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Paris & the Heart of France tour experience

Can anyone who has been on the HOF tour this past Spring write a bit about their experiences? High points/low points. Best parts. What you would've skipped or what you wish you'd done? I've been waiting for the reviews on the tour page but nothing from 2022 so far. Thanks a bunch!

Posted by
933 posts

I would also like to hear any reports, this is a tour we have been thinking about for spring of 2023.

Posted by
26 posts

My husband & I took the tour in April. We loved it! Our leader, Julie, and our tour mates were terrific! We ranged from early 20s to early 80s, I’d guess, with one single, one family of three, one pair of friends, two mother-daughter pairs, and several couples.

We stuck pretty closely to the planned itinerary. My favorites included the gardens at Giverny and morning prayers at Mont St. Michel. On our own in Paris, Musee d’Orsay and the Rodin Museum filled me with joy. My husband’s favorites were the Bayeux tapestry and visiting the small towns/villages. We found Dale Booth, the guide at Normandy, to be one of the best we’ve ever had. He brought the history to life.

This was our third RSE tour and it was the most challenging for us. It was not the number of steps or hills or cobblestones but the hotel changes, bus rides, and less free time that were taxing. Please note it was not unexpected, as the itinerary notes those things clearly, just harder than I thought it would be. But, so worth it to see and experience all we did!

We liked the balance of art, history, city, country, etc. experienced on the tour. The food was amazing and the French people we met were gracious.

Our group stayed in their original seats on the bus and followed the mask guidelines on the bus and group activities except at group meals. The group meals were indoors and we rotated around quite a bit to get to know other people. Our group numbered 24 plus the guide & bus driver (who was amazing in small spaces!)

At least two tour members tested positive for COVID a couple of days after the tour ended. The majority of us tested negative and were back in US or Canada by then. The quarantined couple told me later that they received some guidance & support from RSE, Travelguard, and the Paris hotel, which was comforting to them.

There is nothing I would have skipped and I will treasure the memories I made on this trip! If you go, I hope you have as much fun. If you have any specific questions, feel free to ask. Hopefully our tour surveys will be up soon too.

Posted by
2 posts

My first post! I'm so happy I can contribute.

My husband and I went on this tour last month, starting Easter weekend. We both loved it and had a great time.

Best parts: I absolutely loved Guedelon Castle and wished we had more time to wander the grounds. The site guide was very informative and made sure we had an opportunity to talk to some of the artisans at work. Monet's garden was beautiful and full of blooms. Mont St Michel was very interesting. The local guide was also excellent. Actually, all the guides were excellent, especially Arnaud, our tour guide. Even the bus time was enjoyable just to see the beautiful countryside and villages.

The food was great. The hotels were well located and nice.

I would not have skipped anything. The only thing I would want to add is a free day in one of the villages. Touring through the chateaux was less enjoyable because of crowds but the gardens surrounding them were gorgeous.

Honestly, it's a great tour and we are so glad we took it.

Posted by
26 posts

Welcome RVPatti. You were on the tour just after ours. So glad you loved it too. Yay for first posting! I’m pretty new also. :)

Posted by
9701 posts

Kacachat and RVPatti - welcome to both of you! I hope you'll continue to contribute!

FWIW, although I did this tour a number of years ago, I completely agree with the assessment on the variety of sights on this tour and particularly on Dale Booth. He is amazing.

To the OP, I know you wanted info specific to this year and how things were running as tours start back so I hope there are others here on the forum who've taken the tour this spring!

Posted by
30 posts

Thanks Kacachat and RVPatti for your reports. You've given me a good idea of what the tour is like. I've been wanting to do it for years but of course I'm apprehensive with the pandemic. I've been to Paris and i can't wait to return but I'm looking forward to seeing the countryside and wonder if the smaller towns are less affected by covid. Thanks!

Posted by
10 posts

My husband and I will be on this tour starting June 10 after having been on the waitlist for quite a while. We are very much looking forward to it AND quite apprehensive about traveling right now. I've also been waiting for more current reviews. I'll try to remember to let you know, when we return, how it went! I'm happy to see the positive comments from recent travelers.

Posted by
15 posts

Hi, I can agree with everything kacachat reported. I will add that it was quite fast paced and take heed of the RS guide for how strenuous the tour is. It is how they depict it! My advice is be sure to arrive in advance so as to be well rested. We lost our extra first day due to flight issues so in retrospect I would have booked more days prior, not necessarily at first tour hotel (and I loved the hotel!)I would not have skipped anything, but though there’s usually some free time each day, there’s not always the energy to go explore more, especially if it’s evening time. Be prepared for crowds like before the pandemic. As she said, we were masked except at meals, and I’m guessing that will not be the case when you go. Very good walking shoes are a must and the better shape you’re in, the more you’ll enjoy it! I hope this was helpful.😎

Posted by
1 posts

I'm taking the Paris & The Heart of France tour at the end of June. Excited about being back in Europe, but nervous about Covid and now the Monkey Pox (?).
Curious how people got from CDG Airport into Paris...Did you take train in to city & then Metro or hire a ride?
Thank you very much!

Posted by
9701 posts

I always go to the official taxi rank at the airport and take a cab from there. Don’t go with anyone who comes up to you in the airport. It’s a fixed rate into town, price depends on which bank your hotel is located on 53 to Right, 58 to Left.

Others take the train in to town but I don’t want to mess with my luggage on the train.

Posted by
29 posts

I can't stress Pam's advice enough. Every time I fly into CDG, I'm approached by bodyguard looking men in suits and ear pieces asking to help me with my luggage and bring me to a taxi. Ignore them! Follow the signs and arrows on the ground for the taxi queue. I once made the mistake of getting into a fake taxi in South Korea and was let out on the highway after realizing my mistake and telling the guy that I wouldn't pay what he was asking (as I watched his meter skyrocket). Live and learn...

Posted by
325 posts

There was a man right at the taxi entrance that tried his best to lead us astray a few weeks ago. Go through the entrance that is labeled TAXI. It will lead you directly outside to the official line.

Posted by
20 posts

I just got back from the Paris and HOF tour this week. It was my 2nd RS tour and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Linda was our wonderful guide. At the introduction meeting, she looked at everyone's COVID cards to verify your vaccination status and explained the expectations for the tour, including wearing masks on the bus and reporting if you felt ill so you could get treatment. It was a large group, with 29 people on the tour, mostly married couples but a couple of sets of friends and 3 singles. Everyone was friendly and got along well. The meals provided at the group dinners were very good and gave you the opportunity to taste some French food favorites, like foie gras, duck, lamb, mussels and lots of desserts!

This is a very active tour and there's a lot of walking each day as noted in the published itinerary. Linda provided a few Metro tickets each day in Paris and taught us how to read the station map and ride the train. All of the local guides were great and very knowledgeable. I appreciated that RS provides the Paris Museum pass for you to visit the museums you want to see and makes suggestions, but doesn't try to guide you thru the Louvre, Orsay or any museum. There were far too many huddled masses crowded around guides trying to explain art that made navigating the halls challenging.

We hit horrible traffic leaving Paris which put us behind schedule and made us arrive late at Guedelon so our tour was a little short since we hit the mandatory French lunch hour (the French are serious about their lunch break!). I wish we had a bit more time there but was very impressed by what we saw and learned about the castle. I loved Chateau Chenonceau, also know as the "Ladies Chateau." We arrived early in the morning and were the first group there so it felt like we had the place to ourselves for an hour or so. I also loved the morning prayers at Mont-Saint-Michel and the tour of the Abbey (lots of stairs!) and the D-Day tour. The flowers were in bloom at Giverny making it lovely but it was very crowded and very hot.

There's a good mix of free time and scheduled activities so you can take a break when you need it. Also, you are free to opt out of any activity if you want, just make sure to tell your guide or bus buddy that you're not coming so they don't wait for you. The bus stops about every 2 hours for 15-20 minute breaks so you can use the restrooms and get snacks. We weren't required to keep the same seat on the bus, but most people tended to sit in the same place each day. We stayed at Hotel Le Belle-Vue in Amboise and they will do your laundry for you for 18 euros. Totally worth it to have clean clothes, not hand washed in the shower! If I had to name a negative it would be that there were a couple of hotels we only stayed one night in so you felt like you were packing up a lot, but it was minor in the overall scheme of the trip for the amount of things we got to see and do.

Since our tour arrived back in Paris on Sunday, RS provided a nurse at the hotel to perform COVID tests for anyone flying out on Monday for 20 euros. Thankfully, everyone tested negative.

I loved the whole tour and highly recommend it. If you have any questions, please let me know and I'm happy to share more.

Posted by
30 posts

Thanks everyone for the helpful information! I look forward to the tour though of course I'm nervous about the covid situation. Tammy, I'm glad to hear that a nurse was provided to do the covid tests when you returned to Paris. That's very convenient. I wonder, does that happen for every HOF tour? Or was it because you returned on a Sunday?
Another question I have is making museum reservations. I would like to go to the Centre Pompidou but I don't see how I can buy tickets with a museum pass. There doesn't seem to be that option. Has anyone been able to do this or do you just show up with your pass and hope there's availability?
I also would like to go to the Palais Garnier but I don't know which day I'll want to go. Does anyone know if they sell out in advance? Can I buy a ticket the day of?

Posted by
26 posts

Our tour ended on a Friday morning and RSE brought in a nurse to test, at a reasonable cash rate, at the tour hotel late Thursday afternoon. It was much appreciated!

I hope someone can assist with your other questions. We didn’t visit your specific places of interest. Maybe next time!

Posted by
10 posts

Thanks, everyone. It's good to know that RS is providing a testing service at the end. It looks like I can cancel the test proctoring appointments I made. Just curious - did you provide your own home-testing kits or was that part of the service provided?

I'm very excited about this tour. Just wish Covid weren't hanging over our heads!

Posted by
325 posts

Thanks, everyone. It's good to know that RS is providing a testing service at the end. It looks like I can cancel the test proctoring appointments I made. Just curious - did you provide your own home-testing kits or was that part of the service provided?

We just finished the Best of Eastern France tour. The guide pointed out pharmacies and we went on our own to test. It was easy and only E17.

Posted by
26 posts

To clarify - for our Paris & HOF tour in April, RSE emailed that they were lining up a nurse because of insufficient time to go out on our own to test due to the bus arrival time at the last hotel & the time of the final group dinner.

kerway723 - The nurse provided the tests. We brought the cash. If you haven’t received an email about testing at the hotel for your specific Paris & HOF tour, you could contact RSE before you cancel your proctored test appointment. You don’t have to use the nurse test at hotel option, if it is available, but it was very efficient & easy.

So excited for you travelers who get to experience the France & this terrific tour soon!

Posted by
10 posts

kakachat - Thank you for the additional info. I'll definitely make sure there's another option before I cancel the proctored tests. Our tour also ends on a Sunday, and it sounds as though it's harder to get tests that day.

Posted by
20 posts

They brought the nurse in to do the Covid tests because we returned to Paris late Sunday afternoon and the Pharmacies were closed. Anyone flying out on Monday needed to get the test done that day so the nurse was provided by RS as a convenience to the tour members. I left a few days later so I just went to the corner Pharmacy and paid them 20 euros and got the test done with results in 20 minutes.

I'm not sure about using the Museum pass at the Centre Pompidou, but I went online to the Orangerie site and had the option to do a free reservation for a time slot. However we walked right in the Orsay by just showing the pass at the door, so not all of them require reservations.

The Palais Garnier is fantastic. I took the guided tour in English which requires a reservation since it's only offered 1 or 2 times a day. If you want to do the self-guided tour, you can just show up whenever you want and buy a ticket at the door.

Posted by
10 posts

Can anyone tell me when they received the notification from RSE that the testing was being made available in the hotel? We leave in 2 1/2 weeks, and I haven't heard anything. Thanks in advance.

Posted by
26 posts

kerway723 - We received the information in an email entitled "Get set for your Paris and Heart of France tour" one month before our tour. There was other information (e.g., packing tips, reminders) in the email too.

Posted by
53 posts

@Peg! I haven't figured out how to quote people. Anyways, I love your trip report. Thanks for sharing. Did you do laundry on the trip? My only hesitation for doing carryon only. I don't want to waste any time dealing with laundry. Did the hotels have onsite laundry? Thanks, Tina

Posted by
17 posts

@disneyfreak67-- I'm so glad you enjoyed my trip website! :) On other trips I remember either a hotel or a nearby laundry service did our laundry, but I can't remember what we did on this trip. I'm sure there was the opportunity at some point. And it's worth paying a bit to have it done so you can spend your time sightseeing. Also -- I did bring a bit bigger than a carry-on and so did others on the tour. As long as you can manage it, it's not a problem.

Posted by
53 posts

@Peg... Thank you! I'll definitely just bring a bigger bag. I have a feeling I'll want to bring souvenirs home usually olive oil.

Posted by
30 posts

Thanks, Tammy, for the info on the Palais Garnier.
By the way everyone, there are now reviews from this year's earlier tours on the HOF page. Happy to see all are mostly positive.
While I of course look forward to Paris, I'm also looking forward to the countryside and getting away from the bustle of the city. I imagine it's cooler temps and a slower pace (though I know the popular sites will be crowded). How much French will I need outside the city, I wonder? I know the general polite words and can maybe follow a slow, basic conversation but am not sure I can initiate more than, "où sont les toilettes, s'il vous plait?" and hope that I can remember gauche is left and droite is right!

Posted by
20 posts

Happy Traveller, the most important thing to know is to start any interaction with "Bonjour." It's the magic word that initiates the conversation. If you start with Bonjour and you make an attempt to try even a little bit of French, most people are friendly and will respond in English. However, forgetting the Bonjour may get you some snippy remarks and rude looks.

Posted by
2 posts

Just got back yesterday from this PARIS & HEART OF FRANCE TOUR. Great experience. Wonderful tour guide Patrick Vidal. It's a busy tour, with lots to see, especially once you leave Paris. Lots of great stops and interesting tour guides. France does not require masks anywhere now, even on the Paris Metro they are optional. So you won't see a lot of people wearing masks anywhere. It felt like France pre-covid. The cafes were full and active. RS arranged for a nurse at our hotel the last night before departure. That was easy and results were quick. Lots of the other travelers stayed on so they were heading to pharmacies to do this. You see a lot on this tour. Be prepared to be on the go all day. Beautiful region of France. Very good food and wine. So nice to get out of Paris and see something more. Highly recommended.