First let me say that Betty and I had a great time in France. Your service before and while we were on the trip was excellent. Any time we had an issue or potential issue you responded in a timely manner and were able to correct the things you could. Also, all of our drivers were excellent. Too much use of Vans rather than cars but no big deal. And your rep in Paris was also excellent, sorry I don’t remember her name .So what follows is our detailed assessment of the tour. I’m going to try to break it down into categories, Hotels, Hotel Location, Tour guides, activity and grade each.
Hotel – ( A+, 5.5) This hotel was excellent. It set our expectations for the rest of the trip. The hotel was beautiful and so was the room. We had a view of the Eiffel Tower, as we requested, but unfortunately had to position ourselves in different areas of the room to see it. It would have been nice to wake up and have a view from the bed, however this was not possible from either suite we had at the hotel. I think it may have been possible from other mini suite tower view rooms.
Hotel location (A, 5) Close to attractions, louver (right across the street), Orsey, and dining. Also close to Metro station to get around Paris.
Day 2 – Seine river boat ride – (A, 5) – Very nice boat, delicious food (maybe the best we had in France as far as Steak goes) and great atmosphere. Only issue was finding the pier. No guide.
Day 3 – VIP Guided tour of Paris (B, 4) – I don’t know if we saw everything that you had listed in the itinerary but we definitely saw a lot. I know we are in total control of most of our tours but we have to rely on the guides to make decisions as we don’t know what is going to happen. That being said, there was a lot of walking on the tour, 7+ hours. We did take breaks and had a lunch break and also took the metro, I think once. But we walked up to the Sacré-Cœur and then down after visiting. It was quite a chore considering we have already been walking so much. I didn’t know at the time but the guide should have taken the funicular up and pointed out the things he did on the way walking down.
Guide – (A, 5) – Very nice, interesting and knowledgeable. Selected a nice restaurant for lunch.
Day 4 – Day trip to Versailles (B, 4) – The tour was excellent, about 6 couples in the morning and just Betty and me in the afternoon for the gardens/grounds. The reason for the B rating is again because of all of the walking. After walking around the Chateau and close in gardens all morning we had another 4 hours of walking around the rest of the splendid gardens and grounds. It was disconcerting to see that golf carts were available to rent to visit the grounds but we didn’t have one. So I must say after two straight days of almost nonstop walking we were exhausted.
Guide – (A, 5) As with most of the guides, nice, friendly , interesting and knowledgeable. Also pick nice restaurant for lunch
Day 5 – Free day – (B, 4) – Not really a free day per say, you booked us in the Louvre so we spend a good portion of the day WALKING around the louvre. Can’t remember if we did anything else that day.
Day 6 – Free day (A, 5) Again not a real free day, you booked the Tower. The Tower tour was again excellent. It was with a group of 4 couples with the guide.Guide - (A, 5) - nice, friendly , interesting and knowledgeable.
Day 7 – Day Trip to Champagne & Reims – (A, 5) – Excellent tour, both Reims and the Champagne wineries. Also very good lunch
Guide – (A, 5) - Again, nice, friendly , interesting and knowledgeable. Also pick nice restaurant for lunch. Went over and above.
Day 8 – Paris Catacombs – (A,5) – Very good tour, very very interesting and different.
Guide – (A, 5)- Again top notch
Day 9 – pastry & Chocolate tour in Le Maris - (D, 1) – Paris trip derails! This could not be booked as a pastry and chocolate tour. We went into ONE chocolate and ONE pastry shop. We got to sample one small piece of chocolate and ½ pastry each. Yes, we had to split a pastry. Did a lot of walking around Le Marais which we had already toured on Day 3 guided tour.
Guide – (D, 1) – The one guide that we had who did not come close to the others. She spent the first 1 hr. talking about baguettes and croissants and how they’re made after purchasing one of each at a bakery. Never mentioned the preparation of the pastries or chocolates. This was not supposed to be a bread tour. We’ve already eaten untold numbers of baguettes and croissants. Felt like she pocketed the budget for the tour, if there was a budget. Very very disappointing. It was just me, Betty and the guide.
Day 10 –Moulin Rouge Show and dinner – (A, 5) – Show was superb and dinner was excellent. Could have had a driver return us to the hotel.
Day 11 – train to Saint Tropez – (A, 5) – high speed train. Don’t know why but it was the only high speed train we took on the entire Trip.
Hotel – (B, 4) – Nice room but bed almost on the floor, very low. Had the only room in the small hotel without a back patio. Very pretty hotel and breakfast was good. Staff very friendly.
Location – (C- , 2.5) – This is a two part location answer.
First, the hotel was in the middle of nowhere, at least 2.5 KM from anything, on an unlit road. Really too far to walk into town or to a beach. Taxi fare to either was 30 euros. We did make a mistake and walked to the nearest beach, 45 minutes? The beach was a disaster, one of the ugliest, dirty (with sea debris) beaches I have every been on. I say it was a mistake because we had to walk back to the hotel in total darkness and it was very nerve-wracking to say the least. On our subsequent tour we saw many beautiful beaches but they were far from the hotel. After that experience we opted for a taxi into town for diner and back (60 euros for a 7 minute trip each way).
Second – St. Tropez should not have been the base to tour the French Riviera. It is on an extreme side of the Riviera too far for a tour starting point. The town itself is nice but doesn’t compare to others we saw on the tour or to “high end” harbor towns we have visited elsewhere. Maybe a stay in Cannes with two ½ day Riviera tours, one to the east and one to the west.
Day 12 – French Riviera tour (B, 4) – It was a very pleasant drive however we didn’t stop very often to see the sites. Stopped at one beach, the “second” Normandy invasion location and Cannes. I guess we drove through Antibes and St. Maxime. We really did want to see and spend so time in Monaco. On the phone before the trip you told me that your guide said it may not be possible because of road work. The real reason was that it was much too far away from St. Tropez to get there on a day trip. Quick tour and lunch in Cannes were very good.
Guide – (A, 5) - Again, nice, friendly , interesting and knowledgeable. Also pick nice restaurant for lunch. Don’t know if we could have seen more.
Day 13 – Free day
Day 14 – Taxi to Aix-en-Provence (B+ , 4.5) – We used a lot of Vans instead of cars. Even though most were Mercedes they don’t drive like a car and are not as comfortable.
Hotel – (A, 5) – nice hotel, Room was excellent, breakfast good and staff very nice.
Location – (A, 5) – Couldn’t have been better. Central to everything.
Guided tour to Aix – (A, 5) – Very good tour of a very nice city
Guide – (A, 5) – Just like all the other A, 5 guides. Friendly, knowledgeable, interesting.
Day 15 – Guided tour of Marseille – (A, 5) – Visited all the sites of Marseille, Not the prettiest city in France.n way too much graffiti. Tour should have included lunch, it was from 10 to 2. Most tours run a little longer and you can’t get lunch in France after 3 PM.
Guide – again (A, 5)
Day 16 – free time
Day 17 – Train to Toulouse (B, 4) – was not high speed train. Made at least 10 stops took 4 hours for maybe a 2 ½ hour trip.
Hotel 1 – (D, 1) – Don’t know how this hotel maintains it’s 4 star rating unless we had the absolute worst room in the place. The room had an odor, was so small I had to move the TV every time I walked past, Don’t know if I would have fit in the toilet room (closet), Had a view of a brick wall and trash cans. If you go to the web site, the patio they show is now a trash dump. Please do not use this hotel again.
Hotel 2 - (A, 5) – This was a great hotel. Almost came up to the one in Paris. This should have been the original hotel for the tour. More centrally located and head and shoulders above the first one.
Location – (A, 5) – Very centrally located next to the very lively square.
Guided tour of Toulouse – (A, 5) – Saw all the major site of the city
Guide – (B+ , 4.5) – not as personable as the other guides. Knowledgeable, interesting.
Day 18 – free day (only full day of rain for the entire trip)
Day 19 – Train to Bordeaux (B+ , 4.5) – Should have been high speed if available. This is true for all trains
Hotel – (A, 5) – nice hotel nice room. Breakfast not that good because they brought everything in and hot food was lukewarm at best. Good selection and great Brownies for snacks later on.
Location (A,5) – close to Tram and walkable to old section of city.
Guided tour of Bordeaux – (A, 5) – Great tour of all the sights. Tour could have been longer. Bordeaux was our second faverote city after Paris.
Guide – (A, 5) – As all the other 5’s. She also met us at the restaurant where we were having lunch instead of the hotel. Saved us a fifteen minute walk back and forth.
Day 20 – Free Day
Day 21 – guided tour of St. Emilion – (A, 5) Great tour, great town. I think we had 5 people total plus the guide.
Guide – Can’t recall his name – (A, 5) – Another 5 guide.
Day 22 – free day
Day 23 – Train to Tours – (B, 4.5) – Again not high speed. I don’t know if there were high speed trains available but is seems like there should have been at least on some of our train rides besides the first to ST. Tropez. Also don’t know why we went to St Pierre des Corp, 25 – 30 minutes away, when there is a station in Tours 5 minutes from our accommodations. We left Tours from that train station.
Hotel – (B+ 4.5) – Not really a hotel but bed and breakfast. Innkeeper was very nice, breakfast was good. Room was also very nice but on the third floor with no elevator. While I didn’t have to carry our 48 and 30 pound luggage up the stairs I did have to lug them down three flights. The innkeeper insisted on taking them up and I’m sure that was a chore.
Location (A, 5) – good location to visit Tours and restaurants.
Day 24 – Guided tour of Loire Valley Castles (C -, 2.5) – This should have been a highlight and to some extent it was. It gets a C- rating for a number of reasons. I am not giving a separate line for guide since there was no guide and our driver was on the nasty side. So, #1 no guide. They gave us “information pens” that we had to hold next to our ears that explained what we were going to see. This was while in the NON AIRCONDITIONED Ford van. It was hard enough to hear the silly thing with open windows but the driver and front seat French passenger decided they were going to have loud conversations which made it more difficult. I had to tell them to be quite. We also could not take the device out of the Van. #2. As mentioned, the driver was obnoxious for any number of reasons. #3. The drive to the castles was excessive and took the majority of the tour time. I don’t know if there is a town closer to the Castles to stay in but if so it would have been better. Tours is nice but not a must see. #4. Time at each castle was insufficient to take in the splendor and enjoy a once in a lifetime opportunity. You couldn’t stop for a second so there was no time to read anything in the castles. #5. Lunch was a joke. Why we drove all the way back to Tours for lunch just to have a very rushed substandard lunch is beyond me. Maybe too much packed into one day, should have been divided into two.
Day 25 – Guided Vouvray Wine tour – (A, 5) – Interesting tour with lots of information. Only one other couple and the driver. We may have been a little “wine toured” out by this point. We had already been on quite a few.
Guide – Again I can’t recall his name – (A, 5) – Another good one.
Day 26 – Train to Caen – (b+, 4.5) - Not high speed
Hotel – (A, 5) –I’m giving the hotel a 5 because it was a nice hotel with nice room and good breakfast but I felt a little second class as our room seemed to be in an annex of the hotel. You had to walk through the bathroom area in a hall way area that was dark until you walked in and then open another door to take a different elevator, that didn't service the main building, to the room. It was a very strange set up.
Location – (B+, 4.5) – very centrally located in Deauville. Deauville is a very beautiful city but extremely far from the Normandy beaches. I think it took us 2 hr. to drive to them. I know you said you liked Deauville better than Bayeux but Bayeux is one hour closer to the Normandy beaches, the reason for the visit.
Day 27 – D-Day beaches tour – (A, 5) – Quite a moving experience. Would have liked to see a little more
Guide / driver – (A+, 5.5) – wish I could remember his name. He was excellent, one of the best if not the best.
Day 28 – Train to Paris – (B+, 4.5) – Not high speed. Again I don’t know why we came into Caen when there is a train station in Deauville. I guess the connections weren’t there.
Hotel – (A, 5) – Top of the line
Location – (A, 5) – great location as note before
Day 29 – free day but you booked the Orsay
Day 30 – Taxi to Airport – au revior France. Don’t know why the driver never told the doorman he was there. I think he was worried about the parking but shouldn’t have been.
So as I said when I started this, we had a great time in France. We were a little tired after the long flight and the first few days of a lot of walking but we made it. Giving equal weight to each graded activity the final score is 4.5. Now the trains may have brought it down a little and unfortunately I don’t know if there were high speed connection between our destinations but I would have thought there should have been at least a few. I would have to give your personal score an A+ 5.5. As I said your service before and while we were on the trip was exceptional. However that doesn’t change the total score from a 4.5. The two poor tours, which both should have been highlights, the trains and the first hotel in Tours really affected the score.
ThanksJoe & Betty
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