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France Report: Moules & Frites, Bag Disaster, and Burgandy Barging

France Report: Moules & Frites, Bag Disaster, and Burgandy Barging

Nov 6th, 2005, 11:10 PM
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Loving your trip report, with the exception that the thought of Special K, and low fat milk for breakfast (or any other meal) in Paris makes my teeth hurt.

nukesafe is offline  
Nov 7th, 2005, 07:07 AM
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PARIS, PART I - continued

I've decided not to give a blow by blow of our week in Paris. For one thing, I didn't keep any notes (I didn't think I would do a trip report), I have a terrible memory, and we did all the usual things and went to the usual places. Scores of you have written brilliant Paris reports, and I don't want to bore you with our walk around the Arc de Triomphe. I'll just give you the highlights and a few of our favorite things. One note: thanks again to Fodorites, I bought a great pedometer prior to the trip, and got a kick out of seeing how much we walked while in Paris. Our first day, we logged 10 miles, and after that, averaged 6 to 7 miles a day.

Restaurants: It's time for a confession. If you're looking for an Ira-style catalog of incredible meals, forget it! We love to eat and I'm something of a gourmet cook, but money was a factor on this trip. We could not afford to eat 60+ Euro meals, and that's not really our style, anyway. We wanted authentic French food, but tended to go to small places where the fixe pris was 15-20 Euros. You can't get great food for that, but you can eat decently.

There were 3 restaurants that were pretty good, all in our Bastille area. Chez Paul, Le Petit Keller (where I had yummy duck and figs) and Cafe de la Poste (probably not the exact name). We had the best wine at the latter, a Cotes de Provence, but otherwise we just had the vin de pays, and it was usually drinkable.

Favorite tour: the Tower tour at Notre Dame. It was worth the 444 steps to the top in order to be within spitting distance of the gargoyles. D got some fabulous pictures of the gnarly little guys and the view from up there was fantastic.

Favorite museum: Musee D'Orsay. By the time I got to the Van Gogh room, I was pretty much overwhelmed with the quality and sheer numbers of masterpieces. I was underwhelmed with the bathroom situation, however. If you've been there, you know what I mean. We did have a very nice lunch in the cafe, though.

Favorite shop: Shakespeare & Co. bookstore. There's a backstory: D was recently involved in a series of readings of a new play about Sylvia Beach, Hemingway and Joyce that took place in the bookstore. So it was really cool to be there, even though it's not in the same location anymore. I bought a very expensive paperback book there.

Favorite experience: the evening Segway tour, which I learned about on this board, of course. I cringed at the cost ($95 each) but it was worth every penny. There were 7 people in our group, plus the guide, and unbelievably, one of the couples was from Portland! The other couple was Japanese and the 7th person was a middle-aged guy from Texas. The Japanese man was hilarious: right out of central casting for a martial arts villian, big and burly, grunting whenever something amused him. The Texan kept us entertained with stories and his amazing energy. Unfortunately, the Tower Tour with its 444 steps (888 if you count coming down) had been experienced earlier that day, so my feet were already a bit sore. Now I had to stand on this contraption for 4.5 hours! By about 10:30 PM, my feet were screaming and I was still suffering from jetlag, and it was tough staying awake. And I have to tell you, the whole thing is a bit dangerous (it would never be allowed in the States). There were many times when it would have been easy to topple into the river or fall down a set of stairs. You have to cross busy intersections that aren't well lit. We had a few mishaps: D ran into a curb and fell over, scraping his forearms, and I ran over a pedestrian's foot! She wasn't limping when I left, after profusely apologizing, so I guess I didn't break her foot. Another woman lost control of her Segway and had to chase it down a ramp. But the funniest thing about the whole evening was the look on sophisticated Parisians' faces when we approached them. We had helmets on our heads, and reflective, oddly shaped vests over our clothes, and we were riding these wierd looking contraptions. I'm sure we looked like a group of manic road construction workers from outer space! However, it was a blast and I highly recommend it. Fun, fun, fun.

Another strange coincidence connected with the Segway tour: the next day, we were in the Musee D'Orsay and ran into the Texan. Not 5 minutes later, the Japanese couple walked by, and 5 minutes after that, the other Portland couple also appeared! It was incredible that we all ended up there at the same time and on the same floor. Kind of spooky.

OK, I have to go work now. Coming up next: The Cousins Arrive.
dabodin is offline  
Nov 7th, 2005, 09:02 AM
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ooh ooh ooh ooh ooh...
More please!!!
kamahinaohoku is offline  
Nov 7th, 2005, 09:23 AM
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Hi dab,

>We wanted authentic French food, but tended to go to small places where the fixe pris was 15-20 Euros.<

Please, don't neglect to tell us about those.

ira is offline  
Nov 7th, 2005, 09:40 AM
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oooohhh goodie! I am loving it so far, I REALLY want to do a barge trip!
marigross is offline  
Nov 7th, 2005, 10:23 AM
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Ira: Maybe you missed them in the next paragraph? Chez Paul, Le Petite Keller and Cafe de la Poste. I believe they each had several fixe pris choices, as most restaurants do. We usually went with the cheapest or next to cheapest. Our meals at the first two places each cost about $65, with wine.
dabodin is offline  
Nov 7th, 2005, 11:14 AM
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PARIS, PART II: The Cousins and Our First Moules Sighting

OK, backstory on the Cousins. About a month before we were to leave for France, the married cousin (I'll call her Teddy, because she is obsessed with Teddy Bears and takes her favorite on every trip), emailed us to say that they were going to Paris at about the same time that we were going to be there. The unmarried cousin (I'll call her LA because that's where she lives) has been a flight attendent for over 30 years and is still going strong as she pushes 60! She has a male flight attendent friend who is half-French and has an apartment in the Latin Quarter which he lets her use whenever he is not there himself. She usually takes Teddy and Teddy's husband (who I'll call TH for obvious reasons), both of whom are retired and travel all over the place and will do so at the drop of a hat. They frequently all go together to Paris and stay in this apartment and have in fact, done most of its decorating and furnishing because the owner is a typical bachelor who can't be bothered.

I was thrilled about this new development because they are my favorite cousins and we always have a lot of fun together. We all have our eccentricities and I wouldn't want to TRAVEL with them, but our stays in Paris would only overlap for 3 days, so it would be perfect!

I knew when they were arriving, and we had plans to walk to their apartment for aperitifs. Then we would all walk to their favorite restaurant for dinner. They did mention casually that there was not an elevator in their building, but I'm not sure they mentioned that they were on the 6th floor! I have to say, it was a very picturesque, curving stairway, but I can't imagine taking your luggage up that many steps, and transversing them several times each day. I again congratulated myself on having found a place with a lift.

We had a swell reunion, with lots of red wine and nibbles. The apartment is really cute, with a strange layout and cramped quarters, but since they didn't have to pay anything to stay there, it was an incredible place. Plus their kitchen window looked right out at Notre Dame! I loved their neighborhood, and felt ours was a little too quiet by comparison. They were more central, and had tons of shops and restaurants nearby, while our location was a little more sparse on the amenities.

Then they led us to the restaurant I'd been hearing about for several years. To get there, we had to walk upward through the Latin Quarter, which D and I hadn't really explored yet. How fun and lively it is! After about a 10 minute walk, we turned onto a great little street called Rue de Pot de Feu (not sure if that's exactly right). It was wall to wall with restaurants and absolutely popping with energy. We went to the last restaurant on the right, and there it was: Pot de Terre. LA and TH had raved about this place because for 14 Euros you get their all-time favorite French meal: moules de mariniere (2 E supplement), duck confit and creme brulee for dessert. It was about 7:30, just getting dark, a warm and perfect night. We sat outside at their "favorite table" and it really was a magical night. All the waiters knew them and there was lots of teasing and kidding around. And the meal did really live up to its billing. The mussels were brought out in large enamel pots, kind of like pasta cookers. You use the lid to discard the shells. The duck confit was served with roasted potatoes, made as only the French can do, and the creme brulee was perfect. For the price, it's a very good deal.

The next day, D and I were scheduled to do Montmartre and the Pere-Lachaise Cemetary. We took the subway to the base of the hill and had great fun walking up to Sacre Coeur. We stopped for coffee at the cafe where Amelie was filmed, and I must say, it's kind of a dump. The bathroom there was the worst one I encountered on our trip. They must not have made anything from the movie!

From Sacre Coeur, we walked through Parc du Bellevelle and on to the cemetary. I think we clocked the most miles that day of any. It was way, way too much to do in one day, and we had to beg off from meeting the Cousins that night for dinner. We loved the cemetary, though, and were deeply moved by the Holocaust memorials. We also particularly loved the prone statue of a young man shot by Napolean III, supposedly in the position, lying on his back, in which his body was discovered. Infertile women, hoping for a cure, have rubbed his private parts to a shiny copper color. We also were quite taken with Oscar Wilde's tomb, and D got a great picture of me adding my lipstick kiss to the granite.

On the next day, our last in Paris, the Cousins took us to one of their favorite flea/antique markets, can't remember the name, sorry. It had really great stuff, from paintings to kitchen gadgets. Afterwards, D and I cooled our aching feet at a Starbucks, just for a change. That night we braved the 6 flights of stairs to have dinner at the Cousins' apartment. TH had brought along his laptop, and we checked our email. They served us roasted chicken (from a market), glazed carrots, a salade lardon, and some kind of wonderful cake for dessert. They pride themselves on finding great wine bargains, and every bottle we drank with them cost under 6 euros, I kid you not. And it was pretty good! (I'm sure Ira and the other gourmets are rolling their eyes at our pitiful cheapskatedness.) My entire family likes a bargain; it must be in our genes.

dabodin is offline  
Nov 7th, 2005, 11:50 AM
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Good so far - but hanging in for the barge!!!!!!!!!!!
margo_oz is offline  
Nov 7th, 2005, 07:56 PM
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Your storytelling is so compelling, I briefly abandoned my obsessive quest for barge infomation. Do write on.
Robbietravels is offline  
Nov 7th, 2005, 08:02 PM
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I am laughing so hard at the thought of the faces of those seeing the Construction Workers from Outer Space coming at them

I cannot wait to hear about the Moules & Frites!
Scarlett is offline  
Nov 7th, 2005, 11:21 PM
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I am really enjoying reading this report.
Looking at my Michelin map of Paris, Parc de Belleville seems miles away from Sacre Coeur in the 20e! Did you really walk all that way? You have my admiration!
tod is offline  
Nov 7th, 2005, 11:34 PM
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Thanks dabodin. I'm enjoying the read and looking forward to the barge installment.
indytravel is offline  
Nov 8th, 2005, 12:08 AM
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dabodin, you're a damn good writer for an accountant. enjoying your serial.

dumb question (i'm new to this website): what's a DH? some kind of husband - darling?? devoted??

i think i've seen DW on these pages too, for the other (not to say better) half, i presume.
kahern is offline  
Nov 8th, 2005, 05:05 AM
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dh - dear husband
dw - dear wife

more please, I love it!
radiofanatic is offline  
Nov 8th, 2005, 07:11 AM
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Hi dab,

>(I'm sure Ira and the other gourmets are rolling their eyes at our pitiful cheapskatedness.) <

Not at all. Good food at low prices is not to be sneered at. Thanks for the mention of "Pot de Terre".

I believe that your street was Rue du Pot de Fer.

ira is offline  
Nov 8th, 2005, 07:19 AM
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Please ?????
sfowler is offline  
Nov 8th, 2005, 07:24 AM
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Thanks for the wonderful trip report! I'm really enjoying it!!!
dina4 is offline  
Nov 8th, 2005, 08:26 AM
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I'm lovin' it!
Glad the apartment on Rue Mornay worked out. It is, as you note, not in the midst of lots of shops, but that is one of the things we liked. There are bakery/brasserie places just a few steps away, and even grocery stores are within an easy walk, but you don't have to contend with crowds and noise. The terraces are just great, and it was all topped off by having an elevator/lift. Nice, too, to be able to work out arrangements with an owner in the US before traveling.
Seamus is online now  
Nov 8th, 2005, 08:35 AM
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Tod: You're right, I think we did take a subway between Sacre Coeur and Parc du Belleville. Even then, we walked many, many miles that day. My DH is one of those people who doesn't let being tired and having sore feet spoil the pleasure of a 10 mile "stroll".

Next segment coming up this afternoon. Thanks for all kind words (I stole that from Ira).
dabodin is offline  
Nov 8th, 2005, 09:40 AM
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My mouth is watering! can't wait to hear about the moules et frites-and aren't those pots they are served in just the cutest?
misscarol is offline  

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