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A Paris Adventure with Mystery Writer Mark Pryor

July 15 through 22, 2018

 
Politics and Prose invites you to join a group of fellow readers and fans of mystery writer Mark Pryor for an exclusive and affordable week in Paris. You’ll spend time with Mark exploring some of the most memorable scenes associated with Hugo Marston, fictional head of security at the American Embassy. Travelers will also have time to explore some of the small gems of Paris—the lesser-known museums, the spectacular parks, the off-the-beaten-track cafés, the hidden passages that are home to specialty boutiques and other treasures.

 

Whether you’ve been to Paris before or not, you’ll get to know the city in a more intimate way. Our trip leaders Sheila Campbell and Donna Morris of Best Friend in Paris have managed a number of sold-out Paris experiences for P&P – trips that have earned rave reviews from participants. They’ll lead us in small groups, via Metro or city buses, moving about the city like Parisians. On some days, Mark will lead us to the “scene of the crime” and other settings you’ve read about. On other days, you’ll choose from a couple of options for what you’d like to do that day – you can spend as much time, or as little, with the group as you like.

Donna and Sheila will help you find the things you’re most interested in, and tell you the best way to get there. They function as your friends on the ground, depending on your needs. You’ll learn about the most recent museum openings, the small restaurants that tourists don’t know about, and corners of Paris that would be hard to find on your own.

Our boutique hotel is located in the 8th arrondissement, the Paris neighborhood depicted so movingly in the book The Hare with the Amber Eyes. We’ll meet in the hotel salon each evening to sample French wines and discuss the days’ events, with of course some book talk thrown into the mix. For dinner, we’ll break into small groups, depending on participants’ desires; our leaders will help you with reservations. No one will ever dine alone—unless you prefer solitude!

itinerary

Who should come on this trip?
Do I have to pay a single supplement?
I’m coming with a spouse or partner and we want to share a room. Do we both have to pay the full rate?
How many people will be on the trip?
When is the trip?
Why do you call this a “trip” and not a “tour”?
Tell me about the trip leaders.
What is the Hotel Relais Monceau like?
What’s included in the breakfast?
Is there internet access at the hotel?
What will the weather be like?
What to wear?
Why aren’t lunches and dinners included in the price?
I don’t speak French. Can you help me figure out what to eat?
Why aren’t there guided tours on this trip?
Is it safe to walk around by myself at night?
I’d love to come on this trip, but I already have a favorite hotel in Paris. Can I stay there?
Some friends are going to be in Paris while I’m there. Can they come along with us?
When do I need to sign up by?
I know that Donna and Sheila will always be available by phone, but what if I don’t have an international cell phone?
Do you require us to buy travel insurance?
If I want to stay longer than six days, can you arrange that?

 

Q. Who should come on this trip?
This is the perfect trip to take by yourself; you’ll make new friends and will always have people to do things with if you like. Or come with a friend or spouse or partner. We’ve often had mothers and daughters come together. You can spend time with each other and also have time to pursue your separate interests. The trip is also perfect for any small group that wants to travel together but doesn’t want the hassle of planning it all in advance.

Q. Do I have to pay a single supplement?
No. This trip is priced based on each person having his or her own hotel room.

Q. I’m coming with a spouse or partner and we want to share a room. Do we both have to pay the full rate?
For people who share a room, we offer a discount of $150 each. We’ve priced the trip primarily for people to have their own rooms, because French hotel rooms just aren’t as large as those in the U.S. But of course you can share a room if you prefer.

Q. How many people will be on the trip?
The maximum number of people is 18, so you won’t feel like you’re part of a huge group.

 Q. When is the trip?
The trip begins on Sunday, July 15, and ends on Saturday, July 22. Since most flights to Paris are overnight, you’ll fly out from your home city on Saturday to arrive Sunday morning in Paris. Do note that if you arrive on one of the very early morning flights, your hotel room may not be ready for several hours. The hotel will store your luggage so you can set off to explore on your own.

Q. Why do you call this a “trip” and not a “tour”?
We’ve included the things we like best about group travel, including the convenience of having someone plan daily itineraries. But there are lots of things we dislike about tours, so here’s how this trip is different:
- You’ll see Paris through the eyes of Mark Pryor and his fictional detective Hugo Marston, visiting places most tourists have never been.
- You’ll never board a tour bus (a city bus on your own, yes, but never a tour bus).
- You won’t follow a tour guide, trying to keep up through crowded museums, listening to canned lectures.
- You won’t be seated at long tables for big group meals at “We accept bus tours” restaurants.
- You won’t have early morning calls to leave the hotel.
- On several days, you have a choice of two different activities, so you can follow your own interests.
- You’ll pay only for the things you actually do. You won’t be dragged to places you don’t care about.
- You only unpack and pack once – we’re not touring, but staying in Paris to really get to know it well.

Q. Tell me about the trip leaders.
Mark Pryor, born in England, now lives in Austin, Texas, where he’s the assistant District Attorney, so he has plenty of personal experience in fighting crime. He started his career as a newspaper reporter, covering, among other things, accounts from Northern Ireland with the British Army. His wife and children will accompany him to Paris, a place he loves to visit and explore.

Donna Morris has lived in Paris for the last eleven years. Her company, Best Friend in Paris, designs personal itineraries for people coming to the city. She helps people learn to navigate Paris and find where their special interests are hidden. She speaks fluent French and knows Paris and its environs intimately.

Sheila Campbell of Wild Blue Yonder has been organizing informal groups of travelers for years – at first on hiking trips in France, England, Italy and Spain. In her day-to-day work, she’s a group retreat leader who understands how to ensure everyone is involved and having a memorable experience. She lives in Washington, DC, where she was a docent at the National Gallery of Art for many years – but she spends a couple of months a year in France and knows Paris well.

Q. What is the Hotel Relais Monceau like?
Most Americans, when they come to Paris, stay on the Left Bank. We love that area…except that it’s full of Americans. So we’ve chosen instead a typically French 3-star hotel in the 8th arrondissement, on the Right Bank. It’s in a beautiful neighborhood where there are few other hotels – but within a block or two are a street market, an artisanal bakery, delightful cafés, Jacquemart André and Nissim de Camondo mansions and the Parc Monceau.

When you walk through the front doors of the hotel, there are quiet salons for you to relax in on either side, plus a small bar where they’ll open a bottle of wine for you and put your name on it for the next day if you like.

The bedrooms are simply furnished, but of a nice size by European standards. Windows open to the air, with classic French shutters to close at night for privacy and quiet. The bathrooms have double basins, plus a tub and shower and wooden floors. There’s a small dressing room area that can be closed off from both the bedroom and the hall, and most rooms have a hair dryer and mini-fridge.

We usually see few Americans at the hotel; most of the clientele are French or European. But the hotel staff speak English and are terrifically friendly and helpful.

Q. What’s included in the breakfast?
Like many French hotels, the Relais Monceau offers a wide selection of croissants, rolls and pastries, cheeses, cold cuts, hard-boiled eggs, fruit, cereal, French yogurt and so on. But – unlike many continental hotels — they also have scrambled eggs and bacon or sausage and fresh-squeezed orange juice every day. And, of course, coffee, tea, other juices, still or sparkling water and milk.

Q. Is there internet access at the hotel?
Yes, free wifi comes with your room.

Q. What will the weather be like?
Summer in Paris is just plain unpredictable these days. We expect warm days and nights. It may rain lightly a day or two, but we don’t expect hard rain. The weather can vary wildly from year to year, so our advice is to come prepared for just about anything. Bring clothes suited for warm weather, an umbrella, a jacket and – most important of all – very comfortable walking shoes.

Q. What to wear?
Like most cities these days, people wear just about anything during the day in Paris. Jeans are fine. At night, if you’re eating in neighborhood restaurants, you don’t need to dress up – jeans or casual slacks or skirts are fine. Of course, for any place where you need a reservation, you’ll want to dress appropriately. Typically, wearing white or pale-colored running shoes identifies you as an American tourist – but let comfort rule your choices.

Q. Why aren’t lunches and dinners included in the price?
Restaurants that accept tour groups are usually the last places we want to eat. And there are just so many delicious choices for meals in Paris that we want everyone to be free to eat where and when they want. One day you might eat a sandwich for lunch, looking out toward the Eiffel Tower; or you might choose to browse the food stalls at one of the many street markets.

Alternatively, we often make lunch the biggest meal of the day, maybe even eating at a restaurant that would be too pricey at night. You’ll choose where you’ll eat, and with whom, and how much you want to spend.

Q. I don’t speak French. Can you help me figure out what to eat?
Absolutely. We’ll provide a list of common menu terms, and let you know how to do things like ask for the check.

Q. Why aren’t there guided tours on this trip?
Frankly, we sometimes just get tired of listening to tour guides talk, when we’d rather explore for ourselves. Plus, these days, many places offer audioguides where we can choose which information and how much we want to listen to. We encourage you to pick up the audioguides in museums if you’d like some deeper information. And, of course, there’s plenty of information in printed guidebooks and on the web.

If you really enjoy guided tours, we encourage you to check out the offerings at http://www.paris-walks.com. They’ve got a great selection of very informative guided walks for little money, and you don’t need to reserve in advance. We can give you directions to the starting point of any of their tours.

Q. Is it safe to walk around by myself at night?
As in any city, it makes sense to be aware of your surroundings after dark. In Paris it’s usually quite safe to be out on your own or with a friend in the evenings.

What you do have to watch out for in Paris is pickpockets wherever there are lots of tourists. These thieves are wily, so we recommend that you leave most of your money, credit cards and passport in the safe in your room, just taking with you what you need for one day. A handbag that you can sling over your shoulder and tuck high under your arm (with a good zipper) works better than bags with long straps that dangle below your waist. To avoid becoming a target, we suggest that in the Metro you move away from the doors and sit down if you can.

Q. I’d love to come on this trip, but I already have a favorite hotel in Paris. Can I stay there? Because we’ll be doing so much coordination from the Relais Monceau, and all our walking and transportation directions start there, we don’t think it’s practical to stay in another hotel. Plus, staying elsewhere would make getting to the evening wine and planning meetings difficult. Of course you can stay somewhere else, but the price of the trip wouldn’t change, so it wouldn’t be a good value.

Q. Some friends are going to be in Paris while I’m there. Can they come along with us? Because we want to keep our groups small, we can’t invite your friends to come with us on our daily excursions. But you can bring them to our evening get-togethers. Please give us a day’s notice, and there’s a €10 per person charge for the wine and snacks.

Q. When do I need to sign up by?
The sooner you put down your deposit, the better. These trips generally sell out quickly – sometimes within just a few weeks. We’re limiting the size of the group, so it’s best to reserve as soon as you think you’d like to come.

Q. I know that Donna and Sheila will always be available by phone, but what if I don’t have an international cell phone?
You can rent international phones at many major airports, or you might want to check in with your cell provider to see if you can buy an international calling package for the time you’re here. But you’re not required to have a phone while in Paris; that’s up to you. If you bring a laptop, smartphone or iPad, you can always use Skype over wifi; that’s one of the least expensive ways to reach people in the States.

Q. Do you require us to buy travel insurance?
We strongly encourage buying trip insurance, particularly for trip cancellation and medical coverage. If you are on Medicare, remember that it does not cover your medical expenses when out of the United States. Please read our Terms and Conditions carefully to see our cancellation policy. Travel insurance companies are very strict about what they will and won’t reimburse you for, so read their policies closely as well.

Q. If I want to stay longer than six days, can you arrange that?
Yes. There’s so much to do in Paris that you could easily stay another three or four days. You can stay on at the hotel at your own payment, although our trip will be over. Let us know and we can alert the hotel to the days you’ll be there on your own.

Please read this information carefully, as payment of a deposit represents your acceptance of the following Terms and Conditions. 

Trip Prices
Trip prices include hotel accommodations on a single or double occupancy basis, breakfast at the hotel, transportation to locations as outlined in the itinerary, evening social events to plan the next day’s activities, and the services of the trip leaders as outlined in the trip description.
               
Not included in the trip price are entrance fees to museums and other attractions not specified in the itinerary; airfare and airline baggage fees; lunches and dinners; hotel, restaurant or airport tips; costs of passports and visas; personal expenses such as beverages, laundry or room service; internet wifi except as established in the trip description; airport transfers or any other services not specified in the trip description.
               
Please note that we cannot guarantee any special requests for hotel rooms.

Registration and Payment
A deposit of $550 per person confirms your reservation. Deposits may be paid by check made out to Wild Blue Yonder, Inc., or credit card via PayPal. There is a 3% surcharge for PayPal.

Your deposit is refundable for two weeks from the date it is received by Wild Blue Yonder, except for deposits made less than 60 days before a trip departs; those deposits are completely nonrefundable. Two weeks after the receipt of the deposit by Wild Blue Yonder, deposits are not refundable for any reason and will be forfeited if you cancel your trip reservation. Cancellations must be in writing by either letter to Wild Blue Yonder or email to scampbell@wildblueyonder.biz. Cancellations become effective on the date they are received by Wild Blue Yonder.

Once your reservation deposit has been paid, you will receive a confirmation email and further information to help you plan your trip.

We reserve the right to cancel any reservations that are not paid in full at any time after the final payment is due. If you make your reservation after the final payment due date, payment in full will be required immediately.

Full final payment is due May 1, 2018.

Cancellations and Refunds
For any cancellations made before May 1, you will forfeit your deposit but will be refunded any other payments you have made. If you must cancel your trip, the effective date of cancellation will be upon our receipt of your notification, which must be made in writing either by email or letter. No refunds are possible after May 1, 2018.

Changes to Your Reservation
If you would like to stay on for longer than the official days of the trip, we will make reservations for you at the hotel. We will not charge you for any changes to your reservation before May 1, 2018. After that date, if you make any changes to your reservation, a $100 per person administrative fee will apply. Changes are subject to availability and cannot be guaranteed. If your reservation changes from double occupancy to single occupancy, you will be charged the single occupancy rate.

Travel Documents
You are responsible for securing your own passport, valid for at least six months after the completion of your trip.

Health and Medical Issues
We welcome all travelers, but you must be in good health to participate in our trips. This trip requires a reasonable amount of walking – up to a mile, possibly uphill or on uneven pavements or cobblestone streets and streets without curb cuts. You must be able to climb several flights of stairs and board buses on your own. We regret that we cannot provide individual assistance if you require the use of a wheelchair or have other personal needs; in such cases you must be accompanied by a companion who will assist you, and you will have to incur the costs of taxis or other special transport.

If you are unable to navigate this amount of walking, you will not be able to participate fully in the trip, and we suggest you choose another type of trip. We cannot provide individual alternatives to the planned group activities. If your fitness level does not allow you to keep up with the group and/or travel on public transportation, you will be responsible for planning your own activities and for any additional costs incurred (for instance, but not limited to, personal taxis, train tickets, and entrance fees).

Trip Insurance
We strongly recommend that you purchase both trip cancellation insurance and traveler’s medical and evacuation insurance for your trip. Please note: Medicare is not valid outside of the United States.

Should you have to cancel your trip at the last minute, we cannot offer refunds, because we will have already paid the costs of your trip to our vendors.

Arrival and Departure Dates
It is your responsibility to make sure you arrive on the specified trip start date. We cannot refund part of your trip if you arrive late or leave early, unless you have notified us of your different start or end date before May 1.

Responsibility
The liability of Wild Blue Yonder and Bookstores, individually or jointly (referred to hereafter as Trip Planners), is strictly limited. In no event will the Trip Planners be liable for amounts in excess of the amounts payable to the Trip Planners in accordance with the terms hereunder, nor will Trip Planners be liable for any consequential indirect or incidental damages arising from this agreement. Trip Planners purchase accommodations, transportation and other services from independent suppliers not under our control. We serve only as agents for these suppliers in securing trip arrangements, and therefore will not accept responsibility and liability for wrongful, negligent or arbitrary acts or omissions of these independent contractors, their employees, agents or representatives.

Trip Planners are not liable for injury, damage, death, loss, accident, or delay that may be caused by events not within our control, including but not limited to, without limitation, acts of terrorism, war, strikes, defects of any vehicle, adverse weather conditions, natural disasters or the negligence or default of any third party, nor for personal accidents.

In consideration of, and as part payment for, the right to participate in the trip, the undersigned, on behalf of himself, his dependents, heirs, executors, administrators and assigns, agrees to release Bookstores, Wild Blue Yonder and their officers, employees, representatives or agents, and the tour operator and its officers, employees and agents, from liability for personal injury, death, property damage or loss suffered by any person in connection with this tour, even if caused by the negligence (but not the reckless, willful, or fraudulent conduct) of tour staff or other related persons or entities. In addition, by registering for this trip, the applicant certifies that he or she is mentally and physically capable of full participation in this tour. By registering for this trip, the participant agrees to all of the Terms and Conditions herein.

Trip Planners reserve the right to correct errors in advertised prices. We reserve the right to cancel an advertised trip, decline to accept a reservation or remove a person from a trip if it is determined by us to be in the best interests of the health, safety or general well-being of other trip participants. Should you be removed, you will not be entitled to any refund for unused or missed services or costs incurred as a result of termination of your travel arrangements, including, without limitation, return travel, accommodations, meals and incidentals.

We will make every effort to conduct our trip as planned, but we reserve the right to make itinerary and other changes as necessary. If unforeseen circumstances require us to change a hotel, we will make every effort to select alternative accommodations of the same quality. The forgoing terms and conditions and all aspects of the relationship between Trip Planners and you shall be governed by the laws of the State of Maryland.