Last month I took a much delayed, but VERY anticipated, trip to Paris.  The City of Lights has long called to me, and I was determined to finally make it happen.

I decided to share with you my preparation for the trip, and some of the memorable experiences I had while there, over the next few months.  The process is one that can be replicated for most destinations.

Preparation is a key part of travel, but despite my best efforts to plan as far in advance as possible, some last minute scheduling issues intervened, and I was left with only about a week to pull everything together.  This was my first trip to Paris, and despite a flurry of last minute changes, I found that it is a trip that can be done at the last minute.  Preparation helps, but if you don’t have time to thoroughly prepare don’t let it stop you.  Go anyway!

When I knew that I was going to make the trip, even though I didn’t yet have precise dates, I emailed Lynn at The Paris Traveler for some specific suggestions.  I had been following her blog, of course, and had lots of ideas of places to go, and things to see and do, but my first goal was to locate a place to stay. Lynn was very helpful with suggestions about areas that she thought I would prefer to stay, and armed with this information I could very quickly put the arrondissements in preferential order.

Next I hit the library for guide books.  The current editions don’t circulate, but I could check out the older editions.  For my purposes, the older editions were just fine.  I knew that I’d do current research online, and I just needed to get an idea of which guidebooks I’d prefer for the trip.  The little stuff changes year to year, but I was pretty safe in believing that the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame were right where they’d been the previous year.  This library time saved a ton of money at the bookstore.

When I went to the bookstore, I had a pretty good idea what I wanted to buy.  Still, I love bookstores, so I had to spend some time browsing the bookshelves to see what was available.  I settled on two guidebooks:  Fodor’s See it Paris and Frommer’s Paris Day by Day. 

I took these books with me on the trip, and they turned out to be excellent choices.  They were small enough to carry around easily, provided good information, had great maps, and good suggestions for independent travelers.  I wanted solid overview information, location, Metro stops, etc., so that I could best plan my times.  I wanted lots of choices, and these two books provided it.

I also purchased and took along a language book.  I don’t speak French and was a little concerned about that.  While it was a very helpful book, I didn’t need it.  I was able to navigate the language just fine, and had help from many Parisians who spoke English.  I’d definitely pack the book for a trip to the French countryside, or if I was navigating in smaller towns and villages, though.

The final part of my research preparation was downloading information to my iPod.  I’m a relatively new iPod owner/user, but I’ve gotten pretty hooked on it already.  Through iTunes I found a variety of free downloads, including walking tours of Paris, French language lessons, French cooking shows, and all sorts of travel information and tips.  I selected everything that I thought would be helpful and loaded up my iPod.  I probably overdid it.  I didn’t use any of the walking tours, much preferring to wander along on my own.  (I think you find the most interesting places and meet the most interesting people that way.)  Also, I didn’t want to have a gadget attached to my ears the whole time.  I wanted to hear Paris as much as see it.  Nonetheless, the information was useful for planning purposes, very entertaining, and made a long flight less boring.

If I’d had more time, I would probably have done more research.  But, I only had a few days, and there was still lots more to do. . . .

Next up:  Finding a Hotel

Photo credit:  personal collection


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