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Trip Report 5 Incredible Days in Paris -- With Lots of Detail!

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I just got back from an amazing 5 days in Paris… thanks to everyone on this forum for their outstanding suggestions! I got so many tips and suggestions that really helped immensely! Soon I will be posting a link to a photo slideshow for those who are interested. But first of all, a couple things that might be helpful to others that I wanted to mention. A few posters suggested we buy the museum pass, and at first I figured it wouldn’t be worth it for us, since we weren’t visiting that many museums. How wrong I was! For those who don’t yet know, the Museum Pass will also get you into many of the top sites in the city (not just museums) but way more importantly, you get to skip to the front of the line and waltz right in! That right there was worth any extra expense it might have been. To skip the line at the Museum d’Orsay alone was priceless! One other tip is to be sure you get a metro map. I printed out this map before I left and it was invaluable:

http://www.aparisguide.com/maps/metro.htm

I familiarized myself with how to use the metro before I went (look for the name at the END of the line in the direction you’re traveling and follow the clearly marked signs), and each day before heading out, I would write down all our routes and transfers. I also downloaded an iPhone metro app that was helpful… you type in the name of your starting station and your destination station, and it routes it for you (least number of transfers, tells you the travel time, etc.) Another great tip someone passed onto me was to go to the machines in the metro and buy a “carnet” – 10 tickets at a reduced price. It also saved time so we didn’t have to keep buying tickets. One note: the machines are a little hard to figure out how to use… there’s a big wheel you roll on the bottom to scroll through your choices, but be sure to look in the lower left-hand corner to choose “English” or you’ll be lost! Another thing is if you use your credit card, push it in the slot and LEAVE it there until it tells you to take it out (unlike in the U.S. where you usually insert then remove your card right away). As you can tell, we spent some confusion time at the machine ;)

Our itinerary was jam-packed, and I’m quite happy I scheduled so much since it’s just our personal style of travel to run around like crazy. If I’m not exhausted, I feel like I didn’t have fun. However, as you’ll read, there was also plenty of time for hanging out in cafes (for wine, beer, or café crème and pastries!) Here’s a pretty detailed account for those who are interested… it’s long, sorry!

DAY 1 (Saturday). We arrived, from Miami, at 9:00 am and took a taxi to our hotel in the Latin Quarter. The hotel was great – Hotel Agora St. Germain. It’s on 42 Rue de Bernardins, maybe a block south of Blvd. St. Germain, and a very short walk to the Maubert-Mutualite metro stop. Very convenient, great location for us. The room was small (as we knew it would be) but very nice, modern, flat-screen TV mounted on the wall, minibar, modern bathroom with shower (you have to request a room with a shower), and free Wifi which was great! The staff was incredibly friendly and we really enjoyed our stay here. We had the hotel hold our bags and headed our jetlagged selves toward the Place de la Sorbonne for some food and coffee at a café. Then we walked to the Pantheon (here is where we bought our Museum Passes). We really liked the Pantheon (fantastic building) and went downstairs to the crypt where so many famous people are interred: Voltaire, Rousseau, Marie Curie, Victor Hugo, etc. We then explored some of the Latin Quarter, but found many streets to be a bit touristy and very crowded (it was a sunny weekend day). For example, the Rue de la Harpe, Rue de la Huchette, etc. area (pedestrian-only streets). However, we did stumble upon the beautiful St. Severin church, and enjoyed the ethnic feel of some of these streets (many Greek and Tunisian food markets and bakeries, etc.) Even though we had eaten not too long before, I still managed to make room for more coffee and a chocolate-filled crepe!

We explored some more streets around the area, then ended up on Blvd. St. Germain to wait for the Paris Gay Pride parade to come down the street. It was fantastic! The papers the next day say there were about 1 million participants and over 80 floats. I was impressed by the lack of any police presence, protesters or even street barriers… everything was very organized and had a fun, relaxed atmosphere. Of course there were the usual outrageous costumes (some guys walking around on stilts, etc.) and some political banners, but also lots of people just having fun and dancing down the street to the club music blasting from the floats. We took pictures and video for a while, then joined right in the parade, dancing down Blvd. St. Germain all the way back to our hotel. It was a blast, and so great to be part of something special in Paris. Afterwards, we checked into the hotel and settled into our room, showered, and walked to dinner at Chez Rene (on Blvd. St. Germain east of our hotel). This was a fantastic very “locals” place (so it seemed) and was what I pictured a Parisian restaurant to be like. I’m a vegetarian (so I learned “Je suis vegeterienne”) and found all the servers in restaurants and cafes to be very friendly and were able to make suggestions in English to me. One side note here: does everyone agree with me that Parisians are among the nicest people??? All those years of being warned about the gruff, unfriendly (or indifferent) French…. SO not true! Everyone was incredibly friendly and helpful. Even a drunk guy sitting on a bench noticed we were looking for something and pointed the way! Anyway, after dinner, we walked along the Seine, which was beautiful. And since it was a Saturday night, many people were picnicking along the river, lots of teenagers with 6-packs and guitars, as well as families with food spread out on blankets.

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