I suppose there are pros and cons of taking an organised tour.
If you don’t speak the language of the country then obviously it might be rather daunting to organise your own accommodation, plan your own transportation and schedule your own visits and excursions.
If your holiday days are few then maybe it’s more efficient to be whisked from one place to another by a chartered bus company and through the “fast lanes” that are made for big groups at some attractions.
It’s a well known fact the for example at Tour Eiffel, there is a fast track queue and separate entrance for the bus tour tourists, everyone else visiting on their own has to be prepared to queue sometimes for several hours in the slow lane that snakes out at the foot of the tower.
Since I couldn’t join my friends tour group for Tour Eiffel, this is one of the reasons I didn’t go, the other bigger reason was that I have been up the tower with Himself on an earlier visit and it’s a special, very romantic and personal experience.
I certainly had no wish to play gooseberry to my friend and her husband, especially considering that this trip came about because it was a celebration of a special wedding anniversary. There is a time and a place to share with your friends, Tour Eiffel wasn’t one of them.
I was though, invited to join them and their bus tour for a group dinner on the banks of the Seine. I took at taxi there because insurance rules from the tour bus company prohibited me from going on the bus with them (as a non member of the group I was not covered in the unlikely event of an accident.) Luckily we arrived at the restaurant at roughly the same time and being an extra at one of the groups tables wasn’t a problem.
I actually had an an advantage, the tour group could only choose from a set menu designed for larger groups, I had free range of the “usual” menu.
Whilst the company was excellent I have to admit that the food was less than inspiring. I think this is a classic case of a restaurant taking a few liberties because they know these guests are “one off” diners, their tour passes by for one night and the restaurant knows they will probably won’t returning. The menu is also far from true French… there are accents and nods to it of course but I for one would not be returning here again.
Since I ate here back in 2009 and I had already talked about this place to several Parisian friends, who in later years remarked that they thought that this establishment has had a change of management, I won’t put the name of this restaurant here on my blog. The reason to write about it anyway is that all of my French friends said that most of the places that line the Seine are tourist places, and they don’t consider the food good enough in the majority of them to ever eat in them themselves.
It’s a lesson to us all, the location in any famous tourist location (anywhere in the world) isn’t necessary the place the locals want to eat and if you want amazing food: follow the locals if you can.