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Trip Report France and Barcelona : 2016 Trip Report

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It has been a few weeks since we returned from our trip to France and Barcelona, and work pressures prevented me from penning this down earlier. Before the memories begin to fade away, it is time to put finger to keyboard, and to describe it all, both for the benefit of readers on this site, as well as serving a memory bank for ourselves.

We were two couples travelling together, all 4 of us in the late fifties/early sixties. The two males (including myself) were college friends going back 45 years, and our wives have known each other too for the last 30 years. All of us have travelled extensively, and are the independent traveller types. Personally, I enjoy the planning almost as much as the journey, and everyone was happy to leave the planning to me, which I did with the help of travel sites and forums like this, plus Lonely Planet guidebooks. My DW and I had covered Southern Spain on an earlier trip, when we had missed out on Barcelona, and we were determined to add that to France in this trip.

Our broad itinerary was as follows :
Paris – 4 nights
Nice – 3 nights
Provence – 5 nights
Barcelona – 3 nights

Will write and post this in several installments. Here goes the first.

Day 1 : 6th August (Saturday) :
Our Air France flight from Mumbai to Paris was uneventful, and on time. It left at 2:30 am, and we were so sleepy when we got on, that we slept well on the flight. Arrived at CDG Paris at 8:15 am local time. Our friends, who flew in from Bangalore to Paris, arrived at about the same time, and we joined up together at the immigration line, which was really long. Most counters were unmanned, and it took a full hour of standing in the line before we could clear immigration.

Took a large minivan taxi to the hotel, which was the Le 123 Sebastopol Astotel, on Sebastopol Boulevard in the Marais area. Had written to them earlier requesting for an early check-in. When we called on our way to the hotel, we were told that our rooms are ready, which was a relief after a long flight. It was a lovely hotel, with nice spacious rooms, very artfully decorated. The location was perfect, sandwiched between two metro stations, each about a two minute walk away. And about a 15-20 minute walk from Notre Dame cathedral.

By noon we were all freshened up and ready to go. We strolled over to the Isle area, and had a super lunch at “Le Grenier de Notre Dame” on Rue de la Bucherie, just south of the Isle. It was a boutique organic vegetarian restaurant, and we had one of our better meals of this trip that day. Everything was exquisite, tasty and wholesome. Stomachs satiated, we walked back to Notre Dame, and went inside. Great atmosphere around the cathedral, full of tourists taking pictures. An iconic place to start the trip, and we too clicked our cameras a lot.

Notre Dame done, we walked over to nearby Chatelet metro station, and took the underground to Charles Gaulle E’toile. As we emerged from the metro station, we were right beside the Arc de Triomphe. What a sight ! Did not wish to go up to the top, but admired it from below. From here, we started our walk down Champs Elysees. It was gentle downhill in this direction, and felt lovely, with all the fancy shops on both sides. Probably the most famous street in the world !

It was warm, and after a while we needed a place to rest and cool ourselves. All sidewalk cafes were in the open, and warm. The cafes on the side of the street were all without air-conditioning. Finally, we had to duck into a McDonalds with good air-conditioning. Some soft drinks and ice-cream, cool atmosphere, and feet rested, we were ready to go.

We took the metro back to Chatelet, and walked back to our hotel. Rested for over an hour, and then went out for a brief dinner. We were totally pooped, sleep deprived the previous night, and tired after a long flight. Just walked a block to a French restaurant where we had a very sub-standard meal. Back to the hotel and a long restful night.

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