As promised, here is my trip report ' thank you to EVERYONE who has helped me on this forum. I have spent hours upon hours planning this trip and this forum has been absolutely invaluable!
First, a bit about ourselves ' DH and I are in our early 30's from Toronto. We travel quite a bit for work and once or twice a year for fun. This is our second time to Europe; we went as kids ' not sure if that counts! We move pretty quickly and aren't big into lingering at cafés (I know, I know ' no flaming!). We were in Paris at the end of September and then headed to Provence for a week after that. I will post my Provence report in a separate thread.
Second, here are some basic pieces of info '
- We rented an apartment through Parisbestlodge.com - right on Ile de la Cite - 1 bedroom, 30 square metres, 4th floor - no elevator - a total of 63 steps. Great spot - good location, comfortable apartment. We didn't have a problem with the stairs - even with our clunky luggage! Pros: newly renovated, decent price, AWESOME location/neighbourhood. Cons: Right next door to Hotel Dieu and the police headquarters - lots of sirens all day/night (we're so tired that we don't care at night), numerous Bateaux Mouches floating by and blaring their speakers/lights at the apartment (again, tired @ night so we don't care). The photos on the website are spot on. Although, the description states that 4 people can be accommodated - I'm not so sure about that one. With two of us, the place is definitely small. Not sure if I would stay here with two other people (even if they were kids).
- We purchased a cellphone from callineurope.com - would highly recommend. They were great to deal with.
- We received a 6-day museum pass as a gift from friends who knew we were coming to Paris.
- We purchased the Navigo Decouverte (brought pictures from home) - not sure if it was 'worth it' financially but very convenient ' since we just hopped on the metro whenever we were too lazy/tired! We're not into 'traditional' souvenirs for ourselves ' but I always keep metro passes, museum passes, etc. as a momento of our travels. So the 'fancy' plastic case and the electronic card can fall into that category!
- I speak conversational French and DH speaks so-so French ' we can muddle our way through fairly well. It's amazing how the skills come right back when you're forced to use the language!
- For reference, we purchased the following items that helped in our trip planning: Fodors Paris 2008, Streetwise Paris map, Clotilde's Edible Adventures in Paris, Eating and Drinking in Paris. I would recommend all of these items ' especially the map - easy to carry, easy to reference, etc.
Okay, here goes '
Day 1 - Tuesday
We arrived in Paris CDG on Tuesday, September 23rd at 9:40 am on an Air Canada flight. We managed to sleep a couple of hours on the plane - not the greatest sleep but better than nothing. Our bags were tagged 'priority' from Toronto and we were out of the airport and into a cab within 30 minutes from landing (amazing)! We hit some annoying traffic snags on the highway ' it took us about 60 mins from CDG to our apartment. Our ride cost 52 euros.
We settled into our apartment and did a quick survey. The apartment was very well stocked - cleaning supplies, laundry detergent, toilet paper, paper towel, etc. Not sure I would cook in here though (we never did) as the kitchen supplies are very limited (i.e. only one knife). Thierry came by about an hour after we arrived -- he showed us how to use the TV, laundry, internet, etc.
We were starving and decided to head out to find some food. We walked behind Notre Dame and over to the Marche Maubert at Place Maubert. There, we picked up baguette sandwiches and some pastries at R. Lohezic right on Bl. St. Germain. We wandered down Bl. St. Germain while eating our sandwiches stopping occasionally to check out the interesting shops etc. We hit the Monoprix at St. Michel and St. Germain but decided to hold off on buying any groceries as we still felt like wandering. So, back down Bl. St. Germain we went. We made it to Odeon where we decided to buy our Navigo Decouverte ' not the most straightforward exercise but we managed. We used our RBC Visa chip card and had no problems with the purchase. Since we had just bought our pass, we decided to hop on the metro over to Sevres Babylone. We got ourselves pretty disoriented when we got out of this metro station (TIP: we brought a key-chain tiny compass with us - totally helpful). It also didn't help that we had wandered right into a protest! Cool but definitely hard to get around the protesters and all the city workers cleaning up the mess. We went to the Mephisto store on Rue des Saint Peres. I was looking for a specific pair of Mephistos that I had seen online. No such luck at this location. I was disappointed with the lack of selection. Not to mention a fairly snotty store person! We wandered around here and then walked up to Bl. St. Germain where we found another Monoprix. Stocked up on some groceries and then caught the metro back to Cite station. Back to the apartment to drop off our purchases and have a bit of a lie-down ' the jet lag was kicking in pretty quickly and we were feeling pretty wiped out. However, by 5 pm, we were absolutely starving! So, back out to find a place for dinner. I really didn't want to get stuck in a tourist trap but hunger and jet lag won out. So we had a quick dinner at Le Quasimodo Notre Dame - café/brasserie. Not the greatest food -- but it was food and we were starving! I had a salad and dinde escaloppe with haricot verts; DH had soup and pave aux boeuf with sautéed potatoes (kinda like french fries). Our meal cost about 35 euros.
After dinner, we were feeling a bit more energetic and it was still light out ' so even though I could've slept right away, we decided to wander over to Ile St. Louis. We walked all the way down Rue St. Louis en L'Ile and then came back along Quai D'Orleans. Of course, we got suckered into ice cream and hot chocolate at Le Flore en L'Ile ' 17 euros later, we were happily full and it was starting to drizzle. So we walked back home and promptly hit the sack! I don't even remember falling asleep.
Day 1 observations: It's cold. I'm tired. And I'm hungry. But, we're in Paris! Yay!! Also, noticed a LOT of tourists -- white running shoes, logo'd t-shirts/sweatshirts, fanny packs, back packs, etc. I hate to say it but the stereotypes came to life!!! To be honest, I was a bit freaked out about being pick pocketed but after seeing all these tourists milling about, I was feeling a little more confident! We had some locals come up and talk to us in French so I'm guessing we 'blend in' ' or at least blend in enough. Finally, yes, it's pricey but nothing outrageous (even with the exchange) ' although, I've traveled throughout Japan so everything is relative!!!
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