April 2012: Paris, Normandy,and Loire Valley

Rick Seves' Plan Your Trip discussions... packing light, scams at Sacre Coeur, best D-Day museums, roads and tolls...-helped us prepare for four weeks in France; perhaps our experience will help others. Buying museum passes, RER and metro tickets at the TI at CDG wth our credit card was efficient and easy... no lines and an English-speaking agent! With cash and passprts in moneybelts and a carry-on suitcase each, metro and RER transfers were easily doable. Standard magnetic credit and debit cards worked well with only two exceptions at small restaurants; we always had sufficient cash on hand in case our card was refused. Rather than try credit cards for auomated tolls and parking, we paid in cash to avoid frustration and save time. Our itinerary included nine days in Paris, beginning a few days before Easter and the week after. A vrbo studio rental near Pompidou helped us live "local," and was convenient to east and central Paris. A four-day museum pass allowed visits to eleven museums...five hours in the Louvre, four at the Orsay. Saving money, bypassing entry lines...always a good thing! RS walking tours assisted in touring different parts of the city. In preparation for a twelve-day drive through Normandy and the Loire Valley, we used Google maps to locate favorite attractions, including museums, churches, and monuments. Since we didn't have a data phone connection, we pre-cached a map for the area we'd be seeing the next day or two using the wifi connection at our B&B. The GPS function of our 7" tablet worked fine with these pre-cached mapsand was a life saver on many occasions! ....continued to part two under title above....

Posted by Dawn
Denver, CO
258 posts

Wow - your trip sounds absolutely wonderful!! Thanks so much for sharing so many useful tips. One question, when you bought your metro and RER tickets at the TI booth at CDG, were you charged any extra or is it the same price you'd pay if you went to the ticket booth in the train station?

Posted by Marian
Kirkland, WA, USA
49 posts

We paid no extra for the convenience of buying transport tickets and the museum pass at the airport TI desk.

Posted by Sarah
Stuttgart, Germany
2012 posts

Great tips! Thanks for sharing! I think you've shown that it's really easy to get by in France without a chip & pin card as long as you do a little bit of advance planning (cash on hand, making sure you buy gas so you don't run out in the middle of nowhere on a Sunday, etc)

Posted by Jeani
Centennial, CO
12 posts

Marian, Your trip sounds great. I am planning to take an IPad to central Euope in Sept. I am curious...you mentioned that the GPS "saved" you on several occasions. Other than using the wifi at your B&B how did you connect? My IPad doesn't connect without wifi or 3G and I understand 3G is quite expensive in Europe. Thanks.

Posted by Marian
Kirkland, WA, USA
49 posts

GPS "saved," us, kept us from getting lost in several drives on the back roads through Normandy's country villages and helped locate our lodging a couple times! Re your question on using wifi and Google maps, my husband's explanation is this: We only used wifi connectivity at out B&B and had no connectivity while driving. Your I-Pad should work the same way as our Android tablet. Use Google maps application by bringing up the map for the area you're driving while on your wifi connection. Hold your finger in the center of the area until the address box opens. Select the box, and one option in the new window will be to pre-cache this area, a 20-mile square area selected. You can save multi caches to piece an area together. On your travels, bring up this map and the GPS feature of your I-Pad will track you on this map. Make sure you update your Google application before you leave on your trip, as the pre-cache feature is relatively new. Hope this is helpful....enjoy your fall trip anddo report back!

Posted by GINNY
SCAPPOOSE, OR, USA
3 posts

We are debating putting France on our trip schedule in the fall. Do you speak French? If not, was there a language problem? Which site or agency did you use to rent your apt in Paris?

Posted by Marian
Kirkland, WA, USA
49 posts

Ginny,
Sorry a slow reply...out of town for several days. For our two Paris rental apartments we used VRBO (59569) and HomeAway (855698), the first an American owner, the second a Frenchman. We had better luck dealing wih individual owners than with the specific Paris agencies we contacted: flexible, prompt replies to address specific questions, better prices. Just our experience with the particulars we needed to work around. I do know elementary French from long ago, but mainly I just learned basic menu vocabulary which was helpful. Most waiters seemed to know enough English that you could get by, especially in more touristed aeas. We did learn all the road signs, both from the RS book and from the internet for our road trip. I studied ahead and carried a RS phrase book, helpful for direction signs, labels. We ran into no unusual difficulties. Hope this helps! France was great, hope you decide to go!