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      03-15-2014, 04:34 AM   #67
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Even a couple of days in Paris is worth it.

I've been lucky enough to travel there a couple of times and it is indeed a beautiful city.

You have to go to the Louvre, make sure you go to the top of the "mountain" at Montmartre for a beautiful view of the city, visit Notre Dame and the Palace of Versailles and obviously you would go up the tower, I would also recommend a trip down the Seine, done.

I never had any difficulty in Italy with being ripped off, always felt safe.
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      03-15-2014, 11:00 AM   #68
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NemesisX View Post
Also, always practice stealth wealth when you're in Italy (again, especially southern italy including rome).

If people get the slightest hint that you're an affluent foreigner, they will rip you off and take total advantage of you. You'll be driven around in circles by taxi so as to increase the fare. You'll be overcharged in coffee or ice cream shops under the aegis of miscommunication (due to any language barriers if you don't speak italian).

The northern (and generally more affluent) parts of Italy are more well-behaved. Hell, I've found north Italians openly make fun of their southern counterparts for having a reputation for swindling, stealing, or lying for financial gain.
I heard that pick pocketing is common in Italy and France. Is that true? I'm thinking about buying a money belt.

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Originally Posted by solstice View Post
I've been to all of your planned destinations and I love them all.
All of the main sights are more than worth visiting.

In Rome I would add these two less obvious visits:
1. The catacombs outside the city. We walked but we are both avid hikers and endurance athletes, a bus might be preferable for many. Early Christians were not allowed to bury their family in the city so they did it in secrecy outside the city walls. Strong historic vibe here.

2. Galleria Borghese. I was not interested in sculptures until I visited this place. Some absolutely amazing pieces by Bernini and you get up close enough to touch ( not allowed ) and even at an arms length the rock hard marble beds for example looks like soft mattresses. And then you realize that Rome is full of Bernini sculptures. One of these would take a normal human a life time without even getting close.

In Venice you should aim to get onto the water. A tour on Grand Canal or just the water taxi will do. I second Danieli if you can swing it. We stayed there for part of our honeymoon.
We won't have a car so we probably won't be able to see those two places you mentioned. I'm watching Rick Steves' video on Venice right now and it seems boring. Perhaps it's nice for couples but since there will be other people going with me, I don't think Venice is worth the visit.
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      03-15-2014, 11:01 AM   #69
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Even a couple of days in Paris is worth it.

I've been lucky enough to travel there a couple of times and it is indeed a beautiful city.

You have to go to the Louvre, make sure you go to the top of the "mountain" at Montmartre for a beautiful view of the city, visit Notre Dame and the Palace of Versailles and obviously you would go up the tower, I would also recommend a trip down the Seine, done.

I never had any difficulty in Italy with being ripped off, always felt safe.
Thank you! I just saw MontMartre mentioned in Rick Steves' episode on Paris.
I guess it's the highest point in the city that provides a nice view. Any recommendations on where to eat? We went to Napa yesterday and our pourer was was Paris and he recommended a good place to eat. However, he said it's expensive.
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      03-15-2014, 01:45 PM   #70
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Originally Posted by BMW E90 View Post
I heard that pick pocketing is common in Italy and France. Is that true? I'm thinking about buying a money belt.



We won't have a car so we probably won't be able to see those two places you mentioned. I'm watching Rick Steves' video on Venice right now and it seems boring. Perhaps it's nice for couples but since there will be other people going with me, I don't think Venice is worth the visit.
You don't need a car. Rome is walkable to pretty much everything. We did but we had a full week and it was November so no crowds and no problem with sweating. Taxis and buses are easy though to speed things up.

However if you think Venice seems "boring" I think the places I mentioned aren't to your taste anyway. Better head directly for Paris or maybe The French Riviera.
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      03-15-2014, 02:06 PM   #71
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Originally Posted by solstice View Post
You don't need a car. Rome is walkable to pretty much everything. We did but we had a full week and it was November so no crowds and no problem with sweating. Taxis and buses are easy though to speed things up.

However if you think Venice seems "boring" I think the places I mentioned aren't to your taste anyway. Better head directly for Paris or maybe The French Riviera.
It seems as though there is not much to see and do Venice. Perhaps for a couple it would fit the bill because we could just promenade around. I could see how it can be romantic. For a group, however, it seems a bit subdued. Perhaps the gf and I should go back there alone in the future.
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      03-15-2014, 03:06 PM   #72
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I don't know how much you're into fine dining but consider having dinner at La Pergola in Rome for your last night. La Pergola is one of three 3 Michelin star restaurants in Italy and the food is phenomenal.

You may need to make reservations in advance, though. They say jackets are required but I wore traditional "club attire" (a nice pair of jeans with nice boots and a good dress shirt) and they had no problem with it.

I don't mind wearing a jacket but I just didn't have one on the trip.
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      03-15-2014, 03:07 PM   #73
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Originally Posted by BMW E90 View Post
It seems as though there is not much to see and do Venice. Perhaps for a couple it would fit the bill because we could just promenade around. I could see how it can be romantic. For a group, however, it seems a bit subdued. Perhaps the gf and I should go back there alone in the future.
Yes, all these places is made for visiting with your gf/wife. If I was traveling with friends I would have a very different itinerary in mind and gone to the Motorsport hallowed grounds mention in this thread and/or hit the Italian alps for some spectacular hiking, parasailing, climbing, canyoning, rafting etc.

And of course, go and watch a soccer game!

Regarding that there is not much to see in Venice is not true. Just open your eyes and you realize that the whole place is like a giant living museum. It's spectacular but yeah again it's mainly a with significant other thing or traveling alone.

Last edited by solstice; 03-15-2014 at 03:14 PM.
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      03-15-2014, 03:14 PM   #74
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Originally Posted by NemesisX View Post
I don't know how much you're into fine dining but consider having dinner at La Pergola in Rome for your last night. La Pergola is one of three 3 Michelin star restaurants in Italy and the food is phenomenal.

You may need to make reservations in advance, though. They say jackets are required but I wore traditional "club attire" (a nice pair of jeans with nice boots and a good dress shirt) and they had no problem with it.

I don't mind wearing a jacket but I just didn't have one on the trip.
Normally I would splurge on one or two nice dinners but not on this trip. I am covering for my parents and the gf so I'd rather stay away from the fine dining stuff.
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      03-15-2014, 03:18 PM   #75
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Quote:
Originally Posted by solstice View Post
Yes, all these places is made for visiting with your gf/wife. If I was traveling with friends I would have a very different itinerary in mind and gone to the Motorsport hallowed grounds mention in this thread and/or hit the Italian alps for some spectacular hiking, parasailing, climbing, canyoning, rafting etc.

And of course, go and watch a soccer game!

Regarding that there is not much to see in Venice is not true. Just open your eyes and you realize that the whole place is like a giant living museum. It's spectacular but yeah again it's mainly a with significant other thing or traveling alone.
What about Florence? Should we stop by there or is it similar to Venice? As mentioned above I'm taking my parents and the gf along with a group of friends (another couple who's married). I'd like to do mostly car stuff but as a group it's probably better to see other things besides cars.

I'm looking to cut out what I can so we can spend more time in certain places. I want the itinerary to be a bit more leisurely rather than having to follow a schedule.
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      03-15-2014, 03:27 PM   #76
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Normally I would splurge on one or two nice dinners but not on this trip. I am covering for my parents and the gf so I'd rather stay away from the fine dining stuff.
I hear you. That's totally understandable.

One tip for casual dining in Italy - don't ever let your waiter or waitress process your credit card out of your sight. It's relatively common for waitstaff at casual dining establishments in Italy to steal your credit card number. In fact, it's so common that most places will bring a portable credit card processing machine to the table and run your credit card right in front of you. I straight up asked one waiter why so many cafes processed my credit card right in front of me and this is the reason he gave.

Of all the casual dining establishments we visited in Italiy, only one place did not do this and lo and behold I come home to find that my credit card number has been compromised. Someone from Ukraine went on a shopping spree at Neiman Marcus' online store using my card number

Obviously I can't be 100% sure that this waitress was the culprit, but it wouldn't surprise me.

I'd just be wary of credit card use in general. Of course, using cash only has its own issues. You don't want to be walking around with thousands of euros in cash either.
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      03-15-2014, 03:30 PM   #77
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I straight up asked one waiter why so many cafes processed my credit card right in front of me and this is the reason he gave.
To elaborate on this story, the waiter came to our table and asked if any of us wanted dessert. We all ordered dessert, and then my dad tried to hand him his credit card. The waiter nervously said "No, no...I'll process your card at the table" and left without taking my dad's card. When he returned, he explained why (mentioned above in my previous post).
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      03-15-2014, 03:34 PM   #78
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Another tip - if you visit "touristy" places in Rome, then you might see locals dressed in gladiator clothing taking pictures with tourists. This is a trap.

They take pictures with you and your family, and then they'll demand payment for these pictures even if you don't want them. You cannot refuse. They will become aggressive and they'll intimidate you into paying.

Expect to pay anywhere from $5 to $20. If you don't want to pay, then you need to be stern in rebuffing their advances. Don't let them take your picture and don't be suckered in by their outwardly friendly facade.

I can't tell you how many families I saw get bullied into paying. Actually, all of them got bullied into paying, and most didn't appreciate it but the "gladiators" don't care. They clearly make a killing from unsuspecting tourists.
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      03-15-2014, 04:39 PM   #79
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Originally Posted by BMW E90 View Post
What about Florence? Should we stop by there or is it similar to Venice? As mentioned above I'm taking my parents and the gf along with a group of friends (another couple who's married). I'd like to do mostly car stuff but as a group it's probably better to see other things besides cars.

I'm looking to cut out what I can so we can spend more time in certain places. I want the itinerary to be a bit more leisurely rather than having to follow a schedule.
Florence is IMO all about the Renaissance. If you have the slightest interest it's a must once but if not it's probably not worth it other than for the romantic settings. The Duomo is the grandest building but after Rome and St. Peter's it's not enough by itself for a trip. I found the shopping to be good and relaxed with surprisingly good sales and bought a suite here however you can find that in Rome. Without the Renaissance treasures I'd pick Venice over Florence. Since I spent a week in Florence once I will personally return to Venice before Florence. I would go back to Rome and Paris before Florence as well.

Last edited by solstice; 03-15-2014 at 04:54 PM.
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      03-15-2014, 04:58 PM   #80
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Venice is always worth a stop. A beautiful city. And you can also hit Verona which has a nice central square.
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      03-15-2014, 08:42 PM   #81
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As others are alluding to, I would cut out Florence before cutting Venice. Rome is a fantastic city with a lot to see and Venice is absolutely stunning but Florence, to me, is just kind of... there. It's a nice city but it doesn't hold a candle to Rome or Venice.


Also, you don't need to go to a Michelin star restaurant to have a spectacular meal. If you think you've had Italian food in the U.S., think again. It's an entirely different, and delightful, beast in Italy. What I miss the most is buying wine by the liter.

The bottom line is that Italy is simply fantastic.
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      03-15-2014, 09:22 PM   #82
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First, I'd like to thank you all for contributing to this thread. All of your comments and suggestions are very helpful. I'm noting all this stuff down before finalizing the trip.

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Originally Posted by NemesisX View Post
I hear you. That's totally understandable.

One tip for casual dining in Italy - don't ever let your waiter or waitress process your credit card out of your sight. It's relatively common for waitstaff at casual dining establishments in Italy to steal your credit card number. In fact, it's so common that most places will bring a portable credit card processing machine to the table and run your credit card right in front of you. I straight up asked one waiter why so many cafes processed my credit card right in front of me and this is the reason he gave.

Of all the casual dining establishments we visited in Italiy, only one place did not do this and lo and behold I come home to find that my credit card number has been compromised. Someone from Ukraine went on a shopping spree at Neiman Marcus' online store using my card number

Obviously I can't be 100% sure that this waitress was the culprit, but it wouldn't surprise me.

I'd just be wary of credit card use in general. Of course, using cash only has its own issues. You don't want to be walking around with thousands of euros in cash either.
Wow. Thank you for the tips! They will definitely come in handy. I'm thinking of getting a money belt to carry stuff around.

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Originally Posted by solstice View Post
Florence is IMO all about the Renaissance. If you have the slightest interest it's a must once but if not it's probably not worth it other than for the romantic settings. The Duomo is the grandest building but after Rome and St. Peter's it's not enough by itself for a trip. I found the shopping to be good and relaxed with surprisingly good sales and bought a suite here however you can find that in Rome. Without the Renaissance treasures I'd pick Venice over Florence. Since I spent a week in Florence once I will personally return to Venice before Florence. I would go back to Rome and Paris before Florence as well.
The buddy who gave us an outline of the trip put Rome and Florence in there. However, he said that it's just a rough outline and we don't have to see everything on the list. So if it's not that important perhaps we could take out Florence. That would give us two days of slack time.

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Venice is always worth a stop. A beautiful city. And you can also hit Verona which has a nice central square.
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Originally Posted by KingOfJericho View Post
As others are alluding to, I would cut out Florence before cutting Venice. Rome is a fantastic city with a lot to see and Venice is absolutely stunning but Florence, to me, is just kind of... there. It's a nice city but it doesn't hold a candle to Rome or Venice.


Also, you don't need to go to a Michelin star restaurant to have a spectacular meal. If you think you've had Italian food in the U.S., think again. It's an entirely different, and delightful, beast in Italy. What I miss the most is buying wine by the liter.

The bottom line is that Italy is simply fantastic.
So are you guys suggesting Venice in place of Florence? I was thinking we could do Venice for a day trip and then take the night train to Munich. Is it worth it to do that or should we take the time allocated to Florence and go see Venice instead?
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      03-16-2014, 12:09 AM   #83
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What about Florence? Should we stop by there or is it similar to Venice? As mentioned above I'm taking my parents and the gf along with a group of friends (another couple who's married). I'd like to do mostly car stuff but as a group it's probably better to see other things besides cars.

I'm looking to cut out what I can so we can spend more time in certain places. I want the itinerary to be a bit more leisurely rather than having to follow a schedule.
There is nothing in the world that compares to Venice because it's so unique. You can cut out Florence but I wouldn't. I say this cautiously, as to not throw you another curve ball, but as far as cities go, Florence is far more beautiful than Rome.

Last edited by RR-NYC; 03-16-2014 at 12:16 AM.
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      03-16-2014, 12:14 AM   #84
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NemesisX View Post
I hear you. That's totally understandable.

One tip for casual dining in Italy - don't ever let your waiter or waitress process your credit card out of your sight. It's relatively common for waitstaff at casual dining establishments in Italy to steal your credit card number. In fact, it's so common that most places will bring a portable credit card processing machine to the table and run your credit card right in front of you. I straight up asked one waiter why so many cafes processed my credit card right in front of me and this is the reason he gave.

Of all the casual dining establishments we visited in Italiy, only one place did not do this and lo and behold I come home to find that my credit card number has been compromised. Someone from Ukraine went on a shopping spree at Neiman Marcus' online store using my card number

Obviously I can't be 100% sure that this waitress was the culprit, but it wouldn't surprise me.

I'd just be wary of credit card use in general. Of course, using cash only has its own issues. You don't want to be walking around with thousands of euros in cash either.
Processing your credit card table side is really the standard in Europe. I agree, be weary when they process it out of your sight because our US credit cards are easy targets for unauthorized charges without the smart chip.

On a trip to Milan, my wife charged dinner where they didn't process the card in front of us. A week later, we got a call from the bank asking us if we charged 5000 euro at some store.
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      03-16-2014, 12:22 AM   #85
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Normally I would splurge on one or two nice dinners but not on this trip. I am covering for my parents and the gf so I'd rather stay away from the fine dining stuff.
The best thing about Italian food is that you don't need to go to the best restaurants in order to get a great meal. Fine dining (I should really say formal dining) as we know it, is relatively rare in Italy compared to other countries and I think it's for good reason. The best Italian meals include a pasta course followed by a meat course. Those don't typically go over too well in fancy restaurants and by eliminating those, it's no longer an Italian meal
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      03-16-2014, 04:59 AM   #86
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The best thing about Italian food is that you don't need to go to the best restaurants in order to get a great meal. Fine dining (I should really say formal dining) as we know it, is relatively rare in Italy compared to other countries and I think it's for good reason. The best Italian meals include a pasta course followed by a meat course. Those don't typically go over too well in fancy restaurants and by eliminating those, it's no longer an Italian meal
Agreed, There are a multitude of cafés in all the major cities in Italy.

Even though it's more expensive it's almost a prerequisite to have a meal on the Grand Canal, plenty of lovely places to eat.

As someone else mentioned the fine dining experience is really not needed to get great food in Italy, bugger me, the petrol stations even have good food!

Paris is a bit different though, plenty of cafés and fine restaurants but the food is very expensive.
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      03-16-2014, 09:03 PM   #87
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Okay guys, here is the updated itinerary. Please recommend me places to eat and stay at in these cities as well.

Updated Itinerary- 03/16/14

Day 1-3: Land in Rome, spend the next few days there. We are thinking of flying out Friday morning. Our plan is to land Saturday morning, take the train or cab to our hotel and check in. After that we can either rest for a bit or walk around and sightsee. The plan is to hit up places that don't have business hours (such as the Trevi Fountain and Spanish Steps).

Day 2 in Rome (Sunday)- hit up the Roman Forums, Pantheon, Colosseum.

Day 3 in Rome (Monday)- Vatican City and things in it such as St. Peter's Basilica which is open Monday-Saturday.

Here is where we're still trying to decide on. We could either take a train to Florence in the evening time or spend one last night in Rome and take the train in the morning.

Day 4-5 (Tuesday & Wednesday): Florence and surrounding area.

I am not sure all the things to see here but what we have in mind so far are Ufizzi Museum, Doumo? We're hoping to do some wine tasting here.

We will be spending one or two nights here depending on whether we take the train from Rome in the evening or morning time. We plan to take the overnight train from Florence to Munich the evening of the second day.

Day 6-9: Arrive in Munich in the AM.

Thursday- We should be arriving in Munich in the morning time. We'll probably jsut take the train to our hotel or ask if the Welt can pick us up since they offer complimentary airport pick ups. We'll leave our luggage at the hotel if we're not able to do early check-in.

We'll take the train to see places like Marienplatz, English Garden, hit up some beer gardens (or just go to to the Hofbrauhaus- in Marienplatz I believe?).

Friday- Originally we planned to arrive in Rome Sunday morning so this day was supposed to be our pick-up day. Since we're not thinking of arriving Saturday, we don't have anything planned for this. Perhaps we could reschedule the pick up date and spend an extra day in Germany somewhere near the Black Forest area? We could also do the factory tour on this day.

Saturday- D-day! We'll check in at the Welt, have a light breakfast, pick up our cars and do the factory tour. If we do the tour on this day, we're hoping to finish around 1-2 PM. After that we'll fill up on gas, pick up our luggage from the hotel and head to Rothenburg.

We will spend the rest of the day in Rothenburg, eat and drink some beer and take the Night Watchman Tour at 8 PM. I'm thinking of spending a night here. The only thing with that is that it'd be longer drive to Neuschwanstein the next morning.

Sunday- head to Neuschwanstein. We'll take the obligatory pictures of the cars with Neuschwanstein in the background. My mom and I have been there before and thought that the tour wasn't anything special so we probably won't be doing it again. Some of us will probably just walk to the top, hang out in the court yard for a bit, hike to the bridge, and check out the surrounding area while a few are going hang-gliding.

We'll either spend a night here or drive back to Munich before heading to Alsace. Any recommendations on places to stay?

Day 10-11 (Monday & Tuesday): Alsace region- We will most likely be based out of Strassbourg and spend a day there. The next day we'll drive to Colmar and see the small village. We're hoping to do some wine tasting and sample beer in Alsace.

Day 12-14/15 (Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday?): Drive to Paris (should be about 4-5 hours) and drop off the car on the outskirts of the city. After that we'll take a bus or train into the city center.

We don't have the attractions figured out in any order but we're hoping to see the Eiffel Tower (go up to one of the decks), the Louvre, Champ Elysee (of course), and whatever else is there.

Please recommend other places to see, eat, and stay if you can.

We'll fly out Sunday morning (maybe evening time to give us another half day or so in Paris).
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      03-30-2014, 01:40 PM   #88
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For those that have been to Paris, is it better to stay near Champ Elysee or Montmartre?

Edit: nvm, just watched a video and answered my own question. Montmartre is just like San Francisco. I think Champ Elysee is a more interesting area to stay at.

Last edited by BMW F22; 03-30-2014 at 01:54 PM.
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