Travel

Who will be going?

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StChapelle

Laura asks us: “Who will be going?”
Tara asks us: “What is the avg. age of the group members?” (married, singles, size of the avg. group)

We finalize our roster later in the year
To join the group sign up on our Waiting List

We hope for a group of 5 to 15 travelers, creating a diverse and interesting mix for our week together. There are no quotas, our composition varies from year to year. When traveling with a group a reasonable amount and patience and tolerance is essential.

Our members might be active, as we change accommodations four times during the trip – packing up and traveling through the Metro system
(although you could certainly take a taxi)

Some of us are “early birds,” first in line at museums with our Museum Pass each morning.
(although if you prefer to sleep in, visiting museums during selected evening hours is another option – when they are also less crowded)

We go to the first Christmas Mass at Notre Dame, a great way to avoid the crowds;
It’s a beautiful time and place regardless of your denomination.
Afterwards we probably go to a popular big-name Left Bank cafe close-by (you-guessed-it, no crowds)

The evening concerts at Sainte-Chapelle are another way to “hack” the endless line at this medieval attraction. You won’t see much of the 13th century stained glass after sunset, but listening to chamber music in the cold-darkness of this Gothic structure is like-no-where-else. And the nice thing about Sainte-Chapelle: it is relatively small, not a bad seat in the house.

Our group will be not too big to gather at a cafe together or weather permitting, bicycle between attractions, markets and cemeteries.

The gardens of Versailles are a unique place for an early run (or walk) in the emptiness of the dawn hours.
Later in the week – a New Year’s jog on the morning of our departure is a tradition which provides one final look at Paris, before we pack our bags.

2016 Paris Itinerary

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Your Passport

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Passport 3

An interested traveler told us that she has never traveled abroad and asked if she should obtain a Passport

Maybe you’ll obtain the Passport this year . . . then travel with us next year
If you do join us this year, you will need a Passport before you buy your airline ticket to Paris

Go to the local Post Office to obtain your Passport application
Form: DS-11
There is a fee (approx $165)
A Passport Photo is also required (2”x2”)

Once all materials are assembled . . .
It isn’t much more effort than mailing a Christmas Package
There may be a line and repeated trips back to the window
And there is processing time (4-6 weeks)

Your Passport is the ultimate trinket
Something that you definitely need when-you-need-it
Maybe one day it will bear airport stamps from Paris, Berlin, London or Tokyo
It is good for 10 years

U.S. Passports and International Travel United States Department of State

Apply for a New Passport United States Post Office

Renew Passport by Mail

2015 Paris Itinerary

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How much will it cost?

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Le-Versailles

You will pay us nothing for your travel and accommodations in Paris
This is not a travel package
You will book your air travel and hotel arrangements
We can offer assistance and make suggestions
There is a nominal (refundable) $250.00 fee to sign up for the Waiting List
Why should I join the Waiting List?

Paris for the Holidays began in 2011, when we realized that the flight across the Atlantic is only incrementally more expensive (and time consuming) than a domestic flight. We acquired a rewards (credit) card – and funneled most of our purchases through it. This funds our Christmas escape to France each year. And ends-up-being an escape from the commercial American Christmas – a holiday from the holidays.

Paris Airfare : $1,000
We recommend a non-stop flight which leaves late-in-the-day and arrives mid-morning in Paris
If you have the stamina (and patience) for a flight which makes a stop, or two – you could save several hundred dollars
But it is like riding the Chicago “Rapid” Transit System, the more transfers, the more things that can go wrong
If you have a airline or credit card rewards plan, the savings will be more substantial

Lodging: $170 per night
The 4 Hotels (Les Quatre Hôtels)
You can reduce this at any travel site. $170 is actually pretty reasonable for Paris
Maybe you can find someone to share the room and split the cost
We stay at comfortable hotels on the outskirts of Paris (Montmatre, Bercy, Versailles, La Defense and Bagnolet, this year) They are clean, secure and spacious. We have stayed closer to the center of Paris; the accommodations were not as economical, not as spacious and felt impersonal and touristy. To some they might be considered unacceptably rustic and small. (Although we admit – being in central Paris definitely has its advantages)

Another popular option for Lodging is quite affordable:
Air BNB Paris ($48.00 per night for shared room)

In summary, Airfare and Hotels could exceed $2,000, although:
Airfare can be reduced with reward points and alternatives to a non-stop flight and
Hotel costs can be reduced by sharing with a roommate or choosing a cheaper hotel

Passes and Cards:
We strongly recommend that you purchase:
1 – the Paris Museum Pass: for 6 contiguous days of admission to major attractions (and avoid the lines)
(2 day and 4 day passes are also available)
2 – a Vélib’ (Bike-Share) 7 Day Pass for 8 euros (which is such a bargain)
3 – 10 Metro Carnet [kar-nay] tickets. Other RER tickets will be purchased for travel outside of central Paris and from the airport
You can purchase these at CDG Airport upon your arrival (Vélib’ Pass can be purchased online in advance)

Food:
We seldom eat in restaurants during our stay. Instead we search the best boulangerie for the perfect baguette. Neighborhood groceries offer affordable wine and cheese, fruits, pates, etc. We also monitor our list of markets, street food, wine bars and set-price lunch menus

Communication:
You may arrange an international data or call package with your cell phone carrier
We purchase the most basic (minimum) phone and data (1 month) package
Then we turn-off the phone (and use it solely for googling maps, etc while out on the street)
We turn-it-on for several calls back to the US-of-A
If you don’t disable your phone “mysterious data usage (and roaming) charges” may appear on your next bill
We bring a tablet to utilize free WiFi available at the hotel

Pocket Money:
You can withdraw Euros from an ATM at the airport in Paris
We recommend that you do this early, before you need it. Put it off, and then it becomes critical.
Your bank may have a relationship with a European bank to minimize withdrawal fees
You can purchase Euros from an agency in the US, though you will probably be floored by their fees.
It may be comforting to have 100 Euros with you, although we found that we don’t need it. It is nice to have some low denomination euros and coins for tipping housekeeping and the subway musicians

And, Notify your credit cards to approve the overseas transactions

Exactly what is this trip about?

2016 Paris Itinerary

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It’s not too early to book your flight

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Tour-Eiffel

It is your first step and the commitment that starts your journey

Our group will leave for France on Tuesday, December 23rd for an overnight flight to arrive in Paris the morning of Christmas Eve

A non-stop flight is nice, but may not be available or affordable. One year, using airline frequent flyer points, our flight had two stops on the way to Paris. Instead of arriving at the airport late in day for a non-stop flight, we spent the whole day traveling through airports, eventually leaving from Toronto. It was hard find comfortable seat position on the final trans-atlantic-leg overnight flight after spending the day waiting and sitting. We did enjoy the beautiful Toronto airport and a wonderful Air Canada flight.

It is comforting to fly with an airline which is part of a network, should flight changes occur. They may be able to transfer you to another flight. Overall, our experience is that foreign airlines (specifically Swiss Air or Air Canada) were more luxurious. The seats and entertainment systems felt like they were better maintained, and all the little extras were just a little nicer. Foreign flights are less likely to be non-stop and may depart from Canada or travel through another European city on the way to Paris.

We like aisle seats and enjoy the surreal night walks up and down the aisles of the airplane through the dark night. Standing up and stretching really helps during long flights. Your seat partner will probably want to climb out of their seat, just as you are falling asleep, but that is the trade-off.

The return flight from Paris usually leaves late in the morning on New Years Day. This allows for a leisurely trip to the airport after New Years Eve. If it is a non-stop flight, you will arrive home sometime in the afternoon that day.

If you have a good source of tickets, please share them with us. Some websites provide notification when sales occur.

2015 Paris Itinerary

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