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Lessons Learned: A trip report for Paris, Villefranche-sur-mer & Saint Remy March 07

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Things we learned this trip-
1. NEVER fly on an AirFrance 747. It is a cattle car. I am not a tall person-ok I am short!- and I felt cramped for space.
2. Buy a two day visitors pass for the Metro. For 14.90€ each we rode as much as we wanted.
3. Learn what busses pass your hotel. Then when you want to get a bus back you know what lines you are looking for.
4. Test technology at home-we had a clock that malfunctioned several time. The most critical was the morning we were to fly from Paris to Nice. Yowsa!
5. Let the driver arrange for the car. This avoids problems like-how could have booked this car??? My husband referred to the car as Le Grande Cochon.
6. Don’t trust your credit card to settle insurance claims. Get proof. We had problems with AutoEurope that cost us 659€ from a damage claim from a prior trip.
7. Sometimes you get lucky with the weather. Sunny and warm for the first two segments of the trip.
8. Le Mistral is not as poetic as it sounds.
9. Take some ziplock bags. I just threw some in just before we left the house and they were a godsend.
10. Don’t bring seeds back unless they have something like a certificate of cleanliness??? That is what the nice gentlemen at the airport said before he gleefully told us they would incinerate the ones they confiscated from us. We are in mourning.
11. Take the audio guide where available. It gives you so much more information and adds to the experience.
12. Remember this is a vacation.

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    Our trip itinerary was Boston to CDG on March 10th, 3 nights in Paris, CDG to Nice, 4 nights in Villefrance-sur-mer, drive to St Remy de Provence for the last 4 nights.

    Paris:
    Sites we hadn’t seen before-
    Musee de Luxembourg for the Rene Lalique exhibit
    Musee Jacquemart-Andre: Thank you, Fodors for repeatedly endorsing this museum. It was lovely.
    The Orangerie- WOW!!!! We went at about 3pm and just waltzed in. It was probably due to the time of year and weather.
    Sacre Coeur- My husband had taken a photo from the Orsay years ago showing Sacre Coeur through the clock. He wanted to try and capture it from the opposite view. Even though it was sunny it was too hazy to see the Orsay. Also the funicular wasn’t operational. There was a shuttle bus but we never found it. Take the stair in front of Sacre Coeur instead of the ones next to the funicular. There were more places to stop and rest.

    Hotel- Relais St Germain- Yes it is expensive but we feel worth every penny. It has history with us and the fact that Le Comptoir is so popular is just a little extra.

    Shopping-
    1. Maille-we did drag the crock over and had them fill it. We also bought some of the other mustards we like- Basilic, Calvados & Horseradish
    2. G Detou- A small restaurant supply store where I bought Dried Cepes and almond paste. My husband bought a jar of Confit d’ongion
    3. Kenzo- Next to the Maille store DH found a tie he really liked. So we bought it without asking the price. It is a very nice tie-as it should be!
    4. A Simon- This is a toy store for me. I bought a set of biscuit cutters in hard plastic (no more dragging them out to find them rusty) and two small china caps.
    5. BHV- To buy a curtain for the bathroom door, some duct tape (to seal the mustard jar) and a couple of crazy cat warning plaques for my sister.
    6. Marche Biologique- for galettes to eat while we roamed the market, pate, cheese, fruit, and vanilla beans
    7. Jacque Genin- for 1 kilos of amazing mango caramels. Our friends will learn how much they mean to us by how many they get.

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    Meals-DISCLAIMER- We like to go out to dinner and price isn’t a consideration when we decide where we go. A lot of time it the wine we chose that drives the price up so consider that.

    L’Ardoise- This is the second time we had dinner here and we were seated at the same table in the basement. It is open Sunday which is both a blessing and a curse. It was very busy and consequently there were a few little lapses in service. The waitress gets her exercise running up and down those stairs. We plan to go back on another night to see how it is. It was a 32€ formula. We missed getting whatever was in the little jar they put down with the bread.
    Entrees-Asparagus, Jambon Iberico with Ouef Mollet
    Carpaccio of Tuna with ginger & basil
    Plats-Duck Breast with black pepper (a great sauce) and pureed potatoes
    Scallops in the shell with brown butter sauce and pureed greens
    Dessert-Roasted Apple, Caramel Ice Cream and Caramelized Raisins
    Chocolate and Mandarine Orange Pot de Cremes
    Coupe de Champagne, ½ bottle of Macon Village, 2 glasses of red wine
    Total for the meal 110€

    L'As du Falafel- I never knew I liked falafel (and I used to cook in a place that made them) until we ate here last year. We get one with everything and split it. A very cheap lunch at 4€.

    Le Comptoir- Yes, the benefit of staying at the Relais St Germain is that you can get a table at Le Comptoir. We did reserve early though to make sure we got a seat. As usual it was fabulous. We also had lunch there one day.
    Dinner-
    First course- a fresh pea soup which had some froth, amazingly small peas, bacon and marinated pearl onions in it
    Second course- A crepe topped with sautéed new onions, very thin slices of scallops and caviar. The crepe and onions were warm and I think they just put the raw scallops on top and let the warmth just cook them
    Plat- Saddle of lamb, with red peppers, artichokes and a jus with thyme in it
    Fromage- As usual they just put the whole cheese tray down at your table and you get to go to town with it.
    Dessert- A kiwi salad with what is described on the menu as baked cow’s milk and a passion fruit sauce
    Candies- Nougats and Mango Caramels from Jacque Genin
    The menu costs 45€ each but then we had kir royale to begin, a half bottle of Chablis, bottle of Volnay, as well as a Calvados.

    Lunch- we got there around 2:15 and tables were just opening up. They set one for us on the sidewalk. It was a gorgeous sunny and warm day.
    Entrees- Normandie Oysters on the half shell with a mignonette
    Plats- Salade Gourmande with hearts of romaine, haricot vert, artichokes and foie gras
    Tuna-grilled with green & black tapenade, veggies including some fabulous sun dried tomatoes
    A bottle of Bandol rose
    Total for the meal 85.20€

    Chez L’Ami Jean
    Entrees- Ravioli stuffed with vegetables in a vegetable broth
    Cold poached fish with aspic (I think the court bouillon reduced to aspic) with vegetables including sun dried tomatoes (We ordered this not realizing what it was. Boy, were we lucky!)
    Plat- Roast Quail with artichokes
    Pigeon with foie gras Special which came with mousseline of potatoes
    Desserts- lasagna of pineapple and kiwi with a passion fruit sauce
    Mousseline of lemon
    Basket of madeleines
    Champagne cocktails, ½ Basque wine, Armagnac
    Total for the meal 125€

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    Villefrance-sur-mer-

    We flew from Paris to Nice. We had arranged a car with AutoEurope. When we arrived we were told that a prior year’s balance (from damage two years previously- which should have been paid by AMEX) hadn’t been paid so we couldn’t have a car until we paid it. We paid the ransom. We got the car. Then we got a scratch on the car from being run into by a boy on a bicycle while stopped in a parking lot less than an hour later. So now we have something to look forward to.

    Sites:
    Chagall Museum in Nice- It was wonderful even with the school trip running around in it.
    Tried to find the Matisse Museum but obviously missed a turn somewhere. Then we got lost trying to find our way back to Villefranche-sur-mer.

    Villa Ephrussi in Cap Ferrat- The gardens were beautiful even though they weren’t fully in bloom. The birds of paradise were in bloom and I had never thought them to be a shrub-like plant. I would love to see the rose garden in bloom but I don’t think I want to be in this area of the world in high season.

    Monaco-We took the train from Villefranche-sur-mer. When we arrived we took the bus up to the Rock. We were in time for the changing of the guard so we watched that. Then we spent HOURS in the Aquarium in the Oceanographic Museum. It was a wonderful place. I could live without the rest of Monaco though.

    Chapelle “Saint-Pierre” des Pecheurs which was painted by Jean Cocteau- a wonderful little church right on the Quai in Villefranche-sur-mer

    Hotel: The Hotel Welcome was right on the water in Villefranche-sur-Mer. We had room #42 which had two little balconies. One faced the Citadel (which we never got to) and the other the harbor and across to Cap Ferrat. We didn’t eat breakfast at the hotel expect for room service on the last morning when we were trying to get to Isle-sur-la-Sorge for the market. The other three mornings we walked up the hill to the Café de la Paix in the square. The first two weekday mornings we had a lovely Petit Dejeuner which included a hot drink, fresh orange juice, bread, butter and jam for 6€ each. The third weekend morning was a disaster! The chocolate and coffee were more than 60% just plain water. Our limited French didn’t allow for us to complain effectively and the waitress knew it. So go on a weekday!

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    OK, it must be time to make dinner now because suddenly I'm really hungry.

    Sounds like a great trip.

    I'm curious what you meant about getting proof for insurance claims though.

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    Mimi, we had a great time. Thought about you and Jerry and have some restaurant ideas for you.

    Niki, when we got to Nice to pick up the car we found that Amex hadn't paid the damage claim. We had to pay that claim before they would let us take the car we paid for this year. When we returned Amex said that they haven't been able to get the paperwork from AutoEurope. We forwarded what we got to them and hopefully all will be well. Just a BIG shock when we got to Nice though.

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