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Trip Report Twelve Nights: Venice, Bologna & Paris (plus Ravenna)

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VENICE - BOLOGNA - PARIS MAY 2016 TRIP REPORT

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DAY 00 - MON MAY 09
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This is our third trip to Venice and seventh to Paris (not counting a Eurostar day-trip we made during a London trip). Bologna and a day-trip to Ravenna would be all new.

Our air tickets were paid for with miles. The flight is American (formerly USAir) from PHL to VCE. We had the left side pair of seats on the A330, but I always check the seat availability the morning of our flight. There were several empty banks of four further back, so we switched to the end seats of one inside row hoping the two middle seats would remain open.

Boarding was uneventful, but at the last minute a couple sat in the middle seats. However, sometimes you get lucky — the four-bank in front of us was open after the door shut, so we moved to those ends seats and gave the couple ours. I got to lie down on the flight an actually slept several hours, right through the meal service. (My wife has no trouble sleeping sitting up, but my lower back can’t take it.)

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DAY 01 - TUE MAY 10
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Arrival on time and no real problems getting to the island. I had bought the Alilaguna tickets in advance. At the airport, I picked up a couple of 72-hour transport passes. The plan was to not use them until tomorrow, so that we could use them the morning of day 5 to get to the train station.

First thing to do was swap the SIM cards in our phone. I used a fee Lebara SIM that I ordered online before leaving. I like that I can use PayPal to add time/data. I loaded 10€ of voice and, for another 10€ got 3 Gb cellular data. Since every place we were staying had Wi-Fi, I was sure that would be more than enough for the times we were out and about.

The only issue was that the website schedule and map showed the orange line going to San Marco, but the sign at the dock indicated that it would only go as far as Giglio. We resigned ourselves to a short walk, but right before arriving at Giglio, I asked if it went to San Marco…it did, so all was well.

We rented our apartment through Airbnb. I’ve done it in the US several times but never in Europe, so I was a little apprehensive. The downside of an apartment is that we could not leave our bags there until check-in — at 2 pm.

We were hungry, so went to a place we love — Birreria Forst. They had great sandwiches and beer, and the place is frequented by many gondoliers.

We hung out at the gardens near the S.M. Giardinetti vap stop until meeting our landlord. (Is that the right term?) She came on time and show us to our apartment, brilliantly located on a small street a few blocks from the San Marco and and vap stops. (Of course, nothing in Venice is really far away from anything else.)

It was a great place — two bedrooms and two baths with an excellent kitchen, dining room and living room. Four people would be very comfortable in it. We unpacked and waked to a grocery store (7 minute walk) to get some breakfast items. Then scouted around the area before heading back to the apartment for a short nap. (Jet lag exhaustion!)

Dinner was at Osteria da Carla. We both had artichoke ravioli and steak with a delicious sauce (not sure what was in it) and a couple of glasses of red wine. The food was very good, but they were very, very stingy with the wine. The glass looked like it was nearly empty. Then we walked around the San Marco area and bought some gelato before returning for the night.

[More to come...]

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    Great start! I was in Venice in late August (second time there) and just LOVE that city! Stayed right off of San Marco, so we frequented the square in the evenings after dinner, enjoying grappa and live music.

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    DAY 02 - TUE MAY 11
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    Lots of rain in today’s forecast, so we decided to make this a museum day, visiting two palazzi that we missed last visit. Venice is a great, walkable city, but in the rain, we wanted to stick to places near vap stops to minimize the outdoors time.

    Our breakfast was coffee, orange, strawberries, milk, cashews, walnuts, yogurt, and hard boiled eggs, all bought yesterday at the market.

    First stop was Ca’ Rezzonico, a beautiful palazzo on the Grand Canal showing off the best of 18th century Venice. It was closed for renovations last visit. There were beautiful rooms, art works and spectacular ceiling frescoes.

    Note: Here we bought a Venice Civic Museum Pass here. This is a great buy if you’re going to be in Venice long enough to visit the Doge’s Palace and a few other palazzi/museums. It also covers the Correr Museum, Murano Glass Museum and Burano Lace Museum.

    We went back to Birreria Forst for lunch, and then went on to Ca’ Pesaro (also covered by Museum Pass).

    Linda had wanted to visit this last time, and I can’t remember why we didn’t…probably just ran out of time, but I’m really glad we were able to see it this time. This is a gem! There are actually two very different parts of Ca’ Pesaro—the modern art section (which we knew about) and the Asian art section (which was a wonderful surprise).

    The art section is for art lovers, not name droppers. You won’t find many world-famous artists there, but the collection is very, very good. Lots of fine works by artists we had never heard of.

    The Asian section was astounding. Prince Henry of Bourbon-Parma traveled in Japan and China at the end of the 19th century apparently buying up everything he could get his hands on. This collection was an unexpected treat. We ended up spending the entire afternoon at Ca’ Pesaro, then back to the apartment for a rest.

    Dinner was at Rosticceria Gislon, a hole-in-the-wall cafeteria that had good Trip Advisor recommendations. If you’re a foodie who likes posh atmosphere, this is not the place for you. But we’re not, and the food is pretty good and inexpensive. Linda had grilled fish and I had ”cordon bleu” which was a knock-off version but tasty. We shared a mixed salad and plate of grilled peppers.

    Then we went back home for some strawberries and chocolate (Trader Joe’s 72% fair trade) which we always carry with us when we travel. Then to bed.

    [More to come...]

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    DAY 03 - THU MAY 12
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    Beautiful day today. Decided to do some aimless walking.

    But first, we had a visit to San Marco scheduled. (For 2€ each, you can get a reserved time online—which we did before we left the USA—and skip the line, which can be incredibly long.) It’s always crowded there, but it’s still an experience.

    The high domes are impressive from the inside, and the pala d’oro (altar screen?) is unique…at least I’ve never seen anything like it. Unfortunately, the ceiling mosaics are too high to really see closely, but we were OK with that, because we had Ravenna on our itinerary for later in the week.

    We then took the vap to the Salute church. The inside of the dome resembles the pantheon in Rome.

    But our real aim was to just walk along the water on the south side of Dorsoduro along the Giudecca Canal. There were practically no tourists. The area appears to be a university neighborhood with students out enjoying the sun. We first stopped for a rest and some juice at a place along the canal, sipping and enjoying the water view, the many boats, and Giudecca across the canal.

    One of the things to see is the actual gondola repair/maker at Squero di San Trovaso.

    We stopped for pizza and salad—I wish I could remember where. (I always mean to take a photo of our meals and the restaurant front, but usually forget when the food arrives.) Then finished it off with some gelato.

    At this point we were ready to turn north and work our way back. Crossing the Rio San Sebastian e San Basegio, we found ourselves in what was clearly a residential area, with few people on the streets and young men playing American football in the open campo. This was a Venice we had never seen.

    We made our way the the Frari church, but only glanced inside—we’d been there before. Then back to the San Toma vap stop, which took us to the other side of the Grand Canal to the Rialto stop. Our market is along the canal at Calle Carbon, so we stopped in to replenish our breakfast supplies. Then went back to the apartment for a nap.

    Refreshed, we decided to stop in at the Correr Museum—also covered by the City Museum Pass. This is essentially a museum of the history of Venice—with other items as well. They have an outstanding coin collection, many art items, and a lot of displays about Venice’s maritime history. The coolest thing for me is the 17th century globe that shows California as an island. Naturally I took a picture of it and will send it to our family members who live in the Bay Area.

    We went back to the Osteria da Calra for dinner—the same dinner. (Did I mention that we are not very adventuresome with food??) Then hung out at Piazza San Marco listening to the music. Then headed back.

    I forgot to mention that on the very first day, one of our carry-on rolling bags had a wheel fall apart. I was dreading shopping for luggage and convinced myself I could continue on with a bad wheel. Fortunately, on the way back from the piazza I saw a carry-on for 49€ in a shop right across the street from our apartment. It looked fairly well-constructed, and given the emergency-nature of my situation, I would be happy if it just lasted till we got home, so I bought it. It was a little smaller than the broken one, but we managed to get everything in OK…and made it all the way home. (It actually looks pretty decent.)

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    DAY 04 – FRI MAY 13
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    Nice breakfast of fruit, yogurt, eggs, etc.

    Today we decided to take a self-guided walk (Frommer’s 24 Great Walks in Venice) down by the Arsenale, a part of Venice we had never been to before. This is another area that is much less crowded with tourists than other areas.

    Getting off at the Arsenale vap stop, we proceeded down Riva dei Sette Martiri (a beautiful, wide, water-side promenade ) from the Naval Museum to the public gardens. This peaceful park is a world away from the crowds. From there we worked our way back to the Garibaldi monument and proceeded toward the island San Pietro di Castello. Paris has its street markets—the Rio di Santa Ana had a “market boat” with lots of locals doing their morning produce shopping at the quay-side.

    After checking out the Basilica di San Pietro di Castello, we threaded our way back to the main street in this area, Via Garibaldi. It started to rain, so we stopped at Trattoria Giorgione for lunch. I had a chicken Milanese with a salad, and Linda had a Fish Plate…which turned out to be what we would call frutte di mare, with lots of baby octopus and calamari and not much actual fish. Fortunately, my dish was big enough to share. The rain had stopped by the time we finished lunch.

    Next was the Venice Naval History Museum. It was in temporary quarters due to renovation, but, if what we saw was only a small part of the museum, we’ll return on our next Venice visit. (It was covered by the City Museum Pass.) There were a number of old and new boats and ships, including a couple of ornate barges and the tiny sailboat in which a venetian sailor—can’t remember his name—sailed Columbus’ route from the Canaries to San Salvador in 1990.

    Next we went to Carlo Goldoni’s House (also covered by the City Museum Pass). Goldoni was an 18th century playwright, and, unless you are particularly interested in him, this can be skipped. There were only a few rooms, and the only thing of interest to us was the large 18th century map of Venice on display. The puppet theater display might interest some folks.

    We then went back to our place to rest a bit and pack…tomorrow we take the train to Bologna.

    Dinner was, once again, at Gislon. I had the polpette (breaded meatballs) and a salad. Linda had fish. Afterwards, we wanted to savor a little more of Venice, so we walked down Strada Nuova quite a ways—stopping for Gelato at Grom. Then we walked back to our neighborhood stopping at the San Marco Vallaresso vap stop for a last savoring and evening photo of the canal. Then to bed.

    [More to come]

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    Hi Ssander - I just found this and am very much enjoying reading about your travels. Venice and Paris I know reasonably well [and am enjoying your take on Venice, BTW] but Bologna and Ravenna not at all so I'm looking forward to what you can tell me about them.

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    DAY 05 – SAT MAY 14
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    Warm day today. Up very early, had some breakfast, cleaned up the apartment, locked up and walked to the vap. The train to Bologna was on time (bought our tickets online at the Italo website before we left) and our hotel was a short four-block walk. Though we arrived at about 11 a.m., our room was ready, so we unpacked before heading out to lunch.

    We ate at a great, little place around the corner from the hotel. We were looking for a place called Il Panino, which I had found in Trip Advisor, but found this instead: Caffe Awanagana in the same block on via Gallieria. This is a hole-in-the-wall where the food is good as are the prices and service. We each had a plate of tortolone and shared a large artichoke salad.

    Next we took the better part of a self-guided walk that we had found online:

    https://fulbrightyearitaly.com/2014/11/11/self-guided-walking-tour-bologna/

    Bologna is a beautiful city, and the historic core is a treat. Nearly all the streets are covered arcades, there are many old churches, and it is dotted with old towers. On weekends, they close the historic core off to traffic. There was music, bike races, a kids roller blade dance competition, and lots of kiosks representing various local groups.

    Bologna is also home to a big university—which we did not visit—with 85,000 students. It claims to be the oldest in Europe (1088 a.d.), but I do think that Moorish Spain may have had some that no longer exist in the 10th century. It certainly is the oldest currently in operation.

    After gelato and a nap, we headed out for dinner. I phoned a reservation to Clavature (on via Clavature)…not sure where I found it, probably online.

    NOTE: While Linda’s UK Giffgaff SIM worked perfectly in Venice, my Lebara chip frequently picked up a Vodophone tower that it could not make calls to. I eventually switched to my old GiffGaff SIM, which worked all the time in Italy.

    I had picked up a couple of bus tickets earlier in the day. Linda’s plantar fasciitis was bothering her a little bit, so we decided to take the bus. This was a little tricky, since the route was not very direct due to the street closures, but we got to our reservation in time.

    I cannot recommend this restaurant. This was to be our spaghetti Bolognese dinner, but I realized the pasta was not fresh. Then I look up and they actually had boxed store pasta in view by the kitchen. Weird!

    After dinner we wandered around a bit, walking past the two towers. (More about Bologna towers tomorrow.) On our way back to the hotel for the night, a thunderstorm started, but it wasn’t much of a problem because of the arcaded streets.

    [More to come.]

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    Nice report. I am headed to Venice in July (my 3rd time there as well) so was glad to hear about some of the 'off the beaten path' places you went. I have made notes to check them out. Couple of questions - how is that Lebara sim card working out? I'm trying to decide what to do and that looks like a good option.

    Ca’ Rezzonico is on my list - besides being a beautiful building itself, I had heard that it had some interesting views out the windows (I like to photograph through interesting windows). Did you happen to notice if that's the case? Also I'd heard it had a nice courtyard.

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    The Labara SIM card work great in France, as expected. In Italy, it had the bad habit of frequently latching on to a Vodophone cell that it could not communicate with. (Sometimes it would find a WIND cell, which worked great.)

    If you are only going to Italy, do not get a Lebara SIM...get an Italian one. (The UK GiffGaff SIMs worked great in both Italy and France...we used the UK SIMs mainly because we had leftover funds on them.)

    As for Ca' Rezzonico:

    (1) The courtyard is lovely.
    (2) The view of the Grand Canal out the front upstairs windows is very nice.

    ssander

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    Thank you ssander. I will look into the GiffGaff SIMs. I will be in London for the first 4 days so can buy one there I guess. The last few years we've gotten a TIM sim in Italy but this year we will only be in Italy for about 10 days so want one that works in other places as well (Greece and the Baltics).

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    DAY 06 – SUN MAY 15
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    The buffet breakfast at Hotel Internazionale (included in the price) was exceptional…everything from bacon and scrambled eggs to fresh fruit, meats and cheeses, as well as the usual pastries, juices and yogurt.

    Today we took the self-guided Towers Walk, which we had downloaded from the Bologna Tourism website. The walk proceeded around the town with anecdotes about the many towers. Like many medieval Italian towns, the wealthy families build incredibly tall towers in their residences from which they could watch for and defend themselves against rival clans. Many of these still remain in Bologna. Though most have been shortened over the years, there are two really tall ones that are truly impressive.

    During the walk we were interrupted by a parade of what appeared to be a group of Christian south Asian folks, chanting and singing. There were also foot races and bike races going on throughout the city. The T-Days (the name for the weekend happenings during which they close the town center to traffic) really added to our visit. They say Bologna is not really a big tourist city, and it certainly appeared that the majority of the people were local families and students. Many of the tourists walking around seemed to be Italian tourists, in for T-days.

    Being Sunday mid-day, it seemed like most of the restaurants were closed, but we found a nice pizza place, Ristorante La Brace, that was open and had a nice lunch and a rest, before heading back.

    After wandering around aimlessly, we found ourselves back at the “Two Towers”—two extremely tall towers right next to each other, and a Bologna highlight— and stopped to listen to some street musicians.

    When we go back to the hotel, we decided, that, since it was Sunday, we’d better scout out the restaurant situation. Most were closed, but we assumed they would be open by dinner time, and went back to the hotel for our nap.

    The only place open near our hotel was a tiny place with a half-dozen table, and where the only employee was an extremely old man who was very congenial as he moved about at a snail’s pace. (There obviously was a cook in the back…maybe his son???) He spoke no English and seemed to know one or two of the folks who came in to eat. We had the tortolone Bolognese with salad and wine. (We are not foodies. We really enjoyed the food, but you can’t take our opinions overly seriously if you are a foodie.)

    We once again walked up to the town center—about four blocks from our hotel—which had cleared out of the T-days booths and throngs. ..then back to the hotel to sleep.

    [More to come.]

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    DAY 07 – MON MAY 16
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    Today was a day we had been looking forward to. One of the reasons we decided to go to Bologna was that it could be combined with a day-trip to Ravenna to see the mosaics. (The trip from Venice takes 3 hours, and often involves a connection in Bologna.)

    Before we left the US, the weather reports had promised rain almost every day of our trip, but so far there had been only occasional showers…and not every day…and not enough to affect our trip. On arrival in Bologna, we had watched the forecast carefully, and today seemed to be the best day for a day-trip…a day in which there was little chance of rain…so off we went to Ravenna.

    The train ride to Ravenna (~1 hour) was uneventful, though at times the clouds looked threatening. We decided to take the Rick Steves self-guided walk, which turned out to be just right for a day trip. The highlights of Ravenna are the Basilica San Vitale and the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia…truly amazing mosaics. Up until now, my favorites have been in Santa Prassade in Rome, but these were better than anything we had seen in Rome or Venice.

    We were pretty hungry and didn’t want to walk around looking for a place to eat, so we stopped at La Piadina del Melarancio, which was very mediocre. My notes showed that there was an express train leaving in about an hour, so we started back towards the station. On the way we stopped for gelato and then at the Basilica of Sant'Apollinare Nuovo…which turned out to have incredible mosaics as well.

    [NOTE: All three of these sights are included in a combo ticket, which you can buy at the tourist office near San Vitale.]

    When we got to the station, it dawned on us that the weather had been complete free of rain. Then back to our hotel for the usual nap.

    For our last hours in Bologna, we decided to just stroll into the southern part of the town and look around enjoying the architecture and courtyard gardens. We eventually found ourselves at the Palace of Justice, getting hungry, and not wanting to walk back. Fortunately I had picked up a couple of bus tickets yesterday for just such situations, so we took the bus back to the hotel to start packing.

    Dinner was fantastic. We went back to Caffe Awanagana. The friendly owner was there as was a nice little buffet of what would be called cicchetti in Venice, free with our meal. We ordered taglatelle Bolognese and the delicious tortolone in butter & cream sauce that we had had for lunch two days ago, and shared them with a salad, wine, and items from the buffet. Afterwards, we shared a delicious strudel.

    Back at the hotel, we finished packing. Tomorrow we fly to Paris.

    [More to come.]

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    DAY 08 – TUE MAY 17
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    While planning our Bologna/Ravenna part of the trip we had noticed that getting from Bologna to Paris by train was a little problematic. While there is a sleeper train from Venice, Bologna requires a transfer to that sleeper in Milano at around 11 p.m., not the best conditions for a night’s sleep. (We’re used to going to bed early and waking up very early.) Fortunately I had found a $43 Air France flight that fit the bill perfectly…leaving BLQ at 7 a.m. and getting to CDG at 8:45 a.m.

    At 4:30 in the morning, the hotel called a cab that came in five minutes, and we were at the airport in another 15 minutes with plenty of time. At first the security line looked incredibly long and slow, but at 5:00 they opened four new scanners and it went extremely fast. We had about an hour to wait before boarding during which we had a bite to eat and I loaded my Lebara SIM back into my phone for our Paris portion of the trip.

    I had been looking forward to the flight across the Alps, but there was constant cloud cover, and I expected to see nothing…then, suddenly, there they were — were several massive, jagged, snow-covered, peaks sticking out through the clouds.

    Upon landing at CDG, we got through control quickly. The first task was to load week passes onto our Navigo cards. I had never used the machines to do this before, but now we had chip-enabled cards, and the line at the ticket office was horrendous, so I figured it’s now or never. It was a snap. (At one point I was worried that I had removed my card too soon, but it was a needless worry…our Navigo cards worked great the entire visit.)

    NOTE: I have said this in previous TRs, but I cannot overstress the value of a Navigo card and a week pass if you are going to be in Parris more than a few days. Now that the pass covers all five zones, it’s even more of a great deal. For 21.25€, we had our entire five-day stay covered including the trips to/from CDG and the day-trip to Crecy-la-Chapelle, probably close to 50€ worth of individual fares. Even with the Mon-Sun configuration (It’s not an “any- 7-consecutive-days” pass like the London travelcard is), it’s still a good deal for many visits. The RER B express & Metro 1 took us to within a couple of blocks of our hotel quickly.

    I guess you could call the Hotel de Nice our “regular place”, since we have stayed there the last five of our trips to Paris. We love the location…in the Marais, on Rue de Rivoli, across from Place Baudoyer, two blocks from the river and Ile St-Louis, and very convenient for bus & Metro. The interior has a quirky look and the folks who work there are exceptionally nice and helpful.

    They told us the room would be ready in an hour, so we dropped our bags and headed to the nearby patisserie/restaurant and had a nice, big breakfast (really a brunch)…smoke salmon, eggs, fruit salad, etc. Then we took a little walked over to Place des Vosges. We hung out there for a while, and then picked up some snacks at the nearby grocery store. By then we could check in. We’d been up since 3:30, so we opted for a mid-day nap after unpacking.

    It was now around 1 pm, so we headed out to the left bank, walking behind Notre Dame (via Ile St-Louis) and crossing the Seine on the Pont au Double. We checked out Saint-Julien-le-Pauvre (a lovely little church) and continued on rue de l’Odeon (enjoying the many antique and book shops) to Luxembourg Gardens. There were only a couple of kids sailing the boats (It was a weekday, after all) but still fun to watch. We wandered around looking at the statues and the big kids’ playground and exited the park on the west side.

    At this point we decided to make a dinner reservation at a restaurant we like on Ile St-Louis, Au Caveau de l’Ile. We knew from pst experience that you can make a reservation on The Fork website and get a 50% discount a la carte. Now was the time to test the Lebara chip, out on the street, using our cellular data. Voila…it worked!

    We walked a few blocks and picked up the trusty 96 bus that took us back to our hotel, where we snacked a bit to hold us over till dinner.

    For dinner Linda started with onion soup and I had a salmon salad. We both had entrecote of beef and glasses of house red. We finished it off by sharing a piece of great chocolate cake. After a quick stroll along the river, we headed back for the night.

    [More to come.]

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    DAY 09 - WED MAY 18
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    Picked up some coffee and a pear tart and brought it back to our hotel room to eat with the orange, milk and cashews that we had bought yesterday, which made for a nice breakfast while we planned our day.

    We hadn’t been to the Cluny museum in several years, so we started with that, taking the 96 bus across the river. The Lady and the Unicorn tapestries are certainly interesting, as are most of the other displays, but I love the stained glass—up close and personal—best.

    NOTE: You may notice that we tend to take buses a lot. The Metro is great for longer rides, but we love being able to see the city while we go. (It’s also a little easier on Linda’s foot, since there are no flights of stairs.) The bus stops in Paris have comprehensive maps and schedules posted, and many have electronic signs listing the wait times for the next arrivals. With a Navigo card with week pass, you just hold it up to the readers that are placed by the boarding door, and wait for the beep.

    Next we took a self-guided walk that we found in the DK Eyewitness book in the Autueil area. This walk takes us through a neighborhood with fantastic art nouveau and art deco architecture. We had taken a similar walk a few years ago, so many of the buildings were familiar, but, it’s always fun to see them again. (We always try to make out Paris visits a mix of old favorites and brand new experiences.)

    We went back to our hotel, but not before stopping at the Place Baudoyer market. Twice a week (Wednesday afternoons and Saturdays) there is a market in Place Baudoyer, right across the street from our Hotel. (We can see it out our window.) One of the stalls sells delicious roasted chicken and tiny potatoes cooked in a huge wok-like pan. We added some tabouli from another vendor, and also picked up some oranges and strawberries for future breakfasts. Then we took our lunch back to our room to enjoy. (Having that market across the street is one of the things we love about our hotel.)

    After a very brief rest, we headed out to the City Museum of Modern Art — Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris.

    http://www.mam.paris.fr/en

    This is a hidden gem. They have an extensive collection of mostly 20th century art that we love…plus there is free admission. Last time in Paris, a large part of it was closed for renovation, and now it really looks great and is well organized. I recommend this to all who love art, have done the A-list museums, and are looking for something new to do in Paris.

    As the museum closed, we took the Metro back to our hotel for another very brief rest; then stopped in the nearby grocery store to pick up some milk for tomorrow’s breakfast.

    Dinner was at Pizza Sant’Antonio in the small place in which our hotel is located. Nothing fancy, just good pizza—we shared a mushroom and artichoke pizza and a large salad. Then back to the hotel for some chocolate and strawberries for dessert and bed.[More to come.]

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    Still following along, ssander, and enjoying your trip very much. As you say, it's nice to mix up new experiences with old and loved ones and I\m picking up some good tips about parisian buses, onto which I have yet to venture despite numerous visits to Paris over the years.

    Keep it coming!

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    DAY 10 - THU MAY 19
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    Our usual in-room breakfast this morning: coffee, milk, nuts, orange, strawberries, and a pastry called a Las Vegas that consisted of layers of berries, whipped cream and cake.

    Today we decided to visit the Decorative Arts Museum, located in the same complex as the Louvre…in the northwest wing. First we looked at the art nouveau and art deco sections, which we had visited in the past but never get tired of. We ascended through the 20th century decades section…housed in the tower, with a floor dedicated to each decade.

    At one point we looked out the window westward and saw rue Rivoli with bumper-to-bumper traffic not moving at all. We asked one of the museum employees about it and she said (I believe), “Manifestations.” I assume the English equivalent would be demonstrations.

    It’s amazing how every trip to Paris uncovers something new…at least new to us. We were on our way out, when I noticed on the museum plan a section called. “Advertising”. Intrigued, we walked over and discovered an entire wing with two incredible sections. The first, advertising, was an amazing collection of large posters ranging from the 1880s to WWI. The second, “Tissues”, was a huge collection of wallpapers and wall fabrics. If you are in Paris now, you have till June 12 to see this temporary exhibition. (Note: There was also a Barbie Doll temporary exhibition, but we were not interested in that.)

    We stopped at the BHV cafeteria for lunch and then back to the hotel for a nap.

    Our next walk was one we found in Walks Through Lost Paris by Leonard Pitt. This was a walk through the Marais with lots of historical information and great photos comparing the streets and buildings today with how they looked in the past. (It is a very long walk—the entire book only has four walks—and we really only did about half of it.)

    http://www.amazon.com/Walks-Through-Lost-Paris-Historic/dp/1593761031

    We found another restaurant with a discount on The Fork website, made our reservation, and headed over to Vins et Terroirs on the left bank. We shared ravioli and salad starters. Linda had lamb and I had beef…and, of course, wine…and chocolate cake for dessert. The food was pretty good and a bargain at 40% off.

    We then walked over to Pont des Arts, which looks so much nicer now that they have pretty effectively stopped those horrid love locks. Then proceeded along the river back toward our hotel, stopping at an ATM. (Hotel de Nice does not take credit cards, so I had to start accumulating the cash a couple of days ahead of checkout.) Then to bed.

    [More to come.]

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    Glad to see your comments on the Museum of Decorative Arts. It's on my list for my upcoming trip.

    Also curious about Venice and the cruise ships that dock there now. Did you encounter a lot of them (and the hordes of passengers that they unload on towns)? I have not been to Venice in years and would love to visit again. I know there are crowds in Venice and am envisioning mobs of cruise ship passengers making any movement any where in Venice impossible. Just wondering what your experience was.

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    denisea...

    The big cruise ships dock at the western end of the island near the Tronchetto, so we didn't see any of them. As for crowds, you can't avoid them in the main tourist areas: San Marco, Rialto, and everywhere in between.

    However, because this was not our first visit, we tried to spend some of our time in areas that were not jammed.

    ssander

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    DAY 11 - FRI MAY 20
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    Before we left the US, we had two possible day-trips worked out, both from An Hour from Paris by Annabel Simms: Crecy-la-Chapelle and Champs-sur-Marne.

    http://www.annabelsimms.com/

    The weather, while not really rainy, tended to threaten rain a lot of the time. The hourly forecast convinced us that this afternoon would be the day to go…and we picked Crecy-la-Chapelle.

    After our usual breakfast (with flan and a pear tart for the pastry), we headed out for a walk through some of the passages in Paris. We had done this before, but it’s always fun. The route was a combination of suggestions that Kerouac and Degas had posted on Fodors several years ago.

    We took the bus back to the hotel and rested for an hour, then had soup and salade nicoise at Pizzeria Sant’Antonio before heading to Gare de l’Est to take the train to Esbly before transferring to the little train (actually more like a tram) that took us to Crecy. (This was all covered by the week pass on our Navigo cards.)

    Crecy-la-Chapelle is a beautiful town with old buildings, canals, a moat and remanence of fortification towers. There were practically no tourists…in fact most of the people were old folks walking their dogs. (The younger residents were at work no doubt.)

    Halfway through our walk, we came upon an old lady standing by the side of one of the canals. She started to tell us about the washing platforms along the water. She spoke no English at all, but we managed (with our very rudimentary French) to have a ten-minute conversation with her. It turned out that her son works and lives in California. While I know there is no way we, as tourists, can blend in and be like locals, this was a magical moment for us that we will never forget.

    We got back to the hotel about 7:30 and headed over to a crepe place that we had been to on our last trip: Au Beurre Sale. They have really good crepes here, and the dessert crepe had four scoops of lime sorbet, raspberry syrup and loads of whipped cream.

    We took the bus back and walked around the Marais a bit before turning in for the night.

    [More to come]

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    - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
    DAY 12 – SAT MAY 21
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    The usual breakfast in our room…sharing a raspberry tart and a pear tart. The weather is beautiful today.

    First we took a walk up the Canal Saint Martin (starting at Republique) with a stop at Jardin Villemin and, of course, watching one of the boats go through a lock. At rue Louis Blanc, we turned right and walked to Place du Colonel Fabien, where we jumped on a bus to Parc des Buttes-Chaumont.

    This is one of the loveliest parks in Paris, IMHO. Folks were jogging and fishing and just stretching out in the sun. There were a number of wedding groups there for photos, and lots of kids. We checked out the grotto, with its waterfall, but did not walk up to the folly, because we were trying to minimize the stress on Linda’s foot. (We had done that on a previous visit.)

    We then took the #75 bus back, getting off near the Pompidou and walking the rest of the way. We stopped at a chocolate shop to pick up some gifts for the friends who picked up our mail and watered our plants. Since it was Saturday, the market across the street was in session, so we also picked up some roasted chicken, potatoes and tabbouleh for lunch and some strawberries for tomorrow’s breakfast.

    We decided to take a somewhat unstructured walk. Starting at the Place-Royale-Louvre Metro stop, we zig-zagged through the Tuileries to Concorde to Vendôme to Madeleine and then up to Blvd Haussmann, where we grabbed the RER back to Châtelet - Les Halles, and walked back to the hotel.

    Then we took a short nap and packed for tomorrow’s flight home.

    Dinner was at Equinox, a small restaurant on rue des Rosiers that we had been to a number of times on previous trips. We had tomato-mozzarella salad, steak and potatoes, and baba rhum.

    Afterwards, we headed to Ile St-Louis (but not before I picked up some gelato at the Amorino on rue Vieille du Temple).

    We decided to go down the steps to the quai on the western tip of the island. There were the usual young people hanging out, but there was also a group of them jamming — two guitar players and a couple of saxophonists. It was such a beautiful evening, sitting there with the river in front of us, Ile de la Cite to the left and the music all around. We didn’t want to leave, but tomorrow is travel day, and we would have to get up pretty early.

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    DAY XX – SUN MAY 22
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    Goodbye to Paris. We have a 1:20 pm flight to Philadelphia, and there have been times when the security lines at CDG have been horrendous, so we wanted to leave early. After the usual breakfast, we headed out at around 9:15. We took the #1 Metro to Chatelet and then the RER B Express to CDG, getting there around 10 am. There was a pretty long walk through T2, but passport control and security moved quickly. (Our boarding passes showed us with TSA pre-check, and I think we may have been directed to a faster line, but I’m not sure.) Once inside we relaxed with some more breakfast and waited to board.

    The flight was too full to try to get an open bank of four middle seats, but it was a good flight that arrived in PHL on time.

    After our last trip we decided to get in the Global Entry program. It costs $100 for five years, and you have to go to the airport for an interview, but if you fly more than a few times a year, it is worth it, since it only adds a couple of bucks to each flight. You get TSA pre-check on all flights (which gets you through security much, much faster on domestic flights) and also through a fast kiosk entering the US.

    This was our first experience with Global Entry. I placed my passport in the reader without difficulty. It took my picture and asked me the usual questions. Unfortunately I answered “yes” when asked if I was bringing in food (the chocolate). So it directed me to the humans. In addition, I was standing too near Linda and both of us were in her photo. It delayed us three or four minutes, but it was still faster than the standard entry process. Next time I’ll do better…I think they meant produce and meat when they asked about food, not packaged candy.

    We took the shuttle to our parking lot and drove home through traffic that made me nostalgic for the RER B Express.

    [End]

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    global entry is a snap once you get used to it. We were once called over because we answered yes to bringing back merchandise over some dollar amount. The guy asked what I bought (necklace) and just waved us on . I think it's a big improvement over the old way even though the first time my photo was on both receipts!, I do think there is limited acceptance of Pre-check with some airlines (Delta, American, United and a few more) in some EU countries, Canada and Australia.

    Crecy last Chappelle sounds like a great day trip!

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