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Best of Paris- 12/29-1/4- Just returned

I just wanted to report to those who may be considering doing the Best of Paris or a Paris visit.

We booked the Best of Paris trip which was from Dec 29 through to Jan 4. Above all, our guide was superb. Rick Steve's Tours even provided us with a chartered bus 3 times due to the ongoing strikes that affected public transportation. This was our first Rick Steve's Tour (my first time out of the country) and the experience was top notch. It was one of the busiest trips we have ever taken. Everyday there was a planned activity and plenty of free time to further our exploring of Paris. Because of the strikes, the buses and trains were not running with any regularity. Same goes for the museums, sometimes we did not know whether we were going to be able to see them until we arrived at them. Without public transportation we did a lot of walking...a lot of walking. I'm not complaining about the walking, it was the most exercise I had in quite some time and it felt good, plus we got to see a lot of shops, restaurants, neighborhoods, etc that we would have missed. We also took advantage of Uber and met a lot of nice drivers who told us stories and showed us other places to visit.

We arrived in Paris 3 days before our tour started, and that was a good thing, you know...jet lag. We took advantage of the close proximity of the hotel (Londres Hotel Eiffel) to the Eiffel Tower...a total of three blocks, and we booked a guided tour (Flat Tire Tour) of the Eiffel Tower with a champagne toast at the top. We also booked a guided tour of the Catacombs, I highly recommend this. Booking a guided tour (and not just showing up to buy a ticket) to the catacombs got us in 15 minutes before the crowds were allowed to come in. It also provided us access to portions of the catacombs not accessible to the general public. Again, we weren't sure if we were going to be able to enter the catacombs due to the strikes.

"Parisians are rude", this statement is not true. I found that Parisians are very nice. It's the thousands of tourists that make them a bit short with you. They are dealing with tourists from all over the world...everyday...and that has to be difficult. We found that if you greet them with a "Bonjour!" and a "Merci" and give your French a good old fashion try, they appreciate the fact that you are trying. To my wife's detriment, I love to talk to people and genuinely want to know what life is like on the other side of the world. For the most part the Parisians will talk to you about their life and thoughts. I found that the Uber drivers were the most talkative. Don't be afraid to converse with them. I also enjoyed the Uber rides through the busy streets...traffic is crazy there.

Now the bad part... The Eiffel Tower area is loaded with "gypsies" who want you to sign petitions and donate money. DON'T! As soon as you open your purse, they steal it and run. This is what one shop owner told us. Second, pick pockets are a serious thing. We were warned continuously about this. The first train ride (all of 10 minutes) our group did, one of our ladies had her bag unzipped and wallet taken in a matter of seconds just before exiting the train. These pick pockets are magicians at this...you will never feel it. My wife, son, daughter and myself were on a street trying to decide which direction to go... that's when i noticed a gentleman right behind my wife and another right behind my son. They were getting ready to rip us off until i made eye contact with both of them (I'm 6'1"and 270lbs), then then moved on. BE ALERT. They will also pretend you dropped something and distract you while another rips you off. Act like you own the street, be confident and alert at your surroundings. AND BY ALL MEANS USE THE MONEY BELTS PROVIDED BY RICK STEVES TOURS! I used the money belt that loops into your belt and has a zipper. I tucked it into my front pocket. Keep your passports in the safe at the hotel, only carry what you need for the day.

Posted by
762 posts

I'm glad you had a great experience in Paris, it's one of my favorites places in the whole world. We also did the Paris RS tour a couple of years ago and had a wonderful time. Our guide, Rebecca, was excellent and made the tour special. I also agree that the people of Paris are like everywhere else and I have had many nice encounters with the locals who where helpful and kind. There's something about Paris that inspires passion in people, passion for art, music, buildings, food, etc, I have been there 4-5 times over the years and each time I see the Effiel tower or the Arch de triumph or walk along the Seinne river it lifts up my spirits!

Posted by
2798 posts

I haven't taken this particular tour, but have visited Paris and Loire to the South. I would agree with your description of Parisians. We found that anywhere we travel just knowing a few words in their language can make a journey so much more meaningful. And to your point stay vigilant and secure your money and or valuables.

Thanks for your brief and concise report! This will be helpful for others traveling in this wonderful city. Glad you had a memorable journey!

Posted by
8235 posts

Thanks for your trip report!

I had wondered how they would work around the transportation strike but knew the office would work with the guides to figure out something. Nice to know they hired buses. I suspect one was for Versailles but what were the other 2 destinations? Just curious!

This is a wonderful tour for a first-timer! I had been to Paris in the distant past and did not much care for it so signed up for this tour to see if I could learn to enjoy it. Well, it's caused a mild Paris addiction, lol! Can't get enough and feel so comfortable getting around there. Yes, I still hear Rolinka whispering in my ear from time to time when I'm walking the streets.

What's your next tour? (hahaha...because I know you were thinking of it on the way back home!).

BTW, Paris is a great place to get over jet lag so land there, stay for a few days and then head on off to your next destination!

Posted by
1015 posts

Glad you enjoyed the tour. The Paris city tour was our first Rick Steves' trip, and we have decided that Paris is our favorite big city anywhere.

In 2020 we will be taking our seventh RS tour - Best of England.