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Trip Report France - 2 weeks - Paris, Brittany and Normandy

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This Trip Report could get pretty long so I have tried to condense it. Since I got so much information for our trip while we were planning it from this website, and a few others, I feel it is only fair to give something back. This is the first report I have in a series of about 4. I hope this is helpful to someome else!

The Montparnasse Area – October 3-5, 2013. The weather was excellent. No rain and temperatures in the high 60’s.

We were hoping to get over jet lag and then head to Brittany via the train, so we stayed at a hotel (Timhotel) about two blocks from the Montparnasse train station.
We had read about Le Select (reputedly an F. Scott Fitzgerald and Truman Capote’s hangout and my wife, who is from Minnesota, is a F. Scott Fitzgerald fan) so we had to have the experince. The Select is a great place to watch people.
We walked around the area and we decided to have dinner at Creperie de Josselin (a recommendation from the Slow Travel website). Great first meal! We both had a galette (new experience), my wife’s contained Eggplant (inside) and an egg and bacon on top of a buckwheat crepe and mine was filled with Roquefort cheese and Walnuts – Wow! We are headed for Brittany in a few days so we will probably get a chance to have a few more galettes.
We went to the Tour Montparnasse. It was about 8:30PM and it was dark enough for all the lights of Paris to be on. The weather was clear and the views were breathtaking, especially seeing the Eiffel Tower lit up at night and the large light on the top was going around like on a lighthouse. The view of the Paris streets was spectacular, but seeing the Eifel Tower at night, from that height, was truly amazing!
The next day we went to see Le Musee Cluny. We enjoyed the building and the garden at the Cluny as much as any museum we have been to. It is very small compared to other museums and in hindsight this was one of our favorite experiences on this trip (not so much for the art, which was excellent, but the house and grounds were very interesting). The fact that this had also been a Roman Bath and you could walk around in that area made us think a little about what it must have been like to have been here centuries ago.
We came back to the Montparnasse area and stopped at Le Café de la Place (not highly rate but we really enjoyed it!) for wine, cheese (wonderful Brie, Roquefort and ???, and sausage and pate).
We made a note that the Montparnasse area would be a great area to stay in some day. Lots of cute restaurants and cafés.
Highlights
• The Cluny
• Creperie de Josselin
• Tour Montparnasse (at night)
• Café de la Place – Rue Odessa
• Amorino Gelato

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    Thanks for the advice Kerouac. Here is the next installment.

    Brittany
    On Saturday, Oct. 5, we got up and headed to Gare Montparnasse, which was packed. We pulled our suitcases behind us and in our other hand we carried our sticks which we use for balance. I can’t tell you how many young men and women in France helped us with our bags through train stations, on and off trains, etc. Some Americans complain about the French being indifferent, but we just have not experienced that, except for the rare person with an attitude. But, that goes on everywhere. Have you been to NYC lately? So many people have been kind to us on our trips to France with directions, etc.
    We took the 10:05 train to Rennes (about 2 hours), found the Hertz office and rented a small (diesel) Renault. I wasn’t doing badly driving a standard transmission, although it has been at least 2 decades since I have driven a shift car, but in hindsight I would probably spend the extra money and get an automatic shift car (I have to admit, I enjoyed driving a stick shift transmission again!). Rennes is not far from Dinan (via the expressway) but the bad news is that we got lost in Rennes, but the good news is that I got a lot of practice driving a stick shift car again (on flat land). I think so much if life can be summed up by how someone chooses to look at things. A lady in Montparnasse, who has home in NYC and the Montparnasse area, told us that people live in NYC to make money. The live in Paris to enjoy life. I know that seems to be a bit simple, but having been a workaholic for most of my life I liked her analogy.!

    Dinan is a very old village and it is beautiful. It wasn’t difficult to find our B & B (although driving these very narrow streets for the first time can be very challenging) because it was located across the street from Saint Sauveur. The Maison is very difficult to explain except to say it is a very old home and the experience staying there was wonderful (probably the best place we stayed on our trip, La Maison d”Aline near Honfleur was wonderful also). I am not going to try to explain La Maison Pavie to you. Just google or bing it and look at the pictures. I believe it was built in the 1400’s, and from the outside it definitely looks that way, but in the inside it is a very modern home.

    At breakfast we met two French couples and through the aid of my map and our very poor French they were able to give us some excellent advice about where we might want to travel (the coast to the north, or down to the south and through Morbihan). They suggested we travel to Tregastel on the Cote de Granite Rose (which turned out to be one our favorite spots during our two weeks in France) and then head back toward Dinard along the coast.

    We headed to the Cote de Granite Rose (the pink granite coast - about 1 ½ - 2 hours away). Our first stop was Tregastel (near Perros Guirec). The scenery was beautiful and the town itself was very cute. This would be the most beautiful village we would see all day (we did not know that at the time – we saw several other beautiful places that day also, but none of them compared to Tregastel). We would be very happy to come back here to spend a week or two, just in this little village.

    We eventually got to Cap Frehel, which is about 30 miles from Dinan (Dinan is inland). The scenery (the English Channel and the islands) from Cap Frehel was breathtaking. At this point, The English Channel is much wider than Long Island Sound. In fact, you cannot see England at all and the water all along this coast is as clear as glass! You can see all the way to the bottom, and the water has an emerald cast to it (thus the Emerald Coast). Before we got to Cap Frehel we decided to stop and get something to eat. The little restaurant that we wanted to eat in closing as we walked up to the entrance and the hostess apologized and recommended the little place next door. It wasn’t very impressive, but it had food and we were hungry. It sold pastry and ice cream (L’Artisanne du Pain). We first decided to have ice cream but when we saw the pastries we changed our minds. We ordered Breton specialties – Far Breton (very thick custard or cream cheese with marinated cherries) and the Kouigg Amman. My wife swears that the Far Breton was the best thing she has eaten on this vacation so far. You never would have guessed the food would be so wonderful by looking at this little place. It was clean and modern, but unspectacular with absolutely NO CHARM. The staff even seemed to have less charm, but Oh My God, the pastries! They both were served on plates with caramel drizzled around the edges and lots of whipped cream and fresh strawberries. “It was so good! “(quoting my wife).
    We drove across two lane country roads all the way back to Dinan. I’m still looking for some litter along side the roads in France but not having much luck.
    Again – we slept well and went down to breakfast.
    We met a couple from Dorset, ENG. and a French couple. Nice chat. Coffee, cheese, Granola and great bread (sweet).
    That morning we drove to Dinard, which is on the coast (about 12 miles away). We parked the car and walked down to a walkway along the cliffs overlooking the sea. It rambled along the shore to a breach and we passed several other people out for a morning walk or a jog. It reminded us very much of the Cliff Walk at Newport , RI. When we got to the beach a few hearty souls had gone swimming. This walk was the most fun thing we have done on this trip so far. The weather was exceptional. Mostly blue skies with some clouds and probably unseasonably warm weather. It feels like it is the third week in August, not October. Dinard is another place we could easily spend a week or two!
    Then we drove about 4-5 miles to Saint Malo (on the other side of the Rance R.). A very interesting walled city on a peninsula, but it really felt like a tourist area to us. This was the first place that I felt that I could have done without seeing, but how do you know about a place like that until you’ve been there, and I am sure there are some people who love Saint Malo.
    The English couple at breakfast told us that there were excellent seafood restaurants in Cancale (which is about 6 miles across the peninsula from St. Malo) and that was our final destination today.
    We drove through the countryside to Cancale but we didn’t see the ocean at all and we were a little disappointed. When we got to Cancale we got lost and drove around and wandered down a narrow country lane through a tunnel of large trees (reminded us of Connecticut) and it came out on a small parking lot on the Channel. It was so very beautiful and unexpected. As we were looking across the water we noticed in the distance a speck coming up out of the water, it was Mont Saint Michel. We just could not believe our eyes (my guess was that it was about 10 miles away, but against the water it really stood out.
    Cancale is famous for oysters and there are huge oyster farms jutting out into the sound. So weird looking out tractors and hundreds of men and women out on the beach (when the tide is out) working on these oyster beds. I’ve never seen anything like it. There are also people selling oysters right beside the beach (several sizes) and you can buy your oysters from them (they will shuck them) and they give you a plate, etc. and you can have your own little picnic right along the beach.
    We had our meal of the day at a very cute little place (Chez Victor) right on the water. We had scallops and mussels (Breton style) and we split a chocolate crepe with almonds. The mussels were the best I have ever had, period! The sauce reminded me of the sauce at Senate in Cincinnati, but mussels were fresh and very different from anywhere else I have eaten them. We decided not to have wine because I still needed to drive this stick shift car back to Dinan.
    That night we headed out again, on foot, to see some of Dinan and get a bite to eat and a drink. We walked around but ended up at a bar just across the square from our hotel. My wife had a chardonnay and I had a Breton Cidre (beer). The beer was very strong and I didn’t particularly like it. I love apples, but I just didn’t enjoy this drink. I think it must be an acquired taste kind of thing. We also had sausage, cheese and some bread. It was a perfect end to a perfect day.

    Highlights

    • The train ride to Rennes – we like traveling 2nd class on trains. Much better chance of meeting local people and getting travel recommendations. Short trip, but enjoyable.
    • *****Tregastel, Brittany
    • L’Artisanne du Pain (west of Cap Frehel) – Pastry!!
    • Dinard – Take time to walk along the cliffs and the shoreline
    • Cancale – not easily forgotten
    • Chez Victor in Cancale – Great food, wonderful location
    • Pub Saint Saveur – Nothing fancy, just relaxing

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    Agree with kerouac....don't leave anything out. You would be surprised to know how much info and inspiration is contained in the details. It helps the rest of us live vicariously and plan our trips,

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    Normandy
    We slept well (so much fresh air). We showered and went down to breakfast. Most everyone was gone except a young couple from Germany. Once again we enjoyed the conversation, even though there we were about 30 years their senior. I have found that there is something about staying in a bed and breakfast or a small boutique hotel that unites people. It may be the common sense of adventure, etc., I just don’t know, but people who have never met before seem to go out of their way to help you. We had coffee, Granola and that great bread (sweet) again.
    We had spent so much time traveling up to the coast in Brittany that we hadn’t really given Dinan the attention it deserved. Instead of getting an early start for Le Mont Saint Michel we decided to walk around Dinan for a while and catch the “little Tourist Train” that runs on rubber wheels and drives through Dinan. We noticed that there are lots of little trains like this in other tourist centered cities in France. It was only 6 E and the driver gave my wife the kid’s rate (4E) because she looked so young! That put my wife, who will be collecting Social Security (62) this year, in a very good mood for the rest of the day!
    At about 12:00AM we headed for Mont Saint Michel. I was a little concerned about crowds, but at this time of the year (early October) it was not really an issue. You could see it in the distance as you were driving toward it and I think even the most callous person would be moved by the sight of it in the distance. It was even more impressive than I had imagined!!!
    We parked the car and caught the shuttle. Then we started walking.
    I have not walked up so many steps in the last decade, or two. As I mentioned before, my wife and I both use walking sticks for balance (they are about 4’ long and made of wood and there is not problem taking them on airplanes or through customs, as someone had warned). We could have not taken this trip without these sticks). We both have good stamina, but balance is our issue. I was about to stop climbing because I was getting tired, but my wife encouraged me to keep climbing. I saw the fire in her eyes and that German (ancestry) determination to get to the top so I was not about to give up. I was running out of gas and I was not sure how much farther we needed to go. We asked the attendant at the gift shop where the exit was and she said “you are at the top, but you are just at the beginning of the tour.” We walked down through all the chapels and all the tour groups and when we finally reached a very narrow spiral staircase I thought my wife was not going to make it down, but she took it very slowly and did a great job of getting down some very, very narrow stairs. We eventually (after a hell of a lot of walking) got back to the shuttle and boarded with a bunch of middle school kids on a field trip from Scotland. We had a nice talk with their teachers about their experience.
    We got too the car and headed for Bayeux (about 1 ½ hours a\way). The freeways here are beautiful. We have not seen one billboard yet, not one. The buildings by the freeways and highways may have signs painted on them, but NO billboards. But, I did see one piece of paper by the highway!!
    We got to Bayeux around 5:30PM and checked into the hotel, then went to dinner. My wife told me she deserved a BIG glass of wine for walking all the way to the top of Mont Saint Michel and I agreed. I thought I deserved one too. I thought it was ironic that when the waitress finished filling our glasses the entire bottle of Chardonnay that she had just opened, was gone. Obviously, we had some large glasses. Nice little dinner at Riene Mathilde in Bayeux, but if you are looking to be among locals, this is not the place. Every customer around us on the terrace was an American (not even and English person among them). Not that there is anything wrong with that, but the hotels must be recommending the same restaurant to their American guests. I have to admit, the food was good. My wife’s dinner consisted of plate of pasta with smoked salmon and I had a salad with French bacon and duck, and the best pate I have ever tasted, as well as olives, cherry tomatoes and walnuts. We finished it all of with Café au Lait and split a Crème Brule. Great meal.
    We walked around Bayeux a bit (it was dark by then) and the Notre dame Cathedral was very impressive. We were staying at the Hotel de Bayeux . Great location to walk around the center of town. Parking appears to be a problem, but about two blocks away is a huge city parking lot that is free. Time to go to sleep now.
    We got up and headed out for breakfast. A cup of coffee and pastry from any bakery in France (it is hard to believe that the pastry at every bakery in an entire country could be so good, but it is) is sufficient in the morning so we like to go out and wander around when we are staying in hotels. Someone gave me this advice a long time ago and we continue to do that whenever we travel, anywhere, unless we are at a B & B. We found a nice little street market and my wife bought some things for Christmas presents (I am not going to say what they were in case one of our daughters reads this). We toured the Notre Dame Cathedral in Bayeux. It is just as large as the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris and it is quite and impressive cathedral. After that we went to see the Bayeux Tapestry. We both really enjoyed this. This was one of the highlights of the trip for me. We loved the way it was displayed and the Audio (free) was terrific in explaining the details of what was being shown on the Bayeux Tapestry. I am a history buff so I really enjoyed this.
    Then we got in our car and headed to the D-Day Beaches (about 4 -5 miles away). We had been trying for a couple months to set up a reservation for a tour but it never worked out so went on our own tour. We stopped at a little local museum at Omaha Beach (quite by accident, but this was very fortunate for us) and we enjoyed the black and white film of the preparation and invasion (over the years we have seen many videos about D-Day, but we’ve never seen this footage before), and all the artifacts. We came out and drove all along the beach. It was very quiet, which added to the reverential nature of our visit to Omaha Beach. That was actually very good because it provided us with the time to think about what had happened here.
    Next we went to the American Cemetery. We both were very eager to see it. IT WAS CLOSED! A sign on the gate to the cemetery read that since this is American Ground (France gave the land to America) and because of the U.S.A. government shut-down, the entire facility was closed. We were not very happy Americans and very displeased with the Congress of our country!! We walked down the hill to Omaha Beach and got some great pictures and some great memories. It was a very long way down, and it seemed twice as far back to the top. The memorial to the 1st Infantry Division and the way down to the beach is right beside the American Cemetery Parking lot (not the official lot, but the one down the road to the right of the cemetery. Now that we have been there I can tell you that if you continue along that road past the parking lot it will take you right down the beach). We had one more thing that we wanted to see, Point Du Hoc, where the American Rangers scaled the cliffs under heavy fire. It was very difficult to imagine that anyone could do this. Quite an amazing and very brave feat!
    Went out to Le Conquerant Bar in Bayeux for a Toasty and Chips and Fish and Chips (the Toasty my wife had was excellent and it made me a little jealous!). Great evening in an adorable little French town.

    Thursday – Oct. 10, 2013
    We decided that we just wanted to head for Honfleur. I was very tired and my first challenge was to get this little car some diesel fuel. It is amazing that this little Peugot is a diesel, and when I translate kilometers into miles it gets over 600 miles per tank, and it is a very comfortable little car. I’m quite surprised. I stopped to get fuel. It cost 53 Euros (a bit over $65) to fill. The girl at the gas station said my MC would not work so I paid her in cash (I could tell she did not try very hard to run my card [she seemed to have a bit of an attitude – this is only the second time we have come across someone with an attitude in France] – everyone else so far in France has been wonderful).
    We drove to Caen (about 15 mi. away) looking for a place to eat, but more importantly for some coffee. We saw places, but I did not want to get off the freeway. We were making good time and our destination was only an hour or so away. We finally decided to stop in Deauville / Trouville. We found a little place in Trouville around 11:00AM and had breakfast (a Gallette with sausage, cheese, mushrooms and an egg on top - and my wife had a Nutella Crepe, which my wife said was wonderful).
    We drove around Deauville for a little while then headed to Honfleur on back roads. I love driving on back roads (in any country). When we were planning this trip a dear friend told us about Honfleur. It really wasn’t on our radar screen until she told us about Honfleur, and we are very thankful for that advice.
    We parked in Honfleur and walked around. It is a very pretty little harbor town with lots of artist galleries. After about 2 hours we headed back to find our B & B in Pennedepie, a suburb of Honfleur. I’m not sure why, but we decided to stay in a B & B a little ways out of Honfleur. Pennedepie is out in the country, about 5 minutes away from the center of Honfleur. Madame Aline met us at the door (Maison d’Aline). The home was built in 1776 and when we looked inside and saw our room my wife melted. This was the nicest room we stayed in during our two weeks in France. This little place put the capital C in Charming. Aline does not speak much English, and we are very good at speaking French (high school and college), but between our French and her English and lots of pictures, etc., we communicated very well. She is very sweet and a wonderful host and she gave us some excellent recommendations for restaurants in Honfleur and where we might like to travel in this area the next day.
    We drove into Honfluer that evening and ended up at Le Bistro du Port, a seafood restaurant. What a fun meal. We had a set price meal with appetizer, entre, and dessert. We had the Fruits de Mer (variety of seafood) for our appetizer (Prawns, raw oysters, Whelks, Periwinkles, etc.). We are adventurous (within reason) diners and we both ate a few things we had never eaten before. The waiter gave us some very unusual forks and wires to coax the snail like creatures out of their shells. The Whelks were like huge Escargot, and periwinkles (about 30) were very small (they were tiny), and some spectacular oysters on the half shell (they were huge and the vinegar dipping sauce, and the mayonnaise dipping sauce were excellent, especially the vinegar). We ordered a Salmon Steak in cream sauce with lentils and a fish plate with 4 kinds of fish on top of sauerkraut (made with cream and butter) and mussels. It didn’t sound very good (because of the fish with sauerkraut), but it was wonderful. We agreed that we have never tasted anything quite like this before. The sauerkraut was not as tart as it usually tastes. I’m sure the butter and cream really tamed the tartness!
    We finished of with an ice cream dessert – 3 kinds of ice cream and a chocolate cake (which contained molten chocolate in the center), on top of almonds and cream sauce. A great meal and a fun experience!

    Friday – Oct. 11, 2013
    When we went downstairs for breakfast discovered that we were the only guests on Thursday night , so Aline (Aline asked us to call her Aline and not Madame Aline) just set a table set for two. There was a wonderful buffet and Aline had set out 4 kinds jellies and preserves that she and her mother had made. She also had made fresh orange juice and fresh coffee for us. We asked if she had made all the baked goods and she laughed and said no. There are bakeries everywhere in France and the quality and variety is wonderful she said. We very much enjoyed talking to Madame Aline and she gave us some very good advice about what to see.
    Aline thought we could see Etretat, the Pays d Auge, and the Eugene Bodin museum in Honfleur, but what she didn’t know is how slow we move, especially climbing. We decided to head for Etretat. One of Monet’s paintings was of the cliffs and the sea and it is one of his most famous. We wanted to take that in. We drove the freeway north across the famous bridge (Pont du Normandie) and had some challenges with the toll booths, but we made it and we learned how to use the toll booths for tomorrow when we go to Paris. After we got off the freeway we drove about 15 more miles through several little towns until we got to Etretat which is right on the ocean (actually the English Channel). The town and the beach are surrounded by hills and cliffs. What a beautiful place!!! We climbed one of the cliffs (there were steps [hundreds of them]) to the top and the view was really quite spectacular. At the top of the cliff the wind was howling and the temperatures seemed to drop about 20 degrees. It reminded me of a time when we lived in Canada and we were skiing and at the top of a mountain in the Rockies. The wind made it seem like you were at the edge of the Earth (kind of an eerie feeling), but the view up here was worth the climb, and the furious wind! We stayed a short wile and then headed back down again.
    We got to the bottom and there was very long walkway along the beach. I wanted to walk on the beach because I had heard it was very unusual. There were concrete stairs down to the beach. Not a piece of sand in sight, just millions of small round rocks of various shapes and sizes and when the waves came in and out the sound was very unusual, kind of like hundreds of marbles clicking against each other. I have not seen, or heard anything like this before, anywhere.
    We wandered around Etretat . The village is much smaller than any of the other towns we have seen along the shoreline on this trip, except for Tregastel. We stopped at a bakery and bought a baguette, some water, and some pastries for dessert and headed out of town.
    We headed back toward Honfleur and decided that we only had enough time to go to the Eugene Bodin art museum in Honfleur (nice little museum). Then we went back to Maison d’Aline and went to bed (originally just for a nap, but we were so tired from our walk up the cliff at Etretat that we slept right through the night).

    Highlights

    Dinan – We hated to leave
    Maison Pavie in Dinan – I think I mentioned it before. What a B & B.
    Le Mont Saint Michel – Crowds, and Tours, but……….The views from the top are spectacular. Seeing it from a distance is something you will always remember!
    Honfleur – Very cute town
    Le Bistro Du Port (Honfleur) – A very enjoyable dinner.
    *****Etretat – Like Tregastel, a wonderful village along the coast, but very different from Tregastel.
    Driving country roads – I forgot to mention this in my Highlights from Brittany, but this was one of my favorite experiences on this vacation!
    Maison d’Aline – a great little place to stay. If you want to be right in the village, this is probably not for you. But, if you don’t mind a 5 minute drive (along the coast (but you really can’t see the water – from the map I thought you could, but it really didn’t matter). A wonderful little B & B.

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    "Driving country roads – I forgot to mention this in my Highlights from Brittany, but this was one of my favorite experiences on this vacation!"

    Suggestions on forums always involve mentioning the best places to visit in France but few people suggest that just driving through the countryside and enjoying the landscapes and seeing tiny off the beaten path villages is truly one of the great pleasures of traveling in France. Plus, you never know what unexpected surprises you might stumble onto.

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    We have been lucky enough to make many trips to Paris, Brittany and Normandy and one of the delights is returning to experience again places that we love. But one of the very best things about travel is experiencing an area for the very first time. Your report captures so well the great emotions and wonder of being in these delightful places for a first time. It's great to relive that experience through your eyes--and your words. Thanks so much for a great report and a great experience.

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    On to Paris
    Saturday – Oct. 12 / Pennedepie to Giverny, to Versailles, to the Left Bank (our home for the next 5 nights)
    We got up early, packed and headed down for breakfast. We wanted to get on the road as early as possible so we could spend some time at Giverny and then get the car back to Paris before Hertz closed. I was a little worried about how long it was going to take to get back to Versailles, check our car in at Hertz, and then take the train back to Paris. The breakfast was terrific again. Aline had made something amazing with couscous and lemons. My wife, who is a very good cook, is getting all kinds of ideas about things she wants to make when we get home. I can’t wait!
    We met some other tourists when we got downstairs. They were from Switzerland, but one of the men was introduced as being from Sweden. My wife picked up on that and told him that I had worked for a company from Stockholm (our companies had been bought by ASSA ABLOY) and that Stockholm is at the top of our bucket list. We discussed when to travel to Stockholm and how to avoid crowds. He suggested May.
    We got on the road around 9:30AM and drove the major highway around Rouen and on to Giverny. We got there around 11. Parking was fairly easy and we toured Monet’s house and gardens. I had read on line last night that someone on 10/10 had complained about the amount of tourists so we almost blew this off. WHAT A MISTAKE THAT WOULD HAVE BEEN. This was a Saturday morning and we did not think there were that many tourists. Don’t get me wrong, there were tourists, especially Japanese tourists (after all, a large part of Monet’s garden is called the Japanese Garden), but I was worried that Giverny is so close to Paris and being a Saturday there may be a lot of people coming out to see Giverny. This was one of the first overcast days we have had on our vacation and that may have caused people to be worried about rain, but it never did rain. The Garden was beautiful, even if it was overcast.
    After touring Monet’s home and his garden we drove back toward Paris and got off at the Versailles exit (where we had arranged to turn our car back in at the train station). What an experience finding the Hertz office and the correct train station. I had known that there were two train stations in Versailles, but I found the wrong one, first. After asking a lot of people for directions and driving all over Versailles (fortunately, by this time I was really good at handling a manual transmission) we finally found the correct train station and the Hertz office. The office was nothing like a car rental agency in the USA, but we are not in the USA, we are in France! The office was tiny, but the agent spoke perfect English and it did not take long to handle the check-in.
    The Chantiers train station was right across the street. We bought two tickets for Montparnasse (6.20E) and headed for the train. There were several stairs and my wife and I had our hands full with our suitcases and our sticks but several people helped my wife with her suitcase (the kindness of the French people never ceases to amaze me). We got onto a very crowded train and all the seats were taken, but we only needed to ride for about 15 min. anyway. Several people offered us their seat, but we didn’t mind standing for such a short distance so we declined. We got off at Montparnasse (we remarked that we were glad that we had been to this station before because we knew exactly where we were going). We got a taxi (10.6E) and he took us to the Cardinal Hotel Rive Gauche. We checked in and immediately took a nap.
    We looked at Rick Steve’s book and picked out some possible places to eat tonight on Rue Mouffetard. We eventually ended up at Cave La Bourgogne and it may have been the best meal we have had so far, and the least expensive at 52.3E (We shared pate de la Maison – it was wonderful [as smooth as butter – very wonderful pate) and chardonnay, lamb steak and frites, and salad with roast chicken on a vegetable omelet with dried fruit (prunes, raisins and apricots).
    Then we walked the length of Rue Mouffetard. What a happening place, bars, restaurants, shops, etc.

    Sunday – Oct. 13
    We got up early and had breakfast at a little bakery on Blvd de Port Royal. We wandered around and finally found the Metro (Gobelins). We rode the pink line down to the station for the Louvre. We found the Louvre and we got in a very long line (ugh).We waited to over an hour until we got inside. We decided to buy a 4 day museum pass / 48E. They are available in 2 (32E) - 4 – 6(?E) days
    We started wandering around the Louvre. It is huge and fortunately we have been here before, but it was terribly crowded. I think coming here on the weekend might have been a real mistake, especially before we had purchased museum pass (with the pass you can skip the line and go right into the museum). In something I have read someone suggested buying a Museum Pass at a smaller, less crowded museum. Great advice, but unfortunately we didn’t follow it. We saw the Venus de Milo and other medieval art, but I was starting to run out of gas. I looked for benches and told my wife to look around and come back and get me. I was not having a good day. I was tired and I HATED that the Louvre was so crowded. Eventually we left and headed back tour hotel.
    We took a nap (as you can tell, we are really into naps – that started when I was recovering from a brain tumor operation in 1999) and we went back to the same restaurant we were in last night (Cave la Bourgogne – 144 Mouffetard - this is not usually our style. We love to try different restaurants when we travel, but the food and atmosphere here was great and it was only a block from our hotel. I think we ate her 5 times in 5 days and I could tell by the reaction from Maitre de and the waiters that we were becoming regulars. I had the lamb shank and my wife had the Cassoulet (we had seen it the night before and it looked terrific. Another terrific meal at Cave La Bourgogne.

    Monday – Oct. 14
    We got up around 8:15AM. I went out and had a coffee (at the C La B) and I took pastries back to the hotel for my wife. We went directly to the Metro (Gobelins) and found our way to the Musee L’ Orangerie (we had to switch trains a few times, but we eventually found our way). It was extremely hard to find L”Orangerie once we got off the Metro. We walked and we walked, back and forth and all around. We asked directions, but the response was always in French (which we didn’t understand {I misspoke in an earlier post about Madame Aline – we have terrible French speaking skills, but we are not shy to try!) and they just pointed in the direction. Finally we found it. There was a huge line, but we were able to go to the front with the Museum Pass. This is a very small museum compared to the Louvre, but since the Louvre is closed today, most of the museum crowd came here. The two large oblong rooms with the EXTREMELY LARGE Monet Water Lilly paintings are the prime thing to come here for. There is a very long (oblong also) bench in the middle of the room and just look at the huge paintings that just about cover the entire walls (4 in each room), and move around, sit down, and look at each one. Since my wife and I were at Giverny on this trip, where Monet’s gardens are located, seeing these paintings was very special to us.
    There were other painters represented in this museum also, but the huge Monet Water Lilies (actually, a variety of paintings made at the small lake in his garden) paintings stole the show.
    We were very tired so we went outside to rest and we found some chairs along a wall overlooking the Seine. We were sitting there when a young woman walked up to us and asked us if we had dropped a gold ring that she was holding. We told her no and that she should keep the ring. She told me she didn’t wear gold jewelry and wanted me to have it. She said it was good luck. I still didn’t want it but she walked away (I think this was all part of the SCAM). She walked away, then she came back and asked for some money for food. I felt bad for her and gave her some bills (I’m sure that was stupid on my part, but I am pretty soft about beggars). I told my wife that we (actually me) had been SCAMMED. I didn’t fall for the gold ring thing, but I did fall for the homeless thing. Oh well, I can console myself in the fact that it wasn’t a great deal of money.
    We were thinking of taking a boat on the Seine, but we decided to take the Metro to the Isle de la Cite (the island where Notre Dame is located). We went to Saint Chapelle (which takes the Museum Pass, but we still had to get in line – Crazy? At least the line was not long). It was a beautiful church but there seemed to be a lot of construction going on). Then we headed to Notre Dame. It was packed at 4:00PM, so we sat down for a while and then headed for the Metro to go back and take a nap. We were so tired that we didn’t even go out for dinner.

    Tuesday – Oct. 15
    We got up and got going, we were eager to go to the Musee d”Orsay.
    We went to a McDonalds, thinking it would be easy and that hey would take our Mastercard. WE WERE WRONG. The person behind the counter spoke no English and we had a horrible time communicating. The kids (college age) behind us began laughing. I turned to one of these kids and asked him to help me. They looked Middle Eastern (maybe Turkish) and I think I caught him off guard and he stopped laughing and started to translate for us. That really helped and we got our order in. I have to admit it was very confusing. I thanked him very much for helping us and he said it was nothing.
    We caught the Metro at Gobelins and headed for the Musee d”Orsay. The Metro stop at Solferino was only two blocks away from the museum. Since we had the Museum Pass we could go to the head of the line. What an amazing place. It is huge. Not as large as the Louvre, but very large. It was very crowded, especially on the floor with the paintings from the Impressionists (we found the elevators – what a God Send!!). We looked everywhere for the Van Gogh paintings, but never did find them. We decided that we would come back again tomorrow to see the Van Gogh’s.
    We decided to go our hotel early today so we took the Metro (Solferino) back (we got off at Censier Daubenton because it is a little closer to our favorite restaurant) and we stopped at the Cave la Bourgogne for a glass of wine, Pate and Sausages. Then we walked up Rue Mouffetard and looked at all the restaurants and went into some shops. We walked back to the hotel and it only took me about 8 seconds to fall asleep.
    We woke up around 6:30PM and went out to the Cave La B. to have dinner. My wife had the Cassoulet again (the very same one) and I had the Sword Fish Steak. I changed my wine from white to red (house wine -Cote du Rhone. I think it is true that the Vin de Pays in any French restaurant is always good).It was terrific – very smooth).
    We walked all around the area and the came back to our room.
    Tomorrow, back to see Van Gogh. I can’t wait.

    Wednesday – Oct. 16
    We got up and got going early. We were eager to go to back to the Musee d”Orsay to see the Van Gogh and Gaugin paintings.
    We went to McDonalds again but we were much better today (we understood the program [one coffee, two sandwiches and 1 orange juice. I also understood that she would give me two tokens to put in the coffee machine - 1 token for an Espresso, one token for a large coffee, two tokens for Cappacino and two tokens for some other kind of coffee – we just got two large cups of back coffee]).We went back there again only because they took our Mastercard (we are running low on Euro’s –why we just didn’t go to an ATM I’ll never know?). It was also inexpensive – 5E for the ”buffet” breakfast (as I have explained above).
    We caught the Metro at Les Gobelins and retraced our route from the day before back to the Musee d”Orsay. Not as many people here today (probably because the Louvre is open today – I think it was closed yesterday and so everyone came here) but still a lot of people, but only 25% as many as yesterday. We went right to the Van Gogh area on the 2nd floor. We started looking at the paintings and then some tours started coming through and it got crowded. We only wanted to see a very small part of this museum today (Van Gogh) so we just worked around the tours.
    We decided to leave and maybe go to one more museum. We were walking along Rue Saint Germain (a main street on the Left Bank) looking for the Saint Germain de Pres Metro because the Rodin Museum and the Delacroix Museum were near there. We saw a peaceful demonstration by Railway Workers (Sud) [it had to be peaceful – there were about 100 policemen and they were wearing shoulder pads, they had clubs, etc.] and it scared my wife and she wanted to “get the hell out of there.” As we were walking down the street we passed a café that I mentioned to my wife a few days ago (it was #1on the Top 10 list of cafes in the Top 10 Guide) and a minute later we passed Les Deux Magots (it was #2 on the top of the list of cafes in the Top 10 Guide) and it looked even cuter than the first one. We took note of it.
    We finally found the Delacroix Museum and apartment. It was not crowded at all and we just about had it to ourselves. The main thing to see here was his apartment and his garden, especially the garden. There were painting and some of his things, but we have already seen a lot of paintings.
    We left as it started raining and went back by Les Duex Magots . It was on the way back to the Metro stop (St. Germain de Pres) and we decided t o stop for a coffee and a pastry. I could tell that my wife was very happy to have stopped here. The waiters were all dressed nicely ad we ordered 2 caffee au lait and then they brought the pastry tray for us to see. Everything on it looked wonderful. I chose the one with the little medal on it. It was a tall caramel / crème /and layer and layer of phyllo kind of dough at several levels. My wife ordered a very similar piece except that hers wall all white between the layers of dough. We cut each of them and traded halves so we could taste both of them.
    We then took the Metro back from Saint Germain de Pres and took a nap.
    Then we walked about 1 ½ blocks to “our regular haunt” Le Cave du Burgogne. We love going there. The food is wonderful and everyone is very nice and attentive. We weren’t very hungry after our afternoon coffee and desert at Les Deux Magots so we just ordered wine and pate and olives. They did not have the house pate that was like butter (we were disappointed) but they served one that came in a little jar. It was very good also.
    Time to go back and pack. We leave Paris very early tomorrow. We both are very sad to see this trip come to an end.

    Paris Highlights
    L’Orangerie – Especially if you have been to Giverny
    Musee D’Orsay – Wonderful museum. It seems to be a little easier to understand than the Louvre (which is wonderful also).
    Rue Mouffetard – Fun street (on the Left Bank) packed with restaurants, etc. Friday and Saturday night it is wall to wall people (it is a very narrow street).
    The French Metro – Not much to say. It really makes getting around the city very easy.
    Notre Dame Cathedral – An amazing place. Always crowded, but, like Mont Saint Michel, worth putting up with crowds for the experience!
    Cave Du Bourgogne – It seems very weird to say that you “have a special place”, but this is probably the closest we have come to that, anywhere. I can’t say enough about it and if you end up staying at a place near Rue Mouffetard I highly recommend this place for at least one meal.

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    General
    Apologies
    1. This Trip Report is MUCH, MUCH TOO LONG! This is the first time I have done a Trip Report o this site and the next time it will be much shorter. I had my laptop with me on vacation and I tried to tell our daughters what we were doing each day. That was the basis for this report. If I used the term “mom” instead of “my wife”, that is the reason.
    2. Too much description of meals. I follow Chowhound.com to find places where to eat when we travel. Foodies on that website describe all the aspects of their eating experience on Chowhound. We aren’t exactly foodies, we just like good food. Not expensive food, just good food. Years ago I was a salesman and I picked where to eat by how many cars were in the parking lot. Several years ago I started using the Internet. That works well for me. Again, I apologize for talking so much about food.
    Forgot to Mention (highlights)
    1. The Bayeux Tapestry – One of my favorite things to have seen on this vacation.
    2. Omaha Beach – I don’t know what to say or how to describe the feelings that came over me there.
    3. Point Du Hoc – I feel pretty much the same about this place as I did Omaha Beach.
    Recommendations
    1. I invested in one of those Money Belts because of all the talk about “pickpockets” in Paris (actually, there were warnings in many of the churches we visited in London years ago too). After two days I decided not to use it anymore. It was a real pain when you needed money. I am observant and aware of security situations. If your feelings are strong about this, or you have experienced pickpockets before, please don’t let my comments dissuade you from wearing a Money Belt. My wife had a “rubber purse” that she bought at triple A which has all kinds of security features and she carried most of the money and our passports. That worked out well, as long as you ladies don’t mind walking around Paris with a Rubber Purse!” One of our adult daughters told her not to every use it again.
    2. I did not need the International Driving Permit that I bought at AAA. My Ohio Drivers License was just fine. That was wasted money, as far as I am concerned.
    3. Don’t be afraid to GET LOST. Someone once told me that some of your best experiences (finding restaurants, shops, talking with people, etc.) will happen when you get lost. If you are going to drive, in any country, you are going to get lost. Don’t worry about it unless you are on a strict schedule.
    4. Independent travel. Not for everyone, but if you like to explore and travel at your own pace, this can be a great way to see the world (I have my limits. There are places where I probably wouldn’t feel comfortable traveling on my own (that might be age. I was much more adventurous when I was young), or confidant, travelling on my own). This requires a great deal of planning and as many resources as you can (this is much easier to do now with the Internet, but it can also be overwhelming, but you need to focus.
    o This website can provide an amazing amount of information. I could not have put this trip together without advice from French Mystic Travel, StCirq, PalenQ, Gretchen, Kerouac, etc, and several people from other websites. Thank you all very, very much!
    o Cross reference by checking out information on other websites also.
     You can checkout the quality and location of hotels, anywhere, on Booking.com.
    5. We are all different and have different likes and dislikes. If someone, including me, says they like or dislike a place, try to imagine how you might like it yourself. My wife and I enjoy getting off the beaten track. That might not be fun for you, or you just don’t have time and you want to see a lot of things.
    6. Slow travel. It is a philosophy. Staying for long periods (a week, 2 weeks) of time in the same place. Some of the best advice I can give you is to try to stay in each place, two or more nights. In many cases that is just not possible, but if you have any control over your travel plans, this will usually make the trip more relaxing and you will get to know a place much better. If you can, try to make one place your base of operations for at last a couple days.
    Most of our travels are confined to North America now (we are retired) and since we enjoy driving we try to follow the at least 2 night minimum rule all the time. I will tell you that it helps if you are retired and are not in as much of a rush. When we were younger and had three children it was more difficult to do that, but we tried. Our girls seemed to like traveling that way. Less stress packing and unpacking, finding restaurants they liked (and we did too). It just seemed easier for all of us.
    Well, I have written much too much already. Happy travels!
    RMC

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    Crossen, no extra words in your report. Don't shorten it at all! I enjoyed every bit and liked the way you organized the report. I am not a foodie, but your meal descriptions had my mouth watering.

    I agree with your feelings about Notre Dame.

    Thanks for sharing!

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    Your report could have been longer! I'm telling you, it was not too long.

    And you didn't talk too much about food. I always like hearing about what people enjoyed eating.

    I agree with you on Chowhound France as a good resource, even though the regulars mostly cover only Paris and the south of France. They know how to talk about food in such a way that you can separate what they have liked from what you might like.

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    Tom18, We saw the ND Cathedral in Bayeux at night and during the day. We did not see any scaffolding, etc. when we were there so they must have completed the renovations.
    I have some wonderful pictures from this trip, but I don't know how to share them with anyone visiting this website. I'm sure there must be a way, but I don't know how to do that. I saw a wonderful Trip Report with pictures by French Mystic Tours of his stay at a gite along the coast in Brittany, and that inspired me to do something similar, but I'm not sure how to do that.

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    crossen - You can always create an account with a photo sharing website like flickr.com or photobucket.com and upload your photos there. Then you can provide a link to your photo album here. If you want to write photo reports in the format that kerouac and I use you need to go to www.proboards.com and create your own account. However, I still have to have a photo sharing website (I use photobucket) and copy the links from each photo into the body of the report. It's time consuming but I like that the proboards format allows you to mix text and photos so easily.

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