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Tommy and Christina's Honeymoon Adventure to Paris and Nice, France Backpacking with the Bonds

Paris and Nice are the two most popular tourist destinations in France and are perfect for a week and a half trip. Your proposed travel dates are September 21st to October 1st, 2016 (total of 9 nights in France) come just after the peak tourist season, so rates on airfare and hotels should be low, crowds should be minimal and the weather should still be warm.

Paris, France

Paris, the city of light, is one of the world's great cities and routinely serves as one of the top tourist destinations. The city has some of the most recognizable attractions in the world and is the perfect place to spend a long romantic week.

Paris by Moyan Brenn

Arrival

Charles de Gaulle (CDG)

Just about all international flights from the US arrive into Charles de Gaulle, located several miles north of Paris. From Washington Dulles (IAD) you have two direct options to Paris Charles de Gaulle (CDG) on Air France and United. Delta, American, and Lufthansa also offer options, but will require at least one connection.

Pro Travel Tip: Sometimes purchasing two one-way tickets will save you money and time. For your proposed travel dates (departure on Wed Sept 21st to Paris from Dulles and return on Sat Oct 1 from Nice to Dulles) I found a deal on Google Flights Multi-city travel planner for $697 on KLM. This will save you the one-way flight from Nice back to Paris and will add another day for you to explore France.

Once in CDG you have several options (train, bus, and taxi) to get into central Paris. The fastest is the RER regional train line.

Getting Around Paris

Paris, a city with over 2.5 million residents has one of the oldest, densest, and most extensive transportation networks in the world. It will be useful for getting to just about every corner of the city.

Paris Metro

Where to Stay in Paris

Paris is made up of 20 arrondissements. Marais (3rd and 4th arr) on the right bank is great neighborhood, filled with world class restaurants and historical sites. That said, the hotel rates there tend to be slightly more expensive, and those that are within your range ($150-$200) are inferior to those in Saint-Germain (6th arr) and the Latin Quarter (5th arr) (in the left bank), just across the river. From Saint-Germain or the Latin Quarter it's a short 2-3 stops on the metro to Marais, or a 15-20 minute walk.

Arrondissements of Paris

If you have an account with hotel booking websites like Orbitz, Booking.com or Hotels.com I would suggest looking at the rates there. Your account may also help you gain access to reduced rates or accrue points or free nights that can be used later.

Location: (6th arr Saint-Germain) It’s a short metro ride or a decent walk to the River Seine, Notre Dame, and most of the main attractions. Location is good. A chic area of Paris. Hotel is set on a quiet street. Closest metro stations: Saint-Sulpice or Rennes - a few blocks away, in opposite directions. Style: Nice small boutique set-up. Rooms are unique. Hotel has a classic style that has been updated. Amenities: Nice outdoor area and a bar. Free wifi. Getting there and away: A long taxi ride or a decent trip on the metro from Gare Nord. The hotel can arrange a shuttle to the airport.

Overall the hotel has a very unique and cozy feel to it. Seems welcoming and would be a great place to stay in Paris. The reviews are very positive. Very close Jardin du Luxembourg, a very popular destination in Paris. With lots of restaurants and shopping in the surrounding area.

Location: (5th Arr - Latin Quarter) Quiet neighborhood with easy walking distance to Notre Dame, Saint-Louis Island, the Pantheon. A lot of restaurants and bars within blocks of the hotel. Style: Modern 30 room boutique hotel. Rooms are all uniquely and stylishly designed. Amenities: Onsite bar/lounge, free wifi and breakfast included (on hotels.com). Getting there and away: The hotel is two blocks away from three different metro stations. It would be a short ride on the metro to Gare de Lyon or a short taxi ride.

Rooms are apparently small by American hotel room standards, but the rooms are beautifully designed.

Location: (6th arr - Saint Germain) Great location, just minutes from Notre Dame, Luxembourg Garden, the Pantheon and the River Seine. Just across the river is Marais, a great neighborhood filled with restaurants and bars. Style: Modern design, 21 room boutique hotel. Amenities: Free wifi. No bar/restaurant in the hotel, but they do offer breakfast. Getting there and away: The RER local train from CDG stops at a station nearby.

This hotel is part of a French brand called Happyculture. I happened upon their hotel in Nice and love the decor.

Location: (5th Arr - Latin Quarter) Minutes from Notre Dame, the Seine River, and Saint-Louis Island. Lots of restaurants and cafes nearby, which makes up for the lack of one at the hotel. Style: Modern and hip. Amenities: Free wifi and they offer breakfast for an additional price. Getting there and away: Several metro stations are close by and they offer an airport shuttle, which, if arranged in advance, would make your arrival much easier and you can't beat that.

This hotel was one of the most booked properties on booking.com. Its location is tough to beat at the less than $200 a night price point.

Location: (5th Arr - Latin Quarter) A 5-minute walk from Notre Dame Cathedral, Île de la Cité and Île Saint-Louis, opposite the Sorbonne and right in the heart of the Latin Quarter, the Mercure Paris Notre Dame Saint Germain des Prés hotel enjoys a prime location. The hotel is easy to access from the RER B, RER C or Saint-Michel and Cluny-La-Sorbonne metro stations. Style: Small 47 bed hotel with a contemporary design. Amenities: Bar/lounge, breakfast available, and free wifi. Getting there and away: A 5-minute walk from the Saint-Michel (RER B, RER C and metro line 4) and Cluny La Sorbonne (metro line 10) train stations. Roissy CDG and Orly airports are easily accessible by the RER. The hotel also has great bus links (see list below). By car, the hotel is near Boulevard Saint Michel and Boulevard Saint Germain. 2 public paying car parks nearby: SAEMES Ecole de Médecine (21 rue Ecole de Médecine) and VINCI Park (25 rue Francisque Gay).

Mercure is part of Accor, a large European-based hotel brand. This hotel is at the higher end of your price range.

What to See and Do Paris

Notre Dame by Brian Uhreen

Left Bank: Eiffel tower, Musee d'Orsay (the museum is free on Sundays, good that it's free, but bad because it's busy), Luxembourg Garden, and the Pantheon.

Right Bank: Le Louvre (Sully Wing:Venus de Milo, Apollo Gallery, and Denon Wing), Tuileries Garden, Arc de Triomphe, Picasso Museum, and Centre Pompidou (great views of the city from the rooftop of the museum).

Montmartre: Sacre-coeur and Cimetire du Pere Lachaise. Located in the north of Paris.

The Islands: Notre Dame Cathedral (well known) and Ile Saint-Louis (Saint-Louis Island - perfect for romantic strolls through one of the city’s oldest areas).

Off the beaten path

Tour Montparnasse for incredible panoramic views of Paris. Head to the top of Tour Montparnasse at sunset for sweeping views of Paris with the Eiffel Tower lit up.

Marche Mouffetard - This 'wonderful, narrow crowded market street', as Hemingway described it in 'A Moveable Feast', still sports bright and bustling stalls of fruit and veg in its cobbled lower stretches (its upper extremities largely harbour student bars and touristy shops), its atmospheric buildings making it one of the city’s loveliest street markets. Many grocers – also hawking charcuterie, patés, seafood, cheeses and sticky patisseries – only select organic and fair-trade goods. On Wednesday, Friday and Sunday mornings, Mouffetard’s stalls run into the Marché Monge (on place Monge), renowned for yet more excellent food, especially fresh bread.

The Paris Museum Pass is a must if you plan on hitting up a lot of museums. The pass can be bought for unlimited trips to museums for two, four, or six days. The price starts at $53 and also includes Versailles.

Perfect Day Trips from Paris

Probably the most popular day-trip. The palace is, of course, stunning, but you will take it in with thousands of other tourists. You can get to Versailles by car, bus, or train. Buses leave from the Eiffel Tower Tuesday through Sunday and will take you straight to the Palace of Versailles. You can also get the RER C to Versailles Château Rive Gauche or the SNCF train to Versailles Chantiers or Versailles Rive Droite.

Parc de Sceaux is about a 30-minute drive from Paris and can be reached by car, train, and bus. The RER B stops at Parc de Sceaux, Bourg-la-Reine, and Sceaux. You can also take either bus 192 or 197 and get off at Parc de Sceaux and La Fontaine

Departing Paris for Nice

Paris Gare de Lyon

Paris Gare de Lyon is conveniently located in central Paris, blocks from the Seine and is where you would catch the train to Nice. Multiple TGV (super fast train) and iDTGV trains run throughout the day and most are direct.

Best departure time is at 9:21 am with an expected arrival time of 2:55 pm. The standard travel time is 5 hours 37 minutes. Ticket prices start at 39 Euro. Some trains offer first class options starting at 40 Euro.

Nice, France

Nice, France by Albert Bond

Southern France, particularly Côte d’Azur is an extremely popular international travel destination, with visitors flocking to well-known cities like Nice, Cannes, and Saint Tropez. Côte d’Azur, synonymous with cloudless skies, topless beaches, super yachts, and a vibrant nightlife, rightly attracts travelers from across the world. The nearby islands of Corsica and Sardinia, both extremely popular summertime destinations for Europeans have stunning beaches and rustic countryside. Nice, the second most popular tourist destination in France, after Paris, has a vast range of hotels and restaurants, catering to every budget, and the Nice Airport is the perfect gateway to the region, with a range of domestic and international flights, as well as easy access to surrounding areas like Monaco, Provence, and the islands of Corsica and Sardinia.

Arrival

Gare de Nice

Gare de Nice is conveniently located in central Nice. The station is a 20 minute walk from Rue de Anglais (the promenade) or a short taxi ride. A few blocks from the train station is the tram, which will take you down Place Massena.

Getting Around Nice

Nice is a very walkable city and easy to get around.

Where to Stay in Nice

Nice offers a vast range of accommodation from large beachfront international chains, to smaller boutique hotels throughout the city. The most sought after location is either in Vielle Ville or along the waterfront.

Location: Not close to the beach or Vielle Ville, but it is minutes from the train station. It's about a 15 minute walk to Place Massena, and Vielle Ville, with the beach and promenade just a bit further. The neighborhood is less touristy than the area closer to the promenade. Style: Modern interior with a well preserved and stunning exterior. Amenities: Free wifi, nespresso machine in the lobby and breakfast is available. Getting there and away: Proximity to the train station in Nice is perfect. There is a bus from the train station to the airport.

This is a new boutique hotel.

Location: Ideally located across from the central promenade. Less than five minutes from the beach and Vieille Ville. Style: Grand contemporary. Amenities: Free wifi, rooftop restaurant and pool with panoramic views, and some rooms have balconies. Getting there and away: 15 minute walk from the train station or a short ride on the tram, or an even shorter taxi ride.

This is the largest hotel (150 rooms) we recommended. The location is fantastic and the rooftop pool is a great feature. This was one of booking.com most booked hotels last year.

Location: About a 15 minute walk from Vieille Ville and the beach. Just around the corner from VIlla Otero. Style: Small boutique hotel with a beautiful facade and contemporary style rooms. Amenities: Wifi and breakfast available. Getting there and away: About a five minute walk from the train station.

Part of a larger hotel brand, Accor Hotels, but a smaller hotel with only 47 rooms.

Location: While its not near the train station, its is on the promenade facing the beach in the Vieille Ville area. By far the best location of all the hotels presented. Style: Contemporary. Amenities: onsite bar/restaurant, free wifi, and some rooms have balconies. Getting there and away: Centrally located just blocks from the bus to the airport.

The location is perfect, but its part of Accor, a large European-based hotel chain.

Location: Only 150 feet from the beach. Ideal location, set in a historic hotel that was once frequented by artists. Style: contemporary. Amenities: Free wifi, airport shuttle, bar/restaurant, and private beach access. Getting there and away: About a 20 minute walk from the train station or a short ride on the tram, followed by a short walk. The hotel has its own airport shuttle, great for early morning flights.

Great location for a 118 room hotel. Beautiful exterior.

What to Do in Nice

Vielle Ville (Old Nice) by Albert Bond

Beaches - (pebbles) some of the best in the Mediterranean. Nice is most famous for Promenade des Anglais and its spectacular pebble beach. The beach is set in a large bay (Bay des Anges) running west to Nice International Airport and east to the city’s port. The pebbles are large smooth stones, and make for an adventure getting in and out of the water. They are extremely awkward to walk on without shoes and are hot from the beating sun, so every trip to the water and back to your towel is a careful exercise of bravery and trying not to look stupid and fall. I would strongly suggest water shoes. The nice part about the pebble beach, however, is that you leave the beach free of any sand.

Vielle Ville - the old part of Nice built in the 1600s is filled with beautifully-maintained buildings and narrow alleys with restaurants and shops that lead to several squares, and eventually to the promenade. We spent a lot of time wandering Vieille Ville, getting lost in the alleys and stopping at various restaurants and cafes, like Les Distilleries. Les Distilleries, a corner cafe located in the lower part of Vieille Ville close to the beach, had a wide range of beers and wines, a good happy hour, and was perfect for people watching.

Matisse Museum - The bright airy museum located about 2.5 km from the city center will shed light on the great painter’s use of color. Matisse lived nearby in the early 20s.

Walks - Nice is a small, walkable city. Some of its best walks are around Place Garibaldi, up Parc du Mont Boron, along Avenue Jean Medecin, along the beachfront promenade, and of course winding your way through Vieille Ville.

Marche aux Fleurs - Great market with lots of outdoor seating, perfect for people watching.

Perfect Day Trips from Nice

Monaco - A bonus to staying in Nice is the relative ease of getting to and from the Principality of Monaco. You can catch a local bus (100) from Port Lympia for €1.50. From there it is a stunning 45 minute ride along the coast, passing through several villages before arriving in one of the grandest places on earth, the Principality of Monaco.

Monaco by Albert Bond

Pro Travel Tip - sit on the right-hand side of the bus. The views as you wind your away through villages overlooking the Mediterranean Sea are majestic.

The best bus stop to get off at is the one for the Casino de Monte Carlo, just minutes from the Casino. A good number of the others on the bus will get off there too. Check out the cars in front of the casino as well as the yachts in the harbor down below the casino. Several restaurants in the harbor offer outdoor seating. It's a great place to rest and soak in the atmosphere.

Also of interest is the Musee Oceanograhique de Monaco, described as one of the best aquariums in the world. The Jardin Exotique is also worth checking out for its collection of thousands of exoctic plants. Another point of interest is the small town of Eze which local bus 100 (the one from Nice) passes through on your way to Monaco.

If you opt for the train back to Nice. The train station is located at the top of a fairly steep hill from the harbor. The train takes about 20 minutes and costs 4 euro and above, depending upon which train you get.

Pro Travel Tip - Be aware of the time. The bus stops earlier in the evening (around 8 pm) than the train. Make sure you have enough time to get to the train station, as being stranded in Monaco could be a costly mistake.

Menton by Axel Naud

Menton - The pastel-shaded, seaside town of Menton is within walking distance of the Italian border. It's a charming old town that attracts very few tourists. Menton is 10 minutes further east of Monaco by train, or the 100 bus from Nice terminates there.

Cannes by Karlis Dambrans

Cannes - A popular city because of its annual film festival. Cannes has sandy beaches, unlike Nice, with a medieval castle to tour. Travel by train ranges from 28 minutes to 42 minutes and costs as low as 6 Euro one-way, up to 11 Euro.

Grasse

Grasse - Grasse is a town on the French Riviera, in the hills north of Cannes. It's known for its long-established perfume industry, and this heritage is celebrated at the Musée International de la Parfumerie, in the town center. Large perfumeries like Fragonard, Molinard and Galimard offer tours. You can take the train from Nice. Travel time is between 1 hour 9 minutes and 1 hours and 38 minutes and tickets cost 10.10 Euro.

Lavender fields of Grasse

Departing Nice

Nice Cote d’Azur Airport

Nice's airport is perfectly situated along the water. The 98 (6 Euros one-way) bus travels to and from the airport along the waterfront to Boulevard Jean Jaures. End to end the trip takes about 20-25 minutes.

Pro Travel Tip - If you are in a time crunch or you have an early morning flight you can opt to arrange a taxi through the hotel, or use Uber. From the Vielle Ville area an Uber ride costs approximately 31 Euro to the airport and took about 15 minutes in travel time. It's more expensive, but very convenient.

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