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First time in Paris - trip report

My husband and I are finishing up the Paris portion of our first mainland European adventure. Tomorrow we will be heading to Germany to start the Rick Steves' GAS tour. This is in honor of our 10th Anniversary, so we thought where better to start than Paris? This is probably not the ideal itinerary for most travelers, because we like to stay busy, pack our days, and see as much as possible (for now, I'm sure this will change quickly as we age! )

Our flight out was delayed and we were scheduled to miss our connecting flight to Paris. It was the last flight to Paris for the night, so the ticket agent said he would book us on a flight the next night. We were so disappointed because we would be losing one of our 3.5 days in the region. We did our own research quickly online and located a flight to London leaving that night and talked the agent into flying us to London and then putting us on an Air France flight to Paris, and surprisingly he agreed. We arrived in Paris only 4 hours later than planned. Lesson learned: try not to book the latest flight of the night in case of delays.
Our first evening we walked for miles, from our hotel, the Hotel Duquesne Eiffel in the 7th Arrondisment, to the Eiffel tower and then along the Seine to Notre Dame and the Louve. We ate a quick dinner from the little stand in the Tuileries gardens of a croque monsieur and a Nutella crepe. It was surprisingly delicious for a little stand and we had a great view of the gardens and the Louve. We wandered through the St. Germain area and then returned to walk back to our hotel along the Seine at sunset. We decided to splurge for a room with an Eiffel tower view, and for an anniversary it was perfect. We loved watching the tower sparkle from our room each night. In the future we would stay close to the St. Germain area.

On our second day, we took a full day tour to the Loire Valley to visit some chateaux. This is probably not recommended for someone with so little time in Paris, but seeing the palaces were a big dream of mine. We took the TGV to Tours and took a tour with the tourism office. It included stops at Chenonceau, Amboise, Cheverny and Chambord. This was a crazy, whirlwind tour where we spent approximately 1.5 hours at each place and just got a quick overview, but we still loved it. We walked fast, so we had a chance to view all the open rooms and the gardens in each place. They were all very different. Chenonceau had our favorite gardens and exterior and Cheverny our favorite rooms. At Amboise we did a quick look around the castle and then had lunch at a cafe overlooking the castle. There we had our first macaroons, and the caramel were our favorite. We returned to Tours at about 1800 and walked around to see the town and the Cathedral a bit. Then we got some baguette sandwiches and enjoyed a picnic in the park across from the train station. We learned that even something as simple as getting on the right car of a train and opening the door to the car can be confusing when it is new. I will definitely remember this when I meet travelers to my country in the future!

On day 2 we went to Versailles in the morning. Again, this is not probably recommended for such a short visit, but it was a priority for us and I'm glad we went. We took the advice we found here and went first thing. We took the RER to Versailles and were in line at 815. We were the first ones there! We got to see every room completely empty and it was delightful. When we were done, we went back through to see a few rooms we had missed and only 30 minutes after opening it was packed and we were literally shoulder to shoulder in the rooms. It is definitely worth getting up early to get there first. We also didn't realize it was a fountain day - it wasn't supposed to be according to their regular schedule, but it was a holiday we didn't know about, so it was more crowded and there was a fee for the gardens.

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608 posts

After wandering the gardens we walked to the hamlet area and grabbed stone baguettes and desserts before touring the hamlet. It was one of our favorite parts! We loved the animals and all the old cottages. It was a bit off the beaten path, and there were very few visitors. We quickly learned that Rick is right - crowded tourist spots and be nice if you go just a bit off the main drag. For instance, on our walk or first night we found ton of Peale milling around in front of Notre Dame, but we walked around to the back where there are gardens, and we had the place almost to ourselves. After visiting the hamlet, we were very tired of walking so we paid the 8 euros to take the little train back to the palace. we returned to Paris at about 3 p.m. and decided to tour the Opera Garnier. It was beautiful. we took a quick peaks into Printemps and the Galleries Lafayette and had a snack before heading back to the room. For dinner we visited Cafe constant at the recommendation of a friend. It was crowded but we enjoyed our meal there.
On our last day we got up early to walk through Luxembourg Gardens on our way to Notre Dame. We got into line to climb the towers about 30 minutes before opening. There was already a wait, but it was manageable. After climbing the tower and touring the cathedral we went to St. Chapelle. This was my favorite on this visit. I've never seen a church so beautiful. After seeing St. Chappelle we took the metro to Angelina's for lunch. This was very touristy, but the food was our favorite for the trip and the restaurant was beautiful. After lunch we did our tour of the Louvre and then headed back to a room for a rest.
Of course there were a lot of things we didn't get to see, but those will have to wait for our next visit. We loved paris, and found that most of our fears were unfounded. We got along ok on very little French, and found the Parisians to be very friendly and helpful. We were cautious with our belongings, but never saw any pick pockets. The only scam we saw was the petition scam once, but we did not find them to be very pushy. Our trip was very fast paced, which is not for everyone, but we really enjoyed it. We love the food, the people and the beautiful architecture, and we know we will be back one day. Thank you all for all your tips and advice, it helped make our trip go very smoothly.

Posted by
672 posts

Great trip report - thanks for sharing! We tend to go at the same pace as you... see lots of things during the day and then relax at night. It sounds like you got to see the important things on your list, and that's what matters. Paris is one of those cities you can visit again and again, and there's always something to see. Have a great time on your RS tour - hopefully you can write a trip report about that too!

Posted by
9926 posts

Yes, thanks so much for posting your Trip Report! You all did really well troubleshooting your alternate air arrangements! There are experienced travelers that might not have gotten that to work out as well as you all did. I am glad you saw just what you wanted to see in France, not what others feel are must see/must do sights.

Have a wonderful time on your GAS! I'm interested in that one, probably Fall 2016 so will await your thoughts on the tour. I am certain you will enjoy it.

Posted by
15 posts

Great report, keep posting. Your fast pace, reminded me of my younger days with traveling. Keep it up, not always so possible as one ages. Spending 2 days this fall in Paris ahead of our RS BOE 14days, with my daughter, I'm so lucky

Posted by
608 posts

Thanks ladies! It was fun to write a report so I could remember everything!

Posted by
2051 posts

Happy Anniversary! It certainly sounds as if you enjoyed your stay in Paris. You definitely planned well and made excellent use of your time. It was fun to "go along" on your Parisian holiday! I know you'll enjoy the GAS tour. We did in 2012. You will be seeing some truly beautiful countries and sights!

Posted by
15053 posts

I am so glad you were able to do so much and enjoy it all. One thing I would say to anyone thinking to do this is it's possible for 2-3 days, but after that you might just find the pace too hurried. Remember, Tamara and DH will have time time to relax and recharge their batteries on the train (I assume) to Germany.

And aren't the caramel macarons the best?? I hope you'll find time to continue your report. In the meantime, enjoy it all.

Posted by
23 posts

Thanks for your fun report! I agree, its great that you did the things that you were interested in doing and not worrying about a "list of things you must do" in Paris! It sounds like a wonderful time!

Posted by
608 posts

Thank you! Chani, i definitely would have had trouble maintaining that pace - we were exhausted after those 4 days. But we knew we had some slower days coming up, so we pushed through and are glad we did. It definitely wouldn't be for everyone though!

Posted by
7704 posts

Wow, you're like super-intrepid. I'm tired just listening to you! But as you said you did the things that worked FOR YOU on this trip, and that is what matters. Good on you for pressing for and getting an excellent alternative routing that got you to Paris the same day as you'd planned. I hope your GAS trip went well, too. And happy anniversary.

Posted by
18 posts

I love your report. As my son and I are leaving mid July for Paris to start our French excursion what you reported was important to me. I am printing it off and will note on my map what you saw. I do not want to criss-cross the city going back to an area after we have already been there. I want to see the same things you saw but we will have a little more time. Again, thanks, cbl

Posted by
608 posts

I'm glad my report was helpful! I hope you have a wonderful trip! Paris is such a great city - I'm already dreaming of returning.

Posted by
8411 posts

Really enjoyed your report Tamara, and so glad you loved Paris! Hmm... now I want a macaron!