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Trip Report Two Weeks in Normandy/Paris

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Hello. My name is Melody and this is our trip report for Normandy and Paris. I gathered a LOT of information from these forums and wanted to do a comprehensive report. We are two late 40’s travelers (DH and I) who would travel for much longer periods of time if we were constrained by money and vacation time allowed. I will update this as time (and work) allows. Here was our itinerary:

Wed May 25 – Leave STL for CDG
Thurs May 26 – Arrive CDG and head for Auvers-sur-Oise
Frid May 27 – Caen WWII Museum, Arromanches, St. Mere Eglise
Sat May 28 – Mon, May 30 – B&B of Stuart Robertson, Normandy Tour Guide
Mon May 30 evening – head to Mont St. Michel for overnight
Tues May 31 – Wed June 1 – Dinan
Thurs, June 2 – Fontainebleu
Fri June 3 – Vaux-le-Vicomte then to Paris
Fri June 3 evening – Friday, June 10 – Paris

Wednesday
Father-in-law dropped us early at the airport. We both had a small carry-on sized suitcase and DH was carrying a medium sized backpack. We have TSA Pre-Check so buzzed by security and had a little lunch waiting on boarding time. We were flying Delta from STL to Detroit and the plane was on time. Two hours after landing in Detroit we were on our plane headed for CDG. We were seated in Economy Comfort. DH is 6’6 and Economy Comfort is the difference in him being able to bend his knees or not. Business Class is out of our budget.

However, since we had Economy Comfort, we had SKY printed on our boarding passes and I think they were supposed to call Business class first and then those with SKY priority. But they called both at the same time and it really ticked off some of the business class folks. I can’t blame them, but since we were following the rules and wanted to make sure our luggage was right above our heads we proceeded in the line as directed with all of the other Economy Comfort people.

Our flight was good. DH and I managed to sleep a few hours each and so we were in good shape when we landed around 8:15am. Upon landing, we walked to the Europcar counter to pick up our little Volkswagen for the week. It was a small car and I am the driver since DH is the better navigator (I get carsick when trying to read a map). And although we did have our GPS, I still drove the whole time because honestly I don’t see how my DH with his long legs would be able to work the gearshift. But I didn’t mind and neither did he.

We drove 40 minutes or so to Auvers-sur-Oise for one night. We decided it was going to be kind of a throw-away day anyway because of jet lag and this seemed like and interesting stop with the Van Gogh connections (he lived the last bit of his life there and painted the church and a great deal of the scenery).

We stayed one night in the houseboat Bateau Daphne (not to be confused with the Bateau Daphne in Paris by the same owner). It was absolutely lovely. The proprietor, Christine, had said that we could drop our luggage off but when we arrived ended up showing us our cabin. Although small (as expected), the room and bathroom were modern and very clean. It’s a charming boat. Christine recommended the restaurant at the Auvers Chateau since we were planning to tour that anyway and called and made us a reservation for lunch.

Lunch at the Chateau was really good and afterward we walked through. We didn’t get the audio guide and so picked out information in our meager French. We didn’t spend too much more time there since we were tired. We went to the church and around the nice town. We decided to pick up some groceries from the local grocery store to have a light dinner at the houseboat and then spent the rest of the evening watching the water traffic before going to bed.

To be continued...

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    Friday

    Friday we had a lovely breakfast provided by Christine on the boat. There were cheeses and eggs and yogurts and of course, breads. Baguette and croissants and that great French butter. It was funny, though, because when we sat down there was a plate with what I consider a cereal bowl sitting on it. But I didn’t see any cereal. Christine then asked us if we wanted a mug for our coffee. I thought she meant a mug as opposed to a normal smaller sized coffee cup and since I told saw mugs on the counter, just told her whatever she had was fine. I was really surprised when she poured the coffee directly into the cereal bowl. I understand now that is old school French, which was interesting. So we sipped our bowl coffee, which was very good.

    There was another couple on the boat from Brooklyn, NY, who were spending two nights as a side trip from Paris. They spend several months per year in Paris and so were very knowledgeable. We told them of the apartment we had rented for the following week in the Ile St. Louis and they gave us some great advice about restaurants and whatnot. I wish I could remember their names because they were very nice and helpful.

    Anyway, the Brooklyn’s were headed back to Paris and we settled up and got on the road. Our destination for this day was a stop in Caen then in Arromanches before ending up near St. Mere Eglise. In Caen, the WWII museum took a couple of hours. But I, uh, didn’t actually go in. We were gearing up for 3 full days of WWII and I sat outside in the beautiful weather reading a book and going over notes. My DH, who is a history major with a particular interest in WWII toured the museum and enjoyed it.

    After that, we drove to Arromanches. It was a beautiful day. We had lunch on the road and the drive took us through some very nice villages. So it was very enjoyable and we arrived early afternoon. We had been to Arromanches before but DH wanted to visit the museum there. He toured the museum while I sat out enjoying the sea breeze and sunshine. Although the water had to be freezing, there were some young people playing around on the beach and getting soaked in the water. And tourists were there milling about and taking pictures of the mulberries in the water and the coastline. So it was just really fun people watching.

    Afterward, we walked through the shops and then ended up in a café for an early dinner. The tourist buses had gone and the place we chose was filled with locals there for an afternoon drink. Our dinner was not the greatest, but the scenery was perfect so that was good.

    Our final destination was the B&B of our Normandy tour guide, Stuart Robertson, about 5 minutes from St. Mere Eglise. We found it with no issues with our GPS. Stuart and his wife, Jenny, have a very lovely property and we were the only guests so we had the guest house to ourselves. We had our choice of bedrooms and chose the one with the largest bathroom with the separate shower. We would be parked here for 3 nights while doing our WWII/Normandy tour. After we got everything unpacked and settled, we had an early night in preparation for the days ahead.

    Saturday – the start of our Normandy Tour

    We started each day with a really great breakfast provided by Stuart’s wife, Jenny. For lunches we ate out at whatever place was convenient to where we happen to be. For one dinner, Stuart made DH and I a reservation at the Auburge John Steele (as in the John Steele paratrooper who got caught on the steeple of the church). It was a really, really good meal. For the other dinners we just stopped by and picked stuff up from the store to have in the guesthouse so that we could go over the day and get and early night.

    Before I get started on where we went, I should tell you that we’ve been to Normandy before a couple of years ago and hired Stuart at that time to take us on a tour of the American sector of Normandy. We had two full days at that time and it was jammed packed and incredibly interesting. But as I said before, my husband has particular interest in WWII and there was still so much more to see. So this time, we hired Stuart again for 3 full days to complete our tour of the area with the Commonwealth sector.

    It’s expensive to hire a guide for just two people, but DH and Stuart worked out a specific itinerary to see what we hadn’t seen before and honestly, we wanted a very personal experience. And it was worth every penny. Without question, Stuart has found his calling. Even for me, who has an interest in history but not a great memory, it was extremely interesting. For all of the places we went, Stuart had person stories of individual people who had fought there, making it personal. In many cases, we learned about an individual or individuals involved in a particular battle and then later in the day visited that person’s grave.

    To not give too much information, I’ll just list our itinerary for the 3 days. This isn’t a complete list, but part of the notes that I made in the van. Forgive any spelling mistakes, as I am a person trying to make notes in a moving car when I have to do it quickly as not to throw up.

    Saturday:
    Varaville Gatehouse
    Merville Battery
    Ranville Cemetery
    Benoville - Pegasus Bridge
    Remains of the church at Beneville

    Sunday:
    Sword Beach
    RivaBella Strong Point Group (+ Museum)
    Hermanville War Cemetery
    Overlord Museum near Omaha Beach (This is new since we were there last. Very nice museum.)
    ** American Cemetery

    **We were not really planning to go back to the American Cemetery on this trip, but we went late in the day in order to see the flags on the graves in preparation for the following day (Memorial Day). There are only 2 days when there are individual American and French flags on each grave. One is Memorial Day and one is June 6th. It was a sight to see.


    Monday
    Hemevez – site of execution of 7 American para troupers. My DH read about his in my Dad’s American Legion Magazine and he wanted to go there on Memorial Day.
    Gold Beach
    Juno Beach
    Canadian Cemetery
    Commonwealth Cemetery in Bayeux

    Oh, one thing of note that I found interesting. While there is only one American Cemetery in Normandy, there are 18 Commonwealth Cemeteries throughout the area. The American Cemetery holds about 1/3 of the American Dead from WWII, as American families were given the option of having their loved ones repatriated to America. That is not the case with Commonwealth soldiers. The Commonwealth soldiers were to remain where they were buried, which is why there are so many cemeteries spread out over the area. The families were not given a choice to bring their loved ones home. They were allowed to provide a short message for their loved ones grave markers and that was it. I understand that this has changed now but for WWII, every Commonwealth soldier who died in Normandy is buried there.

    And that’s the end of the very tiring 3 days. Not only did we do a lot, it was emotionally draining as well. But again, worth every minute and penny and I can without question recommend Stuart as a guide (www.normandybattletours.com).


    Soooo, when we returned back to Stuart’s B&B, we threw our luggage into our toy car, said goodbye to Stuart and Jenny with our thanks and then got on the road for Mont St. Michel. Well, actually, we went 5 miles down the road to the Super U to get gas and then to pick up some sandwich fixings to eat on the way. But THEN we got on the road for Mont St. Michel. BTW, we were in France at the tail end of the refinery strikes but were very glad when we had no trouble whatsoever getting gas.

    Mont St. Michel

    Man, that’s an impressive site. It’s one of those things that you wonder if seeing it in person will be a let-down. It is not. We did run into a bit of a pickle, as our GPS lead us straight to the service entrance. I did have the code to let us into the parking lot for overnight guests so wondered if that would work at the gate, but it didn’t. And people in a car coming the other way (I guess they live within the gate) were yelling at us in rapid-fire French, basically I know now telling us we were at the wrong place. But we backed up, and followed the signs and ended up in the right parking lot.

    I had read about not taking luggage up to the Mont, as it’s just too hard to handle, so we packed our necessities in my DH’s backpack and were on our way. I felt sorry for the people on the bus with suitcases and those we saw struggling with them going up to their rooms. Obviously they didn’t get the memo.

    We found our hotel (Auberge St. Pierre) and checked in. We were staying in one of the fisherman’s cottages further up the hill and our perky, never-even-got-out-of-breath receptionist walked us to our room. It was great. The bathroom was modern and the room had a crazy-beautiful view. It was pricey, but we felt it was worth it. The bed was 2 twin beds made up separately but pushed together. I had read this in prior reviews and so it was expected. It didn’t bother either of us.

    After we settled in (brought our heart rates down to a non-dangerous level), we set out to explore. I would say it was about 8pm at this time and for the duration of our outing we maybe saw 10 other people. It was amazing to just be able to walk around this fantastic structure pretty much alone. We did go to the Abbey entrance to make sure we knew where we were going for the morning in order to be there right when it opened.

    Next up, the next day at the Abbey…

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    Oh, does anyone know if you can actually EDIT your posts after you've submitted them? I hate going back and seeing glaringly obvious grammar mistakes but can't figure out how to fix them!!!!

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    apersuader65 - Looks like we were there at almost the exact same time. Yes, please do your report!!


    Scootoir - Yes, the houseboat was really nice. I tried to look on TripAdvisor for hotels but nothing came up in Auvers-sur-Oise so we took a chance on the boat. A great start to our trip. I really wouldn't have minded another night there to spend more time in the town. Maybe when we go back...

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    Tuesday

    Tuesday started early for us making sure we were ready and our stuff all packed up for when we finished touring the Abbey. Then, we made our way the entrance. It opened at 9:00 and we arrived at the entrance at about 8:30. We definitely wanted to beat the crowd, but honestly, after walking back down the night before to our room, didn’t know how long it would take us to make the climb again back up to the entrance. We gave ourselves PLENTY of time.

    I know that people say it’s really nice to stay at a hotel off of the island so that you can see the view TO the island after dark. And that’s really a sound plan, except that since we were staying on the island and halfway up, we didn’t have to make that bus ride and long walk up in addition to the tour. We were conveniently pretty close already. We were the first ones in line and by the time it opened there were probably 30 people behind us. But when it opened everyone moved at their own pace and we were alone in most rooms as we toured or with only a couple of other people.

    The Abbey is extremely impressive. The architecture and huge rooms were amazing and I’m really glad we did it. It took us probably an hour and a half to tour the whole thing and we were back at our room about 10:40. I think checkout was at 11:00, but we did have a few minutes to sit and rest before trekking down the hill to the hotel reception. Unfortunately, we are not in the best of shape but we did very well with all of the stairs, both up and down. I was worried about that going in. I do have to say that there is NO WAY I would do this trip midday unless I just had no other choice. Just going down to our room and then the hotel reception there was a sea of people schlepping upward.

    After we checked out of the hotel, DH wanted to wait around and have lunch at the big restaurant (whose name now escapes m) where the make those huge soufflé-like omelets, but they didn’t open until noon and it was only 11:15. We decided to sit outside the restaurant to wait it out. But after sitting there for a few minutes, we both realized that we were getting COVERED with this fine sand. Now whether that was blowing in from the mud flats or from the construction work going on further up the hill I don’t know. But we were covered. So we decided we’d leave that for another day and headed back to the bus to take us to the parking lot and our car. Upon arrival at the car, we both wet a napkin to wash the uncomfortable sand off of our faces.

    On to Dinan via St. Malo

    When we left, we pointed our car toward St. Malo to have lunch there, which was our original plan. If I recall, it was only about 45 minutes away. We drove to the old part of town and found a parking spot on the street quite by accident and we set off to find a place to eat and then to walk around a bit. As luck would have it, we happened upon a creperie just around the corner and the menu looked good so we ventured in. It was like an American version of a diner with people coming and going, but instead of the big grill, the cook had 4 or 5 big round crepe surfaces. We ended up having savory buckwheat crepes and they were absolutely delicious. So much that weeks after being home, my DH is threatening to go buy Buckwheat flour and a crepe pan. We’ll see.

    After a little shopping we went outside the wall to see the sea and take a few pictures and then we decided to move on Dinan, our home for the next two nights. We both agreed that St. Malo looked like a fun, touristy place, but I had kind of fallen down on my research of this city with the intention of just stopping for lunch, which was accomplished very successfully. I will say that our plans for this day included driving further down the coast to end up at the lighthouse at Cap Frehel. But given the exhausting morning we had, we thought it more sensible to find our hotel and have a light afternoon of walking and not driving.

    Dinan

    We reached Dinan pretty quickly and found our hotel (Hotel Arvor) and entered their parking lot. The parking lot has about 6 spaces and I’m glad I reserved a spot ahead, as there were names assigned to each spot. I found ours and, as luck would have it, it was the tightest spot to back into, but given that the car we were driving was so small, I managed it with finesse and ease, if I do say so myself.

    Checking in was easy and we soon had a corner room with a beautiful view overlooking the clock tower. I had read reviews that said these rooms were very loud with street noise and could be until late in the night. But my DH sleeps like the dead and I always carry ear plugs just in case so it was not a big deal to me. The room was very nice with a king bed, desk, and small dining table. The bathroom was modern with a big tub and I enjoyed a soak while DH napped.

    Later, we saw people going into a restaurant that we could see from our room and so looked up the menu online. It had really good reviews and the receptionist recommended it so we headed over about 7:00 to inquire about a table. We came at the right time, as there were only a couple of other couples in there. Toward the end of our meal, it was so packed that they were turning people away. The meal was very good and after desert we walked around in the immediate vicinity for a bit and then turned in.

    Wednesday

    Wednesday we had a full day in Dinan. We started with breakfast at the hotel, which we knew ahead of time was going to be way more expensive than walking around to a creperie. But it was in the hotel and convenient and the people were very friendly and we were on vacation. They had meats and cheeses, eggs and yogurts, bread and cereals and I guess it would be called an apple tart. DH loved that and had two slices. He had coffee and I had very tasty hot chocolate. There was also a wide selection of jams that we enjoyed.

    After breakfast, we followed a walking tour that was in the map we were given by the hotel. It followed around the old town to the cathedral and then down to the river. We were sitting on a stone wall resting for a bit when a big orange cat happened upon us and kept us company. We then started the long descent to the river. In terms of length, it’s not really a long walk, but it’s at a sharp decline with the road completely comprised of cobblestones. And since I have recently had some knee troubles, we took it very slowly down the uneven stones. But that was OK, because the houses are so pretty. Half-timbered and many of them covered in flowers, I stopped often to take pictures.

    We had thought that when we finally reached the river that we would stop to have lunch. And it did look like there were tons of nice cafés. But we were still full from breakfast so we just walked around the riverfront for a while before starting the trek back up. The walking tour takes you about halfway up the way you came, and then veers over to the cathedral, at which point you are on regular pavement. But although we were winded coming up, the walking UP the cobblestones was much easier than gingerly walking down. We came across 3 more cats along the way and successfully made friends with one of them. We’re cat people, dontcha know?

    We found a place for lunch just down from the cathedral and sat outside to have a nice lunch of salad and quiche. I had a coke and I know that they KNEW we were Americans, because the waitress brought with it a full cup of ice. But that’s OK because I LOVED having a cold drink.

    Across from where we had lunch there was some sort of market setup that looked kind of like a rummage sale. I did spot from my chair a very interesting looking vase, but we didn’t even bother to wander over since we travel lightly and I would just have no place to put anything. So no point in being tempted.

    We spent the rest of the early afternoon going into the shops near our hotel and it was a lot of fun. We found a small Brittany cookbook (in English) for my Father-in-law (who collects cookbooks) and then a variety of small souvenirs for me and for some friends back home.

    By this time I was winding down and DH decided to do the other waking tour of the ramparts. So he deposited me at the hotel and set off while I handled a little bit of laundry and caught up on emails.

    On the way back to the room, DH decided to stop at the front desk to inquire about the pizza place just opposite. But the reception was 12 deep with people from a tour group so we looked it up online and didn’t find any negative reviews so decided to wing it. It turns out the waitress was extremely friendly and very kind to let me speak in French without automatically switching to English. I was very happy to conduct the whole conversation in French and since she knew I was timid about it, she gave me a hearty “Tres bien!” and a thumbs-up when I successfully asked to have another drink without stumbling over the words. It’s the little things. That said, the pizza was REALLY good. So, it was a nice evening all around.

    After dinner, we walked around just a little bit more and then went back to our room to gather our stuff for the next day and the next step of our journey. I did regret that we didn’t spend anytime along the coast except for our very brief stop at St. Malo. But we will definitely be back in this area again. It’s hard to weigh what you WANT to do with what you have time for. But we have to just go with the knowledge that everything will still be there when we come back.

    Tomorrow, our long driving day back toward Paris to Fontainebleau.

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    Nice report.

    And you can congratulate yourselves on having missed the vastly overpriced, gooey omelettes at La Mère Poulard, one of the most revolting eateries in all of France IMO.

    I love that you spent an entire day in Dinan, an overlooked venue by many people and a lovely place.

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    Nice report.

    And you can congratulate yourselves on having missed the vastly overpriced, gooey omelettes at La Mère Poulard, one of the most revolting eateries in all of France IMO.

    I love that you spent an entire day in Dinan, an overlooked venue by many people and a lovely place.

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    I'm enjoying your report very much and it brings back pleasant memories of several of my visits to that part of France. In 2001 we stayed at the Hotel St. Pierre on Mont-Saint-Michel, and like you were among the first to climb the steps up to the Abbey to beat the day trippers. In 2004, we visited Dinan for a few days and stayed at the Hotel Arvor, in a corner room with a wonderful view of the belfry--perhaps the same room as you! It's a delightful town. We had an absolutely delicious meal there at Chez la Mère Pourcel, certainly not to be confused with the establishment in Mont St Michel with a similar name and known for its overpriced and overhyped omelettes (of which like you we did not partake).

    I'm glad to hear that you learned of the differences between the US and Commonwealth War Cemeteries. In addition to the 18 official Commonwealth War Graves Cemeteries in the Département of Calvados alone (there are more in the rest of Normandy) there are dozens of communal cemeteries and churchyards with Commonwealth war graves, many with only one. You might also be interested to know that there is a second US military cemetery in the area, the Brittany American Cemetery at St. James, just south of Avranches and very close to Mont Saint Michel. It holds over 4,000 graves.

    Like others, I am looking forward to your next instalment.

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    Nice report, Melody. Isn't it a shame that real life has to intrude while a person is trying to write their trip report? We'll be here when you have time to pick it up again.

    bilbo, ouch! We drove through a busy brocante one Sunday in a one-street village and they hadn't really allowed enough space for vehicles to get through. We made it through and no vases or plastic toys were harmed.

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    Moving on to Thursday

    Today was our long driving day. It is about 4 hours from Dinan to Fontainebleau. If I had it to do over again, I would have stayed another day in Brittany, then ditched the car and taken the train to Paris, saving Fontainebleau and Vaux-le-Vicomte for another trip. That's not because the drive was bad (it wasn't) but because we really would have liked that extra day in Brittany. But here we are.

    The drive was actually very pleasant. I will tell you that we were repeatedly watched the forecast and it was SUPPOSED to be raining and cold on us the whole trip. I mean, the entire time. But we were really, really fortunate. Other than it being colder on the beaches in Normandy, we enjoyed much better weather than expected. Sure, it was cloudy a lot, but I there was no rain and I was comfortable in long sleeved t-shirts on the warmer days and a long-sleeved light corduroy button-down on the cooler days. Really nice for a lot of walking. But I digress.

    After sleeping in a bit and then having breakfast (again at the hotel), we packed up, settled up and got on the road. It was not at all a bad drive. We bought some sandwiches at one of their service areas off the highway and drove straight through to the Chateau de Fontainebleau. Honestly, I've seen tons of pictures of the Chateau but never the surrounding area and it was not what I was expecting. There it is, right in the town. But we parked the nearby parking lot and headed in.

    It was cool enough for my jacket this day but I was glad to see the lockers when we got inside, as I hate lugging my jacket around in a warm building. So we both stored our jackets in a locker and then headed to pay. But when we got to the counter, a sign said the counter was closed. So we stood there stupidly for a bit wondering where to go until someone told us that because of the flooding in Paris that it was free that day. Not quite sure what that would have to do with it, but we didn't have to pay so that was nice. So we wandered around for a couple of hours and enjoyed it. The architecture and decorations are simply magnificent.

    Leaving the Chateau, we set out for our hotel, the Mercure Fontainebleau. We had a smidge of trouble finding it. The GPS was telling me to turn left and then it recalculated like I had gone the wrong way. It turns out that the left was a very sharp left that to me didn't really look like a turn at all. But we went around the block and realized the mistake and made it with no trouble. Now, this hotel was fine for one night, but was more of a convention hotel. In fact, there were people coming in from meetings while we were checking in. But it really was just someplace to sleep and the room was roomy and comfortable, even if the furniture looked like it was from the 70s.

    We did not do any exploring in Fontainebleau. We ate in the hotel restaurant. It was really more of a bar than a restaurant and the offerings were extremely limited, but our meal was actually pretty good. Then we just stayed in our room catching up on emails and I took a bath in the very large tub.

    Friday - Vaux-le-Vicomte and then on to Paris!

    Our plan today was to arrive at Vaux-le-Vicomte as soon as it opened. ViaMichelin (and my GPS) had the trip at around 35 minutes, but the traffic was terrible! It actually took closer to an hour so we arrived a smidge later than planned. But that was ok.

    This was a place I was really looking forward to and it did not disappoint. It is a really beautiful place. We wandered around the chateau before lunch and were planning to rent a golf cart to see the grounds after lunch. In the end we decided that we would have lunch there and save the grounds for another day. It was cloudy and starting to mist rain (our only rain of the trip). So we drove to the town of Melun and dropped off our car and then walked to the train station. As luck would have it, DH bought our tickets and the train was leaving in 5 minutes so we just stepped right onboard for Paris.

    Before I go on, I'll give a little bit of info about our experience driving around France. I had read how our chip and signature cards may or may not work at the toll booths. Not willing to risk having to back out of a booth and get stressed about it, we simply carried cash and coin. ViaMichelin told us where the toll booths are and how much so we just made sure we had coins to pay the tolls. And going through the cash booths was no problem at all.

    We did stop at one service location on the highway thinking to get gas but it was an unmanned station. Our chip and signature did not work. But we never let the tank get below ½ so we just drove to the next exit and there was a manned station. Other than that, driving around where we did was no problem. And apart for the couple of very minor issues we had with our GPS, it worked like a charm. We didn't have to consult a map at all.

    On to Paris

    Our apartment in Paris was on the Ile St. Louis and so we went from Melun to Gare de Lyon and then transferred to the pink line going to Sully Moreland, which is near the tip of the Ile St. Louis. We had no issues with our luggage (we travel light) and we walked the couple of blocks the office of Guest Apartment Services, which is the company from which we rented our apartment. And they were really great to rent from. They have an office that is open every weekday and we could not have been more pleased with our choice. We checked in at the office and completed the paperwork and everyone was very nice. Then, someone from the office walked us around the corner to our apartment and pretty much showed us how everything worked. In addition, there was a very comprehensive binder in the apartment that gave instructions on everything from how to work the appliances to which recycle bins were used for what items.

    Also in the apartment was a small gift bag that contained some items to keep you from having to rush right out to the store. There was coffee and hot cocoa mix and little cakes, sugar and a few other things.

    Our apartment was on the Quai D'Anjou, where the island curves to go to the point. We had a great view of the river and the right bank. It was a studio but had everything we needed (stove, microwave, coffee maker, washer/dryer, hair dryer, iron/ironing board and WIFI). It was plenty of space for the two of us. The linens were extremely high quality and the temp with the windows open was very pleasant. I would have really liked to rent a larger place with a separate bedroom and a balcony with a bistro set on it, but the trade-off with our budget is more time in France and we'll take more time, every time.

    We were there during the flooding so that was extremely interesting to see how high the river was when we arrived and how it went down during the week. From our apartment we could see across the river a two store building built at the river level. When we arrived, almost the entire first floor was under water. You could just see the top of the door at the water level. And of course, no boats going down the river at all. When we left, the entire first floor was dry, along with a length of pavement in front going down to the water, which was contained within its banks on that side. So a dramatic difference in 7 days.

    Anyway, we got unpacked and settled and then set off to find the grocery store. We went to the G20 in the Marais, just about a 10 minute walk. We decided for our first night just to have a simple meal at our new home and do some laundry. The machine was a washer/dryer combo and for the life of me I can't figure out why it took an hour to wash a load and then an hour and a half to dry. So it seemed like forever to get that one load done.

    To be continued.

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    I am really enjoying this report.

    But I, uh, didn’t actually go in.

    That admission has endeared you to me. I've never met a museum I didn't like - well, almost - but I admire those who will not go in if they would rather people watch and read (also favourite activities of mine.)

    I knew that Commonwealth soldiers were buried where they fell, but didn't know about the 'no repatriation' policy.

    We stayed 'off island' when we visited the Mont and that hotel remains a standout in our memories. But that was in the days before they instituted the mandatory bus shuttle. The one person I know who used the shuttle wasn't happy with it, but that was back in 2012, maybe they have worked the kinks out now?

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