Subject: Paris/Barge trip/Normandy
Hi Ziners,

How nice to get back online after several months absence (been traveling and writing)--and see a nice thread evolving about traveling in France.

We're traveling again to France for 2 weeks this May, and several things about this trip are new to us. This time we'll be traveling with our family: our daughter, her husband and 2 daughters (ages 5 and 9), and our son and wife.

I'd love to hear from others who have done what we're planning to do and have done it with kids. What fun to see things from the perspective of a child!

I'll mention our plans and then give details about arrangements, should anyone else be thinking along these lines.

We started out with the idea of taking a canal barge trip and then built the rest of the trip around that.

Our barge trip was arranged through Le Boat, a company based in NJ (800-992-0291). They send lots of brochures from different boat rental companies and take care of all the reservations, etc. We chose the Crown Blue Line and a canal in the Nivernais/Loire region. Our one-way self-drive runs from Briare to Decize. Since we were splitting the cost, we opted for their newest, nicest boat in our size range: the Grand Classique Elite, which sleeps 10. Rental for a week is $3267. Cheaper/more expensive rates for this boat are dependent on the time of the season chosen.

At about the time we were closing in on a time in May to take the barge trip, I came across a great fly/drive deal, and coordinated that with the time of the barge trip we wanted. We also wanted to add travel time before and after the boating.

Since there were 3 groups within our family of 8, we rented 3 cars, not 1. Each fare was entitled to a car, but we had need at most of 3. (We decided to get a car for each group in case so we wanted to see separate things on occasion.)

The company offering the deal is (425-487-9632), with an office in Bothell, WA. So, for the family of 4, the cost was $409 per ticket plus an add-on of $120 because the departure city was in the mid-west, not the east coast. The two families of 2 each paid $449 plus the $120 described above. Not a bad deal for airfare plus 1 week car rental!! We could stay in France for up to 30 days. The deadline for our particular deal has expired I believe, but they no doubt have others ongoing.

Since we're fly direct to Paris, we'll spend the first days of the trip there. Got a free copy (only had to pay shipping/handling) of a guide to hotels in France (888-663-9269), and reserved a recommended hotel nicely located in the 6th arrondissement: Regent's Hotel on 44, Rue Madame. Dealt with European Horizons, Inc. located in Port Chester, NY. (914-939-6899) to make reservations. The cost for a double with Q-bed plus private bath is $113.

We'll take the train from Paris to meet the boat in Briare. At the end of our barge trip will take a short train trip to Nevers to pick up our cars. We won't be too far from Vezelay, a tiny, beautiful town up in the hills that has a gorgeous cathedral. When we (my husband and I) chanced upon this town a decade or so ago, we arrived when the cathedral was closed for two hours at mid-day. We had to race to get our rental car to Ostend to catch the ferry to Dover, so we never did get to visit the cathedral. We'll get our chance this time! Then on to Normandy.

Since our son is a military geek and wants to focus on the World War II cemetaries, museums, beaches, etc. we'll spend the remaining time immersed in the history of America's (and other country's) involvement in ensuring freedom during that time period. Our itinerary is evolving so have no details to report.

We have purchased museum and transportation passes and have them in hand. For transportation, we bought 3-day Paris Visite passes good for Zones 1-5 for $50 each adult; $25 for each child. This gives us unlimited travel on the metro, trains and buses within these zones. With zone 5, we can get transportation from CDG airport to Paris; with zone 4 we can get to Versailles. This pass will be most useful.

While the museum passes ($39 for adults; kids are free) will not be used to their full potential, we'll still save a bit of money. The key reason to have it, for us, is that you don't have to wait in lines. You get to go in a special entrance or some such thing. Of course, if everyone has a pass, there'll be a line there!

We got our passes through Tickets To Inc. in NYC (800-869-8184). We could have gotten them in France for less, but since the tix would be sent to our Paris hotel, we wouldn't have them for the airport to Paris trip and we didn't want to worry about their not being at the hotel, waiting for us. (mix-ups happen). The company in France would mail them here, but at great cost.

So, that's where we are in our planning so far. Let's hope the current events that are unfolding don't make int'l travel to France a real hazard.

Joan Peterson