Travel tips for first time visitors to England and France?

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supersharpie
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Travel tips for first time visitors to England and France?

Post by supersharpie » Wed May 10, 2017 1:56 pm

Hey all,

My wife is graduating from her MBA program next month and to celebrate we are taking a two week trip to England and France in October. We plan to take a red-eye from the east coast to London on a Friday and fly home two Fridays later.

At this point we have very few concrete plans in place. However, our basic travel itinerary is as follows:

10/13 - fly to London

10/14-10/15 - London

10/16 - take Eurostar train from London to Paris

10/16-10/22 - Paris

10/23 - take train to Nottingham (seeing Greg Davies, our favorite British comedian, at the Royal Concert Hall)

10/24 - take train to London

10/24-10/26 - London

10/27 - fly home

In terms of entertainment, we would like to attend an EPL match and also attend a concert or two. Fortuitously, The Rolling Stones just announced they are playing a pair of shows in Paris while we will be in town.

We love exploring cities and will certainly visit a few of Paris and London's best museums. We also feel that a day trip to Versailles is in order.

We want to dine well. However, we will be packing very light, meaning I won't be bringing a suit or sports jacket. However, I will bring a pair of slacks, a few button down shirts and sweaters, and a nice pair of leather shoes. DW will bring a dress or two as well as a pair of stylish jeans.

So, please fill us in on your recommendations for first time tourists to both cities in terms of cultural attractions and restaurants that don't require formal attire.

Also, any suggestions for killing a few pre and post-show hours in Nottingham would also be appreciated.

We will be staying in Airbnb properties in London and Paris and a hotel the one night in Nottingham so if there are any properties where you had a great experience in those cities please share links!

ResearchMed
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Re: Travel tips for first time visitors to England and France?

Post by ResearchMed » Wed May 10, 2017 2:25 pm

supersharpie wrote:Hey all,

My wife is graduating from her MBA program next month and to celebrate we are taking a two week trip to England and France in October. We plan to take a red-eye from the east coast to London on a Friday and fly home two Fridays later.

At this point we have very few concrete plans in place. However, our basic travel itinerary is as follows:

10/13 - fly to London

10/14-10/15 - London

10/16 - take Eurostar train from London to Paris

10/16-10/22 - Paris

10/23 - take train to Nottingham (seeing Greg Davies, our favorite British comedian, at the Royal Concert Hall)

10/24 - take train to London

10/24-10/26 - London

10/27 - fly home

In terms of entertainment, we would like to attend an EPL match and also attend a concert or two. Fortuitously, The Rolling Stones just announced they are playing a pair of shows in Paris while we will be in town.

We love exploring cities and will certainly visit a few of Paris and London's best museums. We also feel that a day trip to Versailles is in order.

We want to dine well. However, we will be packing very light, meaning I won't be bringing a suit or sports jacket. However, I will bring a pair of slacks, a few button down shirts and sweaters, and a nice pair of leather shoes. DW will bring a dress or two as well as a pair of stylish jeans.

So, please fill us in on your recommendations for first time tourists to both cities in terms of cultural attractions and restaurants that don't require formal attire.

Also, any suggestions for killing a few pre and post-show hours in Nottingham would also be appreciated.

We will be staying in Airbnb properties in London and Paris and a hotel the one night in Nottingham so if there are any properties where you had a great experience in those cities please share links!
At Versailles... It was several years ago, but it seems to be still available: Rental Golf Carts so you can scoot around wherever you wish on the extensive grounds.

When we were there (and a search seems to show the same), they are not just for handicapped (which might be separately available).
As SOON as we got through the Palace, we looked around until we [finally] saw the little kiosk and then we raced over.
Yes, there was a bit of a wait for carts to be returned and those in front of us to rent them, etc., but compared to the time we saved by not walking, plus being able to see so much more, it was well worth the wait.

It was a splurge, but one of the best, especially since it wasn't a huge budget buster.

We were staying at a nice hotel (our Honeymoon), and we had ordered room service for breakfast rather than spending time at regular breakfast "downstairs".
The room service guy politely inquired about our plans, and we mentioned Versailles, and he told us about the golf carts. We had never heard of them, and probably would not have noticed the kiosks. We probably would have thought the occasional cart passing us on the grounds were either employees or "special" in some way.

We also went on a Segway tour.
(We've since done Segway tours in other cities, but in less crowded environs only.)

Your trip itinerary seems to make sense, given your scheduling.

In both cities, we could have spent a month and still have a "to do" list.
Try to look through guides to maximize seeing what is of interest to you, but also allow some time to just wander and enjoy.

We didn't take an evening cruise on the Seine. "Touristy" or not, we still wish we had done that.
Next time.

Enjoy!

RM
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FraggleRock
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Travel tip for first time visitors to England

Post by FraggleRock » Wed May 10, 2017 2:35 pm

In England: look right.

SouthernCPA
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Re: Travel tips for first time visitors to England and France?

Post by SouthernCPA » Wed May 10, 2017 2:46 pm

We went back in 2014 to London and Paris and had a great time. The best piece of advice I can give regarding restaurants is to walk a couple blocks away from the major tourist spots and find authentic food. It's usually much cheaper than right up next to a tourist attraction.

In Paris, I would write your hotel/airbnb address down on a card and keep it handy. Many of our cab drivers spoke very little English and we could just show them the address and they knew where to go. A little french goes a long way in Paris. Most of your service industry folks there will be able to speak English, but giving a little effort to order in French goes a long way to gaining their respect.

The Louvre Museum you could spend a week in and not see everything. We also did do the nighttime river cruise in Paris and it was totally worth it, although touristy.

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JupiterJones
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Re: Travel tips for first time visitors to England and France?

Post by JupiterJones » Wed May 10, 2017 3:36 pm

My standard, number-one, above-all-else advice is "pack light", but it looks like you're already doing that! :sharebeer

It sounds like your itinerary is set, but if it isn't, you might want to explore the option of taking the train to Paris a couple of days later.Then you could just fly out of there, rather than doubling back to London.

I couldn't agree with SouthernCPA more about learning a bit of French if you don't already know some. It's always a good idea to make the effort to speak a bit of the local language no matter where you go, but I found it to really make a difference in Paris. I think the notorious "French rudeness" is mainly only experienced by people who bluster in speaking only English and expect everyone else to do so too. My fumbling efforts to speak French were consistently met with friendliness and appreciation, even among those who did happen to speak English.

Get a good guidebook or two if you haven't already. Even in this age of Yelp and Tripadvisor, there's a lot to be said for a curated guide to a city, created by an experienced expert. I like the Rick Steves books myself. Good tips on avoiding lines to popular sites by reserving ahead, excellent self-guided walking tours, etc.
Stay on target...

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Phineas J. Whoopee
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Re: Travel tips for first time visitors to England and France?

Post by Phineas J. Whoopee » Wed May 10, 2017 3:52 pm

If you plan to plug in any personal electrical devices be sure you have the requisite adapters. Even electronics that can take 120 or 240 volts needs a plug that fits the sockets. They are far from universal and I've seen baffled USians. Don't be one of them. :wink:

It's been years since I traveled to either city, so I have no up to date information.

The only thing I specifically recommend in London, because I seldom see others bring it up, is to visit St. Dunstan in the East, a medieval church destroyed by WW2 bombing which has been left in ruins as a memorial. Take a few minutes to sit on one of the benches where its pews used to be.

Never forget and never again.

PJW
Last edited by Phineas J. Whoopee on Wed May 10, 2017 4:25 pm, edited 1 time in total.

SRenaeP
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Re: Travel tips for first time visitors to England and France?

Post by SRenaeP » Wed May 10, 2017 4:14 pm

Phineas J. Whoopee wrote:If you plan to plug in any personal electrical devices be sure you have the requisite adapters. Even electronics that can take 120 or 240 volts needs a plug that fits the sockets. They are far from universal and I've seen baffled USians. Don't be one of them. :wink:
On that note, advise your wife not to take any expensive hair appliances (blow dryer, flat iron, curling iron, etc.). They will work in Europe with an adapter but never seem to work properly again once you're back in the US. I would buy a cheapie that she's okay with tossing after the trip.

-Steph

grok87
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Re: Travel tips for first time visitors to England and France?

Post by grok87 » Wed May 10, 2017 4:48 pm

BewAre of paris syndrome!

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paris_syndrome
Paris syndrome (French: Syndrome de Paris, Japanese: パリ症候群, Pari shōkōgun) is a transient mental disorder exhibited by some individuals when visiting or vacationing to Paris, as a result of extreme shock resulting from their finding out that Paris is not what they had expected it to be. It is characterized by a number of psychiatric symptoms such as acute delusional states, hallucinations, feelings of persecution (perceptions of being a victim of prejudice, aggression, or hostility from others), derealization, depersonalization, anxiety, and also psychosomatic manifestations such as dizziness, tachycardia, sweating, and others, such as vomiting.[1] Similar syndromes include Jerusalem syndrome and Stendhal syndrome. The condition is commonly viewed as a severe form of culture shock. It is particularly noted among Japanese travelers.
There are often long lines to get into the louvre.
Keep calm and Boglehead on. KCBO.

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Phineas J. Whoopee
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Re: Travel tips for first time visitors to England and France?

Post by Phineas J. Whoopee » Wed May 10, 2017 4:53 pm

SRenaeP wrote:..
I would buy a cheapie that she's okay with tossing after the trip.
If that's to be the approach, I would buy the appliances there, and donate them to someone who will accept them there prior to departure.

OP would still need at least one adapter, or some more expensive alternative, because although both London and Paris are in the 220 - 240 volt range, the electrical sockets are completely different from each other. I blame it on Louis XI and Henry VI.

Alternatively, one could choose, for travel, a low-maintenance haircut. Travel light applies in personal grooming as well. For example, don't complain the TSA won't let you bring your big tube of toothpaste on board a plane. Buy only what you need after arrival, and don't bring any remainder back.

Them there's some travel tips.

PJW

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GerryL
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Re: Travel tips for first time visitors to England and France?

Post by GerryL » Wed May 10, 2017 5:04 pm

Be prepared for CROWDS in Paris. (Probably London, too, but I can't speak from experience.)

I travelled to France in October 2015 for the first time in 25+ years. I'd previously lived there. I was amazed/appalled/discouraged by how crowded the city was. And by how the so-called touristy areas had expanded into what I once considered residential neighborhoods. Places I used to stroll among the locals on my day off are now wall-to-wall tourists.

So be ready for long waits and a sea of people at the places you will visit. Be sure to look into museum passes and other tricks to skip some of those lines. Set you expectations and you may save yourself some frustration.

PS I'll be returning to France in September, but I will be spending most of my time "in the provinces."

engineer1969
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Re: Travel tips for first time visitors to England and France?

Post by engineer1969 » Wed May 10, 2017 5:07 pm

Be cognizant of any bans that may be in place. I'm reading they may likely be banning laptops on flights from Europe to the US in the near future. This is the sort of thing that would have me stranded at the airport with laptop in hand :(

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Phineas J. Whoopee
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Re: Travel tips for first time visitors to England and France?

Post by Phineas J. Whoopee » Wed May 10, 2017 5:08 pm

grok87 wrote:...
There are often long lines to get into the louvre.
Pretty funny, but one must decide priorities. On my only so far, and too brief, visit to Paris I predetermined mine in order as:

1) The Louvre;
2) The Champs-Elysees;
3) The Eiffel Tower; and
4) The Paris Opera House.

Within my list I stayed flexible. If one doesn't have a plan, one doesn't know what one is deviating from. :wink:

I had hoped to attend a performance, but I only saw the last from outside because I was running out of time. It was over a weekend during a long business trip to Frankfurt.

The main Frankfurt that is, not Frankfurt the other.

PJW
Last edited by Phineas J. Whoopee on Wed May 10, 2017 5:15 pm, edited 1 time in total.

supersharpie
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Re: Travel tips for first time visitors to England and France?

Post by supersharpie » Wed May 10, 2017 5:14 pm

engineer1969 wrote:Be cognizant of any bans that may be in place. I'm reading they may likely be banning laptops on flights from Europe to the US in the near future. This is the sort of thing that would have me stranded at the airport with laptop in hand :(
I think the ban they are discussing would still allow you to check your laptop. That would be a nuisance though as watching movies helps the flight pass faster.

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Re: Travel tips for first time visitors to England and France?

Post by mr.ajandkj » Wed May 10, 2017 5:17 pm

In Paris, purchase the museum pass (good for several days). We preferred the Orsay over the Louvre.

Bring good walking shoes, and dress in layers for lots of different weather.

Was just in London, visited Tower of London for first time, definitely recommend. Also recommend buying passes for "The Original Tour" double-decker bus tour, you also can buy ticket to the Tower and other attractions at the office for "The Original Tour" for discount over what you will get elsewhere (10% additional).

Research SIM cards and get one with data plan (or add international to current plan), very worthwhile for navigating.

Watch Rick Steves Travel shows for England and France. They are free online. His phone app is worth downloading as well, free and has free walking guides for specific areas and sites.

Consider a train trip from London to see Cambridge or Oxford...close enough for a day trip and lots of cool sites to see at a much smaller scale and pace than London.

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Re: Travel tips for first time visitors to England and France?

Post by SrGrumpy » Wed May 10, 2017 7:18 pm

JupiterJones wrote: It sounds like your itinerary is set, but if it isn't, you might want to explore the option of taking the train to Paris a couple of days later.Then you could just fly out of there, rather than doubling back to London.
+1. Explore the option of an open-jaw, flying in to London and out of Paris, or vice-versa. (You might save some $$ on the UK departure tax that is built into tickets). Of course the Stones gigs on October 19 and 22 will be a factor. There is talk of a 3rd gig.

A rental car to Nottingham and back (130-150 miles each way) may be cheaper and faster than a train, and definitely give you more flexibility. You could go up the A1 and down the M1, or vice-versa, pop into a few historic homes along the way, such as [Ooops! Closed for the season: Althrop (Princess Di's family manor) or] Burleigh House, or Peterborough Cathedral. Driving is no problem.

Many of the best museums in London are free - the British Library, the British Museum, the Portrait Gallery, the Wallace Collection (home of the "laughing cavalier"), etc.

Curb your enthusiasm regarding Paris. That's all I'll say. I did enjoy the Catacombs, and if you are inclined Pere Lachaise is a restful place. The Orsay is wonderful, as mentioned above, also the Rodin Museum. But you might want to consider a heavier weighting for the UK.

I did Airbnbs in both cities. Anywhere near the Underground/Metro should be fine.

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Re: Travel tips for first time visitors to England and France?

Post by btenny » Wed May 10, 2017 7:40 pm

People from the US forget that London and Paris are cool climates. In October it is likely to be cool to cold and rainy, maybe lows of 40 to highs of 60 with wet drizzle. So dress in layers with a good rain coat or light wind breaker over a sweater or long sleeve shirt. Buy a umbrella in the airport.

I would talk to a Paris travel agent for help on getting into the Louve and avoiding the crowds there. He/she might even suggest a Louve tour. Buy it. The place is huge and very interesting but too much to see in one day. So you have to go two days or take a tour to see the high lights. See the Paris highlights. Take a city tour and see the sights. Go to the second floor of the Eiffel tower at dusk and see the sunset over Paris. Ride the subway. Eat at a small restaurant near the tower. Ask the waiter for help with the menu and what is good. Go to Notre-Dame on the river. See the Arc de Triomphe and Champ-Elysees. Go shopping. Stay late and drink wine outside. Sing karoke at a pub.

Do all the stuff everyone else said about London. Especially see the Crown Jewels in the tower. They are cool. Go watch Horse Guards Parade if possible.

Good Luck and Have Fun.

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Watty
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Re: Travel tips for first time visitors to England and France?

Post by Watty » Wed May 10, 2017 11:46 pm

SrGrumpy wrote:+1. Explore the option of an open-jaw, flying in to London and out of Paris, or vice-versa. (You might save some $$ on the UK departure tax that is built into tickets). Of course the Stones gigs on October 19 and 22 will be a factor. There is talk of a 3rd gig.
+1 on doing this unless the show schedules are really worth backtracking for.

Check out the Rick Steves books and web site for lots of suggestion and tips about travel planning. In addition to sightseeing they will also have practical information about money and train tickets.

Always use a money belt when traveling in Europe. Pickpockets can be a problem in tourist areas.

Split your credit and ATM cards between you and your spouse so you have different cards. That way if a purse or wallet is lost and you have to cancel the cards the other person will still have cards that were not cancelled.

Check to see when local holidays will be since that can be a treat or may change the hours when things are open.

You may be there when their daylight savings time changes and that will likely be different than in the US.

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Re: Travel tips for first time visitors to England and France?

Post by Bfwolf » Thu May 11, 2017 12:28 am

I'll try to speak to your desire to see an EPL match as I'm a massive Tottenham Hotspur fan and have seen several games at their home stadium in north London (being demolished after they play their final home game there this weekend).

First, I think this is a GREAT idea. Not sure how big a fan you are or if you have a team you support already, but being at an EPL match is nothing at all like being at a professional sporting event in the United States. The fans are extremely passionate and spend much of the match singing songs about their team. It's awesome.

Most Premier League matches are played on the weekend. Most of those are on Saturday, though there's always at least a couple of Sunday games. There are sometimes mid-week matches, but I wouldn't count on that. So I'd plan on seeing a match on either the Saturday you arrive or on that Sunday. Most games start at 3 pm but there's often an early game that starts around 12:45 and sometimes a late game that starts around 5:30. Mid-week games, if they have them, will usually start around 7:45.

There are a slew of teams based in London, so you will have multiple choices of games to attend. EPL teams based in London next year: Chelsea (west London), Tottenham (normally north London but their stadium is being redeveloped next year so they'll be playing in Wembley in the close-in northwest suburbs), Arsenal (north London), West Ham (east London), Watford (further out northwest suburbs), Crystal Palace (south London), and maybe Fulham if they earn promotion (west London). The schedule will come out in June and then you can see who is playing at home and who is on the road. Note that if it's a match against a rival (like Tottenham vs Arsenal) or against a top team, tickets can be expensive and difficult to come by. Each club has their own system of distributing tickets and reseller markets are not always readily available.

The stadium is divided into home supporters and away supporters. If you have a home supporters ticket, you must support the home team and vice versa. If you support the away side in the home supporters section or vice versa, you will at best get escorted out by security and at worst beat up.

Happy to provide more advice once the schedule comes out.

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Re: Travel tips for first time visitors to England and France?

Post by daveydoo » Thu May 11, 2017 12:42 am

supersharpie wrote:
We love exploring cities and will certainly visit a few of Paris and London's best museums.
London -- major museums are free and bizarrely accessible. We were caught in the rain and ducked inside an open door on the side of the National Gallery and found ourselves surrounded by Turners, etc., with our big wet backpacks. No one cared; they assumed we'd be careful. And not dangerous.

About the Louvre -- stick to the North wing (Northern Europe -- Dutch, Flemish) and you will be virtually alone in amazing rooms filled with Vermeers and Rembrandts. No lie. Avoid the South wing and Mona Lisa. Impenetrable mass of humanity. Pained me not to see it, but I hate crowded art museums. I learned this from a Great Courses course on the Louvre (the only "studying" I did for this trip) and it was my all-time most valuable Europe tip. Even non-art-loving spouse and kids had a blast being alone with paintings they recognized.
supersharpie wrote:
We want to dine well.
For both cities, Michelin "Bib gourmand" and "recommended" restaurants (not starred restaurants) -- affordable and reliably memorable, imo. We "wasted" some meals on a few trips before we wised up. Make one or two reservations per city before you leave -- preferably walking distance from where you're staying.

We've avoided hotels and have instead rented flats in quasi-residential areas in both cities and that was really immersive. But with only two people, you're below the hotel break-even point, cost-wise (they're cheaper than two hotel rooms but not one). Have fun!
"I mean, it's one banana, Michael...what could it cost? Ten dollars?"

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Re: Travel tip for first time visitors to England

Post by Valuethinker » Thu May 11, 2017 3:33 am

FraggleRock wrote:In England: look right.
In fact, look both ways. We have an awful lot of one way streets and people drive fast (relative to the width of the lanes etc.).


Book train tickets well in advance (at least 7 days) for better prices. Peak time train tickets bought on the day can be 2x to 3x more expensive.

First class upgrades are often available quite cheaply for those booking in advance e.g. £10 per ticket (would normally be 2x).. Believe me, given the crowding on British trains (literally standing room only on many busy routes at peak times) it is worth it.

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Re: Travel tips for first time visitors to England and France?

Post by Valuethinker » Thu May 11, 2017 3:38 am

GerryL wrote:Be prepared for CROWDS in Paris. (Probably London, too, but I can't speak from experience.)

I travelled to France in October 2015 for the first time in 25+ years. I'd previously lived there. I was amazed/appalled/discouraged by how crowded the city was. And by how the so-called touristy areas had expanded into what I once considered residential neighborhoods. Places I used to stroll among the locals on my day off are now wall-to-wall tourists.
I would say the same for New York ;-).

Paris is supposedly the most visited city by tourists in the world. Where that sits relative to New York and London I don't know.

New York has Manhattan. But in contrast to London Paris is *dense*. It's a very tightly packed city, well served by public transport. The same number of tourists would probably make a greater impact.
So be ready for long waits and a sea of people at the places you will visit. Be sure to look into museum passes and other tricks to skip some of those lines. Set you expectations and you may save yourself some frustration.

PS I'll be returning to France in September, but I will be spending most of my time "in the provinces."
Musee D'Orsay is probably the greatest art museum I have ever visited in terms of the content and the space taken together. Yet the interesting bit, the Impressionists, is tucked away in small galleries at the top. One either goes first thing and heads straight there, or about 2 hours before closing and works one's way up to it.

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Re: Travel tips for first time visitors to England and France?

Post by Valuethinker » Thu May 11, 2017 3:47 am

SouthernCPA wrote:We went back in 2014 to London and Paris and had a great time. The best piece of advice I can give regarding restaurants is to walk a couple blocks away from the major tourist spots and find authentic food. It's usually much cheaper than right up next to a tourist attraction.

In Paris, I would write your hotel/airbnb address down on a card and keep it handy. Many of our cab drivers spoke very little English and we could just show them the address and they knew where to go. A little french goes a long way in Paris. Most of your service industry folks there will be able to speak English, but giving a little effort to order in French goes a long way to gaining their respect.

The Louvre Museum you could spend a week in and not see everything. We also did do the nighttime river cruise in Paris and it was totally worth it, although touristy.
London doesn't do well for centrally located, non-touristy restaurants, medium price. At least, I live here and I don't find them.

You either have off the wall expensive, or lousy, and you can get unlucky and get both.

Solutions? Open Table sometimes has some 2 for 1 bargains which are great- -eg some hotel dining rooms are actually pretty good. There are also small chains like Galvin (French) or Canteen (modern updates of English) which do the offers sometimes, and are pleasant. Or you go to one of the better chain restaurants such as Pizza Express (does the large flat more Italian style pizzas), Wagamama (Udon - bowls of soup with noodles; Japanese casual dining) etc.

Again coupons are the big thing eg with Pizza Express. You register on their website, they send you coupon offers, you print them out and bring them. £10 on a meal of £40-50 for 2 with wine is worth having.

On ethnic restaurants it is touch and go. Chinese food is relatively rare (outside of Chinatown, which is small if you've ever been to Toronto, New York, San Francisco). Indian restaurants (almost inevitably run by Bangladeshis, so the cuisine runs spicy hot even by Indian standards) are very variable (I can't eat spicy food so I am not the best person to make recommendations). The good Italians I know are out in the suburbs.

The other place to find good food is gastropubs. This is probably where you find the best British cooking these days- -once you know your area you will be in you can find the recommended local gastropubs. Whereas the conventional British pub had (and still has) truly awful food reheated in a microwave, the gastropubs usually have separate dining areas. Indoor smoking is now illegal in the UK which makes a considerable positive difference.

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Re: Travel tips for first time visitors to England and France?

Post by Valuethinker » Thu May 11, 2017 3:48 am

engineer1969 wrote:Be cognizant of any bans that may be in place. I'm reading they may likely be banning laptops on flights from Europe to the US in the near future. This is the sort of thing that would have me stranded at the airport with laptop in hand :(
From what I read yesterday this appears to be go?

Packing laptops in checked luggage feels like a disaster waiting to happen- we will all need special luggage compartments which are padded and locked.

Viking65
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Re: Travel tips for first time visitors to England and France?

Post by Viking65 » Thu May 11, 2017 4:17 am

Its been a few years, but I have loved London Walks on several visits (http://www.walks.com/). Pick a theme you are interested, find a walk on the schedule, show up at the designated time and tube stop, and a guild will take you on a 2 hour-or-so walk with insightful and entertaining commentary. Its a wonderful way to see the city.

SrGrumpy
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Re: Travel tips for first time visitors to England and France?

Post by SrGrumpy » Thu May 11, 2017 4:19 am

Valuethinker wrote: The other place to find good food is gastropubs.
Does the J.D. Wethersooon chain (as namechecked on last night's King Charles III) count as "gastropub"? I rather enjoyed my experiences there, and appreciated the price displays on the vast line of beer and cider taps.

cjcerny
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Re: Travel tips for first time visitors to England and France?

Post by cjcerny » Thu May 11, 2017 6:31 am

I would put my paws on the relevant Rick Steve's books and use many of his recommendations. He also typically has sections in them along the lines of "I have 3, 4, 5, etc. days in Paris", what should I do?

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Re: Travel tips for first time visitors to England and France?

Post by Valuethinker » Thu May 11, 2017 7:25 am

SrGrumpy wrote:
Valuethinker wrote: The other place to find good food is gastropubs.
Does the J.D. Wethersooon chain (as namechecked on last night's King Charles III) count as "gastropub"? I rather enjoyed my experiences there, and appreciated the price displays on the vast line of beer and cider taps.
It has been several years since I last had a meal there. The food was "pub standard" then. Maybe it is better now.

I would not call JDW a "gastropub". What they are is a chain version of the "cheap boozer" that used to dot our streets (several pubs a day close in Britain due to rising residential property prices, declining drinking, fewer people around who want to make the effort that owning a pub takes). They aim to have a beer that is the cheapest on the high street.

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Re: Travel tips for first time visitors to England and France?

Post by livesoft » Thu May 11, 2017 7:32 am

In England, cars have the right-of-way when you are in a crosswalk.
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JupiterJones
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Re: Travel tips for first time visitors to England and France?

Post by JupiterJones » Thu May 11, 2017 9:24 am

Valuethinker wrote:
engineer1969 wrote:Be cognizant of any bans that may be in place. I'm reading they may likely be banning laptops on flights from Europe to the US in the near future. This is the sort of thing that would have me stranded at the airport with laptop in hand :(
From what I read yesterday this appears to be go?

Packing laptops in checked luggage feels like a disaster waiting to happen- we will all need special luggage compartments which are padded and locked.
Assuming you even are bringing a checked bag in the first place. I've only brought a carry-on for my last couple of European trips, and if the OP is indeed traveling light, he's probably doing the same.

Of course, we light travelers typically don't bring laptops anyway, so there's that...
Stay on target...

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Re: Travel tip for first time visitors to England

Post by Gumby252 » Thu May 11, 2017 9:27 am

FraggleRock wrote:In England: look right.
This is important! I darn near got hit by a bus in Hong Kong because I looked LEFT as I stepped off the curb.

-G

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Re: Travel tips for first time visitors to England and France?

Post by dbr » Thu May 11, 2017 9:30 am

JupiterJones wrote:
Valuethinker wrote:
engineer1969 wrote:Be cognizant of any bans that may be in place. I'm reading they may likely be banning laptops on flights from Europe to the US in the near future. This is the sort of thing that would have me stranded at the airport with laptop in hand :(
From what I read yesterday this appears to be go?

Packing laptops in checked luggage feels like a disaster waiting to happen- we will all need special luggage compartments which are padded and locked.
Assuming you even are bringing a checked bag in the first place. I've only brought a carry-on for my last couple of European trips, and if the OP is indeed traveling light, he's probably doing the same.

Of course, we light travelers typically don't bring laptops anyway, so there's that...
If the ban extends as it appears to e-readers and tablets this is not going to be a minor inconvenience. I also read somewhere that noise cancelling earphones (not earplugs) will be included, but there I may be rumor mongering. Let's hear the announcement when it comes out.

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Re: Travel tips for first time visitors to England and France?

Post by SrGrumpy » Thu May 11, 2017 9:36 am

JupiterJones wrote:
Assuming you even are bringing a checked bag in the first place. I've only brought a carry-on for my last couple of European trips, and if the OP is indeed traveling light, he's probably doing the same.

Of course, we light travelers typically don't bring laptops anyway, so there's that...
That's the rub. The ban would likely include tablets as well as laptops, both of which would have to be checked even if the road warrior is not checking anything else. I believe Emirates and the other Mideast airlines have made special accommodations for these folks. OP said he is "bringing" a nice pair of leather shoes, presumably in addition to his walk-around shoes. Does that disqualify him from light-traveler status?

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Re: Travel tips for first time visitors to England and France?

Post by palaheel » Thu May 11, 2017 9:58 am

It's been a while for us, but decide if you want history, culture, art, etc and let that guide your plans. Chartres Cathedral is a wonderful day trip from Paris (get a day tour) if you want cathedrals. Something that your friends probably haven't seen is the Ceremony of the Keys at the Tower of London, where the warders lock up the Tower for the evening. Tickets are free, but you have to get them in advance. Investigate whether you can get them before you leave. London's West End is fabulous, if you want plays. Don't pack more than you can carry in a .25 mile dash to catch a train. Michelin's Green guides are very good.
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Re: Travel tips for first time visitors to England and France?

Post by supersharpie » Thu May 11, 2017 10:10 am

dbr wrote:
JupiterJones wrote:
Valuethinker wrote:
engineer1969 wrote:Be cognizant of any bans that may be in place. I'm reading they may likely be banning laptops on flights from Europe to the US in the near future. This is the sort of thing that would have me stranded at the airport with laptop in hand :(
From what I read yesterday this appears to be go?

Packing laptops in checked luggage feels like a disaster waiting to happen- we will all need special luggage compartments which are padded and locked.
Assuming you even are bringing a checked bag in the first place. I've only brought a carry-on for my last couple of European trips, and if the OP is indeed traveling light, he's probably doing the same.

Of course, we light travelers typically don't bring laptops anyway, so there's that...
If the ban extends as it appears to e-readers and tablets this is not going to be a minor inconvenience. I also read somewhere that noise cancelling earphones (not earplugs) will be included, but there I may be rumor mongering. Let's hear the announcement when it comes out.
I am operating under the assumption that this SAD ban will be rescinded by October because the outcry over it from all sides will be TREMENDOUS. :D

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Re: Travel tips for first time visitors to England and France?

Post by nimo956 » Thu May 11, 2017 10:23 am

For restaurants in Paris, you might want to try Ledoyen in the Champs Elysses. I think a friend of my mentioned that the chef there moved to Le Cinq some time ago, so you might want to check that out as well.
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Re: Travel tips for first time visitors to England and France?

Post by mister_sparkle » Thu May 11, 2017 10:35 am

For the Eiffel Tower, I recommend buying your ticket months in advance. I went last month and ended up having to buy a ticket with a tour company (Fat Tire Tours) as almost every available timeslot was sold out 6 weeks in advance.

There are two levels of the Eiffel Tower and I found that the first level was plenty high up to get a great view of the city all around. The elevator up to that level held about 50 people and they really cram you in. I'm claustrophobic, so I didn't bother taking the even smaller elevator up to the top of the tower.

Re: Versailles, golf cart is a good option, though the gardens are really beautiful and it's a nice walk out.

I also recommend the museum pass, but as far as skipping lines it only lets you skip the ticket buying line, not the entry line, and at Versailles if it's a music day (piped in classical music throughout the grounds), the museum pass doesn't let you in for free.

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Re: Travel tips for first time visitors to England and France?

Post by badbreath » Thu May 11, 2017 10:38 am

Neither country speaks English (USA). Had a guy talk to me in England for 15 mins had no idea what he said. As one other said just a small amount of French goes a long way, Pardon, Mercey
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Re: Travel tips for first time visitors to England and France?

Post by killjoy2012 » Thu May 11, 2017 10:58 am

I've visited London ~6 times, and Paris once, in the last 17 years. London is my favorite big city and I've been all over the US, and all but Eastern Europe. I think October is the BEST time to visit so long as you're OK with a cooler & damp experience - it actually helps put me in the mood. :) The cooler weather also helps with temps in the tube (which can be dreadfully hot sometimes), and that you're probably going to be walking 25k steps/day when out seeing the sights. The only downside is that daylight get shorter in late Oct, even vs early Oct, so just plan on trying to be out of the hotel early. People are different, but you're probably going to want a light, waterproof rain jacket for that time of year, and dress in layers underneath based on temp.

To your questions:
- The Eurostar is not cheap, ~$200/pp/per direction last I shopped it. Certainly take it between the two cities for the ease (vs. flying) and experience, but I'd try to arrange your flights and itinerary so that you're in one city for the first half, and second city for the second half, not having to double back to London again. Either fly into one city and out of the other (preferred), or if London is already locked in RT due to low cost flights, consider just flying a cheap $50/pp 1-way from Paris to Heathrow/Gatwick a few hours before your International flight home.

- You could do the Nottingham visit as a simple 1/2 day trip from London, 1h30m ride each way. I personally wouldn't lug all of your bags to Nottingham, find yet another hotel for 1 night, etc. Just home base out of London and Paris, and use the train out of St. Pancras station as your day trip transport.

- EPL - I'm also a big soccer fan. Just be aware that that it's almost impossible to get tickets to the big games, as you usually have to be a club member to buy the tickets direct online. And if you can find them being re-sold, you better have a couple pints in you before seeing the price. $200-400/ticket for the big teams/games is not out of the ordinary.

- Clothes - I'd bring all casual clothes, along with 1 (or 2) button down Oxford shirts for theater nights. Jeans and button down is perfectly acceptable for visiting the West End. While you can dress to the 9's, it's not needed, and not really worth hauling all of the luggage. Bring layers, a light (non-insulated) waterproof rain jacket, and comfortable shoes that you can walk miles each day in.


Other thoughts -- and I won't repeat some of the good advice already provided above:
- http://www.tripadvisor.com is your friend. Use it both for exploring things to do, as well as the User Forum for advice. IMO, you really need to build a per day itinerary before departing. It doesn't need to be planned down to the minute, but should have a list of the 3-5 things you want to cover that day, which one makes the most sense to start with either based on opening time or avoiding crowds by getting there early. You can, and I have, planned an entire 2 week Europe trip using nothing but TripAdvisor!

- London has a 2-4-1 program. Paris has the Museum Pass. Study up.

- For both cities, but especially London, I'd put HEAVY weight for your hotel/AirBnB pick based on its proximity to public transport, and in particular, the transport YOU plan to use. In order to do this, you need to have a good idea as to where you're planning to go... tourist sites obviously, but more importantly IMO is when you're hauling luggage -- e.g. where the Eurostar station (St Pancras) is, how you plan to get to/from the airport (LHR == Piccadilly line; Gatwick - trains out of Victoria, Waterloo, Blackfriars), etc. Also, are you planning to visit Harry Potter Studios in Watford (London Euston station), etc. And Nottingham train departs out of St. Pancras. So with all those data points in hand, I'd study the London Tube map, and choose hotel location wisely. I much prefer the tube over bus, and usually use the tube 6-12x/day when visiting. Proximity to the tube and right lines is KEY. Hauling luggage between lines can be painful. Also study London Oyster & travel cards in advance.

- West End. You need to plan to go to the theater at least a night or two when in London. I'd highly advise you look now at the shows going on then, and work to secure tickets to any of the high demand ones NOW. The TKTS booth in Leicester Square is your best option for last minute, discounted tickets which will work for long running shows like Phantom. But tickets to the Harry Potter play are unobtanium & will take a lot of work to secure. And shows like No Man's Land (Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart) can also be hard to get. Plan ahead.
Valuethinker wrote: London doesn't do well for centrally located, non-touristy restaurants, medium price. At least, I live here and I don't find them.

You either have off the wall expensive, or lousy, and you can get unlucky and get both.

Solutions? Open Table sometimes has some 2 for 1 bargains which are great- -eg some hotel dining rooms are actually pretty good. There are also small chains like Galvin (French) or Canteen (modern updates of English) which do the offers sometimes, and are pleasant. Or you go to one of the better chain restaurants such as Pizza Express (does the large flat more Italian style pizzas), Wagamama (Udon - bowls of soup with noodles; Japanese casual dining) etc.
A good, cheap casual dining option I found is Nando's. I usually make it a point to go for a walk through Borough Market in the early evening, and then end up at Nando's (between London & Southwark bridge) for dinner. Certainly not 5 star dining, but a better casual option than fast food.
Last edited by killjoy2012 on Thu May 11, 2017 11:10 am, edited 4 times in total.

SheReadsHere719
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Re: Travel tips for first time visitors to England and France?

Post by SheReadsHere719 » Thu May 11, 2017 11:01 am

There's a great thread from February with great London recommendations (including mine :) ): viewtopic.php?f=11&t=210461&p=3229952#p3229952

I stayed at a great VRBO (akin to AirBnB in London; will PM you the link).

Enjoy!

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Re: Travel tips for first time visitors to England and France?

Post by Peter Foley » Thu May 11, 2017 11:10 am

A couple recommendations regarding safety.

Each of you should carry a unique set of credit, debit, and bank cards. If one of you is robbed (tourists in the subways are targets) you will have a second set of cards to use until the first set is replaced.

For additional protection wear a fabric money "belt" that fits comfortable under pants, slacks, or shorts.

Certain bank cards do not change foreign exchange fees. This makes getting your cash from an ATM the cheapest option. The Schwab Bank card is one such card, I'm sure there are others. Also let your credit card and bank card companies know you are traveling to England and France.

Lots of good recommendations for things to see and do. One of my favorites in Paris is the Rodin Museum. It is both indoor and outdoor and perhaps less frequented than some of the larger, better known art galleries.

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Re: Travel tips for first time visitors to England and France?

Post by jodydavis » Thu May 11, 2017 11:40 am

Lots of good advice so far. A few additional tips:

1. Resist the temptation to overschedule. You'll want to pack in a lot of things on your first visit, but try to leave room to wander. Both London and Paris are great places for wandering and finding an unexpected cafe, neighborhood, shop, park, etc.

2. Don't overlook the smaller museums or sights. By all means, visit the big ones, e.g. Louvre, D'Orsay, British Museum, etc. But it's often good to mix in some smaller museums and sights, otherwise everything starts to get too touristy. E.g. the Musee de Cluny is wonderful.

3. For restaurants, do your best to avoid the big touristy places. Ask locals for advice about where they would go. Your AirBnB hosts will probably have good lists of local restaurants.

4. Plan around the big crowds and the popular places. Some of these places get so unbelievably crowded that visiting can actually become unpleasant (e.g. Louvre, Versailles, etc.). A bit of planning will allow you to visit these places when there are fewer people, and the feel is completely different.

Good luck and have fun!
J.D.

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Re: Travel tips for first time visitors to England and France?

Post by Pajamas » Thu May 11, 2017 11:44 am

livesoft wrote:In England, cars have the right-of-way when you are in a crosswalk.
It's more complicated than that!

http://www.good-london-guide.com/styled-5/styled-25/

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Re: Travel tips for first time visitors to England and France?

Post by Phineas J. Whoopee » Thu May 11, 2017 5:56 pm

Valuethinker wrote:...
Packing laptops in checked luggage feels like a disaster waiting to happen- we will all need special luggage compartments which are padded and locked.
Beyond deliberate explosions in the plane's belly rather than nearer the spine, the fire risk of so many lithium-ion batteries concentrated in the luggage compartment is unknown, and there exist no procedures to spread them out or segregate them in a fire-protected space. In the main cabin a single battery fire can be dealt with, but in the hold it may cause a chain reaction. It's important that security and safety measures not create still greater risks than the ones they're meant to reduce.

The chemistry was different, but let's not forget ValueJet 592, where all the oxygen generators being transported were expired. That didn't mean they wouldn't work. They fed their own flames.

The chemistry was not different, and the cause was lithium batteries, although many more than in a passenger plane's worth of laptops, on UPS 6.

Complex accidents are almost always the result of an improbable chain of events, which, if given enough chances, occurs. Without expressing a political opinion, one way to minimize them is to give more types of adverse events fewer chances.

This is an engineering problem. Let's get some engineers working on it.

PJW

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Re: Travel tips for first time visitors to England and France?

Post by supersharpie » Sun May 14, 2017 10:21 pm

Thanks all for the tips.! I think we will be spending a lot of time with Rick Steves over the next few months as we prepare! We did alter our itinerary slightly to add one extra night to London at the start of the trip and subtract one night from our stay in Paris. Now it is:

3 nights London
6 nights Paris
1 night Nottingham
3 nights London

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Re: Travel tips for first time visitors to England and France?

Post by Exterous » Mon May 15, 2017 9:24 am

We have generally had good luck avoiding crowds by getting to tourist spots around the time they open. That is not always a guarantee - we tried it with the Musée d'Orsay and the line was huge (But it was also free that day). But other times, like Stonehenge, it was just us and about 8 other people until the tour buses started rolling in.

Both those cities have fantastic public transportation systems and we made good use of those the times we visited. I generally look for a hotel close to a metro\tube stop. In London the Oyster card is pay as you go up to a cap and is often cheaper than a day pass. I believe the day pass was cheaper for Paris. Mind the gap!

If you're a fan of wine meat bread and cheese its pretty easy to do a nice and cheap dinner of those in your hotel room from a local grocer in Paris. Not for everyone but its certainly something we enjoy as the quality was much better than we can get in most restaurants at home
mr.ajandkj wrote:Research SIM cards and get one with data plan (or add international to current plan), very worthwhile for navigating.
FWIW the GPS in most (all? At least the major players like Samsung and Apple) US based smart phones will work without using data. We did quite a few trips navigating with our data turned off. If you want search-ability you can download sections of Google Maps for offline use before hand. We still use the offline maps option as we've found the Free International Data offered by Sprint to be spotty at times.

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Re: Travel tips for first time visitors to England and France?

Post by JupiterJones » Tue May 16, 2017 10:13 am

Exterous wrote:FWIW the GPS in most (all? At least the major players like Samsung and Apple) US based smart phones will work without using data. We did quite a few trips navigating with our data turned off. If you want search-ability you can download sections of Google Maps for offline use before hand. We still use the offline maps option as we've found the Free International Data offered by Sprint to be spotty at times.
Good point. You can also use third-party GPS apps. I used MapFactor Navigator, which is free and lets you download maps for entire countries, then navigate/re-route/etc. without any internet connection. (This was back when Google Maps wouldn't let you download and navigate offline maps... I think they still won't let you do walking/biking directions without being connected.)

Regardless of the app you use, take time now to familiarize yourself with how it works, if you're not already good at using it. Go ahead and program in as favorites (or waypoints, or whatever) the places you know you'll be navigating to.

If you're going to use it with a rental car:
  • Don't forget to bring a car charger (or check that the car will have a USB port).
  • Purchase and bring a small, light mount for your phone--I like the kind that clips on to an air vent louver.
  • If you'll be in a country like France that posts speed limits and town distances in kilometers, consider setting your GPS to kilometers too.
Stay on target...

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Phineas J. Whoopee
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Re: Travel tips for first time visitors to England and France?

Post by Phineas J. Whoopee » Tue May 16, 2017 9:16 pm

Phineas J. Whoopee wrote:
Valuethinker wrote:...
Packing laptops in checked luggage feels like a disaster waiting to happen- we will all need special luggage compartments which are padded and locked.
Beyond deliberate explosions in the plane's belly rather than nearer the spine, the fire risk of so many lithium-ion batteries concentrated in the luggage compartment is unknown, and there exist no procedures to spread them out or segregate them in a fire-protected space. In the main cabin a single battery fire can be dealt with, but in the hold it may cause a chain reaction. It's important that security and safety measures not create still greater risks than the ones they're meant to reduce.
...
It turns out fire risk is the biggest sticking point in talks:
David Shepardson of Reuters, in [i]Expansion of ban on larger electronics on airlines likely: U.S.[/i] wrote:...
Chief among the Europeans' concerns is the fire risk from placing hundreds of devices with lithium-ion batteries in luggage holds.
...
PJW

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Re: Travel tips for first time visitors to England and France?

Post by Nearly A Moose » Wed May 17, 2017 12:54 am

Lots of great advice here. To second a few and offer some more, re Paris:

Definitely recommend the Musee D'Orsay. Beautiful space in its own right, not to mention the pieces on display.

The Louvre is a must unless you flat out don't like museums. Give yourself a half day (tops, less if you get museum fatigue quickly), and decide in advance which one or two wings you want to explore. It's not possible to see the whole thing, and if you try, you'll only remember a blur of hallways. Skip the Mona Lisa. It's ... underwhelming. Do some research on the pieces of most interest before you go so you can better appreciate them.

Get Rick Steves. We always have great experiences with him.

Book Eiffel Tower tickets in advance. Try to be at your vantage point of choice on the Tower for sunset. Breathtaking views. The lower viewing platform lets you see more detail in the city, the higher one lets you see further and let's you see the urban plan better. I'd suggest both.

We had a wonderful meal at Le Testavin on Ille St. Louis. It was a Rick Steves recommendation and a really lovely experience. Updscale-ish, but you don't need a jacket (although consider bringing a casual blazer just as your everyday jacket - it's quite a smart look). I think it's a mother-son place. We had a great meal of seared duck breast topped with foie gras, beef bourguignonne, and a nice Burgundy.

We did a nighttime dinner river cruise - touristy but still a lot of fun.

Paris is an extremely walkable city. You can literally walk for miles. Give yourselves plenty of time to just stroll. You'll find all sorts of fun little places to explore, and it's quite safe.

Have fun, I'm quite envious!
Pardon typos, I'm probably using my fat thumbs on a tiny phone.

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JupiterJones
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Re: Travel tips for first time visitors to England and France?

Post by JupiterJones » Wed May 17, 2017 9:38 am

Nearly A Moose wrote:Paris is an extremely walkable city. You can literally walk for miles.
Ain't that the truth! I've only been to Paris once, and it was many years ago, but one of my chief memories is how much my feet hurt afterward. :D
Stay on target...

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Re: Travel tips for first time visitors to England and France?

Post by SrGrumpy » Wed May 17, 2017 11:43 am

SrGrumpy wrote: Of course the Stones gigs on October 19 and 22 will be a factor. There is talk of a 3rd gig.
Confirmed. Oct. 25.

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