by Emily Benson
This is our first post of the ASK E.T. Segment! As extreme telecommuters, we’ve traveled quite a bit and made our share of mistakes as well as cherished discoveries. We want to help you make the most of your trip, by giving you insider advice on finding the best budget accommodations, saving money on meals, and saving time, by not making some of the stupid mistakes we’ve made.
We’re all for spontaneity, but when you don’t plan ahead, even just a smidgeon, you will spend all of your time staring dumbfounded at maps, arguing about which sightseeing activity is top on your list, missing trains, and heading out to your favorite museum on the one day of the week it happens to be closed. We don’t like to be pedantic, but we want to help you plan the best possible trip based on our hard-won wisdom. So here’s our first inquiry to get us started!
Jeff and Deidre wrote : “We need your advice to tell us how to maximize our trip to a wedding in Italy next June. We have decided to fly into Paris arriving June 4th early am and then will leave out of Munich on Tuesday June 11 in the AM. We have a wedding to go to in Rome on Sunday the 9th. So the question is how can we maximize our trip and still get to see the romance of Europe in 8 days.”
Eight days to experience the romance of Europe? That’s sort of like trying to learn Mandarin in an afternoon, or make creme brûlée in five seconds flat. But we like a challenge, so here goes!
Upon Arrival: Check into Hotel and Power Nap Before Fueling up on Espresso
In case Deidre and Jeff are not feeling jet lagged (right!) they can simply drop off their bags and head out for breakfast. Otherwise, no one should ever underestimate the potential of a power nap to restore some modicum of mental alertness.
For their accommodations we recommend Hotel Saint Jacques in the heart of the Latin Quarter. Why?
1. Paris is NOT New York City. If you go out on a weeknight, you will be stranded after midnight when the subway closes.
And you will not find a cab. C’est impossible. Trust us. We’ve been there, and it wasn’t pretty. (Think two-three hour busride at two a.m. with about a million stops to pick up drunken people who are crammed on the bus sardine-style). All this to get to our hotel by the airport. NEVER do this!
It seems like a clever idea to just get right off the plane and stay in a hotel near the airport, but it’s not! Since Jeff and Deidre will be traveling sans enfant, this is their opportunity to enjoy Parisian nightlife, and we’d like them to have a hotel near the best nightlife options, so they can easily walk/stumble home.
2. The hotel’s salon “Toulouse Lautrec” serves absinthe in honor of its namesake Henri de Toulouse Lautrec who found painting cancan dancers even more appealing with trusty absinthe by his side.
3. The hotel is a great value for Paris, under 150 Euros for a double.
4. It’s a 3 block walk from Notre Dame which is where we’re sending them first.
9:00 am to 10:00 am Breakfast on the Seine
Depending on the length of their power nap, they may or may not make breakfast. If they do, here’s what we recommend:
O Fil De L’O, not to be confused with the morning river cruise on the Seine is a cafe on a moored boat in a quiet part of Quai De La Tournelle. There are magnificent views of the Seine (obviously), and also of Ille de la Cite and Notre Dame. The food is cheap and good. You can get juice, coffee, croissant and fresh bread all for 8 euros!
10:00am-noon Notre Dame and Ile de la Cite
After staring longingly at one the most impressive examples of Gothic architecture in Europe, why not have a look at Notre Dame just across the way on Ile de la Cite?
Anything that took more than 200 years to build is probably worth five minutes of a traveler’s time. And the stained glass windows are not to be missed. If they’re not too jet-lagged (right!) they can climb up to the bell-tower for a close-up view of gargoyles, and one of the best views of Paris. Hint: go early to avoid long lines.
And when they are done, they should head to Lover’s Bridge over the Seine River, just east of Notre Dame and connecting it with the south side of the Seine. There, they can proclaim their love for one another by writing their names on a padlock, locking it to the bridge, and throwing the key in the Seine. It’s been rumored, that by doing this, you will never argue with your loved one again.
noon-3:00 p.m. Musee D’Orsay with lunch break included
This converted railway station on the banks of the Seine has one of the best collections of impressionist art in the world, including paintings by Monet, Degas, Van Gogh, Renoir and Pisarro.
Since the Louvre is closed on Tuesday when Jeff and Deidre arrive, they should definitely head for Musee D’Orsay. Besides, many prefer it to the Louvre since it feels less overwhelming. To avoid long lines, be sure to get tickets ahead of time. A ticket booth in front of Notre Dame sells tickets to many attractions and do not mark up the price. (Hey, maybe that was our secret motivation for sending them there earlier!) They could also get a museum pass and see the Louvre as well when it opens again on Wednesday.
The top floor of Musee D’orsee has a great view of the city, and, even better, foot-long eclairs. Ok, I happen to think even foot-long Subway sandwiches push the boundaries of healthful living, but hey, when in France! Healthy alternative: (Not eating the footlong eclair). If they were in the mood for something more wholesome, they could return on same day with their ticket and have lunch at a bistro in the neighborhood).
3p.m.-6p.m. Stroll down the Champs Élysées to the Arc du Triomphe
What could be a better way to reward yourself after three hours of hard-core art appreciation
than shopping, or at least window shopping, along what many consider to be the most beautiful and famous avenue in the world. I would add most prohibitively expensive, but you don’t necesarilly have to shop at the iconic Cartier store or Guerlain perfumer. You can experience the same olfactory barrage stepping into the much less haughty and more populist Sephora. Or, if you’re like me and prefer vintage styles, try shopping in the lively Marais district, where you can follow the trail of Louis XIV.
6:00 p.m.-9:00p.m. Picnic by the Twinkling Eiffel Tower.
As budget travelers who pride ourselves on saving money and being un-touristy at the same time, we say Jeff and Deidre can kill two birds with one stone by not following the hoards up to the top of the Eiffel tower and enjoying this iconic monument like the locals, with the Eiffel Tower as a glorious backdrop for their picnic! And the lights really do twinkle, every hour for about five minutes. Think of the money they’ll save by not eating out at an expensive restaurant. (Besides, they can blow it all later at a night club in the Latin Quarter!)
Try the quaintly cobblestoned Rue Mouffetard to find the best boulangeries and fromageries to purchase all the perfect ingredients for a picnic! And don’t forget the wine! You can find a good quality chilled Rose in any grocery store for 2 or 3 Euros.
10:00 pm- to some ungodly hour in the middle of the night
The Moulin Rouge is one of the most famous cabaret clubs and has three shows nightly, with very energetic and talented dancers. The dinner show is generally considered a rip-off, and the food mediocre to bad. The 11pm show and champagne package is probably the best option, but the lines are tediously long, the place is jam packed, and there’s only one free glass of champagne included. C’est tragique!
And let’s face it, the whole thing is a bit cliche. Even the French are trying to tell you this in their clever subliminal way. After all, look at the address:
82 Boulevard de Clichy, Paris
As budget travelers, we feel compelled to offer some more affordable options for nightlife.
The Latin Quarter has some of the most compelling venues in Paris.
Le Caveau de la Huchette or “jazz cave” is known to be a great spot if you like jazz or swing. The music is timeless but the crowd is young, hip energetic and local. The cover is 14 Euros, and there’s live music every night around ten. After, they could head to Les Bains Douches, a hot techno club in a former Turkish bath. Things don’t start here until after midnight.
If they choose Montmartre as their desired neighborhood to experience Parisian nightlife, we say stay in Montmartre! The Regyn’s Montmartre, on Place des Abbesses is popular and affordable. Better yet, each room is soundproofed! The hotel even has a private chapel so they can repent any nightclubbing sins the next morning. Hotel Des Arts is also a great value.
Before heading out for their night of revelry, they could visit the nearby Sacre-Coeur and wander Montmartre’s scenic streets. In both cases a Metrostop with fast connections to central Paris is a stone’s throw away.
We hope this post will help Deidre and Jeff plan their trip. Obviously we’d be total control freaks or egomaniacs to expect them to follow our itinerary minute by minute, but we hope they will like some of our ideas. Stay tuned for “Romance of Europe in Eight Days: Day 2” when we send them on a high speed train to the Riviera!