Pre-Paris Prep

Pre-Paris Prep

First…..let’s begin with the preparation I did prior to our amazing 2 weeks trip!

Our first vacation in Europe was back in 2010 when we got married in Santorini, Greece and then went to Italy for our honeymoon.  Ever since then, we felt in love with Europe – one continent with so many countries and cultures and they are so close to each other that in one trip, it is possible to visit a few countries! I was thinking to go to Paris last year but due to my work schedule I delayed until now!

Flights

I first begin looking at prices back in January, almost checking it everyday. I used http://www.hotwire.com: its “Flexible Date Search” function to display the flight prices in a 30-days period instead of searching day-by-day. I searched the months of May and June because that’s when my husband and I are “free” and before the peak tourist season for cost savings. By the middle of January, I saw a great price, $811 non-stop from Boston to Paris, May 17th – June 2nd! I talked with my husband and we decided to book the next day.  Tickets booked!

Hotels

My husband had enough points to get 3 free nights in Hilton La Defense Paris, not the most preferred location but it’s free and plus it was right next to the metro station so wouldn’t be a problem at all! I started to plan for our 3 days in Paris but as I did more research and added in my list of must-sees, 3 days won’t fit all! We then decided to extend our Paris trip to 6 days! We booked 3 nights at the Westin Paris Vendome with a great deal 🙂

Tickets

The top must-sees of Paris in my list were Eiffel Tower, Louvre Museum, and Versailles and I am sure they are the must-sees for most of tourists! So that means…..long waiting lines! With only 6 days in Paris, we couldn’t afford to lose any valuable time so I tried to book as much in advanced as possible!

Eiffel Tower Tickets

First, Eiffel Tower, I did my research and found out that online tickets are available for sale 2 months in advanced, website is http://www.eiffel-tower.com/. The benefit of online tickets is that once you reserved a time, you will be able to skip the ticket line and go straight to the lift line which saves hours of waiting in line. However, the risk is you can’t predict the weather 2 months in advanced. We took the risk and booked as soon as the tickets are available on sale online – I booked on March 19 for May 18 ticket at 8:00 pm. (I also did my homework that sunset in Paris on that day is around 9:30 pm so going up at 8:00 pm enabled us to see the sunset). When I checked back again 3 days later, the tickets for May 18th are “sold out” (limited advanced reservation available online for certain time slot). Online tickets were “sold out” so fast because one lift was under maintenance so only 1 operating lift going from ground to 2nd floor will be running….that means longer waiting time!

Louvre and Versailles Tickets

For visiting the Louvre and Versailles, I chose the Paris Museum Pass (http://en.parismuseumpass.com/), the pass enabled us to skip the regular ticket line and go straight to the security line. I decided to purchase the Museum Pass at the airport to avoid the shipping fee.

Train Tickets to Tours

I booked from TGV-Europe: http://en.voyages-sncf.com/en/
When selecting “ticket collection country” do not put USA or else it will redirect you to Rail Europe which will cost you more. Select a euro country like Germany, prices will display in Euros and I have a zero percent foreign transaction fee credit card so it will not cost me more paying in euros (if you don’t then the fee will be 3% from your credit card company). Once you booked, you’ll be able to print out the ticket or send to your email so no need to worry about the ticket collection country.
Discounted tickets are on sale 3 months prior to departure date. Those sell out fast so I suggest you to check everyday and as soon as you see your travel date ticket shows up, book right away! If your credit card got rejected, call your credit card company let them know you are making a purchase on this French website, and retry. I have heard people were not able to book even though they called the credit card company…….I was able to on my first try. Do you have a credit card with a smart chip? That’ll increase your chance I guess. If you don’t, you may want to consider one like a Bank of America travel reward card, no annual free, no foreign exchange, and with smart chip. You’ll need a credit card with smart chip to purchase tickets on machine in Europe.

Restaurants

I heard Paris is expensive, especially the food! I found this very helpful website:  http://www.thefork.com/  which was highly recommended by others. The Fork is more than a restaurant reservation website; most of the restaurants listed in the website offer special deals for The Fork customers only. It is absolutely free to sign-up, you don’t need to pay anything to make a reservation but please do cancel ahead if you changed your mind because the restaurant will keep a table for you (and potentially lose another customer if you don’t show up) and in order to negotiate great deal with restaurants, the website has to maintain its reputation. Deals like fixed price for a 3 course meal or 50% off food! The website also nicely designed that it provides information about the restaurant such as reviews, sample menu, photos, map of the restaurant. It really helped me to make my restaurant reservations.
I booked the following restaurants:
  1. Le P’tit Troquet which was recommended by Michelin Guide 2012 and the deal was 26.40€ for 3 course meal. The restaurant also located near the Eiffel Tower so we could have dinner and go up the Eiffel Tower at 8:00 pm.
  2. Le Reminet near Notre Dame, this restaurant was highly recommended by Trip Advisor members, 40% off food
  3. Le First which is in the Westin Hotel we are staying in, the deal was 50% off food
  4. Goumard near Concorde Place, I liked the interior and it is a seafood restaurant which my husband likes seafood, the deal was 50% off food
  5. La Vache au Comptoir near Gare Montparnasse because we are taking a day trip to Loire Valley and return to Paris at 8:30 pm and this restaurant is near the train station. The deal was 20% off food
  6. 16 Haussmann  near the Paris Opera House area and the deal was 50% off food

Sightseeing

Paris is one of those cities with so much things to see so I begin with making a list of must-sees.  Then, I grouped places that are close together by “sector”. Also, I found this website to be very helpful: http://www.aviewoncities.com/maps/paris.htm
It has a map with all the attractions so you’ll know the approximate location of each to group them. I made something like a schedule just for me to list the sights (their opening and closing time) that are close together and have an idea of how much I want to see per day. I do not have to fully follow the schedule and it all depends on weather!
Time
Friday 5/18
Saturday 5/19
Sunday 5/20
Monday 5/21
Tuesday 5/22
Wednesday 5/23
7-8 am
Land CDG TERMINAL 2E at 8:15 am
Buy Museum Pass
Gallery level, Exit 3 to take Air France Bus
Breakfast
Buy Mobilis zone 5 ticket for unlimited train
Breakfast
Buy Mobilis zone 4 ticket for unlimited train
Breakfast
Metro to Montparnasse Bienvenue
7:34 Train to Tours
8:49 arrives Tours
9 am
Take Air France Shuttle Line 2-> Charles de Gauile Arc de Triomphe
Train from GARE DE LYON to Fontainebleau  opens 9:30am-6pm     
Château de Versailles
Opens at 9
9:30 Loire Valley
10 am
Check in hotel
Fontainebleau
Château de Versailles
Cathédrale Notre-Dame  10am-6:30 pm
Loire Valley
Opéra de Paris Garnier  (9)
Opens 10am-5pm
11 am
Lunch
Lunch
Château de Versailles
Cathédrale Notre-Dame
Loire Valley
Opéra de Paris Garnier 
12 pm
Louvre Museum
Opens 9am-9:45pm Friday
Fontainebleau
Château de Versailles
Lunch 
Loire Valley
Lunch
1 pm
Louvre Museum
Mona Lisa 1st FL Painting Room 6
Fontainebleau
Lunch
Conciergerie
Opens  9:30am-6pm 
Loire Valley
Galeries Lafayette near Opera
2 pm
Louvre Museum
Train back to Paris GARE DE LYON 
Château de Versailles
Conciergerie
Opens  9:30am-6pm

 

Loire Valley
3 pm
Louvre Museum
‎ 
Train back to Paris Center Rer C to Saint-Michel – Notre-Dame
Panthéon
Opens 10am-6:30pm 
Loire Valley
4 pm
Seine River cruise Vedettes du Pont Neuf
Sainte-Chapelle Opens  9:30am-6pm 
Panthéon
Loire Valley
 Jardin du Luxembourg
5 pm
Sainte-Chapelle
Loire Valley
6 pm
Dinner @ Le P’tit Troquet near Eiffel Tower 18:30
Dinner Le First, restaurant boudoir Paris @ 19:00 near Tuilerie
Dinner at Goumard @ 18:00 near Concorde
Loire Valley tour ends 6:45 pm
Dinner 16 Haussmann @ 18:30 near Richelieu Drouot (M9) Radisson Blu Hotel
7 pm
Eiffel Tower @ 8:00 pm Opens 9:30 am – 11:00 pm
Dinner Le Reminet @ 19:00 near Notre Dame
Arc de Triomphe
Opens 10am-11pm  
7:11 train back to Paris
8:24 arrives Gare Montparnasse
Dinner La Vache au Comptoir 21:00

Money

Lastly and the most important….euros! People said that the currency exchange rate was much better in Europe than the US. Most recommended is using ATM, it only charges 1% foreign exchange fee and the exchange rate is whatever the market rate is! I checked that Bank of America has “alliance” with BNP Paribas (bank in Paris) so it won’t charge any other fees using BNP’s ATM. I checked the ATM location and there is one close to the Westin Hotel and also one close to Notre Dame. I still exchanged 200 euros with Bank of America so I have some euros to start with.
Everything is all set to go and packed!!!
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2 thoughts on “Pre-Paris Prep

  1. You are a very meticulous planner. My husband and I are going to France in mid-September and I will be using some of your planning techniques like advanced ticket to Eiffel Tower. Thank you.

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