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Paris & The Heart of France tour ?

We have been looking at the Best of Sicily Tour but the complex flights may rule out that tour.

One fallback tour was the Paris & Heart of France tour. Couple questions.

I am a photography nut, is there any visits on this tour that prohibits photography?

There are several one night stops on this tour. We hate those. I know one is in Paris for your flight home. For those that took this tour, what were your thoughts on the one night stops?

How scenic is this tour?

Flights in/out of Paris are a non factor.

We are retired so our travel budget is very important. We are also considering a return trip to Italy. I think everyday about returning to Rome, but we also enjoy seeing new sites. Tough decisions. Thanks to all who comment.

Posted by
944 posts

I have not been on this tour.... we are going in 2019. But I have been giverny this past summer and it is a great photo op! No restrictions that I came across.

Have a great time.

Posted by
1068 posts

Your question has (for me) too many personal decisions for me to answer all of it. I have taken the RS Sicily tour, but not Heart of France (although I have been to all of the places it visits.) I also enjoy photography. As with almost any tour I can think of, there are places where you cannot take pictures (of the Bayeux Tapestry [yes, I know it is actually embroidery]) for example. However, you can take lots of pics in most places. Bayeux itself (and the cathedral), Normandy landing beaches, Giverny, Mt. St. Michel etc. all permit photos. Is it scenic? Depends on your tastes and photo skills. IMHO, as driving distances are not great, one-night stops make more sense on this tour then they might on some others....but again, that is a personal decision for you and I have no opinion on how they would work for you.

Posted by
7536 posts

wfalatovich we did this tour in 2015. Mont St Michel is certainly (landscape) scenic, as well as the D-Day beaches. Much of the rest of tour allowed great photography of art and architecture (Loire Valley Chateaus, Paris Buildings, Monet's Gardens, Paris street life, cathedrals and monuments. I don't recall which museums or church interiors allowed photography inside and which did not.

As far as one night stands, of course it would be great to have more time, but note that you will stop at sights on the way between places you stay. It made good use of the time we had.

I think this was my favorite of the three RS tours we've taken.

Posted by
9236 posts

Why do you consider the Sicily tour to have complex flights? Fly into Palermo and out of Catania from/to many European cities including Rome.

Posted by
216 posts

I'm also a photographer. I can't remember if there were any sites on the Heart of France tour that prohibited photography (inside of churches is sometimes an issue, regardless of where you are in Europe), but I do have a couple suggestions:

  • France has the money and desire to showcase their monuments at night with beautiful lighting. If you are a photography nut, this is one trip I'd consider bringing a tripod on. And yes, there is a ton of beautiful architecture, art and "cultural" stuff like markets and shops to photograph. This trip also visits Giverny (Monet), where I took some of my favorite travel photographs.
  • Bring a beanbag. In Europe I shoot with a Canon S120 point-n-shoot, which is pocketable, but obviously doesn't have the world's fastest lens. I get amazing shots this way inside churches, dimly-lit restaurants and other places where a tripod is not allowed or impractical (albeit sometimes from some pretty weird angles).
  • I can't remember if there's enough time (I don't think there is) to do the Notre Dame gargoyle tour on your free time in Paris. But if there is, or if you're staying in Paris on your own, don't miss it. Great art, great views, great photography.
  • Climbing the Eiffel Tower and Arc de Triomphe is not part of the tour. If you want a view of Paris from "high up," and don't need to say you climbed the Eiffel Tower, go for the Arc de Triomphe instead. In particular, from the Arc de Triomphe, one can get a 360-degree "up high" view of Paris and the lines to visit are far more sane. I also like photographing Paris from near Sacre Coeur, although on my last trip to Sacre Coeur a couple years ago they were doing construction that blocked access to the spot with my favorite view of the city. Montmartre in general is one of my favorite places for photography, both during the day and at night.

And on a philosophical note - even though I take hundreds of photographs on tour, I find that I miss a lot when I'm photographing. I'm often not really looking at what I'm photographing and I might not be listening to the guides. To combat this issue, I also do travel sketching. I don't make great art this way, but sketching - even for a few minutes - slows me down, forces me to look at what's in front of me and helps me connect with the people (artist, architect, inhabitants) associated with whatever I'm sketching.

Posted by
123 posts

I went on this tour in 2009; the itinerary appears the same. Two specific sites do not allow photography:

(1) The Bayeux Tapestry itself, which is in a separate, darkened room in the museum, for protection of the document. You can easily view (and save) the tapestry on line or print media. I remember first seeing it as a child in National Geographic magazine.

(2) The Eiffel Tower when lit at night - the light show is copyrighted; private photos for personal non-commercial use won't be prosecuted. Commercial photography requires permission.

The tour was great! Book extra hotel day(s) before and/or after to enjoy Paris more. I did and never regretted the additional modest expense.

Bon voyage!

Posted by
2279 posts

This was my first Rick Steves tour and it was a fantastic time! I don't recall very many places where photography was not allowed, I think someone already mentioned the Bayeux Tapestry where you cannot take pictures. There may have been a church here and there as well, but I took hundreds of photos. You will have so many lovely opportunities to capture the beauty of France.

I have now been on 5 RS tours and I think I have to say this tour is my favorite even though all the rest are fabulous for their own reasons.

Posted by
25 posts

Just did this tour this summer. The only place I remember having photo restrictions was the Bayeaux Tapestry.
I am also a shutterbug-I ended up with an 11x14 album that's 80 pages!

The one night stops we not a big deal. We never had two of those in a row. If you get the Hotel Le Belle Vue in Amboise (one of the 2 night stays) it's great because they do laundry in a day. They charge by the basket (17E folded, 12E neatly stacked).

I thought this was a great tour. Even on what looked to be the long bus days, we stopped in small towns for a bit of wandering.

Definitely arrive early or stay late if you can in order to get in a visit to the Eiffel Tower or Montmartre. The Catacombs were a lot of fun (book tickets online in advance).

For your time in the Louvre, the web site has 28 or so themed tours, most take about 90 minutes. You can pick a couple and print them out in advance. We did the lion hunt and the masterpieces. Whatever you do, you should preplan your attack of the Louvre, otherwise it is incredibly overwhelming.

Posted by
450 posts

Had to giggle at the post one photo book 80 pages? We were on BOE14 last year & still working on my books I am up to 7 with each having at least that many pages. Yes I love to take pictures.

We have not done this tour but have done 7 day Paris & went to Normandy & St Michele before our BOE14.


Posted by
38 posts

My husband and I went on the Heart of France Tour in 2012. We enjoyed it so much that I still get goose pimples when we reminisce about it. And yes we still talk about it. We have been on 4 Rick Steves tours and it is definitely one of our favorites so far. I took so many beautiful photos and still love looking through them. The one night stops did not bother us too much. The history and beauty is amazing. We have not been to Sicily as yet. It is on our list as well. We are signed up for the Village Italy tour next year.
We loved Italy when we visited several years ago on the 21 day Best of Europe trip. But in comparing France and Italy we found France to be a bit more.... refined I would say. Whatever you decide, you can't go wrong! Enjoy!

Posted by
2 posts

We just took the tour in Oct 2017. There were a couple of photography nuts on our tour and I personally ended up with almost 1000 photos. The one night stops were ok, especially the one night on Mont St-Michel. After the town is cleared of day time tourists, it's a gem for photos. Of course the many castles and churches on the tour were great but Giverny (Monet's home and gardens) was the best. As many have commented, only the Bayeux tapestry didn't allow photos. We had free time in Paris during the tour, with the 3-day museum pass from the tour, we went to the Louvre and the Orsay and got lots of photos of masterpieces. Even the American and German cemeteries in Normandy made touching photography subjects.

Posted by
5 posts

Paris & The Heart of France was my first tour with RS in 2008, and remains one of my favorites. Another poster talked about night photography - I concur that France has wonderful night illuminations that are great to photograph. I don't know if the itinerary is still the same, but one of our one night stays was on Mont St. Michel. We walked back out onto the causeway at night and took some phenomenal pictures.
Aside from places others have mentioned about restricted photography, it depends on what you do with your free time. In Amboise, we went to Leonardo Da Vinci's home, Clos Lucé. No photos inside, but the grounds had no restrictions. It was a wonderful experience that I would do again if I ever return.
I found this tour very scenic - the chateaus were spectacular as was Giverny, the D-Day beaches, etc., and those details of architecture, animals and people that make for wonderful photo memories.
BTW, I hear you about Sicily. We are going this year in late February but were almost put off by the flights. It might have been better to combine it with another tour.
Enjoy your trip!

Posted by
526 posts

I have taken both tours, Sicily this past May and Heart of France several years ago. Of the two, I enjoyed Heart of France more. It is not that I didn't enjoy Sicily, but the other tour had so many sites I enjoyed more. Both offer tons of photo ops, although I am not that much on photography. I get so absorbed in what I am seeing or listening to the guide, I sometimes forget to take pictures.

As for flights, I feel your pain. We flew to London and spent a day there, the next day flew to Rome and then onward to Palermo. At the end of the tour, we flew from Catania-Milan-London.

Posted by
49 posts

This was our first Rick Steves tour. We were also worried about the one night stays but it really was a non issue. Our favorite night was the overnight at Mont St-Michel. Wondering around in the moonlight after the crowd was gone was magical and we took some amazing photographs. I thought this tour was very scenic. For our first time in France it was nice to see a variety of both big city and smaller towns.

Posted by
729 posts

Well I, for one, plan on taking this tour next! We are going to be enjoying Village Italy in early May but Paris and the Heart of France tour will be on our radar for 2019! I take 1,000 of photos on our trips. The hard part is narrowing them down afterwards! I don't feel like I'm missing anything by having my eye behind the camera lens. If anything I can zoom in and see more detail. I would truthfully be lost without my dSLR!

Posted by
11573 posts

Kathy, you guys will ~love~ Paris and HOF. If you can get enough time off, get to Paris a few days ahead. There was some really interesting food on this tour with some of the days with free lunches coinciding with Farmers Markets so win-win!