Help with trip to Paris

Discussion in 'General Discussion | Travel' started by jasonmh26, Jul 8, 2012.  |  Print Topic

  1. jasonmh26

    jasonmh26 Silver Member

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    Hi All,

    I am pretty new here and would love some advice. I have been saving up BA miles to take my wife on a surprise trip to Paris (we have never been). I started early because I figured it would take me a while to to get the points and companion pass with the BA Visa, but I am almost there now. Now that I am close, I am starting to think about how to actually book the travel and other details. I have never tried to book an award flight before.

    - I was trying to avoid summer and winter. Any recommendations on visiting Paris in the spring or fall?
    - I am expecting that availability of first class award tickets is very limited. I am hoping to get around that by having very flexible travel dates. How far in advance do you normally start looking for award tickets? Is it normal to start looking a year in advance?
    - I have a good amount of SPG points, so I was thinking of trying to spend part of the trip at the Westin Paris. Any other suggestions on places to stay?
    - Other than 2 years of high school French, we don't know much of the language. I am assuming that won't be too much of a problem?
    - Any other favorite things to do while in Paris?

    Thanks very much,
    Jason
     
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  2. myskyconnections

    myskyconnections Active Member

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    wow: tons of questions. i used to live and work in paris, and there's no shortage of things to do. in regards to getting flights, i am more of a star alliance guy, and have not had much issues booking business class with miles - 1st class might be a bit more complex.
    back to what to do in paris: a mixture of the regular places plus more hidden gems (known only to locals) is the best thing to do. sometimes the concierge will have some good tips. language wise, you should be fine with english. one tip: paris is great during the spring time - try getting up ons day just as the cafes open up...then get a coffee, sit outside and watch the world go by :)
     
  3. NYBanker
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    NYBanker Gold Member

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    Hi Jason.

    Good stuff on maximizing the BA 2for1 certificate. You're in luck...First Class availability on BA across the Atlantic is the best of any carrier. I'd wager that you'll find 2 F seats from NYC on most days on BA...often more. I'm not sure where you are...other cities have less availability...but you can always connect via AA if your port doesn't have as much.

    The bad news is they will bang you on fees/co-pays. Expect it to be $600+ per ticket in taxes/fees (go to gov't/airport) as well as fuel surchages (goes to BA). This is the price to pay for excellent availability.

    Flying BA, you'll need to connect in LHR, and will have just business class service to CDG. Some lament the intra-Euro J service, but I find it quite sociable.

    In London (and JFK, if you connect there), as First Class pax, you'll have access to the Concorde Rooms. Once you have your bookings, call ahead and arrange a massage or private cabana.

    As to Paris, it is a wonderful city. I've been there many times in all permutations...business, wife, wife+kids. For one trip, my wife and I made an eating tour of Paris. We had meals from EUR10 to EUR1,000...and 17 out of 19 were very good or better.

    We took our kids over this February. It is brisk, but the crowds are much lighter. I prefer Paris slightly off-season. Here is my trip report from that visit. http://upgrd.com/sitinfirst/a-family-adventure-in-paris-part-1-introduction.html

    Restaurants I always recommend to visitors:
    http://www.chezsavy.com/ ... Paris, unchanged from the 1920s...
    http://taillevent.com/le-restaurant (Was the longest continuously three-starred restaurant in the world)...if I could pick where I had the last meal of my life, it would be here.
    http://www.relaisentrecote.fr/ Check out the location on Rue Marbeuf - my favorite steak frites in paris

    Questions for you:
    Where are you departing from?
    How long will you stay?
     
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  4. marcwint55

    marcwint55 Gold Member

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    Great place to visit at almost anytime of the year, but I would pick spring.

    Keep in mind that European hotels tend to have much smaller rooms than the US, so if that is a concern for you I would contact the hotel directly to find out how many square feet or meters the room is. If you decide to get a hotel while you are there, ask to see the room first. If they will not show you the room until you have paid, turn around and don't go back. That is more of a problem with private hotels than with any of the large chains.

    I have always found the people there to be very nice, however if you learn a little French and try to use it with the locals, they will go out of their way to help you.

    The French are animal lovers and it is perfectly normal to have a dog eating next to you in a restaurant or a taxi driver with his dog in the car. If you have any issues with that you should check with the restaurant in advance to see what their policy is.

    The subway system is excellent transportation while you are there.

    If you are an art conossieur, allow several days to see the Louvre. If you went there every day for a month you would not see it all.

    The Sacre-Couer is a place I would not miss.

    Another enjoyable thing to do is a boat ride down the Seine at night.

    Have a great trip.
     
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  5. Sweet Willie
    Original Member

    Sweet Willie Gold Member

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    could not agree more with this.

    I've always found the French have been very appreciative when I speak French to my limited ability, I suppose I'm better than avg but I found in the past few years that when I used to be cut off and the person would speak English to 'make things easier on me', they now let me finish and we actually converse. I highly suggest you brush up and learn some basic phrases, I think you'll be amazed at how much of your learnings come back once you get immersed.

    Don't get hung up on the chain hotels, we've stayed outside the peripherique & have had a marvelous time as it is easy to get around. I wouldn't recommend this for your first time but my guess is you can find a heck of a deal in the off/shoulder season at an independent vrs a chain.

    I urge you to see as much as possible, walk, walk, walk, walk. Schedule your museums/sights in the the morning and leave the afternoon open in case you go long at some attraction/activity and if you have the afternoon open then you can then savor & take it all in while sitting at some cafe or leisurely strolling.

    Happy that you got BA but cringing at the charges you'll face with them.
     
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  6. philatravelgirl

    philatravelgirl Silver Member

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    One of my favorite cities to wander, ive done it in all seasons. I stayed at the Westin two years ago with points/cash -good location to walk from (gardens, louvre, champs) are very close as well as the metro line.
    The basic room was fine (not my favorite Westin but for P&C i used savings on meals and other indulgences) the hotel large and lots of business people. the new W is similar to the London W so the rooms are small but funky (I haven't stayed yet at the new Paris but others have) with bathroom sink in the main bedroom. So another Starwood option.
    On my last trip, I flew BA to LHR then took the Eurostar to Paris and then flew back from Paris to PHL. Using BA points they let you do a LHR stopover with award tickets. I stay at the Sheraton Park Lane.

    Another option i don't see mentioned much is using the BA points for the NY Open Skies business flights direct to Paris Orly
     
  7. kyunbit
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    kyunbit Silver Member

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    My opinion may differ from others but I don't think Westin Paris is in a good location if this is your first trip to Paris. Apply for the Chase Hyatt card and stay in the Hyatt instead. If you want a true parisian feel, however, I would suggest, looking up airbnb.com. You can get decent accommodations near Notre Dame.

    My favorite attraction in Paris would be walking around various districts munching crepes and people watching. They all have different feel. If this is your first trip, I would recommend visiting at least the Montmatre, Marais and Latin Quarter districts. If you really an art/history buff, look up Degas Paris walks and follow them.. they are astounding in depth, coverage and detail.
     
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  8. NYBanker
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    NYBanker Gold Member

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    You're thinking of the Westin right on the Tuileries that used to be an intercontinental? Seems like an ideal location, no? Walking distance to many sites and right on the #1 line.

    What Hyatt property are suggesting? There are several.
     
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  9. NYBanker
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    NYBanker Gold Member

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    Hi Philatravelgirl!

    Indeed, rarely mentioned.

    I didn't think the 2for1 worked on open skies. Does anyone know for sure?
     
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  10. ella
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    ella Silver Member

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    Paris is one of my favorite cities. Last time there I stayed here: http://en.hotel-verneuil-saint-germain.com/ It was in a less touristy area and still easy walking distance to the Louvre and many other sites. The rooms are very small, the hotel itself is small, but the staff are absolutely wonderful.

    I agree with morning coffee at a sidewalk cafe, evening cruise on the Seine. I think one site not to be missed is Sainte Chappelle on Ile de la cite.

    I've been in the spring and I've been in late fall. While I've enjoyed it whenever I go, I would definitely say Springtime for your first visit.
     
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  11. jasonmh26

    jasonmh26 Silver Member

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    Thanks for all the info. We are leaving from ABQ, but I already had planned to fly to one of the BA gateway cities (probably DFW or JFK, not sure which would be better). I hope to stay 7-10 days.
    We have not flown first class internationally before, and could not normally afford to without the points. I'm sure that business class from LHR to CDG will be more than fine for us.
    Thanks for the great trip report and restaurant recommendations.
     
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  12. LAXtraveler
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    LAXtraveler Gold Member

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    I did a substantially similar trip last year to Paris. BA F to Paris via LHR and back. Westin Paris for the 7 nights we were there.

    BA F was great - although it does cost fuel surcharges as mentioned above. The service both on the ground and in the air was excellent.

    Westin Paris was more than fine. It's just down the block from the PH Paris. Was thinking of doing the Hyatt card also to get to the PH Paris, but since it was a semi-last minute trip wasn't sure if I would get the credits in time. Since Paris rooms tend to be small I used a few extra points and upgraded to a jr. suite via the SPG call desk (since it doesn't show up online).

    Time of year was March. Although it was chilly and cloudy some days, it was still excellent and the city was pretty empty of tourists which made it really enjoyable to walk around in.

    Hope this helps somewhat.
     
  13. LAXtraveler
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    LAXtraveler Gold Member

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    This flight is only 45 minutes, so don't sweat it. It's a short hop and nothing more.
     
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  14. jasonmh26

    jasonmh26 Silver Member

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    I will definitely brush up on my French before going. I'll be nowhere near fluent, but hopefully enough to keep from seeming rude.

    I have noticed that in many places in Europe it was much more common to see people traveling, eating, etc. with dogs, much more so than with children.

    A boat ride is a great idea, I will look into that.

    Thanks!
     
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  15. LAXtraveler
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    LAXtraveler Gold Member

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    If you need help with ideas I have an itinerary I put together for when I was there with some of the places we saw and things we did. PM me if you want more info.
     
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  16. kyunbit
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    kyunbit Silver Member

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    Thanks for correcting me and I apologize to the OP. I confused between the Le Méridien Etoile and Westin Vendôme. The Westin Vendome is a great location, in fact one of the best.
     
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  17. LAXtraveler
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    LAXtraveler Gold Member

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    Don't think so. From what I understand, the 241 must be used on BA metal.
     
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  18. LAXtraveler
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    LAXtraveler Gold Member

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    It is truly an excellent location.
     
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  19. philatravelgirl

    philatravelgirl Silver Member

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    Sorry I missed OP 2 for 1 note in which case you are correct it won't work. Thanks for checking/correcting me. the pricing of those flights are often a good deal and people aren't aware when compared to BA and connecting via LHR
     
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  20. LAXtraveler
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    LAXtraveler Gold Member

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    Have you been on OpenSkies before? Is it a worthwhile J class or is it aging?
     
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  21. Flying Bat

    Flying Bat Silver Member

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    Wouldn't it have been a lot less trouble and more time effective to take the 40 minute Eurostar?
     
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  22. LAXtraveler
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    LAXtraveler Gold Member

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    I don't think so. Leaving the airport, getting to the middle of London to get the Eurostar, etc. is time consuming. We had a short layover spent in the Concorde Room and then got on the next flight to CDG. It was pretty easy I thought.
     
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  23. MSPeconomist
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    MSPeconomist Gold Member

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    If you decide to do a London stopover, do it on the way to Paris rather than on the return to minimize the UK luxury tax.

    Springtime in Paris can be cold and rainy. I like the fall.

    Westin is a good location for major tourist attractions, even though this isn't an authentic residential neighborhood. For a first trip when you don't speak a lot of French, this is a good plan. It's even better if you can get at least some days as C&P or the five nights for the points for four deal from SPG. Do not try to stay in a private apartment or even a tiny independent hotel unless you know they'll have great concierge service, etc., as do some of the expensive boutique hotels. Small cheap hotels can be a risk--cleanliness, rattiness, sunken soft beds, elevators, even phone service can be a challenge.
     
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  24. newbluesea
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    newbluesea Gold Member

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    Depends on how much time one considers as "time consuming" HEX to Paddington travel time 15 mins... taxi or tube to St Pancras travel time 15 mins. I wager by timing it right by the time you sit around the airport and pick up luggage at CDG etc etc I could be on the RER to the centre of Paris after a far more relaxing journey.
     
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  25. NYBanker
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    NYBanker Gold Member

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    Ahh...that makes sense.

    I've stayed at both properties (in the case of the Westin, when it was flagged as an I/C). Both are serviceable; the Westin preferred from a location and quality point of view. The Meridien claims to be the largest hotel in Paris...which I'm not sure is a strength. The Meridien is directly on the #1 train, so it isn't too inconvenient, but pales when compared to the Westin location.

    I reviewed the Meridien property in my trip report linked to above.
     

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