Day 1: Bienvenue! Welcome to Paris, France “The City of Lights ” You will be driven by taxi from the airport to your private apartment in the prestigious neighborhood of Saint-Germain-des-Prés. There, you will be personally greeted & welcomed. We will then take some time to get oriented ~ neighborhood walk, short metro & bus ride; find the ATM machines and nearby boulangeries and pâtisseries. Orientation will be followed by a special welcome lunch at a restaurant where President Obama & the First Lady dined last year. The remainder of the day is at your leisure for you to unwind and settle at your own pace. A fun way to sight-see and monument-hop is the Cars Rouges (hop on/hop off open bus tour; 24€ pass valid 2 days) ~ the upper deck is recommended for its sweeping views of Paris, where you are at the level of the beautiful buildings and trees, and conveniently shielded from cars & traffic. (L)
Day 2: Outdoor market tour & picnic; Cooking Dinner Party Visit the outdoor market frequented by St Germain locals, the Marché Raspail to witness a tremendous array of delicious fare, including abundant fish, cheese, meats, and exquisite produce. Choose from among the finest delicacies in Europe for our cooking dinner party tonight, as well as for our picnic lunch. For your convenience, Karen will have a rolling caddy to transport your purchases back to your apartment. Picnic at nearby Jardins de Luxembourg, then enjoy the remainder of the afternoon as you wish. Meet at the main apartment tonight to prepare & savor a dinner together. This dinner is flexible ~ you may either join in the cooking, or simply arrive in time to start eating, so as to maximize sight-seeing, if you wish. (B, L, D)
Day 3: French breakfast, Intro to Paris walk, Seine River cruise, neighborhood dining Enjoy your first traditional French breakfast in our main Paris apartment ~ fresh pastries and croissants from the nearby pâtisserie and a bowl of café au lait. Following breakfast, delight in a leisurely 1-hour walk this morning from our neighborhood across the Seine on the lovely Pont de Solférino foot bridge, into the Tuileries garden, and through the magnificent grounds of the Palais du Louvre with it's secret entrance. Enjoy the remainder of day at your leisure. For those of you who plan to do serious shopping, the nearby rue de Rennes offers countless high-quality stores, as does Blvd. Saint Germain, but don't forget that department stores, “les grands magasins,” began in Paris over 150 years ago ~ nearby Le Bon Marché is top notch no matter what your desire, not forgetting Le Printemps and Les Galeries Lafayette on the right bank. This evening, enjoy a one-hour cruise along the Seine to admire the monuments bathed in golden sunlight, as we pass under 25 bridges, each unique in style ~ the perspective from the water offers a view of Paris like no other. Dine together in an authentic neighborhood restaurant unknown to tourists. (D)
Day 4: FREE DAY ~ You have the option to enjoy the 10:30AM Village of Montmartre walking tour by Paris Walks', where you will discover old winding streets, the vineyard, artists' studios (Renoir, Lautrec, Van Gogh), quiet gardens, the oldest cabaret in Paris, the lively Place du Terte with its artists, the famous Sacré Coeur Basilica and a wonderful view over the city. At 2:30PM Paris Walks' offers the Marais walking tour: In this beautiful historic neighborhood, hear tales of famous inhabitants and enjoy elegant classical architecture and atmospheric old streets; see some splendid mansions: the beautiful Soubise Palace, the Hotel Sale, now the Picasso Museum and the Hotel Carnavalet (now the Paris History Museum ) where Mme. de Sevigné lived, famous for her witty letters telling of life at the time of the Sun King; walk through the Jewish quarter and finish at the lovely Place des Vosges, the city's oldest square. For an intimate and quaint museum experience, visit those held within private mansions, such as Musée Rodin and Musée Maillol (both in 7th), Musée Eugène Delacroix (6th), or Musée Jacquemart-André (8th).
Day 5: Impressionism at Giverny ~ Monet's House & Gardens Spend the morning as you wish. Take the high-speed train to the town of Giverny at noon, savor lunch at a quaint inn, and delight in a private VIP tour of Monet's House and Gardens at Giverny ~ witness the Japanese bridge, the gardens, and the pond where the famous water lilies were painted. Captivating stories from our art historian guide bring the artist and residence alive. Return to Paris by 6PM. Free evening.
Day 6: A day of bubbly Take the high-speed train to the city of Reims ~ capital of the Champagne region, a short 45 minutes away. Behold the impressive Reims cathedral ~ the gothic splendor where many French kings have been crowned. Visit the oldest champagne house (1729), one of the top Champagne producers, “Grand Maisons,” for an exclusive VIP tour of the chalk caves and vinification facility to learn about the fascinating history of champagne-making, followed by a tasting of 2 different champagnes. Enjoy a light café lunch, then drive into the picturesque countryside of the Marne Valley amidst vines to visit a small-size producer and witness the “artisanal”-style of the champagne process.
In a tiny quaint village, visit the tomb of legendary Dom Perignon, the Benedictine monk who stumbled upon the method of champagne-making, and who - as legend has it - went running through the monastery squealing “I'm drinking the stars.” Return to Paris by 8PM.
Day 7: FREE DAY ~ Paris museums, walking tours Today and tomorrow are the best days to optimize your museum pass. The top three biggies are the Louvre (ancient, classical, neoclassical, renaissance, romanticism); Orsay (impressionism & post-impressionism); and Pompidou Center (modern). Monet fans will delight in the cosy Musée de l'Orangerie ~ known for the round room of endless water lilies ~ located in the Tuileries Gardens. Consider visiting the Musée du Louvre after 6pm tonight, as it stays open until 9:45pm ~ the crowds will have thinned and the galleries take on a more serene air by which you can better appreciate the masterpieces housed in this former palace of the kings. If you're in the mood for walking tours, Paris Walks' offers the 10:30AM Village of Montmartre walk, as well as the 2:30PM walking tour of the Two Islands to discover the magical Ile St. Louis, elegant architecture and aristocratic inhabitants, a favorite with the lost generation of the 1920s who savored its old world charm; and the history of Ile de la Cité, where Paris was first founded, and the architecture and sculptures of Notre Dame cathedral.
Day 8: Musée d'Orsay; Impressionist-themed dinner, French chef, home of native Parisian You have the option to enjoy the 10:30AM Saint Germain-des-Prés walking tour by Paris Walks' ~ capture the essence of Paris on the Left Bank: the old abbey church of St Germain, charming streets lined with bookstores and literary cafés, old squares, artists' studios, the famous Paris Fine Arts School, the hotel where Oscar Wilde died, and the beautiful St Sulpice church, mentioned in the DaVinci Code. Explore the Impressionist works at the Musée d'Orsay with a private guide-art historian during a 2-hour tour in the late afternoon. Tonight, enjoy the rare opportunity of a private themed dinner party with an esteemed French Chef in the chic home of a native Parisian, Véronique, whose next-door neighbor is a legendary French fashion designer. Véronique, born and raised in St. Germain des Près, will give insight into Parisian life and enchant us with her refined table decoration. Relish a gourmet meal, starting with hors-d'œuvre and champagne. Wine will be selected to complement a gourmet 4-course French meal which could have been enjoyed by Claude Monet himself. (D)
Day 9: “Au Revoir” … “Bon retour & MERCI!” After savoring your last French pastries and coffee, your private pre-reserved taxi will collect you to take you to the airport. As they say in French, “Good return, and THANK YOU!”