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A functional trip report: Paris, Brussels & Amsterdam

A functional trip report: Paris, Brussels & Amsterdam

Jun 29th, 2007, 08:43 PM
  #1  
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A functional trip report: Paris, Brussels & Amsterdam

Since I'm short on time but want to make sure I do a trip report I'm going to do it more in terms of reviews/reccommendations on where we stayed and what we ate and did . . . hopefully it will be helpful!

PARIS

Hotel: Hotel Andrea Rivoli
Pros - location and price (85 E for a double room). Cons - room was not all that clean (noticable stains on the carpet, baseboards need to be washed, some surfaces were dusty and the bathroom smelled a bit moldy) and was very small even by European standards (could barely walk around the bed and if I gained 5 lbs I might not fit in the shower, I weigh 130). Maybe their deluxe rooms are nicer but I probably wouldn't stay here again due to the cleanliness issues.

Restaurants:
Bistrot Beaubourg, 25 rue de Quincampoix - I absolutely love this bistro and ate there on my one prior visit to Paris. Basic and very affordable bistro food. DH and I got water, a small carafe of excellent house wine, a tomato mozzarella salad, two steak frites w/pepper sauce and two cappucinos for 42E. Outdoor tables are great for people watching.

Bistrot d'Oulette, 38 rue de Tournelles - This was our splurge dinner and it was awesome. The one head waiter that runs the place was fabulous, extremely attentive and funny. Worked in NY for a bit (until he met his French girlfriend and moved back) so he speaks English well. Not the cheapest place but a good value for what you get. We got water, a bottle of wine, onion tart w/redfish, escargot in herb butter froth, a white fish (can't remember the type) with herb cream sauce and polenta, cassolet, molton chocolate cake w/raspberry, and two cappucinos for 95E. Awesome!

L'As du Falafel, Jewish quarter - Amazingly delicious and cheap falafel. The best I've ever had, hands down. Water and two falafel sandwiches w/all the toppings = 13E.

Polidor, 41 rue Monseiur de Prince - Very old institution. No reservations, always busy, you share communal tables, but food is really good. We got water, tomato mozzarella, steak frites w/leeks, and steak frites w/pepper sauce for under 40E.

Lina's, multiple locations - good chain sandwich shop (listed on Zagat). Also have tastly looking desserts and misc. other items for snacking. Orangina, iced tea, two sandwiches = 15E.

Paul's, multiple locations including Gare Nord - very chain type place but seemed much better than the other chains we tried (mostly when rushing to make a train and just needing something in our stomachs, otherwise we sought out non-chain places).

Up next, sights . . .
audreyleigh99 is offline  
Jun 30th, 2007, 05:25 AM
  #2  
ira
 
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Thanks for sharing, A.

ira is online now  
Jul 1st, 2007, 02:22 PM
  #3  
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Thanks for the encouragement, Ira!

Alright on to . . .

PARIS

Activities:

Eiffel Tower - of course, as DH had not been to Paris before we had to do this. I was actually really happy we did, I only went to the second level with my sister when I went before, but this time we went to the top and the view was much better.

Louvre - Made the mistake of going on Tuesday when they were closed Ooops, note to self - read the darn guidebook! But it actually worked out better b/c we decided to go back on Wed. night when they were open until 9 p.m. Not crowded at all and you get a few euros off admission.

Rodin museum - Nice, but it was just too hot when we went and the gardens are the best part.

Picasso museum - LOVED this museum. Not crowded at all and they had a lot of really good stuff. It was interesting to see how his work changed over the years, as well as some of his less abstract work and sculpture that I had never seen before.

Day trip to Reims - visited Pommery and Mumm for tours and liked both of them a lot. Pommery's caves are very neat and the Mumm tour was very informative and they have a little museum of tools used to make Champagne in the past. Mumm was also super nice and accommodated us at the last minute when we got completely scr**ed at Taittinger. Sorry, but they really made me mad - they told me no reservation was necessary when I called two weeks in advance, just to show up and they would do a tour. Well we just showed up and guess what - no more tours in English today, sorry. So then we called all the other houses in town which were all, understandably, booked up with reservations. But Mumm offered to squeeze us in. One note - the bus system is a good way to save $$ on getting around Reims (which was much bigger than I had expected), but make sure you stop into the excellent tourist office by the cathedral to get them to explain which but you need to go where.

Shopping - we wandered around the small shops on the left bank, which I love. We also made a quick stop at Printemps, which I adore (DH was a good sport on this one). We split up because the men's dept. is a completely different store and wonderful DH came back with these wonderful cookies he had found - macaroons from Laduree (sp?), which I knew all about but it was cute to see how excited he was about them. Apparently they had a cart and he had to wait in a huge line of women to get them, so funny.

General tips:
- Go to the Louvre on the night they are open until 9 p.m., you'll save $$ and it won't be crowded.
- Eat breakfast at a cafe rather than the hotel, you'll save $$ and have better peoplewatching (I love seeing locals on their way to work!)
- Get a carnet or two of metro tickets when you arrive. You'll save money and the Paris metro is so great you will probably use it a lot.
- Save yourself a major headache and get a good map right away, Paris par arrondismont (sp?) is good.
- If you see gelato or ice cream places that serve from metal tins with lids (rather than the plastic tubs where you can see the gelato behind the glass) stop and eat it. I don't care if it is 9 a.m. It is sooo delicious!
audreyleigh99 is offline  
Jul 1st, 2007, 02:51 PM
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A perfectly lovely and functional report. Many thanks!
Danna is offline  
Jul 7th, 2007, 08:59 AM
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Picking this up again . . .

BRUSSELS

After four days in Paris we took the TGV train back to Brussels. Such a nice way to travel. We decided to do it this way so that we'd be in Brussels over the weekend when hotel prices drop by about 75%. We ended up being able to stay in a five star hotel for the price of about a two star during the week. This was really nice after not being that thrilled with our Paris hotel Although I think I could probably sleep in the park in Paris and be happy!

Hotel: The Stanhope
Beautiful hotel, decent location, 120 E per night including buffet breakfast. It is not in the heart of everything touristy but we found Brussels public transportation to be excellent so it was easy to get around. Also, it was really really touristy around the Grand Plaza, so it was nice to be a little ways away. If you stay here I highly recommend getting a room in the new part of the hotel, the ones in the old wing are very worn (we switched rooms). The new rooms are absolutely gorgeous - hardwood floors, marble baths, huge windows. Such a nice change after Paris. Breakfast was great also, and is served in a beauiful room off the garden. I would definitely stay here (in the new wing) again.

Restaurants:

Chez Leon's - right off the Grand Plaza this is a great place to eat mussels and fries and peoplewatch. The very narrow street was crammed with similar looking places but we had been warned to stay away from them. And it was so funny - as we walked past all the other places they were all fairly empty but Leon's was packed. We actually ate here twice - for lunch on the first day and then for dinner on our last night before flying out. I would definitely stick to the mussels or the pasta with cream sauce mussels (delicious!!), though, the last night we had steaks, which looked really good but were not as good as the mussels.

to be continued . . .
audreyleigh99 is offline  
Jul 7th, 2007, 12:42 PM
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We are on our way to Brussels on Tuesday, and need all of your info...Thanks in advance
dorie is offline  
Jul 7th, 2007, 01:07 PM
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audrey - thank you for the useful report.
We made the same Tuesday trip to the Louvre. Only good thing was it sure wasn't crowded. LOL
I wonder if the Leons in Brussels is connected to the chain of mussel eateries in Paris?
robjame is offline  
Jul 8th, 2007, 11:28 AM
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Thanks for the report so far - looking forward to reading the rest of it

Robjame, the Léon restaurant in Brussels is the "original" one, as it opened around 1890, I believe. It was a descendant of Léon's who hit on the idea of opening up a chain of restaurants in France in the 1980s.
hanl is offline  
Jul 8th, 2007, 11:45 AM
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Thanks hanl - must go there one day
"so much to do; so much food to eat"
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