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Is a Tour Bus Right for You?

A tour bus gives visitors the option to disembark and re-embark at designated

Is a tour bus right for you?

London tour bus

points, makes it easy to cover a lot of territory while on vacation.  With knowledgeable guides and pre-recorded information available in several different languages, taking a tour bus also offers a quick overview of points of interest along the way.

But is a tour bus tour right for you? It depends.

If walking around a new city makes you nervous or uncomfortable, if a semi-structured tour is more your speed or if you don’t have much time, then a tour bus tour is your best option.

If you’re like me, however, and you like to be on your own schedule, wander around, stop, take photos, talk to people, don’t mind getting lost, etc., then a tour bus tour might not be your cup of tea.

I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve taken a tour bus tour. When I’m in a new place, I want to explore, preferably on foot. So a tour bus, for me, is like an expensive cab ride.

But after walking for what seemed like hours in both London and Paris, I decided to hop on a bus so I could cover a bit more territory. In London, the tour bus tour I selected was led by a pleasant and knowledgeable guide who had us laughing at his sometimes corny anecdotes. However, not even that kept me on longer than the first leg. The same thing happened in Paris.

What I learned from my brief tour bus experiences

  1. Get on the bus early. Typically, tickets for tour buses are valid for 48 hours from time of purchase – they are time-stamped. The earlier you start, the more you’ll get to see. (It’d be interesting to find out how many people do take advantage of the full 48 hours.)
  2. Plan your route carefully. You don’t want to have to loop back.
  3. Pick a seat on the top deck. Weather permitting and if you don’t mind heights, select a bus with an upper level. It’s a whole different experience seeing a city from one story up.
  4. If you want photos (and who doesn’t?), choose a seat at the front of the upper level or take a tour bus with few people on top. That way, you’ll (hopefully) avoid other people’s heads when you go for that all important shot. Unfortunately, if you’re sitting in any other seat and you’re not quick, by the time you get into position and line up the shot, the bus has moved on or someone or something else is in your way.
  5. If you decide to leave the tour bus early, pick a spot that has a lot of different attractions or is well-populated.
  6. Know when and where the last tour for the bus you’re on finishes and avoid being stuck too far away from anyplace you’re familiar with.
  7. Consider taking a tour bus to get a general orientation of a place, then explore on foot the following day.

A tour bus is a great way to get the lay of the land. But walking allows you more freedom to see the sights, interact with people and adds new layers to the memories you’re creating.

A few of my missed tour bus shots.

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I Didn’t Even Get a Croissant! Ten Things I Wish I’d Done in Paris

Okay, so eating a croissant wasn’t really on my list of things to do in Paris. But I had envisioned a much different trip than the one I actually had.

In the trip I imagined, I’d spend a week in Paris, visit a few friends and all the must-see spots, the Champs-Élysées, the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, etc., then make my way to Bordeaux, the wine region, and Saint-Émilion in search of the Château Grand Mayne. (About 10 years ago, I discovered a Bordeaux with my name on it. I was so excited, I bought a case! Visiting a place that had my name was high on my list.)

At some point, I’d travel to Lons le Saunier, to visit ma petite soeur, Murielle, and her family. I was looking forward so much to seeing the French countryside that I’d sit at my desk when I was supposed to be working and daydream about it.

But life (aka work) intervened. Instead of spending two weeks in France and two in London, I had two weeks between London and Paris. I could manage only three days in Paris. It wouldn’t be enough — I like to spend my time, slowly peeling back layers and discovering a new place — but it’d have to do.

Lines outside the Musée d'Orsay

Don’t get me wrong, I loved every minute of my three days but it went by so fast, if I didn’t have photos, I’d think it had been a dream.

I’ve been reflecting on the dream and all the things I didn’t get a chance to see or do in Paris, and I made a list:

  1. Sunset Cruise on the Seine Bateaux Parisiens offers dinner, nighttime and private cruises on the Seine that leave from the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame.
  2. La Sainte-Chapelle – I don’t consider myself a very religious person but looking at cathedrals always humbles me. Located at Île de la Cité, this Gothic Cathedral was consecrated in 1248. It has been a national historic monument since 1862.
  3. Église Saint-Suplice – The second largest church in Paris.
  4. Moulin Rouge – Home of the can-can, the Moulin Rouge has been around since the late 1800s. Artists from Edith Piaf to Josephine Baker have performed there.
  5. Montmartre – The bohemian place that played host to artists like Picasso, Dali, Modgiliani, Monet and others.
  6. La Basilique du Sacré-Cœur de Montmartre – The Basilica is located in Montmartre, the highest point of the city.
  7. Musée d’Orsay – I wanted to visit this elegant former train station turned gallery for Western art but after standing in line at the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower, I couldn’t muster up the energy for another line.
  8. Montparnasse – I have created my own (highly romanticized) narrative about what living in Montparnasse must have been like for artists such as Jean Rhys, Madox Ford, Henry Miller, Salvador Dali, Jean Miró, Diego Rivera and many others who made it their home. I wanted to walk in their footsteps.
  9. Château de Versailles – One of the largest palaces in the world, it is the location where the Treaty of Versailles was signed in 1919.
  10. Luxembourg Palace and Luxembourg Gardens – Built between 1615 and 1627 for Marie de Medici, the widow of Henry IV, the Luxembourg Palace is home of the French Senate. Wonder how difficult it must be to have to work there? I’ll never know!

The trip I took was an appetizer. I’m ready now for a more leisurely and elaborate feast with ten (or more) reasons to return to Paris.

What Some Bloggers are Saying About Paris

 

I could write about Paris everyday and not run out of things to say.  But I woke up this morning thinking about my blog buddy, Heather Munro, whose posts on Paris really got me stoked. Heather’s photographs capture the romance and the beauty of Paris like no other blogger I had seen in a while.

The Seine

So I went looking for what other bloggers are saying about Paris. Hope you like my selection:

  • Jordan (http://ohhappyday.com), an American who recently moved to Paris, is giving away a 7-day trip for two to Paris. Unfortunately, the giveaway closes at 11:59 tonight. So head over to her blog and enter.
  • My Little Paris (http://www.mylittle.fr/mylittleparis/en/) is a bilingual blog on all things French.
  • Nicole, an American, lived in Paris for a while. Her blog (http://littlebrownpen.blogspot.com) chronicles her Paris Color Project, a series of photographs on color in the city of light.
  • Prêt á Voyager (http://pretavoyager.blogspot.com) is the blog of self-confessed Paris-loving graphic designer Anne Ditmeyer. Anne’s posts cover living in and visiting Paris.
  • Erica Berman’s post on French Restaurant Etiquette: Dining in France Like a Local caught my eye. Erica, an American who’s been living in Paris for several years, owns a vacation rental company and blogs about everything hip in Paris. (http://hipparis.com).
  • Cynthia is a French student who’s studying in England. Her blog (http://goodtipsinparis.wordpress.com) offers tips on Paris.
  • Kathy, my blog buddy over at To Write is to Write, did a sweet little post on her trip to Paris. Read it here.
  • Heather lives in the U.S. but it’s safe to say she’d rather be in Paris. I loved her post on the Eiffel Tower and Chartres but check out all her posts under the Paris category. You’re in for a rare treat.

Enjoy these images of Paris:

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Paris, Day 2: The Eiffel Tower Climb

After walking around Paris for most of the day taking in one must-see attraction after another, I was excited to see the Eiffel Tower straight ahead, looking as if it had sprouted from the ground.

The images I had in my head from movies and television and photographs dwarfed in comparison to the real thing. It was impressive!

View from under the Eiffel Tower - Maynefoto

Up close, the Eiffel Tower, with its intricate lattice work, is a marvel of modern engineering.

At 1,063 feet, it is among the tallest structures in the world. Its base measures approximately 330 feet. Completed in 1889, the Tower was named after Gustave Eiffel, the engineer who designed it.

Up close - Maynefoto

Throngs of people milled around the base, hundreds more waited on one of two lines – one to climb the stairs to the first and second floors, the other, the elevator to the second floor and the top.

I sat for a while, debating whether I’d go up. Once I decided, there was no question: I’d take the stairs — not the elevator with the longer line. It would be a good 45 minutes to an hour before I reached the ticket counter.

I’d say the first 100 steps were a breeze compared to the next 200. I had to stop several times to catch my breath. But it also gave me a chance to take some photos.

Informational signs - Maynefoto

View of the line from the First Floor of the Eiffel Tower - Maynefoto

When I made it to the first floor 347 steps later, I felt very proud. I headed straight for the first table to rest.

More views from the First Floor, Eiffel Tower - Maynefoto

View of the Seine from the Eiffel Tower - Maynefoto

When I reached the first floor, I couldn’t imagine going to the next level. But after getting a bottle of water from the concession stand and feeling my heart had returned to beating normally, I realized it was time to go. Of course, seeing other people doing it, didn’t help either.

500th Step at the Eiffel Tower - Maynefoto

Reaching the 500th step of the 674 steps to the second floor. I knew when I returned home there’d be some who wouldn’t believe I’d done it, so I brought proof.

The second floor was crawling with people – those who had taken the elevator up, those returning from the top and others, like me, who climbed up. The second floor is also the location of a second ticket window where those who wanted to, could buy tickets to the elevator to the top and the souvenir shop. It’s also where the second, more expensive, restaurant is to be found.

View of the top from the 2nd level - Maynefoto

Looking towards the top from the second floor.

I was still undecided whether to go up. The lines were long and I needed to join the line again to get another ticket. I mulled it over as I took more photos of the beautiful scenery below. (I just noticed the shadow of the Eiffel in this one.)

The Eiffel, towering over Paris - Maynefoto

I’m not sure how long I hung around snapping photo after photo before I joined the ticket line.

Sunset from the Eiffel Tower - Maynefoto

It was another 30-45 minutes before I got up to the window, maybe 20 more minutes to get on the elevator and a few minutes to get to the top.

As we began our ascent, I looked down — we weren’t going very fast — and my stomach lurched. It settled after a few seconds, and I watched as people and things on the ground became increasingly smaller.

Exiting the elevator, I was surprised and delighted to see this little flag of Jamaica on the Eiffel Tower!!

7 734 km to Jamaica - Maynefoto

The view at the top is breathtaking. Unfortunately, since it’s enclosed, I had to take photos from the windows. They all picked up the film of dirt on the window.

It was after 8 p.m. and I wanted to be on the ground to see the lights that begin at 9 p.m. It started as I was descending and ended before I got to the ground. I wanted to wait for the next one at 10 p.m. but I was hungry and tired and still had a 30 minute metro ride back to the hotel.

I had spent more than 5 hours there but it was well worth it. I said my goodbye to the Eiffel Tower around 9:30 p.m.

Night - Maynefoto

Climbing the steps to the second floor of the Eiffel Tower then taking the elevator to the top was the highlight of my three days in Paris.

Visiting the Eiffel Tower

Hours: The Eiffel Tower is open everyday from 9:30 – midnight but check the website for exact times in the summer months.

Tickets: Stairs to the 2nd Floor: €4,70 – If you want to climb the stairs to the second floor, like I did, you’ll have to purchase your ticket when you get there.

Elevator to the 2nd Floor: €8, 20

Elevator to top: €13,40

As with any attraction, vendors selling souvenir keychains, water, etc., are everywhere. There’s also a souvenir shop on the second level.

Restaurants are on the first and second levels.

Enjoy!