April in Paris


May 1st, 2011, 04:06 AM
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April in Paris

April in Paris began on March 21 when I was greeted with an e-mail from my daughter-in-law, V, asking if I could take off work the week of April 25th. Hmmm, as a matter of fact I could…a few hours later she presented me with an early birthday present – mileage to Paris! I would meet her and my almost seven-year old grandson F, in Paris on April 25th for the week and I would introduce F to my favorite place in the world; what a special treat! I’ve been a Francophile since my early teens, I lived in eastern France for a while and I’ve visited Paris often (although not often enough), but this would be the first time experiencing it through the eyes of a child. This report won’t include chic restaurant reviews (although we didn’t have a bad meal the entire week) or museum visits, but we did manage to cover a fair amount of ground.

My husband drove me to Rochester, NY on Easter Sunday where I boarded an American flight to Chicago for the non-stop flight to Paris. The timing was especially good; Paris’s delightfully sunny, warm spring would be a welcome respite for an Upstate New Yorker tired of winter’s relentless grip, and I had just shed a cast I had worn for most of the winter for a broken foot. Paris would be the perfect place to begin to rebuild those walking muscles!

My flight arrived early on the 25th, I passed through passport control and followed the signs for “Paris par train”, arriving at the RER station within 25 minutes of landing – not bad. The cost one-way by train is 8.70 E and the machines take coins only. I believe there is also an office where they can be bought from a person although I didn’t investigate because I had the correct amount in coins.

The train was waiting and the trip into Paris was about 30 minutes. I thought I’d exit the station on the left bank, at St. Michele. What a nice surprise to come up right in front of Notre Dame!

V rented an apartment on Place Dauphine at the western tip of Ile de la Cité
in the 1st (not to be confused with rue Dauphine in the 6th). All the times I’ve crossed the Pont Neuf, I had never seen it. It’s a beautiful, peaceful oasis and the second oldest park in Paris after Place des Vosges. I found number 21 and the owner was there to meet me. More about the apartment in a future post.

I quickly changed into my walking shoes and off I went as I had a few hours before V and F arrived. I’ll take Paris any time in just about any weather, but Monday’s weather couldn’t have been better. Warm, a slight breeze and not a cloud in the sky. I walked past the Palais de Justice on the Quai des Orfèvres, bought a croque monsieur from the vendor at the corner of the quai and Bd du Palais, and walked to Notre Dame. Easter Monday is a jour férié, or public holiday in France and the square in front of Notre Dame was packed. I love hearing so many languages when I’m in Paris.

I wove my way past Notre Dame stopping in the lovely park just to the east (in back) of it before crossing the Pont St. Louis to rue St. Louis en L’Ile. It’s touristy, but I love the feel of it and its fun shops, many of which were open on Monday.

I crossed the Pont Marie and made my way through the southern part of the 4th, across rue St. Antoine to Place des Vosges which was crowded with families enjoying the day. There were sun bathers, friends sitting on benches visiting, and little children riding bikes and playing in the sand. I sat and soaked in the sight, just happy to be in Paris on this beautiful day. Suddenly I remembered why I need to keep moving on my first day in Europe. The adrenaline keeps me going, but a few more minutes sitting in the sun and I would nod off!

I gradually wound through the narrow streets to rue des Rosiers and rue Vieille du Temple past the Musée Carnavalet. I make a mental note to add it to my list for the next trip. The streets of the Marais were festive with others enjoying the day as I was.

The store windows were full of Easter displays, fastidiously designed. Why is it that the French do so much with such exquisite style? Even the way they wrap a purchase…

Finally I crossed back over to Ile St. Louis to watch picnickers on the Seine, the bateaux mouches gliding below me, and I walked through the Marché aux Fleures and back to Place Dauphine by mid afternoon to greet V and F. We had a late afternoon snack at one of the cafes lining Place Dauphine before strolling around the 6th and 7th arrondissements. It was such a nice evening that we hopped on a batobus to give F his first glimpse of the sites from the Seine.

We ended the evening by walking back to the 6th and having dinner at a restaurant whose name unfortunately I didn’t write down. Back to the apartment where I fell into bed!

This is a link to a few photos of my first day wanderings.
ellen75005 is offline  
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May 1st, 2011, 04:58 AM
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Terrific beginning to your report, and wonderful photos.

What do we think they did with the chocolate ham after taking down the display?
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May 1st, 2011, 05:07 AM
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Great. Felt like I was strolling with you.
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May 1st, 2011, 05:29 AM
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This is a great start!!! Waiting for more,please!!!
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May 1st, 2011, 08:42 AM
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Oops, typo...Michel doesn't have an e at the end.

Nikki, good question. What do they do with it? I enjoyed your trip report so much; you're a hard act to follow
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May 1st, 2011, 09:02 AM
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Lovely beginning, Ellen. Looking forward to more.
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May 1st, 2011, 09:23 AM
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Good start and lovely photos, Ellen.
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May 1st, 2011, 12:08 PM
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great photos..have never been to Paris in Spring but it is lovely! I love the park behind Notre Dame...we enjoyed our Bertillon ice cream in the snow there on Christmas Eve.
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May 1st, 2011, 12:41 PM
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Great start! Looking forward to more.
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May 1st, 2011, 12:46 PM
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Bookmarking this lovely report partly to hear about the apartment. Coincidentally, we will have one later in the month only a couple of blocks away on rue Chainoinesse.
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May 1st, 2011, 01:18 PM
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Lovely report, Ellen. I have a 7 year old granddaughter so I hope to benefit from your experience with your young man.
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May 1st, 2011, 02:23 PM
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denisea, I can only imagine how magical the park in back of Notre Dame would be at Christmas in the snow.

nukesafe, I see where you'll be - also a fantastic location. Will you have a view of Notre Dame? I'll post the apartment info in a day or so.

Treesa, it was so much fun to experience it with a child and my grandson was a great sport about everything, including tasting food that most adults wouldn't. More about that to come...

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May 1st, 2011, 08:14 PM
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Ellen: thanks for a great start. Your photos are so charming!
looking forward to more tips for our fall trip to Paris.
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May 1st, 2011, 08:41 PM
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Nothing better than seeing the world through a child's eyes, is there? We took our grandsons to Melbourne last year for the Titanic exhibit, zoo, southbank, etc. They loved it and we gained a new appreciation for Australia's loveliest city.

Hopefully next year we will take them and their little sister and parents to Honolulu for two weeks. I am sure I will see Hawaii through fresh eyes too. Wonderful photos!
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May 1st, 2011, 09:25 PM
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Ellen, No, we won't be able to see Notre Dame from our apartment, as we face a courtyard, but I'm told we can hear the bells. FYI, here is the link:
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May 2nd, 2011, 04:35 PM
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nukesafe, it looks wonderful. I'll be interested to hear how you liked yours. There are so many options in Paris!
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May 2nd, 2011, 04:44 PM
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Day 2

Day two dawned just as beautifully as day one had, although I missed dawn, sleeping in until 9:00. It was so quiet in Place Dauphine that I thought it must have been earlier. V had already gone to the Carrefour in the 6th to buy breakfast.

We walked to Hotel de Ville to board the batobus, glided by the Louvre, under the beautiful Pont Alexandre III with its gilded cherubs and nymphs shining in the bright sun – Wow! F had been very excited to see the Eiffel Tower and he gasped when it came into view. It reminded me of the first time I saw it so many years ago. I don’t care how many times I see it; it’s magical. F wanted to walk up, but unfortunately the crowds were stunning due to our late start, and we settled for taking it all in from ground level.

French police were apparent just about everywhere we went. As we walked under the Tower, there were numerous vendors selling miniature Eiffel Towers on cloth they’d lay down on the ground. Evidently these vendors didn’t have a permit because the bicycle police were constantly chasing them away. We were almost run over by one who ran his bike into one of the vendors and over his wares. The cloth has four handles for easy gathering and get-away. You have to give them an A for persistence!

We continued across the Champs de Mars and found a café (the Parc Eiffel) for lunch on rue Desaix. We were clearly the only people there who weren’t on our lunch hour and it was fun to be at an obviously local restaurant. I ordered my first steak/frites of the trip. It's always better in France!

I had been anxious to show F how to navigate the métro system and I had my chance at the Bir Hakeim station. I explained how to determine the direction by the terminus station among other things. After about 30 seconds he said, “Oh, I get it” and off we went. That métro is one which travels a fair distance above ground. V and I decided that an apartment in the 15th would be just fine for us, even if it did overlook the metro tracks!

Next stop, Luxembourg Gardens. We transferred at Montparnasse Bienvenue for the short ride up to St. Suplice. I had never actually been to église St. Suplice. We spent a few minutes enjoying the little square in front with its lion fountain and wandered inside the church, admiring the impressive pipe organ.

The Jardin du Luxembourg is one of my favorite spots in Paris. On Tuesday it was full of sunbathers and families, and lots of people on their portables (laptops) catching up on work in this most beautiful office! The flowers were spectacular and the city is creating even more green space evidenced by all the work that was in process. I make another mental note that next time I’ll sit with a good book for an afternoon.

We strolled down bd. St. Michel, another of my favorites, detouring into the Monoprix, the Target of France, where I introduced F to Orangina, possibly the most perfect carbonated beverage ever invented . I was devastated when V told me it’s available in the US. Darn globalization. But F ordered it for every subsequent meal!

Back to the Carrefour in the 6th. Grocery stores offer so much about a country. We all had fun checking out the new and different foods. F bought an apple so he could weigh it on the neat French scale. V had bought a sweet chestnut spread on one of her previous Carrefour visits and I bought a large can of it to bring home – another perfect food!

On Tuesday night I had a dinner date with a French friend who spent six months working at my organization last year. She lives in the 18th and we had arranged to meet at the Lamarck Caulaincourt station. At 7:00 the area was a beehive of activity and I loved observing all the comings and goings as I waited for her. After a glass of wine in her apartment, she took me to a tiny Italian restaurant where we both had raviolis aux cèpes in a cream sauce – absolute heaven. I wish I had noticed the name of the restaurant, or even the street it was on.

Another perfect Parisian day had come to an end.

(Click on Slideshow for the best view)

Next, Place Dauphine apartment.
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May 2nd, 2011, 06:44 PM
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Lovely report, and what a wonderful gift from your daughter-in-law! And seeing Paris with a grandchild is the best, isn't it? I returned from Paris on 4/22 after almost two weeks with my daughter and her family, including my 8 and 5 yr old grandchildren. It was my granddaughter's second trip to France, and we still haven't gotten inside the Louvre with her, but we sure did visit lots of parks, both trips. I'm looking forward to reading more.
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May 2nd, 2011, 06:49 PM
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oh thank you for the pictures, we are planning a trip for late April next year and so happy to see great weather. You pictures are so lovely.
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May 2nd, 2011, 11:23 PM
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I'm enjoying your report so much. What a wonderful surprise from your DIL!
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