Gal Pal Future Plans

Dining on duck at La Tour D'Argent

Since introducing my Paris blog people have asked me about the “process” of planning my trip.  Why do I go in January?  How do I choose the next gal pal?  How does my “system” work for planning my days there?  It’s difficult to describe as these events are works in progress that evolve during the course of the year.  But, since you asked, I will try to give you a glimpse into the methods behind my mad obsession… 

The first step is to check the gal pal chemistry – hit or miss?  2010 was a hit of course!  Corrie has a great attitude in life and certainly pushed her self out of her comfort zone to try new foods – some foods worked and some did not, but she remained steadfastly cheery.  A+ Corrie!  See… picking the right people from the get-go ensures that a good time will be had by all.  Never underestimate the necessity to pick the right pals.  Wrong pal choice and the trip could turn into some major league bitch session.  I’ve seen it happen with other groups and never want it to happen with my Paris trip!

The next gal pal is not “chosen” per se.  It just becomes clear who is interested and who really fits well given the time, money and cheerful prerequisites.  I have some women that would make fantastic gal pals in theory, but they have ideas about how they want to “do Paris” or their “mission” is more task oriented.  When I win the lottery and spend several months out of the year there then they will be the first gal pals to visit me and use my apartment as home base for their missions which I will wholeheartedly endorse and take part in!  Right now I have a limited amount of time to spend each year so I make each minute count and can’t afford a gal pal miss.

There is a fine balance between sticking to what works for you and trying new things. If there is a gal pal who has not been on the trip before we like to take the opportunity to show them Lisa and my favorite spots, but if they have been before then we try to mix it up a bit.  One way to achieve this is to take a tour of a different museum or area outside Paris.  Elizabeth, Christine and I took a small tour of the Loire Valley one year and learned how champagne is made – I highly recommend this Paris Vision which you can check out on the links part of my blog.

Essential gal pal Lisa and I always coordinate the timing of such excursions.  She comes from London so if she wants to join us on the excursion she arrives in time and if she has no inclination to do this, then she arrives upon our return.  FLEXIBILITY is key – and wanting each other to get the most out of the trip is critical!

Having done this trip during many times of the year, I can say that each season provides different opportunities and challenges.  September is the best weather and when Paris is the most attractive with fashionistas running around looking incredibly glamorous preparing for fashion week.  The downside to September is that it is also a popular month for retirees to visit and with all the lead up to fashion week hotel and airfare prices get out of control and fully booked way in advance.  I love going in September, but typically the gal pals have school commitments with their children making this time frame unpopular.

January has been the most convenient the past few years for the gals for several reasons.  We have found that most of the women have fewer scheduling conflicts and family obligations during January making it more stress free to leave the spouses and kids behind.  The weather is usually cold and/or rainy, but this has not bothered our group in the slightest.  We pack scarves to put on our heads if it rains so we don’t have to lug an umbrella around and we are always popping in and out of places that we never get too cold or wet.  We still sit outside at the cafés under their smartly placed heat lamps making it almost as enjoyable as the warmer months.  In January the airplanes have been half-full making it much more likely each gal will have their own row to stretch out and lay down on.  Additionally the airfares and hotel prices are incredibly lower than peak season rates.  Probably the most significant benefit to going in January is that everything is on SALE from the fall/winter season, but you also get to see the preview of the new spring/summer collections!  Yummy soft cashmere at 60% off makes everyone feel wonderfully warm inside.  Don’t you agree?

How are restaurant selections made?  Which new restaurant will make the short list?  Not sure yet for 2011, but I have tracked recommendations from friends.  I tend to not use recommendations from books as they usually wind up feeling like “tourist traps” and it can be difficult to book tables due to their popularity.  It does not mean that I won’t go to the ones I find in books; it just means that I need a personal recommendation before take a chance on one.  If you have a potential new gal pal “must”, please leave a comment here and I will add to my file for the next trip.

My Paris files are full of each and every hotel booked and at what price, business cards from shops and restaurants and maps of all sorts.  Each year I begin a new folder for the following trip and place the “sure things” that I want to do in there and work from that file.  I rip articles out of magazines and print recommendations from the web and place in the folder right up until the week before the trip when I make my final tweaks to the itinerary.  Once a trip is complete, I then have another master folder for Paris and one for France in general.  Will this blog replace my master folder – Non as the French say.  Holding bits and pieces of paper in my hands will never be replaced with an image on the screen, but the blog sure does make it easy to plan the trips with the phone numbers and email address links all in one place!  I hope you use them to your advantage and send me notes about your experiences at these places.

So, what thoughts do I have for the upcoming year?   I am beginning to look at excursions outside of Paris.  Gal pal Marie-Charlotte wants me to go to Luxembourg for a night so that would make the trip at least two days longer than normal.  Must clear this with Mr. Incredibly Supportive of Your Obsession first (if you are reading this then I am hoping you are a “yes” and emailing me pronto so I can get planning) and with essential gal pal Lisa (if you are reading this then say “yes” because you know it will be a good laugh all the way there and back!) and I will go from there.  Versailles and Normandy are on the short list as well for an excursion. 

Once I have the time frame nailed, I will begin scoping out the hotel prices.  My friend Nancy has given me a short list of her preferred hotels that are just around the corner from my favorites so in the spirit of practicing what I preach about trying new things, I am going to go online to check them out.  I am, however, struggling with my inclination to re-book with the Left Bank as it is now considered “A Sure Thing” by gal pals.  So tempting to take the sure thing right?  This is what keeps me going all year-long planning the trip – I enjoy the hunt for the best place at the right price in the best location. 

On a personal note, sadly, I have stopped dreaming in French – this is a sign to me to start-up again with the Rosetta.  She really has been ignored for too long and with Valentine’s Day around the corner I must brush up on the language of LOVE!  Will keep you posted on my progress!

That’s all for now on the planning for the next gal pal trip to Paris.  Please let me know if you have any comments/questions on this blog and if you have not already signed up to follow my obsession please do so now on the right hand side of this page in the subscription section.

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