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Trip Report: Celebrating 50th in Paris and so much more (3/30 – 4/15)

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Thanks to Fodors for years of information and support, especially for helping to make this recent trip so wonderful. This is only my second trip report, despite several trips that were informed by Fodors Talk, so it’s vastly overdue.

Forward:

Until last year I traveled about 40,000 – 50,000 miles a year for work (small by some standards, but enough to accumulate a fair amount of miles on United). I wanted to cash in the miles for first class tickets for my wife Jessie and me, which can be hard to come by. I’ve cashed in miles a few times before for first class tickets overseas, and have always felt that this was a great tradeoff for all the work travel that earned the miles.

The question was where to go.

I’d been looking forward to turning 50 with a great deal of reflection, and although I was hoping for a celebratory trip, I really wanted a meaningful trip as well. I decided that I wanted to spend my 50th in Paris, which has become one of my favorite cities, but also use the miles to visit my niece and nephew (and grand niece and nephews) in Israel, and to introduce Jessie to the country (she’s never been; I’ve been 4 times over the last 30 years).

I’ll report the Paris portion here, and will include a link to the Israel trip report once I’ve completed that part.

Itinerary:

Because our miles were on United, which doesn’t fly to Israel, our best option was Lufthansa. Somehow we managed to get two first class tickets together, which is not an easy thing to do. Award tickets allow one stopover, but a layover less than 24 hours isn’t considered a stopover, so the goal was a stopover in Paris, and spending the night in Frankfurt on the way back so as to avoid having to arrive at TLV airport at 2:00 in the morning. However, since Paris isn’t considered “en route,” we had to do FRA-CDG on a separate ticket (luckily only $105; otherwise we probably would have taken the train).

So here’s the itinerary (not likely something you’d see suggested by Fodorites, but it all worked out in the end):

Fly San Francisco to Frankfurt (FRA), four hour layover (in Lufthansa first class lounge), then to CDG.
Five nights in Paris (Hotel des Deux-Iles on Ile St. Louis).
Fly CDG to FRA, spend the night at the Sheraton in the airport (avoiding middle of the night arrival in Israel)
Fly to Israel, four nights in Jerusalem, four nights in Zichron Yaakov (where my niece lives).
Fly to Frankfurt, spend another night at the Sheraton (free night using Starwood points).
Fly home.

We’ve been to Paris a few times before, and the goal this time around is to revisit favorite spots, but also venture out to some places we haven’t been before. Also, we’ve always just wandered into whatever restaurants appeared in our paths, to varying degrees of success, so this time around we did a fair amount of research and even reserved a couple of restaurants in advance (especially for my birthday dinner).

One note about wardrobe, since there are so many threads about the subject, especially vis a vis Paris: After stressing about being out of place without a sports coat vs. bringing a warmer leather jacket for the early spring chill, I opted for the latter. I tend not to look like a cookie cutter San Franciscan at home, or a cookie cutter New Yorker (e.g.) when eating out in New York, so why should Paris be any different. I have no regrets about this choice, and would have froze if my jacket was just a sports coat. And although I didn’t look like those around me, I never felt uncomfortable. Paris is a cosmopolitan city, meaning that there’s room for all types at most restaurants (granted, none of our meals were at any of the fancier restaurants).

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