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4 Friends, 3 days and 2 nights in Paris - a trip report

4 Friends, 3 days and 2 nights in Paris - a trip report

Old Jan 15th, 2008, 07:21 AM
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4 Friends, 3 days and 2 nights in Paris - a trip report

I know Paris has been done to death on this board but I thought I'd give you a brief report of a recent trip to the City of Lights.

A little background - we are four friends who met at Library school waaaaay back, and are now in our late 30's/early 40's. One of our number - let's call her A - had just hit 40 so we decided to celebrate it by a quick trip to Paris, from Thursday 10th until Saturday 12th January.

We flew Aer Lingus Dublin to De Gaulle, got the Aer France bus to Charles de Gaulle Etoile, and from there the metro to St. Paul only a few steps from our hotel, the Grand Hotel Malher - www.grandhotelmalher.com . While neither grande (in the French or English sense of the word), it is a comfortable, three star, family-run hotel.

We arrived at 11.30am (after a 4am start in Dublin) so we were delighted that our rooms were ready for us. After a quick freshening up, we were ready to hit the Marais.

I'm very familiar with this area but my friends were not, so they were enchanted with the small shops, boutiques, cafes and restaurants that this lovely neighbourhood has to offer. After exploring for a bit, we had our first meal in Paris in Chez Marianne on Rue des Rosiers. This cute little Jewish deli is a great spot for a light meal and we loved it - especially as one of our number is a vegetarian and we all know how difficult vegetarian food can be to source in Paris.

Here I come to the first highlight of the trip - the smoking ban. Hurray! The last time I ate in Chez Marianne I could hardly see around me because of the smoke - now all is changed for the better as you can actually taste your food without the option of secondary smoke.

Suddenly this trip report is getting a little long so I'll truncate the rest of the report. After lunch we went our separate ways - some to the "soldes" (they had started the day before), some to the Picasso museum, and some back to the hotel for a nap (that was me). We met at 8 for dinner at a nearby vegetarian restaurant - Le Potager du Marais, 22 Rue Rambuteau. Tiny, with friendly English-speaking staff, and the chocolate mousse is to die for - what's not to love. Booking is a must because of the size. Highly recommended - even if you're not a vegetarian.

We finished the night with cocktails at Le Dome (on the corner of Rue Malher and Rue St Antoine) - an okay-ish bar that is - like everywhere else - much improved by the lack of smoke.

More to follow -
ter2000 is offline  
Old Jan 15th, 2008, 09:01 AM
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There can never be too much Paris... continuez, s'il vous plait..
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Old Jan 15th, 2008, 11:15 AM
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Oui, continuez, je vous prie!
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Old Jan 16th, 2008, 06:06 AM
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Part Deux!

Friday 11th January dawned rainy and dull. We discovered the big disadvantage of the Grand Hotel Malher at about 7am - the very noisy rubbish collection that takes place on Rue Malher every morning. If you're going to be disturbed by this, request rooms that overlook the courtyard instead of the street.

We woke too late for breakfast (it was a late night!) so we went to the bakery on the corner of Rue St Paul and Rue St Antoine - my friends thought the almond croissant was the best ever! Unfortunately the birthday girl developed a very sore throat overnight so it necessitated a trip to the Pharmacie. French pharmacists are extremely helpful and are allowed to dispense drugs that may need a prescription in Ireland. Accordingly some antibiotics, some lozenges and some ibuprofen were bought. A. was really to ill to do anything but return to the hotel and her bed (some birthday trip for her ) but the rest of us continued on our way.

We headed towards the Opera Garnier. The spectacular decor, the staircase, the auditorium, the museum and the library makes this well worth a visit. But we got a little extra for our €8 - when we arrived we were told that the auditorium would be closed because a rehearsal was taking place, but that we could view the auditorium from one of the boxes. Not only did we get to view the fantastic ceiling and the opulent audience areas, we also got to see the Bolshoi ballet in rehearsal. What a treat! We were entranced for at least an hour.

After all that culture it was time for a bit of shopping, so we headed for what in our family is known as "The Bag Shop". I can never remember the name, but if you're looking for designer bags (longchamps, mandarina duck, sequoia etc.) at discounted prices, go to 30 Rue Tronchet (the same street as La Madaleine Church). You need to brave the sharp elbows of the Parisienne bargain-hunters but it's well worth the effort. 1 hour and three bags later (2 Longchamps, 1 sequoia!) we were back out on the street and very hungry.

A phone call from our sick friend told us that the pharmacists magic tablets had worked miracles and that she was pretty peckish as well so it was decided that we would head for Angelina's (226 rue de Rivoli). I had visited Angelina's once before and while the food was nice, the smoke was not. What a transformation - it's so much nicer without the smoke. Some sandwiches and omlettes, wine and coffee, cakes and chocolate later (we were there for hours!), we were ready for more shopping action!

My friends decided to go back towards Printemps and Galeries Lafayette and I decided to solve the age-old problem of "What to buy the husband?" by going towards the Paris St Germain shop on the Champs Elysees (he got a football jersey).

More later -
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Old Jan 16th, 2008, 10:03 AM
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I agree. I can never hear too much about Paris. I'm headed there at the end of March so this is great.
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Old Jan 16th, 2008, 10:24 AM
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I hppe that you didn't really truncate your report. People will hate you for that. They want every single detail imaginable.

I agree that Chez Marianne is an excellent place for a vegetarian or non vegetarian meal - nobody ever seems to mention it here when they are talking about rue des Rosiers. They are all obsessed with l'As du Falafel. Hey, there's nothing stopping them from coming back for a cheap sit down meal!
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Old Jan 16th, 2008, 11:37 AM
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Is this the bag shop?

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Old Jan 16th, 2008, 12:06 PM
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Enjoying your trip report...I'll be in Paris in September. I'm always interested in getting restaurant recommendations...keep it coming!
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Old Jan 16th, 2008, 12:16 PM
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very interesting report

I know this is off-topic a bit, but I do some work in international public health issues, and are you saying that a French pharmacist gave you antibiotics without a prescription?

France has a large prevalence of some antibiotic-resisitant strains compared to other European countries because their general antibiotic prescription rate is really high in France for respiratory tract infections and other illnesses. They prescribe antibiotics for all kinds of illnesses where it isn't effective or appropriate, and drugs are relatively cheap and plentiful in France. But from everything I've read, antibiotics do require a prescription in France, as most countries (except places like Mexico, etc.) that's why I was surprised by your statement. Also, I read in a British newspaper fairly recently that even in France, there have been recent campaigns to stop the overprescribing of antibiotics, but that they must be prescribed.
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Old Jan 17th, 2008, 03:14 AM
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Yes - that's the one! Isn't it great? Ladies, please take note - the best bargains in bags in Paris! Gents - purchase here and the woman in your life will love you forever (or until your next trip).

I may well stand corrected on that one. A thought that they were anti-b's and I didn't look at the packaging too closely. Whatever they were - they did the trick!
Parte trois!
After that bit of shopping I tried to get into the Courbet exhibition in the Grand Palais - but I was just too late. It may have been a blessing in disguise because at that stage I had the legs walked off me (as my mother would say), so I used one of my carnet tickets to take the metro back to the hotel to put my feet up until the rest of the party returned.

Some purchases were made in the Grands Magasins but nothing too spectacular. We decided to go our for something to eat at 8pm. None of us was too hungry after gorging in Angelina's so we decided that a crepe from Crepe Suzette on Rue des Francs Bourgeois would fit the bill. This again is a tiny spot but the galettes were good as was the cidre and the coffee. The bill for four galettes, 1 large bottle of cider, 1 coke and 4 coffees came to less than €60. Excellent value we thought.

My sister lives in Montmartre so we took the metro to Abbesses to meet up with her and her partner. We got a tour of the neighbourhood - seeing the "Amelie" greengrocer's, studios where various artists worked , Place du Tertre, and finishing up at Sacre Coeur just in time to see the Eiffel Tower twinkle. It was a bitterly cold night so we were glad to duck into a bar for some wine and chat.

Time flew by so it was lucky for us that the metro is now running until 2am on Friday and Saturday nights. It seems to be quite safe - there were lots of beefy-looking security guards on every train, and it really saved us faffing around with taxis - especially when some taxis won't take more than three people.

Our final morning was the perfect Paris morning, clear and blue - just like the postcards. Again we didn't have breakfast in the hotel but opted for brunch in Le Loir dans la Thier (3, rue des Rosiers) for the most perfect brunch ever. Eggs with bacon, fresh juice, croissants, pain au chocolat, apple compote with natural yoghurt and coffees for €17 each. Not the cheapest brunch in Paris but I defy anyone to find one more delicious - even thinking about now makes me feel nostalgic (and hungry). For anyone going there - they only do brunch on Saturdays and Sundays - go there and enjoy.

It was now 11.30am and we had to be in De Gaulle at 2pm for our flights so we all split up to do our own thing. Some shopping was done in the Marais - revisiting shops that we saw two days earlier. I went to Monoprix and bought some Lindt chocolate (the "orange intense" and the chilli - nearly all gone now) and some cheese. Then I browsed down Rue St Paul to Ile St Louis. I passed a shop selling antique handbags and luggage - $4,500 for a 1950's Hermes Kelly bag anyone? - I decided to pass on this one and went straight to Berthillon. I bought a little cup with rasberry icecream (more like a sorbet really) and managed to keep it from melting until I got to Notre Dame, where I sat in the sunshine, eating it and taking it all in. A perfect holiday "moment".

Rejoining my friends I found that a coat, a pair of shoes and another bag had been bought in my absence. Handbags and food seem to have been the theme of our break.

We took the metro to Charles de Gaulle etoile to pick up the Air France bus to the airport. On our arrival we were told that the bus would not be leaving until 1.30 so we stowed the luggage and took a quick look at the Arc - a shame on such a perfect day that we hadn't time to climb to the top.

The Air France bus got us to De Gaulle at 2.20-ish but disaster struck! When we disembarked at Terminal 1 and the driver opened the baggage hold our luggage was nowhere to be seen. While we were doing our last bit of sightseeing the bus with our bags on board had left for De Gaulle without us. I've seen some Fodor-ites talk about the concept of "Ugly Americans" - well, within seconds I became "Ugly Irish Lady". I don't know where my French came from but very shortly the bus driver was whimpering "C'est pas ma faute" in the face of a very irate me. A couple of quick calls on his radio informed him that our luggage was on a bus due to pick up passengers at Arrivals in 5 minutes so he left us off there and disappeared. 20 very anxious minutes later a bus came around the corner and the driver confirmed that there were indeed four ownerless bags in the hold of his bus - what a relief!

It was now 2.40pm and we were a bit anxious about checking in for our 4pm flight but there were no queues and no further problems. After a quick sandwich and coffee in the newly renovated Terminal 1 - and much nicer it is now too! - we flew home to Dublin.

More to follow (but not too much more - honest)

ter2000 is offline  
Old Jan 21st, 2008, 12:31 PM
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Finally - here are a few observations -

I never thought that Paris could be improved upon but the smoking ban is WONDERFUL. Finally being able to enjoy my drink or meal without the dubious benefit of secondhand smoke is just a joy.

The sales this winter were disappointing - everyone was complaining at the lack of bargains.

If you're staying at the Grand Hotel Malher and noise disturbs you, book an interior room overlooking the courtyard.

French pharmacists are miracle workers.

You can never buy too many bags.

Stay with your luggage on the Air France bus!

Happy travels.
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Old Jan 21st, 2008, 02:04 PM
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ter-- your trip sounds so great! How fun!!

Thanks for the restaurant, hotel and shopping tips-- I hope I will be able to put them to good use. You are so lucky to be able to pop over to Paris like that!

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Old Jan 21st, 2008, 02:49 PM
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Thanks so much for the tip on the "Bag Store". I,ve been to Paris many times, and didn't know about it.

Can never get enough of Paris. My favorite kids stores are on Vavin right outside of Lux. Gardens and on Montparnasse & Raspail. Favorite restaurant "Marco Polo" on Rue de Conde near the Odeon. Yes, it's Italian,but great food, nice to sit outside, a fun place at a good price, and thehelp is very friendly.
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Old Jan 21st, 2008, 03:12 PM
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Nice report - thanks! I clicked on the hotel link but didn't find the rates (probably right in front of me . . .) would you mind sharing what you paid (or directing me to the rates page?) and could you tell us a little bit more about the hotel? Thank you!
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Old Jan 21st, 2008, 03:51 PM
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I just googled the address for the Bag Store as I'm interested in going there for our May trip, and this is what I came up with:


The link referenced Longchamp bags and was the same address, so I think it's the right place.
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Old Jan 21st, 2008, 05:20 PM
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Great report--thanks for sharing! I'm headed to Paris in March for the first time and have a question about the bag store. Can you give me some ideas about the cost of bags there? I will admit that I'm not a designer bag person. My purses rarely cost over $90.00 (if even that much). Needless to say, I am not sure if this bag store is my kind of bargain or not. Thanks!
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Old Jan 22nd, 2008, 03:34 AM
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Thank you all for your nice remarks.
The Grand Hotel Malher is a family-run 3* hotel. Staff are friendly but do not have a lot of English (although they were patient with my okayish French). Everywhere is very clean, but old-fashioned. Rooms are quite small but bathrooms are a good size. Breakfast is apparently very good, but we didn't have it - it costs €9 extra. Room rates in Winter are €125 for a double room with 2 single beds, or €120 for a double room with a double bed. Location is excellent for the Metro (St Paul) and the Marais but rooms at the front of the building can be noisy. I'd have no hesitation staying there again.

Bags in La Maroquinerie Parisienne are priced from about €50 upwards. The average price is about €150 - but they are genuine mark-downs. Tell yourself what I tell my husband - it's an investment!

If that's a bit steep for you keep an eye out for the chain La Bagagerie (there's a branch on Rue Tronchet) - their handbags are also of excellent quality but a bit cheaper and have good reductions at sale time (I bought a small leather evening bag reduced from €98 to €45). Hope this helps!
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