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Old 07-08-2015, 09:44 AM   #21
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Very strongly recommend a day trip by train to Chartres. I enjoy the various museums mentioned in other posts but Chartres was simply something else.
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Old 07-08-2015, 10:15 AM   #22
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We were in Paris in May, and successfully did both Versailles and Normandy as day trips. The key to both was getting an early start.

We took the 7:45 AM train to Versailles, which put us first in the pre-ticketed line by 8:30 AM. As a result, we had no crowds our entire visit.
Can you tell me what day of the week you visited Versailles? It's closed on Mondays, and according to Rick Steve's guide, we should avoid Versailles on Tuesdays because the Louvre is closed, so the crowds choose the next most popular spot to go.

Note - based on those two facts I think I'll start my museum pass on Wednesday and get at least 2 days worth.

Thanks for the other tips. I just booked my hotel and got 7 nights in a good location for $1000. Loving the exchange rate right now. That is 50% less than I paid for the closet I slept in in NYC last fall.
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Old 07-08-2015, 10:24 AM   #23
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For great views of Paris, take the elevator to the observation deck on top of the Tour Montparnasse. That's the black skyscraper - the only one for mile around!
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Old 07-08-2015, 10:29 AM   #24
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I enjoyed reading the original post and the follow-on threads. Will continue watching it.
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Old 07-08-2015, 10:41 AM   #25
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....staffed with young adults that refused to speak English.
Funny...I've never encountered a problem......perhaps because I always initiate conversations in my appalling French, and they jump at the chance to switch languages?
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Old 07-08-2015, 11:39 AM   #26
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Funny...I've never encountered a problem......perhaps because I always initiate conversations in my appalling French, and they jump at the chance to switch languages?
Me neither - but I always start the conversation in French, asking first if they speak English - after the obligatory greeting of course.

In general I found the French very accommodating and easy to interact with. In the smaller cities if we seemed to be lost, strangers would volunteer assistance immediately. We'll definitely visit again - great country, and still so much to see!
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Old 07-08-2015, 12:26 PM   #27
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My experience is the same as Audrey's and Nemo2's. Even when I would rather continue in French, people often want to practice their English! Quite a change from my visits to France 50 years ago.

We had a nice experience at a winery on our recent visit. The lady at reception told us that she really appreciated it when visitors try to communicate in French. In her view it showed respect for the country and the language.
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Old 07-08-2015, 12:37 PM   #28
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My experience is the same as Audrey's and Nemo2's. Even when I would rather continue in French, people often want to practice their English! Quite a change from my visits to France 50 years ago.

We had a nice experience at a winery on our recent visit. The lady at reception told us that she really appreciated it when visitors try to communicate in French. In her view it showed respect for the country and the language.
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Old 07-08-2015, 02:24 PM   #29
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In her view it showed respect for the country and the language.
A few words go a long way - about twelve years ago I used to bike on trails in Toronto, and would encounter the same group of Sikhs walking........we'd say "Hi" to each other, but one day I stopped a solitary Sikh and asked him to teach me a greeting in Punjabi.....it went over well.

A few years later, in Ottawa, we were looking to buy some curry powder and wandered into a little bodega........Sikh behind the counter, talking to another...they looked over at us with borderline disinterest.......until I uttered 'the phrase'......then he was Mr Helpful to the extreme.
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Old 07-08-2015, 03:53 PM   #30
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Actually, September is still considered peak season and the hotel rates are high.

I've not been to Versailles in over 20 years. But I did some legwork to prepare.

Supposedly if you can time it to arrive at 8 AM, the crowds inside the palace isn't suppose to be bad.

That means leaving from Paris around 7 AM though.

Paris Visite Museum pass is a good way to save money on museums but has to be used on consecutive days after the first entry. So to maximize the value, that means going to a lot of museums over a short period of time.

Versailles is included in the pass so if you go to Versailles and the big museums like the Louvre, Orsay, Pompidou, Orangerie, it will pay for itself.

The pass lets you skip the queues or at least use the shorter queues to enter the museums. Will be a big time saver.
Guess I misspoke. By "off-season," I meant being there when it seemed like most of the other Americans had gone home. I found the contrast stark, between the crowds of July and the lack thereof in Sept.
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Old 07-08-2015, 04:01 PM   #31
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Here's an alternative. Wander over to the Printemps department store. Enjoy the building itself which is very interesting from an asthetic point of view. Go to the top of the department store where these is a very good cafeteria. Have lunch there, while enjoying a great view of Paris that includes the Eiffel Tower. Much more tasty and far less crowded.



Note: if you and or your spouse are shopping oriented this could be a very expensive option.
+1 It's a leisurely way to eat lunch, with great views. Personally, I found that browsing Printemps (as well as Galeries Lafayette and Bon Marche) could have easily been just another museum tour. The prices were so outrageous that it was also fun to observe the patrons who were actually making purchases. (They didn't seem to be folks in sensible sandals, toting Rick Steves guides or fumbling with their French.)

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Old 07-08-2015, 05:28 PM   #32
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Me neither - but I always start the conversation in French, asking first if they speak English - after the obligatory greeting of course.
My French is poor even after 3 years of college courses. The French really expect you to at least attempt it. I recall some emergency in "le Metro " when my ticket worked but hers didn't. I complained in English to the attendant and he didn't respond until I started with "Bonjour"...
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Old 07-08-2015, 08:19 PM   #33
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Funny...I've never encountered a problem......perhaps because I always initiate conversations in my appalling French, and they jump at the chance to switch languages?

My French is poor even after 3 years of college courses. The French really expect you to at least attempt it. I recall some emergency in "le Metro " when my ticket worked but hers didn't. I complained in English to the attendant and he didn't respond until I started with "Bonjour"...



Having lived in France (Paris) off and on for over 25 years, I can say that this is one of the more important points.

If you walk in and just say "bonjour" and/or try in fractured French, they'll pick up on your accent and (almost always) switch to English. ("Stop hurting my language")

If you don't say bonjour, or walk in with English right off the bat, they're guaranteed to forget any English they know.

It's viewed as a sign of respect to try first in French.
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Old 07-09-2015, 07:12 AM   #34
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Can you tell me what day of the week you visited Versailles? It's closed on Mondays, and according to Rick Steve's guide, we should avoid Versailles on Tuesdays because the Louvre is closed, so the crowds choose the next most popular spot to go.

Note - based on those two facts I think I'll start my museum pass on Wednesday and get at least 2 days worth.
Believe it or not, we ended up going on a Tuesday because of scheduling conflicts on other days. We went expecting the worse, but that early start saved the day.
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Old 07-09-2015, 06:29 PM   #35
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Having lived in France (Paris) off and on for over 25 years, I can say that this is one of the more important points.

If you walk in and just say "bonjour" and/or try in fractured French, they'll pick up on your accent and (almost always) switch to English. ("Stop hurting my language")

If you don't say bonjour, or walk in with English right off the bat, they're guaranteed to forget any English they know.

It's viewed as a sign of respect to try first in French.

+1 I took R. Steves' advice re. the importance of formal salutations: "Bonjour, Madame," and "Bonjour, Monsieur." Then I would follow up with an apology (in French) for my fractured French. It was heartwarming to enjoy their patience and accommodation of my attempts at communicating needs or questions. Sometimes, after our interchange, they would encourage me that my French was "quite good." (Which they would say in English.) Again, even though I had butchered the grammar and struggled to find vocab. from 35-40 years ago, their kindness was truly a treat. And it motivated me to go back to the hotel room and spend some more time with the phrase book!

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Old 07-09-2015, 07:03 PM   #36
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+1 I took R. Steves' advice re. the importance of formal salutations: "Bonjour, Madame," and "Bonjour, Monsieur."
I just read that tip last night in my copy of Rick's Paris guide (checked out from the library natch!) My college language was German, so I'll have to try to get by with just the basic greetings, but I will do my best to use them and to be polite.

I think I'll take the bus trip to Normandy on Tuesday and then activate my museum pass on Wednesday. That leaves Sunday afternoon and Monday to visit "free" sites in Paris. I do tend to get worn out with museums, so if I burn out in Paris, I'll see about a trip to Chartres to wrap up my trip.
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Old 07-09-2015, 07:08 PM   #37
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You can save a lot of money by researching trains to do day trips on your own instead of going on a coach tour.

Sometimes, tour makes sense, other times, you can DIY it for a lot less.

Versailles is one of those cases, though sometimes the clients of tour operators get to skip to a shorter line.

Giverny is suppose to be nice too, if you're really into Monet.
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Old 07-09-2015, 07:21 PM   #38
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+1 I took R. Steves' advice re. the importance of formal salutations: "Bonjour, Madame," and "Bonjour, Monsieur."
I actually had a cop scold me when I walked up to him asking directions.

I had just walked up and said: "Ou est XYZ? " without the "Bonjour"
He just looked at me and said, mockingly: "Bonjour, Monsieur Gendarme, ou est XYZ?" showing me that is how I should have addressed him.

It is really important.
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Old 07-09-2015, 07:38 PM   #39
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You can save a lot of money by researching trains to do day trips on your own instead of going on a coach tour.

Sometimes, tour makes sense, other times, you can DIY it for a lot less.

Versailles is one of those cases, though sometimes the clients of tour operators get to skip to a shorter line.

Giverny is suppose to be nice too, if you're really into Monet.

This is what we did when we visited Versailles 15 years ago. It wouldn't have occurred to me to do a tour back then and even now, I still prefer DIY. I also don't recall it being too crowded, but we were visiting in May, so maybe that's why.
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Old 07-09-2015, 07:59 PM   #40
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Sometimes you see sales, on sites like Viator, so for instance, you find out that a tour will be about $30 more over half a day or full day than it would cost you to DIY on public transportation. In that case, I go for the tour.

Another example was a London tour to Windsor, Bath and Stonehenge on one tour. Probably can't do it as easily as on trains, because as I understood it, those destinations did not all line up to a single train line so it might not have been possible to cover in a day.
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