Tag Archives: Fat Tire Bike Tours

Paris Sightseeing – Luxury for Less – Part 4

Paris is a joy for active sightseers, with a magnificent array of museums, monuments, must-see sights.  However, the sheer number of sightseeing opportunities in Paris can be overwhelming.  No matter how many times you visit, you may feel like you’ve barely scratched the surface.

Here’s a short, opinionated list of sightseeing options (with lots of hyperlinks), organized into 6 categories:  Top Tier, Mid-Tier, New & Niche, Quirky/Off-Beat, Kids, & Day Trips. Consider choosing one or two in each category, so you can experience variety in the best Paris has to offer.

When it comes to sightseeing in Paris, time is your currency, and more precious than gold.  I recommend you purchase the Paris Museum Pass, which covers entry to over 60 museums and monuments and is available for 2, 4, or 6 days.  You will save a few Euros over purchasing tickets individually, but most importantly, you will save time….hours and hours of time…..because you don’t have to queue in long lines to purchase tickets at every venue.  Just look for the special door for pass holders at each venue, and sail past the ticket lines.  I’ve waited 60 minutes in line at the Louvre, and 90 minutes each at Musee d’Orsay and St. Chapelle, so learn from my mistakes and get the Pass!  You’ll still need to wait in line for the security screening, but this should be minimal.

If you’ll be in Paris more than a few days, look into the Paris Visite Pass, which covers the Metro, RER suburban trains, and city buses, and offers great reductions on 18 other sites. Save money & time!

Top Tier Sights – many museums are free for children under 18, offer reduced rates for 18-25; museums usually offer one free Sunday per month – avoid these days as they’re usually crowded.

Eiffel Tower – new for 2010! – advance reservations are now available online; save time!  Count on at least an hour in line if you don’t reserve in advance. (Entry NOT covered in Paris Museum Pass)

Louvre Museum – most famous and extensive art museum on the planet

Musee d’Orsay – 19th & 20th century masterpieces, temple of Impressionism, & much more.

Notre Dame Cathedral – free admission to the church; fee applies for self-guided tower

Palace of Versailles – see Day Trips Below

Bateaux Mouches & Bateaux Parisiens – Seine River Cruises – a must to enjoy Paris beautiful bridges and monuments.  Go at sunset to see floodlit monuments; time it to pass Eiffel Tower as it’s sparkling – breathtaking!

Arc de Triomphe – ascend to the top for amazing views (fee); otherwise visit free at street level to admire sculptures, eternal flame and pay respects to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

Sacre Coeur Basilica – Montmartre’s stunning white domed Basilica, on the butte of Montmartre

Mid-Tier Sightsfeel free to argue with me as to which should be Top Tier vs. Mid-Tier

Centre Pompidou – modern and contemporary art

Musee Marmottan – world’s largest collection of works by Claude Monet, plus 300 works by other Impressionists & Post-Impressionists

Musee Rodin – master sculptor and gardens

Musee de l’Orangerie – Tuileries garden – Impressionist and post-Impressionist masterpieces.  Interesting story in NYT about Monet’s Water Lily paintings

St. Chapelle – Gothic cathedral with beautiful stained glass; lines can be very long; if you don’t have Paris Museum Pass, and skies are cloudy, skip it and wait for another time

Musee Jacquemarte Andre – private mansion with impressive collection of French, Dutch and Italian masters; lovely cafe

Les Invalides – honors French military heros & houses Napoleon’s tomb

Opera Garnier – gorgeous baroque Paris Opera, of Phantom fame; self or guided tours available – go for the guided tour

Pantheon – originally constructed as a church, and now the tomb for many important French historical figures, including Voltaire, Rousseau, Victor Hugo, Emile Zola, Madame Curie, Braille, Dumas

Cathedral of St. Denis – about ½ hour north of central Paris, burial place of kings of France, with over 70 sculpted tombs, including Francois I, Louis XVI, Dagobert, and Catherine de Medici

Musee National Picasso – closed for renovation until 2012

Musee de Quai Branly – relatively new museum featuring art & artifacts from Africa, Asia, Oceania & the Americas

New and Niche

Paris Movie Walks – author Michael Schurmann leads you on a series of 10 walking tours in the City of Lights, Camera, Action – see the sights where your favorite movies were filmed.  Video of my tour of Montmartre below, where Michael points out one of the last two remaining windmills of Montmartre, the Moulin de la Galette, which was the setting for one of Renoir’s famous paintings you will recognize:

Eye Prefer Paris Tours – Personal walking tours and cooking classes by Richard

La Cuisine Paris cooking lessons – 2 hour, ½ day and longer classes – French desserts, bistro classics, chocolate tours and more!

Quirky/Off-Beat

Rick Steves Paris Illuminations by Taxi Tour – Rick gives you a great, fun option to hire a taxi for a do-it-yourself floodlit Paris tour – with a map and French translation to hand to the driver – a great alternative to overpriced bus tours, with recorded commentary in 7 languages (ugh).

Pere Lachaise Cemetery – most famous & visited cemetery in the world; among the famous buried here are Edith Piaf, Pissarro, Proust, Jim Morrison, Yves Montand, Moliere, Lalique, Haussemann, Heloise, Delacroix, Colette, Frederic Chopin, Sarah Bernhardt, Balzac, Gertrude Stein, Oscar Wilde

Catacombs of Paris – municipal ossuary is the reburial place of approx. 6 million residents of Paris

Paris Sewer Tour – haven’t been, don’t plan to go, unless someone talks me into it

Canal & Seine Barge Cruise – Teena Hughes of A Night in Paris explains it all here, with video

Fat Tire Bike Tours – comes highly recommended, although I haven’t tried yet; Paris city tours, Versailles and Giverny also; if you’ve done this, please leave a comment with reviews

Day Trips

Versailles – magnificent palaces & grounds; former home of French kings

Chartres – extraordinary Gothic cathedral & UNESCO world heritage site

Giverny – Claude Monet’s home and gardens

Reims –Champagne country

Kids

Disneyland Resort Paris

Parc Asterix –  large amusement park organized around 5 themed lands, about 20 miles north of Paris

France Miniature – outdoor village with scale models of 160 major French monuments; 45 minutes from Paris

Paris local parks – Luxemburg Garden, Tuilleries, Champ de Mars – lovely, green spaces, kid-friendly activities

Aquaboulevard – indoor/outdoor waterpark and athletic facility; largest indoor waterpark in Europe

Last tip – don’t be pennywise but hour foolish.  If you’re trying to get to a venue in a hurry, like before closing or last admission time, consider jumping in a taxi rather than waiting for a bus, or walking to/from a metro station.  If there’s one thing I’ve learned, traveling across Paris usually takes twice as long as I estimate, so give yourself plenty of time.  Plot your visits on a map, as many can be grouped for walking (Louvre, Notre Dame, St. Chapelle, Deportation Memorial).  Buses are a great way to get around, but to a visitor who is unfamiliar with local routes, the occasional manifestations (strikes) alter bus routes, bypassing certain popular stops, leaving you Lord knows where (another lesson learned the hard way).

Plan ahead, do your research, and don’t get frustrated.  You’ll never see it all, but just assure yourself, you’ll be back and see more on your next trip.  Bon voyage!

All links are working at time of publication, but subject to change by site owners.  If you find a broken link, please send me a comment and let me know. Thanks!

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Great Day Trips from Paris-Monet’s Gardens at Giverny

If you’re going to be in Paris more than a few days, take advantage of the great public transportation system and venture out to see some of the glorious sights nearby.  I’ll be highlighting 3 of my favorite day trips from Paris in the next few weeks.   You can do all 3 of these excursions via organized tour companies…..but if you like scheduling your own day, and saving money, don’t be afraid to venture out on your own.  Let’s start with Claude Monet’s glorious home and gardens at Giverny. 
 
 giverny-home
Monet’s gardens are one of the most visited attractions, and no wonder why.  This famous leader of the Impressionist movement retired to Giverny and made his home here from 1883 until the time of his death in 1926.  He spent many years planning and planting his famous gardens.  You have seen pictures of them many times…..even if you have never been there.  Monet created his beloved water lily paintings here….dredging the pond, building the Japanese footbridge, framed by weeping willows and wisteria, and planting a riot of colorful blooms, designed to flower all through the growing season.  Rose arbors, delphiniums, spring bulbs.  But Monet was captivated by the water lilies, capturing them in different lights and changing seasons, from many perspectives….close up to far away.
gardens

Entrance fee to Monet’s house and gardens is 6 euros for adults, discounts for children and seniors.  http://www.fondation-monet.com/uk/  Open April 1 – Oct. 31. 

Flowering calendar http://giverny.org/gardens/fcm/calendar.htm explains what’s in bloom every month.

 

 

Getting There

Take an early train from Paris Gare St. Lazare to Vernon.  Cost is approx 24 Euro round trip, and direct trains make the trip in about 45 minutes.  Here is the English website for France SNCF train schedules:   http://www.tgv-europe.com/en/home/?rfrr=Basket_header_Home

 

Public buses depart Vernon train station about 15 minutes after the train arrives.  The short bus ride from Vernon to Giverny is about 2.5 miles, and costs about 3 Euros round trip.     

Try to arrive early, before the hoards of tour buses disgorge their day-trippers. 

 

Organized bus or mini-van tours are available from Paris through Paris Visions, ranging from 70-89 Euros.  http://en.parisvision.com/15,226-visit-giverny-monet-house-and-gardens.htm

 

For something delightfully different, try Fat Tire Bike Tours.  For 65 Euros, you receive round trip train transportation Paris to Vernon, a guided bike tour from Vernon to Giverny, picnic lunch along the Seine, entrance to Monet’s house and gardens, and a visit to his gravesite.  It’s an easy 6.5 mile round trip bike ride.  http://fattirebiketours.com/paris/tours/monet-bike

Be sure your camera is fully charged and has plenty of storage memory, as you’ll need the space to capture the beautiful surroundings.