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A Free Man (and Woman) in Paris, Unfettered and Alive . . .

A Free Man (and Woman) in Paris, Unfettered and Alive . . .

Jan 23rd, 2007, 01:09 PM
  #1  
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A Free Man (and Woman) in Paris, Unfettered and Alive . . .

Yes, another late trip report, but I'm finally doing it!

Pretrip

So, Mr. RadioFanatic and I had planned for a year to go to California for a week and a half over Thanksgiving. He had been about 20 years ago; and I had been never. We were going to start in L.A., work our way through Santa Barbara, Hearst Castle and Madonna Inn, Carmel and end up in San Francisco. I asked a ton of questions of Fodorites on the U.S. board, made ALL of my hotel reservations, some dinner reservations and bought Southwest tix. And then the unthinkable hit. In October, my promised addition of another week of vacation to my two weeks fell through; and I was told I would get it in 2007. WHAT?!?!?!?!? And I had already used by two weeks for a week in the Adirondacks and a week at WDW. What were we going to do?

And as our wedding anniversary is in November, we always go away for it instead of buying each other unneeded presents. And I, the consummate planner, have the trip completely planned out by September. Now, it’s the end of October, what am I going to do? But Mr. RadioFanatic had a great idea – why don’t we go to Paris? We last went in October 2002 and it was for a whirlwind 2 day adventure. So, let’s spend a relaxing 4 days this time – I know, it sounds crazy but it works for us. Last time, we were in Europe for 8 days for a work thingie for Mr. RF, we spent 2 days in Rome, 3 days in Geneva (where he spoke at the United Nations – talk about cool!); and 2 days in Paris. So 4 days in Paris was a long time to us.

Question was, where in the world would we get plane tix cheap enough from upstate NY to Paris without breaking the budget? And the answer was: No where. The cheapest I could find was about $1000 pp which I just could not do. So I then decided to look at places out of NYC – and I found Air France was having a GREAT special of only $400 pp from JFK to Paris, nonstop. I loved the price and the one flight was great for me as I hate flying with a passion – it scares the heck out of me – so the less planes, the better. Now the only thing was to convince Mr. RF that driving three hours to the airport over a busy time of year was not a big deal. It took awhile to convince him. He first had me check the cost of flights from Albany to JFK were – more than the flight from JFK to Paris – how sad is that? Then he wanted to take the train to Penn Station, then a taxi or bus from there to JFK – I asked on the U.S. board and everyone confirmed my belief that it was too convoluted and took too much time. Then he found out about a bus that goes from Albany to JFK – it took six hours – if we drove it was only about 3 hours. Finally, I convinced him driving was the way to go; but boy, he was not happy about it.

Then, I had to find a hotel. After reading reviews on Fodors and Trip Adviser and my success with Best Westerns, I found the Best Western Trocadero for only 83 Euros a night. It sounded really good in the reviews and I loved the location, but I admit I was a bit nervous as the price seemed too good to be true – and Mr. RF was picky. I was enamored with the reviews which said some of the rooms had a view of the Eiffel Tower – for which I made a request. So I kept my fingers and toes crossed that we would get such a room.

So before we left, I had spent a total of $890 on airfare and $415 American on hotel for four nights – not too shabby, I thought – especially as everything seemed so last minute to me which I don’t like.

I then did the normally anal retentive thing I do and I planned our itinerary – I had graphs, charts, maps, explicit directions, recommendations for Fodorites on restaurants for which I made reservations, and exact metro directions for everything. I then had a notebook filled with all of that information, plus my tour guide maps. It always blows Mr. RF away with the amount of detail I go into; but he always likes the fact that I do it. An important note though – even though I make those specific itineraries, I don’t feel obligated to follow it to the letter. If we want to spend longer in some places, that’s fine – I just would rather be over prepared than under.

I admit we did feel a little bit un-American going to Paris on Thanksgiving. And when we told people of our plans, you would have thought we were intending to kill a bald Eagle or something. “How could you not celebrate Thanksgiving?”; “Do they celebrate Thanksgiving?”; “How will you get turkey?” I could go on and on – but you know what, we would do it again in a heartbeat!
radiofanatic is offline  
Jan 23rd, 2007, 01:11 PM
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Tuesday, November 22, 2006.

So, the first day, I actually had to go to work so I didn’t “officially” have to take the day off. Why, do you ask? Because my vacation days were all done; and I was taking off Wednesday as my “birthday” day, a month late, which we are allowed to do. As a result, I actually had to work for 6 hours before I was off to get away to Gay Paris. Talk about an excruciatingly long, boring, mundane six hours where I was going stir crazy and all I could think of was getting to Paris. I was miserable.

Finally, at noon, Mr. RF picked me up for our 3 hour drive to JFK. Although it was a beautiful day out, Mr. RF complained the whole drive down on how he couldn’t believe we were driving like this, it was going to be miserable driving in NYC, how EVERYONE he talked to said we should have taken the train to Penn and then the bus or whatever to JFK, blah, blah, blah. I finally tuned out and thought of Paris. And guess what? He was wrong – yes it was a bit busy, but not bad at all. We got to the JFK area; and Mr. RF started worrying about getting a parking spot in long term and how in the world would we get to the terminal from there? I had already researched that issue, of course, but I was just letting him vent away. And surprise, surprise, we found a great parking spot only about 10 rows away from the tram area and went to catch the tram to get to our terminal. Mr. RF grudgingly admitted it was easy. And we were the first Terminal stop.

Once we got into the Terminal, it was about 4:15 p.m.; and I was shocked. The place was EMPTY. And when I mean EMPTY, I mean EMPTY. I think I saw maybe 30 people and most were employees. I’m not kidding you, I think it took 30 minutes TOPS to get through Air France’s lines, get rid of our luggage, have the super kind Air France agent change our seats so we had an emergency row with only two seat in it and through security. It takes longer than that to get through security at our home airport and I always thought that was fast. I have a feeling though that, if we had left the Wednesday before Thanksgiving instead of Tuesday, it would have been a totally different story.

So we were at our gate about 3 hours earlier than necessary. We didn’t mind though. We had dinner, checked out the stores, I took my “don’t freak out on the plane” medicine, I had my “don’t freak out on the plane” glass of rum and coke and then we were off. We actually left about 45 minutes later than expected, but it wasn’t too bad.

We loved our seats. We were in the front row right after first class and it was just Mr. RF and I. We each had our own TV’s. The food was actually pretty good which always surprises me on a plane. The only thing was that, although the airplane was great, the service was not so hot. I asked for water midway through and you would have thought I was asking for government secrets. We hardly even saw any flight attendants at all. All in all though, the flight was good and I even slept a little bit and was able to forget where I was and what I was flying over.
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Jan 23rd, 2007, 01:13 PM
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Wednesday, November 23, 2006

Although we left JFK a little late, we arrived in Paris on time. In thinking of all of the different ways to get to our hotel from the airport, I decided the easiest would be by shuttle. We got through customs very easily – although Mr. RF was disappointed they didn’t stamp his passport – that drives him crazy when they don’t do that.

We then went to look for our shuttle and our guy was there with a sign. We picked Bee Shuttle. He showed us where the ATM was, which was easy for us to use (but the poor guy in front of us couldn’t get any cash), we waited for another couple and we were off. Our first site of Paris was the huge Stade (stadium). We then saw Sacre Couer. Then we saw the Eiffel Tower, aah, we’re home. We got dropped off first.

As I said, we were staying at the Best Western Trocadero - 3 Avenue Raymond-Poincare, Paris, FR-75116. The location was amazing – we were literally across the street from the Trocadero museums and the Eiffel Tower was RIGHT THERE. The metro stop was across the street, maybe 50 steps so easy access to everything. The neighborhood looked really nice and there were many cafes with full meals, breakfast, lunch and dinner. We went inside and checked in at about 10 a.m. Of course our room was not ready so we stored our luggage. The lobby, although small, was in marble and very nice. There was a breakfast nook and breakfast was, I believe 13 E pp. We never did that as there were wonderful bakeries just a short walk away. I asked about the room situation, i.e. the view of the Eiffel Tower. Unfortunately, they were booked that night; but could switch us in the morning which we happily agreed to.

The tough thing about the first day in Europe after a long overnight is what to do. You don’t want to go to sleep so you want to do something that would keep you interested. You also don’t want to do something that, because you are so tired, you wouldn’t really remember. Well, we were meeting a friend of Mr. RF near the Louvre so we decided to go to the Louvre. I had made reservations at Le Souffle for lunch that day and was really excited to go there, but Mr. RF was not hungry at that point, was tired and really wanted to get to the Louvre to check it out. Another reason to visit Paris again (and believe me, there were a lot of those on the trip!)

So we took the metro but first got our metro pass – the Carte L’Orange – what a great thing. It was easy to use BUT we were always worried about losing it. And we almost got busted and fined for no picture, but we’ll chat about that later. We bought our Carte l’Orange and went to the 'Carousel du Louvre' stop and got off. I know this sounds crazy, but the metro was SOOO busy and I absolutely loved it that way – I loved watching people going where they needed to, busy with life, it just fascinates me.

I then went to find where to buy the Museum Pass while Mr. RF went to find a phone to call his friend. We had to find a phone because, although Cingular told me my phone was all hooked up to make calls in France, once we were there, it didn’t work. I was sooo annoyed by this – we tried everything to no avail. So we had to use a payphone. It took us forever to make that call but we finally did it. We were going to meet our friend at the Louvre café – I forget the name of it but it has the outdoor section right under the overhang of the Louvre on the inside courtyard, in about 3 hours.

I finally found where to buy the museum passes. Mr. RF then tried to hook up his recording equipment. You see, in the past year, he has turned into a MASSIVE computer junkie which I never would have guessed when I first married him eight years ago and started a podcast this past August. As a result, he bought some traveling equipment so he could record portions of the trip. Unfortunately, the batteries already died so what was my first souvenir purchase in Paris? Batteries from the music store in the Louvre – how sad is that?

We had been in the Louvre before, so we just hit the highlights which I won’t go through here as we all know them – Venus de Milo, Winged Victory, Mona Lisa, Napolean’s Apartments. We wanted to do so much more; but honestly, we were just too exhausted to do so. We watched some restoration work on some of the greek sculptures which I thought was fascinating and watched a painter doing a replica of one of the paintings there. Really, I find that more interesting than looking at the art work. We both felt sad that we were just too tired to do more.

We decided we needed some fresh air so we went outside. We were going to go to the L’Orangerie because I LOVE Monet. But it was FREEZING out and it seemed like we kept walking and walking with no success. I later found out from Mr. RF’s friend that we had just missed walking far enough. Reason 2 to go back to Paris. But I must admit I was really disappointed to have missed it this time. We went back to the courtyard and ordered a chocolate chaud and pain au chocolat for me and a café au lait and sandwich for Mr. RF. And we just ate it right there with the birds with the Louvre as background. We really enjoyed that food wonderfully.

Wednesday to be continued . . .
radiofanatic is offline  
Jan 23rd, 2007, 01:43 PM
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I'm really enjoying this! I've never been to Paris, but it is on my list of things to do! The more trip reports I read, the higher up on the list it goes.

pantelia is offline  
Jan 23rd, 2007, 01:52 PM
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Great report...please continue! I am enjoying your report!
wren is offline  
Jan 23rd, 2007, 01:54 PM
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I am also enjoying this. Can't wait for more. We also used Bee shuttle and had a man waiting with a sign, I really like that.
happytotravel is offline  
Jan 23rd, 2007, 02:00 PM
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Nice report. On one of our trips to Paris we stayed at the same hotel you did and we had a GREAT view of the Eiffel Tower. The room was tiny (bathroom was decent sized) but the view was what made it special. As you say, Metro is right there as are several cafes, etc. I am glad you had a nice trip, I remember your questions about how to get to JFK
Lori is offline  
Jan 23rd, 2007, 03:00 PM
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I have Cingular and my phone worked perfectly. Did you ever find out why it wouldn't work? I also had a phone number to call if it didn't work for some reason. The amusing thing was, the girl I was talking to at Cingular told me that it was a free call (the one for problems) if called from my cell phone. Hmmmmm I says to her. "How am I going to call you on my cell phone if it's not working?" Will wonders never cease? LOL Anyway, I was curious of you ever got it resolved. Fun report.
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Jan 23rd, 2007, 03:18 PM
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dcd
 
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I laughed at myself reading your description of trip planning. I guess we just can't help ourselves, LOL!! We're in good company with many on this board. Thanks for posting. Dave
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Jan 23rd, 2007, 03:43 PM
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radio, I am enjoying your tale. It's been a couple of years since we were in Paris and I have been wanting to go back.

(We are also near Albany and like to fly out of Boston, the drive is really easy.)
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Jan 23rd, 2007, 09:57 PM
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Fun report! I'm an obsessive planner too (can you say "spreadsheets"?), so I can relate! Looking forward to more...
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Jan 24th, 2007, 05:35 AM
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thanks for allof the great responses! I will publish more later, but wanted to say that the Cingular phone issue was never resolved - frankly b/c Cingular could have cared less. As soon as we got home, we contacted Cingular. They said everything was fine on their end and we didn't have any charges, so what's the big deal? I was not happy at all with their customer service on the issue and am even considering changing providers although I have had Cingular for at least 6 years.

Yes Bee Shuttle was great on the way in; however, the way back to the airport is another story, which I will get to later. Needless to say, I will not use them again.

And about my crazy planning - I'm going to New Orleans in March with my Best friend and I think I'm scaring her with my preparations - I keep promising her that they are just plans and I won't be a sargent pushing her through tours, etc., I just like to be prepared for anything!
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Jan 24th, 2007, 05:40 AM
  #13  
mms
 
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Thanks for sharing, this is great fun to read! I am a planner too, and my best friend is not. We do a girls trip every year and she is funny...she asks me every time "so what are we doing?", with a big smile on her face. But like you, I plan but an not rigid when it comes time. Sorry to get off track here...waiting for more!
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Jan 24th, 2007, 07:21 AM
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Great stuff. You can never get too much Paris!

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Jan 24th, 2007, 07:28 AM
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As it sounds as thought I'm stuck in the USofA this year, I read every Paris report!
Thanks!
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Jan 24th, 2007, 09:55 AM
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here's a continuation of Wednesday, November 23.

After we finished, we went to the Café to meet Mr. RF’s friend – now when I say friend, I mean podcasting buddy, i.e, we had not met him officially yet and had no idea what he looked like. Mr. RF’s friend is an American who is a lucky son of a gun whose partner got a great job in Paris so they moved there last year. They actually live on Rue Rivoli with the Louvre as their view. I can’t even imagine being able to live like that – one can dream.

Speaking of dreams – he was one – an absolute sweetheart. After our initial hellos, his first question was if we liked chocolate – well of course! So he took us to a little slice of chocolate heaven – Angelina’s on 226 rue de Rivoli, 75001 Paris. As he lived literally across the street, our friend said he goes quite often. This was obvious, because when we walked in, there was a huge line. The maitre de automatically recognized our friend, took us out of the long line and gave us the last available table. Needless to say, I was afraid for my life with the nasty glares we got from people. So we were seated and immediately looked at the huge menu. Well, Mr. RF did – I was too busy looking at the beautiful décor – it’s all gilt and mirrors like a museum. Our friend asked us if he trusted him for the drink – which we said sure – so he ordered for all of us the Chocolat Africains, which is most closely related to hot chocolate, but ten times better and richer. It’s a thick, creamy, intense pitcher of chocolate which is so rich it is served with a whole parfait glass of rich whipped cream to counteract the richness, as well as a glass of water – which you don’t have to ask for. De-lish. Along with that, I got a yummy dessert but unfortunately can’t remember the name of it. For the three drinks and desserts it was 31 E. The place was amazing, but because Mr. RF and I were so tired, we didn’t take pictures of either the place or the desserts/drinks; and I didn’t buy any hot chocolate or other items they sell. Once again, I was SOOOO mad at myself for failing to do that – I think I forgot because I was so darned tired. Reason #3 to go back to Paris – return to Angelina’s for more chocolat chaud, take pix and buy some things!

We said goodbye to our new friend. He gave us some parting words of wisdom – to make sure we get our pix taken for the carte l’orange or we could be fined – and fined big. We tiredly (not because of him, but because of our lack of sleep) said yes and then returned to our hotel. During that trip back, we saw no place for pix – this problem would soon haunt us later.

Upon arriving at our hotel, we learned we were going to be in Room #2 on the ground floor. I was unhappy with this because I don’t like ground floor rooms, but it was the only one they had. Well this misconception was wrong as the room was great and had a HUGE bathroom. We believe it was a handicapped room because there was no tub and they had railings and a special chair. The shower just had the floor as the bottom with a drain in the middle. I didn’t like it as everything got wet and I was afraid to use the hairdryer as a result. The room itself was two twin beds. We always ask for twin beds in Europe as we have a King size at home so hate the small beds the doubles and queens usually are. We loved the arrangement here because the twin beds were literally side by side. While we loved it, those who are just friends or parents/child may not like it as much as there is NO space in between and no way to move it. We thought the beds were very comfortable and had no problems sleeping on them. The room was immaculate and we had a very nice courtyard view which Mr. RF loved – he loved the room so much he did not want to move again – but I begged and conjoled because I REALLY wanted a room with a view of the Tour Eiffel. Mr. RF agreed.

So as we got to the room at about 5 pm, we took showers – which felt sooo good after 48 hours of no showers. We then decided to get some food for the room. About 2-3 blocks away was a lovely bakery where we got 4 HUGE baguette sandwiches – why do Parisian sandwiches taste ten times better than any American sandwiches – pain au chocolates; and our 4 big bottles of our fave soda – Orangina. It cost about 20 E for everything. I really wish they had Orangina easily accessible in the US – I could live on that drink alone! We went back to the room, ate our meal (well only ½ of it) , watched a little French television – love those French game shows! – and made it until 7:30 p.m when we fell fast asleep.
radiofanatic is offline  
Jan 24th, 2007, 10:21 AM
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I'm loving this report! I can't believe this is only the first full day and look at all you've done already....
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Jan 24th, 2007, 11:32 AM
  #18  
mms
 
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Keep it coming We missed Angelina's on our last trip, so it is a must for our trip in June.

BTW, if you have a Trader Joe's near you, they carry Orangina.
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Jan 24th, 2007, 12:28 PM
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Fun report, readiofanatic. Please keep it up. (I like the Joni Mitchell reference in the subject line, too.)
mr_go is offline  
Jan 24th, 2007, 12:52 PM
  #20  
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Thanks everyone! I'll write more tomorrow, hopefully. And we kept singing the song in the title the whole trip, so of course that had to be the TR's trip report!

And unfortunately, no Trader Joe's in my area that I know of.
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