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Trip Report Nukesafe in Paris

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I thought I should post at least a brief trip report, both to show my appreciation for all the help you charming Fodorites freely gave in planning our trip, and to pass on some information that may help others. I won't give you a day by day account, just list the things we saw and did, with a few explanatory words where needed.

We left for Paris from Seattle on 30 September, and came back on October 18th. Stayed for two weeks in a studio apartment in the 5th, on Rue Broca, very near the lower end of Rue Mouffetard. Then we went up to Aachen by Thalys to visit for a few days with my son, who lives on a farm just across the border in Belgium.

Things we managed to squeeze into the two short weeks in Paris; in no particular order:

Dancing on the street with the locals at the Sunday Rue Mouffetard market.

Navigo cards. Bought two of these Best investment of trip! Used the hell out of them for buses and Metro.

“Trip Advisor” get together. Met a group of folks that post on the Trip Advisor Forum at Cafe Petit Pont, followed by dinner at La Petit Prince. €16 menu of duck gizzard salad and boeuf bourguignon was really quite good.

Musee d”Orsay – Saw all the things we had seen before, and lots of things we hadn't. Had a lovely lunch in the restaurant - €48.

Passages walk. Really quite interesting. Really quite expensive, though, as DW (Tammy) saw an original Anna Stein necklace in the window of her shop, went in, and talked to the artist and ----------- the rest is sad history.

Rick Steves #69 bus tour (I know, I know, but the bus route really does cover a lot of the city)

Angelina's for hot chocolate and a shared Mont Blanc. They were out of Mont Blanc the last time we were here, and we were curious. Much better than I expected, after all the hype.

Michael Osman tour. A true highlight of our Paris visit. Charming young chap, who knows and loves his adopted city. Tammy is a glass artist, and I had asked Michael to concentrate on artsy stuff. We found little original glass art, but much else of interest.

Jardin des Plantes. Michael Osman had walked us through this, as it was near our apartment, but it seemed so nice we came back and did the slightly shabby zoo, which turned out to be quite worthwhile. They have a French Poitou donkey there; a very rare animal indeed. There were only 44 of these shaggy haired critters in the world in 1977. We also came back on a weekend to watch a traveling science fair they had set up in the gardens in a series of tents. Marvelous stuff for the kids, who could do chemistry and physics experiments, watch audio-visual demonstrations, etc.

Marias for falafel at L'as du Fallafel, only to find it closed for the Jewish holidays. Sob--

Musee Pompidou. Sorry, more impressed by a wonderful puppeteer in the courtyard than the art.

Carnavalet Museum.

Victor Hugo Home.

American Church in Paris. Renewed our wedding vows at the American Church in Paris for our 20th Anniversary. Charming ceremony in the chapel which contains the only Tiffany windows in Europe. (Note: DW insists that this was the best investment of the trip, not the Navigo cards, as previously asserted by this author. I stand corrected.)

Aux Troi Mailletz. (Three Mallets) 56 Rue Galande. I have to explain, as this tiny cellar cabaret was simply wonderful. DW had heard of it, and dragged this reluctant old codger along to the upstairs bar/bistro portion for a drink one evening. There is always a piano going, with a mix of regular and occasional local performers who do numbers. A piano player was doing some wonderfully complex classical pieces, and a young opera singer belted out arias over the rattle of glasses. Place was full of characters. Talked to the manager, who said the place got it's name from the masons who lived here while they were building Notre Dame just over the river. He also said the real show was downstairs in the cellar, and that didn't start until 11:00 (way past my bedtime).

After much arm twisting, I made a 10:30 reservation for just the show, not dinner. By 11:15 I was tired of the three long tables filling the cellar, around which people were jammed amid swirling clouds of smoke, and was thinking of leaving --- when WHAM! The show started! One high energy act followed another, with dancing girls on the middle table, singers, bands, pretty audience members pulled onto the stage and the tables to join in, Tammy and I, along with our French table mates dancing in the impossibly narrow space between tables, good humor, laughter, and --- just good FUN! Seldom have I enjoyed an evening so much. One of the singers, Pascal Horn, had one of the most incredible voices I have ever enjoyed.

The show went on until 05:00 I was told, but I pooped out at 4:00 am and we were back in the apartment by 4:30.

Cost of the show was €25 per person. Drinks were extra, but they didn't push them. If you have dinner, the wine costs about half price, so next time we will eat first.

Isle Saint-Louis. Loved that central street. Not too many tourists in October, and Tammy had a good time window shopping. (She plans to come back later, alone, to shop – sigh ---) Berthillon ice cream, of course.

Promenade des Plantes. Started at the Bastille end of the promenade and walked along about half of it. A wonderful thing to do with an old railroad line. Artistically planted, with well placed benches. We sat on one, and I emulated what the French were doing – put my head in Tammy's lap, closed my eyes and relaxed for a few moments. Very nice. Later, came down to street level and walked back to Bastille, exploring the trendy shops built into the arches of the Promenade.

Nuit Blanche. I had trouble getting clear information on this all-night Parisian street party on the Internet before we got to France; didn't get a detailed program until we went on the street that Saturday evening. That program showed where each of the venues were located, mostly along the new all automatic Metro ligne 14. We tried to hit as many as we could at each Metro stop, but our unfamiliarity with the city, and the distance some were from the stations, made us head to the center.

As we walked along, we noticed really big crowds in front of every cafe, and bistro that had a television visible from the street, watching the Rugby game between France and New Zealand. The French were behind 0 – 13. We stopped for a bit to eat at a bistro near the Gare de Lyon, and the waiter was really upset that he could not watch the match. His cellphone kept ringing every time someone scored. He was a bit glum.

At around 11:00, we were near the Hotel de Ville, where the game was being viewed by an enormous crowd on a huge screen, when a enormous roar went up. The Blues had come from behind to beat the Blacks 20 to 18! I have never seen anything in my life like what followed. The town simply went nuts! I have never seen so many happy, joyous, jubilant, wild, and drunken people in my life. The stopped traffic, they jumped on cars, they hugged, the reeled about, they vomited in the gutter --- well, you get the idea.

We did not feel threatened in the least, but were a bit intimidated by the jostling, so we wended our way across the Isle de la Cite, via the Petit Pont; thinking to catch a bus home. Traffic was at a standstill, so we popped into Aux Troi Mailletz for a drink while the traffic cleared enough for the night buses to come along. We had a great time, listening to the upstairs entertainment. There was a night bus scheduled at six minutes after the hour. I popped out at six minutes past 12, and the cars were not moving. Same at one o'clock. At 2 o'clock we decided to just wait at the bus stop. We waited, and waited, and waited. The street party was still going on, and we saw no buses of any kind. Finally, we had a stroke of luck and found a cab that was empty, jumped in, and he had us home by 3:00 am. Lovely, lovely man!

Jardin Luxembourg. This is a lovely, lovely, park in the 5th that is a delightful place to spend part of a warm Sunday in Paris after a Nuit Blanche. We dragged ourselves out of bed and took the #27 bus to a nearby Bistro for something to eat, and then wandered through the trees to watch French families entertain their children. Sat in metal chairs, watching kids and adults sail boats on the pond. We checked out the different styles of children's playground equipment; most of which OSHA would condemn as unsafe, I'm sure. One thing tickled us; the park attendants had been busy raking the falling leaves into huge piles. Instead of picking them up quickly, they left them for fathers and sons to play in. It was wonderful to see sober-sided French Dads leaping into the leaf piles and rolling around with their kids. After resting there for awhile, we took the bus back to the apartment to rest some more, then over to:

Rue Mouffetard, where we cruised the market stalls, grazing on several varieties of lovely grapes. We grabbed a crepe at a stall, and sat in the church park by Place Medard to eat them. The accordion player was making music, and people were handing out song sheets. We sang along as best we were able, and then put our bags down at the base of one of the microphones, and joined in with the folks waltzing to the music. From there, we caught the bus, transferring to the #75 bus, that took us to the:

Parc Buttes Chaumont. Another lovely Parisian development, this park had been an old quarry that has been converted to a hilly, and verdant oasis. Hundreds and hundreds of families were lounging on the grassy hillsides, paddling boats on the lake, watching the artificial waterfall in its' fake grotto, and thoroughly enjoying a warm October afternoon. Well worth the longish bus ride.

Bon Marche. Went to this upscale department store, mainly to check out the prices of the chic hats that Tammy had seen during her walk on the Rue Saint-Louis. Real shocker (for me) when she modeled a little black number with a crest of black felt feathers (?) that went for a mere €900. We got out of there rather quickly.

Bon Marche Food Court. Now this is more my speed! Incredible selection of edibles, displayed in the most imaginatively seductive ways. We satisfied ourselves by getting the deli section to make us lovely baguette sandwiches, which we took to a nearby park playground to munch while we watched French kids on the swings.

Arc de Triomphe. We had gone on an earlier, weekend day, only to find a ceremony honoring veterans going on, and huge lines. This time, there were no lines to get tickets, and no problem in using the elevator, rather than the stairs. We walked the few steps from the gift shop to the top, and enjoyed the craziness of the traffic in the circle down below. Back in the gift shop, there was no obvious way to call the elevator, so we walked down the helical stairway to the ground. Wow! It is a loong way down. I am so glad we took the elevator up. My ancient legs and lungs would not have made the assent.

Ferris Wheel. There is, at present, a HUGE Ferris Wheel, located at the Place de la Concorde. We took a ride, and corny as it sounds, it was a delight. Lovely views from the top.

Dans Le Noir. Nothing would have it but we partake of this ditzy restaurant, where one is served in total darkness by blind waiters. One is not allowed to bring in anything that can make light. One puts those things, along with coats, in a locker in the foyer. One of our table companions had forgotten to take off his luminous watch, and it showed up like a beacon before he was asked to put it in his pocket.

I had heard that one's senses are altered by the experience. One chap said that he had the best steak of his life --- that turned out to be salmon. I had the “Surprise” menu, and was able to determine, correctly, that my main dish was beef. I had no idea what else I was eating, and was surprised, indeed, when shown a picture of my plate after we came out, to see that the crunchy sliced vegetable I thought might be turnip, was Granny Smith apple. With a drink beforehand, and a glass of wine with dinner (I have no idea what color) it came to € 88.

BTW, it was quite a tasty meal – even though I quickly gave up on trying to neatly cut my food – I must have had gravy up to my wrists.

Versailles. Neither of us had been, so I got Forfait Loisirs at an RER station the day before, and left early so as to arrive before 09:00. Worked perfectly. We walked right in before the tour buses arrived, and had the place essentially to ourselves. When we explored the hall of mirrors, for example, there could not have been over twenty other people in there with us. I have a bit of trouble with walking long distances, so we took that little Toonerville Trolly that creeps out to the Trianon, but strolled between that, the Petit Trianon, and Marie's farm. The day was warm, and the leaves were falling – simply a lovely day.

Only one jarring note; just outside the Palace at Versailles, a huge skeleton statue, called “Calamita Cosmica”, by and Italian named Gino Dominicis, had been installed, lying alongside one of the pools. The thing was almost 80 feet long, and had a huge beaked nose on the skull. Completely incongruous and ugly!

American Hospital in Paris. I have lung problems, got a lung infection, and Tammy came down with what could have been strep throat, so we took the #82 bus out to Neuilly-sur-Seine. Very pleasant experience. Nice bus ride that dropped us at the door, we were seen almost immediately by a charming older bi-lingual French doctor (right out of central casting), who prescribed the antibiotics that had us on the road back to full enjoyment of our vacation.

Musee des Arts et Metiers. Something I had always wanted to see, being a science junkie. Tammy was still not feeling herself, so she toured as far as Lavoisier's laboratory (she having been a chemistry teacher), and I continued on while she read in the very pleasant research library. I could have stayed all day in that fascinating place.

Musee de la l'Armee and Napoleon's Tomb: I had missed the Musee on earlier trips, and I spent most of the day touring this, while Tammy went off shopping on her own. (Terrifying thought!) Much of the museum is closed for renovation, but the older section with ancient armor, swords, etc., were worth while. The exhibits are poorly lighted and indifferently explained. Most cases have a long explanation in French, with a brief translation in other languages. For example, there will be several paragraphs telling about a sword. The foreign translation will be the single word, “Sword” in four languages. I know it is a sword, dummy!

There was also a section on the first world war, with case after case of soldiers wearing typical uniforms of the French allies. I looked, but there were no Americans represented. Guess we weren't in that one?

The entry ticket also gave access to Napoleon's Tomb, which I had seen before, but since an audio guide was included, I took the tour again. The audio guide, unfortunately does not operate in the Army Museum.

Deyrolle. Stopped in this incredible taxidermy/naturalist shop on Rue du Bac. For a naturalist, this is heaven.

Au Lapin Agile. Tammy had been in a local production of Steve Martin's play, “Picasso at the Lapin Agile” a few years back, and she wanted to attend the Cabaret that they still have at that ancient inn in Montmartre. We had tried last time we were to Paris, but conflicting schedules prevented our going.
We made reservations, took the bus to Place Pigalle, and the #12 Montmartre Bus up the hill for our 9:00 reservation. That was an experience in itself, as the bus was jammed full of performers in costume who were headed up to the various clubs to do their shows. All were in a jolly mood, with lots of high spirited pre-show banter going on. The cabaret was just OK. It is mostly a jam-packed room, with a table at which the cast sits. They sit, as patrons must have done in Picasso's day, and begin singing. That leads to them individually performing, and leading the audience in a French sing-along. Great fun if you are French, or know the old songs. The only one we could join in on was Allouette, gentille alouette. Cost was €24 per person. That included one drink, which was a “house special”, which was awful. We would not go again.

Musee Marmottan. Wow! Well worth the longish bus ride out to this fabulous Monet collection. Simply stunningly well presented exhibit of his work. Made me realize for the first time what he was doing with his obsession with those dumb water lilies in muddy ponds. A true revelation to me. (Not the world's most artistically sensitive individual, if you listen to DW).

Thalys. We popped up to Aachen on the Thalys train to visit with my son in Belgium for a few days. What a wonderful train system Europe has. Smooth, fast, comfortable, and reliable. Amtrac, are you listening?

Walking. I took a pedometer this time, just for the heck of it. We took buses and the Metro everywhere, but still walked between five and nine miles each day, except for one day we were a bit ill, and only did four miles. Boy, are our legs fit!

We also found that we both lost weight, despite all of the wonderful food we managed to pack in.

Great trip!

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