In 2007 I fulfilled the dream of a lifetime and spent the month of April in Paris. Paris is the perfect destination for people interested in art, architecture, history, fashion, shopping, food and wine, and romance, just to name a few. I have visited Paris about a dozen times, in every season, and I can assure you that Paris never disappoints- Paris in real life is just like it is in the movies, only more so!
Whoever is telling you the French are unfriendly doesn’t know the same Parisian I have met. They are not as loud or smiley as Americans, but they are not unfriendly. I only speak about ten words in French, but I find that with a smile and a willingness to experience another culture I get along just fine. And it is easy to get around in Paris. You can buy a Metro pass, which allows unlimited use for a specified number of days, or you can purchase a carnet of ten tickets at a reduced price. I can teach anyone how to use the subway system in about five minutes flat.
Paris is not just for museum-goers, but I must admit I do love the art. The Musee d’Orsay, which houses the impressionists and post-impressionists, is my favorite museum, but there are at least seven or eight other museums I love, too. If you are an art lover the Museum Pass is a great bargain that admits you to tons of venues, and you don’t wait in line. Don’t forget the street artists, who will gladly sell you their latest masterpieces or sketch your portrait to take home as a souvenir.
There are about five different ways to do Paris, and all have their advantages:
- Cruisers can visit Paris for a day on a shore excursion. It is like an amuse bouche- just a small taste of the city. The problem is that you usually have to choose between Paris and the Beaches of Normandy which is not an easy choice.
- First timers who are a bit nervous in foreign countries might like an escorted tour. All of the worry and planning is done by someone else; all you have to do is show up. A big advantage of tours is that the guide is explaining what you are seeing and putting it in a historical and cultural perspective. Another bonus is the other travelers you meet. My husband and I still travel with a couple we met on tour in 1996.
- River cruising is my new favorite way to travel. Cruise boats dock on the Seine right in Paris. River cruising offers many of the same advantages as an escorted tour. However, you tend to eat on the boat which is a shame in Paris. My husband contends you can’t get bad food in Paris. If your river cruise starts or ends in Paris, it is easy to add days in the City of Lights on to your vacation.
- For those of you who want a little more freedom to do your own thing, a city stay might be a good idea. This usually includes your airfare, transfers, a hotel, and a city tour. Then you pick and choose from the excursions that appeal to you on an ala carte basis with the help of a “travel concierge” or just explore on your own.
- FITs or foreign independent travel is for those wanting the most autonomy. Your travel agent will help you reserve transportation, accommodations, day tours and passes, but then you are on your own. In my experience, at a minimum you should do a half day city tour- you get the lay of the land, the city is put in a historic perspective, you can check a number of “must sees” off your list, and it helps you decide what places you want to revisit in depth. This can be a great way to travel if it suits your personality and temperament.
There is so much to do and see in Paris and the areas around it that I never run out of things to do, but I have to admit that I am easily amused. I love to sit at outdoor cafés, wander down the Rue Montorgueil with its tiny specialty shops and street musicians, and just ride buses through the endless neighborhoods. If Paris sounds like your kind of city, let one of our knowledgeable travel agents help you plan the Parisian Holiday that best suits you. And be sure to stop by my desk in the front of the office so I can teach you how the Metro works.