Four great days in Paris in August

Aug 31st, 2010, 09:40 AM
  #1  
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Join Date: Nov 2007
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Four great days in Paris in August

Fodor’s forum and Tom’s Guide to Paris (http://www.tomsguidetoparis.com/TomsGuideToParis.php) were very helpful in the trip planning process, so here I return the favor.

We arrived on a noon flight to CDG (okay so the trip was really 4.5 days) where I quickly found the information desk and picked up our 4-day Museum Passes (http://en.parismuseumpass.com/). The free map offered there was also very helpful. The Museum Pass is really, really great, however, it was not always evident where one was supposed to use it at each site. Most museums had security lines (don’t drag a backpack around; try to streamline your stuff so you get thru the x-ray machines faster), and some had a separate security line for museum pass users but there wasn’t really good signage. Rule of thumb: Head for the short line or, in the case of St. Chapelle, follow the pushy Italians with the museum passes in their hands (I grew up in NYC, I admire pushy). St. Chapelle does have two security lines (one has a little paper sign that says carta pass or something) they are right next to each other and suddenly you end up cutting in front of everybody (not for the faint of heart). Then you get into a courtyard where you can breeze past everybody waiting to buy a ticket. I want a Museum Pass for the rest of my life…

Anyway, back to Paris. At the airport our next stop was the RER station (subway) where we bought our tickets into Paris and also a carnet (which really is just a little pile of 10 tickets; bring a rubber band). We were staying right in the center of Paris at Hotel du Quai Voltaire (http://www.quaivoltaire.fr/?adw=1), so I knew we would be walking most places but my husband wanted to have metro passes at the ready (he came home with 5 out of the 10 he was carrying around). Our travel agent found the hotel for us. We wanted quiet, central and reasonably priced. It was very central (right across the Seine from the Louvre) ~$150 a night, but our first room (#21) was very noisy. Quai Voltaire is a busy street and we eventually opted to forgo the view of the Seine and take an inside room (#46) that ended up being much larger, less stuffy, very quiet. This worked out well as we ended up coming back for naps every day at 3pm. The hotel is very basic but clean and they have recently remodeled the bathrooms.

Wednesday. Our first order of business was lunch (food is always my first priority). Rue du Bac, between us and the Musee d’Orsay was a street of restaurants. We ended up at three of them while we were there. Lunch the first day was at Le Bar Bac (a cheap unassuming place which I do NOT recommend). I rated all nine meals (not including breakfast) and that lunch ended up at the bottom. It wasn’t terrible, it was just mediocre. Dinner at La Fregate on the corner of Rue du Bac and Quai Voltaire (http://www.lafregateparis.com/La_Fregate/Accueil.html) that night topped my list for an amazing cassoulet. In between the two meals I checked out the Paris Plage (temporary faux beach on the Seine) while my husband napped.

Thursday. We knew not to bother with breakfast at the hotel, because it was 10 euro for the same breakfast offered everywhere else cheaper (bread, butter, croissant, jam, OJ, coffee). Our destination was Notre Dame so we walked in that direction and stumbled on Café Dauphine (on the same block as the Pont Neuf but on the Left Bank). There we had our breakfast, 7.50 euro, with café crème (coffee w/steamed milk) and Carla, the tiniest dog ever. Our first agenda item was a walking tour. My husband had found Discover Walks on the web (http://www.discoverwalks.com/index.html) – free walking tours, in English, given by young Parisians. They were outstanding, informative, fun; we loved the one around Notre Dame so much, we went on another one to the Left Bank two days later. Of course you want to tip them well because they do such a great job. After the tour we waited in the long (but moving) line to get into the cathedral itself. Hubby saved our spot while I scurried thru the Crypt Archeologique (enter at the corner of the big square in front of ND, free with my Museum Pass, which I was itching to use). I ran back and met him in line. The cathedral is completely amazing, huge, wow. The museum pass could’ve gotten us into the towers of the cathedral but you would have to shoot me before getting me to stand in a 2.5 hour line, then walking up all those steps. Lunch was next and we headed over to Ile St. Louis, thru the pretty garden on the side and back of the cathedral. The recommended restaurant for lunch, Brasserie de L'ile (55 quai de Bourbon) just after you cross bridge between islands, was closed because it was August (we found a lot of that), so we kept walking and ended up at Le Lutetia, (33 Quai Bourbon), which had nice views, and great frites but I’ve had better mussels. We then walked around the cute little streets and shops of Isle St. Louis clutching our Berthillon ice cream cones. Yes, we probably should have bought the Eifel Tower cheese grater... On to St. Chapelle (see above for how we got in quickly). Unfortunately, the stained glass is being worked on, so 1/3 of the chapel is blocked off; a serious bummer when all there is to do is sit and be surrounded by the glass. On to nap time, then we compared notes and planned out the next three days. We walked back to Rue du Bac to see if we could find dinner and ended up walking for blocks and blocks, finally stumbling on a wonderful little restaurant called A La Petite Chaise (http://www.alapetitechaise.fr/ ) on Rue Grenelle. Number two of my best meals for the goat cheese salad, steak with green pepper sauce, white chocolate mousse, etc. Our evening’s entertainment was going to see the Eifel Tower, so we hopped on the metro to Bir Hakim and followed the crowds marching toward the lit up tower. We got there in time for sparklies at 10pm then kept walking underneath and found a big field of picnickers basking in the glow. Quite a sight. We kept going, looking for a bathroom (turns out cafes/bars never seem to mind if you use their bathrooms) and a metro and eventually stumbled upon both.

Friday. Breakfast at Boulangerie Eric Kayser (http://maison-kayser.com/) on Rue du Bac where I had a cheese sandwich (nice because it was toasted and gooey, weird because there seemed to be pesto in it) my husband had a big, juicy apple turnover that he claimed as his favorite piece of food of the trip. Today was impressionist museum day with a trip to Musee d’Orsay (crowded, amazing, worth wandering in and out of upper floor nooks and crannies), and the Musée de l'Orangerie, (small, lovely, quiet). I had wanted to go to the Musee Rodin but there just wasn’t enough time/energy. We sat for a bit in the Tuileries (gardens) then went off into the Right Bank looking for lunch. We passed two squares with giant phallic symbols (Concorde and Vendome) then finally found ourselves at a big intersection and lunch at the Café de l’Olympia (2 Boulevard de la Madeleine), which I must recommend because they took pity on me and replaced my meal after I ordered the wrong thing. Now I know that “pates” is not plural for many pieces of pate, it means pasta. It even had it in English on the menu but I thought it was a typo (my husband had a field day with this story; I’m sure it’s been Facebooked). I was so happy when they replaced my heap of cold pasta with a wonderful plate of charcuterie. Lunch saved! Thank you Café Olympia! We walked back through the Tuileries and I went on the giant Ferris wheel, which was a big highlight of my trip. Nap time, then we decided that tonight we’d go on our Seine cruise. I chose Vedettes Pont Neuf (http://www.vedettesdupontneuf.com/) primarily because of their location and we were very satisfied with the experience. We sat on the top of the boat on the 9:30pm trip and got great views of the lit up buildings. It also didn’t hurt that I had a 2 euro off each ride coupon from the Internet. We needed to have a quick dinner before the trip so we went to Place Dauphine on Ile de la Cite which is this lovely little quiet triangle just off the Pont Neuf that has 4 or 5 restaurants to choose from. We ended up at Ma Salle à Manger, 26 Place Dauphine because they were so quick to get us a table. The food was good but somehow we ended up getting charged 42 euro for the food which seemed very high considering he had an appetizer, I had a main dish and we shared dessert. Lack of time and language abilities kept us from demanding a recount. On our walk back to the hotel we checked out the party scene on the Ponts des Arts, a pedestrian bridge across the Seine.

Saturday. Today we headed for the Latin Quarter and another great walking tour from Discover Walks. We found breakfast at a café on the way and met our guide near Notre Dame. By now I was a seasoned traveler and knew enough to shake my head “No” when someone (begging) asked me if I spoke English. The 90-minute walk thru the Latin Quarter was just as lively and informative as the other walk around Notre Dame. After the walk (and a fortifying coffee), we went to the Musee CLUNY, now known at the National Museum of the Middle Ages (http://www.musee-moyenage.fr/). This place was a lovely jewel. My husband found it boring until someone’s cell tone rang out with AC/DC in the middle of a really quiet gallery full of medieval art. Lunch was at a small unassuming café nearby where the combination of lots of red wine with lots of cheese (a three cheese crepe to be exact) made it one of the more memorable meals for me. Alas, I don’t remember the name of the place (or much of anything else after lunch). We wondered around a bit, should have gone to the Luxembourg Gardens but didn’t, then went home for our nap. This evening’s entertainment revolved around an experiment with bus travel and a journey to find a recommended restaurant. We’d taken the metro a few times and were comfortable with it (Tom’s Guide helped with the how-to) but the buses were a mystery. We decided to try to get to the Arc de Triomph via bus because we knew what our destination looked like. We found the #73 bus near the Orsay and took it up the Champs-Élysées. It was 6 pm on a Saturday night, hot, trafficky and not fun at all. We finally got off and fought our way thru the crowds to the monument, found the tunnels to it and on to the other side of the circle, got on a metro and got the heck out of there. Feh. Our dinner restaurant was Pasco, (764 Blvd de La Tour-Maubourg) (http://restaurantpasco.com/) right next to Invalides. It was excellent; modern with great food and service.

Sunday. Our last day. We had a shuttle reservation back to the airport at 4:30 so we had a whole day to catch up on what we’d missed. The shuttle was offered to us when we checked into our hotel. We had originally planned to take the RER back, but for 34 euro instead of 17, we decided to splurge and were happy with the decision. The Louvre was the after-lunch plan and I couldn’t decide whether to go to the Pompidou Centre or the Place de Voges in the morning so I ran around to both while my husband relaxed. I stuck my head in the Place de Voges (very pretty square in the Morais, just like everybody said) then got to the Pompidou just as it opened. I found the shorter security line which let me in with my Museum Pass. You gotta get this thing. Really. The Museum had a really confusing layout, and I kept having to flash my pass and backtrack after I took the obligatory escalator ride to the top floor for the view. Finding the floor that had the art from 1905 to 1960 was a challenge, but I eventually made it. I also experienced a new form of begging outside by a woman with a clipboard who seemed to be taking a survey of where you are from but was really asking for money. I got back to the hotel in time for lunch which we ate at a café on the corner of Rue du Bac and Rue de Lille. Don’t know the name but I finally got my steak frites, which was tasty once I sent back the piece that was way too “bien quit” (well done) I had ordered it “a point” (medium rare). The steaks looked better at the café half a block closer to the river, but I was happy with mine too. We had an agenda for our trip to the Louvre (the pass gave instructions on which entrance to use). We were there to see the two Vermeers, which we did. A last minute pastry from Eric Kayser fortified me for the shuttle ride to the airport where our Air France flight awaited. The food was great on the plane too! Viva la France!
lbecker24 is offline  
Aug 31st, 2010, 10:28 AM
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Join Date: Mar 2005
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Fantastic - thanks for the report. I love Paris too.
cobbie is offline  
Aug 31st, 2010, 11:06 AM
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Join Date: Jul 2004
Posts: 294
Thank you for posting this report! I'm headed back to Paris in November and you've provided some great restaurant recommendations that I want to try. I've sent an inquiry to A La Petite Chaise for dinner one night.

TR
TravelRibbon is offline  
Aug 31st, 2010, 11:12 AM
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Thanks. Sounds like you filled your time (and tummies) well.
Michel_Paris is offline  
Aug 31st, 2010, 12:19 PM
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Join Date: Feb 2006
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lovely report, lbecker. I really regret the fact that DH and i didn't get museum passes when we were there earlier in the year, and i regretted it even more when we saw the queue for st. Chappelle. which after 30 years or so of going to Paris i STILL haven't seen. [a good excuse to go again?]

looking forward to more!
annhig is offline  
Sep 2nd, 2010, 06:01 AM
  #6  
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Hopefully the next time you go to St. Chappelle they will be finished working on it.

I just went to google maps (I love that little person you put on the street so you can look around). The restaurant where we had our last lunch is Brasserie Au Courrier de Lyon, on the corner of Rue du Bac and Rue du Verneil, which is right across the street from the Eric Kayser. The restaurant that had the better looking steaks was Le Terminus, 5 Rue du Bac.
lbecker24 is offline  
Sep 2nd, 2010, 06:57 AM
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Me again! I used the little person and found the creperie around the corner from Musee CLUNY that had the wonderful 3 cheese crepe (and jug o' red wine); Le Creperie St. Jacques, at 71 Rue Saint Jacques. Much more relaxing than eating amongst the craziness around Rue de Harpe.
lbecker24 is offline  
Sep 3rd, 2010, 12:20 AM
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Join Date: Jun 2003
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I'm glad you had a good time. Your trip report has numerous good tips for future visitors. Especially about pasta.
kerouac is offline  

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