With our trip to Paris quickly approaching, and me still in the middle of the planning stage, I thought it would be apropos to post some thoughts and inquiries about the process of planning a trip to the City of Light.
My wife and I will be in Paris for a week near the end of September. The planning started about eight months ago with us deciding that we would stay in an apartment instead of a hotel. We heard that it was a better way of immersing yourself in the culture. We'll see how accurate that description is.
We decided to use Airbnb. The website was easy to navigate and the search tools allowed us to hone in on our price range and preferable neighbourhood. After selecting a few options and contacting the apartment owners, we found a nice place. The booking was easy and, so far, our conversations with the owner have been great. I'll let everyone know when I get back how the place was, but I have a good feeling about it.
Next was the flight. I'm a little bit leery of pulling the trigger on flights, since I'm afraid that I'll miss a better deal. This time, however, I think I missed a deal by waiting. I monitored the flights daily, and prices for the time we wanted to go seemed to be reasonable around April. I kept waiting, though, and pretty soon I found the prices fairly high, and not dropping. So, we ended up having to buy our tickets for more than we wanted, but we got a direct flight with the airline we wanted, so I'm happy with it.
Through the airline website I was also able to book a car for our one-day excursion to Normandy. This was also painless. Be aware that almost all the cars are manual, so if you want an automatic, you'll have to pay almost twice as much. I'm OK with the stick, though. I'm actually looking forward to making my way through the Parisian traffic.
Next up for me was research. I wanted to know what was open when, what were the best times to go, how to get deals, how to get around the city the best, where to go for lunch, good restaurants and bistros, etc. Let's just say I've spent about 15 to 20 hours a week reading books, checking out websites and watching documentaries. It's overkill, I know, but that's the kind of guy I am.
Once I had done enough research, I decided to put together a basic itinerary. That didn't take long, and it's been revised about 4 times. But it's given me a good guideline and feel for how our vacation is going to go. Now, I know that things could fall apart, and the trip may look nothing like what I've planned, but I would advise anyone planning a trip to Paris to write up an itinerary. Even if you don't stick with it, it does force you to really examine what you want to do and how best to maximize your time.
Our plan includes a soft landing in the city, with the first day and a half spent seeing a few sights, but with plenty of time for walking around the city, picnicking and just enjoying the city and each others' company. I'm also throwing in a surprise outing for the wife on the Sunday evening. Shhhh!
We've decided to get the four-day Museum Pass, and we'll activate it on the Monday (third day we're there). We don't plan to spend a lot of time in museums, but I calculated the amount of money we would spend on admissions, and the pass will save us money. Skipping a few lines will help as well, but the money saving was our prime motivator.
The Monday and Tuesday will feature one major museum each morning. I'm leaving plenty of time for lunch and then afternoons to do self-directed tours of a couple of neighbourhoods, cemeteries, etc. I would also like to see a concert at Sainte-Chapelle one evening, so if anyone has a review, I'd appreciate it.
The Normandy trip is Wednesday, and will include a journey to the Canadian war cemetery south of Caen, and then touring the Cider Route in the afternoon.
More museums on Thursday, plus a boat tour and some drinking and dancing at Chez George (recommendations are outstanding), then shopping and an anniversary dinner at Le Coup-Chou on Friday wraps up the trip.
One of the most difficult part of the planning has been trying to figure out where to eat. There are a few restaurants that I've heard good things about, but I take everything I read with a grain of salt. I think we'll just make a couple of reservations for dinner and then take our chances with whatever tickles our fancy on the other days.
I'm sure our plans will change over the next few weeks, but I think I've laid a good foundation. Whether or not it pays off with a great vacation will be determined. But given my previous trip to Paris a decade ago, and the great trips I've read about here on Trip Advisor, I'm sure it will be memorable however it goes down.