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"The experiment" trip report -Paris part of tour

Day 1- a group of smiling people gathered in the courtyard of the hotel for the very first group meeting. Our tour guide facilitated a brief time of introductions, gave some basic information about logistics on the tour, and handed out metro tickets, museum passes, and our personal sound system materials. The sound system allows guides to speak in a normal voice and for everyone to hear clearly without having to be bunched right on top of the guide. The group is made up of several couples, some friends traveling together, some parents/grandparents traveling together with teenagers, and two singles. Ages ranged from 16-70s.

We had a short break and met together for our neignborhood walk on our way to dinner. I hated the walk and started to have severe second thoughts about what I had gotten myself into. I felt uncomfortable moving in mass down narrow sidewalks and stopping right in front of people eating their dinner at a cafe. The guide had just read an inspiring quote about travel means you should become a temporary local. I felt like I just interfered with the locals..... I reminded myself that this was a new experience and would take me out of my comfort zones at times.

I loved the group dinner. We had a great meal that had been selected by our guide. Usually there is a choice, but for the first meal she had to make the choice and she did well. A very good time of getting to know fellow tour mates. This is one of two dinners where the wine was included as part of the tour. I'm a non-drinker but this was a non-issue. I know this question comes up from time to time so I thought I would mention it.

A couple that had been on several RS tours told me that future walking tours would be different and I felt encouraged. (Turns out they were right- wider,bigger places to stop and the group a little more sensitive to people passing. Walking tours have been fine)

Day 2: We met after breakfast, turned on our sound systems, and walked the short block to the metro system. The. Guide did an excellent job of explaining how the system is set up, some of its history, and practicalities of riding. I already had used the metro system several times, but there were some in our group that had not and I think this lesson and going together really helped to improve their confidence.

We arrived at our stop and the guide shared the history of the area as we walked to St Chappelle where the group's reservation meant we were able to "skip the line" and walk right in. I was surprised that our guided portion was outside the church and we were given time on our own to explore. I discovered that I should have done my homework about what I was seeing on the inside. This is where the advice to have and read the tour book really made sense to me. St. Chappelle was lovely. More walking with interesting commentary and learning about the history and architecture of the area and we arrived at Notre Dame. The guide made sure we were oriented to where we could eat lunch afterwards and where the metro stop was. The rest of the day was on our own,. The guide made an offer to meet anyone who was interested at a certain time and travel to the museum D'Orsay with them. She also made herself available to answer any questions members of the group might have about their individual plans.

I had done a great job of planning and arranging my time for the day and 1/2 I arrived early. I discovered that I had fallen a little short on planning what I would do during free time on tour. Rookie mistake.

Posted by
8615 posts

I hadn't anticipated a few things. First, I didn't expect that I would feel so intimidated about going into a cafe by myself. I don't have any trouble doing this at home, but it was a surprisingly big issue for me here. I was tired, hungry, and a little unsure what to do next. I decided to take a break. I took the metro back to the hotel, bought a Nutella/banana crepe from the stand at the corner (delicious and solved cafe issue temporarily) and took about an hour rest off my feet.

I went to the Army museum where I looked at Napoleans's tomb (waste of time) and thoroughly enjoyed the exhibits on World War 1 and 2. It was quite interesting viewing these events from a French perspective. Then it was dinner time. I had a mental picture before the tour that there would be lots of people joining up for meals from the tour group. Didn't happen this day. Every one had gone their own way earlier in the day. I realized that I might have had some false expectations and that if I wanted to join someone for a meal I probably needed to initiate it.

I went to the neighborhood grocery store and bought a sandwhich. End of day :)

Overall, I was enjoying myself and also realizing that even on a group tour you need to take responsibility for some of the planning.

Posted by
6788 posts

Thanks for the report. Looking forward to next installments. Enjoy.

Posted by
8615 posts

Day 3: At breakfast a tour mate asked about my dinner the night before. Somewhat embarrassed, I explained my struggle with the cafes and subsequent sandwhich. I instantly received an invitation to join her and her companion for dinner that night. I accepted!

We took the metro to meet a local guide who gave us a walking tour that was just excellent. We spent about 2 1/2 hours on this tour that included history, architecture, and cultural insights, all delivered with a sense of humor. We had about 20 minutes of free time to explore a market street. Our guides had prepared a small cheese tasting and we learned about cheeses. They also provided cherries and strawberries, and melt in your mouth macaroons.

I want to take a moment to talk about walking tours. I never had any concerns or discomfort with the situation after the first night. I didn't feel like I was interfering with the lives of others except on the particularly narrow sidewalks that first day. The tour company warns you there will be walking and that you should be prepared for it. I can walk miles I stand most of the day at work. However the combination of walking, standing,walking, standing was hard on my feet and knees. I noticed others on the tour faced this challenge as well. I started to take Advil before we went on a walk and took occasional advantage of opportunities to sit down. It helped some. My advice is to use good walking shoes.

The gardens where the tour usually takes a break were closed due to a Lois Vutton fashion show that was about to take place. It meant extra walking and extra standing. If I had one negative to say about the local guide was that she did not seem to notice that her group was struggling and needed a break. She continued on as usual.

We ended our morning at the Louvre. Once again the rest of the day would be on our own. The guides offered to assist any individual with their plans and we separated. The museum passes had us through security and into the Louvre within 5 minutes. I don't particularly like crowds and my feet hurt. The Louvre was somewhat of a bust for me. I decided to pick what seemed to be the most interesting item to me and go find it. I enjoyed the French Crown Jewels and then found a bench to sit on. I sat for about 45 minutes. I needed that time and was ready to go again. I looked at the crowds and decided to switch museums. The nice thing about the museum pass is that there are so many places you can go.

I had a delightful afternoon exploring Musee de l'Orangerie and the Musee d'Orsay. I then joined my two tour Mates for a delicious dinner near the hotel. I enjoyed both the company and the French dining experience. It's probably a good thing I'm doing all this walking after all.

I am enjoying my tour. There have been a few surprises and a few times where I have had to revise my expectations, but it is overall a very good experience. I plan to write another trip report installment after the bus portion of our tour and then the final summary of the experiment.

Posted by
2499 posts

Glad you are enjoying yourself. I’ve been on 5 tours with RS and learned I have to be responsible to find companions for meals as I usually travel solo unless I decide to be on my own. A guidebook is handy especially for big cities for planning free time activities, not as much for smaller places.
This was my first tour and is close to my heart!

Posted by
6370 posts

Thanks, Carol. I like that you're letting us in on your personal reactions. It's going to be interesting following you on your journey.

And your "rookie mistakes" are telling, as well. This thread will be very useful for folks preparing for RS tours.

Posted by
3350 posts

Enjoying your report. It sounds like you have had to come out of your comfort zone as you expected you would. Good for you!
I am going through some of the same questions about a possible trip we are considering. Rafting the Grand Canyon for a week. Can I tolerate the heat? Can I give up my privacy? Can I poop 💩 in a bucket with no walls around me? I am still mulling it over, its a lot of money to spend for so many unknowns.

Posted by
14241 posts

Excellent report Carol! I, too, am glad you are adding in your reflections on what you should/shouldn't do or what worked/didn't work as you go.

I share your thoughts on your first night walking tour especially if it was along Rue Cler. I've done it and even as an experienced tour person it makes me uncomfortable there. Yes, you feel like you are peering at others while they try to enjoy their meals!

I'm glad you made plans with others on your tour for dinner!

I love having the museum pass just for the reason you cited.

One thing about Sainte-Chapelle - I've been there on several RS tours. I don't think the guides are allowed to guide in there and that's based on what one of my first guides said as we got there. You will have unguided time at the big chateaux as well - Chambord and Chennonceau IIRC. You might want to double check with your guide on where you will need to have information ahead of time and where they will guide you.

Looking forward to the rest of your trip - reliving fun memories!

Posted by
2630 posts

I'm enjoying your progressive reports, though I am not tempted at this time in my life to go on a group tour. I'm 53 and so far have made 7 wonderful solo trips to Europe--but I'm mentally prepared that there may come a time when a guided tour is my best option. Like you, I struggle with solo dining in restaurants but have learned to overcome because eating fast food in my room isn't enjoyable and I feel I'm cheating myself.

Posted by
6669 posts

This is interesting and helpful to me as an upcoming RS first-timer. Seems like a well-organized tour with plenty of free time and good guides. Eating alone in France can be a drag, in sit-down places, because service is so slow by US standards. I bring something to read, or try to sit outside and people-watch. Looking forward to your next installments!

Posted by
559 posts

I'm glad you are mostly enjoying your time so far Carol! I have been anxiously awaiting your posts about the tour. Sounds pretty good so far!

I'll be very curious of your thoughts when arriving and visiting places you haven't been to so far.

Have fun and keep going!

:) Enjoy!

Posted by
1526 posts

Thank you for sharing your trip with us. : )
Keeps us going until it is our turn to go!

Posted by
106 posts

Thanks Carol! As I will be a RS rookie, and a single, I am shamelessly keeping close watch on your posts, and taking notes.

Posted by
7446 posts

I’m enjoying reading your experiences and especially your reactions to your day’s events. I took the 7-day Paris trip the year after my husband and I had been there. I also experienced the hesitation of eating dinner as a solo and found that for me, I enjoyed grabbing a few picnic items and taking them to the grassy lawn below the Eiffel Tower. Lots of people were there, and I could relax and enjoy the view and the other people. I usually ate lunch each day with a different person or small group from our RS tour. Enjoy!

Posted by
3232 posts

So interesting to read your experiences about group travel.
I travel solo about half the time, and have yet to get up the courage to eat in a restaurant at night alone!
During the day it's fine, and at night I usually get a picnic for my room.

Posted by
7446 posts

S Jackson, for my upcoming solo trip to Italy I had been corresponding with our dear Zoe last year. We talked about eating alone, and she said, “Italy wants to feed you. Feel comfortable going to a restaurant alone at night.” The way she said it made me smile, and I’ll be remembering her when I’m enjoying the evening ambiance of some fantastic meals ahead.