This was too big for one post so I split it up below: My first trip to Europe is over and what a wonderful time we had...many thanks to my advisors here on the forum. First things first, for those who were following, when DH and I flew to ATL and got to the gate, (foot-boot, wheelchair and all), someone had already switched THEIR seat which left the seat next to me open so we were able to sit together. As you know, I was quite nervous about the long flight having never traveled that far before, but it was fine, and even though I took an Ambien, I only slept about an hour. Our apt through Vacations in Paris in the 7th arrondissement was spectacular-patisseries on each end of the street, several restaurants right on our block and a G20 two doors down...not to mention, when we opened our window and patio door: a stunning 24/7 view of the Eiffel Tower! As we only packed about 4 days worth of clothes, the apt washer came in very handy. We ended up getting two museum passes, one at the beginning of our trip for 4 days and another at the end for two days...worth EVERY penny! Not only did we save money (unexpected bonus!), we skipped ALL kinds of lines...long, hot lines of people waiting to get tickets at the Louvre, Orsay, Rodin, Orangerie, Arc de Triomphe, St. Chappelle, and Conciergerie. For those places like Versailles and the tower at Notre Dame where you couldn't skip the line, we made sure to arrive 45 minutes before opening and breezed right through! We saw the gardens at Versailles and Luxembourg but there weren't many flowers to be seen-maybe because of the late winter. Cici
(con't) The side trip to Normandy was wonderful as well...loved the Hotel d'Argouges..we stayed in the Annexe bldg and loved the ivy/vine-covered outside walls. I am not a history buff, per se, but the BOB tour with Overlord was incredible and I found myself fascinated with the D-Day story (My dad was in WWII but would never talk about it). I booked the trains 90 days in advance and got a great rate but didn't know I had to reserve seats...DH and I had just gotten settled into seats when a group of four let us know, in no uncertain terms, that we had their seats. No worries, we found others and once off the train in Bayeux, reserved two seats for our return trip. We also saw the Tapestry in Bayeux as well as their Notre Dame Cathedral. Before leaving the US, we reserved tix at the Eiffel Tower twice: once during the day and another time at night as well as an anniversary lunch at Jules Verne the day before we left. We laughed as we spied our apt from atop the tower... We were very aware of our surroundings the entire time we were in Paris and had absolutely no problems. We did get a young girl who seemed very eager to take our picture (with OUR camera) the first day were were there but simply said, "No Thanks" and moved on. We saw the petitioners around the Eiffel Tower and encountered the gold ring scam while walking along Rue de Rivoli...DH was going to stop...it was though she materialized right out of the blue in front of us-but I quickly maneuvered him around her, just kept walking and explained to him what you good folks told me about this scam and we both enjoyed a chuckle.
(con't) We rode the Metro EVERYWHERE and loved it-went through four carnets and, when at the "Tabac," got well versed in the phrase, "Bon Jour, Un carnet metro, si vous plait...Au revoir." We had a couple of the tickets not work but we simply went to the information booth and the person at the window exchanged them for us. We always kept our eye on people and kept our belongings in front of us...DH wore a Scottevest and kept everything safe and secure in it. We had no problems using our credit cards (not chip and pin enabled) but did not use them at automatic machines or gas stations...ATM machines were plentiful and easy to use (one of used it while the other stood guard). Our apt had wi-fi; on our iPhones (4s) and iPads (2nd & 3rd gen), under Settings>General> we turned both the "cellular" and "data roaming" to "Off" and used the apt wifi; in addition to Internet access, we were able to text, Skype and Facetime. When we weren't doing those things, we also put them in "Airplane" mode. We also checked our account every few days to make sure we weren't incurring charges. Rick's map from his 2013 Paris book was a godsend and I wish I had laminated it...it was quite rumpled by the end of our trip. We enjoyed hot chocolate at Angelina's, window shopped at Galeries Lafayette, cruised down the Seine, ate like locals at the outdoor cafes, acted like kids at Disneyland Paris, walked hand-in-hand down Rue Cler and simply loved every minute of our trip. The foot was doing better at the end of the trip too...so much so that I was only using the boot at night. Thanks to all of you again who were so instrumental in giving such great advice! We were home, recovered from the jet lag about three days when I turned to DH and said, "Can we go to London next year?!?" Cici
Cici, What a wonderful trip report - thanks for sharing! It sounds like a fantastic vacation. I'm really glad to hear too that the seating arrangement on the plane worked out well! Looking forward to your London trip report next year :)
Hi Cici, I'm so glad you had such a good trip! I'm also really glad you liked Hotel d'Argouges. Reading this was so much fun... so... what was DH's answer?... ;)
Hi Cici! Thank you for the wonderful trip report! Felt like I was in Paris again, I do so love that city!! Hope you make it to London; we went for the first time last year and it was amazing. Really enjoyed your report! Happy Travels!
Thank you for the excellent trip report! I'm so happy for you that your trip went so well and you had a great time. It is especially gratifying to read that your seating situation on the plane worked out as you hoped because you started out having a lot of anxiety over that. My experience is that things almost always do work out, and when they don't I chalk it up to 'lesson learned' for the next time. So, are you already dreaming about and mentally planning your next trip? ;)
Thanks so much! Yes, too funny...all that stress about the plane seat and it ended up being a non-issue....we had a more difficult time trying to pick up the HOHO bus...you should have seen me running down the street chasing the bus, tickets waving in my hand and DH yelling, "STOPPPP!" before realizing that although they POINT OUT 21 places during the tour, they only STOP at five of them to pick up/drop off! Talk about feeling like a doohfus!! Arrival day jet lag, lol, that's my story and I'm sticking to it! In answer to the question about London, DH is double-checking the finances...I am being optimistic though and have already begun checking out the best time to go (I'm thinking May?), where to stay (location as well as apt vs hotel), etc. I have a good friend going there next week and she is going to bring me back some brochures, etc. I hope some of you read the "To the North" section as I will hopefully be starting another "project" and heading to that section soon! ;0)
Cici, glad to hear you had a wonderful time! I am wondering which hoho company you used,,, I am pretty sure L'Open Tour buses stop at way more then 4-5 stops, did you use the red buses? ( le Cars Rouge) or the green and yellow ones (L'Open Tour) ?
Cici, what was your strategy for overnight trips while renting the apartment? Did you book Normandy at the front or end of your trip or just regard the hotel as a separate but small expense in the general scheme of things? Also, how did you settle on Vacations in Paris? Any further tips on such rentals?
Pat, we used the red buses as opposed to the green ones....lesson learned for next time. What confused us was when the bus was at a light by Napolean's tomb (#21), the driver let someone on...so we assumed that we could get on too...but the light turned green before we could get there so we waited for the next one and then the "flagging" and "chasing" commenced! What a mess we were, lol! Roy, Normandy was in the middle of our trip. We purposely picked a Monday and Tuesday since many of the museums were closed those days. We had thought about going at the beginning or end of the trip but did not want to drag all of our luggage with us (I am not as light a traveler as folks here on the site). So, in the end, as you said, we just regarded the expense as one in the overall scheme...it worked out quite well as we were able to travel to/from Normandy with one small duffel bag and leave everything else back at the apt. (con't below)
As far as the apt., I found VIP through the recommendations on this site! I liked the fact that they were based in the US and I could converse easily by using their 800 number. Payments were done through PayPal and in USD. The only thing I would recommend is checking to be sure the apt has air (if you are going during a time that it MIGHT be warm) and check the bed sizes. Being my first time to Europe, I never thought to question either. Our west-facing apt did not have air and a couple of days on each end of the trip the temp was in the high 70s, so it was a bit uncomfortable. However, there was a small fan in the apt so we made do with that. European bed sizes are not the same as US so I would double check to be sure you have what you want/need. We ended up being just fine even though it was smaller than what we were used to. All in all, I used ALOT of information from this site but then also did a great deal of research on my own...as others have said, what I want in a trip/accommodations may be different than what you want...I spent about 9 mos planning this trip and it was truly worth every second. Cici
Cici, I couldn't help seeing your next trip may be London. May I suggest you tack on another short jaunt back to Paris from London by using the Eurostar? If there was any part of Paris you wish to see in a different time of year it is a delightful ride on the Eurostar & so easy to manage. You can book your flight into London & fly back out of Paris. When we did this we spent 3 nights in London & 7 nights in Paris.
Cici, I also loved Paris. I met up with a friend who was already there. We had just two days together, but we made the most of the time. Musee Orsay on thursday evenings is the best because the crowds have died down and other tourists were eating dinner while we toured. If you are from St. Augustine, FL, I just want to say that you live in a very lovely city. I just came back from a short visit (first time) to St. Augustine and loved it. Linda
Well, after checking a few things, DH said, "Hmmmmm" which is my cue to move forward with planning London :0) @Laine - we talked about that exact idea of hopping over there for a couple of days but will see how all the planning shakes out. @Linda - Yes! We are from St. Augustine, FL and are so happy you enjoyed your visit. We are at Anastasia Park quite often and the lighthouse holds special memories for us as DH proposed to me at the top. So, in planning for London, I just posted in the "To the North" site; if anyone has helpful hints, I would love to hear them....thanks! Cici
cici-can you buy the museum passes in paris at the tabac shops? can you explain about the red and green busses? do they only let you get on/off at certain places? please explain the difference. thank you!