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Trip Report Stories from London, France, Italy & more - Trip Report

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My boyfriend (D) and I went on a semi-vacation for a few weeks in the Fall of 2013. I say semi because it was a full on vacation for me, work slash vacation for him. We bought guidebooks and used the internet to book everything - our hotels, apartments and train tickets. I initially thought about booking organized tours but we didn't end up joining any. We just did it on our own with maps/books and walking tours from apps we downloaded to our smartphones. I love planning for a trip so I planned most of the lodging and train tickets well in advance. And he, being more relaxed and "I got it", planned the restaurants and transportation stuff on the cuff. Although we had an idea which sites were must-sees, seeing them on which day was also on the cuff, which I post-trip learned should be more my approach to future trips. This was our first time in Europe and I had been looking forward to this my whole life.

I. DAY OF DEPARTURE:

I sat inside an Uber still in disbelief that the day had finally come. I love Uber. It has never disappointed me. In the two continents I've experienced Uber, it excelled in both. It really did. Don't wanna worry about DUIs? Call Uber. Don't wanna figure how to get from point A to point B, call Uber. It's wonderful! Because of my belief in Uber, I found myself in a heated conversation with a 7-language-speaking-Einstein type in the middle of an Antibes alley passionately defending why Uber is so great. More on that later. I look back now and find it funny; but more surprisingly, how committed to my belief I was.

So the ride to the airport made me giddy, as usual. Plus I love being on planes. The thought of going somewhere always brought a fuzzy feeling. We boarded Virgin Atlantic and got ready for a ten hour flight. D was disappointed that we didn't have wi-fi, older plane, but didn't make a big deal. Instead, he decided to sleep. I'm slightly disappointed too, but not because I can't "connect", but because I find it so sexy when he busts out all his geeky gadgets and makes this geeky thing work with that geeky thing without a hitch. So I try to do the same and shut my eyes. I never get decent sleep on planes and sometimes I am horrified when D sleeps so peacefully and starts to snore. loud. Thankfully, none of that happened on this flight.

We finally landed in Heathrow and I'm pumped! Cleared the long line of passport control, purchased oyster cards, and withdrew some pounds - the USD GBP conversion shock plastered in his face alerted me that it was probably the same shock that was on my face. We were prepared for this but somehow amused each other by how "expensive" it was. After debating whether to take a cab or battle it out in the tube, I'm glad we took the tube. It was easy and simple and there were ample seats from the airport so the ride was comfortable. The train stopped. I look at D who is now smiling hugely at me sensing the blast of energy from my body bounce off and land on his two eyes. We aligned the wheels of our carry-ons and got off on to the platform. I was crazy excited! So excited that my legs couldn't have walked any faster as my suitcase hobbled and zigzagged along through the masses of people converged in this vortex of a station. Searching for the sunlight, I ascended the exit stairs in rapid speed and burst out in the street in complete delirium! All in slooooow mooootion.

Psyched and overjoyed to finally see "Europe" for the first time, the climactic feeling was reminiscent to watching a cheesy love story scene where the girl runs to the boy in the field and the boy runs to her, their hair flying in the air as they both glide to each other with open arms. That's how I felt. Only I was running out and up towards the Piccadilly tube entrance.

It will forever be a magical moment.

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    II. RED ORANGE WINDOWS:

    After the oohs and ahhs and the I can't believe we're here hooh haah, D snapped me back into reality with his navigating skills. He led the way. I'm not good with directions so I'm glad he liked to take charge of the GPS which was his phone. Our hotel is nearby, an easy five minute walk. Check-in was a breeze. Our floor is high enough so when we entered the room, we were greeted by a beautiful view of roof tops and buildings, yet still allowed us to watch the bustling streets beneath. The sun was shining bright blanketing the tall concrete walls with enchanting colors of orange and red. Magnetized by the view, I sat on a little vanity chair with D nearby and soaked the beauty of the sunset emanating through the windows.

    After washing the grime away we left the hotel for a night stroll. I liked where The Cavendish Hotel was situated. It made walking more fun because as soon as you walk out of your hotel, BAM! You see all kinds of attractive things. The area is surrounded by pretty but pricey boutiques. With no destination in mind, we walked. Still in my high I was eager to walk everywhere. The weather was perfect, not too cold, not too windy, just absolutely perfect. How lucky are we to get London this way on our first night.

    I had always wanted to visit London since I was a little girl especially growing up with all the wonderful stories my mother used to tell me. She had a short stint in London and worked for the Belgian Embassy during her single days in the 70s. So naturally, I couldn't wait to tell her my own impressions. During our stroll, D and I walked by numerous outdoor cafes peppered with smiling diners enjoying the precious al fresco night. We saw a tiny shawarma place that looked good, but we wanted to find a nicer place for our first night so we kept strolling. Our walk led us through Chinatown, Liecester Square, Soho, and in front of the National Portrait Gallery which D and I agreed we would visit during our trip. I loved seeing the double decker buses and marvelled at the LOOK LEFT signs painted on the streets to warn people from potentially getting bamboozled by oncoming traffic. Then D suggests, fish and chips for dinner.

    YEAH! Great idea. So we go to the Imperial in Piccadilly and order at the bar. The place was lively with families, tourists, a group of men thoroughly enjoying boys night, as well as a few solo folks sprinkled around enjoying the nice casual scenery. A lovely Asian woman with very long hair looking to be in her 30s approached with our food. I loved hearing her greet us with a british accent - another awesome confirmation that I was in London.

    Satisfied from the local beer and fish and chips, we stopped by the nearby grocery store to pick up some water. I noticed all the sandwiches displayed nicely on the shelves looking fresh and soft. The store sold everything from a long row of different conditioners to longer rows of deliciously looking champagne bottles. After scoping out the goods, we walked away with water and chocolates and headed a couple of blocks back to our hotel. The concierge wished us a good night and we retired to our room totally delighted with our first day!

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    I wondered about who might be out there in the Fodors abyss before starting this report. I'm new here and not really into journal writing so this is a first, but I wanted to remember and share this experience so thank you for your comments and I'm so thrilled you're reading along!

    ParisAmsterdam- I had no idea Uber even existed in London! I think D knew but he was really committed to the tube saying it was more efficient and obviously less expensive.

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    TDudette: I also like Uber X which is their more economical version but just as reliable.

    I appreciate the kind and encouraging comments, thanks! And I stand corrected. We DID join a tour - the bus tour!



    "HOP ON THE DOUBLE"

    My morning started at 4AM when remnants of excitement softly jolted me awake. I laid quietly in bed hoping not to wake D, but too late he was now up too. After an hour of chatting in bed, we dozed off again. At 7AM sharp the phone rang in the most unpleasant sound imaginable. I realized it was our wake-up call! What were we thinking?! We weren't, so we went back to sleep. We finally got up and made our way to the coffee shop across the street. This became our morning ritual for the next few days. We ordered our cappuccinos "take away" (ahem, not "to go"), a blueberry muffin for D and a peach almond croissant for me. We walked back to our room and got ready for our hop-on, hop-off bus tour.

    Before our trip, I purchased foldable headphones by Sennheiser and was very happy with them. They fit perfectly in my little crossbody purse and the sound quality on the bus was especially great. We hopped on at Piccadilly Circus and jaunted around town as the recorded lady boasted highlights of the city. We slowly trekked across the Tower Bridge, were astounded by the beauty of Westminster Abbey, and watched the mystery of lives strut the busy streets as we sat atop the double decker bus.

    Hunger struck midway through so we got off and lunched at Balls Brothers by Buckingham Palace. We had the delicious bangers and mash, salad with stilton and bacon, wine, and enjoyed just being in a brand new town. After a very meaty lunch, we hopped back on and admired more amazing sites before finishing the tour.

    Content with the bus overview, D led the way to the famous Fortnum and Mason which to our delight was very close to the hotel. Thanks to D's sister who recommended a visit, this four story stunner covered the floor space with shiny jewelry, gorgeous hats, delicate tea kettles, fine china, Christmas decor and an array of scrumptious pastries. Still full from our lunch, I made room for dessert - a rose eclair. Not only was it beautifully covered with tiny rose petals, but it also smelled and tasted like red roses. I also picked out some macarons for D and I to share - popcorn, violet, rhubarb and kir royale. I could have eaten a hundred of those! We continued wandering each floor soon discovering that the exquisiteness of the place made me walk a little slower, talk a little softer and stand a whole lot straighter. It was candy to my eyes and I loved picturing how it used to be a mere grocery store during the Victorian era.

    We walked back to our hotel when Mo, our gung-ho concierge who sold us the hop on bus ticket, excitedly reminded us that the Thames cruise tour was included in the deal. With a lot of energy left, we decided to make a run for it while there was still light out and got on our first cab to the river. Experiencing the London cab was on my to-do list and I'm so happy we did it. It was spacious, comfy, and our knowledgeable driver zoomed fast and steady so we can make the cruise on time.

    Unfortunalety, we missed it by five minutes! Unwilling to wait for the next boat to arrive, we walked across the Thames and tried our luck with the gigantic ferris wheel known as the London eye. Of course, the line was long. For a few more pounds we purchased the fast track and five minutes later, we boarded the large glass spaceship. As the wheel made its slow orbit, I too made my own rounds gazing out from all corners of this wonderment. The Thames river sparkled below in the dimming light. It was so much fun looking down from the angles above that I wondered why every major city doesn't have an "eye". Witnessing specks of light fade away in the sky as the city perked up with its own brightness below was a glorious sight. D loved Big Ben so I snapped pics of him with Benny on the left and Benny on the right. While I took photos of pretty much everything in sight, I noticed a cute little girl smiling up at me. She followed me all around the glass case as her mother watched curiously from the middle bench. She playfully skipped along my side quite a while that soon enough, her mama and D snapped a picture of us with Sir Benny handsomely poised below. When the ride was over, we crossed the bridge and had a full on view of the towering clock. Goofing around at the intersection, I was thrilled to catch D studying the gothic icon when it suddenly belted his musical ding dong right on my video phone!

    Now we were hungry and planned to have dinner at Mango Tree. We took a relaxed stroll through St. James Park which, in spite of the darkness, felt safe the entire time. Having fifteen minutes left before closing time, we realized we made a wrong turn! We had thought about this dinner all day so threats of missing it made us salivate even more. Panic-stricken and determined for some Thai food, we hailed another cab! With all its brilliance and glory, this super machine navigated with laser sharp precision and delivered us right in front of the restaurant with two whole minutes to spare! Hail the London cabs! I almost love them as much as Uber. ;)

    After enduring some heart palpitations, we were seated. To celebrate our success, champagne was in order. Crispy thin bread arrived shortly. We ordered Pad Thai, chicken curry Panang, rice, and white wine to go with our dinner. Both dishes were excellent. Happy and stuffed, we walked off our dinner, briefly stopping for a glimpse of Hyde Park. We saw a couple sitting on the grass kissing in the pitch black oblivion with no care in the world. Feeling like peeping toms, we continued our stroll back to our neighborhood and window shopped around the vicinity. After admiring the pretty things behind big fancy windows, we went back to the hotel where D led us all the way up to the highest floor. Clearly aware that this was not where our room was located, I played along. Smiling at him not knowing where this charade was going, he finally opened a "restricted" door and there sprawled before us was an incredible panoramic view of beautiful London. Amazed by his secret discovery, we huddled together as I pointed out every recognizable monument in the distance. Completely exhausted from our adventure, we took the elevator back to our room where we solidified plans for museum day!

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    I've read many reviews on Fodors and it seems as though you have a genuine gift for magically recreating your experiences with D. If only us other men could be so lucky to have a partner who travels with such open eyes and a memory which vividly and in stunning detail captures every step of the journey to share with fellow dreamers.

    All the best to you and D! Out of curiosity were your kisses even more magical than ever before being abroad?

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    I absolutely love reports of someone's first trip to Europe, especially when they have been waiting for it for a long time. I went back and forth between the continents starting at the age of 18 months, so Europe has always seemed "normal" to me and I didn't get the thrill of discovery until my first trip to Southeast Asia.

    So far it looks as though everything went spectacularly well, which makes me all the more impatient to find out when the first major glitch occurred, it at all. ;-)

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    realcodes: that's a sweet comment, thanks :)

    kerouac: we had a long trip and yes, there were definitely some major glitches on the way!

    III: "MUSEUM DAY"

    We got up early, walked over to our coffee shop and picked up our usuals. While waiting in line, I noticed a slightly opened door in the back of the shop. We collected our breakfast, headed for the door and discovered an outdoor market! Big tents shaded fruits, jams, arts and crafts, sterling jewelry and colorful pashminas everywhere. We perused the stands for souvenirs but I quickly remembered we traveled with carry-ons so with that in mind, we left empty handed and took the tube to the Courtauld Gallery.

    The gallery was small and intimate and I enjoyed meandering around delighted to see my old Impressionist friends - Van Gogh, Monet, Cezanne, Renoir - the whole gang was there! My strategy for museums is aside from my must-sees, I just freely walk around only to stop at what catches my attention then I'll study it. D is the same way. The museum was near empty that at one point, I was alone in a room face to face with one of Monet's masterpieces and a couple of centuries old ornate chests that looked like coffins. The silence was beautiful but eerie shivers crawled up my spine not long after then I got freaked out. So I left the room in search for D who was standing on the spiral staircase snapping pics of the spherical skylight on the ceiling. I was done with the art and he was still into it so with a quick nod, I left and walked out to the courtyard. I watched little children play in the dancing fountains - you know those tricky disappearing ones that start small on the ground then shoot up high? I love those things and the Courtauld dedicated a big space just for them.

    Now it's lunch time and I wanted sticky toffee pudding! We walked to The Wellington nearby and found a table upstairs that was not as crazy as the elbow to elbow pub below. Now that I'm writing this, I can't believe we had fish & chips and bangers & mash again! The food was decent and the toffee pudding was okay, but what I specifically remember was watching the plates come out from a food elevator shoot behind the bar - the kitchen was on the first floor. Happy to have rested our feet, we took the tube to the Victoria and Albert Museum.

    The V&A was packed that night and I knew I was in for a treat when I couldn't decide whether to go left, right or dead smack straight in front as soon as I walked in. It was grand and sprawling and housed everything from sculptures to costumes to tapestries. I loved the variety in this museum and basked in its richness until I heard a soft boom, boom, boom. What was that! I turned to D whose eyes perked up like a hungry animal smelling a piece of meat! It was a perturbing base, boom boom boom, there it was again! So we hurried up the stairs in search for the base and... nothing. We scurried back down still following the boom when we were stopped in our tracks and found whaaaaat? There was a party in the courtyard! Clusters of happy people stood with cocktails in hand and the rest were seated around the pool enjoying the lively atmosphere. We were so excited we forgot about the artifacts inside and headed straight for the bar which was a kiosk stand. Got our drinks and sat on the steps surrounding the pool. Still bobbing our heads to the music, I watched a guard pull out a few youngsters when they started bringing beer bottles in the very shallow water. A few moments later, a photographer carrying a huge camera with an ID tag around his neck approached us wondering if he could take our picture. Without thinking twice, I said "Sure!" He later explained it was for the website. I checked a couple of times and haven't seen it online so who knows what that was about but it was a fun moment. Done with the V&A but wanting to drink more, we Ubered it to the Beaufort Bar in the Savoy Hotel.

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    Hi Elle123,

    Still tagging along. Glad you enjoyed the Courtauld Gallery so much. I loved it too, but it took me a few trips to London Town to find it! I guess the word “gallery” made me thing that it was some high price retail establishment. :)

    I found the V & A a bit overwhelming. Looking forward to more of your report. “D” sounds like a great guy, eh?

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    Love your energy!
    Love your ability to enjoy yourself your way, not by following someone else's list of "what you have to do".

    Did you see the little portrait head of Cezanne by Roger Fry at the Courtauld? Cezanne's self portrait at the Philips Gallery in Washington, DC, is a dead match, yet the Fry isn't a copy. Something to look forward to!

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    ...Continued from IV: "MUSEUM DAY"

    Within a few minutes we were picked up from the V&A and whisked to the Beaufort bar. We entered the lounge which was lit in soft muted yellows. The chairs and couches were covered in dark and golden hues and the luxurious drapes only added to its glamour. We were then seated on a couch across from the piano bar then ordered our drinks - pink champagne for me, whiskey for D. Then the brunette singer came out - striking red lips and perfectly curled hair - gorgeous! She started belting out songs by Sinatra and Fitzgerald in her most raspy and provocative voice. At one point, she was so into her singing that she began seducing the microphone between tenses, rubbing and rolling it around her neck and down her cleavage which was pouring out of her black dress. It was very theatrical and porny at the same time and you could tell the men in the audience were as fixated as I was. I turned to D who was grinning at me then he softly teased, "You like that?" Mortified that bionic ear woman next to us heard him when she quipped, "Heee suure dooes!" rolling her eyes and pointing at the man next to her who was drooling on his tie. We all laughed including Fido. After enjoying a few more classic songs and a little more microphone seduction, D and I craved the shawarma wrap from the first night. We got up and left the lounge and wandered around the hotel and saw another bar with stunning chandeliers oozing from the ceiling. On our way to the shawarma, I noticed how alive the city was even at 1AM. There were throngs of spectators still out and about painting the town all kinds of colors. We bought our wraps and walked to Piccadilly Circus and sat on the steps with other tourists. Satiated with our busy day, we ate below the statue of Eros and simply watched the world go by.

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    V: "BUZZ KILL"


    Last full day in London and our late night had us sleeping in. After lunching in bed, we headed to Covent Garden to resolve phone issues at Vodaphone. No success so we walked to another one just down the street. We had planned on visiting the National Portrait but it was too precious of a day to stay indoors. We strolled to Russell Square and looked for a place to sit. A few folks walked by also enjoying the scenery. The
    sun was shining bright and it was the perfect amount of breeze that made sitting on a bench in the middle of the square so magical. After all those years dreaming of London, I could not have imagined it better than I did that day.

    We walked a different route back to our neighborhood. It was our last day and I've been intrigued by the boutiques around the hotel. My shopping mission during the trip was to give my passport a nice leather case, preferably a fun color. I also wanted bright gloves. We scoped out several boutiques with D coming close to buying a messenger bag but, alas, I didn't find my accessories and D concluded to buy online.

    Then we realized we needed cash. While D was navigating, I saw a white building with two doric columns guarding the entrance. To our surprise, it was the London Library! I later learned it was members only but we had no problems roaming the miles of shelves that spanned inside. D loved the library so much he was in his own world, so I wandered a different direction and found my own solace. I strolled the narrow rows picking out and reading old books from the stacks. I loved smelling the delicate pages, a mystical scent of cut grass, smoke and vanilla that I found so wistful. It was like being in front of a fireplace on a cold winter night embraced by a warm blanket.

    Then the bee thing happened. There was a bee in the library and it was determined. It started buzzing around me killing all tranquility I had with myself and it didn't stop. It was a British bee. It had the same precision as the London cab and that little sh*t chased me all over the library until I gave up. Defeated by the local, the tourists left the library and headed back to the hotel. D had a work call and I got to
    lounge. The work call took too long and I needed toiletries so I left and walked to Boots. I didn't find what I wanted so I went back out in the streets. I passed by several pubs along the way then it hit me. Champagne! So I went to the store where I saw the deliciously looking champagne bottles from the first night and excitedly snatched a good one. When I got back, D was done with work so we popped that bubbly and celebrated our last night in London.

    After a while we headed back out and strolled to the Thames. The bright blue capsules that gently wiggled on the "eye" were electrifying. It shone bright above reflecting rippling cascades of blue, white and silver ribbons right on the river. After a nice long stroll with no particular destination, we found Shoryu on Regent Street and decided to have dinner there. We had the fishcakes, gyoza, pork buns, okra and salmon and loved everything. Tummies full and legs rested, we walked to the National Portrait and admired its beauty, reveling in the thought of coming back to London town. Completely satisfied with our relaxing day, we walked back to our hotel with happy thoughts of our second destination. The City of Light.

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    cw: I love that you stayed at the Cavendish too! I agree, the location was perfect - we walked everywhere!

    ElendilPickle, bilboburgler and KayTKay - Thank you for your kind comments and I'm excited you're reading along!

    latedaytraveler: It's a wonderful discovery and I'm thrilled you loved the Courtauld as much as I did. The V&A was so big I can imagine returning multiple times and still have plenty left to see! The partying at the pool was fun but it definitely cut into museum time so will be returning next time we're back! And yes, D is great... and an even better travel partner. I'm lucky :)

    Ackislander: What a nice compliment, I appreciate that! I must've walked by the portrait head and now you've got me curious, even the one in DC!

    kerouac: I was amazed by all the cities we visited in Europe. I'm wondering, which country/countries in Asia you first visited where you felt that thrill? London was so special to me for the very thing you described!

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    Hi again Elle,

    Meant to say how much I enjoyed your “dropping in” at the LONDON LIBRARY – very exclusive so I have read – not to be confused with the enormous BRITISH LIBRARY on Euston Road.

    “To our surprise, it was the London Library! I later learned it was members only but we had no problems roaming the miles of shelves that spanned inside. D loved the library so much he was in his own world, so I wandered a different direction and found my own solace. I strolled the narrow rows picking out and reading old books from the stacks. I loved smelling the delicate pages, a mystical scent of cut grass, smoke and vanilla that I found so wistful. It was like being in front of a fireplace on a cold winter night embraced by a warm blanket.”

    That’s my type of place and I hope to “drop by” myself when next in London.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/London_Library

    Sounds like the gorgeous, classy BOSTON ATHENAEUM on Beacon Street in Boston to which I once belonged.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boston_Athenaeum

    Really great report….

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    I'm happy you both are still reading! It's nice to know who's still out there so I appreciate your comments a lot, thank you!

    latedaytraveler, thanks for including the links. How wonderful to be a member of the The Boston Athenaeum! It looks amazing especially this pic of the Long Room which I just found on Google images

    http://www.openlettersmonthly.com/american-aristocracy-civil-war-pride-and-shame-on-the-via-sacra/

    I think you would really enjoy the London library and am excited for when you go! We got lucky stumbling upon it standing in the street GPS-ing the nearest ATM.

    We have folks who are in town for a while so I'll be taking a break from writing, but it's been fun re-living our time in London and I'm looking forward to Paris! In the meantime, here's a clip of a restaurant that became "our" spot, highly recommended by our apartment hostess in the 7th.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3T_58i750tA

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    The HUGE problem with the London Library is it costs £690 per year per couple (they usually check membership only when you take a book out.)

    Many members are able to set it against tax: we can't deduct charitable donations here, but a large proportion of its membership - mostly academics and professional writers - can convincingly argue it's essential to their work.

    But most writers and academics don't earn enough for there to be that much tax to save (and spending on new public libraries in the past 20 years has been mind-boggling). So it's become again what it started off as: a pleasant lending library for scholarly toffs.

    You can hardly visit a single member of the library-owning class in the Cotswolds (these days, mostly financial-sector lawyers, or literate hedge-fund honchoes, who've added a properly air-conditioned library to their restored Tudor barn, when they certainly wouldn't put a/c into rooms only humans would populate) without seeing a few books - tastefully scattered between The Spectator, Prospect, the London Review of Books and the other mags you read on the train back to Kingham- ostentatiously carrying the London Library's distinctive red label.

    Even among those who've fallen on hard times. If the same book's there a year later, you know they can't afford the sub, and are too embarrassed to take it back

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    Hi again Elle,

    Thank you for the link with the great pic of the Boston Athenaeum. It’s a fabulous library and I would encourage anyone visiting Boston to go in and take a tour. I believe that visitors are given a badge and are allowed to meander around the first floor “without touching anything.”

    The architecture is gorgeous, recently renovated - beautiful furnishings, paintings, and fresh flowers everywhere (from an old bequest). They offer numerous talks, programs, art exhibits, and musical performances. I have let my membership go because I don’t get “in town” from suburbia the way I used to.

    Flanner UK, I appreciate your insider’s view of the LONDON LIBRARY. Chuckling still about those swells in the Cotswolds who display their London Library materials for effect. When I joined the Athenaeum some thirty years ago, one had to be recommended by three members etc., but that policy is more liberal today.

    I would say that the yearly subscription is about a fourth of that charged at the London Library. I never took books from the Athenaeum (our great local library system that can provide anything), but I enjoyed soaking up the ambiance of the building of my visits there to various events (and let’s not forget the wine ‘n cheese). I have a friend who is a docent there so I still attend their offerings. YOU would love the Boston Athenaeum!

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    This is a lovely report Elle. Your reaction on arriving on the street in London reminds me of the first time I surfaced from the metro in Paris. I was absolutely beside myself with excitement!

    Please tell us more about your holiday.

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    Elle, loved being in London with you, your enjoyment is contagious! We are planning our 3rd visit as we still have many things on our list to see. Very easy to read, I love your writing style. Looking forward to the excitement when you land in Paris.

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    Looking forward to you impressions of Paris and other destinations after enjoying your take on London. I think I have spent the same amount of time in London as you, though I feel like you saw and experienced much more than I did. I was sick while there solo so not exactly optimum conditions!

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    Most people rush through as many sights as they can during their first time in a city and miss experiencing serendipitous moments. Enjoying this very much and I loved your bench moment in Russell Sq. Patiently waiting for your adventures in Paris.

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    Happy 2014!

    I'm sure my wonderful readers are having a fantastic start to the new year, thus far! Knowing you had read my story in London is insanely awesome to me. Your comments above have made me so happy.

    Thank you.

    Next up... my new love, Paris!


    VI: "LONDON TO PARIS"

    So today was our commute day from London to Paris. We Ubered it from the hotel to St. Pancras and were pleasantly suprised to see the same driver from lounge night! He was thrilled to see us again as he and D really hit it off. They talked about American politics and it was interesting to listen. Sometimes, it's just really good to listen. Then they moved on to Michael Jackson and Beyonce.

    "What's Beyonce's baby's name?" Uber driver asked, clearly rhetorical so I didn't respond. "Blue Ivy," he continued. "She can name her baby anything she likes. She's nice." All in his commanding British accent. Then Michael Jackson's Billy Jean came on, another one of my favorites. "He's worth more dead than alive!" D chimed in.

    We arrived at the station early and ate sandwiches while waiting for the Eurostar. D disappeared then returned with beer and chocolates before settling on the train. I slept a little and was thankful for the headrests on the sides of the seats since I didn't lug a travel pillow. I also liked the pull down bar on the tiny table in front; it secures your drink the way a roller coaster does so you don't go flying off.

    The train stopped. We're officially in Paris! All those years envisioning this marvelous city unraveling before me. D and I waited for people in front to retrieve their big luggages from the racks by the door. Ours were compact so they fit on the rack above our seats. Everybody proceeded to the exit and gathered around preparing for the doors to open. I de-trained, got out of the way and rearranged my suitcase and shoulder bag. It was crowded and people were in a hurry when this wheezing 1000-pounder parked himself next to me and started yanking his uncooperative suitcase handle. Didn't work so he tried again, this time he really put his back into it. He squatted down sumo style, wrapped his jumbo fingers around the handle and pulled it using his body weight. The handle came up too quickly causing him to lose grip and his obese arm swung into the air karate chopping my wrist in full force! MOTHER!!! He whacked me so hard my watch dug into my skin and tore it! Everything happened so fast that not even D saw it, then my abuser disappeared like a bandit in the dark. Nerve endings started to pulsate and the pain radiated to my whole arm and made me dizzy. Oh sweet Jesus I've been attacked! I kept walking, only seeing blurry visions of the station ahead as I followed D who searched for a cash machine. "We're in Paris!" He exclaimed, way too jazzed to notice my pain. Mind over matter...I need an x-ray...mind over matter, the seance in my head began. "WE'RE IN PARIS!" He repeated, louder this time and twice as jazzed. "I KNOW!" I yelled back with a forced smile shrugging arm-bandit-abuser from my head and focusing on Paris instead. I looked around the station but it didn't seem real yet. American card went in and crisp Euros came out. Much better return than the pound! YEAH!

    We walked out of the station and I took my first full Parisian breath. Ahhh... Paris. We waited in line for a cab and the attendant directed us to the driver. D handed him a paper with the apartment address and the driver repeated, "Suffren," I nodded my head. This cabbie was no nonsense from beginning till end. He drove fast, wasted no time and said nothing. He clearly had this route down. The drive from the station to the apartment was so surreal. "I can't believe we're here," I murmured to myself as I blissfully gazed out the window while we drove past monuments after monuments kissed with gold. D took my hand, like he always does in the back seat, and we forgot about each other for the next few minutes as we zipped through the charming streets of Paris.

    Viola, we're here! We picked up the keys from the restaurant manager located below the apartment. Our hostess wasn't there to meet us. No biggie, easy peasy. We entered the gate and were greeted by a huge courtyard the size of a tennis court with lush trees on every corner. We entered another door and now we're in the lobby. One more door and boom! An elevator the size of a trash shoot! I giggled, remembering reading about the elevators in Paris. So what did we do? Instead of letting the other go first - no that would be too sensible - we crammed ourselves, our two luggages, D's gadget bag, my big shoulder bag (little shoulder bag inside a medium shoulder bag inside the big shouler bag - think bag babooshka) and we were slowly transported. We peeled ourselves off the walls and walked to the end of the hallway.

    D opened the door and the first thing I saw was a long white kitchen with large windows. I couldn't see out because of the glare. Towards the left was a round table with four rattan chairs huddled around it, and towards the right was a long black sofa and a welcome champagne on the coffee table. SWEET! Directly in front were floor to ceiling glass doors showcasing the most unbelievable view! My jaw dropped in amazement. I quickly walked to the sliding doors and opened them all the way to let the fresh air in. MY GOD, I thought to myself, as I stepped out onto the balcony. At 10 o'clock was an unobstructed view of the Eiffel Tower, below was Champ de Mars, to the right were beautiful apartment buildings and directly in front at a far distance was Montmarte and the very visible Sacre Coeur. Being on the 8th floor, we saw everything in full view.

    I kept hearing D inside, "This is INSANE!" Still in disbelief and proud of all the OCD research I've done, I sprinted to the bedroom and found a bed with crisp white sheets, balcony doors, and guess what? Uh huh, the same view! MY GOD. I ran to the kitchen, my boots swooshing the wooden floors and guess what? STILL THE SAME VIEW! My heart was beating so fast as I returned to the living room where D stood in astonishment. Seeing thousands of photos of the Eiffel Tower since birth, the real thing just took my breath away. With every atom in my body exploding in joy, I lifted my hands to the heavens, dropped to my knees and thanked all the gods of the universe. I have arrived!

    After my Academy Award performance, we walked around the neighborhood. We stayed in the 7th arrondissement. We discovered a cheese store, a wine store, several restaurants, fruit stands and the bread store, Poilane. It was a very convenient area and we were happy being there. After our long stroll we went back to Firmin, the same restaurant where our apartment hostess left the key. The manager immediately recognized us and he smiled and welcomed us in. We requested if it was okay to sit at the outside patio. He smiled again. We bee-lined to our table and our server arrived in no time. I had been warned about the service in Paris being mediocre at best. I take these comments with a grain of salt. At the same time he said "Hello!" we said "Bonjour!" I had linguini with cream and prosciutto, D had the salmon and we shared a bottle of rose and a chocolate dessert. Italian food on our first night in France made me slightly guilty but once it hit my taste buds, all guilt dissipated. The food was great and our server was professional and friendly claiming he had only been to NYC and would travel farther west next time. As soon as the food arrived, he didn't come back to check on us, as expected, but was always at a near distance constantly looking over in case we needed something. We were not used to this approach but actually appreciated not being bothered during our meal. I loved that we had nothing planned that night other than being there. The atmosphere was lively with the next table taking pictures of each other. The tip of the Eiffel was peeking behind a building lighting up the sky. What a perfect night! I couldn't stop smiling at the very thought of being there.

    We walked twenty yards back and returned to our apt to enjoy the final sighting of the twinkling icon from bed. In a split second it was dark, just us under the black sky and the soft orange glow from the street lamps below.

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    thank you very much for the report. your attention to detail, sense of humor and sense of appreciation are a joyful combination to read. i am taking my first trip to europe in september and have already done the ocd research on almost a nightly basis. i will remind myself to read your trip report again right before i go so i remember the most important thing... to RELAX AND ENJOY it.

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    elle 123-
    I am suppose to be writing my Paris trip report but instead I got totally wrapped up in your great report.
    Looking forward to reading what else you were up to in Paris, my favorite city, and Italy my new love.

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    I missed this when you began and just caught up with it now. Just Love hearing about your adventures. Thanks for sharing!

    And please continue with every morsel of food and goodies, every place, every adventure, every observation of new places!

    A not to FabFrance, I have been following your trip so please get with it and tell us the rest of your story.

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    fables: That's my kinda equation! ;) You are so thoughtful, thank you for your kind words and congratulations on your upcoming trip! The weather we had in September was simply perfect. I'm SOO excited for you and hope you will share your report with us.

    FabulousFrance: Yes, France is indeed fabulous and so are you! You got me hooked on your trip report, please hurry and write more! Loved the quote by Paul G.

    irishface: I'm glad you're reading along. Thank you for the encouragement and appreciating the details.



    VII: "A DANCE WITH ROMANCE"

    I woke up to a bright sunny day and right away I knew I was in Paris. You know how sometimes you wake up in a new place and have to pause for a mental check before recognizing where you are? None of that happened. I knew!

    I got ready and noticed that even the shower head displayed twinkling lights above my head. The bathroom was a good size and it had a bidet. D was not a fan of the bidet because it didn't have a top cover. Other than the bidet (I was fine with it), we were very happy with our apartment. It was a 1-bedroom and it was spacious enough for both of us. There was one balcony and it stretched from the bedroom to the living room and all the way to the kitchen windows. From the kitchen, we could reach over onto the patio table without having to bring all the goods around the apt to reach the balcony. There was a small round outdoor table that had a built-in heater (amazing) and two iron chairs. The kitchen was stacked with more than what we needed - a coffee machine, an espresso machine, wine glasses, champagne flutes, and tadaa!...A washer and dryer! Just what we needed for our two-week stay. The wi-fi was super fast and there was a landline we could use to call the US free (Perfect for D's work). There was a large bookshelf that had a ton of Paris reads and travel info. If you had no itinerary planned, she had a binder that had restaurant, museum and market suggestions. But the best part was the view! THAT was the main intrigue and let me tell you, it did not disappoint. Sitting out on that balcony over-looking Paris was my little piece of heaven.

    We took our first morning stroll and found a cafe to have cappuccinos and croissants. I'm in Paris! I'm still floating. We sat under the sun and I wore my pink floppy hat while D soaked it all in. It's the best traveling hat I have; it's indestructible in my luggage. We enjoyed and lingered a while trying to decide where to go first. Did we want to see a church? A museum? The islands? We weren't sure and thought a brief introduction to a few places would be perfect. So we decided on another bus tour especially after an enjoyable experience in London. We went back to the apt and picked up a few things such as my headphones and the bus pamphlet we found in the "travel bookshelf."

    While D and I were walking to get bus tickets, we passed by an outdoor cafe and spotted a pizza that one of the patrons was having. It glistened under the sun and it looked too good to ignore. We had just eaten but it really looked too good! So we went inside and asked to get seated outside. We ordered the same pizza with prosciutto, mushrooms and gruyere plus mozzarella sticks. The more cheese the better! D had beer and I, a glass of rose from Provence. I was taking a picture of D when our gregarious waiter offered to take our picture. He asked where we were from and if we were enjoying Paris. We said we had just arrived but we loved it already.

    "Paris is the BEST city in the world," he gushed, clenching his fist in the air for emphasis. We smiled. Then he went on, "It is GREAT for romance!" Two fists this time. We agreed.

    Just like the one in London, it was a hop-on, hop-off bus tour and of course we sat on the top deck. It was a 2-hour tour and I loved every second of it. Loved it! It's great when bus tours show you as much as these guys did and be that up close. I listened to the recorded lady and once again, I was happy with my foldable headphones. Had I lost them, I would buy the exact same kind. We slowly drove around Opera Garnier and I enjoyed visualizing opera being sung in this magnificent work of art. Ballet works too! We drove by Arc de Triomphe and boy was that arch much bigger than how I pictured it in my head. I was blown away by its height and girth as we drove around its circumference. Next was Champ Elysee, a wide street full of shopping, restaurants and people, lots of people. We also went by Musee d'Orsay and I told D that was a must-see! I appreciate when he knows I'm so excited about something and doesn't rain any form of detest on my parade. It makes for a fun trip when I feel I can see anything I want. I secretly hoped we would continue to travel well together as this was the longest trip we had taken as a couple in spite of being together for a few years.

    The bus tour ended where it began, by the Eiffel. We got off and walked around the area and I found myself directly under the massive tower. D started analyzing the physics of it when I saw a menu stand - I'll analyzed THAT. I walked over and glanced at the Jules Verne tasting menu. It looked fabulous! I pictured sitting inside Jules Verne looking out of the tower and realized I wouldn't be SEEING the tower. Still, I knew the experience would be fantastic.

    We slowly strolled back to the apartment passing by a flower shop. We went inside and D, being the gardener in the party, quickly spotted the same plants we had at home - palm and some mother-in-law tongue thing. The owner gave D tips to keep our plants from growing in all directions while I scoped out the flowers. A nice bouquet would be pretty in the apartment but I didn't find any I liked. When I started hearing la di da...photosynthesis...la di da...., that was my cue. I snuck out and went to the chocolate shop down the street. Now THIS was my kinda shop!

    "Bonjour!" I exclaimed as I walked in. The lady behind the counter was ready to dispense so I zoned in on the espresso truffles, pointed to them almost touching the glass casing, "Je veux deux, s'il vous plaît," I said, excitedly.

    I snuck back in the flower shop and glad to see more plant talk so I waited patiently admiring the colorful flowers that made the shop smell so fresh. The owner was kind and helpful and it was nice seeing D so into his plants.

    We cut through Champ de Mars on our way home while we ate truffles and watched a bride and groom use Gustave's masterpiece as their backdrop.

    We waited for the Eiffel's first twinkle show of the night and of course, I was was ecstatic again! I wondered if by the time we left I'd be over watching it so many times. Well, the answer is no. Every time that tower twinkled, I got up from whatever I was doing and ran to the balcony and just stood there in awe. But it wasn't just the magical light show that kept me mystified. I especially loved the sounds that seeped through the air when I took a minute to pay attention in silence. I could hear faint screams and laughter from people rejoicing all over the city and the sounds became even more audible as the night grew darker. That was my favorite part of the show from the balcony.

    As nightfall came, I realized how beautiful it would have been to have done the bus tour when the city was lit up. D agreed so we figured, let's do it again! So we bundled up, walked to the Eiffel and got on top of the bus and loved it again! It was a slightly different route and this time, it went under the arch entrance to the Louvre like a thread squeezing through a needle. We stopped next to the captivating glass triangle and D got so excited. This was his must-see. Being on the bus was like seeing things in flashes - it offered a quick taste confirming the ones we'd like to explore. We continued to Saint Germain and bus-shopped along the pretty stores. It paused in front of the bright and bustling Moulin Rouge and we saw people dressed up for the show. We saw a different kind of show though - the kind where ladies went on top of the underground vent and took photos a la Marilyn Monroe as the vent blew air under their dress while bystanders admired the free show. We zoomed by Garnier again and this time, it hit me harder. I couldn't take my eyes off all that glittering gold as we slowly encircled it.

    I really felt like I had died and gone to heaven. It was truly magical witnessing Paris illuminated at night and a strong wave of gratitude awashed over me and I told D, when I'm on my death bed, put my frail dying body on top of this bus and let this city be the last thing I see and this feeling be the last thing I feel. It was a beautiful dance with romance.

    When the tour was done, we were back by the Eiffel. The bus tour was quite an experience at night - a tiny bit more enchanting than the one during the day. And when I thought the evening couldn't get any better, we walked a few yards over and stood in line for what would be an unforgettable dinner - a banana, chocolate and whipped cream crepe!

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    I think it's just you and me now, Foxy!

    Foxy is my brilliant girlfriend from college who has trekked the globe countless times on her own. You continue to inspire me on my traveling quest, my friend.

    This one's for you!


    VIII: "CHURCH, CRUISE AND CASSIS, OH MY"

    D woke up extra early and while I was getting ready, he left and went to the nearby ATM. During his stroll, he stumbled upon a grocery store and bought a few breakfast items. I discovered I like smoked salmon with a hint of Sriracha and a splash of lemon juice. He discovered that the French don't refrigerate their eggs - they're simply left on the shelves. What do you know, room temp eggs are the way to go!

    Energized and excited to explore, we took the bus to Sainte Chapelle - or so we thought. As soon as we walked in, I knew it was not the beautiful stained glass church I had been waiting to see for months. It was our first church in Paris and it was a dark one, but still, charming in its own way. It didn't have pews, only wooden chairs, and something you would normally see outdoors. There were three stained glass arches on the front high wall and a few scattered on other walls. Bronzed candelabras towered near the altar and rows of iron fences decorated this church. Gold chandeliers strung from the ceiling and they carried big round frosted balls that must glow beautifully at night. They were right above our heads only a couple of feet away. It may not be as magnificent as the other churches I've seen on this trip in detail and grandeur, but I really liked this church; it spoke to me in her very rustic French and we understood each other. We sat down on one of the uneven chairs, said a little prayer and I left feeling very at peace.

    Now even more curious to see the spectacular stained glass that awaited us, we walked to Sainte Chapelle. On our way there, we were hungry again. Geez we had just eaten. We stopped at Le Parvis, a little bistro in Ile de la Cite, and had quiche lorraine for me, salmon for D. His fish came with a delicious chive and caper sauce. Cappuccino for D, a glass of rose for me.

    After printing our bill the waiter started shaking his head. Uh oh. In his very bad English he tried to tell D that he made a mistake and charged him three thousand euros instead of thirty-three euros. Oh boy. D quickly studied the bill and it said three dollars. Whew! A little hiccup, no biggie, dessert time! Two steps over and we were at Hure, a pastry shop next to the restaurant. We bought colorful macarons and unpacked them all the way to Notre Dame. We were confused logistically and turned out Chapelle will have to wait.

    When we got to Notre Dame we saw a long line to see the gargoyles. It was over an hour wait so we queued to enter the church instead. Five minutes later, we were taking baby steps behind the crowd to make our way under the three elaborately decorated portals. I looked behind and saw people enjoying the sunlight from the bleachers, their view was the incredible west facade where we were entering. All of a sudden, my brain got so excited and wanted to go inside, outside, church, sunshine....

    Chiiiill... one at a time, woman! Nothing's going anywhere in the next thirty minutes.

    This church was grand and the high columns, old chandeliers and beautiful rose windows were amazing. We searched for the red door and observed the sculpture paneling. I liked Notre Dame, it's just what I pictured - big and gothic. I bought a rosary for a friend who bought me one from the Vatican a few years ago and it was my first shopping goodie in Paris.

    What I enjoyed most was the garden behind the church. Only a few people around so we lingered a while admiring the lush greenery and enormous buttresses. D was impressed I knew this tranquil spot and for a few moments, I felt like a local. We finally motivated and walked along the Seine and made our way to Sainte Chapelle where we also purchased our Museum Pass.

    There were security checks before we entered Saint Chapelle, rightfully so; this incredible work of art deserves strict preservation and I appreciated the enforcement. We entered and were immediately greeted by a chapel on the lower level as well as a gift shop. Oh no, were we on the wrong church again? Where's my stained glass!!!?

    We slooowly ascended the narrow spiraling staircase and viola! Now THIS was Sainte Chapelle! I literally gasped in surprise. I had seen plenty pictures of Sainte Chapelle but the real thing was simply dazzling - happy shimmering angels dancing in the sunlight. It told over a thousand stories from the Bible in 15 stained glass windows and I slowly studied half of them. It was under renovation so half of the view was covered in scaffolding. The main floor was empty so I stood in the middle and inhaled the richness of the light that struck each brilliant scene. It was a sunny day and the rays produced a soft glow that was so indescribably beautiful.

    All this visual giddiness required a physical partner so when we left Chapelle and stumbled upon Berthillon, I knew it was a match made in heaven. Cassis ice cream for me, vanilla bean for D - both great but it was the best vanilla bean I've ever had. We took our cones and walked to the bridge with love-padlocks covering the railings. Of course, we didn't have a lock. There were a few vendors selling them from teeny tiny to ultra jumbo but we kept strolling hand in hand on this very romantic, creaking bridge.

    We walked and we walked some more. We were trying to catch the hop-on hop-off bus but between enjoying the scenery and talking to each other, we really didn't care much about the bus we pretended to look for. However, I did spot a group of vespa-driving women at an intersection. They were all nodding and pointing to each other dressed in skinny jeans and cute dresses. ALL OF THEM had pretty shoes - ballet flats, booties, loafers, knee high boots, stilettos, you name it!

    My feet were tired so D hailed a cab and he drove us to our Seine cruise. D paid him in coins to complete the fare and he kept shaking his head, smiling, then would return them to D. D insisted he kept more for tip so he happily gave them back to the cabbie. He returned them again gesturing "no" with a slice across the neck and this time, he was laughing. We were so perplexed as to why he wouldn't accept them. Between our bad French and his non-existent English, we finally realized D kept paying him in pence! I guess he was tired too. By the time this tag of war was over, we were all hysterical.

    We had an hour before our sunset cruise so we decided to have a cocktail nearby. They had a policy we were not used to. You could only sit on the patio that over-looked the entrance and walkway if you ordered a meal. If you just wanted to sit and drink, you sat inside and had a full view of the Seine. We liked that policy!

    Rejuvenized, we left and found a long line of tourists waiting to board the boat. By the time we got on, the top deck was completely full and all the outdoor seats were all taken - sitting inside was out of the question. We snooze we lose, that's what we get for lounging and drinking.

    But AHA! I found a sneaky side door in front of the boat that led to the outside seating. No seats available but no one said we can't stand behind this door. I looked around making sure we weren't blocking anyone and stood behind it. The yellow sun softened to orange while the buildings began to light up. Picturesque! We floated under the many bridges admiring the gold sculptures that sparkled above. Locals and tourists spread along the river waving and cheering as tourist boats passed. Of course the tour wouldn't be complete without a fantastic view of the Eiffel Tower so they saved the best for last.

    We let everyone de-boat while we sat by the railings and enjoyed the Seine. The rush gradually turned into silence and those very few moments out alone was priceless.

    We headed back and had dinner at Carmine, a relaxed brasserie in the 7th we spotted during our walks. We dined al fresco and enjoyed the bustling street and the perfect Fall weather. I had the ravioli with mushrooms, ham and peas and they all floated in cream. Divine. I almost reached for the bowl and drank it. D had the salmon sandwich and fries. Can you tell D loves salmon? I had a strawberry mojito and D had the gin fizz. For dessert, we shared a molten chocolate cake drizzled with mango and raspberry sauce.

    A few moments later, two enthusiastic French girls who looked to be in their 20s sat in front of us. They kissed the waiter on the cheek and soon they were enjoying a bottle of rose while they laughed and smoked. I got jealous so I ordered a glass for myself and D had whiskey. After dining and lounging for almost three hours, we walked a couple of blocks home and watched "Wipeout" in French.

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    What a wonderful enthusiastic report! (By the way, nearly fifty years after my first trip to Europe, I still get that excited feeling when I hit the ground. I can't believe that I am really seeing all these wonderful sights.) Thank you for sharing and please continue.

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    " He discovered that the French don't refrigerate their eggs - they're simply left on the shelves. What do you know, room temp eggs are the way to go!"

    They don't generally refrigerate them in the UK either.

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    Glad to savor Paris through your eyes. DH and I also used the HOHO busses to get a city's layout when we first "landed".

    One time in a grocery, I was looking at expiration date on a box of eggs and someone near me laughed and shared that he never kept his eggs in the fridge either--and this was in the U.S. How long does Ms. Chicken actually sit on the eggs before they get picked up by Mr. Farmer? Surely the temp is higher under all those feathers.

    More please soon! And yes, please share the name of the apartment.

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    Took my daughter to London and Paris many years ago when she got her masters degree, but your enthusiasm and appreciation remind me of her like it was yesterday. Sent the link so she and I are following along. Really a joy to read, please continue.

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    Yes I did, TDudette! I learned from the HOHO tour that the concrete jungle city views we have now used to be acres of fig orchards, wild grapes, bean and rosebush fields. Lovely, eh? :)

    realcodes: Your daughter rocks! I'm touched you both are reading this, thanks for telling me that.

    To be honest, I'm still a little in disbelief that anyone is really even reading this. This is so out of the box for me.

    Next story will be up by tomorrow!

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    For the sake of accurate story-telling, Poilane was actually on a different day.


    IX: "MY GARDENS AND THE PERFECT FOIE GRAS"

    Morning coffee on our balcony was an experience I continued to love. The view of Montmarte, the Eiffel and the life bustling below was like a dream happening in real life. Today was a busy work day for D who was up extra early to get a head start. This meant I was on my own for the entire morning. Oh whatever will I do? I quickly got ready and I was out the door in no time.

    I cut through Champ de Mars and, well, I had no idea where I was going. I am direction-challenged, remember? Maybe I just don't like being told what to do. So I debated with myself whether to use the phone and navigate, but nah...just enjoy the walk and don't worry.

    So that's what I did and I kept strolling along. Cool breeze in a big park with several joggers pounding the ground. Mothers played with their babies and lulled around just like me, the tourist me.

    I kept walking, and walking, ...left...right...straight...right.... then viola! What is this! I stumbled upon the Luxembourg Gardens! This was on my list to see and I found it just like that. Paris is like Christmas season, there's always a surprise around every corner. How beautiful is this place - the greenery, the random statues - as I continued to skip with glee. It was my own discovery, my alluring slice of paradise. My god, I love this place. I sat on the grass for a very long time and enjoyed the solitude. For the time being, Paris was mine and all mine and I pictured myself living there. After a few dreamy hours, I stopped to get pistachio gelato and headed back home.

    Apparently, D had done his own rummaging and knew exactly where to take me - Rue du Commerce. It was in the 15th arrondissement just across from Champ de Mars near the Eiffel Tower. In all my prior research, I did not read about this area but I absolutely loved it. He impressed me! The shopping was wonderful and the outdoor concert at a tiny park played lively music while we shopped. There were over a hundred boutiques but because it's a one-way street, we easily skipped across without much worry about traffic. We walked by high end boutiques, thrift stores, cosmetic shops, chocolatiers, boulangeries, and a number of cafes. I felt like this was a hidden gem where locals shopped because I didn't see a lot of people with cameras. We criss-crossed to the stores and D went into a phone store while I, to a quaint beauty shop. I scoped out their make-up and bought "bronze" and "noir" eyeliners and a cute tin can with gorgeous peachy blush inside.

    We spent a few hours just roaming around and browsing the stores when our noses got a whiff of something delicious - Chinese food! We followed the smells and finally found the place. The food hit the spot and after a few more shops, it was museum time.

    We took the Metro to Musee d'Orsay to pay homage to the Impressionist gods. Long line but we walked right in with our pass. We were greeted by a huge ornate clock hanging on the wall. How gigantic! There is something so delightful about Impressionist art which always turns my mood from happy to happier. The paintings seem livelier, brighter, and I'm quick to notice the palpable beginnings of a white canvas before magic is created.

    I stood in front of Vincent's "Starry Night Over the Rhone" studying every stroke and shade. A man who looked to be in his 80s slowly positioned himself next to me and we both gazed at the beautiful blue painting. I struck a conversation with a simple, "Bonjour." He responded the same and with a warm smile his eyes returned to the masterpiece. We softly exchanged a few more words in English and he, gung-ho about Van Gogh, remained steady while I searched for Degas.

    I started taking photos of sculptures by Rodin and Degas but eventually got scolded by an attendant, tsk tsk tsk, not allowed. This museum was smaller than I had pictured, and I loved it more than I had imagined. After spending a good amount of time here, we were back on the streets in search for dinner.

    We meandered down quiet and narrow alley ways and spotted an opened door with soft tantalizing glows coming from inside. I didn't see a posted menu but DID see sharply dressed servers who hung out by the entrance. Hmmm...interesting. We asked for a menu as we knew this could be dangerous and, indeed, it was. The tasting menu looked YUM but we weren't ready to spend hundreds so we handed it back and off we were again. D and I agreed that the next time we return to Paris, we will dine at this three-starred Arpege.

    We continued on and spotted a small but cozy place called Laiterie. It was stifling in this restaurant so we requested for the table by the floor to ceiling window which was completely slid open. Warm restaurant and semi al fresco breeze, superb choice. The host here reminded me of JFK Jr.... (: .... and he was very kind. We started with two appetizers. First the tomato, mini string beans and seaweed salad. Then the foie gras - oh the foie gras - the best I've ever had. D had the pork with apple sauce and cabbage, and I had the steak with bearnaise sauce and crunchy potatoes. It was a balmy evening and although we would normally order red wine with this meal, a bottle of sauvignon blanc went down perfectly.

    We ate and lingered, and what initially started as a packed restaurant dwindled down to just us and JFK's personal guests. They got up and went outside midway through their meal and hovered on the sidewalk clutching wine in one hand and a cigarette in the other. This was taking lingering to a whole new level.

    We were stuffed but I could've been coaxed for dessert. Since we were last ones there I was a little too embarrassed to even ask. JFK came back wondering if we had room for sweets and lured us to have their delicious fig tart. Well now that you insist, that would be a YES! Plus the chocolate flourless cake with orange infused whipped cream, s'il vous plaît! D had whiskey while I finished the desserts and JFK returned to chat it up.

    As we were leaving, he handed D his contact info and cheerfully said, "You call for local advice if you need." What a lovely man. French people are just nice. The food and service were excellent and the experience was memorable. We weren't ready to go home and wanted to listen to music so JFK recommended Cafe de Flore. We strolled down the street and found the cafe which was still bustling past 1am. The place looked great and music was playing but we suddenly lost interest and Ubered it back home.

    We sat on the balcony draped in a blanket and absolutely loved the peace and quiet.

    Just another perfect day in Paris...

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    elle123 -count me in as another reader til the end.

    Thanks for the shout out on my report...I know what you mean-its really something that others want to hear about your travels and then they say such nice things about your writing too.

    Your apt in Paris was amazing-it would be hard to leave those views.

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    Thanks for the support, Fab!


    X: "POILANE"

    We woke up to a sunny day, sat on the balcony and had our coffee. We've been traveling for almost ten days and between work and going around, D was a bit tired and so was I. Before we took this trip, we agreed that we were not going to come home exhausted needing another vacation from our vacation, so with the Eiffel as our witness, we decided to stay in - guilt-free - and do whatever we pleased.

    We immediately jumped back into bed and watched TV! I think she had 600 channels - it was crazy. I don't watch much television at home so it was double the fun lounging under the sheets and flipping through shows in different languages while being in Paris. Having the Eiffel poised next to the monitor was a sweet bonus.

    All of a sudden I wanted something sweet - pastry sweet - and like a blinding light bulb I remembered Poilane.

    I must get there. STAT.

    It was only a couple of blocks away on Blvd de Grenelle. I am not sure how authentic Poilane is for the real local enthusiasts but it had been a place of great interest to me. I was a big Molly Ringwald fan in the 80s - Pretty in Pink, Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club - and read that she used to live in Paris during the height of her career. Poilane was one of her top favorite places in Paris to get bread and croissants.

    When her mother paid her a visit from the US, of course Molly had to bring her to her beloved bakery. So one cold day they went and stood in the long line to buy their pastries. Low and behold, the owner came out with warm treats for everyone and the mom got to chat it up. When the owner found out they were kindred souls, turned out mom was a passionate baker herself, they were offered a grand tour of the kitchen complete with rising dough. It was the kindest gesture and it became the ultimate highlight out of mom's many visits to Paris. The owner had since died but it was such a lovely story that Poilane stuck with me.

    So there I was standing in front of the entrance - clean bright windows, so far so good. I savored every moment taking my sweet time and noticed the nice display of croissants and loaves - then I quietly entered.

    Pretty!

    I think the story happened in another location because this place was small - yet three women were wo-manning it. Was I shocked? Of course not. THIS was Poilane. THIS was how they did things. So I did a big slooow twirl to check out the scrumptious treats then zoned in on the croissants, four of them (two each!).

    I watched them with vigor and this is what they did:

    First woman wearing protective gloves picked them up from the shelves and brought them to the second woman, also gloved - then second woman wrapped them up carefully then brought them to the third woman, the cashier. The cashier rang them up and handed them to me ever so delicately. Maybe Jesus was a tatin incarnate?

    I took one slow bite and...oh so so soft and buttery... then gobbled it up so fast I was ready for my second piece! The band in my mouth beat the drums, clang the cymbals and hit the high note. YUM!

    We strolled back to the apartment and lounged some more. Next thing you know it was time for dinner. Oh how time flies extra fast in Paris, why oh why.

    We walked to Le Suffren just a couple of blocks away, a place our hostess highly recommended in the 7th. For starters, we had the foie gras - good but not as great as the one from Laiterie. I ordered the seabass with leeks and red-brown peppercorns and it was delicious. The combination of sticky bitter leeks and the naturally sweet seabass was just perfect with tomatoes. D ordered the steak with roquefort sauce and a side of potatoes, and he was happy too. Chablis for me, cab for him.

    We lingered and fantasized about living in Paris for part of the year. Ahhh...dreaming is fun.

    On our way back, we stopped at a fruit stand and picked up some grapes and plums then up the teeny tiny elevator and back in bed. We watched more foreign TV, ate chocolate, and watched the Eiffel dance every hour from a distance.

    http://www.poilane.com/index.php?passer=1

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    Great trip report! Felt like I was there! We are planning our first trip to Europe and wanted to find out name and contact information or website for the apartment you rented in Paris. Sounded fantastic! Thank you so much!

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