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Paris, first time

Last November I was lucky to purchase 400 dollar round trip tickets to Paris on AA for September. In doing so I was able to fulfill my coworkers life long dream of visiting Paris. I'm afraid I've created a monster :) Since our return the smile on her face hasn't let up and she has opened a travel savings account announcing to me our return in two years!! I wasn't asked I was told we are going back haha. My coworker is 70 nearly 71 years young and it was a great vacation.

I received many great bits of advice by questions asked and answered and by researching this forum. So thank you to all for your input.

I have been to Paris twice before but never alone and most sights were seen from the outside only. So for me I really consider this my first trip as well. One thing right off the top is how friendly the people were. Perhaps I was more open minded this time around or experiencing the city the way we did afforded this new opportunity. Either way I couldn't have been happier with my visit. Paris was not only my coworkers first trip to Europe but her first trip ever outside the USA!

We landed in CDG without any issues, collected our luggage and attempted to get money from the ATM. Still an issue with me. Next week I'm visiting my hospital's credit union to see if it's better than my bank. But the conversion rate is where you lose the most money and I'm not sure how to get around that. We used the Travelex ATM in CDG. I vaguely remembered a warning to stay away from those machines but in my jet lagged fog we got our first euros. I usually take out 800 euros so the pain only happens once. My coworker got her first taste of loss and even though I warned her she was still shocked. It was a bad first impression of travel but was quickly replaced when we got into our taxi for Paris. I initially wanted to use the RER C line but I had a suitcase and my coworked ignoring my packing list had her luggage which I later nicknamed the monster along with her "carry on" bag that most of you would consider a check bag. But her suitcase gave us many nights of laughter as she tried to wrangle it closed with her newly bought treasures. And our one shopping trip to buy a new suitcase for our trip home. Next trip she announced she's packing light!! We'll see.

After the ATM some one escorted us downstairs to "taxis" but there was no taxi sign on the car. Didn't feel right and I said no thank you. We went back upstairs and got into a taxi with a proper taxi sign on the car's roof. I believe the others are private taxis? In any case I thought I remembered reading you'd pay more for those services. Traffic was a nightmare getting into the city. We arrived at 8am at CDG and arrived at our hotel just before 12pm.

After reading many opinions on where to stay in Paris I chose the Ile Saint Louis and booked the Hotel Saint Louis. We were very happy with the location and hotel. Lovely people at the hotel, very helpful. The hotel has a lift but it lands between floors so if you want to stay there be aware you will have to carry your luggage up about 8 stairs or so. The rooms and bathrooms are small but charming, clean and big enough for most. We booked a five night stay before our tour and left the tour hotel on our last day and rebooked the Hotel Saint Louis for our last day and night.

When we got to the hotel our room was ready. The gentleman gave us our key, the rules and told us he'd bring our luggage to our room momentarily. We went upstairs and my coworker was beyond giddy with excitement. The gentleman was right behind us with our luggage. We showered, changed clothes and took off for our first days adventure.

Posted by
12400 posts

Hi,

Your plane arrived at CDG at 8am...fantastic. I like it that way too, when the plane arrives at CDG anytime prior to 11am flying non-stop from SFO. It takes about 11 hours. You forget all that upon landing landing!!

Posted by
276 posts

Our first adventure was getting metro tickets and finding our way to the Eiffel Tower. For anyone who hasn't used the Paris metro or any metro at all don't be intimidated. I fall into the never used metro catagory and I found the Paris metro very easy. Getting the tickets a bit more complicated but after a few failed attempts we figured it out and spent about 20 minutes helping the line that had built up behind us. The locals quickly learned to move out of our line. While we didn't get any help getting our tickets more than a few noticed us studying the metro map and stopped to give us directions unasked. But really we were headed in the right direction and could have done it without help. Very easy system to master.

Our hotel was within easy walking to the Latin quarter, Marais, The louvre that we didn't need to use the metro but only a few times. We ended up using the bus a bit more and walked the most. The bus was more complicated. Most times I asked the driver if we were headed in the right direction. We headed to the Eiffel Tower. I had booked us summit tickets for the next day but was unable to print them at home so we went to the tour office and they printed our tickets for us. With tickets in hand we stood staring at the tower and I saw for the first time tears running down my coworker's face. How much this meant to her was lost on me until that moment. It was a great start to our trip. We walked to Place de Trocadera for proper vistas. Then headed to the metro back to home as we referred to Ile St Louis. We made our way to Notre Dame for outside views and Deportation Memorial was open so we toured that. What a great memorial tucked away. Unfortunately I think many aren't aware it exists. We were getting fairly tired by this time so we found a nice restaurant for dinner and shopped (one of my coworkers favorite hobbies) until they closed. We walked back to the garden behind Notre Dame until it started to get dark then headed back to our hotel to discuss our next day.

Up early we had breakfast and on our way by 8am. We headed towards Saint Chapelle and bought a 5 day musuem pass. With our passes bought we crossed the street to Saint Chapelle. The line was fairly long but I noticed a second line and that was the museum pass line. We walked over showed our pass and walked right in. A little knowledge ahead of time is so valuable. Saint Chapelle is a stop not to be missed. So beautiful. I also purchased concert tickets so three days later we returned for a lovely concert and with the chapel lit at night made it magical. Right next door we toured Conciergerie. From there we walked over the Seine found a charming bistro and had lunch outside. One of my favorite things was sitting outside eating. Oh and the food. Oh my. Italy had great food but I have to say Paris beat Italy. Perhaps I chose better in Paris. We didn't check the restaurant ratings before hand just picked at random. After lunch we strolled through the Cluny museum. Very close to the museum was a hair salon so we had our hair done and make up!! Very cheap compared to US standards. After they called a taxis for us but time was running short. The taxis got us back home with just enough time to change and get to the Eiffel Tower for our 5pm time slot. The taxis waited for us. We giggled about that, no time for panty hose! We made it to the tower with enough time for pictures. The breeze made it freezing for me but the views were as I remember. For my coworker she was in awe. We went to the second and first levels looking all around before scoring one of only a few benches on the second level. We sat for about 15 minutes and then it was time to head to Le Jules Verne restaurant on the second level of the tower for our 7pm dinner. The price for the meal was high but for a once in a lifetime memory it was perfect and the food was fabulous.

Posted by
1984 posts

I read with interest that you stayed at the Hotel Saint Louis on the Ile Saint Louis. This is a hotel I'm thinking of booking for a trip to Paris in April 2018. You mention the lift landing between floors - could you explain?
Thanks!

Posted by
276 posts

Hi Fred. I love landing as early as possible. I never sleep on planes so to be able to be out exploring until I'm ready to drop is great. We enjoyed our first day and slept like babies that night. Never really feel much of a jet lag that way.

Posted by
276 posts

Sure Judy. There is a spiral stair case in the middle of the building. The elevator is on the left side of the spiral staircase so when the door of the elevator opens there is a small landing in the middle of the spiral. Our room was on the third floor so we had to climb roughly 8 stairs or you could choose to go one floor up and walk down. It can be a challenge if your suitcase is heavy. Hope that explains it. I loved the hotel though. We loved the fresh air so we kept our window open therefore trash pick up in the morning was a bit loud and there's a bar just down the street with some happy souls but we were usually up so it didn't bother us. Our last night we had a side room and the noise was better.

Posted by
276 posts

At the Le Jules Verne restaurant we were seated next to a table with a very loud man surrounded by about 5 women and kids. One woman kept saying shhhhhhh obviously embarressed trying to quiet the kids but the man was obnoxious egging the kids on. On top of that there was a man standing right behind me wearing old jeans and some kind of sport shirt. Attire you wouldn't expect to see in a 5 star restaurant. Never found out what his role was but he was a part of the all male table against the far wall. A couple next to us kept turning and staring at the loud table. We kept staring out the window at our beautiful view. Thankfully I recognized the course being served them and knew it was the last course. They left shortly after the course was served. Turns out the obnoxious man was a prince from Saudi Arabia and owned the Paris Disneyland. The women were his wives and kids and the all male table was part of the group. The servers were quite happy after the prince left. The tension relief was very noticable and they appologized profusely as it isn't the usual way they want their restaurant represented. We and the couple next to us got a few extra treats. Another memory but the people and restaurant gets high praise from me. It was after 12am when we finished our dinner so we enjoyed our night view of the tower from the bridge then grabbed a taxi back to our home.

The next morning we tackled the Louvre. We were out early and one of the first to enter the museum. We decided to concentrate on the Italian artists and headed straight to Mona and were there practically by ourselves before massive crowds arrived. My coworker wanted to see the Winged Victory. We exited when the halls started to become too full of people.

From there we grabbed lunch and part way through Tuileries garden then crossed over the Seine to the Orsay Museum. The art you can see in europe never fails to amaze me. The Orsay and Louvre in one day was too much. I wouldn't recommend doing them in the same day. Having had our fill of museums and crowds we took our first venture on the bus and after a few hops from bus to bus we got on bus 69 and headed to Pere Lachaise, eerily beautiful. We took the bus back to Marais neighborhood and found a nice restaurant. By now I've eaten more than I ever do and I was ready for a fast but with food this good you have to eat it! We walked our dinner off and made our way back to our home.

The next morning we headed to Versaille. Again this was so easy to do. No need at all to book a tour. The RER line brings you right there. Out of the train station turn right, then left, go straight and you're there. When in doubt follow the crowds. We spent nearly the whole day there touring the palace and gardens. We had beautiful sunny skies. By the time we left my feet were killing me and the walk to the train station was nearly unbearable. My coworker said her feet didn't hurt because they were numb. She was done too. The never ending battle to find the right shoes. First day my feet hurt but that is how incredibly big Versaille is. We got back home enjoyed the night views of Notre Dame found yet another great restaurant sitting outside under heat lamps.

The next morning we went to the spa for massages and facials. This was my coworkers wish so I made it happen. It was my first ever massage and it felt fabulous. From there we headed to La Invalides. What an incredible museum. We didn't go to Napoleons tomb instead concentrated on WWI and WWII. Next we walked to the Rodin museum and walked the garden. Then we walked to Orangerie. As your day goes you just never think about anything closing. We arrived just as the museum was closing. So disappointed we sat on those incredibly comfortable green chairs and enjoyed our beautiful weather and scenery. That night was our concert in Saint Chapelle with dessert and champaigne afterwards.

Posted by
12754 posts

What a great report, and I'm delighted for you both that you had such a good time in Paris! It really is a lovely city, isn't ? I'm especially pleased that you found people, from hotel/restaurant waitstaff to folks on the street, kind and helpful. :O)

I do have a question?

With our passes bought we crossed the street to Saint Chapelle. The
line was fairly long but I noticed a second line and that was the
museum pass line. We walked over showed our pass and walked right in.

This is different than when we were visited. Everyone, passes or not, had to stand in the same security-check queue and THEN the line broke into one for ticket purchasers and the other for pass/tickets holders to enter the chapel. Evidently that has changed?

Posted by
276 posts

The next morning we headed back to Orangerie this time before the museum opened. We were one of 5 people in line. it was great to see the waterlillies with so few people. We then walked back to Ile de la Cite and went inside Notre Dame. For some reason the crowds were not many and no line. Every other time we'd been there the line was massive. This was our last day and night before our tour started so after Notre Dame we wanted to walk the city and we let Paris come to us. We walked over to the Latin Quarter enjoying walking up and down streets. Our meal that day was sampling goodies as we passed one shop after another. That night sitting under another heat lamp enjoying another great meal I felt like we left so much on the table unseen. We packed her monster the best we could with some of her things in my suitcase and the next morning we moved to the new hotel for our tour.

Our tour was nice, we went to Chartres and toured the Gothic Cathedral, visited Chateaux Chambord and Chateau de Chenonceau, the Amboise Castle, saw the Bayeux tapestry and headed to Mont St-Michel but it was pouring rain so it requires a redo then onto Ste mere eglise, toured the airborne museum, American Cemetery and Omaha Beach... the most emotional day, then onto a winery tour and Giverny and back to Paris.

Our last day in Paris we moved back to Ile Saint Louis and our original hotel. We had to buy a new suitcase for my coworker. She bought way too much stuff for her kids and grandkids. Then we headed to Montmartre for the early part of the day enjoying the painters there and the views, then the Opera Garnier, after we headed back home to shop the outdoor stands along the Seine. We went back to one of our favorite restaurants near Saint Chapelle before walking back to our hotel to pack for the flight back home. One thing I forgot to put in was we did go to a late show at Moulin Rouge. It wasn't a bad show. I knew about the snakes and I thought my coworker was going to fall off her chair at the site. We met a nice couple from Argentina who refused to let us sit alone haha. All in all pricey but fun.

We left for the airport 4 hours before our flight. I knew from reading we'd need ample time. From our taxi driver to those checking us in at CDG they all said they'd never seen the airport that busy. It took us the full 4 hours to get to the airport, check our luggage, get through customs and security and then walk to our gate. We saw countless people missing their flights.

Once again this forum has been very helpful with questions and reading posts from years ago the info is still relevant today so thank you all once again. Per my coworker we are headed back in two years and I'm ready to return. I'll be back with new questions and asking for tips.

Posted by
214 posts

What a lovely trip! You saw all of my favorite things. Thanks for sharing.

Posted by
276 posts

Hi Kathy,

It was the other way around for us. On the street there were two lines one line on the right was all the way to the government building and a second line on the left which had next to noone was for pass holders. Once through there we went through security and merged into one line. We were there at opening time so our wait was nothing. As the day went on they may have changed how you enter. I don't know.

We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. Most people seemed to be in good moods even with all the tourists making commutes more crowded and their restaurants over run. In one restaurant we sat next to a regular at a "reserved" table because there wasn't another seat empty. She warmly welcomed us to join her. The other thing I loved about Paris over say Rome was all the green spaces. All over Paris you can find spots away from traffic. Every day we spent time in a green space and relaxed.

Posted by
2182 posts

What a lovely trip you two had, and what a great friend/co-worker you are. Thank you for the report.

Posted by
1957 posts

Oh my gosh-what a terrific trip you had with your coworker! She is very lucky to have you as a travel buddy, guide and good friend. I can just picture her with "the Monster"! I am going to be in Paris with my sister for 10 days in May and while a lot of these places were already on my list, you have mentioned a couple of places and experiences I hadn't thought of-like a special dinner at the Eiffel tower restaurant, Le Jules Verne. What an experience that must have been and I enjoyed your description of the waitstaff reaction to the Prince and his entourage!! Nicely written and thank you for posting. Clearly, you enjoyed yourself just as much as your friend!

Posted by
12400 posts

@ highlanderct.....Thanks for this report...informative and interesting as to your encounters. My compliments on your can-do spirit and determination. I always sleep on the flight going over. How much depends on how lucky I am during the 11 hr flight...you never can tell, at worst 2 hrs, at best ca. 7 hrs. So, with the sleep behind me, I'm refreshed, ready to go upon landing in the morning. Landing in the morning is the most important part.

There is also the Deportation Memorial where it actually took place, in Drancy, outside of Paris. I saw the sign for Drancy a couple of years ago as the ICE train left Gare de l'Est for Frankfurt. You can take local public transport there. You saw the WW1 refurbished, expanded coverage at the museum for the WW1 centenary There is more now , ie, since 2014 than was the case prior
Too bad you had to skip Napoleon but it's priorities, isn't it?.

Posted by
1028 posts

Enjoyed the report. I am heading back to Paris for my third time Aug/Sep 2018. When I was there last year, the guard at St. Chapelle/Court House entrance said they have the option to either open the Museum Pass line or not. Being my second time there, once we entered the grounds for St. Chapelle and there was a long line that wrapped around the fencing attached to the church, I knew I could just walk up to the main door entrance just past the ticket window & show my pass to enter. Once I did that a group of folks with their Museum Passes followed. One thing I noticed about the Louvre's pyramid entrance was their signage for 3 separate lines, small, but there. One for Museum Pass holders, one for Louvre specific pre-purchased tickets & all others. We stood there watching the two Louvre staff ensuring people were getting in the correct line, it was like herding cats.

Posted by
1984 posts

Thanks for your reply to my question about the lift in the Hotel Saint Louis. You mention a tour you took after your time in Paris - was it a Rick Steves tour? The places you mention remind me of the Paris and the Heart of France tour although Chartres Cathedral is not part of that tour. Just curious, I took Paris and the HOF in October 2014 and loved it! Enjoyed your tour report.

Posted by
1480 posts

Wonderful report!
So glad you enjoyed it all, and had such a great time.
How awful that that "prince" did not act like one. Grr.

Posted by
4 posts

Thanks so much for that report, I really enjoyed it and it brought back so many memories.

We have stayed twice at Hotel St Louis en L'Ile. We always book a larger room on the top two floors with balconies. It means you can open your windows and the noise is not an issue up on the 4th or 5th floors.

You visited all of our favourite places and it sounds like you loved them too. We have done lunch and dinner at Jules Verne, I actually preferred lunch as the views were more spectactular.

Thanks again.