GOING OUR WAY
Couple plans to tour Paris, then cycle through nearby parts of France
Sunday, June 27, 2010
Who: Carol Abrams, 45, and Steve Orlovitz, 49, of Alexandria
Where: Paris and the surrounding countryside
Why: 50th birthday present for Steve
When: April/May 2011 for 10 days
"We want a romantic, active trip. We hope to soak up the neighborhoods in Paris along with the culture. Then we'd like to rent bicycles, hike and see the beauty and age-old history of the countryside."
One of the smartest things I ever did was fly to Paris for my 50th birthday. For three glorious days, I feasted on steak au poivre and Berthillon ice cream, spent approximately four times my shopping budget, perfected the art of tossing my scarf over my shoulder, and totally managed to ignore the fact that I was a half-century old. I recommend it.
Carol Abrams and Steve Orlovitz of Alexandria are even smarter, since they're planning on spending 10 whole days in and around the City of Light to celebrate Steve's 50th. In addition to exploring the capital -- it's Steve's first visit -- they'll have time to take some day trips and to tour the countryside via bicycle, their preferred mode of transportation.
Getting there: It's hard to predict with any certainty what airfares from Washington to Paris will look like a year from now, but it's probably safe to say they won't be any cheaper. As always, sign up for fare alerts from a site such as Smarter Travel (http:/
Where to stay: For small-scale charm in lively and historic surroundings, stay on the Left Bank in the Saint-Germain-des-Pres area.
Splurge for a couple of nights on a boutique charmer such as the Hotel de l'Abbaye Saint-Germain (10 Rue Cassette, 011-331-45-44-38-11, http:/
Other options: a short-term apartment rental from a company such as Citadines (011-338-25-33-33-32, http:/
What to do: Any good guidebook will list the must-do's on a first trip to Paris, but let me just say that the stained-glass windows of Sainte Chapelle, the sculpture garden of the Rodin Museum and the gorgeous Jardin du Luxembourg are a lovely way to start out. And sure, it's touristy, but have a glass of wine at Les Deux Magots, Cafe de Flore or La Coupole, where Hemingway, Picasso, Josephine Baker and other characters hung out.
Then, pick a neighborhood -- the Marais, Montmartre, Montparnasse -- and make your own discoveries. Wander at will, join a guided walking tour or take a self-guided tour (Frommer's has a good selection at http:/
Paris Walks is recommended by the Paris tourism office and offers daily tours in English, including "Hemingway's Paris" and a chocolate-themed romp. Most walks last about two hours and cost about $14 per person. Info: 011-331-48-09-21-40, http:/
By the way, if you think you'll hit a lot of museums, consider buying a Paris Museum Pass, which gets you into more than 60 places in and around the city. Depending on how many you visit, you can save some money (a two-day pass costs about $39 per person, a four-day $58 and a six-day $77), and you get to skip the (usually long) entry lines. Buy the pass online before you leave the United States, or at major museums after you arrive. Info: http:/
Biking in the city: With the city's Velib system (http:/
Biking in the country: Get warmed up with a day trip to Versailles, says Katherine Johnstone of the French Government Tourist Office (http:/
For a longer option, Johnstone raves about biking the Loire Valley on the 500-mile Loire a Velo, a system of bike paths, tracks and little-used roads that take you past the region's famous chateaux, through small towns and villages, all the way to the Atlantic coast.
"There are stores and hotels along the way," she said. "It's really easy, flat and paved mostly, no scary highways." Bike as many sections of the trail as you like, and stay at campsites, B&Bs, hotels or furnished apartments. Download maps, lists of accommodations, brochures and more at http:/
Find more ideas for bike trips at http:/
Cost: Airfare will run about $1,900 and lodging from about $1,500, leaving $2,600 for food, bike rentals or tours, and incidentals.
Interested in having us help plan your trip? Go to http:/