France,  Paris

How Do you Prepare for the Trip of a Lifetime to Paris?

The time is near and my trip to Paris, France is right around the corner!

I’m told that there’s whimsical magic on a trip to Paris at Christmas when the City of Lights is lit even brighter by millions of twinkling lights. Each of Paris’ arrondissements has something festive going on. There is window shopping at world-famous stores. One can browse Christmas markets and enjoy a glass of vin chaud (hot mulled wine). Skating on a seasonal outdoor ice rink is also an option. I will be in Paris for 6 days and I’m going to try and do it all! Impossible! But, in this article, I will share with you my itinerary and how I decided to make these points of attraction part of my trip.

I’ve been writing professionally for several years and my policy has always been to stay off topics that have the remotest possibility of being controversial. But, in planning this trip, I do, unfortunately, have to broach the subject of Covid, but I promise, I will only give you the facts as they have affected my planning.  So, let’s get the subject of Covid out of the way and move on to the fun!

Travel During the Covid Pandemic:

First of all, my friends, there is nothing consistent from country to country. It depends on which country you are traveling to and which country you are traveling from. I have also found that whether you have been vaccinated matters and what vaccine you have gotten matters.

Some countries are even requiring that you have been administered the booster shot. One thing that does seem consistent is that to travel, vaccinated or not, you will be required to show a negative PCR test. Depending on where you are traveling to, the test must be administered between 24-72 hours before you travel. Confusing? Yes, absolutely!

Color-Coded Countries!

You also should be aware of the color country (green, amber, red, scarlet) you are traveling from. The entry requirements are dependent on this. Will you have to quarantine upon entry? What are the restrictions? Will you need another PCR test upon crossing the border, etc?

Nighttime curfews are still in effect in many countries. This could create a problem when pre-planning activities.

Do you have a direct flight to your destination? If your flight is not direct and you are required to transit through another country, then that country’s restrictions could come into play.

Stay Up to Date on the Travel Requirements until the Day Before Your Trip!

And finally, most countries require a PLF- passenger locator form. This tells the health ministries where you will be staying, how long, with whom, and why. France, for example, has done away with the PLF. But it has a sworn affidavit which is mandatory. You must present it to the border control agent upon arrival. It’s a simple form and asks you to swear you do not have Covid symptoms. You must also swear you have not knowingly been around anyone who has tested positive for Covid 14 days before your travel.

In addition, France requires an “activity pass”, which requires you to take your vaccine information and negative PCR test to a pharmacy upon arrival. There you will be issued a pass allowing you to enter a myriad of facilities and attractions. And, even with the pass, you still are required to make reservations. Reservations must be made at least 24 hours in advance for all activities. This is to limit crowds. restaurants are exempt from this. However, to enter the restaurant, you must present the pass or eat outside.

(This information is current as of this writing and of course, is subject to change with little notice. My best advice is when planning your travel, please check for current restrictions. I hope the information I provided will give you at least, a starting point.)

Let the Paris Fun Begin!

OK, now that that’s out of the way, let the fun begin!

Oh, and one more thing…… I don’t normally plan a trip with so much structure but because of the travel restrictions in force, it was necessary to do so. I would much prefer to take a trip “on the fly”, discovering as I go. You’ll notice that the Palace of Versailles is not part of the itinerary. I wanted to see this but it is about an hour outside of Paris city center. Without knowing specifically what the availability of long-distance transportation would be like, I decided that it was better to skip it!  I’m sure there will be plenty of reasons to return to Paris. So, I’ll catch it next time! The West End Hotel, where I will be staying is right around the corner from the Champs Elysees and each attraction on the itinerary is no more than a 20-minute walk.

My Itinerary; Paris France:

Days 1 & 2:

The first two days of the trip will be spent in Tirana, the capital of Albania, and the location of the only international airport in the country. You guessed it….. one of the things on my Tirana to-do list is to get my pre-travel PCR test!

I love the La Boheme Hotel for many reasons, the staff is friendly and lots of fun, prices are more than reasonable for wonderful accommodations and the location is convenient for everything I like to do when I visit Tirana. The hotel is very close to Skanderberg Square, which is the place to be during the Christmas festivities! At this time of the year, the huge and recently renewed square is turned into a magical world with a giant Christmas tree located right in the middle of it.

Christmas in Skanderbeg Square

I will probably also be visiting the Artisians Christmas Fair, which is one of the highlights of Tirana this time of year. Think individual vendors, hot apple cider, or mulled wine, and believe it or not, American Christmas music playing in the background!

Day 3

My flight leaves at 4:25 am for Austria and then on to Paris, France,  arriving at 9:15 am. My flight was originally scheduled through Rome, but at the last minute has been changed. That’s ok because I’ve never been to Austria and if for some reason something goes sideways, Austria doesn’t seem like a terrible place to get sidetracked in!

Arriving in Paris, France in the early morning, checking into the hotel, and getting my activity pass, gives me the whole rest of the day to wander aimlessly, on the streets of Paris. Not a bad way to start the trip.

Paris, France
Charles de Gaulle International Terminal: Paris, France

Day 4

The Eifel Tower is on the schedule with pre-paid tickets and reservations. I bought the ticket that has Summit access for the full experience! And if that isn’t enough for one day, that evening, I will be taking a dinner cruise on the Seine River. I’m anxious to see Paris lit up at night. I hear it’s normally beautiful- it is the City of Lights, after all, but at Christmas, the views promise to be breathtaking!

Day 5

Christmas Eve,  I will be visiting the Arc de Triomphe! The reservation is for early in the day as the attractions close early on this day and are closed on Christmas. I am told, that on Christmas Eve, the bells of all the churches ring simultaneously at midnight! I can’t wait! Originally, I wanted to attend midnight mass at Notre Dame, but unfortunately, the renovation after the fire is not yet complete.

Paris, France
Christmas on Champs Elysees and Arc de Triomphe, Paris, France

Day 6

Christmas day will be spent strolling the Champs Elysees and eating a traditional Christmas Dinner at a French Bistro, La Maison de l’Aubrac. The long-range forecast is calling for snow that day, so that could be fun- my first White Christmas in countless years! Fingers crossed because I’m dreaming of a White Christmas!

Paris, France
La Maison de Aubrac

Day 7

Can you say “Mona Lisa”? Yes, my friends, the Louvre! I have wanted to see the Mona Lisa since I was 10 years old! The legacy and history behind this 100 million-dollar (the most valuable painting in the world) painting are amazing! And there is some controversy too! Oh, my gosh, this will be a dream come true!

Days 8&9

My flight doesn’t leave until early evening, day 8 will be the long-awaited shopping day and day 9 will be spent in yes, Tirana, picking up little things that I’m not able to find in my humble Albanian town.

Friends, I will not be writing during my trip but will be posting snippets on Facebook. I hope you will follow me through my Christmas adventure in Paris, France, and that you will look forward to the full report when I return!

Until next time, my friends, remember: “To Travel is to Live”!

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