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Trip Report Paris and Rouen 2015

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I'll be posting a trip report of our most recent trip. DW and I recently returned from our third trip to Paris, with a short day trip to Rouen from March 27- April 5. As it was the first trip we took just a a couple, we decided to handle it a little differently that our previous trips which included our two sons the first trip and our niece and nephew the second trip. With just two travelers, our airfare budget allowed us to fly business class. Wow, what a difference. We both were actually able to sleep for several hours on the flight over.

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    Arrival day one.

    Although we were delayed out of DFW with a mechanical issue, the pilot was able to make up the 45 minutes in flight and we arrived early on the 27th. Although we packed carryons only, the check-in requested as many carryons as possible be checked for free. While it didn't impact us with business tics, they asked us at boarding if we would check, so we agreed. Luckily, there were no issues with retrieving our luggage at CDG, and we were walking towards the RER station when we both just decided to go ahead and pay the extra for the taxi. The cost for two, plus four carryon size bags from the airport to our apartment at the intersection of the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Arrondissements on a busy friday morning was 61 euro.

    We met our apartment greeter as planned at 10:30 am so that we could drop off our luggage. Apparently, the apartment was vacated the day before, so we were not only able to drop our luggage, we were given keys and full access immediately! We stayed at this apartment: http://cobblestoneparis.com/La-Charme-Du-Marais.html based upon both reviews and the photos, this was my wife's first choice. I can truly say the photos are excellent representations of the apartment. The only "misleading" aspect was that the living room is MUCH roomier than the photos show. It was huge.

    We spent about an hour or so unpacking and inventorying what we'd need from the store and relaxing. DW was a little droopy and indicated she wanted to take a short nap, so I headed out to tour the neighborhood and get my bearings a bit. (and to fight jet lag) After I returned, DW and I went out for a late lunch at Presto Fresco off rue Montmartre in the Montorgueil District. We've eaten here each time we've been to Paris so it is kind of "our" place! We had a large Antipasti plate for 2-3 people as our entire meal. It was excellent as usual. No wine or drinks at this meal, just water and a soda for a total tab of 34 euro. We left full, excited and tired. A slight drizzle sprang up so we cut short our little walk and headed back to the apartment.

    Since I convinced DW to try carryon only, I did get assigned the task of ironing our clothes upon arrival, so I took some time back at the apartment to start that task and be ready for the rest of the weekend.

    Next: Our first trip through the swamp. (Marais anyway)

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    Sounds good so far but I am very surprised that they would ask you to check carry-on luggage since that makes it checked luggage and not carry-on at all. However, since most airlines say "one carry-on per person" and not two, that explains it all.

    Did you pay for water? You shouldn't have.

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    I learned to travel with carry-on only, even for a 3-week trip, but that's because I was an airline employee flying standby. You never want to be separated from your luggage when you are on standby!

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    Kerouac: The water was free. The soda was 4.50. The antipasti plate was massive, and 29.00.

    As for carry-ons, we both had the roller carry-on bags, and we each had a slightly smaller "personal item" which was a backpack. I carried the laptop and all the electronic stuff. Wife's included two full sets of clothes for each of us in case something happened. They were pretty assertive in Dallas about checking, for free, all the carryons they could. Since we were in Business, it didn't seem necessary to me given the amount of room, but I've never had a problem with the last minute checking of carry-on bags in the past.

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    The Marais Walk.

    Saturday the 28th was our first full day in Paris. We both got a good night's rest in the apartment. We woke to an overcast looking day and slight sprinkling, so since we were going to be outside, walking most of the day, we decided we'd start a little later to see if the sprinkling would stop.

    I got ready and headed over to Montorgueil first thing to pick up fresh pastry and a large Cafe American from the Starbucks for DW. We hadn't tried the coffee, or coffee maker yet, so I wanted her first cup to be familiar to her for the beginning of our trip. We later used the apartment coffee maker almost exclusively. Once we had eaten breakfast and packed up one of the back packs with the camera, some bottled water and fruit, we headed out for a trek into the Marais.

    We started with a trip to the Pompidou Center, which was only two blocks away. We'd been extremely close to it in the past trips, but never actually saw the building, so we spent some significant time looking at all the outside attractions. In the area near the fountains (which were not yet open) there were several sidewalk chalk artists trying to ply their trade, but the rain had placed a halt to their work. It luckily hadn't been enough rain to actually wash away their morning work, but it certainly dampened their spirits. After taking numerous photos, we decided we'd not go in or go up at this time, but would think about doing it on a different day since it was so close to the apartment, and the rain had stopped.

    After Pompidou, we headed south towards the Hotel de Ville area. The thought was to visit the area out front with the carousel and get some architectural photos. The large number of pedestrians with bright orange bags, however, intrigued DW. (DW doesn't speak or read much French, so I act as translator) Once I explained that the bright orange bags with BHV on them were for the Bazaar Hotel de Ville, and what it was, our first day of shopping moved to Saturday morning.

    It was our first time here as well, so we spent a leisurely couple of hours walking past every stinking thing they sold, except the basement, which had the hardware -guy stuff. We did make excellent progress in our plans to bring back small gifts for all our family and friends! Luckily for me, DW didn't find anything extremely heavy to purchase, as I was wearing the backpack! My delight of the trip through BHV was a glaring translation error. The sign read CUISSON, with the translation being Coocking department. The misspelling was theirs - and I always looked at Cuisson as more baking than just coocking, but I'm certainly no expert, except that I do know how to spell cooking. When I first read it, my mind immediately went to the voice of Julia Childs saying the Coocking Department!

    We left the BHV and headed towards the heart of the Marais. Our trek took us towards the Carnavalet. On the way, we walked upon two Gendarmes who were armed with Uzi's, which was a bit shocking to my wife. Once I pointed out that we were across the street from a synagogue - Agoudas Hakehilos - she then understood! We'd discussed what we might see following Charlie Hebdo, and weren't surprised anymore.

    We continued our tour, stopping at the Carnavalet for a few minutes. Once again, since the rain had stopped, we decided to not go in, but stay outside in the courtyard area for a few photos instead. The weather forecast most of the time we were there was for some rain, so we discussed saving any actual museum entrance fees for the days when just being outside wasn't feasible due to the rain. We headed easterly towards the Place des Vosges along rue Francs Bourgeois, stopping at several independent shops along the way. We ended up with some additional chocolate, and DW did pick up some skin care products. The skin care products were noticeably heavier than anything so far!

    We reached the Place des Vosges, and decided to just take a break in Square Louis XIII, sit on a bench, eat a pear and drink some water. This little break turned into about 45 minutes. It was nice to refresh the batteries, as we were going to head over to the Bastille area to see the Opera House. We were planning to try to see Swan Lake on Monday evening and I wanted to see the place, and get my bearings as I anticipated that I would be heading over there Monday to wait in the return ticket line. Neither of us were aware how big the circle area was, so DW decided to take a break on a bench while I walked around the circle and got my bearings and figured out where the lines were to begin on Monday! Once I got my bearings, I went and found DW, so we could head north to a shop she was dying to see - Merci, on Blvd Beaumarchais.

    Our walk north included stopping at a pet store for a new collar and lead for our dog. About half way to Merci, the rain returned. We looked for a metro stop, but DW asked to just get out the umbrellas and walk in the rain, as her knees were barking a bit and stairs didn't sound appealing to her (Bilateral knee replacement 16 months earlier) and walking on somewhat flat ground in the rain was more appealing than the stairs.

    I felt as though we were on a forced march in the rain, and I regularly had to stop and try to figure out which tiny little street we were on and making sure we were headed towards the apartment. We arrived back at the apartment very late in the afternoon/early evening and DW took a nap, while I began reading a book on the french revolution that happened to be in the apartment. When DW woke, we decided to just go on a walk to find a restaurant that sounded appealing. After a circuitous route found nothing we were interested in, we started heading back towards the apartment. We stumbled upon a small place called Le Grand Cerf at the end of the block. We were both tired, and hungry, so we got a table, luckily.

    We were pleasantly surprised. I had a Cassoulet, and DW had moules frites. We were both pleased with our meals, and she enjoyed both the wine she had, as well as the espresso she had with her dessert - creme brulee. We couldn't find the receipt for this meal, but as I recall, the total was around 50 euro, with the wine. The evening ended with both of us falling asleep shortly after hitting the sheets.

    Next - a walk to the Seine and up to the Palais Royal

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    I was interested in that apartment, did you use the combo washer/dryer ? Did it work well? How did you find dealing with cobblestone ? The shower looks small too, is it ?

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    I was interested in that apartment, did you use the combo washer/dryer ? Did it work well? How did you find dealing with cobblestone ? The shower looks small too, is it ?

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    Oh wow, we arrived in Paris the same day. that first week was pretty cold and miserable with the rain. Our second week was amazing.

    Yes, I saw those police/soldiers in the Marais with the guns. It was a little startling but they were friendly.

    Can't wait to hear more. I'm too lazy right now to do a report.

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    denmal: I'm not sure what exactly happened on my first load with the combo machine, other than I washed whites first. After the wash, I put it on for drying. After a short time, I opened it to pull out some of the non-cotton whites and there were grey stains all over the undergarments. Thereafter, I did not chance the dryer function at all. I did use the washer function numerous times thereafter, including rewashing the whites, and most of the staining came out of everything except some cotton shirts, which still had slightly visible discoloration. As it was undergarments, and mostly mine and not DW's, it wasn't a big issue for us.

    I notified the hosts that the information book needed updating, as the washer in the apartment was a new one, and they still had the old instructions, which I suspect will be remedied quickly.

    Dealing with Cobblestone was excellent, no problems at all and very helpful. We arrived with a cable problem that neither I nor our greeter could figure out. They sent someone around while we were out the next morning to fix the cable. We never had a problem with the wifi or phone (VOIP), just the cable and it was fixed in less than 24 hours.

    As for the shower, it was a little small, or maybe just awkward at first, but once you got used to it, it was fine. I'm not a small person by any means (6' - 220lbs) and it was fine for me, but I was used to a very large shower at home.

    I knew the location before renting, so I was a little concerned about street noise. With the windows closed, it was not a problem at all. You could hear sirens, but they were not loud enough to be disruptive. With the windows open for a cross breeze, you definitely heard the vehicle noise, but there were restaurant/bars on two of the other corners and I did not hear voices unless I was actually sitting on the terrace.

    I'd rate the apartment experience overall, even with the dryer issue and the cable issue a 9 out of a 10.

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    WOW - Thank you for the feedback on the apartment. I might rent that one in the future , I was worried about the shower as my husband is 225 and was afraid he would not fit well. I love the Maris and actually enjoy the street noise sometimes. Looking forward to the remainder of your report

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    Enjoying your report while beginning to think about details for our next trip. The apartment looks very nice.

    Once, when confronted with a washer/dryer with no instructions, I Googled the brand, model number, and user manual. Maybe I got lucky, but I was able to find the instructions, in English, to enable me to use the machine. We have had several apartments in France with these machines and only one really worked well. Most took a very long time to do a small load and made a lot of noise from time to time during the process. I was reluctant to use them at night because of the noise.

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    Thanks for posting - I am avidly following along. I have more than once used google to find a user manual for appliances in other people's kitchens - the first being a reluctant coffee machine in Prague.
    If you can, please tell us about getting tickets for Swan Lake.

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    Small issue over the weekend has delayed the next part of this report and work is getting very busy, even on my lunch break. I apologize for the delay, but I will do a new post by this evening, I hope.

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    Sunday March 29th, a Walk to the Seine, and up to Palais Royal

    As was the case nearly every day on this trip, we awoke to a slight drizzle. As with each morning, it commenced with me taking a short trip out to get fresh pastry and "something" else for breakfast. Day to day if varied. When I returned from my foraging, the drizzle had increased slightly into a rain. That slowed our progress in getting outside, as neither of us were really interested in walking in this stuff! While we waited for a slight break in the weather, we had breakfast, and I decided to wash a load of whites in the washing machine. As with most combo's, you complete the wash, then you reset the machine to dry. Once the wash cycle was complete (short cycle took 45 minutes) I opened the machine and removed some of DW's non-cotton clothes to hang immediately. The remainder of the wash "appeared" to by solely my cotton underclothes, so I wanted to hit a short bit of drying before hanging. apparently, there was some error I made, or something was wrong with the drying function, but after an additional 45 minutes in the dryer (the shortest setting was 3 hours) I opened the dryer to pull and hang the clothes as the rain had stopped. To my dismay, there were large grey stains on all of the clothes, as though some liquid was poured in while the drying cycle ran! I immediately checked the information booklet supplied with the apartment, but alas, the directions were for an older model machine, and it was not helpful. With the weather clearing up, and only my clothes (except one piece of overlooked fancy stuff of DW) stained, we decided to hang them up, and head out to take a walk to the Pont des Arts to see the locks!

    The weather appeared as though it would hold off raining, so this walk was determined to be kept close to the apartment in case of rain. We headed out south towards the Seine from the apartment. We came out at Pont au Change and walked along the Seine towards Pont des Arts. DW had her camera out snapping architectural photos, people photos, the entire walk, and I used my 6+ as well. Tons of interesting pictures to go through, but that'll likely be a couple of month ordeal in sorting those out!

    I really wanted to see the bridge as I had heard of all of the damage that had occurred due to the weight of the locks, and the city had apparently began discussing banning the placing of the locks. Since our last trip in 2011, we also wondered how much difference the additional locks would appear. Apparently, literally tons of difference! There were several panels removed, but oddly, we did not see a single sign specifically prohibiting locks. Since no lock was going to be placed by us, we took a 'selfie' of our kiss on the bridge. The romance is lost when you have to take several shots to get both, (or any of our faces) in the pictures. After the bridge, we headed north along the Cour Carree and the Louvre courtyard towards the Palais Royal.

    We'd been by the Palais Royal on numerous previous trips, but we'd never went into the park area inside. For the end of March, I was pretty surprised at the amount of blooms. The magnolias were already blooming bright pink, and nearly all the ground cover were in bloom. The lindens were just sprouting buds, so they didn't look very attractive yet, but the color was amazing on the rest. While the blooms were great, the pigeons were another matter. They were out if force, and were pretty aggressive. The family next to us had a young girl who took it upon herself to keep the pigeons moving pretty regularly. I say aggressive, as one actually hit my hat while coming in for a landing from my rear. It didn't knock off my hat, but spun it on my head, prompting much laughter from DW who only saw my startled gyrations. Oh it was soooo funny. Not.

    We left the Palais Royal and headed towards Le Grand Colbert to see if we might be interested in a late lunch there. We love the Something's Gotta Give movie, so we thought we'd at least take a look. While walking over, I checked the reviews on Trip Advisor. I can say from our limited experience, the reviews had it right. Of all of the places we've ever eaten in France, the guy that "greeted" us was the biggest asshat I've ever run across. Ever. We didn't even bother saying au revoir, we just left immediately upon completion of our "exchange". I wouldn't recommend it for anything other than a photograph out front. Sometimes TA reviews are good, sometimes overly harsh. Since we didn't eat, I won't review it myself, but I must say that the harshest reviews on TA didn't meet my feeling walking away.

    We left that place and came upon the entrance to Galerie Vivienne, which was mostly closed. We walked in hoping to find a restaurant we might find interesting and available on a sunday afternoon. A priori The was full, so we decided to try elsewhere.

    At this point, neither DW or I were in a mood to really eat out. Since we had to walk through Montorgueil to get back to the apartment, we picked up a cheese tray from a fromagerie there, along with two Jambon et fromages on baguettes from a charcuterie, as well as several small desserts from Stohrer's. We also picked up some coca-cola, as we hadn't had any yet, and I wanted something I regularly had at home. We still kept several fresh fruits at the apartment, so we had a small smorgasbord laid out at the apartment.

    We had a bite to eat, and we separated to read/watch tv/post on social media to our family and otherwise just relax. We left the smorgasbord out to graze on the rest of the evening instead of sitting down to a proper meal. I was glad we just "vegged" as the kids say. We did take a short walk after dark, without a backpack, camera, phone or any other distractions. Just DW and I walking. It was a fitting end to the evening.

    Next - Le Lac Des Cygnes @ Bastille Opera

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    Le Lac Des Cygnes

    This title is pretty much as descriptive as it could be. Monday March 30th was a one-track day. A prelude is necessary. In January, DW identified a Ballet would be nice to see on our trip. Our research indicated that the only viable option was Swan Lake at the Bastille. We had a couple of days to choose from, including our first Friday and Monday. I looked online for tickets then, but the options were somewhat limited, with the cheapest seats I could find were at 90 euro each. Being that it would be our first professional Ballet, I was too tight fisted to make an internet purchase for 180 euro, plus the fees at that point. After about a week, I rethought it and decided to see what I could purchase, because I really wanted to make this happen for DW. Alas, I'd really screwed up, because by the next week, every day we were in Paris was sold out, and extending our trip wouldn't work either.

    With that prelude, our day was designed around getting in line and hoping for some return tickets. Our pass by earlier was when I checked with the box office about the chance of getting returns. She recommended I get in line early on Monday, before they opened at 2, with the thought that the earlier in line, the more likely two tickets would be available. So when we woke with slight drizzle and the coolest temperatures of the trip, I wasn't interested in doing anything in the morning of any substance, and neither was DW. We ended up flitting around the apartment for the morning, with the intent of going out for an early lunch, then getting in line around 1:30.

    We ended up doing just that. I offered to go wait in line and get the tickets myself, and then call DW at the apartment when I got them, or if I got them early, just come back to the apartment. She didn't want to stay at the apartment, or just walk around and wait without me around, so we both went to lunch, had a smallish lunch, and then metro to the Bastille. We arrived at 1:40, and were second in line. When the doors opened at 2:00, we were hopeful that there were some early returns. There weren't.

    Once inside and no tickets were returned, you get into another line. Second again. DW decided to sit in a real chair along the outer wall of the building to warm up in the sun while I stood in this line. Four hours of standing in line. DW was patiently reading the entire time, and I spoke with the folks in line. Interesting how small worlds can run into each other. The young kid first in line was in Paris on business from Poitiers. He recognized the photo I showed him of a foreign exchange student at my high school who hailed from Poitiers. Odd that 35 years after school I remembered her hometown was Poitiers, but knew that Facebook friends of mine would friend her as she lived with the family her senior year in the US. He recognized her immediately upon me showing the picture, but said that Poitiers was getting busier as a city and he couldn't remember where he recognized her.

    The gentleman to my rear was from Germany, a man all about the world. When I told him where I was from in the US, he indicated that he'd been to my town when he was in grad school at Washington University in St. Louis. I used to live in St. Louis so we had many common memories of that city. Also, he spoke excellent english, so our conversations were more in depth than any of my attempts at conversation in french with the young kid. It was actually a pretty interesting wait in line, as far as line waiting conversations go.

    When the box office officially opened to begin selling return tickets, they came out and started sending us up to the counter, with the young kid and myself going to separate windows simultaneously. Luckily, there were tickets in nearly every price range and location available. I selected two Parterre seats that were on an aisle, and very close to the door for 35 euro a piece. Upon collecting the tickets, I collected DW from her chair and we immediately went across the street for a quick sandwich again before the show at 7:30.

    We actually had a rather nice, but very quick dinner, then headed over to the Bastille Opera for the show. DW was so excited, I was pleased we were able to go, and the seats turned out perfect. DW told me the show was absolutely wonderful. I was pleased that I did not go completely asleep the entire time. Close. Several times. DW has a knack of getting the crowd to always begin clapping when she sees that I'm almost asleep at musicals, shows and the like. I don't know how she does it, but it even worked in Paris.

    Overall, even I enjoyed the show, and near the end, I'd caught my second wind and was able to actually watch the performers. By the time the curtain calls were going on, I was absolutely wide awake and actually took some video on my phone.

    The evening ended with a metro ride back to the apartment, and a stop at a creperie just outside the Etienne Marcel stop for a quick snack. It turned out that DW's sweet tooth doesn't like sweet crepes. I thought maybe it was just the crepes. Wrong. She loved my savory jambon et fromage crepe. The sugar laden crepe became mine. Oh well.

    Next, Shopping Day II - Les Grand Boulevards, with an Alsatian Flammekueche for Dinner!

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    sorry, had a little work hiccup that has me backed up significantly. Haven't touched the photos yet, and that is usually how I can backtrack the entire day with any detail. I should be through the knothole here at work and will finish, I promise. I looked at my TR from 2011 and I see that the wheels came off that enterprise as well. I may try to pull those pictures out and wrap that one up too, 4 years later, but hey!

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    Sorry for the long delay, its been swamped here at work. Good thing the economy is still in the doldrums or I don't know where I'd be ;) I've got a few minutes to cover at least March 31st, a regular Tuesday in the City of Lights!

    Shopping Day II - Les Grand Boulevards and Alsatian FlammeKueche

    This was our kind of pre-planned day to try a day-trip to Rouen, through Giverny and Monet's gardens. We were fully used to rain in Paris, but I was surprised to find that both Rouen and Giverny were supposed to get rains as well. As such, we changed our itinerary on the fly and decided shopping would rule the day.

    This all happened well before DW awoke, as I woke first (usual) and decided to see what the weather was going to be like based upon the 5:00 am news. After that bit of information was digested, I showered and headed out for breakfast additions to our growing stock in the fridge, and to pick up coffee and espresso. When I returned, DW was already in the shower, so I prepared a small breakfast and prepared to give her the news of the needed itinerary change.

    Not to my surprise, she loved the change from a day-trip to Shopping. We were used to, and well prepared for the Paris rain, so we headed off to the Grand boulevards for shopping. My google search revealed a C & A store was up there, and the Printemps and Galerie Lafayette stores are nearby. We headed out by metro to Chaussée d'Antin - La Fayette and planned on heading west along Hausmann.

    For me, all of the stores pretty much look the same, with the same stuff inside. The first hour or so was a blur for me. The pictures don't even clear things up looking now. I suspect I spent most of my time on the internet with my Iphone. (Getting the data package through Verizon was my choice instead of buying a new sim card) The first store I personally remember was a McDonalds, as I needed to use the WC. I remember it not because of the WC, but because the standard counter had been replaced with a kiosk screen. I didn't bother trying to figure it out, as the WC was calling my name. Loudly I might add.

    It is amazing what you do and forget when the impending doom of the need for a WC hits you. I had a pocket full of change, so I wasn't concerned about getting in, but how that would occur was the shocker. As we were in McDonalds, it had the requisite ultra greasy tiles on the floor in the second story of the place (okay, grease on the second floor tiles, inside a special little vestibule only for restrooms was a little out of the ordinary, even for McD's) but what I wasn't prepared for was HOW slippery they were. I checked the occupied sign above the handle, and only one was green, so I put my coins in, and turned the handle and pushed. No budging on the door, but my feet were working like a cartoon character without the sound effects. It had a little wiggle to the door, but I just couldn't push it hard enough. Instead of getting out of line, I decided to wait for an employee to walk by in hopes of getting assistance. All the while, I kept jimmying and pushing and twisting on the door, as the need for the WC was becoming urgent.

    At just the time a young lady employee walked into the vestibule with her cleaning equipment, the door I'd been working on opening, and that was now directly behind me, whooshed open and a young (late teens early twenties) lady came sauntering out with a slightly embarrassed and flushed face. I profusely apologized while switching places with her. I tried to tell her that the sign showed "vert" but I'm pretty sure my frustration and urgency had affected my language translation area in my brain, as her reaction was that I was Charlie Brown's teacher. (Waap Waaap wap wap). After entering, and making sure the lock was turned fully, and trying to figure out how the young lady in the restroom was able to hold back my 200+ pound frame pushing on the other side of the door, I was able to finish and rejoin my now bewildered wife outside.

    After explaining my troubles, my wife simply explained that it is unimportant, as shopping was being delayed Still!! We continued west, in search of the perfect pair of shoes and the perfect clothes. Apparently the Dutch and British stores located in Paris have those perfect items that our local versions don't carry. Apparently "chain" stores are NOT filled with the same stuff from store to store. DW nearly pulled off a purchase of the perfect shoes, but alas, they apparently were only semi-perfect so no shoes today! We did stumble upon Lovely Paris, a souvenir shop rated on Trip Advisor very highly. WTF? It was identical to every single souvenir shop I've ever seen in any city, but apparently this one was impressive to someone who took the time to provide a review on TA. We bought a bunch of kitsch for souvenir gifts here. A bunch.

    We later came upon passage Jouffroy at the perfect time, as a massive downpour hit, so we went inside for a respite from the rain. DW immediately saw la Cure Gourmand, and asked if it was the cookie and candies shop she wanted to see. We next spent 1/2 hour or more here, with suckers, cookies, "olives" and a whole host of stuff for gifts were acquired. When we'd finished, we departed and the rain was still coming down, so we decided to cross the street and get some ice cream and something to drink at a little place on the other side. It was meh, at best.

    We ended up heading south towards the Opera Garnier since we were so close and we'd never actually seen it on any previous trip. Also the trip to the Bastille Opera intrigued us both to at least take a look at it. We got there about 10 minutes before it closed, so we decided to leave it for another day or time. We did continue on our walk south towards a tour shop that had the night time bus tours of the city in a double decker thinking we would get a ticket, go get dinner and come back for a night tour of the city. Upon arrival, we found that they were booked solid for the night so we purchased tickets for the next evening.

    We then headed back to the apartment for a rest, and planned on finding a restaurant to walk to from there. While resting, our goal was a place CLOSE! I checked TA for advice using its' map function and GPS. It came up with numerous places, but we agreed on trying Alsatian food at l'Alsacien, which had several very good reviews. DW and I were not disappointed. We loved the food, the staff were very helpful, and provided excellent service the entire time. We chose Flammekueche, which is described as an Alsatian pizza. It is similar to pizza in that it is round. And flat. And has toppings. From there the similarities end. The crust is more bread like than pizza crust, but not St. Louis Style Cracker crust. The 'sauce' was creme fraiche. Ours was topped with Jambon and Emmentaler Cheese. Wow. Tart, but smooth very good flavors that worked well together. (Oh and we started with a salad recommended by the owner, which was a perfect start) We also asked his recommendation for wine, and he recommended an Alsacian wine that he brings in to Paris himself as his friends own the house. DW likes sweet wines, so his recommendation was for a Gewurztraminer from Koehly. DW loved it so much she ordered the bottle instead of a glass. I then felt obligated to drink some of the wine, as one bottle and I would have carried her home. We decided to wait on desert until after we walked closer to the apartment and then decide if we actually wanted desert.

    We ended up at Le Grand Cerf around the corner from the apartment and, for the very first time, decided to sit on the sidewalk area for drinks and desert. She ordered a flan - type desert with raspberries. I say flan type because that is what it looks like in the pictures. Mine is some kind of tart, with whipped creme. It's not that it was bad, or that it was spectacular, it's more that I'm not a desert guy, and my pictures aren't too clear. We then retired to the apartment, preparing for a long day tomorrow!

    Next - Day Trip Rouen, Giverny and a Paris bus tour

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    Day Trip Rouen, Giverny and a Paris bus tour

    Wednesday, April 1st became the new day for our day trip out of Paris. The original plan was to get up early, head to St. Lazare and purchase tickets (unreserved) for the train to Rouen. This method gave us the opportunity to get off at Vernon, travel to Giverny, see Monet's Garden, and then head to Rouen, another Monet favorite. DW is interested in the Joan of Arc story, so we also had plans to see most of the Joan of Arc sites in Rouen. That was the plan anyway.

    The plan went awry early. As in getting up early. We didn't. Overcast and raining weather and the failure to set an alarm made sleeping in not only pleasurable, but inevitable. With this late start, we agreed that our plans would have to be even more flexible. Our late start meant that the earliest train would be leaving around 10:40 am. We'd planned on the train just before 8:00 am, so we were two hours behind right off the bat. But a short metro up to Lazare and we were on the Grand Lignes Platform in short order. DW took a seat at the right gate while I went in to purchase our tickets. There was a much longer line than I expected, but in 10 minutes I had two round trip tickets in hand and headed for the train itself.

    The train ride to Vernon was actually fairly quick, but the skies were somewhat overcast when we were coming into the station. We made the quick decision to just stay on the train and head to Rouen. We agreed that depending on how things went in Rouen, we might be able to stop on the way back. As such, we ended up in Rouen before noon, and headed out of the station towards the center of town. For whatever reason, I was having difficulty navigating from my iPhone where we wanted to go (Notre Dame de Rouen) so we used the old fall back position - we followed the signs. DW came up with that idea.

    Unfortunately, much of the church was being cleaned and restored on the front facade, but much of the rest of the church was visible and DW used her camera to take tons of architectural photos. Following the Notre Dame photos, we decided to head towards the Joan of Arc church and area where she was burned, via the route under the Gros Horloge. This is starting to sound like the theme of our trip, but while heading towards our next destination, we ran into shopping central of Rouen. And not just the Printemps and other department store types, but all kinds of small shops. For shoppers, these stores are apparently like an addictive drug, not only do they want to partake in every option, but they seem to linger around these places apparently hoping for something to drop on the sidewalk that they can have. Amazing. I've always known DW likes to shop, but at home I'm not usually on these shopping trips, so I don't see the reactions. I'm not sure I understand it, but at least I've got a better understanding of what actually happens. It definitely involves a lot of walking back and forth between shops, and an eidetic memory is necessary to compare the prices from one store to the next, or in our case have a husband that would walk back to the other store and find the shoe or whatever the item needing price checked. And I had to go to Rouen, France to become a price-checker.

    I will tell that it was nice to be able to walk around outside and not have to try to answer the "does this look good" questions. And I can report that Rouen has a store that carries the "perfect" shoe, for DW at least. I assumed the perfect shoe was a myth perpetrated by women upon men to justify the shopping. I was wrong. When I returned to the store (it was called Minnelli's, which will become important later in the trip) to see my wife miming to the clerk (DW speaks no french other than greetings and tourist language) what she was seeking. I arrived just in time to translate (as best as high school and college french classes would allow) my wife's requests to the clerk who spoke little english.

    DW was able to decide that, I believe based primarily upon the fact that the shoe was also on sale, that this pair of black, low calf, low heel boots were the perfect ones. I thought she already had these boots at home, but apparently the ones at home were not quite perfect. After the glee of this purchase (my glee, we were done shopping) we headed under the Gros Horlage and down to the Joan of Arc church and the area where she was burned at the stake.

    We spent the next hour or so generally wandering the shopping area surrounding these tourist sites looking for items to place in DW's planned gift bags for all our family and friends. This netted us one decent sized bag of additional candy, as the stuff from La Cure Gormand we already had was not enough. We ended up back in front of Notre Dame and the tourist office. Since we'd arrived at lunch, they were closed before. DW decided to take a few more photos while I went in to mine for information on Rouen and the area. During our walking, DW revealed that she thought that our next trip should include more time in the eastern part of Normandy (Rouen and shopping) and that it would be nice to get information directly from the horse's mouth. I actually purchased a couple of trinkets as well, including a refrigerator magnet as a gift for a brother.

    We then discussed what we wanted to do next. DW was trying to decide when she revealed that she was trying to fill time between then and our return train. I indicated that we could jump on any train we wanted on our route, and the next train was about 90 minutes away. We decided to head back up the hill towards the gare and hopefully find a restaurant we might like. I cannot seem to find any photos of the store name, and I can't find it on Googlemaps. The latter is explained by the fact that the restaurant was on small alleyway and likely couldn't fit the googlemaps truck taking streetview pictures. It was a little mom and pop shop that we decided to try.

    DW had a salad nicoise, and I ate a duck leg and fries. We also finished with Creme Brulee and espresso for dessert. We were very pleased with the food, and the price, being in Rouen vs. Paris, was incredibly cheap. The place was also definitely a Mom and Pop shop. Mom worked the front, Pop worked the kitchen. If you've ever seen those kitschy decorations that have the plump Italian chefs with the 52 fold hats, Pop appeared to be the original model, just a French version. And those decorations aren't caricatures, they are dead on copies of Pop.

    We took a leisurely walk towards the gare and came upon the Towers of the old Chateau de Rouen where Joan of Arc was held. They were an interesting find, as we didn't see any signs about the Towers until we were actually looking through the fence and the small sign describing them became evident. We then headed to the gare and caught the next train back to Paris. On the way back, DW suggested that we hold off on Giverny, as we already purchased the night tour on the double decker bus, so she didn't want to be totally wiped out. (and it gave us another thing to bring us towards Rouen on our next trip)

    We arrived back in Paris with only one interesting story (to me anyway) to recount. We happened to sit in the very first car of the train on the way to Paris. About 30 seconds before the train pulled away, 5 people got on board, three were ticket agents for SNCF, and the other two were armed police. Not a good start to a train trip. As the train pulled out, the group split up with two agents on the top tier and one officer following, and the other two on the lower tier and headed towards the back. They were moving fairly quickly towards the rear. It was quiet (other than a 30ish english mother with her 10 ish son sitting immediately behind us) until 10 minutes before the first stop. At that point, a man came up to the center area of the car near the doors and stood holding the handle, waiting for the stop. About three minutes later, I could see the man getting nervous, and saw the agents were moving forward towards the front of the car checking tickets. DW asked what was going on with the guy, as she couldn't see the agents coming. I told her what I suspected was going on and that the guy was hoping to be able to get off the train before they checked him. He didn't make it. They came up to him and he clearly didn't have a ticket. He also explained that he didn't have any cash to pay. The agent spotted a credit card and pulled out a reader and typed in the amount and voila, the scofflaw was a ticketed passenger!

    Oh, did I mention that everything was quiet earlier? All except the lady and her son having some inane conversation (apparently the concept of ugly American tourist speaking loudly has finally made across the pond) as though they were under the train trying to speak to each other. Ultimately, after the scofflaw was resolved, there was seven of us in the end of the train that needed our tickets checked. Five of us gave our tickets and things were going well. Until the two conversants were asked for their tickets. The agent explained, in French, that these tickets had not been validated as required. His tone was quiet, calm and efficient, and totally in French. As is common with those who don't speak the native language, this lady raised the volume of her voice substantially (apparently louder voices are easier to translate) and queried WELL HOW WAS I SUPPOSED TO KNOW THAT I HAD TO VALIDATE MY TICKET. She said this to a guy who clearly didn't speak english. Even if he did, she didn't ask him to do so anyway. The matter was resolved quickly by a man who I didn't see earlier who in a perfect English accent said, "because as a visitor to a foreign land it is your responsibility to know the local customs and requirements?" I wanted to stand up and clap.

    The net effect was that the remaining 45 minutes or so of the trip were, in fact, quiet.

    Meanwhile, back in Paris . . . We arrived back and returned to the apartment. We opened up all the windows and sat out on the terrace just sipping a glass of wine to relax. We absolutely loved the apartment and the terrace especially, but the only really peculiar thing about the apartment was that it was warm. The temperature outside was regularly in the 50's, but if we left and shut up all the windows, when we returned the apartment felt as though it was in the upper 70's or low 80's. Each room had its own heating units, and I already turned all of them off. Once you opened the windows, it cooled down quickly and was very comfortable. After a glass of wine, we decided we'd walk over to the Louvre area in time to catch the tour, and try maybe something to eat after the tour.

    It was our first time taking a tour in Paris (other than Vedettes de Pont Neuf on previous trips) so we thought we'd enjoy the story of some of the areas and sights we had not yet been. We found much of the trip to be interesting. The tour was timed so that we were in the cross over of the Champs de Mars at the perfect time to see the Eiffel Tower lights to shimmer. The straight on view was much more impressive than my previous viewings. Most of those were just happenstance, as unless you're right there, or looking at it specifically, you don't even notice the lights. DW and I both enjoyed the tour, for what that's worth. Our night finished with a short metro ride to Hotel de ville, then a walk through Les Halles to Joe Allen's for a quick burger and head home. Other than the staff wanting to close early, the meal was fine, but not certainly impressive - it WAS a burger.

    The day was certainly a long one, and we were tired, even with the late start to the day. We decided to figure out what we would do the next day once we woke up and saw the weather and how we felt.

    Next - CoCo Chanel, Place Vendome, and Jeu de Paume in the rain

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    Thursday, April 2nd was, like most days this trip, rainy. Not the kind of rain that begs you to stay inside, sit around the apartment and drink hot coffee/cocoa. More the kind of rain that teases you that maybe it'll go away, maybe it'll last. With that said, we had kind of unconfirmed plans, really this trip was becoming more of a what do you want to do today, then go from there. DW, really wanted to go by CoCo Chanel's place, if nothing more than to see it. She not being a fan of the stairs up and down in the metro, and me not yet confident in the bus system and all its routes yet, ended up with us heading out with the thought of just getting a cab. That changed after we got outside. I'm not sure what changed, but she directed me to head to the station (Etienne Marcel) and figure out the fewest changes on the metro to get us close.

    We took the Metro up to Reamur Sebastopol station for a change to head to Opera. If I would have known we were changing ideas from the cab, we'd have just walked here first, then only had the entry and exit at Opera. I chose Opera so that we could hopefully get some different pictures of Garnier Opera House. Bad Idea. The pictures would have been different, albeit blurry because when we came out, it was full on pouring rain. A quick discussion had me pulling umbrellas out of the backpack for a quick force march to Vendome. Although we did have to try to find Kanye and Kim's place first. DW and I have one thing in common, we enjoy watching train wrecks. Mine are actual crashes, be it auto racing, bike racing, trains, whatever. The train wrecks she enjoys are the Kardashian shows and the Real Housewives shows. Oh, and the Shah's of Sunset. So in a torrential downpour were looking. And looking. We end up, with some subtle suggestions of turn left or no go straight, soaking wet in front of Chanel. And there is a line of 10 or 15. After waiting for maybe 10 minutes or so, and several people leaving, and no one going in, we left.

    Actually, DW left. I didn't know she left for about a minute. I turned and she was gone, I saw her at the corner heading south. Ish. After catching up about mid block, I quickly determined that we needed to find something INSIDE and quickly. I knew the Louvre wasn't going to be it, too big and been there several times. We had yet to see l'Orangerie, and it was actually closer. By the time we made it to the north edge of Tuileries, the rain was down. Sky was definitely grey, and limited visibility. We entered the Tuileries and it was difficult to even see the Eiffel Tower.

    After a short wait in line, in the rain, we entered the museum and unpacked everything for the security lines and left about everything there with a security coat check. For free. Not bad. I'm a big fan of Monet, so this was pretty cool for me. DW even took a picture of me in front of water lilies and I'm using it for my photo on social media stuff. She lightened up inside substantially and got out her camera for all kinds of shots. She was pretty impressed that she could recite the names of all the artists we'd seen and that it was such a comprehensive list.

    The rain had stopped completely by the time we exited, but we were not any drier. We decided to call it a day and head back to the apartment to dry out. We ended up staying in the rest of the day and evening. We still had plenty to eat, but we did head down to Montorgueil late and picked up some soup and a sandwich at a carryout place that seems pretty new age, for me at least. I don't even remember the name. We ended up at the apartment resting for home stretch of the trip, Friday, Saturday and then the flight home on Easter Sunday.

    Next, a walk: Palais de Chaillot, Marche Ave. Wilson, Pont d'Alma and Notre Dame.

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    Great trip report!
    I'll be in Rouen soon. Looking forward to the Joan of Arc stuff (I'm downloading a historic novel on her to read on plane/trains before I get there :))

    one note though in the defense of the travelers you seemed to think were idiots: ticket agents in France (and Italy and Spain for that matter...) don't tell you when you get your tickets that you must validate them, nor is it made obvious.

    travelers who doesn't live in country where this is a requirement are all going to have that moment. I've been there, as has every US friend I know who didnt' take their first train ride with someone more experienced with Euro train travel than they were. I'm a very considerate traveler who does a lot of research before I go places and always learn at leat a few phrases in each language. Thing is, no one would know to research whether to validate a train ticket or not, if they don't know that train tickets ever might need to be validated....! totally foreign concept for us. If we buy a ticket, it's good for the trip it's good for, and for no other trip. No validation needed.

    The difference is, when I was confronted about my ticket not being validated (my first big train trip in Italy back in the day) I looked scared/questioning and said 'I'm sorry' in Italian and that I didn't know (in Italian) and hoped they'd just fix whatever hte problem was(couldn't quite understand what problem they were saying I had, even though I knew a fair bit of Italian). They were used to having this happen with US people (since we don't have that requirement here and we don't take trains like Europeans because our train system is awful and inefficient and not designed to be a reguarly used mode of transit) and simply said 'ok, do this next time' and moved along thier way.
    When I got off the train, I Made a point to go to Information and ask them about how/where to validate tickets, and they showed me.

    Learned my lesson, no harm no foul. And now I get to show all my first time Euro train traveling friends the right way...:)

    But I think the lesson was also, not to be loud and agressive when confronted with this. It certainly won't garner more sympathy ;)

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    Giverny is still on my list--and has been on it so long, I'm afraid I'll be disappointed. I'm of two minds about not knowing about validating tickets. If one reads anything about train travel in Europe, validation is pretty strongly noted. But not everyone plans to take trains so might not know. Being loud about being ignorant is ignorant--unfortunately, these are the folks who get remembered.

    Continued TR raves, apersuader65.

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