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Hot Flashes and Cold Rain in Paris: Is it too late for a September trip report?

Hot Flashes and Cold Rain in Paris: Is it too late for a September trip report?

Old Jan 16th, 2008, 12:54 PM
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This report is fun to read, and I can relate in so many ways. We took friends with us to Paris a few years ago. It is a tale worth telling, but I don't have the flair you have for story telling. We are all still friends, but we have not traveled together since then, nor have I encouraged anyone else to travel with us. Then this past fall, my husband and I went to Germany. Great trip, our 8th (I think) to Europe, but I "suffered" through many of the feelings you have described. I am not sure I have been on a trip before when I awakened most mornings, and from moment to moment, alternated between wanting to be at home and yet wanted to be where I was.
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Old Jan 16th, 2008, 01:30 PM
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Jess, Oh Jess, where are you?
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Old Jan 16th, 2008, 01:47 PM
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This is fascinating, especially since I am planning a return trip to Paris, this time with a friend as well as my SO, and I'm wondering how it will be different.

On a practical note, Jess, how do you find out how to use a French stove? The one I had last time didn't seem to have a temperature indicator, and I nearly cremated a chicken.

Thanks for all your insights. No, I don't think S. thought you drank too much; perhaps she wonders if she drank too little. And wine warms you up. At any rate, life's too short to worry about it.
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Old Jan 16th, 2008, 04:08 PM
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The final chapter:

We talked about how to spend our last full day in Paris, about what we each wanted to do that we hadn’t yet done. We looked again at the forecast and gave up trying to be optimistic about the weather. S wanted to go Luxembourg gardens. I wanted to go to Pere Lachaise cemetery and on the electric bike tour (www.parischarmssecrets.com) that we had booked earlier in the week for Saturday afternoon. S felt less confident about the bike tour and decided to skip it. We agreed to go off and do our own things, and to report back to each other over dinner.

I started at the Arts & Metiers Museum. After enjoying the metro stop so many times, I had to see the museum that inspired it. I especially enjoyed the displays in the chapel – vaulted ceilings over vintage automobiles, ancient biplanes suspended between stained glass windows and stone columns, and the original prototype for the Statue of Liberty. Otherwise, I did my “museum stroll” and got on my way within an hour. Someday I’ll go back and do the audioguide.

From there, I went to Pere Lachaise cemetery by metro. I had no map of the cemetery and found no maps offered anywhere nearby (as I had read about), but decided that it didn’t even matter if I saw any of the famous graves. On my way from the Metro in search of the entrance to the cemetery, an older German-speaking couple approached me asking for information. We struggled along in English as the man searched for the words he needed. He was trying to ask me where Marcel Marceau was buried. (Marcel Marceau had died about a week earlier, which I wouldn’t have known except for an email from my husband.) I couldn’t help him with that info (and had no idea whether he was even buried yet, let alone where!), but could point him in the general direction of the entrance. Later, as I wandered the cemetery, a young English-speaking couple asked me where to find Jim Morrison’s grave. I hadn’t the faintest idea, and good luck to anyone looking for a particular grave without a map – this place is enormous, with thousands and thousands of headstones and monuments. But if you just wander and admire, it’s beautiful. The sun came out while I was there, and I discovered that this was a great place to use the timer on my camera to get photos with myself in them. There were people wandering here and there, but much of the time I saw no one. It was really a lovely way to pass a couple of hours.

After leaving the cemetery, I stopped in a boulangerie to buy curried chicken on a baguette to go and took the metro in the general direction of Place Vendome, where the bike tour started at 2:30. It felt odd to eat while walking and waiting for the metro, but I wanted to allow plenty of time to get where I was going, so fast food was the order of the day. I have so little experience with public transportation (I live in a pretty rural area) that I have difficulty judging how much time it may take to get from Point A to Point B. Things went smoothly and I arrived at Place Vendome 20 minutes early, even after an ATM stop for more cash. (I never had trouble using any ATMs – well, not until my checking account ran dry and then I had to use another account!)

Unfortunately, I realized as I arrived that I was in dire need of a toilette, but looking around Place Vendome at the plethora of high-end jewelry shops, I was fairly certain there would be none easily accessible. I started out on a power walk away from the Place, looking for any likely restroom location, and there appeared to be none. After a few minutes, I decided I had nothing to lose by entering the lobby of a lovely little hotel and asking the desk clerk in my best French if there were any toilettes nearby. When she asked if I was a hotel guest, I answered honestly that I was not, but she said she would make an exception and pointed me around the back of the reception desk, for which I was eternally grateful.

The Paris Charms & Secrets tour was absolutely wonderful – a definite highlight! The electric bikes were easy to maneuver – there were heavier than regular bikes, but required almost no effort to pedal. The tricky part was navigating through Paris traffic, but that just made for some excitement! Our group was small (seven others) and the guide, Olivier, was wonderful. He was full of tidbits of history and trivia about places we went both famous and obscure. We rode along busy streets and quiet alleys, we went into courtyards I would never know existed and visited a monastery in the middle of the Latin Quarter. We sat in les Arenes du Lutece and watched men play petanque and kids play futbol. We spent some time in St Sulpice church, hearing wonderful stories about the history of the Templars and early astronomy and time-telling. We went to a theatre in the 7th arrondisement built in the style of a Japanese pagoda by the original owner of le Bon Marche as a tribute to his wife. Olivier was delightful, and the afternoon flew by. This was the best €41 and 4.5 hours spent all week.

By the time the tour was over – a bit later than anticipated – I had to hurry off to meet S and her friend L at the apartment for another dinner out. They called while I was on my way, wondering why I was late, and were able to change the reservation from 8:00 to 8:30 at l’Ebauchoir in the 12th. We had an even better dinner here than the first evening we went out with L. We had a bottle of wine, a variety of appetizers, entrees, and desserts, and spent €55 each. I had:

salade de roquette et macaronis farcis au chevre et lavande for €8,
mignon de couchon roti, sauce date et citron for €17, and finished off with
gateau au chocolat Valrhona 66% sesame et cardamome for €7.

I only know all of this because I thought to take a close-up photo of the menu.

I do not recall the name of the wine.

The whole meal was stupendous.

We got back to the apartment around 11:00, at which point I decided to pack as much as possible to save time in the morning for other things. I ended up going to bed around 2:00 and getting back up around 7:00, determined not to miss any last opportunity to enjoy Paris under a sunny sky. By 8:00 I was on my way by metro to Place de la Bastille for the Richard Lenoir market. We had not visited any markets all week, though S had stumbled across one while on her own one day, and I didn’t want to miss a chance to admire the fresh bread and produce and seafood. I was not disappointed. I bought and ate a pain aux raisins and bought two small baguettes to pack in my carry-on and bring home. I bought some canned foie gras and pates and fleur de sel, and some chocolates at a nearby shop that was open early. After wandering the market, happily taking photos and watching the Parisians fill their wheeled shopping baskets with the freshest of fresh foods, I retreated to a sidewalk café for a café crème, more people-watching, and one last French cigarette. (OK, maybe I had 2 or 3 cigarettes.)

I took the bus back in the general direction of the Hotel de Ville, and found I still had time to cross the river and look for a souvenir shop selling a Rugby World cup T-shirt for my husband. At one point over the course of the morning, I became alarmed at the thought that perhaps my watch had stopped – I was happily wandering but felt like time was standing still. I would guess that 15-20 minutes had passed and would check my watch only to find it had been 4-5 minutes since the last time I looked. Once I reassured myself that my watch was correct, I sort of enjoyed this strange warping of time on my last morning in Paris.

I got back to the apartment by 11:00 as planned, with the shuttle pick-up scheduled for 12:00. At 11:40 the shuttle driver called to say he was outside and we promised to be down as soon as we could. Our bags were packed but we needed the apartment owner, who lives next door, to come and return our deposit. He was just arriving home from an errand and quickly finished his business with us and we were on our way. In the shuttle on the way to the airport, I had a sudden jolt of irrational panic, thinking I may have had our departure time wrong and we might miss our flight. I surreptitiously checked our itinerary and was relieved to see we were fine.

We were at the airport by 12:30, but found long check-in lines for Zoom Airways, and flashing TV screens above each counter warning of the 20 kg luggage weight limit and the 5 kg weight limits for even carry-on baggage. We got increasingly nervous about the potentially heavy scarves and chocolate and table linens and canned foie gras we’ve bought, and we watched as people ahead of us placed their bulging luggage on the scale. Everyone’s bags weighed between 19.2 and 19.8 kg. We tried to notice if hand luggage is being weighed and we couldn’t tell. We sweat, we fret, and eventually it is our turn. My check-through weighed 25 kg, but no mention was made of charging me for the overage. When asked to show my carry-on bag, I held it high, feigning effortlessness in an attempt to demonstrate how light it was. He asked me to put it on the scale and it weighed 8 kg. He says, “Close enough.” And I want to kiss him, but I don’t.

We spent a little time in the few duty-free shops before boarding time. S missed our boarding announcement and was seen at a distance wandering toward a snack bar, which made me grab all our overweight hand luggage and my newly-acquired duty-free cognac and chocolate to chase her down. We boarded a hot and overcrowded bus which took 400 yards across the tarmac to the plane, and eventually we erupted from the bus gasping for fresh air. We settled into our seats, and this time we had another passenger between us. I fell asleep before we left the tarmac, and slept off and on for almost all of the flight. (This makes me wonder why I ever bother bringing reading material or my iPod on any flight at all, since I always seem to go into some Twilight Zone of my brain and either sleep or completely space out during flights.)

Our landing and customs experience were uneventful, as was our drive home. My own bed felt good, my family made me smile, and I was glad to be home.
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Old Jan 16th, 2008, 04:29 PM
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Thank you so much for your beautifully written and charming
trip report!
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Old Jan 16th, 2008, 04:37 PM
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Thank you, Jess. I've enjoyed your report. I like it when people write about how Paris made them feel.

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Old Jan 16th, 2008, 04:54 PM
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Wonderful! Thanks for sharing!
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Old Jan 16th, 2008, 05:31 PM
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I avidly read each portion of your trip report and feel let down that it is now over. It is so fresh, open, funny and honest. There are many of us who do not travel with our husbands and who are with a friend or alone. It is intriguing to read your thoughts. In the last 30 years I have travelled alone 95% of the time. It is not often that people openly discuss not travelling with a wife/husband. Your report fascinated me, not only with what you said, but with what you did not say. I eagerly await any of your future travel thoughts.
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Old Jan 16th, 2008, 05:32 PM
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Thank you so much for the great report!

We are now thinking of booking the tour you mentioned for our own trip in May - I'd never heard of it but it looks fantastic!

Many more happy travels,

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Old Jan 16th, 2008, 08:47 PM
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I am loving this post, I just got to the bit about sore feet. My suggestion for what it is worth is to soak sore, tired, walking feet in ICED water. As cold as you can get it. In 2006 when we were in Paris we put water in the fridge in the morning before we set off and used that to soak our feet in a bucket at the end of the day. It hurts more than I can describe, but after about 20 minutes of dunking your feet in for as long as you can stand you will find that your feet have magically revived themselves and you can start to consider another walk! Another tip that works well is to change your shoes during the day if you have a chance, not sure why this helps but it does!
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Old Jan 17th, 2008, 01:40 AM
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I also followed your report from the start - and will say my thanks now that it came to an end! Thanks so much for taking time to write this - I really enjoyed your style of writing and humour! And I am also a bit sad that there will not be new installments - I was always looking forward to it!
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Old Jan 17th, 2008, 05:21 AM
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Wow! What a great trip report. I really LOVED reading it. You write so beautifully! You make me determined to finish my Andorra trip report (almost 1 year ago!)
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Old Jan 17th, 2008, 06:11 AM
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Dear Jess,

I really enjoyed your report - read it from start to finish which I rarely do. Anyone can write about every tourist site they visited and what they ate, but it takes a real writer to share the frustrations, loneliness, and little monologues we have with ourselves when we travel - alone, with a new friend, or with our families.

BTW, You had me at "Travelslut"...

I have 2 teen-aged daughters and slut just happens to be our favorite word as it fits so many circumstances in our HO. For instance, I started a pottery class the other night and my 17-year-old said, "mom, you are such a slut! I wish I had time to go to that class." Yesterday she left on a school trip to Florence and her sister and I said, "you are such a slut to leave us here while you go off to see David!" And on and on.

I am envious that your husband is your ideal travel companion. My very sweet husband is just too antsy when we travel. He says he likes to travel but really his favorite thing to do is to get exercise and play sports. I travel a lot alone as a result. My oldest daughter is a great traveler and we had a really wonderful trip to Paris in November. You are inspiring me to finally write a trip report on it - if not for Fodor's than for ourselves at least...

thanks again for a good read.

BTW, if you have not yet read Elizabeth Gilbert's "Eat, Love, Pray" I just have a feeling you might enjoy it.

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Old Jan 18th, 2008, 03:59 PM
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Thank you, everyone, for the kind words. I'm pleased that you enjoyed reading this, and I appreciate the feedback.

And gruezi, "Eat, Pray, Love" is one of my favorite books! I recommend it to everyone.

Happy & safe travel adventures to all of you!

- Jess
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Old Jan 18th, 2008, 09:57 PM
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<<initially, I walked in circles, literally. I never left the area of Notre Dame, but for several minutes I walked first in one direction, and then in another, intoxicated/overwhelmed/exhausted by the endless possibilities.>>

I SO get this...am heartened to hear somebody else say it. Also, the confused feelings that arise when it just isn't fabulous that way we've anticipated...

I'm so jealous of your trip report writing! It's keeping me up, even though I'm bleary-eyed. I wrote an epistle after my 3 and 1/2 week trip (on TripAdvisor) and it was really boring...except for the part where I almost got locked in the Chartres crypt overnight...

Thanks for a great read!
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Old Jan 18th, 2008, 11:13 PM
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I really loved you trip report, Jessw.

I remember how disoriented I felt the first time I went to Rome, and my grandma and I couldn't get our blinds to open. I remember thinking, "I've to Rome to live in a dark cage." And then I felt terribly guilty because my husband was home with the kids.

Thanks for sharing.
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Old Jan 18th, 2008, 11:52 PM
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Although I rarely read Paris reports, yours reached out and grabbed me. And wouldn't let me go. Your account was so fresh and engaging that I read it all in one sitting (and now I'm up way past my bedtime)!

I love to travel and have often thought about a non-family traveling companion, but I'm not sure it would work. My husband and I travel well together, not because our styles and preferences match, but because we have worked out our balance together after 26 years of marriage.

I've enjoyed trips with each of my college aged daughters, and my brother and I do very well together. But I'm not sure I know anyone who would enjoy seeing as many churches or museums as I like... I do get a little disoriented when by myself though.

Thanks for your honesty in describing how you felt. Don't stay a "very rare poster" - your voice is a welcome addition to the forums.
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