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A Tale of Two Trips: Great Britain and France, June 2013--Part Two

A Tale of Two Trips: Great Britain and France, June 2013--Part Two

Old Jul 8th, 2013, 04:19 AM
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A Tale of Two Trips: Great Britain and France, June 2013--Part Two

This Trip Report is the continuation of Part One, which details my leading a group of students and 3 adults on a 9-day tour in the UK and Paris with a student tour company, at the end of which DH met me in Paris where we stayed while the rest of the group returned to the US.

To briefly recap a little background: When in early 2013 my student tour itinerary changed to include Paris at the end of our upcoming trip in June, DH and I decided that I would stay behind, he’d fly over and we’d spend about 10 days in France. We’d both always wanted to see the D-Day beaches, and it turned out the 24 Hours of Le Mans was while we’d be there. I read lots of travel guides and Forum info and maps, discovering that there are way too many places to see in the time we had! Once we decided on one of the several routes/itineraries I planned, I selected housing; he’d already secured all the necessary plane and race day tickets plus car rental. Our priorities were D-Day beaches; Bayeux Tapestry; Le Mans race; Mont St Michel; 2 days in Paris; and whatever other chateaus, cathedrals, medieval towns, and countryside we could squeeze in. As I stated in Part One, we are in our late fifties, are not foodies, love taking photos, like to drive ourselves around, and try to pack a good bit into each day. And know almost no French!

<b>Day 9—DH Day 1 (My 9th Day in Europe, DH’s Day of Arrival)—DH Arrives in Paris/Au Revoir to My Group</b>

To briefly summarize DH’s first day: He arrived a bit late at CDG, rented a car, drove through pouring rain to a hotel on the east of Paris, took a taxi in to meet us at the Musee d’Orsay, and spent the rest of the late afternoon and dinner with me and the group before we said au revoir to my friends and students.

After dinner we caught a taxi to <b>Hotel Armstrong</b> http://www.armstrong-paris-hotel.com/ 36 rue de la Croix Saint Simon. (€132 plus some for parking) This was a rather last minute choice, and by the time we’d nailed down exactly our plans for his arrival/our first night/retrieval of my luggage/destination the next day, my choices for hotels for under $200 was limited. We didn’t want to spend a bundle on just basically a bed for a few hours Thursday night; we wanted to be south of CDG and on the outskirts so we could head as quickly as possible to get my bags on our way Friday to Chartres and Le Mans. (My original hotel plan had us out near CDG, for much less money, but we were convinced by info here on the Forum that getting closer to Paris and closer to where we'd want to be the next morning would be worth the money.) So I found this hotel. It’s ok. It’s tiny. It smells old. The parking was in a medieval-looking dungeon of a lot (that cost extra) that had carpet on the walls to absorb auto scrapes. But it was clean, had hot shower, and pretty comfy bed. DH crashed about 8PM. This was the only place I stayed I’d not recommend. (Well, the Glasgow Ibis Budget was pretty tiny, but it’s probably pretty cheap.)

<b>Day 10—DH Day 2—Chartres and Le Mans</b>

This turned out to be one of those days you’d like to hit reboot or start over, but in the end it was, on balance, a good day. But the early morning was not pleasant.

First DH was of course still a bit jet lagged; we wanted to leave super early, but he needed to sleep more after some middle of the night awakeness, so we didn’t get going until a little after 7.

Second we’d opted not to pay for breakfast at the hotel and just find some hot water for our tea bags and eat some bars we had with us, but we couldn’t find any hot water conveniently, so he had no caffeine and not much breakfast. Didn’t do that anymore!

Third, he depends on GPS help, especially in unfamiliar territory and especially in traffic and when tired. He’d brought our Garmin—Sheila—with some coordinates and addresses stored already. There was also a SatNav in the Nissan we rented; I dubbed her Nessie. Sometimes these didn’t agree. Sometimes it was difficult to use Nessie because of not knowing the exact way to enter an address (Saint? St.? Use a hyphen or not? Which order do the words appear in the address in French!?) Sometimes we didn’t have an exact address or the navigation coordinates given didn’t fit the system’s software.

Anyway, in the long run we did really, really well over our 8 days with the car, but sometimes it was frustrating and sometimes it seemed we were spending more time with plotting a course than driving it! This morning Sheila and Nessie differed on how to get to the hotel in Chevreuse (where I’d stayed with my group for Wednesday night but left my bags during Thursday in Paris, while the group returned there Thursday night and would have just left this morning for the airport) to retrieve my luggage on the way to Chartres, and this resulted in some u-turns and lost-ness and much frustration.

Fourth, we ran into horrible, horrible traffic. It was almost as bad as he’d encountered driving in the flood from CDG. It took us about 90 minutes to go 30 miles.

Upon arrival at the hotel in Chevreuse, though, the nice manager had my room open (group long gone to the airport) and we retrieved my luggage with ease. I had neglected to fill out an evaluation to give to my tour director C, so I grabbed it and finished; the manager said he would gladly mail it. So all done.

The route to <b>Chartres</b> was now fairly easy to find and follow. We arrived about 10, traveling along a toll highway (2 tolls of €5.10 each; the first one we went in the wrong line, as credit card wouldn’t work, but we were able to back up and we got in the cash lanes from then on.) As we drove into the city, I was amazed to see the cathedral so prominently standing above the plain with nothing around to obscure it. It was quite a sight.

In town we found a parking lot and then a McDonald’s for DH some breakfast! After some tea and food, he felt nearly human again and began to wake up. From this nice, clean, open, uncrowded, largely pedestrianized center of town, it was an easy walk to the <b>cathedral</b>. The skies were overcast and it was cool.

I loved this cathedral. Its lovely placement with so little around it to hide its beauty, its windows and glass (largest collection of medieval glass anywhere), its height—impressive. I loved how it is being cleaned and restored, with the fresh parts making quite a bright, light contrast with the darker un-cleaned sections. The only part that was at all crowded was the prayer maze. DH began reading the info displayed on boards around the cathedral about its history, architecture and restoration and started taking pictures, so he woke up and began to enjoy himself. We spent a little over an hour in and around this most beautiful church.

We returned to the city center to find some lunch. There were several fast food places (McD’s and Subway, as well as local smaller ones) and in a little arcade/passage-like area I grabbed a Panini and brownie and met DH across the aisle at a kebab place. We had to wait a bit but enjoyed resting. His kebab was a little different from those he knew from Germany but fine, and the brownie was superb (first of several such)!

When we got ready to leave, we looked for a toilet but McD’s wanted customer code (and had a huge line) and no WC in Subway and not one in parking garage (which cost €7.10 for 2 hours or so, but it was convenient). I think we just left and stopped soon at a gas station.

(DH sometimes thinks info about where toilets are is TMI, but don’t you think it is a factor? Finding them, and food, and parking, maybe a cola or coffee when needed, maybe gas if you have a car—all this is important and definitely impacts the “real” part of the day. And if you can’t find some of this stuff, the sight-seeing becomes secondary and no fun! Generally we found public WC’s or at venues, especially museums, and in a couple other McDonald’s. So I’m not going to detail all our searches!)

Then it was on to our hotel. This had been a rather last minute change in my plans; it was very hard to find anything anywhere near Le Mans when I began looking in February, without paying between €500 and €800 a night, and I’d at first made reservations for 2 nights about 30 miles NW of Le Mans. But then I reevaluated that and changed to one night east, so we could drop our luggage on the way and drive back after our time at the track on Friday, and one night further west Saturday after the race, to get us on the road to Mont St. Michel Sunday. I’d stumbled across a little hotel—<b>Les Confines Du Perche in Sceaux Sur Huisne</b>--which had one family room left, so I took it. (€92 plus €14 for both breakfasts.) http://www.booking.com/hotel/fr/les-...perche.en.html I found it through booking.com It was quite easy to find, using our GPS’s. And it turned out to be absolutely charming. Huge room with 3 beds—DH said it was for Goldilocks! Nice staff. The next morning a very nice breakfast. A lovely quiet setting with farm country and light industry all around.

After we deposited our bags, we took off to <b>Le Mans racetrack</b> which took about 35 minutes. We had no traffic until we neared the race area, and then we got all mixed up about which parking lot our ticket was for, so it ended up taking over an hour. The rain continued to hold off.

This was a day that spectators and fans could access the pit area and walk on the track. We arrived there about 4. It was quite crowded. We walked along the pit area where the cars were in various stages of dismantling or preparation. There was an area on the track with historic cars from past races and that was fun to walk around, too. He really got a kick out of being here to see this stuff up close and to take pictures standing on the track. About 5:30 we searched for food options and settled on some chicken and sausage and fries. Overpriced as always in sports venues but quite tasty. It tried to sprinkle a bit on us then. We then walked around some more looking at merchandise and vehicles, found Magnum bars for dessert, and purchased the requisite hat and a mug. We left about 8 and took less than 30 minutes to get back to the hotel.

<b>Day 11—DH Day 3—24 Hours of Le Mans Begins</b>

After great sleep and generous good breakfast, we checked out and left about 9 and sailed along for about 30 minutes with no traffic. Then BAM—traffic stopped. It took two hours to go the remaining 3 KM and get parked. It was crazy, messed up, packed, jammed, poorly-manned, poorly planned, poorly designed for this sort of crowd. It was extremely frustrating and not fun. But the race didn’t actually start til 3, so we figured we might make the start!

Once we were parked, we were less than a 5 minute walk from the entrance and went in to look around for where we would sit. We didn’t purchase the expensive grandstand seats; there were supposed to be lots of places to place stools, which we’d brought, and sit for just cost of entrance. It was even more packed with people inside than the highways had been. We picked out some seats on the concrete step area next to the stands and had decent views—for about an hour. Then masses and masses of people continued to pour in and stand wherever there was a clear space, even in front of someone sitting on a tiered step, like me. Being on the short side, I basically saw backs and butts the next 3 hours. By standing on the step behind me but ducking out of the line of sight of the people there (unlike anyone was doing in front of me!), I was barely able to see snippets, including the start.

After the first few laps, DH went for a walk to see the race and take pics from other vantage points. I kind of enjoyed just sitting there among the sea of people standing all around. The stress of shepherding my students on top of getting the cold I hadn’t shaken yet had left me rather tired, so just being still was okay! If people on the front row would just watch racing from their seats, then there wouldn’t be this domino effect of having to stand to see anything, blocking the views of people not as tall as you. There were a lot more kids than I imagined, none of whom looked like they could really see the race much. I’d never have brought my small ones to this sort of venue. It wasn’t stroller friendly! It was cool and drizzly a lot but never really got too wet.

But the track conditions were a little slick. Less than 15 minutes into the race, a driver had a bad wreck and died in the hospital later. There was an hour of driving under the caution flag. I knew none of this because I couldn’t even see the big screens very well most of the time. DH told me later when he heard the announcement of the death. Tragic.

DH brought a big sandwich back at some point and we shared and had some nuts and fruit we’d brought. After his walk, we decide to leave these seats, and we walked around the arcade area and found a different spot where I could actually see the cars go by for a while. About 7 it started raining again and we were kinda tired, so we headed out pretty soon. The traffic leaving, since staggered, wasn’t bad. We had mostly highway (some toll if I recall) to the outskirts of <b>Rennes where we stayed at a Brit Hotel</b>, arriving about 9. This was a much nicer hotel than I’d imagined—clean, new, big room, free parking, decent big continental breakfast. (€50 plus €18 for both breakfasts) http://hotel-rennes-cesson.brithotel...ex.php?lang=fr We slept well.
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Old Jul 8th, 2013, 06:53 AM
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<b>Day 12—DH Day 4—Mont St. Michel</b>

We left before 8 in the rain and cold and wind, headed to <b>Mont St. Michel</b>. We found our way easily and parked before 9 am in the big lot. We weren’t first, but there weren’t many yet and we got a spot close to the road to the TI. It wasn’t open yet, but the toilets were and the new shuttles were already running, so we waited for maybe 5 minutes for the next one. They had just instituted this system; no one can drive across the causeway (unless staying on the island I guess) but must park and ride; they are building a new raised causeway to replace the present one. When it is finished and the present one demolished, the island will be able to be surrounded completely by water at times again. Did I mention it was COLD and windy?

We all climbed aboard; it wasn’t packed as tight as a full Metro/Tube car, but there were lots of us standing. About 30 seconds into the ride the bus came to a sudden complete stop. Everyone all flew forward and slammed into poles and seats and each other. A lady flew into DH and then onto the floor. She hit her head and actually was bleeding from a cut on her ear! DH picked her up. She wasn’t knocked out, but DW reported she was dead weight. Much confusion. Much pounding on door to driver’s cab. Much yelling. Officials came, I offered her a bandaid, everybody except the big group she seemed to be with got off. We walked back and picked up another shuttle. This one made it across the causeway without incident.

Wow. Even in the gray and drizzle-filled air, Mont St. Michel is an impressive sight. We were most disappointed not to have sun as this was a venue we had looked forward to photographing in all kinds of light. But…this was the day we were here and we could still enjoy the visit, even with light rain, temperatures in the 50’s at the most, and winds gusting 40+ mph. (I’m not exaggerating—I live in one of the statistically windiest cities in America and I know what a 40 mph wind feels like.)

We followed the suggestion of ….another famous guide book author and avoided the already somewhat crowded main streets up. We instead climbed up to the ramparts and ascended this way. This was a wonderful choice, even on this day–did I mention it was cold and windy? And wet and gray? We had ramps a lot instead of steps and had great views over sea and lowlands surrounding the island as we went up. There were lots of shops which had entrances both on the ramparts and on the street a level or so below. We went in and out of several shopping and warming up!

When we reached the Abbey, we found that the staff was on strike and so it would close early, but this would not affect us. (It seems among other things they have to now pay €12 a day to park and ride the shuttle across just like tourists! With no raise in wages.)

The Abby was fascinating. It is probably the first I’ve been to that is still this intact and “original.” This was certainly an incredibly massive building project. We enjoyed our wandering through all this.

Then it was time for descent and lunch. We settled on a place, entering from the ramparts, called La Terrases Poulard and had warm soup, chicken in a stew sort of thing, and apple tart/chocolate sponge cake. A decent choice for €16 each I think. After a bit more souvenir shopping in the now quite busy tiny lanes, we headed to the car and on the road again.
DH had wanted to go to a few places to look back at MSM for spectacular photos. Well, that wasn’t going to happen this gray day. Not the spectacular photos anyway. But we decided to go to some of those stops on our way to our chambre d’hotes near Bayeux.

First we found our way to <b>Pointe du Grouin de Sud, a point on the beach a bit west of Avranches</b>. It was a wiggly way, but by using the info from 2 gps’s, our big Michelin map book, and some signs, we found our way to this coast-side viewing spot where we could look back over the many shades of shimmering gray at the form of MSM rising up from the sea indistinctly but magically. Nice stop.

Then we drove up the coast further to <b>Granville</b>. By the time we got here the weather had improved. Here we weren’t searching for a spot from which to see MSM but for a lighthouse and whatever other coastland views we could. We wiggled our way through the busy little city—there was some sort of festival going on and some streets were blocked off, which plays havoc with gps’s!! Granville’s many roundabouts had the most unique decorations and flowers. Very cool. We ended up parking right below the lighthouse and some WWII bunkers; from the lot we had a nice view overlooking the beach and wharf area—where boats were temporarily stranded in mud waiting for the next tide to come in. The wind was still howling, but the sun had come out and it was really a great stop for a bit of a walk and some photos of the coast and beach. We walked up the hill for a closer look at the lighthouse and ruined bunkers surrounded by fresh poppies and other wildflowers. The festival made driving a little non-straightforward, but it wasn’t too bad and we were on the road again toward our rooms for the evening.

That other guide-book-writer had recommended a B&B (chambre d’hote) at a working farm in the Bayeux area, so that was where we headed—<b>La Ferme Du Pressoir near Villers-Bocage</b> (€85/night—little discount for 3 nights) http://www.bandbnormandie.com/ Sheila’s directions were pretty accurate, coupled with written instructions sent via email, and we arrived around 8 after driving through winding roads and past green and gold fields and through lots of little crossroads and villages. We were met by the most friendly Odile Delalande (I think husband Jacques greeted us as we parked but he was busy).

From the website: “The property dates from circa 1650. The farm has remained in the same family since it was built and is in the glorious 'Bocage' region of Normandie! La Ferme du Pressoir is still a working farm with 600 acres of land, mainly arable - but also with Charolais cattle.”

Our hostess speaks very little English, so I’m not sure what we communicated! She first asked us where we were from and pulled out a big map on a board with lots of little pins in it and indicated we should put a pin in (near was all we could do—lots of pins in Texas!) where we lived. Lots of visitors from Canada as well as all over the US. She showed us our room. We were upstairs (steep stairs—DH only brought up my suitcase and what he needed!) in the huge rose room with a nice bath with shower. She asked about dinner, I think. I said we just wanted perhaps a snack—un petit something?—oui, oui, voila! out came cheese and fruit and some pastries. I think this was part of breakfast, but it was plenty. And some cider made there on the farm, as well as farm strawberries. Delicious. She ascertained where we were going the next day and got out brochures and books, planned a 7:30 breakfast, and showed us where some things were in the kitchen and dining area, including wifi access. I’m loving it. The decorations are charming and all is quite spacious and comfortable. It was rather chilly and the heater she said was on never did warm up, but it was not too bad and we slept well. Bonne nuit!

<b>Day 13—DH Day 5—Bayeux and Caen</b>

This day dawned much much prettier! It was practically clear if still a bit cool for June.

Breakfast was HUGE! Yogurt, cereal, cheeses, meats, 6-7 kinds of pastries, juices all waiting for us. Then she brought us hot tea and asked if we wanted an omelet. Surement. She left to gather the fresh eggs and then fixed the freshest omelet I’ve probably ever had! Yum. Omelets also had herbs she’d just picked. Then she brought an empty bag from the pastry shop and said, “Peeq-neeq?” and waved at all the leftover stuff! So wow, we got to pack up our lunch, too!—bread and cheese and pastries and fruit. Very cool.
We took a few pictures of the charming farmhouse kitchen, our room, the views from our windows, and the farm house and gardens and pastures before leaving about 8:30. This is a jewel of a place; glad to be here 3 nights!

Bayeux was easy to get to, and we found parking on the street next to the cathedral a block from the Tapestry. It required payment—€3 for maximum 3 hours—but the ticket spit out said good 9-2. Well, that works. Then we went to the building housing the Tapestry. It had just opened and we were behind a big group but got in very quickly, after a nice chat with a couple from London on a biking trip.

The <b>Bayeux Tapestry</b> is upstairs in a long and winding display case. Around 1800, some large ink numbers were added to the linen cloth that had been attached to the tapestry, enumerating about 50 scenes. Upon entry you receive an audio guide which describes the scenes with reference to these numbers. You just walk along the display window with the guide. It goes slowly enough to allow you to look, and if you want to stop and examine something closely, you just pause the guide. It was a great system and very, very informative. It wasn’t crowded which was a joy.

I’ve read and studied and taught about this Tapestry and considered it a remarkably valuable piece of history (and propaganda!) for years and years; to actually get to see it was definitely a highlight of my whole trip. And it was so much more amazing than pictures had led me to understand. The details blew me away—body posture intimating stealth or secrecy, hair blowing to indicate movement, a horse’s leg still in a boat to show haste, facial expression being shown with just a few stitches. It is truly awesome. There was also a nice exhibit about life in Normandy and England about 1000-1100. Then we spent time in the shop. They had exactly what I wanted—a paper foldout of the whole tapestry but on a smaller scale—but were out of the English version! Oh well. DH was much, much more impressed than he thought he’d be. I think he might have been imagining some wall-hanging!

After a coke break across from the Tapestry (and there’s a very convenient public toilet right next to the cathedral), we visited the <b>Bayeux Cathedral</b>. It looked amazing on the outside, and we had gorgeous blue skies so got some great pictures. I enjoyed this cathedral a lot. It ended up being my favorite in France. The windows are lovely, and of course with sunshine today the light inside was amazing. The tracery is pretty; DH noted the interesting lead and stone guttering and drainage on the outside complete with gargoyles. There is restoration and cleaning work going on. This is a not to be missed stop in Bayeux.

Next about noon we planned to walk to the <b>Battle of Normandy Memorial Museum and the British Cemetery</b>, but we didn’t want to have to be back by 2, so I was a little unsure about the parking. DH said to just go put €3 more euros in and not worry about it. An English couple at the parking ticket machine explained that in France, you don’t pay for parking during lunch from 12-2. Cool. That’s why my first ticket gave us 9-2. So putting €1 more in gave us til 3:05. We ate some of our picnic stuff and set off.

The Museum is very well done. We spent over an hour there and felt like we got a good refresher/overview of what we wanted to try to see tomorrow. The British Cemetery is right across the street and we visited that briefly. We had a nice walk back toward the cathedral, easy to do because we could just follow the spire. We could have spent the rest of the day here, but we’d planned a quick trip to Caen.

We drove to <b>Caen and easily found the Museum for Peace</b> and found free parking in the large lot. We spent a couple hours here. It is a wonderful large and well-done museum, but it covers pre-and post-war more than the war itself. DH was a little disappointed in the relatively small amount of info specifically on the D-Day times. But it is excellent. We considered eating there in the cafeteria but opted to go back to Bayeux.

Odile had recommended some places in Bayeux, so on return we parked practically in the same spot (no parking fee after 6) and ate at La Pommier near the cathedral. This was a 7-9pm dinner experience. For €29 set menu it was delicious. We had lovely salads (sans offered gizzards!); he had beef and I had fish; dessert too. Great choice. Highly recommended.
It was about a 30-40 minute drive back. In still-light-evening! I never really got used to the sun not setting until about 10! Another great night’s sleep in our lovely farmhouse bedroom.

<b>Day 14—DH Day 6—Normandy Beaches</b>

Another gorgeous day promised—even prettier than yesterday maybe. Still coolish but oh, what pretty skies! After another huge 7:30 breakfast, and another picnic-packing, we set off toward Arromanches to begin a D-Day beaches drive, starting there and heading westward to see as much as we could, hoping to end in St. Mere Eglise around dinner.

We arrived in <b>Arromanches</b> and parked uphill from the TI, which had just opened. We looked around a little; the TI is basically right above Winston Harbor and from here we could see the cliffs and the steep trail with a few people already walking. We opted not to do that walk but save legs for rest of day! It was a pretty stop, but we didn’t go into anything other than the TI. There are TONS—ok, dozens?—of small and medium museums all up and down the coastal areas, covering all sorts of aspects of the war and the D-Day events, preparation, and results. There was at least one every place we stopped. But we did not go into any of the museums. If you did that, the loop we did would definitely take more than one day.

Our next stop was <b>Longues-sur-Mer</b> where there are batteries with the most intact guns of any site along the beaches. We spent a long time here. It was quiet, beautiful next to the sea, not a lot of people. There are 4 bunkers in various stages of damage. DH really enjoyed taking all sorts of pictures here. And the flowers! There is a huge field of grass between the bunkers and the sea, and in June it was filled with all sorts of wildflowers with the poppies running their red riot. Beautiful. There were all sorts of small tour groups here, and everywhere we stopped, actually. DH overheard a few snippets of info occasionally, like here he heard that this area was used in The Longest Day. My favorite scene in that movie is when the German general is in a bunker waiting to see if his suspicions are correct and is about to give up and go home, when he looks through the viewing slit one more time and—there is the armada appearing on the horizon coming straight at them. That scene was filmed in one of these bunkers. Cool. There were families here, with little ones rolling down the grassy bunker hills into the wildflowers. There’s some sort of poetic metaphor or lesson here.

Then we had a wiggly, nice, not confusing drive to the <b?>American Cemetery</b>. We parked a good bit away, it turned out, but it was ok. We spend about 3 hours here. Inside we spent about an hour looking at museum displays. Many moving stories and tributes. I thought it was very well done. Then we spent about 2 hours outside. I don’t even know what to say. Words don’t really capture how moved we both were, and appreciative. And glad to have the privilege to be here. Actually seeing the expanses of crosses convey a depth of sacrifice that pictures can’t. It is serene and disturbing, lovely and horrible all at the same time. There were lots of people here. The views over the sea were beautiful.

We also accessed <b>Omaha Beach</b> by walking down the steep steps and walkways from the cemetery onto the beach. We walked back east along it a ways and came back up near some other bunkers and ended up near where we had parked. This was definitely a highlight of our entire trip.

Then it was on to <b>Pont du Roc</b>. The cliffs and the “lunar landscape” (huge, now-grassy craters left over from the intense shelling) were striking. We explored the bunkers and took lots more pictures.

It was getting late afternoon, but we still thought we could do most of our list. We stopped briefly for a glance at the <b>German Cemetery</b>. It is…huge. It reminded me of a war memorial we stumbled across at Kastel above the Saar River in Germany—small roughly carved gray crosses grouped in threes in neat and somber rows. This one just went on and on, though. We were looking for another American cemetery near here but never found it.

DH wanted to try to make it to <b>Dead Man’s Corner</b>, perhaps before the store in the museum closed at 6 pm. So about 5:30 we pulled in to this crossroads near St.-Come-du-Mont and popped into the store. Wow, he has a lot of stuff for sell, most of it rather expensive—uniforms, signs, weaponry, insignia. DH got a kick out of stopping anyway.
Then it was on to <b>Utah Beach</b>. We had a nice walk around this area, where there was almost no one. On the flat brown beach they seemed to be harvesting something, maybe mussels. It was still the most gorgeous day—it was rather cool to our Texas-ized selves and windy, but the colors were intense and the sun getting lower.

We could now see that we would make it to <b>St. Mere Eglise</b>, and we did get there a little before 7. We parked in the church parking lot under the steady gaze of Paratrooper John Steele, as he’s STILL hanging from that steeple! We looked around the town square a little and decided to look for dinner. DH Googled TripAdvisor for suggestions and came up with the John Steele Hotel, which was just a block away. But it was booked up. So across the street was La Pomme d’Or. Here pizza was their specialty (with English spoken and Elvis playing in the background). I really liked mine; DH not so much, but we shared a good salad and were satisfied.

Back to Ferme du Pressior for the last time, driving in the not-quite-dusk through rolling Normandy country side; this is bocage territory, and I see how these hedgerows would have presented the troops with problems. Little lanes running off into the distance; high hedges; sheep, cows, the occasional horse still grazing in the mild June air. I really loved this area, and we are so glad we found our little farm to enjoy oh so briefly. It was after 10 when we finally fell in bed.

<b>Day 15—DH Day 7—Rouen, a ruin, a village, a chateau</b>

Today we slept in a bit and had breakfast at 8:30, enjoying a chat with a couple from California. For our next couple of days before we got back to Paris, I had made long lists of “maybe” destinations, knowing we’d probably scale back depending on weather and fatigue. Well, the weather started very foggy but cleared off by the time we left about 10:30, but the tiredness didn’t fade away! We decided to not rush too much today—Rouen briefly, a castle ruin, a drive to a little village, and our rooms in a little chateau.

With reluctance we said farewell to Odile and the farm. On the way to Rouen, I typed in the wrong name, and instead of arriving at the cathedral in the center of town, we were up on a hillside at the <b>Basilica Notre Dame with a Joan of Arc memorial</b> and a beautiful overlook. I felt mad and stupid, but DH was patient and we just enjoyed this stop (which he’d considered anyway) and said we’d backtrack a tad. After a look around the church, monument, and outstanding view, we had brunch (Odile sent us a picnic sack again!), then we headed back into Rouen, stopping right near the basilica for some fruit at a grocer’s and some cash from ATM.

Here in <b>Rouen</b> it was very, very busy, but we followed some signs and GPS directions and found a subterranean (but not too dungeon-like!) parking garage in the center of town. We walked a couple blocks to the <b>Cathedral</b>. It is also amazing. Its height is jaw-dropping; I know it’s the tallest cathedral in France; it’s a little shorter than Koln, but it seemed higher. Maybe you can just see further up a tower? Anyway, it is spectacular. On a smaller note, I especially loved its lovely staircases.

Then we took a small walk through the pedestrianized medieval lanes, gawking like tourists at the big clock! We enjoyed the ambience of the busy city streets for a few minutes and then were ready to go. Found some of those chocolate Magnum bars with cocoa bits in chocolate coating--it's a good thing they don't sell those (yet?) where I live!

With the help of Nessie and our paper Michelin maps, we found our way to <b>Chateau Guillard, a ruin of a castle built by Richard I, sitting on a high hill overlooking Les Andelys</b> and the Seine River. This was a way cool stop! At the first parking lot, we stopped and looked across a little vale at the castle and admired the views of the river valley along with others, including painters with their easels set up. Then we drove to a closer parking lot and took the steep but not long hike up to the castle. We walked all around the area with some close-up views of moats and towers; it cost to go into the keep, but the whole rest of the complex was accessible at no cost, so that was enough for us to see plenty. Very nice. We spent about an hour. We love ruins.

Our next stop was<b> Lyons-La-Foret</b>, named one of France’s prettiest villages. (It had appealed to me as a stop because its name is…well, DH, who had some French ancestry, likes his privacy even here on the Forum, so I’ll just leave it at that!) Our chateau for the night was very near here, so we just wanted to make sure we could find something to eat later and that we made it to the chateau at the proper time, as it had a narrow window (5-6:30) for check-in.

Lyons-La-Foret was easy to find and we parked in a free lot and walked a very short way to the town square. Lots of half-timbered houses and flowers everywhere. It is pretty. We ascertained that some restaurants, not open now, would reopen for dinner 7 or 7:30. So on to the <b>Chateau de Fleury La Foret</b>.

This was a most unique experience, in a most positive way. The chateau is small as they go, I suppose, and not grand or gilted, but roomy and hospitable, clean and pretty. The 17th Century chateau has been in this family (if I understood correctly) since the 1800’s; the owner, who greeted us on the front steps and led us to choose between two rooms, said when he wakes in the morning, he is at work! From the front foyer he led us up and around staircases and showed us the Green Room on the ?3rd? floor—large room and bath—and then showed us a suite on the ?2nd? floor—a huger room, a bigger bath, an adjoining hallway with window seats. €15 more (€100) but less steps! http://www.chateau-fleury-la-foret.com/index_gb.html We chose the suite and it was really charming and spacious, with plenty of modern plugs and a heater if we needed, beamed ceiling and window seats all around with views on 3 sides.

He explained where breakfast would be at 8:30 and how the rest of the house, which is a museum by day, would be accessible for a tour after breakfast. We asked about dinner and he had some suggestions back in Lyons-la-Foret; he explained how to get in and out of the chateau and told us about the rest of the property. One long building (former stables? Lots of horse-history here) is now a hall for weddings and other celebrations. We settled in (bringing up the many steps only what we needed from the car!) and then headed for dinner. So fun!

The Grand Clef (Big Deer) he’d suggested didn’t open until 7:30, so we had time for a short walk; when I said I wanted to try to find St. Denis church (there’s a personal connection here due to our street address), he decided we’d just drive. His knee was beginning to twinge a little. So we found it and took some pictures, enjoyed the town square waiting for dinner, and then enjoyed our dinner. It was fine. Perhaps a bit overpriced. DH asked for a salad as a starter, which he didn’t see on the menu, and the waiter nodded and brought salmon. It was still good. My fish was wonderful as was his steak. It was about 9 when we got back.
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Old Jul 8th, 2013, 07:30 AM
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Good report.
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Old Jul 8th, 2013, 07:36 AM
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loving your trip report!

I, too, was very moved and impressed with Normandy - and especially the American Cemetary. We visited about 7 or 8 years ago and can't wait until the kids are old enough to appreciate it and we can take them there.

thanks for all the details - makes it a great reference.
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Old Jul 8th, 2013, 08:27 AM
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Loving your trip report! We did Chartres, MSM, Normandy, and Rouen in 2010, so your report is helping us relive our trip.

We too bought the paper fold-out copy of the Tapestry. It's neat to be able to go back and look at it more carefully and also (for me) to try to decipher some of the Latin.

When we were there in 2010, the cathedrals in Chartres (wasn't that stained glass magnificent!), Bayeux, and Rouen were all undergoing cleaning and all had scaffolding around them. I'd be interested in how much progress they've made since then.

They were also just beginning the construction of the new causeway to MSM, so it's interesting to know that that system is now being implemented.

We too thought that the Bayeux museum was much more relevant to D-Day than the one in Caen.

Looking forward to reading about Paris!
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Old Jul 8th, 2013, 08:34 AM
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Glad you got to see some more of France. I love Rouen Following for the rest!
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Old Jul 8th, 2013, 08:50 AM
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Texasbookworm, really enjoying your report. Just got as far as LeMans but look forward to finishing later....
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Old Jul 8th, 2013, 09:14 AM
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tom18--Thanks. All of those cathedrals still has some scaffolding but not a lot as I recall, at least not obstructing the entrances. Bayeux's had some on the side. All had some inside but again most of the windows were viewable. And I'm a tad jealous you got to purchase one of those fold-outs; I can't seem to find it for sale on the internet and I didn't buy an Italian or French language one, the only ones available. Oh well.

OK, last installment below; thanks for feedback.

<b>Day 16—DH Day 8—On to Paris</b>

At breakfast the next morning (which was fine—yogurt and pastries, but it seemed meager to DH after Odile’s spoiling!), we talked to a couple from Scotland. We ended up not leaving until about 10:30. I had had a way too ambitious day planned, which I had already scaled back, thinking we’d just stop at Chantilly on our way to Paris, but I could tell that even that would be too much. It turned out that our car reservation said it was due at 9 AM, which I hadn’t factored, plus it just seemed like a better idea to have some time in Paris this evening. So it took a little convincing that I was really, really ok with skipping Chantilly, but DH was glad to go with the less complicated plan.

So we just headed to CDG, driving for the last time through the lovely countryside. We did enjoy all those winding roads and stretches of fields. As we approached CDG (with instructions on both gps’s that seemed to agree), it got congested. When we pursued the Sixt return area, it was a corkscrew crazy maze, but we found it with minimal headache and turned the car in with no problem and no extra charge for the 3 more hours. (Oh, the car was a Nissan Note—DH remembers because it was “not-note-worthy.” Ha. It did have adequate room and was comfy for the passenger.) We went upstairs to get a receipt and to go up again to find a taxi. A €51 trip that took about 45 minutes through traffic and we arrived around 1:30 at Hotel Kensington.

<b>Hotel Kensington on Avenue de la Bourdonnais</b> (http://www.hotel-kensington.com/hote...ensington.html) was recommended by that other travel guide book writer as affordable and clean if small, and in a good location. (€99/night plus Breakfast.) This is accurate. And the staff (well, except for one grumpy breakfast server!) was all pleasant and helpful. Beginning with the person at the desk when we arrived, who I think is the owner.

Anyway, she said (in very good English) that she was certainly glad to see me as she’d been trying to contact me via email for a week as my credit card had been refused. I was not checking my email, and as I’d made these reservations and faxed cc info back in February, I figured all was good to go. She said she had kept the reservation for us and it was good we came early as if we’d arrived late, she might have had to let it go. We tried my card again (which had been working the whole time and just worked at a gas station an hour or so before) and it didn’t work. So we tried my other card and voila no problem! So we were good to go. We added breakfast at €6 (I forgot we wouldn’t need it for Sunday, and a different person later didn’t know how to refund €12 on a cc; oh, well. My mistake) and discussed when to order a very early Sunday morning taxi.

We walked a few steps from the small foyer through the smaller breakfast area into the tiny 2-person (or 1 and luggage) lift—but at least there IS a lift! We were on the 4th floor. A teeennnsy room looking into other peoples’ windows, but it was clean, decent shower with plenty of hot water, very quiet, space for storage, comfy bed. There’s no ac, which was NOT a problem. But there’s only one plug, which IS a problem. For me, that was the only thing I really didn’t like about the room. Two phones and a camera battery mean 3 plugs is optimum for recharging overnight.

And I LOVED the location! DH had a few other negatives about the place, mostly to do with space. He too agreed that location, location, location is worth something. But arriving with the reservation glitch set his teeth on edge; there’s wifi in the lobby, and he used the Nook to access my email to see if I was getting any weird cc alerts; there was no problem. I said I’d call Visa later. I think in the communications somewhere, something got confused and I think she may have been entering my Visa as a MasterCard; but in any case, it all turned out ok. Also they wanted the key left at the front desk; when DH noted that, unlike at other hotels where he’d left a key or asked for a new key at the desk, no one here was being asked to show ID when requesting their key back, he just kept ours with him.

(On the subject of the card—the next day in the Louvre DH’s card was refused at a ticket machine when he tried to rent audio guides. So late that evening I called Visa—they had no record of either attempt, by Hotel Kensington or the Louvre, and weren’t stopping any charges, so there was no problem. The Visa has a chip in it, but it’s not a true chip-and-pin (more chip-and-signature) and I suspect that’s why the Louvre machine wouldn’t take it.)

After we’d settled in and rested a bit, we took a walk to orient ourselves and find some food. I knew <b>Rue Cler</b> was a couple blocks over, so we headed there. I know there’re mixed reviews on this Forum, but we loved it. We didn’t have much chance to compare to other such markets, but it was quite wonderful. It wasn’t too crowded. We decided to just pick up some food and go eat in the room. We got chicken, potatoes, bread, cheese, and another moist dark chocolate brownie. And it was all absolutely wonderful as an indoor picnic! (and less than €20).

The weather, which was rather cloudy but not bad, was predicted to deteriorate and have 70% chance of rain tomorrow, so we thought we’d go use the early evening light for some sight seeing.

The first stop was at the <b>Musee Quai Branly, just to get the Museum Pass</b>. No line. So this was a good way to get the Pass to have ready for the next 2 days. Then we walked across the river to the <b>Trocadero Gardens for DH’s first good looks at the Eiffel Tower</b>. This area was really busy this evening. We took lots of pictures.

Then DH said he’d be game to walk to the <b>Arch de Triumph</b>, so we set off. We do like soaking up a city’s feel by a stroll like this. At the Arch he was blown away by the absolute chaos in the traffic around it. One time we counted 14 “rows” of cars—while other lines of cars were trying to bisect them all! The tour guide my students and I had told us that a few years ago, insurance agencies decided that when there was a wreck around the Arch, all parties are equally at fault, no questions or investigation!

We decided to ascend the Arch, so first we used the subway and then we went up. It was fairly crowded still, but not packed. The views were still great even in the late light. We’re glad we did this. (The Pass would have covered the € 9/each, but I didn’t want to start our 2-day pass this late in the day, and we didn’t want to take the chance on missing decent weather or run out of time or energy to come here the next day. So we paid and had the Arch experience done.)

I suggested we Metro back to near the hotel as our legs, and his knee, were tired, but he opted to walk down the <b>Champs Elysees</b>, so we could say we did! It is just a big shopping area on this part. But now we’ve been there. Back at the hotel by 10 after a glass of wine around the corner.

<b>Day 17—DH Day 9—Paris—Eiffel Tower and Museums</b>

This is the day we would go up the Tower if we did it at all, and he wanted to try. But it was COLD (in the 50’s) and wet and breezy. So most unpleasant. But we decided to do what we could. Breakfast began serving at 7:30, so we were there a little after. Just tea, juice and some pastries—but around the corner I saw signs for the same or less for practically the same price, so it was at the going rate. DH would just like some protein in the morning!

About 8:30 we took our maybe 10 minute walk to the <b>Eiffel Tower</b> area and got in line. There were a good many people ahead of us but not hordes yet. The line started moving promptly at 9. First go through security for bag check. Then get tickets. Then get in line for elevator. (All those “beware pickpockets” signs are NOT soothing!)

Then the ride up which even in the light rain and gray air was pretty spectacular; I had a good view of the ground falling away and the gears and cables working as we passed. We were out of this elevator about 9:30 so not bad. But this level—JAMMED! And COLD! Oh, well. This is when we can be here so let’s have the experience. We stopped briefly at this level to change cars and walked around platform and got back in line for next elevator.

On the very top—wow, we are very high! I’m glad we went, but with the wind blowing and the people smashing, we didn’t stay real long. On the way back down we went into a couple shops—more people-jams and warning signs. And then back on the ground again around 10:30.

My plan this day had been to do the Tower first thing if he wanted to and to be at the Louvre between 4 and 5, since it’s open late on Fridays. In between was going to be up to how we felt, the weather, and what else we’d gotten done the day before. We’d made it to the Arch; I ruled out Sacre Coeur; there were a few things we were saving for Saturday; and the weather and his knee ruled out just walking around from garden area to garden area. So…

Our next goal was the <b>Musee d’Orsay</b>. DH had said that he’d like to actually see some of it, since when he met up with me and the group there, he hadn’t gotten beyond the foyer. And I was happy to see more. And the Pass covered it. It would be inside out of the rain and right across the river from the Louvre and had places for him to sit. We didn’t walk fast from the Tower, going along the river and taking some pictures as we went. It was just gray and gloomy, not too wet. We got to the museum about 12:00 I think, got to hurry past all the people in the ticket line because we had our Passes, and headed straight to the Café de l’Ours for lunch and a rest. We had to wait for seats for about 10 minutes, but we got a great salad and sandwich to share. And another yummy brownie! After this revitalization and some rest, we were ready to go again. For a bit.

We got the audio guide and that was €10 well spent. We spent about 90 minutes wandering together, mostly through the Impressionists galleries. I think this is an amazing museum. The building is a work of art, the displays are good, the facilities almost adequate (it was very crowded), and the artwork---oh my. I think I saw most of what I missed last week that I’d wanted to see. We took a rest on the benches among the statues and DH fell asleep sitting up! He stayed there while I looked around about 30 more minutes.

Then on to the <b>Louvre</b> about 3:30, again appreciating those Passes as we sailed right past the loooonnnggg line and were directed to merge at the security check. I’d forgotten to bring that “Louvre in 3 Hours” printout I’d used with kids the week before, but DH didn’t think his knee would like that much walking anyway. So I had another short list with me and the map with some highlights, and we just did a few things. I think we are both glad we came, but our experience was a bit less than we’d hoped for. Several factors to that:

1.It was majorly crowded; even into the late evening hours, I do not think the crowds thinned much. Weather probably a factor.

2.DH’s knee needed frequent rests.

3.DH was also distracted by a couple things stateside, so he kept having to find phone service and attend to texts and emails. Some was work-related (no, he wasn’t totally on vacation!). Another involved a hotel reservation he’d made for our daughter who was attending a teacher accreditation workshop back in San Antonio, a reservation they weren’t honoring. He did get that worked out. (“Look, I’m calling you from Paris, France—and she’s standing right there, right? Just give her the room, alright!?”)

4.We got these audio guides which were like Nintendo things. They were just about impossible to figure out. Maybe if I spent hours a day playing first-person/maze-navigating games, I’d get it. But it was just frustrating. I was spending all my time fiddling with a machine and looking at the stupid screen instead of the actual stuff. I gave up and stowed it in DH’s backpack; eventually he was able to sorta use his to listen to some commentaries. But it was just frustrating to me. €10 not well spent.

5.The Louvre is massive and mazelike and I think rather poorly signed. I was prepared to beware of trying to see it all, or even too much, and to not be overwhelmed by that aspect of “can’t see it all,” but I wasn’t prepared for how hard it was to find my way around. Maybe I was just too brain-tired.

All that to say that even so we did manage to see probably a dozen highpoints. We spent until about 8:30 with frequent stops as well as a dinner of good thick burgers and fine fries in the Café le Grand Louvre. (We’d tried to eat upstairs at another café—maybe Richelieu?; we waited to get seated about 10 minutes only to discover that they were only offering the drinks and desserts on their menu.) We saw lots of pick-pocket warnings, but I didn’t notice much obvious security, but I didn’t see any pack of kids or anyone I would suspect, either. Still, all the warnings are unsettling.

We caught a taxi, as he didn’t want to use the Metro, near the pyramid. Back at the hotel we went around the corner to a little café for some nice mousse and glass of vino. We were very tired but we saw some amazing things.

<b>Day 18—DH Day 10—Last Day!</b>

OK—much better weather today ! The plan was to Metro to Sainte Chapelle early, then Notre Dame, then visit some things in the 5th arrondissement like the Cluny, Luxembourg Gardens, and Shakespeare and Company. And whatever else we felt like, using the Metro if we needed to. But DH’s knee had us scale back a tad and slow down. Also we got a late start as he needed to figure out which terminal to have us delivered to before we ordered a taxi, and he got conflicting info, so he had to spend some phone time. I used his info-gathering and slow-start time to do some photo backup I’d not had time to do much of. We finally did get the airport stuff sorted; the lady at the hotel desk assured us that a taxi would be there by 4:30 and have us to our terminal well before our 5:30 desired time (DH’s flight at 7:30, mine at 11).

We left about 10:30 and walked Rue Cler for pics first and a coke. Then we grabbed a taxi instead of the Metro and for €7.50 got deposited at the door of the <b>Sainte Chapelle</b> entrance. We had to wait in line for the security clearance (no bypassing with the Pass, but entrance cost covered) about 15 minutes. The lower chapel is pretty. Had a great gift shop and we got a couple things. Then we went up and—yep, it’s awesome in the literal sense! There was some sunshine today, so the colors were amazing. Just the sheer expanse of glass between those thin stone columns—indescribable, really. No words and no pictures can do it justice. An incredible place.

DH’s knee was responding nicely to his favoring it and some ibuprofen, so we walked to <b>Pont Neuf</b>, taking it easy enjoying the views and people watching and taking photos. On this bridge he had fun trying to figure out which building Jason Bourne would have been in to see the bridge! Ha.

I think it was here that the girls with petitions made their first appearance in our travels. We didn’t even make eye contact and we weren’t approached. I thought they were working in pairs; DH not so sure; I think 2 pairs of them got into a territorial squabble, as after some heated words and arm waving, they kept 2 to each side of the bridge. Everyone I saw them approach ignored them or moved quickly on; one lady almost stopped, then deliberately clutched her two shopping bags tightly to her side and hurried on.

We headed back now toward Notre Dame, but it was time for a light lunch. We had crossed Pont Neuf and on the right bank now we were at the <b>Place du Chatelet</b> and I suggested crepes at a corner creperie. DH was skeptical—imagined sweet—but when I ordered ham and cheese (jambon et fromage) and he tasted mine, he was most pleasantly surprised. They were delicious. We went back to the river side and scored a bench near some bouquinistes. A great quick and truly Parisian lunch experience. At one of these stalls I bought some cheap coasters with impressionist art, including Seurat’s The Circus; AB on my student tour loved that painting but did not find a post card or print of it and was disappointed; I’ll mail her the coaster!

We continued walking along the river and then over a bridge toward Notre Dame and stumbled onto the <b>Le Marche aux Fleurs</b> (flower/garden market) and had a ramble through it. A little further on, just following the spires, we came into the area in front of <b>Notre Dame</b>. The steps were full of people. The sky was full of light. The entries were full of—scaffolding and vans. It seems an all-day ordination had the church closed until 4:30 (it was 2:30). We had decided we would want to be back near the hotel by 5. This wasn’t going to work! I was completely bummed. I’d already figured we wouldn’t go up the Tower, or at least DH wouldn’t. Oh well. He said not to fret; we’d walk around and see the outside which is spectacular all on its own.

So we did that and looked around the pretty garden area behind a bit too. Then he said he was game to try the tower if it was open (there were people up top); found the line—looked at least an hour long! It was wrapped around to the back. Ok, never mind. So I was glad I’d gotten to go inside last week, and DH was satisfied to see the amazing architecture visible outside from the ground. (This meant we really didn’t get our “value” out of our Museum Pass as we would have if we’d done one more Museum or had saved the Arch til today. But it was worth a LOT extra to skip those 2 lines at the museums yesterday! It probably saved us at least an hour each place.)

I left it up to DH what he felt like doing. He said to show him the map of the possible destinations; he said <b>Shakespeare and Company</b> looked completely doable. So we went across the river and toward the store. When we got there, there was quite a crowd, both in both cramped parts of the store and out front. But DH found a seat and I browsed a little. Saw lots of things to tempt me to take home to DD as a souvenir, but resisted—just books I could get elsewhere (there was €55 used Silmarillion for my Tolkien lover—but I passed). I did get a tote! When I came out and DH started to pop his head in, there was now a line to get INTO the store. Popular place.

We decided to call it a day and I planned an RER route which looked very convenient—stop not far and would get us near the hotel without any changes. So we set off. Along the way on a pedestrian street—<b>Rue de la Huchette</b>—full of all sorts of Greek and Mediterranean cuisine, we found a gelato shop and shared a cup of dark chocolate. At the station I was pretty sure of which train and which direction to go; a bit uneasy until we got on and could tell we were right. I really feel confident on the Tube, but I don’t feel I had enough time on Paris’ system to say I mastered it! Anyway this train was so roomy and empty. It was a pleasant short ride. We got off at Pont de L’Alma and took a slow stroll through Rue Cler back to the hotel. We rested and finished our repacking (Yea! It’s all going to fit! I didn’t buy too much this trip, actually. Lots of flat totes and a few tea tidies. Still, until zippers are zipped on the bags, you wonder!)

About 6:30 we decided we’d go try dinner at the little café we’d enjoyed for our end of day unwinding the last two nights. But it was all buttoned up with no notice of opening times, so we went next door—Au Gros Caillou on Rue de Grenelle. A most pleasant dinner, service, and atmosphere. Started with French onion soup and it was terrific. Not too salty. Yum. Then I had a huge amount of excellent roast chicken and green beans, while DH had a decent rib steak (guy eating as we entered had gotten the last rump steak DH wanted!) and even plenty of catsup with his pomme frites! We had some Stratford truffles leftover for dessert later.

Back in the room DH stayed and finished up getting packed; I went for one more short photo stroll over to the Champs de Mars where the sun was out and so were dozens and dozens of people enjoying the early evening. The light was lovely on the buildings and the Tower looked amazing glinting in the slant of the light. (This was as close to seeing the "city of lights" or the Tower with twinkling that I got, as the very short darkness while we were here meant we were only out in the daylight.) I enjoyed a last look.

Then I couldn’t resist just one more little souvenir thing—my last several trips to Europe I’ve always found pretty cheap scarves at a market or a kiosk and brought at least one back for DD and some for me. I refused to pay much—it was a “can I find a bargain” thing, and I hadn’t found any yet that weren’t real touristy, or solid pashminas which I have, or shiny imitation silk, or expensive (the only one I’d been tempted by was €85 Monet Irises at the Orsay!) I finally noticed right next to the hotel some really inexpensive ones so bought 3 (and DD did like one of them).

DH was already in bed; I finished repacking quickly and was there too by 9.

<b>Day 19 (oops, Spoiler Alert!—and Day 20)—DH Day 10—Traveling Home</b>

We got up 3:30 and 3:45 and were downstairs at 4:20. We had a nice conversation with the young man at the desk, soon to head to Brazil for school, and the taxi was there before 4:25. We were at terminal 2A 35 minutes and €62 later (ride cost more today—Sunday supplement?). We had separate flights because I was finishing the trip on the ticket secured through the student tour I’d led, while DH made his own arrangements.

I won’t bore you with all the minute details, but we both had major glitches. DH was on time from CDG to LHR and from LHR to DFW, but there his 70 minute connection time was not enough to get through passport control. He said nobody around him had ever seen it so bad, and neither had he. He rebooked while still in that line. Just for grins he went on to the gate that he was supposed to leave from and sure enough it was closed, so it was good he rebooked; he got home about 90 minutes late, about 10 pm.

Meanwhile, my flight CDG to JFK was on time. I had 2.5 hours before boarding began. It took an hour and 20 minutes to get through passport control (10 minutes), wait on and recheck my bag (20 minutes), get through customs (about 30!! Only one agent), and through security (about 20)---what a mess.

Anyway, I had plenty of time. Then at 4 PM the problems began. First they said they were short a crew member, then we’d have equipment change, then our new equipment was delayed by weather, then our departure would be delayed by weather. We didn’t leave until 7:40, over 3 hours late. I had already rebooked—but it would mean staying overnight in DFW and not getting home until Monday morning!

All this was a hassle, but worse—my phone didn’t work! So I couldn’t communicate to my family, and I knew DH would be worrying about me along the way. I used a pay phone and left messages on DD and DH’s phone (DH was in the air). Later a fellow Texan let me use her phone and I talked to DD. When I finally got to DFW, I figured out a setting to change that should have switched automatically and it all started working again and I got back in touch with DH, who’d just gotten home. An AA agent at DFW fixed me up with hotel and shuttle—but just at a reduced rate as they claimed it was weather problem. The first thing I did when I got home (well, first productive thing) was write a letter explaining what the agent had first told us, that an absent crew member was what started the problem. We’ll see if I get any reimbursement. Oh, and of course my bag was late—and untraceable all day—but I got it Tuesday morning intact.

Anyway, I had some sleep and arrived home Monday morning safe and…tired! This had been an incredible trip full of mostly wonderful, marvelous, beautiful moments—and now we’ll always have Paris!—And Chartres and Bayeux and Le Mans and Normandy and Lyons-la-Foret, tapestries and a chateau and medieval lanes and a ruin and a farm and cathedrals and country lanes through little villages, all of which were actually more to our liking, but we are glad to have seen and done all we did.
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Old Jul 8th, 2013, 09:43 AM
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texas - Thanks for the information on the cathedrals. Just to clarity - I bought the tapestry fold-out when we were there.
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Old Jul 8th, 2013, 09:48 AM
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lovely report, texas - so glad I found it. I so admire you for going abroad with the kids - I had my first experience of that, albeit vicariously, in Feb when we did a joint students/oldies trip to Italy with our italian class. even though our teacher is herself italian, it was still a strain, so what it must be like taking a group to a foreign country I can't imagine.
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Old Jul 8th, 2013, 10:43 AM
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Great report! Loved every word. Will you post some pics? Please! Thanks!
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Old Jul 8th, 2013, 11:35 AM
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irishface--Thank you. No plans to post but we will see. So many of first part of trip have kids in them and won't post those.
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Old Jul 8th, 2013, 11:52 AM
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Great report! Thanks for taking the time write in such detail. I agree that it is important to know about the toilets, parking, gas stations, and other little details that can make or break a trip. (And my toilet philosophy when traveling is always: whenever you find one, use it, even if you don't think you have to!)
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Old Jul 8th, 2013, 11:52 AM
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Great report. You are right about the Louvre; it is poorly signposted. Again, I hope you get back to Paris sometime to do some less touristy things and to see the city for what it really is.

Sorry to hear that you had problems with your return flights though
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Old Jul 8th, 2013, 02:03 PM
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Great report. You are right about the Louvre; it is poorly signposted.>>

on our last visit, we had gone up to the top floor to see the French collection [really not very good, the best stuff is in the Musee D'Orsay] and then tried to find our way out. we kept finding exit signs for them to disappear at the next junction, and ended up going round the stuff in the crypt twice.

I was close to having a panic attack thinking that we'd never get out and we'd become an exhibit!
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Old Jul 9th, 2013, 04:23 PM
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Thoroughly enjoyable.... thanks for taking the time to share!
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Old Jul 9th, 2013, 05:46 PM
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Thanks for the trip continuation report. I sympathize with the Louvre signs. A few years ago I thought I'd be in Mesopotamia forever!
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Old Jul 9th, 2013, 09:42 PM
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Great report. Thank you.
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Old Jul 10th, 2013, 04:32 AM
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Thanks to all above who have left feedback. I have found the Fodor's community to be of incalculable value when I've planned the few trips I've gotten to make since 2008, so I feel almost obligated to add to the conversation with my experiences. I'm such a firm believer in making your travels fit your selves--style, desires, health, time, interests--that it's hard to know if anything helps. But I'm grateful for your feedback!

I almost hesitated to write anything negative about Paris, but I opted to be honest. As usual, when looking back I do remember more the good stuff, but I find it interesting that several of my areas of concerns or unease have been noted by others.

If anyone just read Part Two and wants to see how the first part of the trip pre-DH went, here's the link.

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Old Jul 12th, 2013, 06:04 PM
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Thanks texasbookworm for a great report!

I am glad you got to see St Chappelle. The stained glass was just marvelous.

I am glad you posted your honest opinion about Paris. We enjoyed our time there too and would like to go back one day but your points of concern or uneasiness were definitely shared by others (us included).

Always need to know where the bathrooms are so that part of the commentary is actually appreciated. I remember feeling funny about posting on the different toilet mechanisms we encountered during our trip to London/Paris. So many different levers and pull chains. Just thought it was interesting.

Glad you had a great time. Looking forward to your next trip report!
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