Going to Paris. Need a couple of tips.

My wife and I are going to Paris in the spring. We were in France many years ago but it was with a tour so we didn’t need to plan anything out. We’ll be staying at Hotel de Buci in the Saint Germain area.

  1. During our stay we want to visit the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial.
    What’s the best/easiest way to get there from Paris? I’m thinking train. But is there any reason to rent a car, such as are there any significant sights to see on the way that driving would be worth it? Though I’ve done it a zillion times I freaking hate driving in foreign countries.

  2. Where is the closest vineyards/wineries we can visit? Other than going to Normandy I’d prefer to stay in/close to Paris most of the time. I don’t want to travel half way across the country to get a sip of wine.


If you rent a car, make sure your credit card works in France! You’ll probably need a PIN and a chip. I’ve heard stories of non-EMV cards being refused at gas stations and tollbooths.

Looks like the Champagne district is closest to Paris, but Burgundy would probably be a better bet for good wine.

Driving a car in Paris a freaking nightmare, plain and simple. Everyone goes like a bat out of hell, even when the traffic is at a standstill. Also, everyone on your right has the right of way, no matter if the street is a major one or just a path barely big enough for a car to fit through. They just come barging out; if you don’t get out of the way, it’s your fault. And forget about navigating the Arc de Triomphe circle unless you have nerves of steel. I’d stick to the trains and metro system, which are very good.

I rented a car and drove to Normandy and it was a mistake. It was too long of a drive and boring. We day tripped. Left early AM and returned that afternoon.Would have liked a train ride back to Paris while drinking a glass of wine. Take the train to Caen and rent a car when you get there.

Something I did while at the cemetery… we walked the path down to the beach. It’s a good 10-15 minute walk as the path meanders through the woods. Also, the beach must be 100 feet below the cemetery. At the beach I collected a baggie full of sand. Returning home I bought some small, clear plastic jars, filled them with some sand. I made a label… Collected at Colleville-sur-Mer…etc and gave them to friends. They were much appreciated.

I have no intention of driving around Paris. European cities are horrendous to drive in and the people there drive like Kamikazes! The best of them drive nuttier than the worst asshole from Illinois!

My wife has about 30 mini jars of sand from each of the beaches from around the world and the U.S. that we’ve visited. So I can see her doing it there too.

Trivia: there is one “last” vineyard actually in Paris itself ! It is in Montmartre (not very big, though).

We were just in Paris last spring… there’s a great little wine shop just around the corner from your hotel. La Dernier Goutte (“The Last Drop”). We had a great time at a wine and cheese tasting there, just for English-speaking tourists.

Also, be sure to give yourself plenty of time to catch your train. We took the Metro to the Gare San Lazare expecting to catch a train to Giverny, and it took us a half hour just to find our way from the Metro station to the railway ticket office; then another 15-20 minutes in line to buy train tickets. Got to the gate just in time to watch the train leave without us. (Fortunately, there are plenty of trains, so we caught the next one an hour later.)

You might be out of luck at the self service kiosks at the train stations too. So expect to spend some time standing in line for tickets.

Really? What’s going on? Last time I was in Europe was May of '12. I was in England, Italy, and Spain and my credit card worked fine. Is what you guys are talking about just a problem in France? Last time we were in France was in the 80’s and it was in the Riviera, so I have no point of reference for Paris.

I liked driving in France. Paris, not so much. But I found driving through western France to be easy and beautiful. We stopped at many castles and things like that. Just spend a night outside of Paris. Drive up, see Normandy, spend the night someplace and drive back.

Normandy Castles to visit

You can stay in one.

Driving in Paris is not advisable for the faint-hearted but many european cities are surprisingly accessible to traffic due to park and ride and excellent public transport.

As for the standard of driving, having driven extensively in many countries across the world I promise you that Germany, France, Austria, Holland, Belgium have very high standards. UK even more so and all are higher standards than the USA.
They may be faster and on smaller roads with more bends but if you can put up with the “lunatic per mile” rate found on busy USA roads then you’ll be fine in the majority of Europe. (special exception for Naples…that was interesting! but Barcelona was surprisingly simple)

I was there in the fall, and I experienced exactly what Sunspace and Dag Otto described. Everyone “live” would totally accept my American credit card with no problem, but not a single automated kiosk would. For my trip that only mattered for train tickets, but good to keep in mind.

Much of the world outside the US (even Canada) has moved to chip-and-pin as the standard for credit cards. Old-style American cards are common enough that most people know how to run them, but you need a person for that.

And make the PIN 4 digits if it can be longer: most ATMs here aren’t prepared to take more.

If you don’t speak French, learn at least how to say: “I’m sorry, I don’t speak French.”
Basically transliterated: Je regret kuh je nuh par-ul pah fransay.
Other basics like please and thank you are helpful.

I’ve always found that, if I start in French, they’re glad to speak English with me. I’ve shown them that I know they speak a different language, I express regret that I don’t speak it, and they’re glad to stop listening to me mangle their beautiful language. If I start in English, they don’t understand.

Tuileries Garden Jardin des Tuileries just go and walk awhile along the gravelish paths. See the well tended goats on tether at the moat

Paris stole my heart last summer, met an old wino in the metro, gave me a fright but he shared my croissants…:slight_smile:

OTOH, bank ATMs handled my US-style checking account cards just normally for cash withdrawals. Kiosk-type POS terminals are the ones that demand only chip-and-PIN cards.

Yes, that was my experience, too. Never had problems getting cash from at ATM (which I was not counting in the “automated kiosk” category in my previous note).

Basically, my only real problem was getting RER tickets at the Noisy-le-grand station where there was only the kiosk, no ATM in sight, and little cash in my wallet.