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Travel & Holidays in later life

OPEN SEASON FOR LOVING PARIS

Notre DameYou don't have to wait until springtime, along with the birds and the bees, for the question to pop up: "How about Paris for a romantic weekend?"

Paris is always in season, whatever the time of year. From autumn into the New Year, visitors from neighbouring countries snatch a few days' break to bring the champagne sparkle into winter.


Then it's springtime - and everyone's heard about the magic of Paris in the Spring. Easter - Whitsun - and it's summer traffic again. It's a popular idea that Paris means Romance. But romance isn't just for newly-weds, or couples who are thinking about it. 

Travel Facts

 

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TRAVEL FACTS

Ask a travel agent for specialized brochures, produced by dozens of city break tour operators. 

Choice of transport: direct flights from numerous airports; Eurostar from London St Pancras; coach tour with local pick-up; self-drive Dover-Calais or by Chunnel from Folkestone. 

By Eurostar, arrival is at Gare du Nord, which offers easy connections by Métro or taxi to your hotel. 

You can bring back whatever you can carry from cross- Channel shopping, so long as it's for your own use. Best buys: drink, tobacco, coffee, olive oil.

More information: French Government Tourist Office, Lincoln House, 300 High Holborn, London WC1V 7JH. Tel: 0906-8244-123 (costing 60p a minute).  

Travelsphere escorted holidays

 

A similar deal can help set the mood for anyone celebrating a silver, gold, ruby or diamond anniversary - much better than spending the money on something sensible like a new dishwasher. Any well-organised travel agent can arrange for champagne and flowers to await your arrival at the chosen hotel. 

For daytime activities, Paris can offer huge potential for memorable sightseeing, museums and excursions. But it's counter-productive to turn Paris into an assault course. You're in the French capital to enjoy yourself, to get its flavour and enjoy the unexpected. 

Many pleasures come to the visitor without advance planning. Make time to saunter around, light-hearted as a butterfly, letting each sight capture your attention until another distraction catches your eye.
Taking a stroll along the Left Bank
Much of Paris can be enjoyed free: sightseeing on foot, strolling along the river banks, or window gazing. Take time to "stand and stare", just watching the passing scene. 

Refreshment at a pavement café is much more than just a way of quenching thirst or giving your ankles a rest. It's an essential part of the Parisian life-style, enjoying a ringside seat to all the street happenings. 

The location key to Paris is the arrondissement system of districts. Paris has twenty of them, arranged in a spiral of three circular segments going clockwise from the centre. 

The centre segment comprises arrondissements numbered 1 to 7 - the heart of medieval Paris, where most sightseeing is concentrated. The spiral starts with the first arrondissement, centred on the Louvre. The 8th arrondissement features the Champs Elysées. 

Excursions? For an hour or so, take a Bateaux Mouches boat trip along the Seine. For a half-day excursion, Versailles Palace is first choice. If the weather is good, travel out to Fontainebleau, set amid the most beautiful woodlands of France.

Double-decker sightseeing buses with recorded commentary circle around the main tourist locations. Best buy is a 2-day pass, enabling you to hop on and off as often as you like, saving your energy to explore each sightseeing highlight.

Take a cruise on the SeineAmong the year-round discount deals, the best is the Museum Card, available for choice of one, three or five days. The card offers unlimited visits to 70 museums and monuments in Paris and the surrounding areas, including the Palace of Versailles. You just walk in without queuing.

For travelling around Paris, the Metro system is superb, costing about a pound any distance. Even better value is a ten-ticket booklet (carnet) which can be shared by a couple. Each ticket is valid for any distance by Metro, or one or two coupons for bus journeys. There are also Paris Visite travel cards of up to 5 days' duration. 


Whatever the season or time of day, fresh delights are awaiting. Evenings, there's the pleasure of dining out in colourful restaurants, and revelling in the nightlife.

The Parisian nightlife scene is certainly the most varied and dazzling in Europe. But be prepared for high prices to see the famous big-time spectacular shows.

Many agencies feature a 'Paris by Night' deal to include a river cruise or a tour of the Illuminations, followed by the show at one of the big-time revues. 

Prices vary widely - anything from £65 to over £130 - depending on exactly what's included in the package. At the lower end of that scale you could get the Illuminations plus the Moulin Rouge show with a glass of bubbly but no dinner; while the top end could feature the Moulin Rouge, dinner, champagne and show. A wine and champagne dinner at the Paradis Latin could cost somewhere in between.

There are endless variations on Paris by Night packages. The big advantage is knowing precisely what the evening will cost. Go-it-alone you can have fun, but then be shattered when the final bill is presented.

Even the most romantically-minded couple must face the important question of "How much will it cost?" 

Paris ranks among the higher-cost capitals of Europe. Prices at big-name hotels are in the expense-account league, somewhere in the stratosphere. Your best buy is a travel-agency package, where the price usually works out cheaper than if you fix the same details entirely yourself.

Specialist citybreak tour companies work closely with a selection of well-kept establishments which have looked after their clients for years. These hotels make a tried-and-tested base for enjoying Paris without wrecking your budget before you start. Any complaints, and the local rep office can sort out the problem, fast.
Take a break from sightseeing, any time
A Paris break can be wrapped up in a 15-minute travel- agency discussion. Pick the transport arrangement you want, the hotel grade you can afford, and even some of the optional excursions. Then just relax and enjoy yourself.

For anyone aiming for a winter trip, there's a decent saving compared with higher-season prices. Just check the price grids! So much to see - so much to do - the likelihood is that Paris will draw you back. Citybreaks in Paris never seem to last long enough. 

Where else to go in France

ANNECY - French coach touring by TGV train

BRITTANY COAST - St Malo and the Emerald Coast

BURGUNDY - Go cruising by luxury barge

CHAMPAGNE TRAIL starting at Troyes

LOIRE VALLEY - The Garden of France

MENTON - where lemon trees bloom year-round

NICE - exploring the Riviera

PARIS - See it dressed up for Christmas


"Books to read - click on cover pictures" or click on the links below

"Lonely Planet: Paris" by Steve Fallon - Packed with good advice on getting the maximum interest and enjoyment from the experience of Paris, and including notes on day trips. 

"Paris: Spiral Guide" by Mario Wyn-Jones and Teresa Fisher - Published by the AA, this handy pocket guide includes with good street plans. 

"The Impressionists' Paris" by Ellen Williams - For art-lovers who specially admire the Impressionists, here are guided walks that feature where the artists lived, and the sites they painted. Also includes period cafe and restaurant recommendations, 20 full-colour reproductions, and vintage photos.

"Down and Out in Paris and London" by George Orwell - A reminder that prewar Paris was not roses all the way. Here's a new edition of Orwell's classic description of life among the underdogs - an antidote to the romantic view of Paris. Not to be read before dining.


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