Immerse Yourself in Paris: Jump in on a Tour or Excursion



Why not see Paris from the backseat of a 2CV as your driver takes you past breathtaking monuments and historical sites? Or for the more active types, there's the two-wheeler tours where you tool around the city's sidewalks on segways. For the truly adventurous, Fat Tire Bike Tours offers guided group bicycle tours around the city, taking you along thoroughways and up narrow streets. All of these offer a great way to see the city.

 

A couple more original ways to see the city are by floating above it in the (tethered) helium balloon that you can catch over in the 15th arrondissement on the Left Bank; or by taking the beloved Batobus, the city-operated river boat that is like a hop-on, hop-off bus but on water.

 

For shopping and food excursions, these options are tops: Paroles de Fromagers and Local Food And Wine takes you on walks around neighborhood specialty stores for cheese tastings, chocolate tastings, best boulangerie andpatisserie turns and, of course, walk-throughs of some of Paris' most delightful fresh markets. 

 

A priceless excursion that will help keep your memories safe, is the walk around the city with a professional photographer. Sure, that selfie stick is serviceable and can do the trick. But real photos of you and your loved ones are priceless memories you will cherish forever.



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6th Arrondissement - Rive Gauche

 

First they teach you the ABC's of French wine and how to do a proper wine tasting. They focus on 3 of the major French wine regions at a time. The wines selecedt come from any of these famous French wine regions: Bordeaux, Burgundy, Alsace, Loire, Provence, Languedoc or Champagne. Next, they teach you how to read a French wine label - how to sound like a pro when ordering French wine at a restaurant here in Paris, France or anywhere in the world. Next, they take you out to a favorite tapas and small plates bar. Here you get to try out your new wine pairing skills straight away. Order a small plate of something delicious and then choose the wine you'd like to pair with it. Groups up to 10 people are welcome!


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This wonderfully extravagant palace, where royals frittered away much of the treasury, is a necessary stop for visitors. Top designers of the day created an ornate complex of gardens, lakes, stables and guest houses to complement the luxuriously furnished palace, where Louis XIV, XV and XVI lived before the kingdom gave way to revolution. Beautifully restored rooms hint at the court's wealth, as seen in the gilt, crystal and hand-painted furnishings and details. Make sure to see the historic Hall of Mirrors. Guided and unguided tours are available. The gardens are as much as an attraction as the interior, especially when the spectacular fountains are turned on to music on summer weekends. Access from Paris by train (RER line C; Versailles Rive Gauche station is an 8-minute walk from the palace).


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15éme Arrondissement
Ballon de Paris
Photo courtesy of Paige Donner copyright 2015

 

Up, up and away in Paris's beautifu, beautiful hot air balloon... That's the jingle you will be singing as you plunge through the Parisian skyline overlooking the city's famous monuments below. The Paris tourist office likes to boast that this is the biggest hot air balloon in the world. True or not, it's still worth checking out this family friendly attraction (under 3 yrs old ride for free and 3-11yrs. old for half-price) for yourself. The altitude reached is a whopping 150 meters above the Seine and since it launches just on the far side of the Eiffel Tower, the views of the city and its surrounding landmarks is nothing short of spectacular. This helium balloon, also known as the Ballon Generali, is a tethered hot-air balloon so no need to fear that you might end up in the Atlantic on a windy day!


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7th Arondissement - Eiffel Tower


 

This classic sightseeing cruise offers a relaxed and enchanting way to take in the many beautiful and historical monuments that can be seen from the Seine River. It's a great way to sightsee for sore feet. And its boarding location, just near the Eiffel Tower and also on the Left Bank, couldn't be more convenient. This is also one of the only river cruise boat companies that offers special tours and guided commentary - Cruise Mysteries of Paris - for children. There are two special programs on offer for kids, one for the 3-6 year olds and another for the 6-11 year olds. To make the most of your day, you can show your ticket from this excursion at the entrance of the Paris Aquarium (Aquarium de Paris - Cinéaqua) which then gets you and your children a 20% discount on entry fee (under 3 get in for free).


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1er Arrondissement

 

Anyone can use the Velib' service which is a fleet of thousands of public bicycles positioned at 1,800 strategic points all around the city, as prolific as M�tro stops. The first half-hour is free so if you get from point A to point B and re-dock your bike, there's no charge for use. Required is a credit card with that little magnet strip on it so that when you swipe it at the automated rental kiosk (directions in English, too) it can deduct a deposit, returned when you return the bicycle. In the early hours of a Paris morning the traffic is much lighter than during the day and Parisians swear by their Velib' system - they say it's the best thing since, well, sliced bread.


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1er Arrondissement


 

Take a tour of the city in a sidecar - with your own dashing driver. Fun activity for the whole family - even your 80 year old Mom (if she's keen on it). The kids will get a kick out of it, of course, too. But be prepared to be the center of attention as you spin through the small Parisian streets and out of the way little corners that this sidecar takes you down, as everyone seems to get a kick out of this novel approach to touring the city. One nice bonus is that they provide blankets, so you needn't worry about being cold or even catching a chill. The sidecar is cosy and it's as safe as being on a motorcycle. For those wishing to celebrate a romantic time, try the Retro Night tour which includes a bottle of champagne and a custom designed map of Paris.


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18th Arrondissement - Montmartre

 

In local parlance these tours are known as the Paris tours by the Homeless. Why? Because as part of a social conscious entrepreneur model, these tours were started to 1. afford visitors a glimpse of Paris that they might not otherwise see and 2.offer gainful employment to people in need of it. The tours got a buzz straight away in Paris media and many, even locals, flocked to take the tours. After all, payment is by tips and on a pay-what-you-can basis, so there was nothing to lose. "It's partly a scenic tour where we show them community gardens, beautiful hidden streets with little houses, and street art work, but it's also historical where we take them to buildings that used to house factories and we tell little anecdotes about the sites," says founder Selma Sardouk.


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8éme Arrondissement

 

Some of these walking tours are paid for and some of these walking tours are pay-what-you-can. It's worth having a look at their website to see what's right for you. They promise that all tour guides are native-born locals. In Paris, that's a bit of a stretch since even most (French) Parisians come from elsewhere, but you can be sure that your guide will be well-versed in the areas they are showing you around. A few of the more popular guided walks are the Left Bank (Latin Quarter) and the Trendy Marais tour. There is also a River Tour and a Paris Landmarks tour. Most have a scheduled mid-morning departure and early afternoon departure. Just show up at the meeting point at the designated time and away you go.


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Outside the City

 

Château de Malmaison was purchased by Joséphine in 1799. It served as the seat of the French government (along with the Tuileries) from 1800-1802. After her divorce in 1809, she settled in permanently and it is where she passed away in 1814. To get here, take bus #258 from La Défense, and get off at the stop called Le Château. There has been a house on this site since 1244. The house you see here today is smaller than the one that Napoléon and Joséphine occupied, at the beginning of the 19th c.and only 1/20th of the grounds Joséphine originally purchased now remain. The house was entirely redecorated by Percier and Fontaine in 1800, the two architects Napoléon hired to renovate the house. The library's original decoration has been preserved and is furnished by pieces mainly brought from the Tuileries. Today the house is a national museum.


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18éme Arrondissement
4 Roues sous 1 Parapluie
Photo courtesy of 4 Roues sous 1 Parapluie


 

The original tour of Paris is in a 2CV (that's the Beetle-like cult French car that makes you think of twirled waxed mustaches and black beret-wearing Frenchmen). This is one of the most comfortable and entertaining ways to the see the city. Your personalized tour guide gives you a running commentary as you tool through the narrow Paris streets and the broad Parisian avenues. There's ample flexibility, too. Tours last about 1 1/2 hours and the best times are mornings or early afternoons and also at night. Hours to avoid are rush hour. This is a delightful way to see the city and these guides are all genuinely passionate about Paris; Like Kevin - a half-French half-Canadian Paris resident for 30 years who will delight you by the breadth of details he'll narrate as he expertly navigates you through the quaint and colorful streets of Paris.


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Meet Paige Donner

Paige's latest book, The Romantic Couple's Guide To The City of Love, Sexy Paris follows her earlier guidebook Paris On 4 Paws, A Dog Lover's Guide To The City of Light and her acclaimed...  More About Paige

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