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    by mkataoka Fodor's Editor | Posted on Nov 28, 16 at 01:31 PM
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Trip Report Paris with hubby and niece

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Hi everyone, we are just back from a wonderful trip to Paris. I'm posting the narrative here but pictures are on my "blog" at www.herewegoagain-paris.blogspot.com So far only two days are complete with photos but will keep working on it!

Introduction

13 May to 22 May, 2012: Paris with hubby and niece

When my niece graduated from high school last year, we offered her a trip to Paris and she accepted. We had to wait almost a year to go due to college and work schedules but that gave me time to plan. I used Rick Steves Paris, Top 10 Paris, fodors.com, tripadvisor.com, etc. to help plan the trip. Special thanks to “Denisea” on the fodors.com France forum for recommending Amorino, Un Dimanche a Paris, and Reed. All were outstanding!

This was hubby and my third trip to Paris (2003 and 2005) and our niece’s first trip abroad. We flew from Houston to Paris on United, coach: easy flight, decent airplane food, terrible entertainment system, good service. We took the RER from the airport to the apartment (kind of a struggle since it wasn’t a direct trip; we decided to taxi to the airport for our return trip).

Apartment Review: I found the apartment at 211 rue de l’Universite through a link to “other properties” on a VRBO.com listing. The actual apartment website is http://www.rentalfrance.com/index.php?location=rue-de-l-universite-effeil-terrace I wanted an incomparable view, two bedrooms and a price we could afford. This apartment fit the bill. It was small but adequate for the three of us; any more bodies and it would have been very tight. I liked it a lot and would stay there again—the view is incredible: almost full on of the Eiffel Tower; so close we could hear the ET elevators going up! But I did not like that there’s a lot of stuff everywhere which made it difficult to unpack: all the closets were full and the bedrooms were too small for dressers, the living room had too many chairs for the small space, etc. They didn’t provide much in the way of start-up supplies (like toilet paper, soap, paper towels/dish cloths, detergent, etc), other than what had been left by previous renters. This was different than what we have come to expect from our previous 3 rental experiences. No biggie except the trip to the grocery took on some urgency when we needed to use the facilities, ha! We were able to get the apartment early, 1030am, which was very nice. Also nice were the free wifi and free phone calls to the US. The beds were very comfortable and we slept well. The sofa was comfy, too. Bathroom was pretty nice—all marble, good shower. Kitchen was tiny but adequate; washer/dryer worked well. Again, other than it being filled to the gills with stuff, it is a very nice apartment and we’d definitely rent it again on a subsequent trip.

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    13 May, Sunday: We arrive in Paris!

    Sunday, 13 May, arrival day: The plane landed on time at Terminal 1. We got through immigration without problems in little time, even with the long lines. Found our way to Terminal 2 to catch the train. The RER B took awhile and was crowded. We transferred to RER C at St. Michel Notre Dame--not an easy train to get into with its huge step and a half up and luggage. We got off at Ponte d'Alma and made it to the apartment around 1030am. Were met by Pascal's assistant who checked us in and gave us a handwritten map to the nearest grocery and boulangerie and the English phone number for the G7 taxi. We were not going to brave the RER for the outgoing flight!

    After checking in to the apartment, the next order of business was lunch. We wandered down to Rue Cler and caught the tail end of the market. Decided to eat at Le Café du Marche which was good. I had my favorite Chevre Chaud salad; so simple, so tasty!

    Afterwards we wandered to Champs de Mars and over to the Eiffel Tower. I knew the elevators were a hideously long wait and had prepared hubby and niece for the need to hike up. A very short line later, we were trudging up the 740+ steps to the second level. The views were superb on that beautiful Sunday. The hike was not hard but was tiring. We all agreed that it not super scary (niece doesn’t love heights) and worth it. The elevator line for the third level was very long but we finally made it all the way to the top. Niece was impressed and so were we again.

    Back down to earth, we headed home to the apartment to rest before dinner. We walked over to Café Constant but decided to go to the nearby pizza place, can't recall or find the name. I know, pizza in Paris on our first day...but it was very good and light in our exhausted state. Afterwards, we walked home via Champs de Mars for night views of ET. Were in bed by 11pm. All agreed it had been a brilliant first day in Paris!

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    14 May, Monday in Paris

    Monday, 14 May: Today’s agenda included procuring tickets and passes and then wandering the Marais, shopping at BHV, taking it easy. We got up late and all felt fine; no adverse jet lag effects, thankfully. It was a pretty day so after our fresh, delicious pastries for breakfast, we wandered down rue St. Dominique looking for the store to buy our Navigo Decouverte passes. We found the store but they only had two and we needed three. So off again, still down St. Dom, to the SCNF boutique to get our train tickets to Vernon (for Monet’s gardens at Giverny). Longish wait for an agent as we made the mistake of getting there at lunch time. Half hour or so later, tickets in hand, we still need a Navigo for hubby and our Museum Passes. Decided to go to the nearest Metro station, Invalides, and got it there. Took the metro one stop and go our Museum Passes on Ave. de la Motte Piquet at a Tabac. I know there’s probably an easier way to do all of this but I couldn’t figure it out!

    We had tried to get the Navigo Decouverte cards at the airport on arrival day, Sunday, but they wouldn’t sell them to us—something about the ND week starting on Monday and that being the earliest we could buy the card. Didn’t sound right, but hard to fight the agents… We used our Navigo’s a lot; well worth the money paid!

    With our Navigo’s in hand, we boarded the Bus 69 to the Bastille stop and started our wander of the Marais from there. This bus worked out very well and was sincerely the only one we kinda understood. I told hubby that next time, we need to figure out the bus system since buses are so accessible and riding them is much nicer than walking through the Metro stations.

    It was a beautiful day again and we were all glad to be outside enjoying the lovely weather in such a lovely city. The Marais was bustling. I remembered liking the area from our first trip—small streets, interesting shops and galleries, fun restaurants. As it was Monday, the museums were closed but Place des Vogues was filled with people catching the rays. The Hotel de Ville was glowing in the sunshine. We went into BHV and looked around but didn't buy anything. Niece got to experience that very Parisian toilet on the boulevard. She said it was weird using the facilities with traffic noise all around!

    Dinner that night was at Le Reminet. I reserved using thefork.com and had the 40% off special. It was lovely. The food was delicious, the service very good, and was overall an enjoyable experience (and a good deal with the discount). The sun set around 10pm so we walked over to Notre Dame for the night time views. It was a very cold evening, especially to two underdressed southern women! We grabbed the RER at St. Michel Notre Dame and went two stops before it was shut down for the night--we were told to get off by two guards with a muzzled German Sheppard dog in tow!

    We walked back to the apartment and crashed, catching the 11pm ET sparkle show in the process—so pretty… So wonderful to be in Paris

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    15 May, Tuesday: Giverny and Montmartre

    Tuesday, 15 May. Today was our scheduled tour of Monet’s Gardens! We easily caught our 8:20am train to Vernon (we had enough time to get our tickets at Gare St. Lazare, although it was less stressful to have them in hand already). It looks like they don’t put up platform numbers until about 10 minutes before departure so we didn’t exactly know where to go. We asked a couple of guards in the station and they nicely directed us upstairs. We didn’t know to stamp the ticket before boarding which the ticket checker did not like. The train ride was otherwise uneventful, the sun was out and the countryside looked very pretty.

    At Vernon, we lined up with everyone else and were on the first bus to Giverny. Got there and walked to the Group Entrance as I’d bought the entry tickets online. Walked in to the site but instead of going directly to the Water Lilies area, I mistakenly led us toward the gift shop and bathrooms. Hubby figured out we had to retrace our steps to get to the Water Lilies and as we started to do that, the rain poured down. We instead went into the house and toured it, at first with few other people then everyone who had been outside came rushing in to avoid the rain. By time we were done with the house, the rain had let up (although not ceased) so we went to the Water Lilies area. It was spectacular! Crowded and wet but gorgeous. We took tons of pictures, got a little damp and thoroughly enjoyed the gardens. We bought some souvenirs in the extremely crowded gift shop, had lunch at a little cafe then niece and I made our way back to the bus stop. Hubby decided to walk to Monet’s grave and just made it back in time for the 12:25pm bus. Why do they have such a long break between buses? Had we missed the 12:25, we would have to wait 2 hours for the next one!

    Back at Gare St. Lazare, we decided to head to the apartment to relax and wait for the weather to clear a little before going up to Montmartre. So glad we did this as there were two hail storms, which we watched from the comfort of our apartment. Crazy weather! We put on the rain gear and headed out around 3pm.

    Sacre Couer was crowded but lovely as ever. We heard part of a mass led by nuns; so refreshing to hear female voices in that setting. The weather was ok, a little rain but mostly blue skies. Walking around Montmartre was eye opening—it’s so changed since 2005, what happened to all the artists at Place du Tertre? Hubby and I bought “art” there on our first trip, now it’s restaurants and caricaturists. Change isn’t always good…

    We had drinks at Bar a Bieres on Rue Lepic down the street from Moulin de la Gallete then decided to find Le Cottage Marcadet for dinner. Got help from the locals in finding it but looking at the menu we decided against it, too expensive and similar to Le Reminet. We opted for the place next door, Le Baignoire, which was more casual. Niece ordered an apple, avocado and crabmeat entrée that was outstanding; hubby and I were also impressed with our meals. The only let down was the crème brulee—the caramelized sugar was a little too burnt. Otherwise, this was one of our best meals in Paris, start to finish.

    It was late and quite cold but we still detoured, via Metro, for a night time view at the Arc de Triomphe. Niece and I talked hubby out of going to the Trocadero. We got back to our apartment and crashed. Another great day even with the awful weather!

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    Yum, Chèvre Chaud salad. I love goat cheese. I also laughed at the pizza...we all do stuff like that...you just don't care...tired, hungry, pizza it is!!!! :-)

    So glad the recommendations worked out for you! Don't you hate it when you recommend a place and it stinks when the person you recommended it to goes?

    I am so jealous of your visit to Giverny. We almost went a few years ago but we had taken so many day trips that we skipped it. It is not open in Fall and Winter so we have had no further opportunities to go there, but I dream of it. I love Monet and someone recommended to me to visit Giverny and then visit L'Orangerie later that day or first thing the next!

    Waiting to hear more.

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    Onceagain, a lovingly written first person memoir of Paris.

    We were lucky enough to go to Giverny more than 25 years ago, when there were very, very few otherpeople there. We went twice on that trip, had a picnic in the nearby parking lot, as we were driving out in Normandy.

    Thanks for the contribution to restoring to my ever-fading memory!

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    Thank you for sharing!! I have my first trip to Paris planned for this September and your wonderful post and blog have not only got me VERY excited but also helped me with planning!! Thank you!!

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    Thanks for reading, y'all. Denisea, your recommendations were superb. In two years, I'll be looking for more!

    Giverny was definitely a highlight of the trip. It was just spectacular! We definitely want to go back and would love to see it in a different season.

    I have not been able to upload the rest of the pictures but have finished each day's narrative, which I'll post separately.

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    16 May, Wednesday: Day trip to Versailles

    Wednesday, 16 May: We checked the weather forecast and decided that it would be best to go to Versailles today. We did not get an early start and arrived at Versailles around peak time (11:30am). The line to go through security to enter the Palace was very long; no special line for Museum Pass holders. We stood in line for awhile while hubby went off to check for a guided tour of the King’s Private Apartments. He came back, we got out of line, went to a room on the right side of the Palace, and booked our tour tickets for 3pm; easy. We had 3 hours to tour the Gardens, Trianons and Hamlet. We took the tram to save time and energy.

    The Grand Trianon was our first stop. It’s really pretty. Niece and I marveled that it was the medium sized mansion for when they were tired of their real mansion/palace. Next we walked over to the French Pavilion and peeked in its rooms; it was just for games but my entire house would fit in there times 3! Right nearby is the Petite Trianon which is just a sweet dollhouse-like mansion. Then we stopped at the pretty Temple of Love. We were a little tired but I insisted we visit Marie Antoinette’s Hamlet and what a delightful surprise that was! It was built for when Marie wanted to play peasant and what remains is super cute. Niece and I loved it and we were all glad to trek there. It was about 2pm now so we booked it back to the nearest tram pickup spot and arrived at the Palace in time to have a quick lunch before the tour.

    Hubby and I took this same tour in 2003 and were very impressed by the guide, information provided and the rooms visited. This time, the guide had a very heavy accent and was difficult to understand. Niece said she totally tuned out and I could understand why! The rooms were lovely, though, and I enjoyed seeing them again, particularly the spectacular Opera. Afterwards we visited the King’s and Queen’s State Apartments and the spectacular Hall of Mirrors. They’ve done a very good job restoring the Hall of Mirrors, which was under lots of wraps in 2003. It was still crowded but by waiting for the waves of groups to pass, we got photos of just us in there. The rest of the palace was equally impressive. We closed it down at 6pm. The weather had fully cooperated and the Versailles did not disappoint!

    We were hungry and tired so pulled out trusty Rick Steves for options. Instead of heading back to Paris we walked over to A la Cote Bretonne, a crepe place. It wasn’t quite 7pm and they weren’t open yet. We wandered over to the food market, niece getting educated about this very big difference between American and European households—they shop fresh and local as much as possible, and generally daily. We also caught the very tail end of a street market. By now hubby had wandered back to the restaurant for a restorative brew but niece found some sunglasses and clothes she wanted. We then made our way to the restaurant. The crepes were very good and the staff were very friendly and accommodating; it filled up with locals and tourists. Turned out to be a very nice way to end our day at Versailles.

    Back to the apartment around 11pm, saw ET sparkle show, crashed.

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    17 May, Thursday: Museums, macarons, shopping and a missed play

    Thursday, 17 May: Day 2 of our Museum Pass. We decided to start off with the Orangerie. Took the Metro to Tuileries and walked through the garden. Niece and I stopped for a spell in the reclining chairs; love those! Stood in line at the Orangerie for a few minutes then through security and flashed the pass to bypass the ticket buying line. We were in Monet’s garden again: stupendous! On our previous two trips, this museum was closed for renovation. So glad it was open this time. Gorgeous paintings in a perfect setting. I confess tears came to my eyes. We all loved it and didn’t want to leave. I think it was even more special for having seen the actual gardens that are represented in the paintings and the house where the artist lived and worked. Hubby and I have been to the Marmottan and loved it too but this was extra special.

    We left, reluctantly, after a making some purchases in the gift shop. Niece and I were headed to Laduree on rue Royale for macarons while hubby would have some free time at the Louvre. We would meet up at 130pm for the guided tour at 2pm.

    Walking to Laduree was great—the streets were busy, the stores were gorgeous, the people pretty fashionable. Laduree did not disappoint. It is a super cute tea room and the waiter was great. The coffee and macarons were delicious. Salted Caramel was the favorite. We bought some to go, after all hubby hadn’t had a snack, and made our way back to the Louvre. I was impressed that I navigated us back without problems—hubby is the navigator; I’m the planner!

    Rick Steves guided us to a side entrance where we could flash our Museum Passes and that worked out great; no lines, no waiting. We met up with hubby to find out that there were no guided tours today. Bummer. After he had a snack in the café, we grabbed a map and the Rick Steves and off we went. It was very crowded in the popular galleries (Venus de Milo; Winged Victory; Mona Lisa) but not bad elsewhere—The Apollo Room was incredible but we all petered out by time we got to the religious art and Flemish art rooms. It was time to make our way out of Le Louvre after having scratched less than a smidge of its surface. This was my third time at this massive, beautiful museum and I still find it so overwhelming. This was the most crowded I’ve experienced it which didn’t help matters. I know I’ll be back but next time during the low season!

    Niece’s favorite store is H&M and there’s not one anywhere near where we live (New Orleans). So I found one on the Champs Elysees and there we headed. Great store, we both had a good time for a couple of hours and ended up spending a few euros. She could have stayed until closing but we had plans for the night: the play, How to Become Parisian in One Hour, at 8:30pm.

    We hurried back to the apartment to refresh and have quick dinner of sandwiches. We took a taxi to Theatre de la Main d’Or only to discover that I had the wrong night: our tickets were for Wednesday, not Thursday. There was no performance on Thursday (or Friday). We took down the number planning to call and try to get in on Saturday (but that didn’t work out either). I felt terrible, what a waste of money and time, and yes my loved ones made fun of me... We went to a nearby bistro (Le Bistro de Paris, I think) and had drinks before wandering around the area, window shopping. We came upon an Amorino near the Bastille and enjoyed two delicious scoops each (me, chocolate and coffee, my favorite flavors!).

    We stopped to see the Eiffel Tower from the Trocadero and got back to the apartment around 1130pm. Other than the play, it had been another great day in Paris!

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    Oops! Sorry about the play, nola - hope you didn't beat yourself up too much. Us planners have a lot to juggle, afterall. :-)

    I'm really enjoying your trip so far - thanks for posting.

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    Thanks for the support, YankyGal. Hubby and niece were nice about it and two glasses of wine later, I was ok ;)

    May 18, Friday: More Museums: Orsay and Rodin

    Friday, 18 May: We got out around 10am today and headed to Notre Dame intending to visit the church and climb the Tower; see Sainte Chappelle and the Conciergerie; eat some ice cream at Berthillon; taste the macarons at Un Dimanche a Paris; and whatever else struck our fancy. But—lord it was crowded. The line to tour Notre Dame, much less the towers, was wrapped around the block. Crazy busy. We scrapped the plan, detoured into the Fete du Pain tent, right in front of Notre Dame, where bakers were showing off their expertise (and giving samples) and watched these artists at work. Very interesting, and tasty!

    We decided to walk over to St. Chappelle but discovered a long line there plus it would be closed for two hours at lunch time. So we decided to wander down to the Orsay and see it. Hubby and niece thought “it isn’t that far to walk” so we did. Well, all you Paris experts know, it’s a lot longer walk than it appears. We got there and were hungry and thirsty. Thankfully we were prepared with a picnic which we ate on the steps.

    Suitably refreshed, we flashed our Museum Passes and entered this busy, beautiful old train station. It is my favorite museum in Paris (probably anywhere). It felt like coming home! We decided to head straight to the Impressionists Galleries; hubby and I were impressed by the renovations. It was super crowded but we were able to see all the paintings in a relatively leisurely manner. Niece found a new favorite and wrote it down for her future reference! I’d be hard pressed to choose a favorite, I love the art in these rooms, start to finish.

    The other thing I love about the Orsay is going out into the sculpture garden after being in the darker art galleries. The natural light and beautiful statues refresh me and prepare me to go back for more—like cleansing the palate before tasting a different wine. Lovely. I told niece and hubby that I could live in the Orsay! We wandered in the Post Impressionists rooms, the Toulouse Lautrec rooms and the furniture rooms before heading out.

    We figured out the bus and caught one to the Rodin Museum. We quickly toured the house which is under serious renovation and not as impressive as it was on our last visit. The gardens, on the other hand, are incredibly lovely. We posed with the Thinker, took close-ups of the beautiful roses, sat by the fountain, gazed at the Gates of Hell and felt the pain of the Burghers of Calais. It was a lovely late afternoon and perfect to be outside in that gorgeous setting.

    Tonight we had a 7pm reservation for dinner at Reed so we decided to slowly make our way there via the lovely streets of the 7th. We passed in front of the Invalides with its green cannons, window shopped, had a drink at an Irish Bar, then found Reed at 11 bis rue Amelie.

    It’s a very small restaurant, pretty and comfortable, run by Catherine Reed and one helper. The food was delicious (I had morel risotto, niece had cow cheeks bourginion, hubby had osso bucco). The deserts were less outstanding but still good. Overall one of our favorite meals in Paris and a place I’d definitely want to return to on a subsequent trip.

    We walked back to the apartment and caught the 10pm ET sparkle show; it was an early night. And yet another great day in Paris was at an end.

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    Hi y'all,

    Sorry I've been away. I got a chance today to finish uploading the pictures on the "blog" and it's all done! I loved every moment of our trip and can't wait for next time in Paris.

    We would definitely do a cooking class at Reed, even niece said she'd like to. And yes, we made it to Notre Dame...

    Cheers,

    Nola.

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    19 May, Saturday: Notre Dame and her neighbors, plus macarons
    Saturday, 19 May: As today was the last day of our Museum Passes, we had to visit Notre Dame and climb its Tower, St. Chappelle and the Conciergerie. We hoped for smaller crowds but the lines were just as bad as the day before.

    We again took a detour into the Fete du Pain tent before walking over to Sainte Chappelle.

    We waited in line a bit before they opened up a second line for Museum Pass holders. We got right through security, bypassed the second line for ticket buying, and were marveling at the stained glass chapel in no time. Felt like rock stars!

    I had forgotten how spectacular Sainte Chappelle is in person. It’s just breathtakingly beautiful. They are renovating some of the panels and the video showing the painstaking process was quite interesting. The downstairs chapel was pretty too but niece and I definitely would prefer to be royalty, wealthy, or privileged so we could be admitted upstairs. After a little shopping in the gift shop, we went over to the Conciergerie.

    No waiting in line for the Conciergerie, just straight into the Guard’s Hall which is large and gothic. We did the circuit of rooms and learned a little more about the gruesome French Revolution. We saw Marie Antoinette’s memorial chapel and her recreated cell. It was quite a juxtaposition from the luxuries at Versailles. Niece and I both felt Robespierre got what he deserved after having guillotined 2780 persons. We also pretty much agreed that the Revolution was necessary because of the excesses of the kings/queens of France, but sad nonetheless.

    Feeling rather cheerless, we decided to go to lunch and try the macarons at Un Dimanche a Paris. We took the Metro and found the restaurant relatively easily. We decided against eating lunch there, it was kinda precious and expensive. Instead we had a nice meal at Le Relais Odeon: goat cheese salad for me; beef and fries for hubby and niece. Then we went to the delightful boutique at Un Dimanche to choose our dessert.

    Everything was beautifully presented and looked so delicious. We enjoyed watching the chefs make the pastries we were about to eat. Niece and I decided on macarons and hubby got a pastry. We sat outside and enjoyed. Niece and I decided that these macarons were much better than Laduree’s, coffee and caramel were tied for the best. Delicious!

    The map showed that we were sorta close to Jardin du Luxembourg so we walked over there. It is a beautiful park. We grabbed a couple of chairs and relaxed a bit. Watched the kids chase the boats in the pond, the joggers run around, the people milling about enjoying the pretty day, listened to the music coming from the bandstand. Decided against tracking back to St. Sulpice and grabbed the Metro back to St. Michel Notre Dame. We were going to wait as long as we needed to get up close and personal with the gargoyles!

    This is one place we didn’t feel like rock stars because there’s no special line for Museum Pass holders--a travesty! It took about 50 minutes to get in (they let in groups of 20 every 10 minutes) so not a horrible wait. The climb was not bad to the first level but a little hairier to the second since it narrows a bit more. Totally worth it, though. We exited when it started to pour down raining and made it into Notre Dame without further lines because of the rain.

    Notre Dame was very, very crowded. Unbelievably so. When we entered, a mass was about to start so the tourists were limited to the side aisles, making the crowding worse. It’s a beautiful cathedral but it was a hard to see that with the hordes in there. We wandered about, took some photos, saw the start of the mass (love the smell of incense in Catholic churches!), then made our way out through the hordes standing in the doorway blocking the exits. Why do people do that? It’s aggravating and dangerous and seriously, it wasn’t raining that hard (as niece said, “it’s just a little water people, get out of the doorway” ha!). I was quite unsatisfied with this visit to Notre Dame (hubby and I have been twice before and loved it) and I hope niece gets to see it again without the hordes…

    We walked around outside Notre Dame; the rain had gone and it was very pretty again. It was after 6pm, so the Deportation Memorial was closed but we lingered inside the park there for a bit. It’s such a sad piece of history that should never be forgotten or dismissed. I wanted niece to understand that hating people for being different (race, sex, religion, disability, politics, etc.) is never ok and can lead to atrocities such as those perpetrated by the Nazis. She gets it, I know. But it’s a lesson worth repeating as it needs never be forgotten.

    We made our way to Ile St. Louis and bellied up to the pastry counter at Berthillon. We got macarons and a few mini pastries to go. We got ice cream (me, the usual chocolate and coffee) and ate it wandering around the pretty streets. Niece did not like her caramel ice cream (it was ok, a little burnt tasting), hubby liked his strawberry and coconut and I enjoyed mine. We all agreed that Amorino was better, though. Also, the pastries were very good but the macarons only ok. Un Dimanche won the macarons competition, for sure!

    Back at the apartment, we decided on pizza for dinner again. It was as good as the first time and we met a really nice man (lives in the 7th) and his 20-something daughter (lives in London, visits Paris regularly). He said the pizza place was the best in Paris (we agreed even though we hadn’t tried any others, ha!) and recommended a boulangerie on St. Dominique as his favorite. He also told us we should visit the Cathedral at Chartres (would love to, next time!).

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    20 May, Sunday: Musee Nissim de Camondo; Saint Denis and a party

    Sunday, 20 May: This was our last day in Paris. We visited the Musee Nissim de Camondo near Parc Monceau. What a beautiful area in the 8th! The mansion was incredible, so full of treasures, so comfortable and well designed. Niece and I would move in tomorrow (but who wouldn’t?!). We used the audio guide to tour all the rooms and were impressed at the collection amassed by Conte Camondo for his children, neither of whom lived to enjoy it: son Nissim died in WWI and daughter Beatrice, her husband and kids were sent to Auschwitz and not heard from again.

    Afterwards we grabbed the Metro to Opera Garnier. Wow, what a beautiful building! We were unfortunately unable to tour it due to a ballet performance (I had checked online the night before for closures but it wasn’t listed, bummer). We also couldn’t shop at the Galleries Lafayette or Printempts because of it being a Sunday. Those of you who like to shop probably already know that stores in Paris close on Sundays, but I had no idea. So we had a quick lunch and grabbed the Metro to St. Denis to see the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Denis.

    After a café break on the square overlooking St. Denis and the frolicking kids playing football, we toured this magnificent Basilica. It was Notre Dame (smaller, yes) without the hordes of people. So beautiful, so peaceful. We paid our fee to see the Royal Necropolis containing tombs of pretty much all the kings and queens of France including Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI, various princess and princesses, and other notables. Very impressive but I wished for more explanations in English. Rick Steves does not have this Basilica in his book so I thank the good folks on the fodors.com France forum for recommending it. We all thought it was a very worthwhile excursion.

    We had plans to attend Jim Haynes’ Sunday Dinner at 8:30pm so we Metro’d it back to the apartment to relax and change. I hadn’t told niece what we were doing so she was surprised to walk into Jim’s garden and see all the people; she said, “we’re going to a party”! Jim was holding court in the kitchen as his friends served up a lovely vegetarian soup. We took our bowls outside and started talking to a nice couple from North Carolina (he’s a teacher; niece is majoring in early childhood education). We also talked for awhile with a gentleman from Sydney, Australia; a Medieval Historian from Baltimore; a young engineering student from Michigan; a man from Jersey/Mass. whose wife fell and injured her ankle upon arrival in Paris the day before; girls from Tennessee; etc. Hubby was making friends of his own inside. The main dish (French fries, pork, pickles, mushrooms in a nice sauce) was not as good as the soup and dessert was pretty bad. The box wine was fine but they ran out of beer before the end of the evening. Overall, we all had a good time even when the rain poured down midway through the evening. I would go again if in Paris on a Sunday night.

    Back to the apartment to pack up and get ready for departure the next day. Our G7 taxi was scheduled to pick us up at 7am. I went to bed after the 1am Eiffel Tower sparkle show grateful that we could share this wonderful city with our niece. And certain that hubby and I would be back before too long; after all, Paris is my favorite big city in Europe!

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    21 May, Monday: The End

    Monday, 21 May: Taxi arrived as scheduled but since we didn’t know the terminal we were departing from, got unlucky and were dropped of at 2E when we should have gone to Terminal 1. We joked with niece that we couldn’t leave Paris without one last train ride! We checked in without problems, went through security (I was patted down; niece was patted down and her carry on searched), did a little shopping, boarded the plane (niece’s carryon was searched again—what are the odds?). Flight was uneventful—coach is never comfortable but the service was good, the entertainment system worked a little better, and the food was ok.

    We got to Houston 10 long hours later, went through Border Control where niece disclosed having foie gras so we were sent to Agriculture to be searched again. Thankfully, the foie gras did not get confiscated; they’re looking for raw things. We went through security one more time to catch our connecting flights and all made it home just fine (except for niece’s suitcase which was delayed several hours!).

    So hubby and I are back to work and niece is enjoying a respite before her next vacation—oh, the life of a college student who doesn’t have to go to summer school!

    Paris was wonderful and I can’t wait to go back, probably within two years. But next up is Germany in December for the Christmas Markets!

    Thanks for reading, y'all.

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    I'm happy to hear you enjoyed the Jim Haynes gathering (I posted to your thread about it awhile back). It's not for gourmands - nor anti-social people, lol.

    As much as I miss living in New Orleans like nobody's business, I do NOT miss the flight from Paris through Houston!

    Thanks again for a great report.

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    Wonderful TR, nola77382. Your niece will remember this forever! What a super gift to her.

    Going to look at your pix next.

    ps-The apartment looked great. May I ask, did you have to pre-pay? If so did they take credit cards? Thanks.

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    YankyGal-you are exactly right about Jim Haynes' dinners! Jim didn't move from his perch by the cooks but everyone we talked to was friendly. There were some older French friends of Jim hitting on the younger girls--very funny! Thanks for the rec.

    I've been back in NOLA permanently 3 months and all I really miss about Houston are the direct flights to Europe! Now I have to connect somewhere, usually Houston, then onto my destination. I don't regret coming home, though. You know there's really no place else like New Orleans; good bad and ugly. :)

    TDudette, thanks for your comments; I hope she remembers how nice we were when she has to choose our nursing home, lol!

    Re. the apartment, I paid 1/3 by credit card when I reserved the apartment (fax to the apartment manager with the credit card details and the signed contract) and the rest in Euro cash on check-in; they'd also take a Euro cashier's check.

    Cheers, nola

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