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Best of Paris tour (and Paris in general) conundrum

Hello everybody,

I'm pondering taking the RS Best of Paris tour right before Christmas. I'd like to make up my mind soon because this is the only 2018 tour left with any spots. But I have a problem ("problem" in the most ridiculous and privileged sense of the word) and was hoping the many accomplished travelers and/or RS alums might weigh in. When it comes right down to it, I think I'd like people to just encourage me to hit "sign up!"

For several reasons, the stars are aligning to take the RS tour right before the holidays. An airline snafu landed me with a voucher that will cover a RT ticket to Paris, and previous RS tours means I'll get a bit of a discount. This trip is really calling to me, despite a bad history with trips to Paris (this is not at all an anti-French thing; I spent nearly a week in Normandy and adored every minute). I've visited Paris twice--once as a pre-teen with my mother and, more recently, as a 35-year-old traveling solo. Certainly, a contributing factor was that other, unrelated but definitely "bad" personal stuff was going on in my life at the time (I had just lost my mother and my S.O. and I were in a bad spot), and I'm sure I associated that at least in part with Paris. Whatever the issue, I was miserable. I certainly could "appreciate" the museums (though I've still not made it to the Louvre) and the city's beauty, etc., but I couldn't "feel" anything. This attitude, not surprisingly, translated into all my activities,and stuff that I normally never bat an eye at (eating on my own in restaurants, attempting to make polite conversation in the local language, etc.) was a genuine ordeal. I basically spent the whole week alternating between meltdown mode and numbness, and if I hadn't paid for everything in advance, I would have bailed for sure.

But now there is something in the back of my mind whispering that this is my chance to "get it right." I love history, food, culture, architecture, and learning about a place by simply walking through it. I even know some French, so, on the face of things at least, Paris and I ought to be made for each other.

Where I'd especially appreciate input is about the RS tour. I have traveled widely on my own and do not "need" the "infrastructure" or whatever you want to call it of a guided tour, and ordinarily I'd shy away from the simple cost of a tour that is actually staying in one place. BUT, I've done four RS tours and know that they deliver on the cultural content. I also think this might be a time when I should really prioritize having other people to hang out with, at least sometimes. Given my experience with other RS tours, it is hard to believe I would have a truly bad time, even if Paris and I strike out yet again.

I realize this whole post makes me sound like a bit of a basket case, who needs her hand held. That isn't the case at all. But I am definitely a bit scared to return, and embarrassed by that. Should I just wash my hands of Paris and focus on another place, or go for it, and figure that, at the very least, I'll have some good wine and finally get to see the Louvre?

Apologies for the excessive length! And thank you in advance for any input.

Posted by
2122 posts

Caroline, I totally get it. You are human!

Listen to that voice. This IS your chance to get it right. GO!!! Sign up today!

Posted by
8244 posts

Sign up! Go!

Yes, I think I understand some of your thoughts. I did Best of Paris in 2014. The previous Paris visit was in the 1970's with my crabby ex-husb who hated Paris and whom I allowed to infect me with the same view. It WAS July, it was in the days of many pissoirs and lots of dog poop so it smelled ripe on those hot summer days but thought I would never want to go back.

Shoot forward about 40 years and I decided the only way I could get over this was doing the Best of Paris. I'd done a couple of RS tours so knew I would like the guide and the program. I was also signed up for another RS tour that ended in Paris and I thought why not?

I had a fabulous time. I loved the cultural and historical information provided by the guide. I loved the local guides and I still go to the little slightly hidden public garden in the Marais that she showed us. I know some in our group thought the guide for the Orangerie went in to too much detail on Monet's Water Lilies. I thought it was perfect and EVERY time I go back in there I remember some of what she told me! We had those audio sets so the guide could walk and talk and that was wonderful. We'd walk by a building and she'd suddenly stop her narrative, pull us over to the side and tell us something about it. OR she'd pull us over and say - see those people over there? Let me tell you what they are doing wrong and why people are glaring at them.

There will be people on the tour that are first time visitors to Europe so the guide will do a Metro lesson and maybe some basic stuff that you already know but I'm OK with re-hearing that and often pick up something new.

I'd say go for it! You've got airfare, plus time and money!

I WOULD try to arrive at least a night or 2 ahead particularly that time of year. Winter weather can cause delays and it's better to anticipate that. I'd stay either in the same hotel or in the same neighborhood if you can!

editing to add: If you have a free night for dinner after a free afternoon and you want to join others, try to organize those plans before everyone breaks up from an activity. Once people go their separate ways it may be hard to connect with anyone back at the hotel before people head out.
Have an excellent time.

Posted by
1017 posts

I think you should sign up for the tour. This was our first RS tour (2012) and we were celebrating big birthdays and commemorating my previous brief trip to Paris in 1972. I would add on some time before and after the tour.

We have since been to Paris twice on our own, and are grateful to have had the in-depth exposure provided by the tour. After the 2012 tour, we visited with a friend who lives in Paris roughly half of each year. In some respects, we seemed to know more about Paris than she did.

Paris has become our favorite city in Europe, largely due to our experience with the Rick Steves organization.

Posted by
4697 posts

Yup, hit "sign up"!

With my extensive background in amateur psychology and gratuitous advice to people I don't know, and after my usual careful and exhaustive analysis, my worth-what-you're-paying-for-it advice is take the trip. Seems like your personal situation at least contributed to, or maybe mostly caused, the bad experience you had before. Hopefully your life's in a better place now, and having travel companions should make it easier even if (unlikely) Paris turns out not to be your cup of tea. (Must be a first time for everything.)

Yes, Pam is right, some of the basics may bore you but you have enough RS experience to know the overall product will be very good. I've never been to Europe in winter but Paris would be among the best places to go that time of year. Plus there's that good wine plus the Louvre plus undoubtedly some good food as well. So why not?

Posted by
8244 posts

AND - how could I forget this? - This year there will be a Christmas Market set up in the Tuileries Garden. Last year the one along the Champs-Elysees was closed after the person who puts it on had a fight with the City of Paris. This year it's also supposed to contain something like 80% French-made goods as opposed to stuff imported from Asia.

That alone might drive me to make a quick trip to Paris, lol!! And I'm not a shopper!

Posted by
408 posts

Did this tour over Thanksgiving a few years back. It was a lovely and a great time to visit Paris. Plus you get the museum pass that you can use at many, many other places that are not on the tour. We tried to see how many we could hit and I think we were almost up to 20. I always ask am I going to regret not going or going? I know my answer. Enjoy!

Posted by
276 posts

When the stars align I know I’m not in charge. A gift is being given, accept, let go of the past and have a great time. 🙂

Posted by
4599 posts

highlanderct was the kicker: the stars are aligning, you know you want to go, and having had plenty of RS experience, you know you'll have a wonderful experience. Hit "sign up" and don't look back. Should you have a miserable experience, we all give you permission to never go to Paris again. But you're going to love it.

Posted by
908 posts

Sign up! I did this tour at Christmas time several years ago, and the lights and decorations are wonderful. It all adds to the atmosphere.

Posted by
217 posts

Thank you, everybody, for your enthusiastic responses! I just put my deposit down. Now off to mentally sort through my most stylish winter clothes!


Posted by
1954 posts

You will have a wonderful time and will be so glad you took the plunge!

Posted by
763 posts

Sign up! I loved this tour. It made me fall in love with Paris. A city tour is great because you stay in one hotel. I have since returned to Paris at least 6 times, mostly by myself and a few times with friends.

Do pay attention to when the free time is and although the guide will suggest things to do, use the guidebook to find some options ahead of time. I love the open air markets; great people watching, great foods, some scarves & hats. It can be cool and damp in Paris, so gloves and a thick scarf help me. Most of the time I have a plan made ahead of time and I give myself permission to scrap the plan if I feel like sitting in a cafe for an hour or two or sitting in a park for a while. I now bring a Spork and a cheap plastic container like a yogurt container with lid to pack myself a small picnic lunch if it is a nice day. Or you can buy a baguette with cheese and ham. Many Parisiens eat lunch in a park.

Have a great trip.

Posted by
8244 posts

Well, Caroline....siiiigh. I have been thinking about the darn Christmas Markets all day long plus Paris decorated for Christmas. Thanks a lot. Thanksgiving is early this year...

In other news...any pictures you take or have taken of yourself will only show your outerwear so no stylish clothes will be needed, lol!

Posted by
2788 posts

LOL diveloonie-as are Italy, London, we could all keep adding to this list couldn't we?

Posted by
117 posts

Good for you, Caroline! We did BOP as our second RS tour a few years back, right after BOL. We had a great time, first time in Paris and every glass of wine was wonderful. Enjoy every moment in this beautiful city! We loved the RS experience and are looking forward to Ireland next spring with our 3rd RS tour.

Posted by
2122 posts

So glad to hear you are going! Please report back after your trip to let us know how it went. I wish you a wonderful time!

Posted by
1 posts

So glad you decided to go and hope you have a wonderful trip! I just went on that tour last fall and I loved it. I had gone to Paris in January 2016 with my ex. I loved it there but then wound up getting divorced later that year and went through a very difficult time. After taking my first post-divorce trip solo to Spain with RS I saw the Best of Paris last Oct was on sale and I found a great airfare and decided I needed to go back and experience the city all over again and make some amazing ex-husband free memories in Paris. It was wonderful and I hope you have a great experience, too!

Posted by
16 posts

Do it! My girlfriend and I took the Best of Paris trip last summer (June 2017), and although I'd been to Paris a couple of times in the past, it was an absolutely magical experience that I would love to repeat again someday. Our tour guide Rebecca was incredibly knowledgeable about the city and she had even the tiniest little detail planned to perfection right from the moment we arrived at our hotel (the Hotel Londres Eiffel) -- to give you one example, not long after check-in, we went on our introductory tour of the immediate neighborhood (about 6 blocks from the Eiffel Tower), and when we arrived at a particular point after walking for a fair distance, there was a coach bus waiting for us at the very end, waiting to take us around the rest of the city (just like in Cinderella)!

As a teacher, I'm fairly locked into when I'm able to travel during the off-months from the school year, and would love to visit Paris in the fall/winter, but man, this was still an extraordinary tour, and I can't recommend it enough.

Posted by
289 posts

Are you the Caroline that was on the Rick Steves "Best of England" in May of 2015? If so, Hello from Janet. We took this Paris trip last September and had a great time. Our tour guide was Rebecca and she was wonderful. She set up her own wine tasting in the hotel one evening for anyone who wanted to attend. It was very informative. I think my favorite part of the tour was the Seine river cruise in the evening. You really can see the architecture of the buildings and the beauty of all the bridges at River level. In Paris, they didn't just build a bridge, they built a beautiful bridge. They didn't just build a building, they built a beautiful building. There is so much craftsmanship all over the city, but when I'm walking around, I'm always concerned about falling or tripping. It was wonderful to just look at the city. We finished off at 9:00 with the lights twinkling on the Eiffel Tower. It was a magical evening. Versailles is another terrific spot. We spent 7-8 hours there.

So glad you will get to experience this beautiful city with an open mind. It will steal you heart.