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Trip Report 9/25-10/26/19 Paris and a Road Scholar tour in Provence

Warning: Long report! Best move on to the next thread if details drive you nuts!

Overview: I cheated on Rick! Most people here know I love Rick’s tours – I’ve done 11 of them and keep coming back for more. My 2nd choice for tour companies is Road Scholar and I pick them when they’ve got an itinerary that Rick doesn’t offer. Most of the ones I’ve done recently have been concentrating on smaller areas and staying fewer places. The model is similar to Rick’s with 24-28 people. They use a “leader” who often is the administrative person and utilize local guides for daily programs. Sometimes the leader also is a guide. Tipping is included on the Road Scholar tours as on Rick’s and they provide group meals as well. This particular program included wine with every group meal. By the way…I always struggle with reviewing another company on Rick’s forum but then I think…well, maybe someone in the office will take a look at the itinerary and decide to offer something similar!

Paris Pre-tour: I arranged my days in Paris so they would coincide with Darcy from Lewiston and her husband. We have so much fun together (well I think Doug tolerates the 2 of us together, lol!!) and saw a lot. I arrived on Sept 26 via Salt Lake City non-stop to CDG. I have been lucky the last 2 times on this flight as there seem to be no other flights landing at the same time. I was off the plane and thru Immigration (with a comfort stop) in under 20 minutes. There were plenty of Immigration booths open and several line managers directing people to different areas. I had about 4 people in line in front of me so it went quickly. The taxi line went quickly as well and I was to my hotel in well under 1h30m which might be a record for me. Darcy and Doug returned home but I spent 15 nights in Paris before my Road Scholar part, then 3 nights after the tour back in Paris to finish up things, lol.

Paris Walks: Darcy and I had always wanted to do the Paris Walks tour about the Knights Templar but had always missed it. We decided this time we’d just pay for a private walk with them and had a wonderful time. Christopher was the guide (Darcy and I had had him on several previous walks) and was excellent. We were able to go at our own pace, ask questions and just chat in general. (He is a fossil collector!) It was pretty spendy but well worth it to us. We did another group walk with a guide that was unfortunately not as good as the other guides I’ve had with them. She was well-informed but hard to hear and just had a flat delivery. After I was on my own, I did 3 more walks (2 with Chloe and 1 with Bridgette who did a walking tour in 2014 for a RS Best of Paris tour I was on – she is still excellent!). I met up with another RS forum member to do a couple of the walks and that was fun as well!

Paris Museum Pass: I posted a thread about my experience with the pass. I’ve always gotten at least one 6-day pass and sometimes 2. I loved the freedom of being able to change plans at the last moment or just drop into a museum that you might not ordinarily choose to visit if you had to pay. I am going to say to forget using the Museum Pass for the Louvre. They’ve just made too many hoops and frankly it’s easier just to buy a timed entry straight out and not fool with the Museum Pass for this. My basic advice is to plot this out carefully taking in to consideration your days of the week, whether you are there on a “first Sunday” when some museums are free, whether there are any national holidays, etc. to see if a museum pass is worth it to you.

https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/france/my-paris-museum-pass-thoughts-based-on-experience-over-the-last-month

Continued....

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Museums and Activities in Paris: I am working my way down many of the smaller museums in Paris. This time one of the MOST interesting ones I visited was the newly opened Museum of the Liberation of Paris/Musee du General Leclerc/Musee Jean Moulin (a Resistance leader) which is located directly across the street from the entrance to the Catacombs. It’s free although there is a charge to go down in to the underground bunker area. (**editing to add Andrew added a comment later on in the thread that the bunker area IS free as well, you just need to sign up for a time slot as they control the number of people who go down.) I’m a bit claustrophobic so I skipped this. About half of the displays have English translations and some of the oral history film clips had subtitles. I have an interest in WWII and found this absolutely fascinating. Some of the stories were quite surprising including the story of the filmmaker who would go out on his motorbike with a hidden camera and film Paris as well as one time taking Allied airmen who were being hidden in Paris out for walks at Trocadero among the German troops. Chilling and amazing. Also new to me were visits to the Nissim Camondo (did not research enough to understand I should also visit Parc Monceau which it backs up to), Jewish Art and History Museum, the National Archives (not covered by the museum pass but it was only 5E and I needed a comfort stop before going on a Paris Walks, lol), Pere Lachaise Cemetery and the Montparnasse Cemetery. I particularly went there because Jacques Chirac died while I was in Paris. He lay in state at Les Invalides so I saw all the people lined up for his viewing, then his funeral was at Saint-Sulpice so that whole area was impacted with traffic, road closures and re-routes for pedestrians. I knew he was buried at Montparnasse and went by to see if I could see his gravesite. It was easily accessible, right on the central alley and there was a steady stream of mourners coming by the day I went. I was shocked/interested/surprised (not sure what emotion fits here?) to see that although it is in a prominent location, there was no big elaborate vault, just one gravesite that fits in with all the neighbors. It is open for all to visit when the cemetery is open. It felt very democratic and “of” the people. (I have very little knowledge about his politics or life so have no idea if this is the kind of person he was or not.)

Things under reno: Orangerie only has the water lilies area open, all the downstairs is closed except for the bathrooms. Cluny only has about 3 or 4 rooms open in addition to the Lady with the Unicorn tapestries room. The church of Saint-Germain-des-Pres has both side aisles completely covered with scaffold and plastic so the nave does not have the impact it usually does. Some areas of the Conciergerie were closed. Some areas in the Sully Wing of the Louvre are closed and you’re channeled thru temporary corridors – which actually is easier for finding your way, lol.

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Wardrobe/Packing: I’m a huge advocate of packing cubes. What’s working best for me now are the cubes from Travel Fashion Girl blog. (No connection to her, don’t really even read the blog any more but love the cubes or rectangles, lol) They sit upright in your suitcase so you can access the contents without having to take them out. It does take some adjustment in how I fold my shirts but I’ve got that handled now. For the last few years I’d been using Rick’s 21” rolling carry on. It’s gotten quite scuffed from baggage handling and when I saw a 22” TravelPro on sale at TJ Maxx this summer I grabbed it. It’s very similar although the zippers are much sturdier and it doesn’t have as many exterior pockets. Weight is about the same. I have been checking my bag the last few years for airline flights (I try to stay in my arrival city for a week or so) but I need to have it light enough that I can handle it off and on trains. I wound up also taking a Kipling Tote Bag as my plane carry on/bus bag (previous thread on organization of same), a LeSportsac Everyday bag for my regular purse (packed on the way over) and a small crossbody bag that I wear on the airplane with my passport/money/some credit cards as I travel solo. I also use Rick’s money belt. It rained so much that I used the small crossbody bag a lot more than I usually do as it zips up easily under my rain jacket. The jacket has big pockets so I can stash an umbrella on one side, maps in another pocket and my phone in another.

I took basically the same clothes I have taken the last 3-4 trips. These are my regular every day clothes as well. 4 Lands End SS cotton/modal tees (cobalt, aqua, white, black). I took 2 LS Land’s End cotton/modal tees (pink and a new one that is a deep blue). 2 LS Macy’s Ideology ¼ zip Dri-fit shirts (black and gray). 3 pr jeans (dark blue, black and gray – all are cotton poly blend and generally sink wash fine and dry overnight). 2 pr shoes (both Altra Lone Peak trail shoes, one of which is waterproof). ExOfficio undies, couple of bras, nightclothes, socks. A waterproof jacket with a hood (Cabela’s brand). A Costco down vest in gray. Also took Smartwool glove liners. I sink wash everything. During my stay in Arles it was rainy most days and it’s the only time I’ve had ExOfficio underwear not dry overnight! I washed jeans the first day and they did dry in about 36 hours. Fortunately, I’d done a major wash before I left Aix as that bathroom had the nice towel heaters so I was mostly good to go.

Wardrobe assessment: On my trip in March/April it was much colder than I thought so I mostly didn’t wear the SS shirts. This time it was warmer than I thought it might be so I didn’t wear the LS tee shirts at all except on the flight back when I knew it was to be 46 when I landed at home, lol! Also didn’t wear the puffy vest or gloves except on the car ride home. I always take a waterproof jacket and this trip I wore nearly every day. I also used my umbrella a LOT! I wore the waterproof shoes quite a bit but really didn’t need them. Even on the day we went to the Camargue and walked on the dirt paths in the Ornithological Preserve in the rain my feet didn’t get wet enough to really need the “waterproofiness”.

Weather: Lots of rain in both Paris and Provence but I kind of expected that. Pleasant temps in Paris both late Sept/early Oct and again the last 3 days this last week. Some locals had broken out their wool coats and winter gear but I was comfortable in either the SS tee and rain jacket plus the addition of the LS Dri-fit layer at times. It was pretty warm in Provence. I’m not one that tolerates heat very well and the day in Cassis and Marseille where it was 80 was uncomfortable. For part of the time in Cassis it was really, really windy (boats out to the Calanques were restricted on how far they could go) but then heated up as well.

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Road Scholar Program: I’d been looking at their Art of Living in Provence program for a couple of years and decided to do it this fall. The framework is 6 nights in Aix-en-Provence and 5 nights in Arles with day trips to various locations. I took the TGV to Aix the day ahead of the program start because I always like to have some flex time in case of transit strikes, etc. I took a taxi from the TGV station to the tour hotel which was 30.10E. For the first part of the trip, we did 2 out of the 5 full days in Aix, one with a general walking tour and one doing the Musee Granet and the XX Granet. The other days we did day trips to Cassis/Marseilles, a “Cezanne” day (was very rainy and foggy so barely saw Mount Saint-Victoire) and a day to Roussillon/Loumarin/Silvacane Abbey. The transit day from Aix to Arles we stopped at a winery for a tour plus wine/olive oil tasting. The full days in Arles we spend one day doing a walking tour and seeing the Roman and Van Gogh sites, a day to Les Baux/the Van Gogh Lumiere show at the quarry nearby/St Remy + some of the Roman sites near there and Van Gogh’s sanitarium, a day to the Camargue to see Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, the Ornithological Park, and a ranch where they raise the Camargue bulls, and the final day to Avignon.

The leader, James, was excellent. He’s a Brit from near Manchester and has tour guided for 30 years or so with several different companies. He’s the kind of guide (like most of my Rick guides) that the folks at the local attractions know and clearly enjoy. We popped out of the bus at the Carriere des Lumieres (the Van Gogh program in the quarry) and even the security/traffic person who was standing in the road directing traffic hailed him and the local guide and started joking with them. I love that! I think it shows the kind of people they are and gives the tour group an advantage if it’s possible to do so. We were pulled out of line at the quarry and allowed to enter first but I don’t know if that was due to a reserved time or what. We had 3 different local guides. One was absolutely awesome – a charismatic and enthusiastic junior high school teacher during the week and tour guide on the weekends and school breaks. One was good (excellent presentation on Cezanne) and one was just OK. The Just OK one is, I think, new to guiding. She was perfect on facts, figures and history but hasn’t learned how to stitch them together with stories instead of just regurgitating factoids. All had a good command of English and all lived locally to Aix and Arles.

The group was very fun. 22 people, a mix of singles and couples (3 solo women) and everyone mixed really, really well. I sat with everyone and all the couples were open to my joining them for meals, etc. All were similar to Rick’s groups – a high level of curiosity and thirst for knowledge. This group had more people with assistive devices than any other group I’ve been on. Two of the men had canes and one woman used walking poles. They kept up well. Some of the group opted out of some of the stairs such as at the Marseilles cathedral but most everyone did everything. I wound up going 5+ miles per day on this tour but sometimes I went out early and walked around, particularly in Arles where it was easy to walk down to the Rhone and walk along there.

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Tour Sights and Impressions: I loved the countryside in Provence. I particularly loved the rocky terrain of the Alpilles and in some areas it reminded me of the granite areas in Zion NP. I’m not a big rose wine drinker but since wine was included at every meal (not standard for most Road Scholar programs) I did try some. Still not a huge fan but I can see it’s appeal especially in the hotter weather! I did the Van Gogh program both at Atelier des Lumieres in Paris and at Les Baux and much preferred the one in the quarry. Sound was lovely in there and the projections and angles were more interesting. I enjoyed Aix but it was pretty crowded and my main impression is of upscale stores and restaurants. I really liked Arles but what I liked was how close all the Roman and Van Gogh sites were in town. I loved the Roman antiquities museum there – wow, I could have spent many more hours there than we did.

Tour Hotels: The Aix hotel was the Adagio Apart-hotel which is part of the Accor chain. This was about 2 blocks from La Rotonde so easy to walk to the main restaurant areas. It’s modern with not much “charm” factor but having a kitchenette was nice. Reception staff was all English-speaking and very helpful. The hotel in Arles was Le Calendal which is also used by Rick’s tours. It’s location was awesome, rooms were charming but many in the group were upset as there was no elevator. I didn’t have a problem with this but then I’m used to hotels without elevators from RS tours, lol! The bus can’t get near this hotel but they sent a van to pick up the luggage and delivered it to the rooms. Of course, you were on your own at the end of the tour and many who had giant suitcases were concerned.

Wrap-up: I returned to Paris from Arles via Intercity train to Nimes and then picked up the TGV back to Paris. I booked well ahead for my train fares and did them on OuiSNCF. I had trouble with the purchases going thru on my VISA card but I tried my AMEX card and there was no problem.

Notre Dame: Well, I was surprised at how much I missed visiting this cathedral. I had no idea how often I routed myself thru there and how often I took a “break” by going in and sitting for a bit. It was always busy and noisier than you’d really want a worship space to be but there was some connection I felt to this building. I’m not Catholic so it wasn’t really a religion-based feeling but somehow the sacred space used over time resonated with me.

Re-entering everyday life has been hard, lol. I met Darcy for lunch yesterday and was SO irritated at the server who I felt was "rushing" us to get out, lol. She tried to give Darcy a carry out box while she was still eating AND brought the check before we asked, hahahaha! Yikes...my brain was still in France! No Amorino around the corner though!

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363 posts

Nice report, as always, Pam. I just finished the MyWay Italy tour and though you are with a group, it was fun to have two weeks to plan and see what I wanted to, which included a lot of walking tours. One of these days I need to drive down for the Moscow Travel meeting.

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Leslie, you'd be welcome any time! We don't meet in December and we always post a meeting notice in the Meet-up forum. Glad you enjoyed the MyWay tour.

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2012 posts

Pam, excellent report. I appreciated the details. Very informative for new and returning traveler's to France. Thanks for transporting me back. I have a friend who has taken many Road Scholar Tours. She too, looks for an itinerary that isn't offered on RS Tours.

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658 posts

Very interesting trip report, thanks for posting it. I'm interested in Roads Scholars tours so it was nice to see your take on it. I've never actually taken any tour (except some local day tours) but am thinking of branching out - so far my travel has all been independent to Europe - and looking at South America, Asia and Africa. And wishing there were Rick Steves tours to those places. As I said, all my travel is independent but I rely heavily on Rick's guidebooks. And obviously he doesn't have any to those places. I've always said if I ever were to take a tour it would be a Rick Steves tour but since I can't it seems like Roads Scholar is the next best thing. Glad to hear that someone who enjoys Rick style travel enjoyed Roads Scholars.

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Great report Pam, always enjoy reading yours. Lots of good information and fun details. I'm headed to Paris next May for my first visit, then the Rick Steve's My Way France tour, followed by more days back in Paris before returning home. I'll be traveling to/from SLC as well, hope I have such good luck at CDG. Thanks again for the report, great as always.

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Thanks for the report, Pam. I appreciated your comment about restaurants in the States. Stan and I don't eat out very often, but his sister asked us to join her a couple of weeks ago, and it was much as you described. They obviously wanted us to leave so they could turn the table. I felt a bit resentful.

In contrast, we tried a place in Tulsa a couple of weeks ago (we had used their parking lot to go to the farmers' market, so we thought we owed them!) and the service was impeccable. Unfortunately, the food was only mediocre. But I actually flashed back on wonderful European service. Yes, I know most Americans think French or Italian service is terrible, but that's because they don't "get it."

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7685 posts

Love the trip report! Very informative. One of these days...months...years...we will have to meet up in Paris for lunch again. Darcy too, of course. I saw her and Doug twice in Italy (Venice and Siena) a few years ago. Or maybe I'll make it to one of your meetings. :-)

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929 posts

Loved the report, Pam! I appreciate all the details and it's nice to know that like the Museumkaart that the Paris museum card has to be planned out carefully to get one's money's worth out of it. I always like a good report of Paris but have been finding the reports of other cities of great interest, so thanks for including your Road Scholar tour report.

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2541 posts

Thanks for the great, detailed report Pam. I loved hearing about your Idaho meeting travel companions and the places you went to in Paris. We are always looking for another layer too. Thanks also for reporting on your organized tour. That’s nice to know there are similar style travel groups to places RS doesn’t (yet) cover.

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1465 posts

Thanks for giving us a review of a Road Scholar tour. They sent one of their brochures and they do cover areas that RS tours don’t, so they’re something we might consider.

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Great trip report. I know I'll end up on a Roads Scholar trip one of these days for the exact reasons you cite. And... I always like to hear about your packing system.

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971 posts

Great trip report Pam. You gave me so much information and more things to learn about. Thanks.
Paris may be on my next tour plans. That is unless I go to Vienna. Decisions, decisions and so little time.
Kathy

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You just got back on the 26th and you already have your trip report done? Impressive! I need to finish mine on RS Greece....,,about halfway done. We got back on the 21st.

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diveloonie, Pam always says the trip report must be done before the laundry gets done. Looks like she lives by her own rule.

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Pam you are so smart to do a trip report so soon. Memories (at my age) start to dim quickly and getting it all down is a priceless memento. Always appreciate your reports and tips, many thanks!

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Oh gosh! Thank you so much for all the comments!

Laughing...yes, I like to do the Trip Report first so I can then do the evaluation a bit easier. Road Scholar does the same as Rick does and sends an email link to an evaluation form about a week after the end of the tour. I like to have my thoughts together so I can make recommendations because you know...they should always listen to "our" recommendations, lol!!! I DO still have one small pile of travel clothes for the washer, just getting a few more days worth to make a whole load!

In general I find the Rick Steves travelers a bit more independent than the Road Scholar tour members although this time there were lots of people who had plans ahead of or after the tour. The bulk of the tour members have Road Scholar do their airfare, arrive the day the tour starts and then get transportation provided from the airport to the beginning tour hotel. I want to arrive at least a day early to my tour hotel (after having stayed somewhere else for a few days to get over jet lag) and for all the international tours I've done (only in England and France) it was easy for me to arrange train travel to the meet up city. I also don't mind organizing my transportation after the tour. The tour guide usually batches departing travelers into taxis - this time there were 3 departures from Arles to the Marseilles Airport via Taxi at various astonishingly early times. I took the train back to Paris and of course that's pretty easy to organize.

I do find the Road Scholar tour members very similar to Rick Steves groups in other ways. No one wants to miss a thing! Most have a huge dose of curiosity and ask good, interesting and thought-provoking questions. They are open to others in the group and most people try to engage with everyone else at least once during the trip. No problem being a solo traveler with either company.

I wasn't sure I would like group travel or Road Scholar tours so back in 2009 I did my first Road Scholar program. I chose Yellowstone as I was familiar with it, knew I'd drive myself over and thought if I was not having fun I could just head out on my own. I had a wonderful time, learned SO much and never looked back! If you're not sure, you might consider doing a Road Scholar trip near your home. I've done 5 US ones - the Yellowstone hiking one, 2 winter birding programs (SE Arizona and SW Florida) and 2 genealogy ones in SLC. I've also done 6 International ones - London (although I'd probably do Rick's London tour over Road Scholar as Road Scholar does not focus on teaching you travel skills like Rick's guides do), Wales, hiking in England, Brittany and Normandie, Cornwall and now the Provence one.

So a total of 11 Road Scholar tours and 11 Rick Steves tours, lol!

Estimated Prophet, the Knights Templar walking tour is offered by Paris Walks occasionally, not every month. Here's the description:

"Medieval Paris and the Templars Paris’ oldest house, the alchemist Nicolas Flamel, the mystery of the Knights Templar, the site of their enclave, the beautiful medieval architecture of the Abbey of St Martin, the intriguing St Merri church and the splendid flamboyant St Jacques’ tower.This tour takes you off the beaten track. Meet at metro Temple. 20€"

Basically we started at Temple Metro and zig-zagged our way downhill to end at Square du Vert-Galant. Toward the end it was pouring rain so we sheltered a bit while he talked. It was so interesting it was one I'd repeat if it popped up during another trip!

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1854 posts

Another wonderful and engaging trip report, Pam. I am intrigued by the Knights Templar walking tour so thank you for that heads' up, too! Thank you for posting and I think your reasons for doing so early are spot on. Welcome home!

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2424 posts

Pam, Fabulous trip report, as usual! I enjoyed every detail! Thanks for taking the time to write this.

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2006 posts

Pam, as always, you are outstanding in your field--thanks for the great trip report. I enjoyed re-living every moment when I was there.
Oh and thanks for staying awake during lunch. Also I forgive you for cheating on Rick.
Andrea, yes we must meet again in Europe although Sacramento is fun too!

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Great report, Pam. I’m always amazed at the amount of helpful details you put in your reports. Thank you for doing that.

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7736 posts

Thanks for the added comments!

I realized I forgot at least one Paris museum that was new to me! I did the Luxembourg Museum which was having an exhibition of English painters. They offer a tour in English on one Saturday afternoon a month so I booked that. The museum guide was excellent and I learned a lot.

I also did the Van Gogh program at both the Atelier des Lumieres in Paris and Les Carrieres de Lumieres in Les Baux. I liked the one in Les Baux much more. The music had better quality bouncing off the sandstone quarry walls and the angles in there provided better background for the pictures. I'm glad I did them but have no need to see it again. I thought the music was too loud at the one in Paris but I'm a big fussbudget when it comes to things like that. While I wouldn't actively discourage someone from seeing the program I'd not take time out of a short trip to spend time there if you can see some of the original art in person at d'Orsay.

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356 posts

I really enjoyed this trip report!

Just as a quick heads-up -- the underground bunker mentioned at the new Musée de la Libération mentioned is actually also free; there is no additional charge. (I was just there in the third week of October and went down myself). It's just that they regulate the entries in 30-minute time slots with a finite number of people per slot, in order to regulate the access -- apparently it's been very popular, though I went midday on a weekday so I had no problems getting a spot during the next available time slot.

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958 posts

Love your trip report, Pam. I’ve learned so much from your tips. Got back almost two weeks ago from my GAS tour and it was just amazing. Staying in Murren was definitely a highlight. And running into you at St Chappelle was such a fun coincidence!

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7736 posts

Andrew, thanks so much for that information. I'm not sure why I thought there was a charge! I'm so glad you went down and I hope you enjoyed the rest of the museum as well. I added an edit to my original text with your information.

Claudette! Wasn't that a hoot? So much fun to meet you in person along with your traveling companions! We must always meet in Paris...hahaha!!

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I have a London-Paris trip booked for late April-early May. I'm bummed the Van Gogh show at Atliers des Lumineres will end before I get there. Contemplating a train trip to Les Baux de Provence to see the show. Looks like just short of 4 hours by train. Good idea? Worth a couple days in Provence? Looks fantastic

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Scrapr, the show is only about 32 minutes long. I'd not travel that far just with the goal of seeing this show. Perhaps others would. I'd think you'd need a car for Provence and particularly to get to the location of the quarry. It looks like the Van Gogh program in Les Baux only runs until January 5. I believe the next program is Picasso or maybe Dali? I don't find that with a quick look at the website but it was discussed when we were there.

https://www.carrieres-lumieres.com/en/whats-on

I know most love this show and while I'm glad I went I'd not go out of my way to see another one. The selling point is that it is "immersive". Well, I've discovered I can immerse myself in a real painting. I don't need flashing lights, giant moving pictures, flying squirrels (really they were crows) and music for me to enjoy a painting. I DID enjoy seeing the locations where both Van Gogh and Cezanne painted which made me appreciate their paintings even more.

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7736 posts

Oh my Claudette! That's tempting!

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8 posts

Thanks Pam. That's helpful info. Especially the part about ending in January...LOL Another few days in Paris. Poor me....

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273 posts

Pam, I loved your trip report. They are always so informative and you've given me so many ideas if/when I go back to Paris. I think you and a few others encouraged me to write a trip report for my last trip. I posted it recently and it was actually fun to organize my thoughts so I could remember details from the trip. My journal helped me tremendously. Thanks for encouraging me! I also remembered that you said to write it all up and then paste it up in sections on the Trip Report board. It was very easy to do and now it's all together.

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7736 posts

Janet, I'm glad anything I said was informative, lol! The next step is to bookmark them all then when you are in the mood for reminiscing you can click thru your old Trip Reports!

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508 posts

As always, Pam, loved your trip report! You are a true inspiration to us all!

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1551 posts

@Claudette & Pam-How did you two meet in Paris by running into each other when you had not met in person before?
Also, 15 nights in Paris pre-tour? Where did you stay if you don’t mind me asking?

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7736 posts

"@Claudette & Pam-How did you two meet in Paris by running into each other when you had not met in person before?"

A while ago we became FB friends so Claudette could look at my pictures from probably my GAS tour in 2016, so I had seen her picture on FB. I knew she was going to be in Paris but thought she had left for Germany. I was just sitting in the chairs along the side of the Upper Chapel looking at the stained glass with binoculars, then was doing some people watching and saw someone that looked like her FB photo. I got up and walked over toward her to see if I got any reaction - if not I was going to ask if she was Claudette but as I walked toward her she called my name! So funny!

I stayed at Hotel Beaugency for 4 nights, then moved to Hotel Muguet for 4 nights, then back to Beaugency for the remainder of the time. I stayed at Beaugency the first time on a RS 21 Best of Europe tour and feel comfortable there. I love the staff, especially the ladies in the daytime - both at Reception, in the breakfast room and the housekeepers. Muguet was new to me and was very nice altho a lot more per night than Beaugency. The Beaugency fills early because they have a bunch of RS tours cycling thru there.

BTW, I also met up with 2 other RS forum members at various times and wish I had been able to work things so I could have visited with them more! I'm pretty OK with meeting up with RS forum members and it's fun to make a connection over coffee, lunch, or even a Paris Walk!

Hille! So good to see you back on here!

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2467 posts

As usual, I loved your report. Because of you, I am looking at Road Scholar tours. Just signed up for a 2020 RS tour. Is it wrong that I love your packing section the best? I just need to pack...

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7736 posts

Wray...I burst out laughing at your packing comment. We definitely need to meet up if we are ever in the same city at the same time!

The Road Scholar activity level indicator is pretty good right now. They revised it a couple of years ago and for the ones I've been on it's fairly accurate whereas when I did a hiking tour in 2016 it was NOT listed as strenuous and it was.

Let me know which ones you are considering. I've done 6 international ones (London, Wales, hiking in England, Brittany and Normandy, Cornwall and this Provence one) plus 5 US ones (hiking in Yellowstone, 2 genealogy ones in SLC, birding in both SE Arizona and SW Florida in winter).

Posted by
597 posts

I'm late to this party, but I loved your report! Sounds like an awesome trip. I love hearing about all of the off-the-beaten-path things you see and do in Paris. The Templar tour sounds fascinating! I am already dreaming about my next time back to Paris, hopefully in 13 short months! :)

Posted by
2467 posts

Pam,
I signed up for the Berlin, Prague, Vienna tour...with my husband. This is particularly exciting because my first tour on RS Greece was a trip my husband insisted I plan, 9 months in advance, because he'd just been finally discharged from the hospital after 131 days inpatient over a 5 1/2 month period. His surgeon would greet him with a hug and a kiss, and introduce him by telling people she met him "when he was essentially dead" and his odds were < 10%. (She now is the first female physician to run a Boston hospital's surgical departments). Anyway, It took 2 years for his recovery during which he knew I needed to plan a solo trip. I chose a RS tour so he wouldn't worry about me while he recovered further like he does on my totally independent solo travels. The fact that he's coming with me this time is a great reward for our "adventure" of those two years. TMI, sorry. Once back from my Greece tour, I raved about how wonderful the tour was so finally he's interested in trading one of our independent trips to do this tour with me. Consequently, no Roads Scholar trip this year, but I'm very interested in the one in France you took this year.

As far as meeting up, we could cross paths someday, and we can go luggage shopping and compare notes, perhaps in Paris...as Paris is always a good idea, but perhaps elsewhere by accident.

Have you been on the BPV tour? Shoot me a PM if you have.

Posted by
4063 posts

Wray, wow! What a story! The rest of us are downright pedestrian compared to you. But we love our tours, and we tip our hats to you and your husband.

Posted by
7736 posts

Wray! What an ordeal your husband (and you) endured. I'm glad he is able to travel now. I've not done Berlin, Prague and Vienna but hope you have a wonderful time!

Reminds me to carpe diem.

Posted by
2012 posts

@Wray, Thanks for sharing your heartfelt story. What an inspiration for all who travel. Enjoy your planning and continued good health to your husband.

Posted by
1189 posts

Of course, you were on your own at the end of the tour and many who
had giant suitcases were concerned.

We stayed at that same hotel in Arles on our RS Loire to the South of France Tour in May. I laughed and have to cut and paste the following from my trip report about that hotel;

*I have to post a story about the Rick Steves warning about packing light, and also his warnings that you may have to haul your suitcase a distance and up stairs. Our hotel was right beside the Roman Arena but well away from the main street where our bus dropped us off. There is a warning on these tours that you may be expected to haul your luggage over cobblestones a fair distance and the hotel may not have an elevator. This warning was tailor made for Arles. About 1/2km walk, cobblestones, uphill. We had one couple in their mid-70’s on the tour who are in good shape for their age, but the wife was struggling with her suitcase and needed help from one of our tour members. I sought her out on the morning we were heading back to the bus and carried her suitcase for her. By this time, we were a close-knit group and help like this would be automatic for some of our older members. Back to the day we arrived at the hotel though, to get to our 2nd floor room meant a climb up a steep, narrow set of stairs, we got to the top, made a sharp right and down a hall, down 3 stairs and then up 3 stairs. Along the way we ran into a solo traveler in our group-early 60’s who didn’t pack light. She’s a very nice woman-a librarian, but today she was dropping f-bombs about stairs and suitcases. I couldn’t help but laugh, but also took her suitcase and got it to her room. I believe I learned a few new words that day and she swore she’d learned her packing lesson.

Posted by
7736 posts

Allan! I remember reading that in your TR, lol! I was in the "annex" and was on the first floor. 2 of my tourmates with huge suitcases were on the same hall but one had to go up about 3 steps and then down again after we climbed the staircase to our level. If I hadn't already "moved in" to my room I would have offered to change with her as her room overlooked the garden area and mine was on the street!

We also got off the bus down near the park but the hotel sent a small van to pick up the luggage and delivered the bags to our rooms. The big suitcase people were on their after our 5 nights there as this was our tour end-point. I don't know how those tour-mates did at the end because I left early to catch a train and they weren't leaving until noon-ish.

That hotel is in a wonderful location! Wow.

Posted by
243 posts

Thank you Pam for a wonderful trip report! The detail is very helpful, and it sounds like you had a great time.

My husband and I are planning a month-long stay for next fall 2020, and are considering a town in Provence. Looking at your notes about Arles and Aix, is one town more touristy than the other? Is one more a "local" feel? Also, is one more vibrant than the other with people strolling, residents having meals in squares?

While we will telecommute during the work week, we want to see some sights on the weekends....

Posted by
7736 posts

I'd post your question on the France forum for other input but to me Aix seemed more touristy and Arles had a more "local" feeling. I'm not a big foodie but Aix had a ton of restaurants and yes, there was a lot of buzz of people eating outside. I was there the mid to end of October and the weather was not as good in Arles as it had been in Aix so not sure what it would have felt like had the weather been better and it hadn't been at the tail end of tourist season. Aix has several universities so there is a big student population as well.