Saturday, December 31, 2011

PARIS - Apartment Rentals and Booked Tours

Eiffel Tower framing Trocadero - by DGH 2010

Paris is an intriguing city, offering something unique to each person who visits. This post details a couple of ways to enjoy your trip and perhaps save time or money. We had two weeks, a rental apartment, an itinerary, Paris guidebooks, French phrasebooks and maps. We wanted to walk the streets where so many historical and literary figures have gone before us, we wanted to see the museums, the palaces, the artist hangouts, and the local cafes. Our favourites: the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre Museum, Monet’s Garden, the Seine River and its many bridges, the Isle St. Louis, Montmartre, and the Marais. It’s hard to pick just one.

View from our Paris Rental Apartment  - by DGH 2010

Rental Apartments

Our rented apartment was in the Marais, 4th Arrondisement, right on the Rue de Rivoli. This area has many townhomes and manors which have been converted into combined private residences/designer rentals and boutique hotels. Renting an apartment in Paris is highly recommended, but do your research well. Some places are suitable for students and groups of friends on a budget, others for couples or families looking for a bit more. We selected the company A La Carte for several reasons. They were offering the types of apartments that we wanted in the areas we wanted (on the Right Bank, near the Marais and near the Louvre Museum). Costs vary by size of apartment, high or low season rates and location.

A La Carte’s website provides all the information you need including availability for booking. What we saw online was exactly that in reality, and the location was perfect for us. The costs are comparable and in some cases better than equivalent hotels in the same area. Our apartment was between the Louvre and the Place De La Bastille, a few blocks over from the Seine River right on the famed Rue de Rivoli. We booked a one bedroom with a tidy kitchen/dining area, living room, shower, wifi connection with flat screen TV, microwave, and apartment size laundry. Being on the fourth floor we knew the view would be great, but we made sure there was an elevator. We just didn’t know it was truly a petite Parisian elevator. Cozy.

The rental agency supplied their own customized guide in the apartment (suited to that particular area). It was a lifesaver. The rental company also left a complimentary bottle of wine and a bowl of fruit to welcome us. We enjoyed being able to locate the small grocery nearby that had everything we needed, finding the local boulangerie (bakery) where we bought our first and daily baguette (or two) and discovering the many local bistros and cafes nearby. The sounds of Paris drifted up to our window every day as soon as I opened the windows. September is a great time to visit with mild weather and fewer crowds. The only time we left Paris was on a one day coach tour to Monet’s Garden and Versailles.

Our taxis, with English speaking drivers, were booked by our rental agency for our arrival at CDG airport and for our departure. The cost was 80 Euros one-way. We were driven to our apartment in large comfortable European sedans. Luxe. The drivers contracted with A La Carte escort you and your luggage up to the apartment and carry your luggage to the taxi when you depart. So much better than my expected visions of haggling with the taxi drivers. For someone used to hauling her own luggage, it was nice.


Monet's Water Garden, Giverny - 2010 by DG Hudson

Booked Tours

All of our excursions were booked with Viator Tours - Paris.  This company offers an excellent selection of tours, and friendly staff. The office we visited was near the Tuilleries.  Our tour guides were well-informed, multilingual and managed their groups well. Very professional.

Tours we selected:

Monet’s Garden, a day trip by coach to Giverny, includes a tour of Monet’s house, with access to his famed Water Garden and the flower gardens. Included are two additional stops. Lunch at Le Moulin Fourges, an old mill location that provides a seated lunch with a pre-planned menu served by staff. This is a welcome break in the coach trip between Giverny and Versailles. 

Versailles, France, Hall of Mirrors - by DG Hudson

Later, we arrive at Versailles, the golden palace. The grandness of the estate cannot help but awe those who see it for the first time. In 2010, the gilt was fresh and the palace was crowded, but our intrepid blue leader guide led us through the Hall of Mirrors, the royal bedchambers, and some of the galleries. From the natural to the gilded, the French celebrate both.

Paris - Bridge over the River Seine 2010 by DGH

Paris Illuminations Tour (Group access to 1st level of the Eiffel Tower, an evening  Seine River cruise on the Bateaux Parisiennes with the return City Illuminations tour). We had plenty of time on the Eiffel Tower for photographs and the gift shop, but no meals. If you want to eat at the Eiffel Tower or while cruising, look for casual or formal dinner cruises. There are many variations to suit everyone’s taste.

Paris - a Montmartre Cafe 2010 by DG Hudson

Walking tour of Montmartre starting at the Blanche Metro station. We walked past the Moulin Rouge, on our way to meet up with the group of about 12 people. The tour took us past Van Gogh’s house, a hidden Montmartre vineyard, the famed Bateau Lavoir, Tertre Square and ended at the Sacre Coeur. I detailed this one in Paris Walks.

Getting Around: Hop-On Hop-Off Bus

Les Cars Rouges - (the Red tour bus) the stop nearest us was on the Isle St. Louis near Notre Dame, you can buy the tickets online or on the bus, get on and off for two days @ 24 Euros per person, good value, great orientation to the city on arrival. They stop at all the major tourist sites and allow you to get on and off with your pass. A fellow traveller recommended it over the Metro. It’s nice to see where you’re going aboveground, and it’s much easier going around the L’Etoile when there’s a French driver at the wheel.

Paris - Arc de Triomphe 2010 - by DG Hudson

Whether you prefer an apartment or a hotel, the right accommodations can make or break a vacation. Location, cost and the personal touch are important. We were located in the middle of Paris, but the apartment was as quiet as could be when the windows were shut at night. We leaned out our 4th floor apartment on October 2, 2010 at midnight, gazed down the Rue de Rivoli and watched the celebrations of Nuit  Blanche  (a Paris street party) promising ourselves that we’d be back.

Paris -Nuit Blanche, Oct 2, 2010 - DGH


A La Carte Paris -- Designer Rental Apartments in Paris

Viator Tours booking site


Have you ever rented an apartment in a city you’re visiting? Which city?

Disclaimer: The businesses mentioned in this post are recommended based on our experience. We were satisfied with their service and would use both again.