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5 Incredible Days in Paris -- With Lots of Detail!

5 Incredible Days in Paris -- With Lots of Detail!

Old Jul 5th, 2010, 01:13 PM
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5 Incredible Days in Paris -- With Lots of Detail!

I just got back from an amazing 5 days in Paris… thanks to everyone on this forum for their outstanding suggestions! I got so many tips and suggestions that really helped immensely! Soon I will be posting a link to a photo slideshow for those who are interested. But first of all, a couple things that might be helpful to others that I wanted to mention. A few posters suggested we buy the museum pass, and at first I figured it wouldn’t be worth it for us, since we weren’t visiting that many museums. How wrong I was! For those who don’t yet know, the Museum Pass will also get you into many of the top sites in the city (not just museums) but way more importantly, you get to skip to the front of the line and waltz right in! That right there was worth any extra expense it might have been. To skip the line at the Museum d’Orsay alone was priceless! One other tip is to be sure you get a metro map. I printed out this map before I left and it was invaluable:

http://www.aparisguide.com/maps/metro.htm

I familiarized myself with how to use the metro before I went (look for the name at the END of the line in the direction you’re traveling and follow the clearly marked signs), and each day before heading out, I would write down all our routes and transfers. I also downloaded an iPhone metro app that was helpful… you type in the name of your starting station and your destination station, and it routes it for you (least number of transfers, tells you the travel time, etc.) Another great tip someone passed onto me was to go to the machines in the metro and buy a “carnet” – 10 tickets at a reduced price. It also saved time so we didn’t have to keep buying tickets. One note: the machines are a little hard to figure out how to use… there’s a big wheel you roll on the bottom to scroll through your choices, but be sure to look in the lower left-hand corner to choose “English” or you’ll be lost! Another thing is if you use your credit card, push it in the slot and LEAVE it there until it tells you to take it out (unlike in the U.S. where you usually insert then remove your card right away). As you can tell, we spent some confusion time at the machine

Our itinerary was jam-packed, and I’m quite happy I scheduled so much since it’s just our personal style of travel to run around like crazy. If I’m not exhausted, I feel like I didn’t have fun. However, as you’ll read, there was also plenty of time for hanging out in cafes (for wine, beer, or café crème and pastries!) Here’s a pretty detailed account for those who are interested… it’s long, sorry!

DAY 1 (Saturday). We arrived, from Miami, at 9:00 am and took a taxi to our hotel in the Latin Quarter. The hotel was great – Hotel Agora St. Germain. It’s on 42 Rue de Bernardins, maybe a block south of Blvd. St. Germain, and a very short walk to the Maubert-Mutualite metro stop. Very convenient, great location for us. The room was small (as we knew it would be) but very nice, modern, flat-screen TV mounted on the wall, minibar, modern bathroom with shower (you have to request a room with a shower), and free Wifi which was great! The staff was incredibly friendly and we really enjoyed our stay here. We had the hotel hold our bags and headed our jetlagged selves toward the Place de la Sorbonne for some food and coffee at a café. Then we walked to the Pantheon (here is where we bought our Museum Passes). We really liked the Pantheon (fantastic building) and went downstairs to the crypt where so many famous people are interred: Voltaire, Rousseau, Marie Curie, Victor Hugo, etc. We then explored some of the Latin Quarter, but found many streets to be a bit touristy and very crowded (it was a sunny weekend day). For example, the Rue de la Harpe, Rue de la Huchette, etc. area (pedestrian-only streets). However, we did stumble upon the beautiful St. Severin church, and enjoyed the ethnic feel of some of these streets (many Greek and Tunisian food markets and bakeries, etc.) Even though we had eaten not too long before, I still managed to make room for more coffee and a chocolate-filled crepe!

We explored some more streets around the area, then ended up on Blvd. St. Germain to wait for the Paris Gay Pride parade to come down the street. It was fantastic! The papers the next day say there were about 1 million participants and over 80 floats. I was impressed by the lack of any police presence, protesters or even street barriers… everything was very organized and had a fun, relaxed atmosphere. Of course there were the usual outrageous costumes (some guys walking around on stilts, etc.) and some political banners, but also lots of people just having fun and dancing down the street to the club music blasting from the floats. We took pictures and video for a while, then joined right in the parade, dancing down Blvd. St. Germain all the way back to our hotel. It was a blast, and so great to be part of something special in Paris. Afterwards, we checked into the hotel and settled into our room, showered, and walked to dinner at Chez Rene (on Blvd. St. Germain east of our hotel). This was a fantastic very “locals” place (so it seemed) and was what I pictured a Parisian restaurant to be like. I’m a vegetarian (so I learned “Je suis vegeterienne”) and found all the servers in restaurants and cafes to be very friendly and were able to make suggestions in English to me. One side note here: does everyone agree with me that Parisians are among the nicest people??? All those years of being warned about the gruff, unfriendly (or indifferent) French…. SO not true! Everyone was incredibly friendly and helpful. Even a drunk guy sitting on a bench noticed we were looking for something and pointed the way! Anyway, after dinner, we walked along the Seine, which was beautiful. And since it was a Saturday night, many people were picnicking along the river, lots of teenagers with 6-packs and guitars, as well as families with food spread out on blankets.
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Old Jul 5th, 2010, 01:14 PM
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DAY 2 (Sunday). Right around the corner from our hotel is the fantastic Eric Kayser bakery, so we headed there for breakfast and had croissants (and even snuck in a chocolate pastry as well). Then we walked to Ste. Chapelle (skipped the long line with our museum passes). It’s such a beautiful place, with all the high stained-glass windows. Then we purchased tickets for one of the evening concerts before heading over to Notre Dame. It was a Sunday morning and we arrived during mass, which was interesting. It was incredibly crowded, so we opted not to wait in the VERY long line to go up into the towers (the museum pass does not include the towers). I had done this many years ago, so I skipped it this time. We then took a stroll through Ile St. Louis, and I have to say that I was a little disappointed with the area. Maybe it’s just not our style, or maybe too many things were closed on a Sunday morning. Also it was an incredibly hot day (it was hot the whole time we were there, with temps in the mid to high 80s), and the narrow streets were stifling with no breeze. So we continued on and took the metro from Pont Marie to the Louvre. But first we stopped at a fantastic café near the Louvre for lunch, called Le Nemours (on Place Colette, I believe). It’s in a beautiful arcaded building, and we sat outside (as we always did) and enjoyed some kir, wine, and I had the most fantastic goat cheese quiche! Then we had some more wine Then we headed over to the Louvre (just to see the outside and take pictures) and then walked through the Tuileries, which I adore! It was a beautiful sunny Sunday afternoon, and so many families were out enjoying the park. We went up in the giant ferris wheel which I HIGHLY recommend doing! Not only is it fun, but the views from the ferris wheel are fantastic, with the Louvre on one end, the Arc and Eiffel Tower on the other, Sacre Coeur in the distance, and the gorgeous Parisian rooftops (best viewed from not too high up). We loved it. Then we walked further into the park and stopped for a couple of beers in the shade and did some people watching, then caught the metro at Concorde to Etoile to see the Arc de Triomphe. Remember to look for the signs to the tunnel, since you can’t cross the traffic circle on foot! We had to cross a couple of the radiating streets to get to the tunnel entrance. Then again with our museum passes, we cut to the front of the line (not too long this time) and walked the 200-something steps up the spiral staircase to the top. (Whew!) But what spectacular views! We both absolutely loved the Arc and were surprised by its size once we were really up close. Then we hopped the metro from Etoile to Trocadero to see the Eiffel Tower. Well, we mostly saw throngs of tourists. It was so hot and crowded that we actually decided to just snap some pictures and take off. We headed back to the hotel for showers and got changed for our evening: a 7:00 pm concert at Ste. Chapelle. There are 2 nightly classical concerts (one at 7pm, one at 8:30 pm). You can see what’s playing each evening by visiting this website:

http://www.archetspf.asso.fr/ It’s in French, but click “Programme” then “Calendrier” and it’s easy to figure out from there.

We heard a wonderful (instrumentally pared-down) version of Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons” (instead of full chamber orchestra, they did it with 2 violins, viola, cello, harpsichord and a fantastic solo violinist!) The setting is fantastic, but unfortunately they are renovating the stained-glass panes right behind where the musicians play (for the next few years). Anyway, the performance was fantastic and we really enjoyed it, and made some new friends at the concert. Afterwards, we walked back over towards Notre Dame and had dinner at Café Panis (right across from the cathedral). The waiters were fun, the food was great (including a killer tiramisu served in a glass mason jar), and eating dinner with the Notre Dame cathedral in the background can’t be beat. It’s a very busy street corner, but we liked the people-watching and had fun, took our time, and enjoyed a really good Beaujolais
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Old Jul 5th, 2010, 01:15 PM
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DAY 3. (Monday). After breakfast at Café Metro (near the Maubert-Mutualite metro stop), we took the metro to the Pompidou Center. We’re fans of modern art, so this was a must-see for us. We rode the round glass-encased escalators to the top for some terrific views of the city, then came back down to the floors with the main collections (Arp, Calder, Delaunay, Kandinsky, Picasso, etc.) It was cute to watch a few school (or summer camp) groups of kids sitting on the floor while the teacher discussed various paintings and sculptures, the kids excitedly raising their hands. Some groups of children had little worksheets and were making drawings of their own. After some time here, we walked towards the Marais, down the Rue Vieille du Temple and Rue du Rossiers, with the Jewish delis, boulangeries and falafal places. We finally made our way to Place des Vosges and had lunch at a really good café called La Place Royale (just on your right after entering the Place through the archway). I had a wonderful penne with 4 cheeses, and we took our time and enjoyed lunch and some wine. (Okay, I’m starting to realize how much we drank on this trip!) Honestly, the Place des Vosges was beautiful, but just not our “cup of tea” as far as shops go – it was mainly filled with high-end art galleries. So we did a quick swing-through, then wandered more streets of the Marais and did some shopping (my sister bought some beautiful jewelry and we also found a great store on Rue de Francs Bourgeois called “Moia,” which had lots of funky housewares (stainless steel bowls and salt & pepper shakers, etc.) Really interesting, unique designs. We shipped a few things home (including a beautiful set of cheese knives for myself). After more shopping, we ended up at a marvelous café for dessert, called Les Philosophes (on Rue Vieille du Temple), where I had a fruit tart with crème fraiche (yum!) Also, this café had the most unique bathroom I’ve ever seen – very funky stainless steel with philosophical “sayings” lit up in the mirrors, and the stall actually overlooks a small (fake) library filled with books on philosophy! Dinner that night was at Le Danton (corner of Blvd. St. Germain and Odeon), where I had a cheese plate, steamed vegetables and a good Bordeaux. (Sorry meat eaters, I have no interesting food descriptions for you!) But I was happy
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Old Jul 5th, 2010, 01:16 PM
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DAY 4 (Tuesday). We took the metro to Napoleon’s Tomb and really enjoyed the architecture here. We then walked over to the Rodin Museum, which is one of my favorite places. It’s a large house filled with marbles and bronzes, with windows overlooking the beautifully manicured gardens that has some of Rodin’s most famous bronzes (The Thinker, Burghers of Calais, Gates of Hell, Balzac, etc.) After a coffee at the small café in the gardens, we walked over to the d’Orsay museum, and as I alluded to before, there was a REALLY long line and the museum was very crowded. Honestly, almost a little too crowded to fully enjoy the art. At times it was shoulder to shoulder, having to weave in and out of crowds of people to make your way over to the more well-known paintings. But still… you’re standing in front of those Manets that you’ve seen in books all your life and read about, and the Cezannes, and Renoirs… I guess that kind of makes up for it. Just get in a semi Zen state and try to block out the throngs around you! Afterwards we grabbed a few delicious takeaway baguette sandwiches, then took the metro up to Montmartre. Sacre Coeur is just beautiful, and I love the more modern-looking stained glass inside. We skipped the climb up to the dome (I think it was like 10 Euros, plus maybe over 300 steps?) It was too hot, so we just spent some time shopping and hung out in two great cafes: Le Progres (corner of Rue Trois Freres and Rue Tardieu) and the beautiful and relaxing Chez Plumeau (right off the Place du Tertre) which has a lovely shaded outdoor area (trees and vine-covered trellis overhead). Then back to the hotel, and dinner at a pretty touristy (not-so-great) café called Latin St. Germain… but we wanted to hang out there ‘cause it was lively, young, and they had on a World Cup soccer game, so we had fun meeting and talking with people from different countries, as well as some locals. (Okay, I’m leaving out the part where I had to chug water and aspirin)
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Old Jul 5th, 2010, 01:17 PM
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DAY 5 (Wednesday). This morning we headed out to Pere Lachaise. We got the map of the cemetery so we could find various graves. I was surprised how large the cemetery is… lots of walking! It’s really a beautiful place, with cobblestone tree-lined streets. There are so many old unique gravestones and statutes… lots of interesting photo ops. We visited the graves of Bizet, Oscar Wilde (yes I kissed it), Modigliani (hard to find), Edith Piaf, Jim Morrison and Chopin. Also, a very moving area is the section that has memorials to the victims of plane crashes and the victims of the holocaust (there were several monuments for different concentration camps). We then took the metro to Pont Neuf and jumped on a cruise of the Seine (from Vedettes Pont Neuf as recommended, which was very convenient for us). It was a very relaxing ride, and nice to see the Eiffel Tower up close. We didn’t do the night cruise ‘cause it got dark so late (10:30 pm) and we were usually zonked out by then! Their cruises depart every half hour and the cruise is 1 hour long. You can bring food and drinks onboard if you like. Anyway, check out the video clips on their site, as well as the coupon:

http://www.vedettesdupontneuf.com/index.htm

After the cruise, we crossed the Pont Neuf and wandered around the St. Germain area, and spent some time at Café de Flore. I had the most AMAZING profiteroles (smothered in melted dark-chocolate and shaved almonds with a little vanilla ice cream inside), and also ordered a Pernod “avec de l’eau” (anyone remember the movie “Gotcha”???) We made our way back closer to our hotel and went to the Shakespeare and Company bookstore on Rue de la Bucherie, bought a couple books (be sure to ask them to stamp them for you the checkout), then had our final dinner in the Latin Quarter at L’Incontro (on Rue Galande) which had wonderful food, and they specially prepared my meal since there was nothing vegetarian on the menu (they made a wonderful ravioli with some truffle oil, plus I had a to-die-for panna cotta with cherry liquor and sour cherries on top). Okay, so now I’m home and probably 5 pounds heavier (I’m afraid to get on a scale, but someone must have thrown all my pants in the dryer, right?) But it was all worth it!

Thank you again to everyone who helped me plan, with so many wonderful tips and ideas. If you actually read all of this, you have the patience of a saint… and I hope you enjoyed reading, as I relived my trip. I’m happy to answer any questions anyone might have. Thanks again everybody!

Carol
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Old Jul 5th, 2010, 01:20 PM
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Great stuff. We love the Rodin, too.

Checking out the hotel for next year. Merci!!

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Old Jul 5th, 2010, 01:27 PM
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lovely report Carol.

our last trip to Paris was only 2 days, sadly, and we stupidly didn't get a museum pass - silly us.

next time - we'll stay longer to get full use of that pass!
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Old Jul 5th, 2010, 02:18 PM
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Loved your trip report. Thanks for all the good info.
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Old Jul 5th, 2010, 02:19 PM
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thanks for the good info, glad to see you had a good time. Going back soon ?
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Old Jul 5th, 2010, 02:27 PM
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Thank you, that was terrific. Really makes me want to go back. I am out of nutella, what better reason do I need?
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Old Jul 5th, 2010, 02:38 PM
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Thanks everyone, glad you enjoyed. Michel -- I hope to be back soon... you never know! Allison, you sound like my kind of person... Nutella! Kindred spirit.
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Old Jul 5th, 2010, 02:42 PM
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I'm with you, Carol. I think the people in Paris and the rest of France are friendly. Love your trip report. Paris is one of my favorite cities.
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Old Jul 5th, 2010, 02:49 PM
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I'm thinking it's a cruel joke the Parisians play on the rest of the world -- like, "let's spread a rumor that we're rude and gruff, and maybe the rest of the world will leave us alone to our beautiful city!" Ha!
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Old Jul 5th, 2010, 07:16 PM
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Yes, I love the people I have encountered in Paris.

Thanks for the nice report.
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Old Jul 5th, 2010, 11:56 PM
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Glad you had a great time in spite of the heat and crowds!
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Old Jul 6th, 2010, 03:12 AM
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We are getting ready for our first trip to Paris, so love the report!

Which iPhone metro app did you get? What a great suggestion & I see there are so many!
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Old Jul 6th, 2010, 04:02 AM
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Nice report! You inspire me to write up my notes from our week in Paris as well--maybe next week when I get over my jet lag.

I agree, the museum pass was awesome--I so loved not having to stand in line in the hot sun waiting to get in to various places. We went to the Musee d'Orsay twice--the first time (a Saturday morning) it was not very crowded; the second time (Thursday) it was packed, like you experienced. We managed to see everything, but the crowds sure do change the experience.

The iPhone Paris metro app we used was Zuti. Once I figured out how it worked, it was well worth the $5.00 or so I spent on it--it even made my husband, a devoted paper map reader, a convert.
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Old Jul 6th, 2010, 04:04 AM
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Enjoyed your TR, CarolM. Ditto on Rodin Museum and Arc de Triomphe views.
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Old Jul 6th, 2010, 04:49 AM
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We are staying at the Agora St. Germain for 5 days in November, so I was glad to read about your 5 days. What was the name of the metro stop closest to the hotel? The museum passes sound good, but I don't think I will need them in November. What do you think?
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Old Jul 6th, 2010, 05:40 AM
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@aprillilacs, thanks for the iphone app!
Did you use any other apps that might be helpful?
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