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Paris - Bayeux - Amboise in Early June

Just got back from 13 days in France for a graduation trip for our daughter and best friend. Cannot thank the forum advisors for all the great information. Here's the basics of what we experienced ... Started off in Paris for 6 days in an apartment at the Palais Royal near the Louvre - great location, adorable apartment, and super beneficial with four adults on different time zones and different waking habits (I am an early riser and could not get others up, even in Paris, so I did a bit of early morning exploring/shopping on my own!).

We exchanged money in the airport using the CapitalOne 360 debit card. That is one slick card - no additional fees on the exchange rate, super easy to transfer money immediately from our banking account. The Travelex ATM in the airport had a terrible rate (the way they get their fees), but all other ATMs were at banks, and were reasonable.

Rained a bit every day, so that was a bit of a bummer. We still made due, but I ended up buying 2 umbrellas to use instead of our light weight rain jackets. The humidity was a killer with the jackets on, and just the umbrella worked out great. I have a backpack that has a separate compartment on the bottom, which worked out well for the umbrellas - wet or dry, they were easily accessible.

We got the Navigo Decouverte card and it was great! So easy to use on the metro, buses, and the RER to Versailles. Definitely worth the money. Also got the Paris Museum Pass - that was also great. Did not make it to all the museums we wanted, but still ended up saving about $20 each.

We did three Paris Walks tours - Louvre, Montmartre, and Chocolate. Was not as impressed with the Louvre one as I wanted to be; the other two were superb! Girls did the Paris Catacombs and loved it (purchased tickets in advance, saved a ton of time!). We also bought tickets in advance for the Eiffel Tower and L'Atelier Luminares (Van Gough experience). Both were fabulous and well worth the time, plus getting tickets in advance was key.

Biggest success in my book was our trip to Versailles. We left the apartment at about 11:30a, got right on the 12:00p RER to Versailles, walked off the train at 12:35, went to a great lunch spot in town prior to entering the Versailles grounds. Once on-site, line was HUGE; did not even ask for the Museum Pass entrance. Went straight to gardens and Trianons, then back to palace for touring - absolutely NO line! Walked right in about 5:00, and was able to stop, look, take pics, etc. without any shoulder-to-shoulder crowds. With the audio guide, we were done about 6:15. Only thing we "missed" was the closed souvenir station just before the Hall of Mirrors, which we did not need anyway.

Rented a car in the middle of Paris to drive out to Bayuex and Amboise - left on Sunday morning and would have been fine, except got blocked in by a marathon that morning, and delayed leaving by an hour. That did affect our stop at Giverny - got there mid-day and it was PACKED. Did not even bother going into the house as the line was so long to get in, not just the tickets. The gardens were glorious, though, and captivated our time while there.

Stayed at Hotel d'Argouges in Bayeux - great place, wonderful service, comfortable rooms and beds. Took a full day Normandy tour through Overlord Tours - very good tour with a large group - total of 15. Raining, but a good tour. Had some concern with the crowds as it was just after the anniversary festivities, but all worked out well. Changed plans the next day to do some shopping and tour the Tapestry instead of going to Mont St. Michel - as others have said, saving it for the next trip!

Last stop was at Chateau du Pray for a night in Amboise (absolutely INCREDIBLE!), then Chenonceau chateau - beautiful touring, even though it rained there as well. A great cap to our fabulous trip! Sorry for the long length, but it was a great trip!

Posted by
5144 posts

Thanks for posting your review. Sounds like you had a great trip regardless of the rain. Glad you enjoyed Chateau de Pray. We stayed there for 3 nights and loved it.

Posted by
6671 posts

Thanks for this, made me want to go back to Paris (again). Too bad about the rain, but I guess it could have been worse. I think you made a good choice with the Bayeux Tapestry, one of the most powerful interesting things I've seen and a much more efficient use of your time and energy than MSM (which will be there for your next trip).

I hope you got to see more chateaux than Chenonceau, though if you can see just one that's probably the best. Glad you had a good trip, congrats to your daughter. One of the best things about apartments is giving multi-generation families, with multi-generation sleeping and waking hours, a chance to spread out and do their things.

Posted by
889 posts

Great report. Sorry about the rain but as tourists we have to push through to make the memories and its always worth it! Do go back to MSMichel....its wonderful. Normandy is something......will always cherish my memories there. We loved Amboise as well and Chenonceau.......and thought the other chateaus ( Villandry) were well worth the time. Thanks for sharing this with us! Can you give us a heads-up about your apartment? Don’t mind the hotels but love the washer-dryer-convenience of an apartment.

Posted by
45 posts

The apartment we got was through Paris Vacation Apartments. The management company was great to work with, everything matched what we needed, and yes, the washer-dryer was ideal for our stay. Our apartment was the two bedroom at the Palais Royal (most of the others I believe are 3 bedroom), and as I mentioned, the location was great!

I also forgot to mention in the trip report about using the Mobile Passport app upon our return to the US - saved us a TON of time. Just did the free version, but we skipped several lines, ushered to the exit with only one other family in front of us at Passport control.

Posted by
7470 posts

Thank you for sharing your trip report! We’re heading to France this year and glad to see what you enjoyed. And a good reminder that I need to load the Mobile Passport app - thanks!

Posted by
7 posts

It sounds like you had a great trip! We had a similar agenda when we went in March, sans Giverny. We actually stayed on the island of Mont St. Michele, and while it was expensive, it was well worth it! We had plenty of time to explore, enjoy world-class food, and watch the sunset! Normandy and Bayeux were outstanding! The atmosphere, the beautiful cathedral (where the tapestry was originally kept and displayed) and the lovely village are on our list for a return trip!
Unfortunately, we couldn’t get to the grounds of Versailles due to a workers strike—another one on the list!
And here’s a little secret about the Louvre—the Babylonian exhibits are closed on Tuesdays (at least they were when we were there in March). This means the tours usually don’t go on that day, so lines are surprisingly short, and the museum is much less crowded! We were disappointed to miss the Code of Hammurabi and the exhibits in that area, but we got up early the next day, “ran” over to the Louvre at opening time, and popped in to see just that wing. It worked out perfectly!
Tip #2 at the Louvre: If you have an elderly or injured person that can’t walk the whole museum, they have wheelchair rentals in the main rotunda. My 80-year-old mom had to use a wheelchair some of the time on our trip, and we were so impressed by the courtesy the French show to guests in wheelchairs! In fact, when the guards at the Mona Lisa saw her, they shooed everyone up close away, so they could draw back the partitions and wheel her right up to the painting! It was wonderful!

Posted by
681 posts

Glad your trip went well. Ambroise is one of my favorite places in France but I must admit that Mont St. Michel is awfully special. Stayed overnight and swore I could hear the abbey coming alive after all the tour groups left.

Posted by
230 posts

Wow, kgcarlso1, thanks for all of this info. We will have four days in Paris in mid September and plan to go to Versailles as well. Did you buy a ticket on line ahead of time to go into the palace? Did you do the King's Apt. tour? Going later in the day is a fabulous idea and I have seen that advice in several posts or through podcasts. Which Navigo Decouverte Card did you purchase that worked for the city as well as Versailles? I think they are for 2, 3, or 5 days? So we may pay the extra money to get the 5 day depending on how I plan our itinerary just for having the total convenience. I think I will have the money in our trip budget for that and it will be so nice to not have to deal with getting a ticket for anything other than when we head to the airport. Or we may just buy single tickets the day we arrive and then get the 3 day.
I just re-read what you said about getting the Paris Museum Pass which we don't plan to do as we are not planning to go to museums on this trip other than Versailles. So I am interested in whether the Museum Pass allowed you to just walk through the usual rooms on a tour at Versailles or if you still had to buy a ticket if you were doing one of the inside room tours such as King's Apt. Thank you!

Posted by
45 posts

Hey dpalmier53 - the Paris Museum Pass basically allowed us everywhere except the additional Kings Apartment Tour. I had looked into that, but it was only offered at 9:30am on the days we were considering the tour. In the end, I decided seeing all of Versailles, the Trianons, and the Hamlet (which we ran out of time for) would be enough Palace for one day. And it sort of was. I am the history buff in the group, and the audio tour gave us great information on the rooms throughout the palace. There are several Kings and Queens rooms that are part of the regular tour. I am sure the additional Kings Apartment tour is wonderful - but as many say, we will have to save that for next trip, so I will look for your trip report! My understanding is that the Museum Pass, timed entry, and added tour tickets do have a separate line when you arrive. Many have said if going in the morning, the King's Apartment tour helps get you ahead of everyone else. I will also comment we got tickets for the little train that takes you from the palace through he gardens and back to the Trianons directly. It was a bit of a time and step saver. I also saw folks who rented the little golf carts (4ppl max) that had some level of narration through the gardens as well. I actually sort of wished we had done the golf carts to drive around on our own - you can stop, park, get out and walk around, and move on at your own pace. I don't recall the price, but would be worth it. Renting bikes in the garden would be good as well.

As to the Navigo card, my understanding is that it is purchased for a week or a month; I had not heard about the 2, 3, or 5 day card. The week card is good from Monday AM to Sunday PM - and which was perfect for us as that was exactly when we were in Paris. The card for the week was 22 euro, and it includes all public travel in and around Paris - metro, buses, RER, and even the Funicular at Sacre Coeur. So when riding the RER out to Versailles, it was just a matter of getting on the right track for departure at the station, entrance and exit were exactly the same as riding the metro - scan the card going in and out. You just need a small picture of yourself for the card. (I copied our passport pictures directly from the passport at about 75% and then trimmed it to the stated size - I think it was 3cmx2.5cm?) Super easy when we bought them at the Louvre metro station and the attendant put our pictures in and put them together in the card.

Have a great time - you cannot lose either way you visit, as the place is incredible!

Posted by
230 posts

KgCarlso1, thanks for all of that additional information, that is so helpful. I had heard about the golf carts and trains so I am glad to know more specifics about that. I think the timed tour will be a good idea, I should probably start checking our date every few days in case I notice that times are starting to disappear and we need to decide and pull the trigger. I am also thinking that we may want to get a timed tour for around 1:00 instead of first thing in the morning just so it is not at the most crowded time.

I was doing some research about the metro, RER and bus pass situation after I replied to this post and after adding everything up both ways, we are slightly better off just getting the Navigo Decouverte Pass as well, even though we will only use it Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Thursday at midnight is the last time you can purchase it for that week. We will still have to buy a single ticket for the RER to the airport on Monday but even with that it is a difference of $13 or $14 dollars less than getting a daily pass and the convenience is worth a lot to us because we won't have to mess with getting tickets once a day or more often if we didn't do any day pass.

I will definitely have a good trip report, I enjoy the pre- and post experience!
Thanks again