I now love Paris. My first trip was in 2002 and I left not liking the the weather, food, or people. Perhaps I'm different now. Everything was perfect. The weather was beautiful every day, the waitstaff everywhere were friendly, helpful and delightful, and with help understanding the menu, the food was fabulous. We arrived early Saturday morning August 31 and used the RER B to Chatelet station in Paris where we got on the Metro line 1 to the George V stop on the Champs-Elysees near the Radisson Blu on Marceau Avenue. We freshened up, left our bags checked with the front desk and began our itinerary to begin at the Arc de Triomphe (took stairs to the top) and walked down the Champs Elysees to the Cafe George V where we had lunch. The remainder of the day we went to the Rue Mouffetard Market, Notre Dame and walked around Ill St. Louis before having dinner at Sens O, a wonderful Italian restaurant on the island. On Sunday, being free museum day - 1st Sunday of the month, we walked from our hotel to the Musee Rodin where we saw the Thinker and the Gates of Hell among other wonderful works in the garden. We went inside to the exhibition to see The Kiss. We had lunch in the garden before heading over the the Marais area for an afternoon walking tour we had pre-arranged.
Part 2: From Marais, we walked to Sainte-Chapelle where we had tickets for the Vivaldi concert at 7 p.m. This was a good choice. The chapel was as beautiful as expected and the concert, especially the soloist, was spectacular! From there we went to dinner at Semilla in the Latin Quarter where we had reservations. This is an American-friendly, French cuisine restaurant recommended in a blog I'd read. The concierge made the reservations for us a month earlier. It was excellent! We met a couple from New York and enjoyed a delightful meal and conversation. Monday we did what we should have done in Marais and joined a Discover Walk tip-the-guide free walking tour of Montmartre and Sacre Coeur. We met the guide at the Blanche Metro stop near the Moulin Rouge. The tour was informative and entertaining and only 15 or so of us in the group so everyone could hear the guide. After touring the Sacre Heart, we walked down the hill behind the basilica and let street artists draw us. My husband (70) and I (57) stood in the middle of the street as we were sketched by two entertaining artists. We offered half what they requested for the drawings and continued down the hill and enjoyed lunch at a corner cafe. We took the Metro to the large flea market nearby (the name eludes me) and we wished we had left this one off the list. After a brief time, we returned to our hotel to prepare for dinner, again in the Latin Quarter. We had reservations at Cote Bergamote from a recommendation on another trip report, and were not as pleased with this ion. The server was friendly, but not very helpful. My mistake was venturing out without my handy pocket French dictionary. We enjoyed the walk back to Pont Neuf where we got on the Metro to return to our hotel.
Part 3: Tuesday was our day to go to Versailles and Giverny. We were picked up at our hotel and joined five other people for a 9-hour guided minibus tour of Versailles and Giverny. Our driver was delightful and gave us history and pointed out neat things along our drive to Versailles. We didn't wait in lines. We saw the Chapel, the King's Quarters, the Hall of Mirrors and The Queen's Quarters using the headsets (and Rick Steve's guidebook). We then had an hour to walk through part of the gardens. We came upon the mirror pool as the fountains were dancing to the music! Delightful. At the end of the 3 hours, we met our driver and headed to Giverny, stopping at Moulin de Fourges for a fabulous lunch! Monet's Gardens were more impressive than I could ever have imagined. I enjoyed this visit tremendously. I can see why Monet was inspired by this setting. For us, the amount of time spent at each location was perfect! I'm glad we didn't have to choose one or the other! We said goodbye to our new friends and went to dinner in the Saint Germain area and met more new friends! A guitarist began performing near us making the dining experience even more fun! After coffee and dessert, we were ready to end another wonderful day in Paris.
Part 4: Wednesday began at 9:00 in the lobby of our hotel with Chloe, a chocolate expert and the beginning of our 2.5 hour Chocolate Tour (that lasted 3 hours) and tastings at 6 wonderful chocolate shops around the Place Vendome area. Afterwards, we invited our guide join us for lunch if she'd recommend a place and she selected the self-service cafeteria on the 6th floor of the Gallery Lafayette! It was an excellent choice. We ate then went on the roof for a panoramic view of Paris! Our day ended with dinner at 58 Tour Eiffel. It was an experience I'm glad we had and so much fun to dine in the Eiffel Tower! We enjoyed walking around the glowing tower at night, especially when we crossed the Seine with the boats and reflections of the Tower.
Part 5: Today is the day my body will tell me that I overplanned this trip! We began Thursday with a 3-hour private tour of the Louvre with Marjorie, a delightful guide from Localers. We spent over three hours walking and talking through the exhibits seeing the "must-sees" and the apartment of Napoleon III. Afterwards, we invited Marjorie to lunch and continued our conversation while relaxing over salads and sandwiches. Our next tour was also with Marjorie and would be a 2.5 hour tour of the Orsay. We were standing in front of Whistler's painting know as "Whistler's Mother," when my body said, "enough." We made it through the remainder of the tour - Monet and Van Gogh, I think - the exhibits I most wanted to study, especially after having visited Giverny - and I knew that I needed to rest. We said our goodbyes to Marjorie and went to a cafe/bar behind the Orsay and sat for over an hour enjoying the French activity of people watching. We had hoped to eat at another recommended restaurant L'ilot Vache on Ill St. Louis, but my body would have not part of it. We returned to the hotel. I was asleep by 8:30 and did not wake up until 7 a.m. on Friday. Sometimes we just have to stop. Our last day, Friday, began in the Rue Cler area with a food tour of the area. The highlights were 1)learning to eat foie gras properly and differentiating between duck and goose foie gras; and 2) having a lunch of two types of goat, sheep cheese, ham, bread and wine with a master cheese shopkeeper. Having learned my lesson, we ended our tour at Champs du Mar where we said goodbye to our chef-guide, Mael and sat in the grass enjoying the sunshine after such delicious tastings! Our last night was a dinner cruise on the Seine aboard the Crystal. Again we met some wonderful people and enjoyed good food, wine and conversation as we watched the beautiful buildings we had enjoyed all week go by.
Last Part: Having only one week to enjoy a city that can take a lifetime to experience, we wanted to get the most out of the week. The difference this time, for me, was preparation. I read the Travelers Helpline and TripAdvisor forums for months before our trip as well as guidebooks. We watched documentaries to better understand the history, and learned some French!! I believe this made our trip better. It's also nice to have paid for everything in advance (except for a few meals). We saw the gold ring trick once and totally ignored the guy. He quickly walked away. We carried very little around with us and followed the advice about crowds and staying away from the crowded metro doors. Thanks for all the tips and advice I took from so many posts on this site! It was a wonderful trip.
Hi Wanda, I enjoyed reading this, thanks! So glad you enjoyed Paris. Next time you go to Versailles make time to visit the Hamlet, and the two Trianons.. my favorite areas of all. That's the drawback of short guided tours.. not enough time to see and enjoy everything. Sounds like you got a good sampling of many things in Paris.. my favorite place on the planet!
Wanda, thanks for taking the time to do such a thorough trip report , it was interesting to read and seems like you had a great time.. my only 'but" is .. you missed so much at Versailles, I think I would cry if I only had three hours there, lol.. you missed Marie Antionettes Hamlet and the Grand and Petit Trianons,, one of my favorite views is from standing in the Flower garden behind the Grand Trianon and looking up the Grand Canal at the Palace.. amazing.. Sounds like you did alot of restaurant research and that paid off,, I have had some mediorce meals in Paris when I was tired and just dropped into some random places.. Next time!!!
Susan and Pat, I almost left Versailles off my itinerary because I had read that I would need an entire day to see it all. But we wanted to see Giverny and had only one day. I'm left with an absolute desire....and need...to return! Thanks for commenting on my report!
When you return you can see even more and enjoy it all over again... :)
Sounds like an amazing trip for you & your husband! Thank you for such a complete trip report. I went to Paris in April with my daughter, who is a French teacher, and her French Club. It was wonderful but it was totally a guided tour with so much crammed into 5 days. I loved it and my husband and I are planning a trip to London and Paris for next summer to celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary. I have been working on planning pretty much since I got back from Paris! I just think once you've been, you HAVE to return!
Thoroughly enjoyed reading your trip report. What a lovely week for you and your husband. Thanks for the dining suggestions and the culinary interludes!
Loved reading bout your wonderful week in Paris. I am so happy that you gave this beautiful, intriguing city another try. I love Paris too and return as often as I can, always earning looking for new things to discover. The one thing I always tell people, assume that you will return. Don't attempt to see everything the first time you visit. I would never see Versailles and Giverny in the same day, crazy.
Try a cooking class next time. They are really fun! Happy Travels!
We enjoyed seeing as much as we did of both Versailles and Giverny. Of course, we didn't see a fraction of Versailles, but like you said, we left with the intention to return and see more! Thanks for reading and commenting on my report. Half the fun is sharing with others after a wonderful trip! I will definitely add a cooking class to my list for next time!
Thank you for your post Wanda. I will be in Paris for 3 days in September. I am content with the idea of skipping Versailles but now am having second thoughts about skipping Monet's Garden.
My question: Is it large enough to be able to enjoy even with all the visitors ? The thing I loved the most about Butchart Gardens in Vancouver was the serenity. Do you get that in Giverny ?
Great trip report, Wanda. Your Parisian experiences sound a lot like mine: my first trip in August 2007 was awful - very hot, rude and unhelpful people, men leering at us and yelling things out of car windows, etc. I swore I'd never go back. But in 2012 my sister convinced me to return because she wanted badly to go to Paris. We stayed in the city for 8 nights in September and took a day trip to Versailles (we chose it over Giverny, and were there all day). This trip was great. The weather was beautiful - in the 60s every day and it only rained once. I used my terrible French to get us around and this time no one was rude or unhelpful. It was like a completely different city. You and I have made peace with Paris. :)
Thanks for sharing your experience. I will return to Paris for a few nights beginning May. Of course I want to see and do a zillion things I didn’t do in 2006. The more I read someone else’s report and remembering my 1st visit, I am convinced I want to walk more, maybe do a walking tour with Discover to compare companies, and just wander. I’ll be in the Latin Quarter near the Sorbonne. Glad you had the time and returned to give Paris a second chance.
One thing you might consider is to sign up for a tour with Paris Greeters. It is a personal tour with no charge. The organization accepts donations. Our guide took us through the Marais, where he grew up. They aren't allowed to accept tips, so we took him for a drink. You can apply for a tour online.
My experience is yes. We visited Giverny in the middle of July and did not think it was crowded at all. We found many areas of the gardens that had no one around and plenty of serenity. Can't promise what it will be like the day you go, but our experience was wonderful. Loved it.
Thank you for your detailed report, Wanda. It sounded so good that you definitely made me want to go back. We only had three days in Paris (my first trip) but I absolutely loved it. Versailles was the only part that I would skip if I go back, but then I didn't get to the gardens. I'm sure they are lovely.
I'm tentatively scheduled to go to Barcelona in March, I'll be checking this website to get a lot of ideas about that trip. I've never been to Spain.
I was especially jealous hearing about your time at the Cafe in the Musee d'Orsay... that's where I ran out of time. Next trip!
Thanks again for sharing- lovely stories!
hi Wanda, thanks for that wonderful detail of your trip. I am going in Sept. so I was soaking up what you had experienced. I am very interested in the free Paris tours.That sounds so interesting?