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Four days in Paris, ça suffit?

the great blight of...
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Four days in Paris, ça suffit?

Salut tout le monde,

My parents are planning to travel to France this May, and are taking me (21) and my little brother (11) along for the ride. We all have diverse interests when it comes to travelling. My mom likes charming little towns, shopping and gardens, for this reason she wants to minimize the amount of time in the City, and devote more time to exploring the countryside (Provence, primarily Luberon.) My dad likes history, but mostly enjoys relaxing during vacations because of his hectic work schedule. Because of this, he would also prefer we take it easy in le Sud and devote less time to hectic Paris. There's my little brother; unfortunately at his age, his opinion doesn't count ;) As for me, I am a lover of cities: I love the architecture, the streets, the people, the buzz. I want to feel a city's pulse. I love to observe and take part of the city myself, so naturally I am inclined to spend as much time in a city like Paris as possible. And well, we all love good food, so we can agree on that at the end of the day.

Well, suffice to say, the decisions are made by those who are footing the bill. I have been entrusted with providing a rough itinerary, and to balance everyone's wishes, it seems that we will only have a maximum of four full days in Paris. As one of my hobbies is making up itineraries for trips that I may or may not ever take, I have been scrutinizing every detail of this itinerary. Below is the basic plan for Paris that I have come up with, and I'd like opinions. I figured we'd have to take at least one day trip, and Versailles seems to be the natural choice. However, I think Chantilly, Chartres, or the Fontainebleau would be awesome as well.

Anyway, after making this plan, it still seemed to me that we were missing so much. Did I leave any destinations off? Should I remove some from this itinerary? Oh, it should be mentioned that none in our party has been to Paris before. Actually, we've never left North America!

Day 01 : Assuming we are staying on the Île Saint-Louis, we wake up and locate the best pâtisserie for breakfast on the run. Head over to l'Île de la Cité to check out the Notre Dame from the outside and then take a tour of the Sainte-Chapelle. From here, we explore the Left Bank on foot and seek out the landmarks (Panthéon, Jardin du Luxembourg, St-Germain de Près, Sorbonne) Later, we will also want to see Les Invalides and perhaps, if there is time, go up le Tour Montparnasse (such a grand name for this part of town, is there a story behind it?)

Day 02 : This will be the day of Paris clichés. We arrive for the opening of the Musée d'Orsay. Afterwards, we grab crêpes on the way to the Jardin du Tuileries. After my mom gets her flower fix, we march up the Champs-Elysée; mom will shop while my dad, brother and I mope (she should have had daughers!) If time permits, we will ascend l'Arche de Triomphe before heading to the Montmarte for a late afternoon/evening stroll. After a great meal somewhere, we return to our île to indulge in a scoop or two of Berthillon.

Day 03 : In the morning, we take the RER to Versailles to spend the morning in the palace and around the grounds. In the afternoon we might split up. I would love to check out La Défense, but I doubt it would be of much interest to my family. As an alternative to La Défense, I would also like to visit a working-class and/or ethnic neighborhood to see the real Paris. (Anyone have recommendations on where to go?) I'm sure my mom would love to use this time to faire des achats. We'll meet again for a dinner in the 7e. This would also be a great night to make a twilight visit to le Tour Eiffel.

Day 04 : We've done the Left Bank, and today we traverse the Right. We'll spend the better part of the day walking through the Marais until we find the perfect café. In the afternoon a visit to the Pompidou will be mandatory. After that, we head over to see the Opéra Garnier and to tour the grands magasins. We'll have dinner someplace that puts my mother's fine cooking to shame (but I won't tell her.)

The following day we say goodbye to Paris from CDG.

Well that is all. I feel like I have crammed in too much in these four short days, but there is so much to see. What sayeth the Paris addicts?

Eiffel Tower
Observation Decks & Towers, Points of Interest & Landmarks
Louvre Museum
Art Museums, Points of Interest & Landmarks, Architectural Buildings
Notre Dame Cathedral
Sacred & Religious Sites, Architectural Buildings, Historic Sites, Points of Interest & Landmarks, Churches & Cathedrals
Basilica du Sacre-Coeur de Montmartre
Historic Sites, Architectural Buildings, Churches & Cathedrals, Points of Interest & Landmarks
Chicago, USA
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1. Re: Four days in Paris, ça suffit?

Yes I agree, you've crammed too much into just four days. I'm tired just reading about it.

Day one I'd skip Les Invalides.

Day two I'd skip Montmartre.

Day three I'd skip La Defense.

Day four I'd skip Pompidou.

This assumes, of course, one enjoys leisurely meals, especially dinners.

Btw, all of Paris is the real Paris.

Paris, France
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2. Re: Four days in Paris, ça suffit?

If I had only 4 days I would skip Versailles. If you want to see a great palace, go to Le Louvre.

I would skip la Defense on this trip as well.

You have too much planned for each day.

I.e. when you say "we grab a crepe on the way to Tuileries" from Musee d'Orsay, there are no crepes to grab really except at the entrance of Tuileries on the place de la Concorde side.

Also, there are lines, and people do not rush like in the States.

There are a few fast food places on the street leading to Musee d'Orsay from metro line 12 (can't think of the name right now).

If you want to go somewhere by yourself go to Marais or Bastille/Oberkamph.

Victoria, Canada
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3. Re: Four days in Paris, ça suffit?

Do not skip Versailles, your mother likes gardens, and the gardens at Versailles are going to surpass Tuilleries( which was boring to me)PLUS, your 11 yr old brother and you could rent bikes on the grounds and go around the canals, it is fun, and not costly, your little brother deserves some fun.

I also urge you to GO UP the Arc D"Triomphe, I love the view from up there bettter then the view from the Effiel Tower.

Your visiting a working class neigbhorhood idea , while interesting perhaps, may just be a waste of precious time as you only have three full days in Paris as it is( assuming you are doing Versailles).

I have not been to Fontinbleu, I wonder if the gardens there are as nice or nicer the Versailles, perhaps someone can let us know who has been to both.

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4. Re: Four days in Paris, ça suffit?

I would like to commend your efforts in planning your family tour days in Paris.

Use your plan as a guide.

When you actually begin to put it into action you may find places you want to spend more time or less time exploring.

You can adjust your plan or cut out places you feel you can not do justice to.

Sounds like you are going to be in France for an extended time have a great experience!

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5. Re: Four days in Paris, ça suffit?

"Joan1" : My French cousin has been on the committee which is trying to re-plant Fontainbleau exactly as it was originally. They have been working for years on this project.

I love the row boat ride on the lake there it is so much fun on a sunny day.

But I must admit I really do love Versaille gardens much more! (The hamlet and all!)

Ohio, USA
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6. Re: Four days in Paris, ça suffit?

First off I commend you for putting so much work into this and doing some pretty good thinking about the topography for someone who has never set foot in Paris. BUT....

(Well, you knew there was a "BUT" coming, didn't you?)

You've got four people going on this trip all with different interests and needs, so why are you all following each other around like so many lemmings everywhere you go? Only one of you needs adult supervision and I'm sure your brother wouldn't mind being responsible for you for a few hours. :-) You may not think your brother's interests matter given that he is just a little squirt, but you'd better include him in some of these activities or he's going to find a way to make you suffer for it. After all you're responsible for the itinerary, right? So who else is he going to blame when he's bored out of his mind?

So how about you let Mom and Dad go off and do their thing for part of the time while you go somewhere with your darling brother and do something that works for the two of you?

Like for example when Mom drags Dad along the Champs-Élysées and comes up with new and interesting ways to spend your inheritance (BTW she'd be better off on av. Montaigne or Place Vendôme or a couple of other places if she wants to do some *serious* shopping) why don't you let your brother take you to the Palais de la Découverte where you can both have fun and you can admire the architecture. And right next door you can do a quick zip round the Petit Palais to admire some superb and newly restored Belle Époque architecture AND let your brother clue you in about some pretty decent art and you only have to stay ten minutes because it's all FREE!!! There are a couple of other great places your brother might like to take you, the Musée des Arts et Métiers for example where you could get your whole "real Paris" urban buzz thing going in the general area or the Cité des Arts et Sciences which would give you a whole different take on Paris.

Of course as everyone says you have too much planned already and some things have to go. And you certainly can't add all the things I just suggested. But as my older brother once said about me you are "big enough, old enough, and ugly enough" to look after yourself. So how's about taking your brother a couple of places while the folks who are "footing the bill" do their thing?

IOW I'm suggesting that you rethink the whole plan and take the different interests of all of you into account so everybody gets to do more of what they want and less of what somebody else wants. And then you'll come up with a plan with less in it for all of you and more in it for each of you, got it?

BTW are you the only French speaker in the family? If so it will be god for your parents to branch out on their own without their "interpreter"...

OK, now I think I've offended everybody so you can hit back as hard as you like — but you do realize it was all in good humour, right?...

Just FYI I'd eliminate the Panthéon except the outside (too time-consuming), the Tour Montparnasse entirely (it's out of the way and possibly the ugliest building in Paris and I *like* modern architecture), possibly Montmartre, and probably Versailles which is really a full day not a half day. But put all this into a spreadsheet and see what really works.

Yes you have left an absolute ton out but there is only so much you can do in four days...

BTW, Montparnasse = Mount Parnassus, home of the Greek muses. That much you knew, right? In the 17th century there was an actual hill here where students and poets used to gather to recite and critique each other's poetry, so they facetiouly (or perhaps pretentiously...) named the hill Montparnasse. And then those 18th century Philistines came along and in the name of progress levelled the hill to construct Boulevard Montparnasse.

the great blight of...
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7. Re: Four days in Paris, ça suffit?

Thanks everyone for your thoughts. I will definitely keep these suggestions in mind as I draft a revised itinerary. I'm getting mixed opinions on Versailles, but seeing as it is the only castle we'll likely be doing on this trip, it may be worth the time.

Rovr, thanks especially for your sage advice. I will be sure to include everyone's interests as I re-outline our plans. Also, that is very interesting to learn about Montparnasse. Unfortunately, it seems that the leveling of topography was common in many cities in centuries past.

Kamloops, BC...
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8. Re: Four days in Paris, ça suffit?


To be very honest with you, Paris in 4 days will be rather like watching it on TV, you'll have no opportunity to connect with the culture or the people, you'll just be running from place to place. You really need at least 2 more days so that you can slow down and smell the croissants.

Your mother will never believe it until she sees it, but actually, villages in proximity to each other are more alike than different. They may be charming, but other than the people, they're rather interchangeable. France is a country of provinces and districts and within those divisions, there is a lot of similarity that gives the area its particular personality.

See what you can do to convince your folks to give Paris at least 2 more days. It will make all the difference in your trip.

Boulder, Colorado
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9. Re: Four days in Paris, ça suffit?

Don't miss Versailles. The the palace is beautiful...it has history including the signing in the hall of mirrors of the WWI peace agreement ( which was a primary cause of WWII because of it's harsh terms)-your dad will appreciate this aspect. The gardens are beautiful-your mom will appreciate them ( there is a great place to eat by the canal) ....be sure to walk back to the Grand and Petite Trianon and the hamlet. Also be sure to walk through and not just by Notre Dame ...the scope of the architecture is amazing...Enjoy your trip!!!!!

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10. Re: Four days in Paris, ça suffit?

I agree with Irish Rovr. But I also recognize that you are trying to plan for several people with diverse interests. May I suggest not using one of your few Paris days for Versailles. It might be better to do it after your countryide trip to Provence since it is likely that you will be flying into as well as out of CDG and could then go to Versaailles and spend a day there prior to heading to Provence. Are you plannig to drive, take the tarin, etc. We are going to be in Provence for several days and will be renting a car to get around.

You won't need or want a car in Paris. But your little brother might enjoy the ruins and archaeological remains at the entrance to Notre Dame. There are also so many interesting places just to walk in Paris that while your Mom shops the rest of you might select a neighborhood to explore and then meet her.

Since you indicate that none of you have been out of North America before, you want to avoid overscheduling. Give yourselves time to find things you didn't know existed and some time to just relax. Paris does not have to be hectic unless you make it so. Your father will be able to relax.Keep in mind that with jet lag, etc. you will be tired the day of arrival and should follow a leisurely pace. The day you leave is also not a day to do anything other than get to the airport.

Have a great trip.