Dear Fellow ISO Paris Trip Member:
It is almost here—in just a few days we are off the Paris. I just spoke to one member, and she told me she can hardly wait. I just love the anticipation of getting ready for a trip—especially to Paris! I hope you share my feelings.
Stephanie Chipman and I will be at Froggys restaurant this Thursday, September 24, 2009, from 5 to 7 if you want to stop by and join us. Stephanie will be handing out additional trip information and sharing some of our favorite Paris secrets. Froggys is located at 1975 Wabash Avenue, near the Chatham road intersection, at the former Willie Mac’s Country Café. We will be in the bar section, just on the right as you enter the restaurant. Cash bar, starters are on us.
When we planned this trip we decided to make it as independent as possible. While traveling with friends, making new ones, and supporting the charitable cause of the Illinois Symphony Orchestra, you will still enjoy the flexibility and time to discover Paris secrets of your own. The very busy, very helpful Paris tourist office is just a short walk from the hotel. Need to book a show? Want to take a sightseeing tour? The tourist office is a great place to start.
If you haven’t had a chance to read the Rick Steve’s Paris Guide and discover the wealth of information in it, I suggest you give it a read. Very good basic information is included in the guide book, such as how to use the Metro, walks in Paris, and as we have already discovered, it contains the best guide to Versailles. Read it to make sure you get off at the right train station to visit the palace—it is confusing.
Wednesday, September 30:
Most members will be leaving Springfield via Classic Limo from the Crown Plaza on Dirksen Parkway. There is a scheduled stop in Bloomington.
Airline FYI: Ticketing is done via e-tickets. Check in should be available 24 hours in advance. The airlines will allow two checked pieces of luggage for no charge, not to exceed 50 pounds per bag. Extra checked bags are assessed a fee of around $100. So, pack light and leave room for your souvenirs. We always pack an additional folding duffel bag—Walmart sells them for $12.
Thursday, October 1:
When you arrive in Paris you have to clear customs and immigration. We will guide you to the nearest ATM at the airport to procure Euros. ATM machines are universal in Paris, and traveler’s checks are nearly impossible to cash anymore. As you leave the international arrivals exit at Charles De Gaulle, your Planet Travel Rep and Bee shuttle driver will meet you and transport you to your hotel.
FYI: Your passports may be collected by the hotel clerk—this is routine. Some of the travel books I’ve read mention that this is required at European hotels, and explains that American make a bigger issue out of it than it is.
Expect that your room will not be available until 3 p.m. You can store your luggage with the bellman (we suggest a one-euro tip to the bellman). Room keys should be available at 3 p.m.
We are planning a quick meeting at the hotel to pass out additional items, including Metro passes and Museum passes.
It’s my first day in France, I’m jet lagged, what do I do? Explore your neighborhood. Walking shoes on, find the Maille Mustard store, the finest grocery store in all of Paris (some of our most interesting European finds have been in the grocery store), shop the ultra-chic designer stores, or walk to Galleries LaFayette and Printemps department stores, have lunch in an upper-floor cafeteria-style restaurant, and enjoy a panoramic view of the city on the outdoor terrace. Stroll back to the hotel, get your room key, and take a nap—remember Parisians eat dinner later in the evening, so many restaurants do not open until 7 or 8 p.m.
Some group member will be posting their daily plans near the elevator. Feel free to join them. You can also join fellow travelers for breakfast each morning in the breakfast room.
Friday, October 2:
Many members will be taking the D-Day battle tours in Normandy. We have emailed them separate information. For those staying in the city, have fun.
Saturday, October 3:
Get ready for the all-nighter called Nuit Blanche. Museum admissions are free. (Don’t start using your museum pass until Monday.) The free tabloid that’s distributed at all of the Metro stops will have a map and guide, and be sure to inquire at the Paris tourist office for more information.
Sunday, October 4:
If you’re rested from the all-night festivities, join some group members at a 4 p.m. concert at the church Eglise Saint-nerry, located near the contemporary art museum Pompidou. The Metro stop is Hotel de Ville.
Monday, October 5:
Tuesday, October 6:
To feel positively royal, head to Versailles. We suggest that you plan on spending the day to explore the vast palace and the extensively landscaped grounds, and La Petit Trianon, the private sanctuary that Marie Antoinette used to escape from her queenly life.
Wednesday, October 7:
End your day at the Eiffel tower where you can walk to the Port de la Bourdonnais to board the boat that will transport you down the Seine, while you enjoy a leisurely dinner. Seating opens at 7 p.m. Dress is evening casual—it might get chilly, so be prepared for 50-degree evenings.
Thursday, October 8:
Prepare to leave the hotel at 8 a.m. for the flight home. You will be met at O’Hare by Classic Limousines for the rip to Springfield.
As generally happens, you will be amazed at how quickly the vacation is over. But you can relive it through your pictures, souvenirs, and the stories of your great Parisian adventure. I want to thank you for your support of the Illinois Symphony Orchestra and I hope you choose us for future travel needs.
Donald C. Fuener