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Paris & HOF review - spoiler alert. France is great!

Just returned from Paris & HOF here are my tips:

Bring a foldable shopping bag - the kind that can fit in a pocket or purse. Grocery stores in Paris don’t hand out bags. A couple of people in our group got ready to eat salads and sandwiches from the grocery on the nights we were in our own for dinner. You’ll also have the opportunity to visit a couple of street markets if you start the tour on a Tuesday and you’ll want to have a bag to carry your baguette and cheese and snacks.

Restaurants in France offer “menus” where for a set price you can pick either an entree (appetizer) and plat (dinner) or plat and dessert or for a little more all three! It’s a great value and a way to taste a lot of food. You may need to turn to the back page of the menu to see the offer and the choices. There are usually two or three choices for each category. Restaurants have their menus posted outside. Order the house wine by the carafe. Tips are built into the price of dinner

If you go to the grocery store you can get a great bottle of wine for €10. Wines labeled in France aren’t designated by the grape (Cabernet, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay) But by the region. Also, and this is news to me after being a wine drinker most of my adult life the bottle shape tells you what’s inside: shoulders on the wine bottle means Cab, tapered bottle is Pinot.

We didn’t feel like we needed to dress up. My husband wore sneakers and no one turned up their noses at us.

Always start any conversation with “Bon jour” and include “S’il vous plait” in every request. It was hard for me to remember. I always said “merci” but I was so concentrated getting the other words to my request correct I kept forgetting to say “please”. The French aren’t snobs they are just formal. Nearly everyone you meet in Paris speaks English and are happy to once they hear your accent. More than once people on the street were very happy to help us with directions. Outside of Paris you are going to need to use your phrase book.

On the tour:
Paris: you’ll have two free afternoons to go to museums on your own using the Museum Pass. Be sure to read the fine print on the pass that explains how to skip the line: for instance at the Musee D’Orsay you go to door C. It’s not obvious when you are standing in line that there is a skip the line option. Make sure you visit the Orangerie to see Monet’s Water Lilies. You’ll be visiting the gardens at the end of the tour and it’s nice to see the paintings beforehand.
You will buy a scarf. Just make peace with that now.
Monoprix is like a French Target. Great place to get a scarf or food for a snack. Don’t over schedule your free time. Sitting in a cafe drinking a coffee or rose and people watching is a great way to spend a few hours. In the 2nd arrondisment there is a lovely street: Rue Montorgueil. It’s near the cook shop E. Dehillerin It’s a pedestrian street with fromageries, boulangeries etc and lots of restaurants. We has wonderful onion soup and warm goat cheese salad at Grille Montorgueil.

The tour of Guedelon is fascinating. Walking is on dusty paths and some uneven surfaces in the castle so wear shoes that are appropriate.

Bourges is so beautiful. Their cathedral was built at about the same time as Notre Dame. It’s a nice way to see a major cathedral since ND is not an option.

We stayed at the Hotel Angelterre in Amboise. They offered laundry service for €15 for a small basket — big enough for six pairs of underwear and four tee shirts. Totally worth it! The Patio restaurant got good reviews. We had pizza at a pasta place which was delicious (French can do anything with dough!!) I wish we had bought candy at Bigot. On the first side street off the main drag there is a soap store with lovely soaps in dozens of fragrances I think it was 4 bars for €10. Nice gifts and easy to pack — they are the perfect size to fit into the space where your roller bag handle goes into the back of your suitcase.

1/X

Posted by
864 posts

You will buy a scarf. Just make peace with that now.

Ha! This is so, so true.

Posted by
8889 posts

"Menu" is a well known "false friend".

  • La Carte = the menu
  • Le Menu = Set meal of the day. either 2-course (starter + main or main + dessert), or all 3. This is often different each day, written on blackboard or a hand written sheet inside "La Carte". Even if the pre-printed menu is translated into English, "Le Menu" rarely is.

And at the end, you need to ask: "L'addition s'il vous plaît".

Posted by
8009 posts

"You will buy a scarf. Just make peace with that now."

I burst out laughing. SO true. Every tour! I swore I was not going to buy one on my tour in April (Belgium and Holland) but knuckled under at the Delft Tourist Office where our guide sent us to by tram tickets and darned if they didn't have a scarf with tulips of that Delft blue for 10E. Ugh...yep, mine.

I was not prepared for how interesting Guedelon was! I spent too long at our picnic lunch that day and didn't get to all the craft areas. SO interesting.

I'm so glad you had a great time!

Posted by
189 posts

Hi Pam,

I call it situational accessorizing. 10 days in Phoenix you start to say “I should wear more turquoise jewelry” But the scarf thing in Paris is crazy. Even toddlers wear them — and more stylishly than I would!

Posted by
4453 posts

That's my problem with scarves. I always think that I am going to look stylish, but I never do. I have a drawer full of beautiful scarves I bought in Florence. I did actually wear one at an outdoor wedding last fall that turned terribly cold (in Houston!)

Posted by
145 posts

"*the 2nd arrondisment there is a lovely street: Rue Montorgueil. It’s near the cook shop E. Dehillerin It’s a pedestrian street with fromageries, boulangeries etc and lots of restaurants. We has wonderful onion soup and warm goat cheese salad at Grille Montorgueil. "*

I second the vote for Rue Montorgueil. It's nearest to metro line 4 at Eteinne Marcel or Les Halles. We stayed in area twice and it was wonderful. Much better than Rue Cler IMHO. It's a foodie street with sidewalk cafes and often talented street musicians.

As far as the scarf thing...You're just not dressed with out a scarf. I even noticed that the trash men and the train engineer had scarves on.

Posted by
7311 posts

«Men in scarves » to clarify the image in the mind of anyone reading this, these are gauze scarves that crush, twist and stand up around the neck so well, not silky with flowers or designs.

Gretchen, it’s a pleasure to read your report.

Posted by
119 posts

Gretchen - thank you for the suggestion about the folding shopping bag. I saw this before my recent trip to France and took a small nylon bag that fit nicely into a pocket of my purse -- it was a big help having it! Just wanted to say thanks for the tip

Posted by
219 posts

Hope to take this tour in 2020, loved reading your take on it!

Posted by
7 posts

Loved your feedback! I'm planning on this tour in April 2020. Wondering if you recall the name of the first place you stayed in Paris on the tour. Reason I'm asking is that we are planning on going a few days early and trying to decide where to stay. Thank you!

Posted by
8009 posts

besweet555, the tours do not always stay at the same hotels, particularly in Paris. When you sign up the first information you receive will be the names of your first and last hotels so you can add days if you are going in early. I do recommend arriving as many days before the tour start as you can! OR add days at the end too, lol!!

Posted by
2 posts

Thank you, Gretchen! I'll be in Paris this fall and these little tidbits are great!

Posted by
942 posts

Just as a clarification: Paris grocery stores DO carry grocery bags but like some cities here in the US, will make you pay if you need one. I usually carry a bag on my travels as London is the same way.

Other than that, great report. I would also recommend tasting a real chocolate macaron. They have them at Whole Foods now but the fillings and cookies are not in the same league. I tried to bring some home one year when traveling to France but unfortunately they never lasted until the last day.

Posted by
1042 posts

I bought a nylon foldable shopping back at Monoprix on one of my trips. It is very useful and makes a nice souvenir as well.
And yes -- a scarf (or two or three...) I find that I wear them almost all the time now in Berkeley. I don't feel pulled together without one.
And thanks for the report!