Once you check in to your hotel it’s time to see the city. A good way to get oriented is to take a City Tour, and if the weather is bad, you will really enjoy the comfort of your warm dry coach. The Paris “Musts” Tour includes lunch at the Eiffel Tower, a drive by all of the major sites and a cruise on the Seine. If you want a quick 2 hour overview, there’s the Paris Express Tour. And if you want a full day overview including Notre Dame, the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower, guided and transporting you by boat from site to site, there’s the Paris Full Day Walking Tour. This is the best way to see the highlights of Paris in a day. All of the tours will help you understand the organization of the city and make traveling around on your own later, easier to do.
For those caught up in Dan Brown’s book Interested in the Da Vinci Code? There is actually a Da Vinci Code Tour! These tours are available by walking and by minibus. They will take you to all of the spots highlighted in the book, and soon to be movie, Place Vendome, the Ritz, the routes along the river, the Louvre and Saint Sulpice where you can see the Rose line for yourself! The minibus tour also includes lunch and a Seine cruise. If your interests are strictly in the Louvre itself, there is a narrated tour of it as well.
An interesting and unusual way to see Paris is the popular Segway Tour. This tour uses the personal self-balancing device called Segway to take you with a guide on a 4-5 hour tour of the sights of Paris day or night! You will roll by the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe, the Louvre, the Place de la Concorde, Napoleon’s Tomb and much more. You are given instructions and time to practice before you go. (Children must be over the age of 12.)
Paris Sizzles at Night
Paris sparkles at night and there is no better way to enhance your experience than by taking the Paris Illuminations Tour. We’ve already mentioned the Cruise on the Seine. But there are two night time experiences that can even make that cruise better, The Seine Dinner Cruise, and the Eiffel Tower Dinner and Cruise. There are no two places in Paris with a better view out the dinner window than that from the Eiffel Tower’s Altitude Restaurant, or from one of the dinner cruise boats on the Seine. While we are talking about the sights of the night, you may want to sample the Paris shows. Why not combine one of these two venues with a show at the Lido or the Moulin Rouge. The Lido Tour includes an illumination tour, a cruise and the show. The Moulin Rouge tours include one with dinner at the Eiffel Tower, and the other dinner at the restaurant made famous by the 20th-century intellectuals, Hemingway and Cocteau, La Cupole and a cruise before the show. If you are looking for a lively show the next night try a stop at that most sensational of Paris shows, the Crazy Horse.
For those seeking a romantic night out, The Arts and Fine Dinner in the Heart of Paris Tour is for you. You will be taken first for an evening of fine art at the Musee d’Orsay. This is Paris’ premiere museum for impressionist art. You will see the very best of that era spanning a timeframe from the mid 1800s to the early 1900s. An audio tour will enhance your understanding and enjoyment. After the museum it’s off to a magnificent XVIII century mansion in the heart of Paris where a gourmet dinner awaits you and your special someone.
Paris Neighborhood Day Tours
If your tour around I’lle St. Louis peaked your interest into experiencing more of Parisian life as they do, there are narrated walking tours of some of the major neighborhoods. Having a guide to make you aware of the history of each area and the prominent people who lived there, makes Paris come alive in a way you never could on your own. The neighborhoods of the Marais, Monmartre, the Latin Quarter and Monparnasse each have a 2 hour narrated walking tour available. See where Victor Hugo wrote those magnificent novels, where Van Gogh painted those priceless works of art, where student for centuries have been educated and where the great intellectuals conversed. A neighborhood tour will take you back over the history of Paris and let you relive the many moments in history surrounded by the same architectural wonders that have survived the centuries.
Day Trips out of Paris
Paris is a great base from which to explore the areas outside of Paris. If this is your first trip to France, you owe it to yourself to see the countryside. The Parisians are their own brand of French. Traveling to the countryside will give you a view into the small towns and villages and the people who make them tick. There are many tours of which you may partake, but there are four trips which are don’t miss trips. They are Versailles, Giverny, the Normandy Landing Beaches and the Loire Valley. Each of these sights looks into French life at different times in its history. Versailles was the palace that every other king in Europe and the British Isles wanted to emulate. Just about every major country has some palace which they have dubbed the Versailles of their country. Versailles is a phenomenal palace rich in art, architecture and antiques and the gardens are truly exceptional. In the summer months, there is a fountain show with dancing water and classical music which is a spectacle to behold. Whether you like gardens or not, you have to see these. There are 4 different tours available on Versailles depending on the length of time there, the type of transport and the degree of narration.
One of the tours combines Versailles with Giverny (Monet’s home). Or, if time is short, and you would like to visit only Giverney, you can take our Giverny Tour on its own. This affords you the opportunity to spend half a day in each location. Giverny is a delightful place on the Normandy road. Here you will learn about the life of that famous impressionist artist Monet. You will tour his home and then go out to the garden that gave him so much inspiration. If you have seen Monet’s garden or water lily paintings you have a small idea of what you will see. However, the beauty that you will behold is even more colorful, more serene, and more beautiful than you can imagine. It’s one of those places that ‘just being there’ is really special.
If you want a day that will make you proud to be an American, or even British, take the Normandy Landing Beaches Tour. It is essential to take this tour with a guide. The guide will help you visualize what that day was like over 60 years ago when the Allies landed on the beaches of Normandy. You will understand the many obstacles that had to be overcome on D-Day. You will come to feel like you were on those landing vehicles with the bullets hitting the door as it was readying the open position. And you will appreciate the price our brave men and women paid for freedom. The statue of youth rising out of the water as the memorial at the American cemetery will fill you with a deep sense of loss for the young Americans who died there and a great sense of pride for what was accomplished. In Normandy you will have the added bonus of experiencing the gratitude of the French residents who have never forgotten what America did for them.
The Loire Valley and Wine Tour is the last of the four must-see trips. This combines the views of the French Chateaux of the lush Loire Valley, with an opportunity to sample some fine French wine at the cellars of Monmousseau. The chateaux visited include the Chateau d’Amboise and the Chateau de Chenonceau. Amboise was historically important due to it’s many famous residents and visitors. Da Vinci spent the last years of his life on the Chateau’s environs, and his influence is seen in the chateau. If you are a real Da Vinci fan, you can take the Leonardo da Vinci and Loire Castles Tour for a more in-depth visit highlighting Da Vinci and his major inventions. Chenonceau has been described by Flaubert as a serene vision floating on air and water. It is one of the most photographed of the chateaux with the chateau bridge spanning the river Cher. Both chateaux reflect the life of the aristocracy from the Renaissance onward. They are majestic, beautifully designed and rich in history. And what better end to a day of exploring than wine tasting in a French winery?
If you are returning to Paris, you may have already visited the places above. For those of you who want to expand on that countryside experience, here are a few more tours to complement your last experience: If you enjoy champagne, a visit to the champagne region combines a scenic ride through the champagne vineyards region with a stop at the Chateau of the Princes of Conde, visits and tastings at Moet and Chandon, and Mumm, a delicious lunch at the cliffside restaurant Le Caveau (with bubbly, of course) and a stop at the Riems Cathedral.
There are many more chateaux trips which should be on your list if you enjoy this combination of history, art, antiques and architecture. Each one has a special attraction which makes it a unique experience. For example, Chantilly houses an art collection second only to the Louvre. The Chateau de Malmasion was Napoleon and Josephine’s residence and is rich in Napoleonic history and empire art and antiques. On the Fontainebleau and Barbizon tour you will combine the charming artistic village of Barbizon with the some of the richest interiors in France at the Fontainebleau Palace. Each of these majestic residences will leave lasting memories of culture of France.
Being a bit more adventurous, you can venture even further out of Paris with a one day trip to London on the Eurostar, or a coach tour to Bruges (Brugge), one of the most picturesque medieval cities in Europe and certainly the star of Belgium. Bruges is lined with canals and this is one of the best ways to see the city. The last day trip that is a bit of a drive is to Mont St. Michel. Mont St. Michel is located on the border of Normandy and Brittany. Engulfed by the sea, this is one of the most enchanting and most visited sights in France. A walled city at its base and a soaring abbey at its peak makes for a memorable trip back in time.
Special Trips Out
Ever wish you could experience the palaces and chateaux by night? Walking the grounds in the candlelight after a romantic dinner just as the royalty did in days gone by? Well, your wish can come true with two unique evening trips to Versailles and Vaux le Vicomte. Your royal night in Versailles includes an evening tour of the palace, a spellbinding tour by horse drawn carriage of the gardens, dinner facing the Grand Canal La Flottile restaurant and a magical show at Neptune’s Basin with illuminations, water displays, ballet and performers all bringing Louis XIV’s court to life. At Vaux le Vicomte you will go by minibus to the Chateau visit their famous Carriage Museum before your scrumptious dinner on the castle grounds followed by a sunset tour of the chateau and a stroll through the gardens lighted by 2000 candles and accompanied by classical music. These are wonderful tours providing two truly royal evenings that will prove to be the highlight of your trip to Paris.