1st time Paris and France, any advice?

Oh, what are we doing besides Paris? I should’ve mentioned we are going out.

  1. “Road trip” on a TGV bullet train to Luxembourg. We have a free tour from 11am-1pm and just wandering the extraordinarily scenic city. It seemed more compact for a day trip than say Belgium or Provence. And it’s kind of fun to say “Anyone can go to Paris or Amsterday, but we’re visiting Luxembourg”. We get back to Gare de l’Est at 7pm.

  2. A real road trip to Normandy, leaving at 8am in a rental car. We got a gîte near Bayeux for an overnight. The kids asked if it was disrespectful to swim at Omaha Beach. After all, frolicking at the beach is in a way what these soldiers were fighting for. But they may find the Atlantic in October might be a tad chillier than Waikiki Beach.

May skip the Bayeux tapestry and D-Day museums to just wander around the town. See how that goes. The second day, we’re heading back to Paris, we originally thought of Versailles based on your recommendations, but then learned we don’t need to bring the car back until nighttime. Fully vetting, they wanted to go to Mont St Michel instead. More driving through the French countryside, which is what my wife wanted. And I get Minas Tirith.

I don’t have anything to add, except “Jealous!”, even though we’ve been to Paris twice. One time it was a two-day trip where we took the Eurostar from London, partly just to ride under the channel in a high-speed train. We got the idea from the Rick Steves book on London, where his list of side-trips suggested going to Paris: “Why not?”. Actually all of our trips to cities in Europe alternated days with day trips and side trips just like you’re doing.

I have some advice for rural France, which is relevant to your road trip to Normandy. It relates to the “lunch problem”. If you do not stop for lunch and walk into a restaurant between 12:30 and 1:30, you may find it extremely difficult to get anything to eat at all for the rest of the afternoon. If you haven’t experienced this, you probably won’t take it seriously - you may think “we can always go to McDonalds or get a sandwich somewhere”. Maybe, but quite likely not. If you start to feel hungry and start looking for a place to eat at 1:30, you are probably already in trouble, even if you don’t realise it yet.

Related advice for tourists in rural France: get up early, have breakfast early, start your day early. This way you will be in sync with French mealtimes. If you are eating a leisurely breakfast at 10, you are at high risk of running into the lunch problem. Not so much an issue in Paris, of course.

This advice is based on 20+ years of experience of annual holidays in rural France. See also the “Sunday problem”.