what I could tell online they do have rooms available in Oct and it looks like the most expensive one is 180 E. I assume ones at that price have a balcony. We've stayed there twice and liked it a lot. Very convenient location and we loved having a balcony. Another nice hotel we liked is Hotel du Pantheon right next to the Pantheon in the 5th and a block from the Luxembourg Gardens (not to be missed). I haven't checked their prices or availability though. And the hotel that Grier recommended, Hotel des Grandes Ecoles is also a good one. We've stayed there and liked it, though it's farther from Notre Dame and the river. (I agree with Andrea, staying closer to the river is my preference). It's a tough decision... Wherever you choose though, I'm sure you will have a great time... Paris is wonderful. (Edit: I still think Hotel de La Porte Doree is a great choice even though it's in the 12th, you can't beat the price for such a nice hotel)

Posted by Eileen
Texan in CA
3578 posts

According to ratp.fr, it's about 25m from the hotel to Notre Dame, BUT remember you're not going to Notre Dame every day; you also want to get to the Eiffel Tower (26m on the same metro line), Les Invalides (20m on the same line), Gare de Lyon (to pick up your luggage for your train to Venice - 15m), etc. The metro makes a slight rumble under the building; while we're lying in bed it just makes us giggle the first few times, then we don't even notice it anymore. I'm not even sure I've ever noticed it at all during the day...The building doesn't 'shake' like a wood shed next to railroad tracks or anything like that. It's certainly not as annoying as honking horns, sirens, and people yelling outside any hotel window. It's a non-event for anyone I've talked to who's stayed there. And, it only runs basically from 6a-12m. (cont.)

Posted by Eileen
Texan in CA
3578 posts

(cont.) I just want you to consider any part of Paris; because of the great metro system, it's not nearly as important as it is in some places to be 'in the center of town'. In other places, it's a big hike to get from here to there, but not in Paris! And it's cheap and fast, too. Now, I wouldn't necessarily suggest staying in Versailles or CDG Aeroport...that's a stretch. Also, some people never return to their rooms until bedtime; others frequently go back for naps, drop off purchases, whatever, and you should take that into consideration. Still, if your hotel was in the center of town and you were at a museum at the edge of town, it wouldn't be terribly convenient to just pop into your hotel room, either. Mais quelle horreur! The Vandermeersch Boulangerie-Patisserie across the street is now closed on Mondays and Tuesdays! (it used to be closed on Weds). Should you venture to their establishment, you should load up on Sunday for your Monday bfst and lunch (7:00-20:00)! We plan our Paris trips around the opening hours of Vandermeersch. Seriously. We aren't the only ones...;-)

Posted by Adam
Michigan, USA
39 posts

So, after gathering the hotel information you all generously supplied, I finally sat down with the fiance today to discuss our options :) The question: Should we keep our reservation in the Latin Quarter or book either the Hotel de la Porte Durée? I'm so lucky to be marrying a level-headed, relaxed girl (although I've known this for the 10 years we've been together). While I've been kind of stressing about it for a few days, she was very impressed with the Hotel de la Porte Durée and could easily see the value of staying there. We booked a room tonight and I am very excited. I loved reading about Porte Durée and appreciate that they are aware of nature, and it's so close to the east end of the Promenade Planteé! In all our travels we have always enjoyed nature just as much as, if not more than, cityscapes. Hiking in the Berner Oberland was the best part of our Swiss/Italy trip last year. Strolling the PP and maybe exploring the Bois de Vincennes seem like perfect Parisian activities to enjoy on that 'free' Sunday :) Merci beaucoup Susan and Eileen!!!

Posted by Susan
Sausalito, California
3198 posts

I think you made a great choice! Happy Honeymoon!

Posted by Sherry
San Jose, CA
1139 posts

One native to the zoo Versailles is likely to be... You might check the website for the chateau of Vaux le Vicomte: http://www.vaux-le-vicomte.com/en/index.php. It's a short train ride from Paris, far less crowded than Versailles, and unlike Versailles, it is still furnished so you get a feeling for what life might have been like. It's also very much in the style of Versailles, since Louis took the artisans/architect/landscape architect from Vaux le Vicomte for his creation of Versailles (after jailing the owner of Vaux le Vicomte, his finance minister). On Sat nights in summer/early fall, you can visit the chateau and its gardens by candlelight, which was stunning (and quiet enough that I could actually hear the background music that was playing). Also, there are fireworks Sat nights. On the Sunday I visited the fountains were on. I think it would offer far more for a honeymoon than Versailles.

Posted by Eileen
Texan in CA
3578 posts

Oh, you MUST walk across the street to the Bois de Vincennes! It's gorgeous, and you'll completely forget you're in a busy city like Paris (but only for a little while; who wants to forget they're in Paris?). Visit Vandermeersch first for breakfast goodies and/or lunch quiche. Don't forget the wine, if you imbibe. Hey, can I come along on your honeymoon ;-) Chateau de Vincennes is interesting; it's not full of original furniture or anything, but the grounds will belong only to you (!), and there's bus/RER/metro transportation right there. It's much more rewarding if you know any of its history. However, it's NOT a replacement for a Versailles. If you're looking for over-the-top, fountains, huge fancy gardens...no. Very pretty and quiet, all your own...yes. Let us know how everything was after you return! Just a short post...;-)