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I am going to stop being lazy and post this Normandy/Paris trip report

I am going to stop being lazy and post this Normandy/Paris trip report

Oct 7th, 2006, 02:27 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Apr 2003
Posts: 213
I am going to stop being lazy and post this Normandy/Paris trip report

Okay, I got my first three days down. Sometimes, I think that I shouldn't post because no one really cares, but I know thatís not true, because folks here are always saying post and I love reading others. Really it's just sheer laziness. I do hope you enjoy.

Background: DH and I, both in our late 30s, visited Normandy and Paris in mid September for 9 days. This is mine and DH's 3rd trip to Europe together. Five years ago we did Rome, Tuscany and the Amalfi Coast and then 2 years ago Provence and the Alps. DH has never been to Paris before, but I have been twice. But I never got the appeal, and now I know why. Paris requires more than a quick visit to Notre Dame and the Louvre to be appreciated. We are not really foodies, but we love wine, and although I plan and plan, whenever we get somewhere most of that seems to go out the window.

Day 1- The best laid plans of non jet-lagged travelers (Friday)
We arrive in Paris early, a good half hour. Plane was to land 7:30 in the morning from Boston, and we were clearly not expected early, because the country was closed. Thatís right no one at customs to let us in. So we stood around in a big line waiting for them to open the doors. Once they did, we got our bags quite quickly, exchanged some cash (ooh that hurt) and roamed around looking for the rental car desk. Our car is a Ford Prius Ė go figure. We head straight to Normandy. We only encounter one obstacle where we had to go about 10KM out the way to change directions, which was of course the right way in the first place.

First stop, Les Andelys and Chateau Gaillard. Impressive. You stand above the Chateau on a hill overlooking it and the River Seine. I am a big medieval history fan so being at Richardís stronghold - my heart swooned. And I am just reading the part about him building it in "Eleanor of Aquitaine" by Alison Weir, so I swoon again now that I have been there. We tour the grounds and then eat lunch in a small creperie in town followed by few reflective moments sitting by the river. Next stop Jumieges Ė yeah right. By now, after eating, we were done. After about 30 minutes of driving, we pulled over at a rest stop to close our eyes for a half hour (uh, huh). We wake up in the middle of the French rush hour - 2 hours later. So now we decide we will go straight to Bayeux Ė canít do it all. And to think I planned for us to visit some cider farms too.

We are staying at Les Remparts. The room is large and comfortable, albeit up 3 flights. Itís the attic room. The shower is very small, but for 54 Euros a night, including breakfast whoís complaining - DH is. We relax and then head out for dinner. First we need to get more cash because we only have enough to either pay for our room or our tour with Battlebus the next day Ė both which only take cash. As we wander, we see the town is very charming. It still has its old world charm as its one of the few places not bombed during WWII. The center church is gothic and when we walk by at late dusk, with a full moon in the sky, there is an organ concert going on inside. The whole thing is rather eerie. Although I am always struck by this when we travel, the size of the church again reminds me how powerful the church was back in the day.

Here comes the only glitch in our holiday. I called Bank of America (BOA) the Monday before we left to let them know I would be in France. However, we could not get money from any bank machine, including BNP, with who BOA is affiliated and where there is no w/drawal charge. My blood sugar is really low and I start freaking out. Now for the reason DH and I are a good fit - when I freak he is surprisingly calm and vice versa Ė we keep each other in check. We decide to eat dinner and then call the bank. While looking for a restaurant, we try to find a place selling phone cards, but all the Tabacs are closed. Of course, I have 3 phone cards at home from our last trip, which I conveniently forgot. We decide to eat at La Marsala, which is on Rue des Cuisinies across from Le Pommery. They have lots of choices. We both start with salade verte. I have a pizza magherita and DH has steak et frittes. We have bottle of the house red, which was very good, we split a crème caramel and then as a digestif, although is considered an aperitif, Pomme du Normandy. This is the famous calvados/cider drink. Dinner was less than 50 Euros. There was a nice Canadian dad and his son next to us, who try to let us use their cell phone to call the Bank, but to no avail.

By now after the wine and digestif, things do not seem so dire. We find a pay phone and use our emergency credit call to call the bank. I get; ďOh we are so sorry, we have no record of you calling, go to the money machine now Ė no problemĒ We walk half the mile back to the bank, and you guess it Ė no money. We call the bank again; thank goodness there is phone across the street, and 30 Euros later in phone calls, we finally get someone who ďunrestrictsĒ my card. I am screaming to DH across the street, ďtry getting the money now,Ē while I am on the phone. WHEW it works!!!!

Day 2 Ė War is hell, but life is a blessing (Saturday)
We have our included breakfast and head out to Place Quebec to meet up with Battlebus at 8:30AM. We chose Battlebus based on reviews here and I liked their website. We are on the full day American Tour, which starts at Marie St Eglise and ends at the American Cemetery. I generally do not like war stories and movies, but this tour really gives me whole new personal perspective. I am also glad that I have seen "The Longest Day" as it really gives one a reference (this movie is not hard to watch). However, I am the only one on the tour (7 of us) who has not seen "Saving Pvt. Ryan." My husband wouldnít let me based on the very rough beginning (canít stand blood and gore), but I did not find it effected my overall experience. However, if you can watch it, you should. I learned so much, and even cried a few times. You really get a sense of how things were and Dale (our guide) shared many personal stories about the soldiers. It was like an experiential class on D-Day and I highly recommend it.

For dinner we eat at La Marsala again. I had salmon in sorrel sauce and DH had veal wrapped in proscuitto and stuffed with cheese. Our meals were fantastic. We had the house wine again and split a Tiramasu. Dinner was still less than 50 Euros. We had some Calvados in a local bar afterward. Itís not really my cup of tea. Reminded me of vodka made from apples. Although I think itís considered more like whiskey or Scotch.

Day 3 Ė William conquers and the tide comes in (Sunday)
This morning we head off to view the Tapestry. There is long written guide when you first walk in explaining the history, but due to all the people waiting to view it, we bypass. Do watch the movie that tells the story before viewing the Tapestry. You then get an audio guide that tells you about each section. You are in line with people viewing, but unlike when you first walk in, here you have to keep moving to keep up with the audio - so it flows well. I really enjoyed seeing this as I have read about the upsurper a number of time due to my addiction to historical fiction, but DH says he could have skipped it. We then have a quick lunch on Croque Madams (no ham for me) in a café and drive 1 Ĺ hours to Mont St Michel. Didnít realize the cheese is on the outside.

The ride is very pleasant Ė no traffic. As you get closer, you can see MSM looming in the distance. You realize how awe inspiring this place must have been to pilgrims. We drive easily up the causeway and park. Because we are staying on MSM, we will need to get the key from our hotel that lets you on to the overnight causeway, which doesnít get covered by the tide. It was low tide when we arrived. If you visit the official MSM site, you can find out when the tides will be and how high -by month. This is important because on some days there is no tide and you really want to be there to watch it come in Ė or maybe go out. We arrive about 3:30 PM and it is tourist hell. We check into Las Terrasses. Itís a street view and the room is small and worn, but itís only for 1 night. We walk up the mount to the monastery. As we get up top the crowds are thinning out. Most tour buses arrive around 10-11AM and leave between 4-5PM. Afterwards, we take our required nap so we are ready to watch the tide come in around 8PM. Itís interesting because about an hour or so before the tide there is a loud announcement saying . . . ďstupid tourists get your cars off the causeway!Ē No just kidding, but since we couldnít understand it really, it seemed like a fair, and probably fitting, translation. We first go toward the back of the Mount around 7:30PM to watch the sunset over the bay Ė beautiful. As we are watching this, the tide starts to come in. We then wander to different spots to view and finally cross over and onto the causeway from an area that gets cover with water right after we pass. We truly enjoyed this awesome spectacle and experience. About 9:15, before the late dinner rush, we have dinner in some restaurant and end the night meandering along the ramparts.

Day 3 Ė Paris here we come (Monday)
We wake up around 9AM. The tide is starting to come in again. We need to be in Caen to return our car and catch a 2:30 train to Paris. We already have our tickets - thank you Morgan. We send out some postcards before we leave. This is a good choice - all the shops are right next to the Poste and MSM makes for a good postcard. As we are coming down the causeway, there is a couple hitchhiking. We decide to do a mitzvah and pick them up. Turns out they are from Montreal. We are from Albany, NY Ė small world. They were very thankful as the walk from the monastery over the causeway is quite a hike. We stop and have breakfast in the market on the other side and buy some gifts that are less expensive than on the mount.

The drive to Caen is uneventful and we find a gas station and the rental return easily. Paris > Bayeux >MSM > to Caen is just over ĺ of a tank. We get on the train and after a couple of stops our cabin is full. Itís not a very comfortable ride - older train. We notice a lot of police. At one point we see them lead a young man to the end of our part of the train. They hold him there for the rest of trip. I know this because I wasnít allowed to use the bathroom where they were standing. I say something to DH when I get back. One of the girls in our cabin overhears me. She says they were talking about this too. Its 9/11 and they think perhaps security is extra tight today. DH and I reflect and remember and think how lucky we are to be safe and still traveling despite it.

We arrive in Paris on time (I love European rail) at Gare St Lazare. We have to go out, up, down, and around to get to the Metro. I buy a carnet. Next time I will buy the Carte Orange as we ended up buying 3 carnets on our trip. With one transfer, we arrive at Metro Odeon. We are staying at Hotel De Fleurie in the 6e, which is one short block from the stop. Within a day or so, I am convinced that the location is superb for this area of the city.

We check right in. The room is small, but clean and well appointed. The bathroom is a nice size. We canít turn on the lights; we think there is no electricity. In the back of my American head, I think, oh they will have to upgrade us to a bigger room Ė yeah right. I call the front desk and they tell us you have to put the key in the light switch. I canít remember if I have seen this before. Although I am always conscious about turning lights off Ė instilled from my grandmother who was a child of the Great Depression - itís a very ingenious way to make sure the electricity goes off when you are not in your room. The air conditioning works well too. Okay nap time.

After a few hours and a shower where we tried to keep the floor from getting soaked due to half a door (donít get this one), we head out. We decide to eat at Vesuvios because we knew it would be easy and I didnít want to think about trying to order. I used to work in Italian restaurants so my Italian food vocabulary is pretty good. The dinner is okay - we each have the trio of pasta, but affordable and the wine is good Ė Italian. I know shame on me. We walk pass St Germaine and the two famous cafes and head toward the Seine. We decide to do a late night cruise. We pass Pont de Arts where hundreds of people are picnicking on the bridge with wine and candles Ė yes we are in Paris. We buy a half bottle of wine before heading on our cruise, which was filled with a bunch of teenagers - so some of the romance was lost. It was interesting to pass the Parisians dancing on the river though. On the way home, we pass Rue de Buci. This is an exciting street to visit -particularly at night. Cafes are completely filled and Parisian joy and laughter abound.

More to come in a few days . . .
job816 is offline  
Oct 7th, 2006, 02:53 PM
Join Date: Apr 2006
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I know its work to do a trip report. I'm doing mine as we talk"Family of 5.....Anyway thanks for your report. My Dh and I have not done the NOrmandy Paris trip and we want to.Sounds as if you had a great time.
anamaria is offline  
Oct 7th, 2006, 02:59 PM
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I'm so glad you decided to stop being lazy. You are a very good writer and story teller. I've never been to Normandy. It's on the "list". The ATM issue must have been one royal PITA. Glad you got it worked out quickly. Banks sure can drive you crazy. Looking forward to more! Dave
dcd is offline  
Oct 7th, 2006, 03:16 PM
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You think you're lazy? My trip's from mid-June/July...and I just posted 1/4 of my trip report...

No my dear. I take the lazy crown. But I'm too lazy to get up and get it!
mcnyc is offline  
Oct 7th, 2006, 04:06 PM
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Too funny mcnyc!

Um, please don't notice that I had two Day 3s.
job816 is offline  
Oct 7th, 2006, 04:17 PM
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Enjoying the report, and looking forward to more. Thanks!
Hagan is offline  
Oct 7th, 2006, 04:23 PM
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Love your trip report BTW, and can't wait to read more. Sorry I didn't mention it before.
mcnyc is offline  
Oct 7th, 2006, 05:45 PM
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Enjoying your entertaining report, fun to read! Looking forward to the rest. I'm hoping to go to Normandy in the Spring - the Battlebus tour sounds great.
Sue4 is offline  
Oct 7th, 2006, 05:49 PM
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Nice report. I was at MSM one week before you did, and that was a non-tide time. All I saw was the mud flat. I wish we had gone the time you did.

The key-slot to turn on electricity is fairly common in many parts of the world. I hate them because that means I can't charge my batteries when not in the room. You know these days with camcorder, digital camera, iPod, etc... lots of batteries to charge! Sometimes one has to stick something else in the slot to keep the power on.
rkkwan is offline  
Oct 7th, 2006, 06:06 PM
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Thanks for the encouragement and kind words everyone and a special thanks to you dcd - calling me a good writer - my ego soars. I will make a concentrated effort to get the rest down soon. In fact, I am sitting here with a glass of Rosso di Montalcino ready to get at it . . . although that might go better with an Italian trip report. Oh, the pathethic life of a 30 something, writing a trip report on a Saturday night.
job816 is offline  
Oct 7th, 2006, 07:57 PM
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I am enjoying your trip report, job816! We took a similar trip in April so reading about yours takes me back. I have just come back from a casual dinner party with friends and instead of working on my OWN report from Croatia in September, I am reading every ones elses! How is THAT for lazy!
HappyCheesehead is offline  
Oct 7th, 2006, 08:29 PM
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Thanks for posting your trip report. Your descriptions made for such nice reading. One thing I was struck by BOA and their freezing your account. It's funny because they take the foreign withdrawals so seriously as a security issue. But when I had my Paris hotel charge a deposit on my BOA card I really thought BOA would block the charge. No. The charge went through. BOA never even asked me if the charge was legitimate. Same thing happened with the Trenitalia tickets I charged-they were approved-no questions from BOA. Makes me wonder about them now.

phoenix79 is offline  
Oct 7th, 2006, 08:30 PM
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Wrong, job! A TRULY pathetic 30 something has no trip to think about.
Croque_Madame is offline  
Oct 8th, 2006, 01:54 AM
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Your lovely trip report flows easily and is a pleasure to read. Looking forward to the continuation which rekindles my own fond memories of Paris this time last year!
tod is offline  
Oct 8th, 2006, 03:02 AM
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Nice report, looking forward to the rest.
Nikki is online now  
Oct 9th, 2006, 05:07 PM
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Day 5 Ė I'll have a Kir Royale - make that three (Tuesday)

First morning waking up in Paris Ė what to do, what to do? Of course I devised 10,000 different itineraries, but we are the ďwhat are we in the mood for typesĒ when we actually get someplace. This is why I always over pack too. Well first off, I need to get some moisturizer. Itís been days since I used any. DH doesnít get why that is important. Men! The night before, I spied a Monoprix a few blocks down on Rue Bonaparte. I have a hard time trying to figure which is moisturizer and which is body wash. I probably spend a good half hour looking. Surprisingly, DH figures it out. The French must love body wash because there were many, many choices. I have mentioned this in a separate post, but I cannot stress enough. Upstairs by the makeup is a stand displaying tiny lip glosses that attach to your cell phone. They are called Bonjour Paris. For 5 Euros apiece, they make unique and affordable gift for girls. FYI: the Monoprix sells inexpensive wines and has a yummy looking deli section as well areas to buy fresh bread and pastries. Wal-Mart could take a lesson.

We decide to visit Ile de La Cite. We walk toward the Seine stopping in a café for coffee and croissants. We cross over Pont Neuf on our way to St. Chapelle. Oh my gosh! Incredible! The stained glass windows are magnificent. After this, I lose all appeal to see other churches. There was a line for security, and then a short line to buy tickets. We decide to buy the 5 day museum pass because we hate long lines. Honestly, one of the reasons we moved from Boston to Albany was to rid ourselves of those chaotic CVS lines. Know what I mean? However, this was the longest line I saw during our whole trip. Catch 22 - had we not bought passes, oh yes there would be lines my friends. We visit the Conciegerie. The best part, for us, was the visual displays of prisoners in their cells - so thatís where Paris hotels learned to design small rooms. It was fun to imagine Marie Antoinette getting ready to have her head chopped off. I know Ė thatís not nice.

After this we head down Rue de Lutece, take a touristy picture of the Metropole sign, walk pass the flower market (wish I was staying in apt so I could buy some) and down Rue díArcole on the way to ND. We stop and pick up sandwiches, which we eat in front of ND. We visit the Crypt first. We like ruins so this was worthwhile - for about 15 minutes. The creepiest thing was a sign showing the evolution of what parts of the cow was eaten in the past and is eaten today. Gross! I donít eat meat. We walk through ND, but I have been here twice before and as a non-religious person from a Jewish background, besides the size and some of the details, itís all lost on me. As I alluded to before itís more often the political aspect of churches that intrigue me, and the power religion yields, not so much the church itself. DH is really disappointed to find out that ND is stock name of churches throughout France. I just spoke to him today about this and he is still pissed off.

I am determined to visit the Deportation Memorial. I have been before, but I want DH to see it. Itís always good to remind oneself of evil. With Steve Ricks book in hand (yes I have this - his walks are good), we walk around ND, admire the gargoyles and into the park where the DM is located. There is a BBC documentary going on outside the memorial and the DM keeper has decided to close the entire place until BBC is done. They eventually go inside, but not for like 20 minutes. French bureaucracy in the flesh and blood. She even has police to make sure there is no stampede. I donít blame her because there are 5 other couples with Rick Steveís book in hand ready to take her down. Rick is such an agitator. Actually we have no problem waiting as it gives us to time to rest our feet. Just donít walk on the grass. DM keeper does not like that. After a half hour, we do the short visit and I find myself under-whelmed by the experience. DH is again upset Ė he learns that people were not actually deported from here. All the same itís something Iíd recommend - especially if you have not had a chance to visit other holocaust memorials. On the way out the documentary is continuing on a park bench and the women they are interviewing is crying.

On the way to catch the metro, which I keep calling the T, from the Hotel de Ville to the Arc de Triomphe, we unexpectedly pass the home of Abelard and Heloise. Can one visit this or is it just a sign to let you know? In front of the HdV, there is an African tourism convention. We hear some good music so we walk though.

We arrive at AdT and climb to the top. The view is wonderful. Itís the first time DH has seen the ET. We spend 45 minutes taking pictures and relishing our luck to be people who can, and want to, travel. Since I need energy, patience and a DH free day to enjoy shopping, I regrettably donít do any on the Champs. At this point, all I want is a drink. DH does buy some wrestler types sneakers, which seem to be very popular for men in Paris. I donít think you see American men wear these unless of course they are wrestlers Ė which oddly DH was in high school. They cost a fortune, but it makes me happy that my fashion disabled DH buys something trendy in Paris. Finally we sit down in a café. I order a Kir Royale because I have never had one. Yum! DH orders a beer. The waiter asks if he wants a big one, sure thatís probably a pint right? No itís a Stein - you know the kind you get in Germany. Well, I just have to keep up, so itís 3 KRs for me before we hike our drunken asses out of there. However, in the interim DH declares that he loves Paris! Nothing like a little libation in the city of love. A walk down to Place de Concorde and then home to nap.

For dinner we head to the Greek restaurants on Rue de la Huchette. The area is cool, very pedestrian and lively, but yes touristy. The Greek restaurateurs are hawking their wares to get you to eat in their establishments. We really hate that. We choose a place where they are not doing that. The dinner is surprisingly good. I had a vegetarian patter and DH a lamb dish. Our meal is accompanied by a French rose - although it all tasted Greek to me. After dinner we watch an Italian street performer sing popular English, French and Italian songs. He is quite good. Well itís been long day and although we really want to hear jazz in the Cave Huchette, its 10PM and the show doesnít start until after 11PM. Weíll find something to do in the hotel room instead ;-).
job816 is offline  
Oct 9th, 2006, 05:23 PM
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Enjoying your report. Fear not being branded lazy by yours truly, one of my trip reports is over 2 years overdue (dog keeps eating it.....)
Sue_xx_yy is offline  
Oct 9th, 2006, 05:26 PM
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Ahhhhh yes, Paris has a way of bringing out the Eros in us all!!
dcd is offline  
Oct 10th, 2006, 11:02 AM
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I'm really enjoying reading your trip report...the good experiences and the more challenging (i.e. atm card!). What kismet to find this post - I've been perusing hotel reviews in search of a selection in Paris for 2 nights. It's overwhelming because of the many choices & reviews. I've been looking at the Hotel de Fleurie website and am glad to hear you had a positive experience there. If there's anything you could add about the hotel, I'd appreciate any tidbits of info...thanks!
dorkforcemom is offline  
Oct 10th, 2006, 11:36 AM
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I have enjoyed the beginning of your report and look forward to reading more of it tonight. Thanks for taking the time to write it all up!
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