Paris & Lyon 2005
Note; this trip was created in a different version (older) of this blog, so the links above will take you to those pages. If you’d like to leave a comment about this trip, you can do so at the bottom of this page.
Introduction and Planning:
Ah Paris, where do I begin? Well, unlike most of our recent trips, this one really had very little debate as to the age old question of where to go. David’s dad, Tracy, is living in Lyon for the year, so we knew we would go visit at some point. Originally, the plan was to spend most of the time in Lyon and the last few days in Paris. As we all know, the best laid plans and all that…
The first task was finding affordable airfare. As usual, because of David’s teaching schedule, we are traveling during a “peak” time, the holiday week before Easter. So, just double the normal Winter fares to Europe and you get the idea. While during research for the tickets, I discovered that only two airlines fly non stop from LAX to Paris, Air France and Air Tahiti Nui. Flying non-stop takes about 3-4 hours off the total travel time. All other airlines stop somewhere on the East Coast, and the cost wasn’t any less. So, Air Tahiti offered the best price and from the reviews I’ve read sound really nice with new planes, 2x4x2 seating configuration in coach, and personal video screens. I tried to buy the tickets through the Cheap Tickets web site and they took my money and then emailed me telling the the price was not available. It took me almost 2 weeks to get a refund. They continued to offer the seats at a low price which they did not have. Eventually, I bought the tickets through airconsolidators.com which had a better price than the air Tahiti web site. We bought our tickets in October and by Feb., the price had doubled on Air Tahiti and Air France. So, I don’t think it’s a good idea to wait and hedge your bets if you are traveling during a peak time. If we’d wanted to go any other time from Jan-early March we could have spent half (about $350 RT)
So, like I said we had planned on going straight to Lyon and then either renting a car and driving back to Paris with some time in the Loire, or exploring the region around Lyon. A car would have cost us about $600 for a week, including gas, tolls and parking-ouch! Then, Tracy’s plans changed and he was going to be out of town until the Monday after our Saturday arrival. So, we considered renting a car at the onset, driving the Loire or Burgundy region, going to Lyon mid-week, and then back to Paris. Figure $600 for car, plus hotels 3 nights prior to Lyon and 2 nights in Paris.
Then I started looking at apartments for rent in Paris. This is an obsessive travelers nightmare and dream all rolled into one. There is no shortage of choices, web sites and types of apartments. The vrbo web site alone offers hundreds in all arrondissements in all permutations and price ranges. As it turned out, if we rented an lower cost apartment for the entire 8 days in Paris, and took the train to Lyon for 2 nights, it would cost us significantly less than the car/hotel option.
I must have contacted over 20 different apartments in Paris. Many were already booked for our week. There were quite a few super tiny studios available, but in the end we decided on a one bedroom in the 9th on the edge of Montmarte from LetsParis.com. I have to say, there was some small problem with our first choice and Laura from Let’s Paris handled the problem like a pro, fixing it to our complete satisfaction.
While I was still considering hotels in Paris, I was looking at booking though Priceline. But from what I could tell from the Bidding for travel web site, the 5 star properties were running about $250 per night. This is still good considering that the regular rate for these places was about $400-$600 a night!. The 4 stars on priceline were in the $100-$125 range, but not nearly as nice. I am picky about my hotels, and really try to find the nicest place for the money. So, like in Hawaii, it just seemed to make sense to rent an apartment.
In mid-February I purchased our train tickets from Paris to Lyon and back with no problem online at the SNCF web site. They have an English version and it was very easy to use. I just printed out my own tickets after purchasing. I recommend you buy the tickets in advance, because they offer lots of discounts that disappear as the date of departure gets closer. We got a 2nd class tickets for the way there and a 1st class ticket for the same price as the lowest 2nd class ticket for the way back. The tickets were about 85 Euro per person R/T.
I’ve also gone onto the RATP web site and planned our arrival and best route from the airport to the apartment and back. You can even print out an itinerary with directions. We’re going to take the RER train and transfer to a metro and then another metro with will leave us only about a block from the apartment. Some people prefer a taxi, but this will cost about 1/3 of the taxi and since we don’t travel with a lot of luggage it should be easy. We’ve don’t it before and it’s our preferred method. David doesn’t like busses, but there is one from the airport that drops people at a couple of different places, but you still have to take a cab or Metro from there.
Of course, I’ve been haunting the message boards too during this time. Fodor’s and Chowhound’s international board are my favorites. I’ve been building my own guidebook of sorts. Every time I read something interesting online, I copy and paste it into a Microsoft Word file. It’s grown to 23 pages and includes restaurants sorted by arrondissement, sightseeing ideas, the schedule for Paris walking tours, etc. Email me if you’d like it, and I’ll send it along.
As for packing, we decided to go carry-only only for our eight days. This means we each have a 22 inch roll aboard and a small carry-on bag. It also means only one pair of shoes for David as we can’t fit another pair in with his clothes. For me, I’ll wear one pair of shoes and pack another. Everything gets packed into zip lock bags and the air gets compressed out. I was worried they would weigh too much, so I made sure the roll aboards we under the maximum weight limit of 22 lbs. Tough, but I did it.