Author Topic: Decided to vacation in Paris less than 24 hours ago - now what?  (Read 7997 times)

chesebert

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I am getting sent to Paris for business meetings and decided to bring the family. Bought the tickets  less than 24 hours ago and will be off to Paris today and stay there for a week.

All food/entertainment/transportation while in Paris will be out of pocket. How to not spend a lot of money on each of those?

Also, want to travel to Versailles and Giverny this weekend (a day trip). How do we get there and does it make sense to go with a tour group (I see tour options from Viator at $114 or $200 per person, depending on the package).

Thanks in advance!

secondcor521

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Re: Decided to vacation in Paris less than 24 hours ago - now what?
« Reply #1 on: April 07, 2015, 12:55:58 AM »
Sorry, can't help much, but here's a few random thoughts:

- Take the subway or walk - the subway is manageable like any other big international city, and IIRC it is quite cheap.  Walking is nice for short distance stuff and you get to immerse yourself in the city.

- Cheap entertainment would at least include the Louvre and the other famous museums, Notre Dame, the Seine, L'Arc de Triomphe and the Eiffel Tower.  I went to the top of the Eiffel Tower last time I was there, but if you've been to the top of a tall building anywhere (Empire State Building or whatever) it's really the same, so you could skip it.  I think the museums are free one day per week - Thursday maybe?

- Lots of nice little sandwich/bread/sweet shops all over the place - I loved eating from them and they were quite reasonable.  Just wander around and you'll find one in about 10 minutes.

I think there are buses out to Versailles that are like $20/pp.  I never went but I wish I had.  If I went back I'd definitely go there and probably take a tour so I could hear all the historical information.  If you really want to be cheap maybe they have those self-guided tours with headphones.  In fact, I'd think that could be better because then you can pause at places that you find more interesting.  With a tour group I often feel like saying "moo" :-)

Good luck, let us know how it turns out!

Taran Wanderer

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Re: Decided to vacation in Paris less than 24 hours ago - now what?
« Reply #2 on: April 07, 2015, 02:14:54 AM »
You can take the RER (long distance subway) to Versailles. No need for an expensive tour.  You can probably take the train or bus to Giverny. It's a straightforward drive if you want to rent a car, but check the schedule. Money's gardens were closed in late March when I was there years ago.

Walk up to the 2nd level of the Eiffel Tower.  Costs less and avoid the lines.  You can still pay to go to the top from there, but you'll probably find you don't need to.

Food:  Eat cheap for breakfast and lunch by visiting a grocery or a cheap street booth like in ths Latin Quarter.  Dinners may cost more but you'll eat well. Sander about the narrow back streets in the Latin Quarter or near the Jardin du Luxembourg. Yum yum yum.  Go to dinner early (like 6:30pm) and you'll be the only ones in the restaurant.  This will be easier for the waiter because you'll be all settled in before the rush starts.  This is especially good if you don't speak a lot of French.

As noted above, take the subway or walk.

Lots and lots to see. The Catacombs are really cool, though not a place for young kids.

Speak as much French as you can.  Don't be afraid to look foolish. I have found that the French can be reluctant to speak English, but the fact is that most speak better English than I speak French. If I show them the respect of speaking their language, they have often made life easier on both of us by speaking some English.

Paris is beautiful and wonderful. Enjoy your trip!

okits

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Re: Decided to vacation in Paris less than 24 hours ago - now what?
« Reply #3 on: April 07, 2015, 02:18:53 AM »
Borrow a travel guide from the library or download one. You can also download audio tours or sightseeing podcasts.

+1 on grocery stores. Cheese, meat, bread, and fruit are great, inexpensive meals.

Enjoy, Paris is fantastic!

fa

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Re: Decided to vacation in Paris less than 24 hours ago - now what?
« Reply #4 on: April 07, 2015, 02:28:58 AM »
You can take the regular train from Gare St Lazarre to Vernon and then the bus from the station to Giverny.  There are buses waiting at the station for that purpose.   No need for a tour bus or guide.

Irishtache

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Re: Decided to vacation in Paris less than 24 hours ago - now what?
« Reply #5 on: April 07, 2015, 02:44:32 AM »
Hi. You can take the train, RER C, from some points in the city. http://parisbytrain.com/paris-rer/
 We used 'Charles de  Gaulle Etoile', it's very easy walk down hill away from Arc de Triompe, opposite Champs Elysee. It's only a few Euro each.

Museums free on 1st Sunday each month http://www.timeout.com/paris/feature/art/free-museums-on-the-1st-sunday-of-the-month. Sorry , just noticed your dates so you have missed 1st Sunday!!

Metro is very good. http://parisbytrain.com/paris-metro/

Eating is ok as long as you avoid Champs Elysee and most outdoor cafes, as a rule of thumb in the city centre. Side streets restaurants often good value. Lunch menu is always better value if you can eat during the day, 'Menu du Jour' or 'Plat du Jour'. Restaurants display a menu with prices, and usually state whether service is included, 'service compris' or not 'non compris'.

More info here http://en.parisinfo.com/.

The river boats are interesting. On many, the pass lasts a day so you can use it several times, especially if the feet get sore.
« Last Edit: April 07, 2015, 02:46:26 AM by Irishtache »

lhamo

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Re: Decided to vacation in Paris less than 24 hours ago - now what?
« Reply #6 on: April 07, 2015, 03:07:25 AM »
Don't miss Sacre Cour -- you can spend many pleasant hours wandering up, around, and back down. 

If you are there on Sunday, mass at Notre Dame is also amazing.  I'm not Catholic, or even very religious, but I found it to be very moving. 

Wander, wander, wander.  The best thing about Paris is just being there, in my opinion.  I'm not a big museum person -- have spent most of my trips to Paris just walking around different neighborhoods.




fiscalphile

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Re: Decided to vacation in Paris less than 24 hours ago - now what?
« Reply #7 on: April 07, 2015, 05:20:37 AM »
Do not pay to tour Versailles. The subway from Paris connects there (it's like 2 euro per person, each way). When you get there, there are lots of brochures and signs to explain what you are looking at. The most fun is wandering through the huge gardens, and in my opinion that's better for free exploration (especially for kids), and a tour group would just weigh you down.

My best tip to save $ is limit how much you are eating at restaurants.  There are gourmet grocery stores, bakeries, fancy cheese shops, etc. Pack picnics instead of eating in grocery stores, and you will save oodles.

Villanelle

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Re: Decided to vacation in Paris less than 24 hours ago - now what?
« Reply #8 on: April 07, 2015, 05:45:14 AM »
Check the Rick Steves app (free).  Within the app, you download walking tours of the city, where he narrates and guides you. (Also, free).  I'm sure he has at least one for Paris, if not more, and I wouldn't be surprised if he has one fro versailles as well.  If he doesn't have an audio guide, check out his book from the library if you have time (or see if your library has it in ebook format). 


Definitely do picnics, especially if weather is at all nice.  If your hotel has free breakfast, load up on that and for lunch you can probably get by with just a loaf of bread and some cheeses and meats. 

madgeylou

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Re: Decided to vacation in Paris less than 24 hours ago - now what?
« Reply #9 on: April 07, 2015, 06:26:44 AM »
Don't miss Sacre Cour -- you can spend many pleasant hours wandering up, around, and back down. 

Yes! And while you're up there, wander back through Montmartre. It's almost criminally cute!

Capsu78

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Re: Decided to vacation in Paris less than 24 hours ago - now what?
« Reply #10 on: April 07, 2015, 08:07:35 AM »
I caught this guy performing at Sacre Cour last September at sunset.  The place fills up with people watching him and the sun setting on Paris in the background.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?annotation_id=annotation_2297999485&feature=iv&src_vid=vqIO_xuzFMU&v=7cTABBlt4FA

One of the coolest things I saw on my Paris trip

rujancified

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Re: Decided to vacation in Paris less than 24 hours ago - now what?
« Reply #11 on: April 07, 2015, 09:14:23 AM »
Personally never been to Paris, but this guy has:

http://www.nomadicmatt.com/travel-blogs/ways-save-money-paris/

He also has ebooks on how to spend $50/day or less in major cities. Not sure if he has a Paris one, but work looking into it.

Jouer

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Re: Decided to vacation in Paris less than 24 hours ago - now what?
« Reply #12 on: April 07, 2015, 09:42:33 AM »
Subway is good in Paris. It's also a very walkable city.

If you plan on doing a bunch of pay activities, it may be worth it to get the Paris Pass. http://www.parispass.com/ Do some math to see if it is worth it for you. It served me well - wife laughed at my spreadsheet that calculated that it was worth it to purchase. Bonus: we skipped about 500 people in line at the Louvre and D'Orsey on a raining Saturday when it seemed everyone wanted to visit the museums.

We stayed in an apartment which was cheaper than hotels, though that ship may have sailed for you. Breakfast: great croissants at local bakeries and fresh fruit from the many veggie and fruit markets (we had one below our apartment).

Check out the free tour (non-guided) of the Opera Garnier. It's especially interesting if anyone in your family loves Phantom of the Opera; Garnier is the setting for Phantom. Loge 5, the Phantom's, is still there. 

The Hop-On Hop-Off buses are very good in Paris. Nice way to see the city the first couple of days.

frugaldrummer

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Re: Decided to vacation in Paris less than 24 hours ago - now what?
« Reply #13 on: April 07, 2015, 10:16:52 AM »
The Rodin museum is one of my favorites :) 
Fresh bread and cheese and fruit can go a long way towards cutting down meal costs, also croissants for breakfast :)

jeromedawg

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Re: Decided to vacation in Paris less than 24 hours ago - now what?
« Reply #14 on: April 07, 2015, 12:44:44 PM »
Agree with what everyone is saying:

- use the subway and RER to get around. it's super-easy. RER to versailles is easy too, as someone has mentioned
- WALK (and make sure you all have comfortable shoes to walk in!)
- there are plenty of places to eat for less. you could probably just get by surviving on crepes from the food stands the whole time! at least, i could :) there's a lot of different types of food in Paris if you look. But yes, one key is to get food from the grocery markets OR if your hotel serves breakfast, take a few rolls and whatever else can keep for a day, wrap it in napkins or baggies and bring it with you so you can have a light lunch. Then all you have to worry about is dinner.
- if you don't want to walk and don't want to take the subway/RER, you can also rent a Velib (bicycles for rent) That might be a fun and different way to experience the city or parts of it. But you do want to make sure you bring a "chip and pin" credit card (Schwab, USAA, Andrews FCU are some institutions that offer chip and pin - this will be very good to have in Paris and all of Europe for that matter for ATMs, buying train tickets, etc).
- use the Rick Steves app and audio tours - they are invaluable. They may not be 100% accurate but they give you a good enough overview if you don't want to spend so much on a tour guide, etc. Then again, if you are really into history and like listening to others explain it in person, it may be worth it for you to get with a tour group or personal guide.
- make sure to check the weather. we went a couple years ago in March and it was pretty cold with snow on the ground. depending on where you're from, that may or may not be a big deal though.
« Last Edit: April 07, 2015, 12:50:49 PM by jplee3 »

pagoconcheques

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Re: Decided to vacation in Paris less than 24 hours ago - now what?
« Reply #15 on: April 07, 2015, 01:33:50 PM »
Be aware of the many ways tourists in Paris (and most other big-city tourist destinations to be fair) are targeted for scams and theft. 

Here's a good primer: http://travelertips.org/tips/tourist-scams-paris/1294/

The signature campaign scam was particularly big when I was there last fall, and they get very, very aggressive.  It's  not fun to find yourself surrounded by half a dozen teenagers and end up with their hands in your pockets as a particularly loud and obnoxious one waves a clipboard in your face. 

You can have a great time in Paris and have none of these problems, but be aware that a lot of this stuff goes on. 


midweststache

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Re: Decided to vacation in Paris less than 24 hours ago - now what?
« Reply #16 on: April 07, 2015, 01:52:23 PM »
Love Paris!

Walk, subway, RER. Buses if you can figure them out, but I was never there long enough to get a feel for the bus system. If you use the subway or RER, hold on to your ticket; like the Tube, you need them to not only get into the station but also out of it.

Pick ONE thing to do each day: the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower, etc. Don't try to cram a bunch. Honestly, it would take at least three days to do the entire Louvre anyway. If it's something you want to do, go one day, pick a wing (for the record, the Mona Lisa is overrated from a tourist-standpoint... your kids won't likely be able to get close enough to see it) and then spend the afternoon/evening wandering the Tuileires in front. People watch, read, enjoy a café... be laid back, like Parisians.

I would recommend doing 2-3 expensive touristy things (Eiffel Tower and Louvre? Musee de l'Armee? Musee d'Orsay?) and then make an effort to see/do free things, like walk the banks of the Seine.

My favorite thing last time I was in the city was going on free or self-guided tours of all the beautiful cathedrals: Notre Dame, Madeleine Cathedral, Sacre Couer (although Montmartre is turning into a bit of a tourist trap and you really have to watch out for pickpockets. I had a guy run up to me, try to put a bracelet on my wrist, and demand two euro for it...). We were able to do all three in one day, but that's ALL we did that day; if you like architecture and/or religious and culture history, it's really cool.

If you're going to eat in restaurants, do it at lunch; do street vendors or bread, cheese, fruit, wine, etc. for dinner. Paris has the best food in the world, but they know it and charge and arm and a leg for it at dinner time. You can get great food and sometimes even a reasonable prix-fixe at lunch. No one will bat an eye if you take an hour and a half to enjoy your meal.

catccc

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Re: Decided to vacation in Paris less than 24 hours ago - now what?
« Reply #17 on: April 07, 2015, 01:52:57 PM »
This was a long time ago, but IIRC, there are a lot of decent and inexpensive restaurants near the St. Michel fountain metro stop.  I think if you are facing the fountain there's a street off to the left.  Lots of choices.  (5 years ago?)

We did a lot of eating from the grocery stores.  I think it's fun to see the different things that are available.  I also get a kick out of fast food options overseas.  Quick (pronounced "keek") is the french equivalent of McDonalds.  I don't normally eat that kind of stuff, but overseas I always want to check it out for some reason...

ditto everyone else on doing Versailles on your own.

Josiecat

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Re: Decided to vacation in Paris less than 24 hours ago - now what?
« Reply #18 on: April 07, 2015, 02:03:03 PM »
Always say 'bonjour' and 'au revoir' when you enter / exit a store or restaurant.  You are perceived as rude if you don't greet people upon arrival. 

Don't assume they speak English.  Always try to speak French first, as a gesture of good will.  Most of them speak English and will begin conversing with you after you give French a try.

Have fun!  It's a beautiful city.

jeromedawg

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Re: Decided to vacation in Paris less than 24 hours ago - now what?
« Reply #19 on: April 07, 2015, 02:18:39 PM »
Agree on St. Michel area for cheaper stuff to eat - seems like there are lots of restaurants around there, and even in the side alleys and what not too.

SilveradoBojangles

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Re: Decided to vacation in Paris less than 24 hours ago - now what?
« Reply #20 on: April 07, 2015, 02:34:17 PM »
I spent a week in Paris 2 summers ago. We had a place to stay, but kept our expenses low in the following ways:
- As people are saying, we walked or metroed everywhere.
- We bought a Paris pass and I thought it was great. It allowed us to walk into a museum and not feel guilty for only spending 20 minutes there to see what we wanted to see. We also checked out museums we never would have seen otherwise, but which were very cool. For example, the Sewer museum was really cool, and it taught us a lot about the history of Paris from the point of view of sewers. Your kids might like that one. The Rodin museum was also surprisingly good, with an awesome sculpture garden.
- Bread/pastries and cheese and fruit are cheap (and sooo good). This was our breakfast and lunch most days.
- Get out of the touristy areas. We metroed to the 19th and had an excellent meal at a random cafe we founds that was one of our best. We also found a tiny shop on a side street that sold only pies (sweet and savory) that was very good and very affordable.
- Versaille was absolutely worth it. We took a train there. The gardens are incredible. Actually, we spent a great deal of time wandering around gardens in Paris (The Tuileries, Luxembourg, and Jardin des Plantes Botanical gardens were all free and excellent picnic spots).

Argyle

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Re: Decided to vacation in Paris less than 24 hours ago - now what?
« Reply #21 on: April 07, 2015, 03:46:44 PM »
Buy your subway tickets ten at a time -- "un carnet."

FoundPeace

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Re: Decided to vacation in Paris less than 24 hours ago - now what?
« Reply #22 on: April 07, 2015, 04:33:42 PM »
Be aware of the many ways tourists in Paris (and most other big-city tourist destinations to be fair) are targeted for scams and theft. 

Here's a good primer: http://travelertips.org/tips/tourist-scams-paris/1294/

The signature campaign scam was particularly big when I was there last fall, and they get very, very aggressive.  It's  not fun to find yourself surrounded by half a dozen teenagers and end up with their hands in your pockets as a particularly loud and obnoxious one waves a clipboard in your face. 

You can have a great time in Paris and have none of these problems, but be aware that a lot of this stuff goes on.

While in Paris last October I had my wallet stolen from out of my front pocket on the subway. I didn't even notice until I got back to my room for the night. Be extremely careful with your money! We also saw a lot of petitions, bracelets, and other things where someone was trying to distract us. Don't let these things consume you, just be aware and try to store your money in a hard to access location (like under your shirt). Also, be aware that you will need to pay cash for almost everything, so if you get your wallet stolen, it will be worse than if it happened in the states.

Other than that, I agree that you should go to Sacre Coeur at night. For food go to cafes off the beaten path and make sure to eat plenty of baguette sandwiches! I would also say that the crepes aren't any better than what you get in the states. YMMV

jeromedawg

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Re: Decided to vacation in Paris less than 24 hours ago - now what?
« Reply #23 on: April 07, 2015, 04:50:33 PM »
Be aware of the many ways tourists in Paris (and most other big-city tourist destinations to be fair) are targeted for scams and theft. 

Here's a good primer: http://travelertips.org/tips/tourist-scams-paris/1294/

The signature campaign scam was particularly big when I was there last fall, and they get very, very aggressive.  It's  not fun to find yourself surrounded by half a dozen teenagers and end up with their hands in your pockets as a particularly loud and obnoxious one waves a clipboard in your face. 

You can have a great time in Paris and have none of these problems, but be aware that a lot of this stuff goes on.

While in Paris last October I had my wallet stolen from out of my front pocket on the subway. I didn't even notice until I got back to my room for the night. Be extremely careful with your money! We also saw a lot of petitions, bracelets, and other things where someone was trying to distract us. Don't let these things consume you, just be aware and try to store your money in a hard to access location (like under your shirt). Also, be aware that you will need to pay cash for almost everything, so if you get your wallet stolen, it will be worse than if it happened in the states.

Other than that, I agree that you should go to Sacre Coeur at night. For food go to cafes off the beaten path and make sure to eat plenty of baguette sandwiches! I would also say that the crepes aren't any better than what you get in the states. YMMV

Second this. A long time ago when I was traveling with my parents, some jack@ss quickly frisked my dad's leg (thinking he had a leg wallet or money in his socks) while trying to get onto a train (I think it was the RER from the airport to our hotel). I should have kicked the dude in his face. Anyway, yes be very careful with pickpocketers and anyone who's trying to distract you as you're walking on the street (especially around Sacre Coeur) or in the subway, etc. These idiots will do anything to try to take advantage of you. I like to keep my hand in my pocket too and holding on to my wallet. Usually I'll have the wallet with some money/cards and my hidden waist-wallet with more money in it. I've even heard stories of pickpocketers robbing people of their waist-wallets! I saw a guy try to reach into someone else bag on the metro either in Paris or Rome; I don't recall. I just kept staring down the guy as he was standing right next to me - I think he finally got uncomfortable and decided to ditch and probably go try to rob someone else. Stupid jerk. I also almost got pickpocketed out of my backpack at the Colisseum in Rome. I was kind of stupid though, going into a really crowded area - they worked in a team and distracted/separated my wife from behind me while the douchebag thief tried to unzip my bag. I felt one tug and quickly pulled my bag around to find it 1/4 of the way unzipped. Fortunately it was a failed attempt but I knew exactly who it was and stared the group down and immediately went to the office to report them. I should have taken a picture of them and handed it over.
« Last Edit: April 07, 2015, 04:53:55 PM by jplee3 »

zoltani

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Re: Decided to vacation in Paris less than 24 hours ago - now what?
« Reply #24 on: April 07, 2015, 04:52:44 PM »
Take a stroll down Rue St Denis just south of Gare Du Nord.

It's a unique experience for sure!

zoltani

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Re: Decided to vacation in Paris less than 24 hours ago - now what?
« Reply #25 on: April 07, 2015, 04:54:42 PM »
All this talk of pickpockets...

Yeah it's true, it's a big city. No different than NYC of SF, just be vigilant.


jeromedawg

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Re: Decided to vacation in Paris less than 24 hours ago - now what?
« Reply #26 on: April 07, 2015, 05:04:00 PM »
All this talk of pickpockets...

Yeah it's true, it's a big city. No different than NYC of SF, just be vigilant.

I guess it's easy for tourists just to be out of the zone and caught off guard. For whatever reason, there's a perception that pickpocketers in Europe are the most 'brazen' (or I suppose the more proper word is daring and sly) of all though. In SF or NYC, I'd be more scared of getting straight up mugged.

Kris

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Re: Decided to vacation in Paris less than 24 hours ago - now what?
« Reply #27 on: April 07, 2015, 05:25:40 PM »
All this talk of pickpockets...

Yeah it's true, it's a big city. No different than NYC of SF, just be vigilant.

I guess it's easy for tourists just to be out of the zone and caught off guard. For whatever reason, there's a perception that pickpocketers in Europe are the most 'brazen' (or I suppose the more proper word is daring and sly) of all though. In SF or NYC, I'd be more scared of getting straight up mugged.

I completely agree.  I feel much safer in Paris than I do in any American city in general, especially in the evening.

I think part of the problem in Europe is that American tourists tend to be fairly easy to spot.  We walk differently, tend to dress differently, and we speak a little more loudly than the average European. The stereotype is that we're gullible and that we all have lots of money, so add all of that together and... *shrug*

Davids

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Re: Decided to vacation in Paris less than 24 hours ago - now what?
« Reply #28 on: April 07, 2015, 08:29:11 PM »
Do a free walking tour. They are free in the sense that you tip the tour guide whatever you feel it was worth. Sandeman is a great company that does free walking tours of many European cities. The guides are great because they are working for tips and offer great stories, history and suggestions of things to do. http://www.neweuropetours.eu/

There is also another company in Paris that does a free walking tour, Discover Walks, use them for Monmarte.

chesebert

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Re: Decided to vacation in Paris less than 24 hours ago - now what?
« Reply #29 on: April 21, 2015, 08:44:01 PM »
Thank you all for your help! We have been back from Paris for almost a week now and the trip was a complete success (personally speaking)!

We did a combination of Mustachian things (like walking everywhere to the extent possible, taking RER to Versaille and getting the museum pass), but we probably did more anti-Mustachian things :)

We stayed at a luxury hotel suite, ate almost all hotel/restaurant food with a couple Michelin star restaurants thrown in for a good mix, shopped at museum gift stores for things we know could be bought on ebay for peanuts. We also went on a shopping spree of luxury products given the favorable exchange rate. The final credit bill was quite staggering (the most amount I have ever spent on a credit card in a given month). But I was able to fully enjoy the process knowing that my stache is growing at the same pace as my spending and I probably will not do this again for a long time (I was in shock when I first tallied up the total). 

Finally, shout out goes to the folks who suggested Rodin - it was easily one of my favorites!