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Dejais' London and Paris Trip Report or How Mom was a trooper despite a rough landing into nettles!

Dejais' London and Paris Trip Report or How Mom was a trooper despite a rough landing into nettles!

Old Sep 26th, 2006, 01:53 PM
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Dejais' London and Paris Trip Report or How Mom was a trooper despite a rough landing into nettles!

DAY ONE/TWO:

Our trip began September 7, 2006. I flew to New York to my mom’s the day before we were to leave from JFK. I did this because, being from Florida, I was worried about bad weather delaying me. As it turned out, the weather was beautiful and there were no delays. Mom is 67 years old and very active. Although she has been to Spain (with me 30 years ago) and Wales (a short trip with my sister to see my nephew who was cooking there), she has never really traveled to Europe extensively. To us, this was a chance of a lifetime to see Paris and London together, a real “girls” trip with no boys!

We arranged for a car to pick us up at her house earlier than necessary due to security concerns. We figured getting to the airport early was no big deal. We would have lunch and browse through the duty-free shops. We left the Island at 12 noon for a 6pm flight. We arrived at JFK by 2 and had plenty of time to get through security. Air France took off on time with no delays at 6:05pm.

We were to arrive in Paris at 7am and then continue on to London on a 9:25am flight. But of course, we were delayed. We did not leave until 11. Got into London only to find out that the car service we had ordered was not there. Rather than call them and wait, we decided to just spend the extra money and cab it into London. We were tired and just wanted a shower and a change of clothes. The cab ride was 50 GBP, expensive but worth it at that point.

We booked a theater package at Rubens at the Palace on Buckingham Palace Road which turned out to be a great deal. Total package included two nights accommodations in a twin superior room, theater tickets to a show of our choice, breakfast each morning, and dinner and dessert the night of the show. We upgraded to a room with a view of the palace which was unnecessary as you didn’t really see anything special. This was 20GBP extra, I think, and I would definitely skip that in the future.

The breakfast was a buffet and very good. Dinner was prime rib and/or pork tenderloin with all of the trimmings. We also chose to see Mary Poppins which was wonderful. When all was said and done, the total bill was $800 US. Overall, the hotel was nice but I felt that they could have been a bit more helpful as far as making sure we got everything in our package. I had to ask along the way for each thing and we never did get our dessert and coffee upon returning in the evening as there was no one in the dining room. But it was a great deal for the money.

Believe everything they tell you about London being expensive. It is! However, because we had the package it was not that bad for us.

Even though we were exhausted we knew we only had two days in London and wanted to make the most of it. So as soon as we got settled in, we headed right back out. We headed down the street less than a block and picked up The Big Bus Company tickets and got on the next bus. We figured this would be a great way to get an overview of the city and see where we would want to head the next day. Although we enjoyed seeing things, we were so tired my mother actually fell asleep on the bus. I decided enough was enough, we needed to head back and take a nap. We got back to the room around 5pm and promptly fell asleep. We woke up around 8 and decided the hell with it, we would just sleep through the night and have an early start the next day. It was a great idea!

DAY THREE:

The next day after having the buffet breakfast we decided our plan would be to see the Changing of the Guard, the Cabinet War Rooms, and Westminster Abbey. So off we went. We rode the bus again for a bit and promptly found out that the Changing of the Guard was on even days and this was an odd day. Web information about this had been sketchy before we left and I thought this might happen so off we went to the Cabinet War Rooms. We loved this!

Cost to get in was 11GBP and yes, there was a senior discount for Mom. We explored the rooms and then spent a good deal of time in the museum looking at films and artifacts.

After the War Rooms, we headed off to see Westminster Abbey. This cost 10GBP to get in, 6GBP for mom. The Abbey is very large and we toured around looking at all of the crypts. We especially enjoyed the Poet’s Corner where we found many of our favorite poets’ markers.

Afterwards, we headed out to find the bus again and head back toward the hotel where we enjoyed an early dinner. We got a cab and headed over to the West End for our show, Mary Poppins. We were amazed at how many people were in the West End in the evening. It was more crowded than Mardi Gras in New Orleans. Our cabbie told us it is like this every night and that the streets were safe. I was glad he said that as I thought Mom was a bit nervous about the crowd. So off, we went to the show which was wonderful. We had great seats near the front in the center. Our tickets showed that the cost was 69 GBP each.

But again we had sticker shock when we looked at show souvenirs. A hat was 16 GBP which translated to about $30 US and shirts were around 28 GBP if I remember right. We are both used to NY prices but felt that a lot of what we saw in London was just outrageous.

After the show, we headed back to the hotel to pack as we were headed to Paris early the next morning.

DAY FOUR:

We had decided to forego the car service we had previously arranged as we were not sure they would show up so again we took a cab.

Well, big surprise when we got to the airport. We had been very careful, in the wake of the August security changes, to pack lightly and not go overweight. However, when we got to the Air France ticket counter they told us one carry on bag only and it had to fit in the bin. We each had a small handbag and a carry on. Mom put her handbag in her carry on but mine would not fit in mine so we had to rearrange and repack before we could check in. This was not a huge problem but having been through 4 airports in the past three days, I found that it was very confusing as to what each country and airport allowed. UK was by far the strictest, understandingly. We just wish we had been more aware before arriving but the info was changing daily at this point.

So off we went to Paris. The trip was quick, about an hour. When we arrived at CDG, we phoned for our car service before getting the bags. We used the Yellow Van Shuttle which had been recommended by our hotel. The trip cost 36E for both of us which we thought was quite reasonable.

We booked the one bedroom apartment at Hotel Relais Bosquet. The apartment was quite roomy and had a bedroom and a living room with a sofa bed. Cost was $150E per night. The apartment is located in the 7th arrondisement and is two blocks from Champs de Mars park and the Eiffel Tower. I had stayed in this area before so I figured it would be best to start out someplace I was a bit familiar with since I did not know very much about Paris before the trip. I had only been here once for two days last year and thought this would be a good home base.

After dropping our bags, we headed over to see the Eiffel Tower. I thought my mother would die from the excitement of actually seeing it in person. She thought it was much bigger than she had imagined. Being that it was Sunday, the park was very crowded with families and children. She thought the French definitely have the right idea about spending quality time together and could not stop talking about how nice it was that everyone was outdoors walking and enjoying the fresh air.

We went to the Metro station and picked up passes. On Rex’s recommendation (thank you), we purchased Carte Oranges for the week at 15.7E each. You need to bring a 1 inch picture with you for the pass but if you don’t, there are plenty of photo booths around to get a picture. I actually bought these with my limited French and Mom just about passed out when I started, “Je voudrais une Carte Orange pour deux….” Okay, so it might not have been perfect but it was cool to see her mouth drop like that!!!

We headed back through the park and had a lovely dinner at Pizza Tina (73 Ave de Bosquet). I had Veal Milanese with a salad and Mom had Veal Marsala with a salad. Cost was less than 30E.

Before I go on, I have to tell you we are not big “foodies” and I have no great dinner experiences to share so if that is what interests you, this report will be very disappointing. Sorry. We had some really nice lunches but being as we walked and toured hard all day, most evenings we simply had carry-out and headed back to the room around 7 or 8 pm to eat and watch a DVD on the player I had brought along.

To be honest, I don’t think Mom could have made it through dinner. She would have fallen asleep. But let me tell you, the woman was a trooper! Whatever I asked, she did with no complaints. I tried to plan the trip with activity but lots of leisure time so I would not wear her out. I planned some walking tours but these were every other day to leave time for museums and window shopping. So the DVDs turned out to be a great idea as we were entertained in the evening without exerting ourselves. Also, most of the movies were planned with our trip in mind. You’ll get that as I go along, I hope. The first night we watched Something’s Got To Give because they wind up in, of course, Paris!

STILL TO COME: An evening concert at Englise de Madeline and my promise Mom would be safe on a bike tour…..oops!
Dejais is offline  
Old Sep 26th, 2006, 02:08 PM
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I am enjoying your report so far!

It is entertaining. I like it when you mention your mum's reactions. This is like the required spice into the report.

I'll check again to see what else you did.
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Old Sep 26th, 2006, 02:18 PM
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What a lovely memory you have with your mother! She sounds adorable.

Looking forward to more . . .
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Old Sep 26th, 2006, 04:33 PM
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Thnaks for your positive comments!

DAY FIVE:

I wanted to give Mom an overview of the city so we got onto the Hop on/Hop Off bus near the Eiffel Tower. I forgot to mention that in London on the tour bus a lot of the headphone outlets did not work so we missed a lot of the commentary. So as soon as we got on this bus, Mom started plugging in trying to be sure she could hear. After trying this for about five minutes and making us change seats repeatedly, we figured out that there was no commentary while we were waiting for the bus to leave. Okay, a bit embarrassing.

Mom finally found a spot she liked. I was ready to trash the silly headphones so I didn’t care where I sat. Turned out that I gave her a better commentary than the headset anyway as I had been on this route last year and remembered most of the highlights. The couple in front of us heard me talking to Mom, ditched their headset and said they rather listen to me. Ah, my mother beamed, she was so proud of her daughter! J

We decided to get off at Notre Dame and look at the church. Again, Mom was impressed with the enormity of it. And she just sighed as we walked through the church impressed with the history and sheer antiquity of it all. She kept commenting how in America people who don’t travel have no idea what they are missing (I think the point she was making was my Dad had no idea what he was missing).

I knew there were a lot of souvenir shops to the left of the church so we headed that way and voila….Mom was delighted! So many trinkets and so little time. She was able to find a number of things for all of her grandchildren and she was delighted not to break the bank yet be able to take something back for everyone. She bought scarves and playing cards, ash trays and magnets, postcards and coasters. The woman was on a mission! And for those of you who have not been there, there are many things to buy for under 5E. Great place for little gifts.

Afterwards we went to Le Quasimodo Notre Dame, a little bistro on the same street. We ordered Croque Monsieurs and Diet Cokes for lunch. Quite delicious and a bargain at around 6E each for the sandwiches. The sodas were nearly as much. But we knew that beforehand and agreed that it was a girls vacation and the girls would have whatever the girls wanted! Oh, yeah, we were being reckless now! Ha ha…

In the afternoon we had a walking tour in Montemarte. With Metro guide in hand, we ventured out to make our way to the Blanche metro stop to meet our group. I had to appear a lot more confident than I felt as Mom can be a nervous nelly so I walked with confidence and a plan devised the evening before. And actually, it worked! The metro system turned out to be quite easy. The only problem we ever had was if the train had one of those lever type releases to open the door. We never could work them. Every time we got on a train that had one, Mom would push me and back toward the other door and allow people to get in front of her. Then she would whisper to me, “I’m sure someone will open it for us.” By the end of the week, it became a giggling moment every time we saw one of these latches. I finally said to her, “You know, if we just tried it, we might be able to figure it out.” To which she replied,” And risk missing our stop? I think not. My way works.” Couldn’t argue with that.

I had used Fat Tire Bike Tours on my last trip to Paris for a Segway tour (fabulous!) and was so impressed with their company (all Americans and very helpful) that I used them for all of our tours this time. The first was a Montmarte Walking tour. The cost was 12E each for the tour and it is very easy to book ahead of time on line.

Now, I knew ahead of time where Sacre Couer was. I knew there were a lot of steps. BUT MY GOODNESS!!! There are A LOT of steps! I have to say that it was very warm while we were there and a summer wardrobe would have been a lot better than what we brought but anyway….off we went. There were about ten people in our group, young and old and by the end of the walk, it didn’t matter what the age, we were all sweating and panting.

The guide did make a lot of stops and showed us interesting things along the way. I think it was just the heat that made it hard. One neat thing that we did see was a bronze of a man who said he could walk through walls. He would do this for people and one day he got stuck. So there was a bronze sculpture made for him stuck in the wall. Being as it was so hot and we were so tired, I did not write down the name of this but I do have a picture of it if anyone is interested. It was actually quite cool. And yes, Mom made me hold his hand while she took my picture.

We finally made it to Sacre Couer at the top and the view was lovely. The tour ended there and when I told Mom we would have to walk down, I thought she might disown me. Luckily, the guide heard us and pointed out the funicular to the left of the church. Well, I thought this was a Godsend and told Mom we could ride that down. She wanted to know what a funicular was as you couldn’t see it that well from where we were. As I tried to explain that it was like a ride to the bottom, she started saying, “Oh, no, I am not going on a roller coaster!” I insisted it would be fine and off I went. Needless to say, she followed. Also, an important note here, the funicular takes your Metro Pass, so the ride was free.

At the bottom of the funicular, right in front of us, was a Haagen Dazs Ice Cream shop, a heaven send if ever there was one!

So after a long and tiring day, we headed back to our apartment. As we were walking trying to find the Metro, we passed through a neighborhood of fabric shops. Have I mentioned that Mom’s favorite hobby is sewing? She could get lost in a fabric shop for hours and for years has made my father take side trips on vacations just to buy fabric. It’s a family legend! Anyway, I truly thought I would be spared this in Europe. I’m not even going to tell you how in almost every shop we went in, she would tell me how she could make this or make that. She kept checking seam allowances and what the material was made of. I kept saying yes, you could make it, but then it would not come from Paris, would it?

Anyway….back to the fabric shops. I mean, how many fabric shops have you ever seen on vacation? In Europe? But that’s right…I stumbled onto the motherlode. Blocks and blocks of fabric. And not just in stores….on every sidewalk! There was no avoiding it. I guess this was God’s little joke on me for making my mother walk up to Sacre Couer. So yes, tired as we were, we browsed. I had to keep reminding her that she had no room in her luggage for any fabric. She touched and she felt. She sighed and sighed. Oh, to walk away from fabric. It damn near killed her.

Finally…that’s right…I kept walking….and she came along. Off we went to the Metro. We made it back to the 7th and on the way headed over to Rue Cler, a block from our apartment. There we picked up a roasted chicken, bread, cheese, and, of course, pasteries for the evening.

Settled back in our apartment, we popped in a DVD and had a great dinner. The DVD was The Four Seasons with Alan Alda and Carol Burnett. The reason for this choice was that the next night we had tickets to a concert featuring Vivaldi’s Four Seasons which is the soundtrack for the movie.

I have to say that by now Mom was really impressed with the details I had put into the trip. Not only had I picked specific movies to go with our itinerary, I had actually taken her to see fabrics! Not that I was going to tell her I never planned that!


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Old Sep 26th, 2006, 04:50 PM
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I love your report-can't wait for the next post!
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Old Sep 26th, 2006, 05:02 PM
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Thanks for posting the report, I'm enjoying it! Did you make it to Altitude 95 as planned?

John
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Old Sep 26th, 2006, 05:55 PM
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John...We did not make it to finner at Altitude 95. Our reservations were for late in the week, Thursday, and by that time we had pretty much settled into a routine of getting up early and walking all day, retiring in the early evening back at the apartment. Plus, Mom was hesitant about going up in the Tower. She was pretty adamant the first day that she had no interest in "going all the way up there". I did not realiza that she had such a fear of heights so when the time came to decide on having dinner there or not, I gave her the out figuring that she ahd done everything I wanted, I would give her this. To us, it was no great loss as I will explain when I get to Thursday.

Loveitaly...Thanks! We actually laughed a lot and made a lot of great memories. It is hard to convey all of that here but later in the week I am sure you will get the humor. The nettles story is a hoot! (That's in two days on Wednesday)
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Old Sep 26th, 2006, 06:10 PM
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Hi Dejais, I was smiling about your Mom's love for fabric stores. Dejais outside of sewing on a button I can't sew at all (well except for putting up a hem) but I absolutely love fabric stores and like your Mom I can spend hours in them.

One of my fondest days in Florence was during my last visit there. My Italian friend asked if I "minded" if we looked at some fabrics as she needed to have some new window coverings made. Minded, oh noooo, not me! We went from fabric store to fabric store for hours. I was almost giddy from looking at all of the fabrics. Next time I will buy some to have some pillow coverings made for my living room. Wish I had thought of that while swooning in the shops in Florence.

Now..more about your trip with your obviously adorable mother!
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Old Sep 26th, 2006, 06:35 PM
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LoveItaly...I just had to reply and tell you that usually when I travel I fly my mom down to Florida to babysit for my dog. She spends most of her time shopping at the local fabric shops and sewing. When she leaves I always have to give her an extra suitcase to cart her treasures back and usually have to ship a box in addition.

But she does make some lovely things. Her latest craze is quilts and when I returned from Italy last year she had a beautiful quilt with Venetian scenes on it waiting for me. She is a gem!

Well, I have to finish writing so I can post more.
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Old Sep 26th, 2006, 07:10 PM
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Dejais -

This is so enjoyable to read. Isn't it sad that some family members (your dad and my husband, for instance) simply don't get it? I know that when I finally get my husband to come with me to Europe, he will be hooked just as I am.

The fabric story was priceless. Looking forward to more.

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Old Sep 26th, 2006, 07:25 PM
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LCBoniti..Oh, honey, if you liked the fabric story, you are going to love the Bike Tour on Wednesday!!!!

DAY SIX:

Well, we are up to Tuesday, the 12th if you are keeping track. Two of Mom’s passions are the NY Yankees and CNN. She was quite dismayed that our apartment did not receive any English broadcasts. I thought we may have been able to get the BBC but we only got local channels. So since it was the anniversary of 9-11 and the Yankees are fighting to win their division, Mom was a bit distraught not to be able to get the latest updates from the States.

So, in an attempt to remedy this, every morning began with her turning on the TV, flipping through the channels, and searching for any news from home. Now, I think she had a pretty good idea that news of her beloved Yankees was hopeless, but news regarding the anniversary was possible in her mind. And so, we began each morning with Mom’s interpretation of what the French news journalists were saying about the world situation.

The most comical of these was when a shooting occurred in Montreal. Not to say the shooting was comical; it wasn’t, of course. But Mom, oh, she is another story. At first, not knowing where this had taken place, she was shouting to me in the shower that SOMETHING had occurred SOMEWHERE in the world. Could I come and listen and interpret the news for her? Suuuuuuuuuurrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrre, I can, Mom. Being as I do not speak French and am dripping wet. Yes, I would be happy to jump out of my nice warm shower and alleviate your fears.

So, out of the shower I come to try and figure out if we are in danger and if we will be able to get home. (Okay, this may not sound as funny as it was, but believe me, it was.) Anyway, I did my best to try and figure it out and then said I would check the internet later in the morning for her. She was convinced we could be in danger. Needless, to say, an hour later, she was placated when she found out we were safe and the Yankees were doing fine without her.

Today was a day that was to be easy. No touring, do what we want, easy peasy. So off we headed for the second day of our Hop On/Hop Off bus. Our mission was to go to the Musee d’Orsay and the Arc de Triomphe. When we arrived at the Musee d’Orsay, the line was WAY long. We had not secured our museum passes yet so we decided to head to the Arc de Triomphe. I knew from this board that getting passes there would be easier and we could head back to the Musee later in the day.

When we arrived at the Arc de Triomphe we wanted to climb to the top. Easier said than done. I don’t think we realized how sore the back of your calves were from marching up and down Montmarte the day before. When we reached the top of the Arc de Triomphe we collapsed on the bench near the staircase, laughing hysterically about how our legs had turned to jelly. Again, it was a warm day and we were sitting there, sweating and panting with quivering legs thankful that we would not be running into anyone we would know. We both agreed we were a wreck! And we could not stop laughing!

When we saw that there were stairs leading up to the observation deck we decided to peruse the gift shop before attempting any more stairs. Once we were outside, we marveled at the view and took our time looking out each side and finding all of the sights – the Eiffel Tower, La Defense, Sacre Couer. It was beautiful. When we were done, I asked her if she was ready to go. She looked at me and then burst out laughing. I asked her what was so funny and she said,” I suppose we have to walk back down the way we came up?” I was like,”Well, how else are going to get down?” Needless to say, we laughed all the way down.

We decided to save the Musee for later in the week since we wanted to have enough time to shower and change before our evening so we headed back to the 7th and decided to stop in at Fat Tire just to check in, say hi, and use their internet. I also wanted to download pictures off my camera because the next day we had a great tour planned to Monet’s Gardens and I wanted to be sure I had plenty of room for new photos.

Fat Tire is a great American oasis in a sea of Paris. They are located at 24 Rue de Edgar Faure in the 7th. Besides walking and biking tours, they offer great services at reasonable prices. No price gouging here. I downloaded my camera to a CD for 5E and used the internet for 10 minutes for 1E. Afterwards we headed back to the apartment to rest up for our evening.

I had experienced some really nice church concerts while I was in Italy on two previous vacations, so after some research I found a concert at the Englise de Madeline for 23E pp. As is our routine, we arrived very early so we walked around the area a bit and then stopped at a nice sidewalk café and had drinks. For the concert, we saw Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, Handel’s Water Music, Trumpets of Versailles and were enchanted by a soprano singing Ave Maria. It was a great evening and we enjoyed it immensely. It ended around 10:30pm and we headed back home.

We were tired but Mom wanted a DVD so we relaxed to Funny Lady with Barbra Streisand and James Caan (no Paris connection to this one, just a good “Mom” movie). After a half hour, I gave up and went to bed as we had a big day planned for tomorrow. We were taking a bike tour to Giverny to see Monet’s Gardens.

Just a side note regarding the planning of the bike tour. Two years ago, Mom had gotten a poor bone density report and was banned by her doctors from rollerblading (Yes, she did it with the grandkids quite often. A fact that my nephew always referred to as “totally awesome”) and bike riding. I was well aware of this and assured her it would be slow, easygoing, and safe. I promised her she would NOT get hurt. Well, we went and, although she did not need medical care, there were some technical difficulties that involved tumbling down a hill and sliding into nettles.

But that is a story for tomorrow…..stay tuned.


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Old Sep 26th, 2006, 07:40 PM
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Oh no, I have to wait until tomorrow to hear what happened to Mom? I can hardly wait. Enjoying your report a lot! Barb
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Old Sep 26th, 2006, 07:41 PM
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Dejais, a very entertsining post.
The man who walked through walls is "Le Passe-Muraille" He's a character in a story by Marcel Ayme. The sculpture is by the famous actor and lover of Jean Cocteau, Jean Marais. I believe you can read the tale on line.
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Old Sep 27th, 2006, 10:15 AM
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Oh my dear, Dejais, thank you for such a laugh! Your mother and the CNN/Yankees/shooting incident was hilarious! And the Arc - I am still chuckling over that.

Thank you for making my day and I'm looking forward to more. . .
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Old Sep 27th, 2006, 10:59 AM
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The boys are playing poker at my house tonight so I should be able to post a lot more.

Thanks for your kind words, LCBoniti. I see you also are caught up in Travelgirls posts. I just spent my lunch hour catching up ion all that I have missed these past few weeks.

So, I will post more tonight. Stay tuned!
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Old Sep 27th, 2006, 11:06 AM
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Enjoying your entertaining report! You and your Mom are both lucky to have the compatibility you seem to have. So many mothers and daughters have too many "issues" to enjoy each other's company very much. I'm looking forward to the rest of the report.
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Old Sep 27th, 2006, 12:06 PM
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The fabric shops at the bottom of Sacré Coeur (called the "Marché Saint Pierre") are famous throughout France, and I would even venture to say "world famous". I had a Pakistani colleague who would bring back tons of the fabrics to his family in Karachi because "we can't find anything this good over there" -- until that moment, I would have thought that a lot of the fabrics were imported from India or Pakistan, especially the shiny ones with the gold threads that he would buy.
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Old Sep 27th, 2006, 12:09 PM
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Sounds wonderful
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Old Sep 27th, 2006, 12:32 PM
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Love your report. Although I love my own mother dearly, I'd be ready to strangle her by the end of a transatlantic flight; I'd take so many pills to "relax" that I'd be an addict by the time I got home. I'm glad the two of you travel well together. It would, however, be very funny to read HER trip report. ("There was a shooting that put us in danger and my daughter didn't even care!")

I hear what you're saying about Packages and getting everything in the package. I've pretty much stopped booking special deals - makes you sound like such a money grubber when you call and say "There wasn't free juice, a newspaper or a rose with my breakfast and I'm supposed to get that in the package" but heck, that's what you're supposed to get!
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Old Sep 27th, 2006, 05:54 PM
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First of all, thank you for all of your positive comments. After reading so many great trip reports here at Fodor’s, it can be a bit intimidating to post. Also, at the same time, it is hard to capture the heart of our experience without being long winded. So, I thank you for continuing to read.

Kerouac…Thank you for that info. I will pass it along to Mom. I did not know that we had actually found a true treasure trove. I thought it was just God shaking His finger at me and laughing.

Sue…No issues here but I do know what you mean. I never understand my girlfriends who have problems with their moms. Mine has always been great. She is a best friend who understands she is also my mom. I enjoy her company and we do make great traveling pals since we are both pretty easy going. We actually spent a lot of the trip imagining if we were there with others like our husbands, my sister, etc. and we agreed we would not have had as good an experience if it had been with someone else. We considered ourselves lucky indeed to have this special experience.

DAY SEVEN:

This was the day of our bike tour to Monet’s Gardens or as I like to refer to it, Mom’s Shining Moment of Hilarity. Once again, we had booked this ahead of time through Fat Tire Bike Tours. The cost was 65E per person which included the bike tour, the train tickets, and entrance to Monet’s Gardens. We were to meet our tour group at platform 22 of St Lazare’s train station so off we headed to the Metro with map in hand.

By this time, we were pretty adept at getting around the Metro system. Other than the fear of those silly lever doors, we were doing quite well. As we made our way through the underground tunnels to connect to other trains we saw many performers. Most of them used sound systems to accompany their playing so as you came down the tunnel hearing them, it seemed as though a band should be around the next corner. Each was talented and we would stop and enjoy them before moving on.

This morning we passed an old man playing a violin. His dear wife stood by his side and held his sheet music for him. My mother could not stop commenting on the apparent devotion they had for each other that was evident in the way they looked at each other as he played. It was such a sweet sight to see.

Finally, we had to drag ourselves away but not before Mom made a typical “Ellie” comment. We call them Ellie comments (or moments) because her name is Ellen and when she sounds or acts ditzy we call her Ellie as in,” Oooooh, Ellie, how silly.” (Is this translating well??? I don’t know.) Anyway, as we were walking away, she said, “What a wonderful idea for your father and me. We could actually pay for our way around the world if we did that.” Confused I said,” Do what? Dad doesn’t play the violin.” And she said,” Oh, no, but he could strum his banjo (an instrument Dad attempted but never did master).” “What would you do while he did that? Hold his music?” I asked trying to hold in the laughter while picturing this. “Oh,” she said very confidently and proudly, “I would twirl my baton!” (She was a drum majorette in high school.) And on she walked, head held high with a dreamlike smile on her face as if she had just discovered a grand secret, smiling all the way to the next station. It was truly a moment, this moment of insight.

Later when I emailed my brother and sister about this, I thought I could hear the laughter right through the internet. My brother said it reminded him of when we were little, on vacation, and Dad would sing “She’ll Be Coming ‘Round the Mountain”. He thought they could be quite the act as long as it was in Paris where no one knew them….or us.

Anyway, I digress. We finally reached the platform and, of course, we were early. So we walked around for a bit. I could see Mom was getting concerned the closer it got to our meeting time. It seemed there were people around, but no one who appeared to be waiting like us. Sure enough, as soon as it reached the appointed time, there was our guide with the brochure in his hand. And it was like at the end of the movie, Harry and the Hendersons when the creatures “appear” out of the woods; all of the other people in the group were suddenly there. I mean they were there the whole time, we just didn’t “see” them. Guess you have to see the movie. It gave us a good laugh anyway.

We boarded the train which took us to Giverny (about 50 miles outside of Paris) in about an hour’s time. I’m guessing at the time, it could have been a bit longer. We were so busy meeting others and talking, the time flew.

We met two girls who were each traveling solo and my mother just grilled them. She was so impressed that they would travel alone (Aren’t you scared?), around Europe (Without knowing the language?), and for so long (Don’t you miss home?). We both came away very impressed and agreed that times had certainly changed since we were their ages (late 20’s) and they were very lucky to have opportunities such as this. Even though we are from different generations, at that same age, both my mother and I had been busy raising children and worrying about careers and homes. It became another great opportunity for mom and I to discuss how much things have changed in our lifetimes.

One of the best things about the trip was the chance to have real discussions about our lives, our memories, and the world around us. We spent a lot of time talking and by the end of the trip I think we were both talked out.

When we arrived there was an outdoor market as well as a supermarket and we had about 20 minutes to pick up supplies for a picnic. We purchased bread, salami, proscuitto, and cheese for our lunch. We walked about two blocks and picked up the bicycles.

Each bike had a name so Cody, our guide, said as he called out the names, if you “felt” it, then claim it. He called a few names and people shyly stepped up and took bikes. When he got to about the third or fourth bike, he called out Strawberry Blonde. I looked at Mom who happens to be a strawberry blonde and I said, “Oh, Mom, that one has your name written all over it.” She grinned from ear to ear and said, “I think you are absolutely right about that,” and she claimed it as her own.

Off we went, along the streets headed to the banks of the Seine River for our picnic lunch. I kept an eye out for Mom but she had made a friend and was pretty happy peddling along near the back of the pack.

Once we reached our spot there was a steep hill to travel down. Most of us just took the slope gently and went diagonally so as not to get up too much speed. As I headed down, I looked back at Mom and thought this may be too steep for her, but she was way ahead of me.

She had dismounted and saw me looking at her and said,” Not to worry, Deborah. I am not that stupid. I will walk down.” And she walked her bike down. (You have to know the way she says my name to appreciate that line.)

The picnic was lovely and we enjoyed getting to know our fellow riders. Mom asked everyone a lot of questions so people got to know each other rather quickly. She was great for this as it made us all get to know each other better.

With lunch over, we were ready to head to Monet’s Gardens which was about 2km away by bike. Everyone began pushing their bikes back up the slope toward the bike path and Mom pointed out rather loudly,” Oh, I think if you rode down the hill, you have to ride back up.” This got quite a laugh out of everyone.

Once on the bike path, Cody told us he would follow behind the group in case there were any mishaps (flat tires, slipped chains). Although this was never the case, he assured us, it was for safety precautions. So down the path we went. I was ahead of Mom since I had the leftover picnic supplies on the back of my bike. This way if something fell off, she could call out and I would stop. I knew Cody was behind her and another older woman so I was not worried.

As we rode along we would come to barriers when there was a rode to cross. Some of us would get down off the bikes and walk them through the gate-like barriers while others slowly maneuvered through them still riding. I stopped each time to make sure Mom got through safely. As I said before, riding a bike was a concern for Mom but this seemed slow and safe enough as we went along.

As I came toward another road, I noticed that people were able to ride around the gate on a little path so I did this. As I crossed the road and went around the next gate on the path I looked over my shoulder to check on Mom. As I did this, my bike caught the edge of the path and the bike slipped. There was a slope that went down about 5 feet and I almost slid down it when I caught the edge. I stopped and called back to Mom as she rode around the first gate to be careful not to catch the edge on the path as I had just done and then I continued on.

As I looked back over my shoulder to watch Mom ride around the second gate, you guessed it….she caught the edge and, as if in slow motion, the bike slid out from under her and continued down the slope into about three feet of grass. To correct her slide, Mom leaned the other way and wound up going bottoms up over the bike and landing five feet down the slope facedown on her bike.

All of us in the back saw this and stopped, calling out, “Are you alright?” Being the dutiful daughter, I stood there for a moment debating. Do I run back and help her? Or do I TAKE THE PICTURE??? Well, you know I had to do the right thing. So yes, I whipped out the camera and took the picture!

By this time, Cody had reached her and was helping her up the slope. I snapped off a couple of great shots and then ran back to check on her. She was holding her hands out in front of her saying,”Oooh, my hands, they sting!” What she had fallen on were nettles which, I guess, are tall blades of grass which little pricklies on them. Her hands and arms welled up with a rash and she said they stung. Cody explained that it was okay, this would pass., but it would sting for a bit. We wiped her arms down with antibacterial wipes someone had brought with them.

Once, we made sure she was okay, we went on. I felt so bad. Here I had assured her this would be safe and yet she had done exactly what I swore she would not do. She had fallen. But trooper that she was, on she went.

Once we arrived at the Gardens, we went in and toured the Lily Ponds first. Every corner we turned was like a Monet painting. Mom is a huge Monet fan and has several of his paintings in her house and she pointed out all of the familiar scenes we saw. I had booked this tour specifically with her in mind and was glad she was enjoying it despite the stinging.

After the ponds, we headed to the gardens which were also breathtaking. Then we went through his house. It was quite large and had a lot of photos in it from his life there. It seemed as though nothing had really changed. It looked just like the photos.

We had time afterward and met back at the bikes where everyone laid in the grass and enjoyed the day. We rode back to town, put the bikes away and headed toward the train. Once on the train, Mom and I were discussing the day when we got to the part when she fell.

I was very apologetic saying I was SO sorry that she fell and got hurt, but she insisted it didn’t hurt, it just stung. Everytime she said the word, she dragged it out….stiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiings. Well, I couldn’t hold it in any longer. The laughter just started coming and wouldn’t stop. And once I started, she couldn’t stop. We laughed so hard, imagining what our family doctor back home would say when she told him she had ridden a bike despite his telling her not to AND she had actually fallen…into nettles. Oh, and did we mention, it stiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiings. Then we started imagining what my brother and sister would say…and Dad. Oh, it hurt so much, tears were rolling down our face. It was truly the highlight and best moment of the trip for me!

Once back in Paris, we figured we had had enough of a great day. It was around 7:30pm so we got take-away and went back to the apartment for another DVD and bed. After all, tomorrow was another day and who knew what trouble we could get into!

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