Author Topic: Best way to vacation in France?  (Read 12539 times)

dizzean

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Best way to vacation in France?
« on: January 20, 2015, 04:52:17 AM »
I am going to Paris, France with my wife for a week on vacation Mar 28th to Apr 5th.  This has been one of my life goals, I studied French in HS and college and use it once in a while at work, I am a total geek about France despite having never been there.  So as a reward for finishing off all of our student loans, we are going on vacation!

As of right now the only plan is to fly over for $1200 (ugh) and stay in an apartment near the Metro for about $100 a night via AirBnB.  I'm not aware of anything cheaper or really how to shop around.

Right now I don't plan on having a big itinerary, I just plan on staying at the apartment and kind of winging it each day with perhaps a lose itinerary of museums and exploring.

Does anyone have any advice for saving $ on the flight or housing?  Any good places you recommend visiting?

pom

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Re: Best way to vacation in France?
« Reply #1 on: January 20, 2015, 05:47:52 AM »
If you stay more than a week, it is likely that a weekly rental would be cheaper than a hotel. One of the main site in France is homelidays, just google it. I think it is more popular than AirBnB but I may be wrong.

Since it is only a week, you will probably have to stay in Paris with the required Versailles visit but you may want to venture out for a day and see a small town.

Fontainebleau is probably your best bet, it is only 30 minutes in train from Paris Gare de Lyon.

If you are into champagne, you could go to Epernay and visit the Moet & Chandon cave (it may be wise to reserve). Epernay has many other champagne house that lets you visit. I have been to Mercier and Castellane. Another option is Reims where I visited Mumm and Taittinger. Reims is a big town of 200k people while Epernay is small town of 25k people so they have a different vibe.

Chartres, Rouen, Chantilly, Compiègne are also good choices within an hour train ride.

Have a good trip!

boarder42

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Re: Best way to vacation in France?
« Reply #2 on: January 20, 2015, 06:10:39 AM »
seriously check out this deal i posted yesterday

http://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/reader-recommendations/fly-roundtrip-to-europe-this-spring-for-400-bucks-a-person/

you would have to fly into Milan but can easily take a train over to paris. aprox. savings on travel to and from paris is 33% less than what you are projecting now assuming train is 100 RT PP.  You may even be able to find air around that price.  you would have to book soon but maybe you could even make it a rail trip and stop multiple places on a loop around france and back to milan

boarder42

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Re: Best way to vacation in France?
« Reply #3 on: January 20, 2015, 06:12:35 AM »
also i was just in paris ... Versailles is a must.  it is amazing. 

jamaicaspanish

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Re: Best way to vacation in France?
« Reply #4 on: January 20, 2015, 06:23:20 AM »
Get this guy's book:  https://www.ricksteves.com/europe/france/paris
The 2015 version is updated and available for $17 on Amazon. 

His advice is priceless.  Buy the tourist museum pass and bypass the lines.  Make an appointment for the Eiffel Tower. Stop in the restaurant and order a cup of cocoa (you probably don't want to buy an entire meal there).

 My wife is a French teacher and has taken several student groups to Paris.  She can't say enough good things about Rick Steves' advice.

Have fun.


thedayisbrave

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Re: Best way to vacation in France?
« Reply #5 on: January 20, 2015, 06:37:45 AM »
Ah, Paris.  Enjoy! When I went we bought a super tourist pass that got us unlimited trips into the museums - we calculated and it more than paid for itself.  We (friends & I) visited the Louvre 3 times in 4 days! So make sure you do the math on things like that, sometimes people get overwhelmed by the high price but then pay for individual little visits that end up adding up to more.

It's too bad you won't be venturing south! I spent a semester in Aix-en-Provence in 2013 and the experience was incredible.

Make sure to eat so much pain au chocolat you have to put your fat pants on! Have fun :)

dantownehall

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Re: Best way to vacation in France?
« Reply #6 on: January 20, 2015, 06:45:35 AM »
Right now I don't plan on having a big itinerary, I just plan on staying at the apartment and kind of winging it each day with perhaps a lose itinerary of museums and exploring.

I would recommend a win itinerary instead!!!

iwasjustwondering

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Re: Best way to vacation in France?
« Reply #7 on: January 20, 2015, 07:39:13 AM »
If you want to go out to a fabulous restaurant in Paris, go for lunch.  It's your only hope of getting a reservation, and it will be half the price.  We had lunch at the Jules Verne restaurant on the Eiffel Tower.  It was super cool, and we got to see the whole city laid out in front of us .

Leanthree

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Re: Best way to vacation in France?
« Reply #8 on: January 20, 2015, 09:24:57 AM »
Go to the grocery store and get some jam and some butter. Go to the bakery and get some bread. Find a bench on the river. Smile as the world goes by.

Capsu78

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Re: Best way to vacation in France?
« Reply #9 on: January 20, 2015, 09:54:00 AM »
A "free" thing to do that I thought was one of the highlights of my 3 days in Paris in Sept was visiting Jim Morrison's grave it is located in one of the most classic creepy Art Deco graveyards I have ever been.  Many famous French poets also buried there.

If you like the Doors, here is a documentary that chronicals his last 24 hours in Paris.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LM41Vk1K32c

Another inexpensive place- sunset up the Funicular at Montmartre- street entertainment on the weekends, watch the sun set, then walk down to take selfies in front of the neon Moulon Rouge façade.
« Last Edit: January 20, 2015, 10:04:01 AM by Capsu78 »

megamomo

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Re: Best way to vacation in France?
« Reply #10 on: January 20, 2015, 10:23:34 AM »
Does anyone have any advice for saving $ on the flight or housing?

I would recommend immediately signing up for the Hyatt credit card that has 2 free nights at any Hyatt worldwide, then put the $1200 airfare on that card to meet the $1K bonus spend amount (if you haven't purchased the tickets already).  Then use those 2 free nights at the Park Hyatt Paris-Vendome.  I have seen it ranked as #2 on the top Hyatt locations before.  Price is like $750 per night, so obviously those should be the only two nights you should stay there.

And I wouldn't tell the wife this detail.  Should be well worth the surprise.

Tetsuya Hondo

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Re: Best way to vacation in France?
« Reply #11 on: January 20, 2015, 10:50:01 AM »
Regarding a place to stay, you might want to consider smaller hotels as well. There are tons of reasonably priced mom and pop places all over Paris. I've had great luck with TripAdvisor in finding small, independent gems in other parts of France and Europe. It's probably worth utilizing your French skills and seeking out the French equivalent of TripAdvisor. I bet you could find some great ones that English only speakers wouldn't know about.

Also, others mention rentals for a week. I've long since forgotten the exact sites (one might have been Doorways?), but there are a number of them that provide lists of apartments for rent in Paris. I plan to go this route on my next trip there.

LadyStache

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Re: Best way to vacation in France?
« Reply #12 on: January 20, 2015, 11:22:12 AM »
seriously check out this deal i posted yesterday

http://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/reader-recommendations/fly-roundtrip-to-europe-this-spring-for-400-bucks-a-person/

you would have to fly into Milan but can easily take a train over to paris. aprox. savings on travel to and from paris is 33% less than what you are projecting now assuming train is 100 RT PP.  You may even be able to find air around that price.  you would have to book soon but maybe you could even make it a rail trip and stop multiple places on a loop around france and back to milan

If you're willing to do a layover in Milan, you can look into flights on RyanAir from Milan to Paris

boarder42

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Re: Best way to vacation in France?
« Reply #13 on: January 20, 2015, 11:35:11 AM »
seriously has to be the cheapest way to get from here to paris.  i mean 400 a ticket ... just unheard of.

but you do have to get to JFK and you do have to get from milan to paris.

i have the SW Companion pass so i dont really think twice about domestic travel costs.

Annamal

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Re: Best way to vacation in France?
« Reply #14 on: January 20, 2015, 11:52:22 AM »
The metro is lovely (and has random muscians) but Paris is really rewarding if you walk around it.

There are so many tiny little moments (like seeing a cab driver playing his flute or small impeccably dressed children towing gigantic schoolbags).

The Louvre had a late night Friday opening during which it was almost deserted (this was in late Autumn though, I imagine it will be more well attended in Spring).

The catacombs were eerie and worth a look.

Josiecat

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Re: Best way to vacation in France?
« Reply #15 on: January 20, 2015, 12:22:23 PM »
I would stay away from airbnb.  Paris is in the middle of cracking down on illegal rentings.  Attaching an article.

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-08-07/paris-airbnb-cops-want-to-know-if-you-re-rental-is-legal.html


zoltani

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Re: Best way to vacation in France?
« Reply #16 on: January 20, 2015, 01:01:35 PM »
I lived and traveled around France for over a year.

My advice for the best way to vacation in France is to GET THE HELL OUT OF PARIS. Paris is a great city and definitely worth some days visit, but the real France is outside of Paris. Going to France and only staying in Paris would be like a European only visiting New York, not representative of the country really.

IMO the BEST way to vacation in France is by taking a bike tour. France is a wonderful place to do a bike tour. Quiet roads, courteous drivers, cute small towns, excellent food, and so much more. Planning is easy, just choose small "D" roads and go. If you are off the beaten path you should not have trouble finding accommodations even in high season.

Here are some of my must see places in France:

- gorge du Verdon (stunning, largest canyon in europe)
- Moustiers-Sainte-Marie
- Annecy (cute town, eat heavy and cheesy food from the alps....tartiflette!)
- Parc National des Cevennes 
- Gorge du Tarn (wow!!!!!!!)
- Lyon (food capital of France)
- Puy du Dome (extinct volcanoes)
- Bretagne (best REAL crepes)
- Alps (les Ecrins are nice and accessible by bus)
- Marseille (gets a bad rap, but i like it and there is some great north african food!)

That should keep you busy for awhile, but i have more suggestions should you want them ;)

I wish I could suggest a good bakery in Paris, but I never found one! Yeah I know.... But honestly bakeries there cannot even touch bakeries in Lyon or Annecy! I was quite spoiled in Lyon for bakeries.

« Last Edit: January 20, 2015, 01:07:21 PM by zoltani »

Nothlit

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Re: Best way to vacation in France?
« Reply #17 on: January 20, 2015, 01:26:53 PM »
Depending on how willing you are to "rough it" (relatively speaking) you could potentially save a lot of money by staying in a hostel. I'm taking a (solo) trip to Europe later this spring (UK/Belgium/Netherlands) and am planning on spending an average of about $40 per night for lodging by staying in hostels -- and that's after splurging on private rooms at a couple of them. Most hostels offer free or inexpensive breakfast, and many have a self-service kitchen that guests are free to use for any meal -- you just have to provide your own groceries/ingredients. (Sounds pretty Mustachian to me!) If this sounds appealing, take a look at the reviews on sites like hostelworld.com to see if you can find any that fit your liking. If you don't want to sleep in a dorm room with other people, as I mentioned above, many hostels also offer private rooms that are still somewhat cheaper than a hotel or B&B.

thedayisbrave

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Re: Best way to vacation in France?
« Reply #18 on: January 20, 2015, 07:00:59 PM »

If you're willing to do a layover in Milan, you can look into flights on RyanAir from Milan to Paris
Just be careful with this, because RyanAir charges some pretty hefty baggage fees.  Anything more than a backpack or a small carry on and your bag fee could be double the price of the ticket.  RyanAir is great and super cheap but I only ever used it for weekend quick trips around Europe for that reason.

Gerard

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Re: Best way to vacation in France?
« Reply #19 on: January 21, 2015, 07:44:41 AM »
That Milan deal is crazy appealing, but I would avoid Ryanair (or any airline not affiliated with my transatlantic carrier) for such a short, time-dependent vacation: "Uh, we're cancelling flights for the next two days... here's your twenty euros back."

I second the suggestions about looking at actual apartment sublet places in addition to (or instead of) Airbnb, and buying bread and butter and just sitting somewhere and eating them. Also, if it's your first time, if you're anything like me, you'll derive huge pleasure from just walking around and thinking "HOLY SHIT I"M IN PARIS!" More so than in, say, Tampa.

Also, velib!

dizzean

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Re: Best way to vacation in France?
« Reply #20 on: January 21, 2015, 08:15:15 AM »
Thank you all so much for the advice!

I'm not going to take up that Milan deal, mostly because getting to JFK from MSP and then from Milan to Paris would likely put me pretty close to the same price of a direct flight.

I will however be looking into the alternatives to AirBnB that you guys listed (and that crazy CC deal!).  I'm going to avoid a hostel for a couple of reasons with my primary one being, I'm really looking forward to the romance in Paris and I'd like our living situation to be as conducive to that as possible.

I think I'm most excited about Velib!  I anticipated something like that might exist but I didn't know!  My wife and I are avid bikers so that'll be awesome.

So far I think the plan is (in no order):
  • Eiffel Tower
  • The Louvre
  • L'Arc
  • Sacre Couer
  • Buy Museum pass and explore and go to a few museums
  • Eat many meals from food purchased at corner stores
  • Take Train to smaller village, explore, and flex French muscle
  • Velib!!

boarder42

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Re: Best way to vacation in France?
« Reply #21 on: January 21, 2015, 08:19:34 AM »
you're missing Versailles

rubybeth

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Re: Best way to vacation in France?
« Reply #22 on: January 21, 2015, 08:24:14 AM »
I was in Paris last July for about a week, and here's my advice:

1. Get a guidebook and plan out what you most want to see. I'm afraid my travel group did not do this very well, and while we saw most of what we wanted to, we didn't get to see everything because we didn't plan this out very well. And find out what your travel partner will enjoy and try to be fair about how you spend your time. My husband and I could have spent 5-6 hours in each museum, whereas my mother and sister were ready to leave after 1-2 hours. If you can plan out your visits to museums or other sights in advance (like which galleries are 'must sees' for you), you can save a lot of time. If you plan to go to a lot of museums/sights, the Museum Pass might save you some Euros and lets you skip lines at some of the busier locations: http://en.parismuseumpass.com/

2. Rent an apartment so you can cook, it seriously saved us so much money--I'd suggest going out for lunch when you're out and about walking around and sightseeing and to give your legs a rest, but have breakfast and dinner at your home base--find out where the nearest grocery is to your apartment, and plan simple meals like omelettes and pasta

3. Take time to just enjoy being in Paris. Bring a book or a sketch pad or whatever you enjoy doing during your leisure time, and just sit in a garden or park and watch the people go by. Some of my favorite memories of the trip are sitting the shadow of the Eiffel Tower, playing a card game with my sister and husband, or sitting on bench near the Sainte-Chapelle, eating rice pudding and drinking Citron Presse (so good, American lemonade is nothing like it) from the Monoprix around the corner from our apartment, just talking. Walk along the Seine, listen to street musicians, buy a baguette or package of macarons and munch as you walk, etc.

4. Brush up on a few French phrases like excuse me/sorry, "where is the...?" and so forth. I thought I had a pretty good command of French, but not surprisingly, actual French people speak the language much more quickly and I was soon overwhelmed. Learn how to order gelato/coffee/etc. in French, if possible.

Recommendations:

1) Amorino gelato (there are a few shops throughout Paris) - try the flavor that looks like lemon (can't recall the name right now), it's even better than lemon and especially good mixed with raspberry (framboise)

2) the Musee d'Histoire de la Medecine was really weird but my sister wanted to go and it was kind of awesome; it's just a room at a university with lots of weird old medical implements and stories of discovery of illnesses and treatments that are wonderfully horrifying - http://www.univ-paris5.fr/CULTURE/Musee-d-Histoire-de-la-Medecine - limited hours, and spring for the brochure in English if your medical French is rusty ;)

3) the Musee d'Orsay was my favorite art museum of the trip, quickly followed up by the Musee de l'Orangerie which houses Monet's water lilies - we did not make it to the Louvre, but I don't feel that I missed out since the Orsay and Orangerie were so excellent

4) if you like stained glass, Sainte-Chapelle can't be beat

5) I know people say going to the top of the Eiffel Tower isn't worth it, but we went late in the evening, and it was lit up and beautiful, and even though it was crowded, and we missed the Metro cut off so had to taxi it back to our apartment (Metro stops at 1:00am on the dot!), I think it was worth it--we actually saw a guy propose to his girlfriend at the top!

6) Why are people saying to buy bread and butter in Paris? Buy bread and CHEESE! :D

wtjbatman

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Re: Best way to vacation in France?
« Reply #23 on: January 21, 2015, 08:36:45 AM »
Just watch out for those no-go zones.

dizzean

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Re: Best way to vacation in France?
« Reply #24 on: January 21, 2015, 08:43:41 AM »
I was in Paris last July for about a week, and here's my advice:

1. Get a guidebook and plan out what you most want to see. I'm afraid my travel group did not do this very well, and while we saw most of what we wanted to, we didn't get to see everything because we didn't plan this out very well. And find out what your travel partner will enjoy and try to be fair about how you spend your time. My husband and I could have spent 5-6 hours in each museum, whereas my mother and sister were ready to leave after 1-2 hours. If you can plan out your visits to museums or other sights in advance (like which galleries are 'must sees' for you), you can save a lot of time. If you plan to go to a lot of museums/sights, the Museum Pass might save you some Euros and lets you skip lines at some of the busier locations: http://en.parismuseumpass.com/

2. Rent an apartment so you can cook, it seriously saved us so much money--I'd suggest going out for lunch when you're out and about walking around and sightseeing and to give your legs a rest, but have breakfast and dinner at your home base--find out where the nearest grocery is to your apartment, and plan simple meals like omelettes and pasta

3. Take time to just enjoy being in Paris. Bring a book or a sketch pad or whatever you enjoy doing during your leisure time, and just sit in a garden or park and watch the people go by. Some of my favorite memories of the trip are sitting the shadow of the Eiffel Tower, playing a card game with my sister and husband, or sitting on bench near the Sainte-Chapelle, eating rice pudding and drinking Citron Presse (so good, American lemonade is nothing like it) from the Monoprix around the corner from our apartment, just talking. Walk along the Seine, listen to street musicians, buy a baguette or package of macarons and munch as you walk, etc.

4. Brush up on a few French phrases like excuse me/sorry, "where is the...?" and so forth. I thought I had a pretty good command of French, but not surprisingly, actual French people speak the language much more quickly and I was soon overwhelmed. Learn how to order gelato/coffee/etc. in French, if possible.


Thank you for the recommendations.

I'm actually basically fluent in French so I'm not super concerned with brushing up on some phrases..my only concern there is that the only real practice I've had in the past 5 years has been when I do business in Quebec, so my formal Parisian French education has kind of been bastardized into some English, Parisian and Quebecois hybrid.


dizzean

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Re: Best way to vacation in France?
« Reply #25 on: January 21, 2015, 08:46:46 AM »
Just watch out for those no-go zones.

I have exactly zero concern or fear about the recent tragedies in Paris.

Other than the general pick-pocket/scammer you'll find in any major city, I find that the world as a whole is a pretty safe and happy place and I made the choice a long time ago that when I'm travelling to be open to new and exciting experiences vs. trying to compare everything to "back home" and being in fear.

rubybeth

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Re: Best way to vacation in France?
« Reply #26 on: January 21, 2015, 08:47:42 AM »
I'm actually basically fluent in French so I'm not super concerned with brushing up on some phrases..my only concern there is that the only real practice I've had in the past 5 years has been when I do business in Quebec, so my formal Parisian French education has kind of been bastardized into some English, Parisian and Quebecois hybrid.

Oh, good. :) People were very nice when we asked if they spoke English, I just found it nicer to order in French, when possible. My sister had a much easier time since she took French at the university level, whereas I just did it in high school, but she actually refused to order for me a couple of times, so I had to make do. :)

Moonwaves

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Re: Best way to vacation in France?
« Reply #27 on: January 21, 2015, 08:50:22 AM »
+1 for D'Orsay - it's great. When I used to visit my sister in Paris I would generally just spend the days wandering around, walking up and down the Seine and somehow usually ending up at Notre Dame. Lots of time spend just sitting somewhere quiet on the river and reading, watching the world go by.

Haven't been there for years - is it still the case that you pay more for drinks depending on whether you sit outside (most expensive), sit inside (less expensive) or stand at the bar (least expensive)? I always found that quite amusing. There are some good food bloggers based in Paris who also have tips on their websites for the best places to buy various different foodstuffs. Can't remember any at the moment but I'm sure I've read some in the past so that could be worth a google.

zoltani

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Re: Best way to vacation in France?
« Reply #28 on: January 21, 2015, 10:17:21 AM »


I think I'm most excited about Velib!  I anticipated something like that might exist but I didn't know!  My wife and I are avid bikers so that'll be awesome.


A note about Velib: The last time I used it the machines only accepted credit cards with a smart chip in them. My american bankcard would not work. I did just receive a new credit card from bank of america with a smart chip though, so look into it if you do not have one.

This brings up another point. All the ticket machines in train stations and the metro only take cards with smart chips in them as well. If you do not have one you are stuck waiting in line to purchase tickets at the ticket window. Many grocery store clerks were also very confused about my card without the smart chip.


zoltani

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Re: Best way to vacation in France?
« Reply #29 on: January 21, 2015, 10:29:58 AM »

4. Brush up on a few French phrases like excuse me/sorry, "where is the...?" and so forth. I thought I had a pretty good command of French, but not surprisingly, actual French people speak the language much more quickly and I was soon overwhelmed. Learn how to order gelato/coffee/etc. in French, if possible.


When you enter a shop/bakery/whatever say hello!
When you leave a shop/bakery/whatever say goodbye!

I think that a lot of the reputation of the french being rude is because it is a response to perceived rudeness. If you do not greet people when entering a business that is considered rude in France.

rubybeth

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Re: Best way to vacation in France?
« Reply #30 on: January 21, 2015, 10:35:54 AM »
zoltani makes some great points: absolutely get a credit card with PIN/chip technology if you don't yet have one. If you don't have one, I suggest the BarclayCard Arrival Plus that gets you travel rewards: http://www.barclaycardarrival.com/arrival-plus/?campaignId=2043&cellNumber=9&referrerid=BCSBA1014HPG

And definitely say hello and goodbye in shops, restaurants, etc.

I forgot to suggest a neighborhood: we really enjoyed staying in the Marais. :) There are metro stops everywhere, so don't let that be a determining factor in where you stay. Wherever you stay, you'll likely be close to a metro stop.

zoltani

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Re: Best way to vacation in France?
« Reply #31 on: January 21, 2015, 10:58:37 AM »
If you are truly into bikes then a visit to the alex singer shop should be on your list:
http://www.cycles-alex-singer.fr/

Walk the seine, get a bottle of wine and sit on the banks and drink it. But also get the hell away from the seine and the tourist center and check out some neighborhoods.

Check out Rue du Faubourg Saint Denis near the gare du nord railway station. Some find it surprising, but it is difficult to find good cheap food in Paris. You can find it in this great ethnic neighborhood where you can try lots of food from north africa, middle east, and india. You might be a little shocked at the very open prostitution going on in the street though.

Get off the metro at oberkampf and walk around for the french Bobo experience. Some nice shops and bars in the area. Walk/bike north along the canal.

This may come off as harsh or elitist or whatever, but so far your list is boring, bland, cookie cutter Paris vacation. Monuments are boring, try to live as a local and experience the city with the French instead of with the tourists. Throw away the map, jump on a velib and get lost! 

dizzean

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Re: Best way to vacation in France?
« Reply #32 on: January 21, 2015, 12:21:20 PM »
This may come off as harsh or elitist or whatever, but so far your list is boring, bland, cookie cutter Paris vacation. Monuments are boring, try to live as a local and experience the city with the French instead of with the tourists. Throw away the map, jump on a velib and get lost!

I plan on doing exactly what your recommending here, but ALSO see some monuments. 

My wife isn't much for drinking and neither of us like wine, but we will certainly just be walking and biking through Paris to randomly discover things..no worries there!  We recently did something similar to this in Chicago and it was super fun!  We got an apartment on AirBnB, parked our car, took the subway/bus into the city, had one
thing we knew we wanted to do that day, and then the rest of the time that day we would just explore or do stuff based on whatever fancied us in the moment.

There are just simply some really cool looking things in Paris that I learned about and have been dreaming about since my first French class 12 years ago. If it's possible to be one without ever going - I'd consider myself a Francophile. It's very likely I would go BACK to France again before I go anywhere else in Europe.

dizzean

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Re: Best way to vacation in France?
« Reply #33 on: January 21, 2015, 12:23:42 PM »
zoltani makes some great points: absolutely get a credit card with PIN/chip technology if you don't yet have one. If you don't have one, I suggest the BarclayCard Arrival Plus that gets you travel rewards: http://www.barclaycardarrival.com/arrival-plus/?campaignId=2043&cellNumber=9&referrerid=BCSBA1014HPG

And definitely say hello and goodbye in shops, restaurants, etc.

I forgot to suggest a neighborhood: we really enjoyed staying in the Marais. :) There are metro stops everywhere, so don't let that be a determining factor in where you stay. Wherever you stay, you'll likely be close to a metro stop.

I have the Chase Sapphire Preferred card which has a chip in it and gives me some rewards (don't remember which) on travel.

GizmoTX

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Re: Best way to vacation in France?
« Reply #34 on: January 21, 2015, 01:02:15 PM »
Make sure that whatever credit card(s) you take don't charge the foreign transaction fee, in addition to having the chip.

Using a debit card in an ATM is the best way to get cash, & the Schwab debit card refunds all ATM fees anywhere in the world.

zoltani

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Re: Best way to vacation in France?
« Reply #35 on: January 21, 2015, 01:26:45 PM »
Sounds like a plan Dizzean! Though it is sad to visit france and not drink wine!

RE: Money
Another interesting thing to note is that you can withdraw money from BNP Parisbas with a Bank of America debit card without incurring a fee. BoA has an agreement with BNP. Maybe your bank has a similar agreement, ask.

TimmyTightWad

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Re: Best way to vacation in France?
« Reply #36 on: January 21, 2015, 03:41:42 PM »
I stayed in France for 2 weeks in September. I used Airbnb for a week in Paris (montemarte area) and Airbnb for a week in Nice.  Then I came back to Paris and stayed a couple of days in MamaShelter. I think total lounging for the 2 weeks was under $1500 which is amazing imo.

Josiecat

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Re: Best way to vacation in France?
« Reply #37 on: January 21, 2015, 06:18:33 PM »
We picked one major event to do a day.  The rest of the time we just wandered around beautiful Paris.

Of course get cheese, but the French butter is amazing!  So much better than our butter in the US. 

We went into several grocery stores and fruit/veggie stalls.  We picked up things during the day and then made dinner in our apartment at night.  By the way, some fruit/vegetable stores do not want you to touch the produce.  You tell them what you want that they will select the best produce for you.

There is a store called Picard that does amazing frozen foods.  They are everywhere.  You can stock up on a few items for the times you are too tired to cook.

Just take your time and enjoy Paris slowly.  Such an amazing place.

Little Nell

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Re: Best way to vacation in France?
« Reply #38 on: January 21, 2015, 08:38:50 PM »
I lived and traveled around France for over a year.

My advice for the best way to vacation in France is to GET THE HELL OUT OF PARIS. Paris is a great city and definitely worth some days visit, but the real France is outside of Paris. Going to France and only staying in Paris would be like a European only visiting New York, not representative of the country really.

IMO the BEST way to vacation in France is by taking a bike tour. France is a wonderful place to do a bike tour. Quiet roads, courteous drivers, cute small towns, excellent food, and so much more. Planning is easy, just choose small "D" roads and go. If you are off the beaten path you should not have trouble finding accommodations even in high season.

Here are some of my must see places in France:

- gorge du Verdon (stunning, largest canyon in europe)
- Moustiers-Sainte-Marie
- Annecy (cute town, eat heavy and cheesy food from the alps....tartiflette!)
- Parc National des Cevennes 
- Gorge du Tarn (wow!!!!!!!)
- Lyon (food capital of France)
- Puy du Dome (extinct volcanoes)
- Bretagne (best REAL crepes)
- Alps (les Ecrins are nice and accessible by bus)
- Marseille (gets a bad rap, but i like it and there is some great north african food!)

That should keep you busy for awhile, but i have more suggestions should you want them ;)

I wish I could suggest a good bakery in Paris, but I never found one! Yeah I know.... But honestly bakeries there cannot even touch bakeries in Lyon or Annecy! I was quite spoiled in Lyon for bakeries.
I agree entirely. Can you swap houses? That's what we did, and cars and cats too.

Rosbif

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Re: Best way to vacation in France?
« Reply #39 on: January 22, 2015, 02:01:45 AM »
Well I live here, so obviously I agree it's a great idea to visit!

If you like cycling, there's a cool backstreets tour that you can do. Quiet streets, small groups, nice guides: http://www.bikeabouttours.com/ (full disclosure: my buddies own and operate this, and are awesome) They also do Versailles (including a picnic in the park and tickets into the chateau) and Epernay (on electric bikes, with tastings).

As for the other stuff, you've been getting good advice so far! Wherever you stay, there'll be a market, so you can get fresh food for not much and cook at home. Try lafourchette.com for lunchtime reservations at posh restaurants with some good discounts (I got 40% off lunch in a 5-star hotel this week). If the weather's good, sitting out in the park with some cheese and bread is a great way to spend the day!

For the velib, I think there's a 100€ hold on the card per bicycle. Alex Singer is great, but the bikes are in the 6k€ range...

Don't forget, service is included in the bill.

dizzean

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Re: Best way to vacation in France?
« Reply #40 on: January 22, 2015, 10:02:46 AM »
seriously check out this deal i posted yesterday

http://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/reader-recommendations/fly-roundtrip-to-europe-this-spring-for-400-bucks-a-person/

you would have to fly into Milan but can easily take a train over to paris. aprox. savings on travel to and from paris is 33% less than what you are projecting now assuming train is 100 RT PP.  You may even be able to find air around that price.  you would have to book soon but maybe you could even make it a rail trip and stop multiple places on a loop around france and back to milan

I'm thinking I might do this, however I can't find a cost effective way to get to JFK from MSP?  Any ideas?

rubybeth

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Re: Best way to vacation in France?
« Reply #41 on: January 22, 2015, 10:37:01 AM »
seriously check out this deal i posted yesterday

http://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/reader-recommendations/fly-roundtrip-to-europe-this-spring-for-400-bucks-a-person/

you would have to fly into Milan but can easily take a train over to paris. aprox. savings on travel to and from paris is 33% less than what you are projecting now assuming train is 100 RT PP.  You may even be able to find air around that price.  you would have to book soon but maybe you could even make it a rail trip and stop multiple places on a loop around france and back to milan

I'm thinking I might do this, however I can't find a cost effective way to get to JFK from MSP?  Any ideas?

I don't have ideas, but I do have a few things to add:

1) if you buy airfare separate from your Europe ticket, if you get delayed or your flight to or from JFK gets cancelled, the airlines will not be obligated to get you on another flight to meet your connect. The risk may be worth it to you, though.

2) Milan and Paris are, by my simple Google estimates, a 12-16 hour train ride apart. That's kind of a lot of time on a train after spending a lot of time in airports and on planes, unless you also want to spend time in Milan, thus cutting your Paris trip short. And the cost of the train fare. Again, this may be worth it to you.

3) If flights to Paris are expensive, flights to other relatively nearby airports (like within a 5 hour train ride from Belgium, Germany, the UK, etc.) may be less expensive. If you aren't already using these, here are some sites to try for this search:

http://matrix.itasoftware.com/
http://www.farecompare.com/maps/
http://www.kayak.com/

4) Are your dates set in stone? Being flexible about dates has been the most helpful for my airfare searches, every time. Might not be possible if this is a school spring break or something, but just an idea. Edited to add: I ruthlessly scoured Kayak every day for weeks and set up price alerts in order to get tickets to Amsterdam in May (tulip season). I was flexible about dates to some extent, and scored tickets for $838/ticket after getting an overnight alert from Kayak, and have never seen anything cheaper than that pop up.
« Last Edit: January 22, 2015, 10:48:45 AM by rubybeth »

Tetsuya Hondo

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Re: Best way to vacation in France?
« Reply #42 on: January 22, 2015, 10:38:17 AM »
Make sure that whatever credit card(s) you take don't charge the foreign transaction fee, in addition to having the chip.

Using a debit card in an ATM is the best way to get cash, & the Schwab debit card refunds all ATM fees anywhere in the world.

Yes, if you don't have one. Get a card that doesn't charge fees. I have a Capital One card just for foreign travel for this reason.

As for the chip, it's a plus to have, but it's not necessary 97% of the time. Nearly all shops will simply require you to sign a receipt, the way it works most places in the US, if you don't have a chip. I've never had a card with a chip and have gotten around fine.

GizmoTX

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Re: Best way to vacation in France?
« Reply #43 on: January 22, 2015, 07:19:13 PM »
Some hotels have refused credit cards without a chip. That's a problem you don't want to have to deal with, especially with more cards now including them.

With only 1 week or so to spend in a particular place, I would not fly to another country unless it was included in an airline itinerary, & even then every stop cuts into experience time at the destination & adds to the risk of missing the next leg.

I also advise carry-on only, especially for a one week trip. This saves time not having to check & retrieve baggage & makes shlepping your stuff much easier. Do check weight & dimension requirements of the flights you are considering. While U.S. based airlines allow a carry-on plus a "personal item" that can easily be an underseat tote bag, European airlines often have much more restrictive rules. Some allow just one carry-on -- that is your personal item. Get around this by wearing a travel vest or jacket, which I do anyway to avoid carrying a purse.

rubybeth

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Re: Best way to vacation in France?
« Reply #44 on: January 23, 2015, 09:14:02 AM »
With only 1 week or so to spend in a particular place, I would not fly to another country unless it was included in an airline itinerary, & even then every stop cuts into experience time at the destination & adds to the risk of missing the next leg.

I agree with this. I find the 'travel' part of traveling to be pretty exhausting since I don't sleep well while in transit, but some people are fine with sleeping on the plane or train and wake up refreshed.

One thing that bothered me, when we got back from our trip, was the people who would ask, "Oh, you went to Europe, did you make it to _____?" when _____ was something like 20 hour train trip away from where we stayed. Yes, countries are relatively close to each other compared to other parts of the world, but it takes time and money to actually get there. Of course, we would have loved to spend more time in Europe and get to every city on our wish lists, but we knew we preferred a slower pace and more time in each city to just relax and enjoy being there.

Capsu78

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Re: Best way to vacation in France?
« Reply #45 on: January 23, 2015, 09:25:08 AM »
I have done a 180 degree turn on Hop on Hop Off busses over the years- I used to think they were, well, for the tourists.  However when I was in Paris in September for 4 days, I bought a 2 day pass and rode all 4 lines, just stopping off at 2 or 3 places each day.  The benefit is I feel I know the areas of Paris much much better than my initial DIY trip a few years back.  I know where I will spend more time next time too.
The other strategy to consider is the jetlag component- If I have flown overnight and arrived in the morning, if I buy a HoHo pass near my accommodations I can usually handle a bus ride without a problem, spending some jetlag hours getting oriented and figuring out where you really want to go by Metro throughout the rest of my stay.