Just back from Paris & Reykjavik

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Apr 7th, 2006, 08:00 AM
  #1
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Just back from Paris & Reykjavik

Just got back last night so briefly:
Airline: Icelandair from BOS. I can't say enough good things about this airline. I have read mixed reports about them, but we were totally satisfied. We were upgraded on the KEF to CDG portion. We carried on and were able to make connection in KEF easily and quickly. It appears as though the airport was built to service Icelandair. It is small and set up to service arriving US flights in the am and departing flights to US in early evening. Food was fine airline food. The rolls were even heated. The Icelandic butter was very good. They don't give away alcohol, but for myself it's better to stick with water on the plane. (the coffee was quite good). We opted for a one night stopover in Reykjavik on the return.

Arrival in CDG at terminal 1 went smoothly. I did try to figure out the easiest way to the RER station before I left, although the information desk was easy to find and they directed us with no problem to the navette that would take us to the station. The RER (express train) ran quickly and easily with no interruption into the city. We got off at Chatelet and switched to the metro to Line 1 for St. Paul.

We rented from VacationinParis. This was our 4th time renting, but 1st time with VacationinParis. We were thoroughly satisfied with all our dealings with this company, start to finish. The apartment was on rue d'Ormesson in the 4th (Place du Marche Ste. Catherine) It was on the 3rd (French) floor, front. It couldn't have been nicer. It was a wonderful location; very nicely furnished; clean; great big bathroom with lots of mirrors; kitchen with all modern conveniences and nicely tiled. Living room had a nice leather sofa and chairs (IKEA Poang), coffee table, dining table, large windows on the street with a view of the square, and a wide screen, new tv. The St. Paul metro stop was 2 blocks away.

We spent most of our time walking and looking and eating. For food we went to our favorite brasserie, Brasserie I'sle St. Louis. My husband loves the choucroute and I had a delicious omelete mixte with pomme frite and mutzig beer. The food was served piping hot and the beer was cold, the service was very friendly. Obviously they are used to alot of Americans as the waiter jokingly asked me if I needed anything else (like ketchup) when he served me the pomme frites. I said no, I'm all set. The evening we were there we were the only English speaking customers. We also ate at Baracane on rue Tournelles in the 4th. We arrived around 10:00 pm. There were still diners and they sat us. The guide books say they stay open until 12:00, but we were the last party, it appeared. I had the entree and plat du jour which were a fromage fraiche cake layered with eggplant confit. Very creamy and very good. My plat was veal chunks sauteed in a wine sauce with vegetables and taglietelle pasta. I finished off with an expresso. My husband had a head cheese pate with an onion relish on the side. Now ordinarily I would gag at head cheese, but this was so deliciously seasoned that I had two forkfuls. His plat was slices of duck breast in a wine sauce with pomme terre prepared in a sort of cheese sauce, but with a slight crust. The service was friendly and polite. Oh yes, we had a bottle of the house red and it was also very good. We returned to the apartment for dessert which we had purchased earlier in the day. I had a coffee macaron and my husband had a chocolate/chocolate eclair. He was doing a taste test of chocolate eclairs on this trip. I will post more later with more about food and sights of my trip to Paris. Reykjavik to come.
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Apr 7th, 2006, 09:02 AM
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Oh wow - you are making me hungry! Your apartment is in our "stomping ground" I just love it there. Would you mind telling me how much your apartment rent was? This might be something for us in the future. Thanks!
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Apr 7th, 2006, 09:13 AM
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We took advantage of an introductory offer at $130 per night. It now rents for $160 per night (inclusive of everything) and I think it's worth it. There was no elevator, but the walk up was good for offsetting all the calories we were taking in.
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Apr 7th, 2006, 09:17 AM
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I think that is very reasonable for such a nice place in a great location! Do you remember if there is still a little restaurant on Place St. Catherine called 'Sopranos' ? It was on the corner of Rue Caron, which you might have walked down to get to Rue St. Antoine
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Apr 7th, 2006, 09:32 AM
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Sopranos was right on the corner to the right of the apartment (2 doors away) and then farther down on the corner of rue turenne was Caruso's. We didn't eat at either, but they did look good and always had people in them.
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Apr 7th, 2006, 09:37 AM
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THANK YOU!! You made my day
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Apr 7th, 2006, 01:40 PM
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Continuing the trip in Paris - New sights that I had not done on previous trips, but always wanted to:Canal St. Martin boat ride. We took this on saturday afternoon. It was sunny and fairly mild when we left, threatening rain which it did near the end of the ride. It was really alot of fun. We got on at Port d'Arsenal and immediately went into a tunnel that went under the Bastille and along a ways coming out in the above ground by Republique along Blvd. Richard Lenoir. We went thru 8 locks, if I remember correctly. People were lining the sides of the canal watching the boat and we were watching them; kids, dogs, grandparents, parents, scooters, bicyclists protesting something, teenagers, and so on and so on. It got cold and started to rain as we reached the Basin de Villette and everyone but ourselves went undercover. the park at La Villette was big and lots of people were there. They had a huge slide and paths and I'm sure other things which I couldn't see. We got off there and took the metro back. A recommended tourist attraction (I think we were once again, the only Americans).

Sunday we walked all around the marais and happened upon a jewish wedding party that was joyfully honking horns and singing and dancing as they dropped the bride off at what looked to be a school, on the narrow rue Tournelles. The guests were dressed in haute couture. The woman were beautifully "dolled" up and wearing hats that were artistic creations. I felt as though we had gotten a peek into the lives of these people.
We wandered thru the Richard Lenoir market, listened to music at Place des Vosges and finally picked up the falafel special at L'as du falafel on rue des rosiers. Being sunday, it was packed with people, all getting the falafel special. People were filling the street and a vintage simca cruised slowly by with music blairing, playing a french version of "Hello Dolly". The driver was dressed for the part in 50's/60's style hair. Everyone got a kick out of that. The falafel was delicious. We went back once more during the trip for another. They also had good pomme frites. We walked across the street to Finkelsteins (sp) and brought back a couple of pieces of the cheese cake, fluffy, light and creamy.

Best boulangerie/salon de the: Andre Cleret in the 1st on rue lavandieres (?) We discovered it on our 2nd trip, only to find that it was recommended by Patricia Wells. They have the best pastries, baguette sandwiches with inventive fillings; avocat and crevette, jambon and carrot, brie and tomato, chicken and avocat, etc. They also had the best chocolate eclairs by far of any of the ones we sampled. More later.
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Apr 7th, 2006, 02:12 PM
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Opaldog, welcome back. Great report, can't wait to read more. Paris is my favorite city and Reykjavik for us was a delightful surprise.

We have happened upon several weddings during our travels in France and have to agree about all the beautiful "ensembles" worn by the wedding guests. We will be attending a wedding in August in the south of France and I am hoping the dress code is much more casual. How will I ever pack light and still bring wedding guest attire complete with hat

Looking forward to reading more about your travels, Deborah
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Apr 7th, 2006, 07:01 PM
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Thanks, DeborahAnn. The wedding was a special moment in Paris. I am suffering jetlag so I'll be getting back to my report in the morning. I'm reliving the week while I type.
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Apr 7th, 2006, 07:44 PM
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Welcome home and thanks for posting so quickly. Looking forward to more.
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Apr 8th, 2006, 04:37 AM
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The first sunday of the month in Paris is free museum day for many of the big museums. We decided to head to the Pompidou first (for the view). It was a sunny, mild day and I didn't really want to be indoors. It was easy to get in, no lines. The view was spectacular. We headed over to the Louvre, first stopping in at all of the pet stores along the quai du louvre. Sort of sad to see all the little dogs piled in behind their cages. I love the french bulldogs, sort of reminds me of my boston. THe Louvre was packed!! We skipped that and headed toward the Tuileries which looked like standing room only. Took a detour for the Seine and walked down along the riverbank. The water was high and when boats came by they swamped everyone sitting along the sides. The city was full of families strolling and tourists like us. We stopped at one of the bookinistes to purchase a french Calvin & Hobbs book. He spoke to us about his great love of the American culture. He also had a special collection of early Robert Crumb covers, which he prized. Robert Crumb lives in France.

We came across a small parade/manifestation that turned out to be a "Stop the Greve" march. They were against the anti CPE marchers, who are in the majority. There was a country wide strike scheduled for the coming Tuesday.

Another new sight that I had wanted to see, but had not gotten to on previous trips was La Defense and the Grande Arch. We headed up on the metro on monday morning and got off at the Esplanade de la Grande Arche stop to walk up toward it and see the outdoor sculptures. Frankly, I was quite impressed with the whole place. The view of the Arc de Triomphe from the top of the steps of the Arch was impressive. We didn't go up to the top, which you could do in glass elevators which went up on free standing scaffolding. I think the view we got from the steps was sufficient for me. They have a shopping mall right there so we went in and purchased a very cute and very french outfit for our granddaughter. They had a french equivalent to kmart. The prices were very high. We had coffee at a Bodum cafe. I'd like to see those in malls in the US.

We headed from there to Galeries Lafayette, hoping to go up on either panoramic terrace of the stores (Printemps). Both were closed. But instead of telling you that on the ground floor, you had to go up 8 flights of escalators to read a sign that it was closed. We settled instead for the cafeteria at Galeries Lafayette and had a cafe and a stale pastry.

From there we walked down Haussman toward Montorgueil, where we happened upon some of the Grand passages, which I also had wanted to see. Off the top of my head I can't remember the names, I think Passage Jouffroy was one. They were interesting. Very old, and full of gift shops, stamp shops, restaurants. One of them had the Hotel Chopin (I think) next to it. The Musee Grevin, wax museum was also incorporated into one of the passages. We walked from there to the Monorgueil section, where my husband got a very tasty panini from a small shop and we ended up next to St. Eustache church and round the side of Forum de Les Halles stores, down rambuteau over to Ste. Croix de la Bretonnerie and back over to the apartment. We did alot of walking and only used one carnet our whole stay.
I also picked up my only crepe of the trip. I stopped, pretty exhausted at a stand by the Pompidou for a sucre and beurre crepe. At that point it was delicious, although the crepes were already made, which I didn't notice when I stopped for them. Oh, well.
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Apr 9th, 2006, 04:19 AM
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I'll wrap this up. Tuesday the demonstrations which were actually interesting to watch. I would say there were about a million people involved. We went up to the Bastille and took some pictures and were given stickers to wear by marchers. Everything was very festive and peaceful at that point.

We were able to make our way across the Bastille and walked over to the Promenade Plantee/Viaduc des Arts. We walked up stairs to reach the top and walk along the old railroad bed that goes along rue Daumesnil. We had been there before in the winter. This time there were families strolling and plants and flowers blooming. It was very pretty and peaceful. Below us we could see and hear the police and marchers who were proceeding to Place d'Italie.

To sum it up:
Restaurants we enjoyed:
Brasserie I'sle St. Louis (4th)
Baracane (4th)
Boulangerie:
Andre Cleret (1st)
Patisserie:
Au Levain du Marais (3rd & 11th)
great baquettes and macarons
Grocery store:
Monoprix on rue Ste. Antoine
Exhibit:
Willy Ronis photo exhibit at Hotel de Ville
Mode of transport:
RER, metro, feet
I could go on and on, but I think once you get addicted to Paris, that's just the way it is.

Part II - Reykjavik:

Culture shock to go from Paris to Iceland. We had arranged for an Iceland excursion trip to pick us up at the airport and bring us to Blue Lagoon, a geothermal outdoor spa set amongst volcanic lava rock. It was a fantastic experience. It was cold and the wind was blowing fast. We bobbed around in the very hot, steamy mineral water for close to an hour and a half, then showered and used large amounts of hair condition before heading to Reykjavik.

We stayed at the Hotel Fron on the main shopping street of Laugavegar. A small but stylish hotel. I would recommend it. Reykjavik was cold and very expensive, but a good experience. Everybody speaks english. We had dinner at a strange, but interesting Thai/Icelandic place that apparently had Thai karaoke on weekends.
We walked around the city on the day we were to depart and went to the top of the church, Hallgrimskirkja, for a view of the entire city. It is located right on the Atlantic, with snow covered mountains tumbling down to its harbor.
Icelandair, as I already said was a perfectly satisfactory airline and we would use them again. It was a nice ending to a great week.
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Apr 10th, 2006, 10:39 AM
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opaldog, you have given some good ideas for our next stay in Paris. I have to keep coming up with new places or my husband will decide he has "been there done that" and that's never the case for me. I could just sit at a cafe all afternoon but not Ron.

We have flown IcelandAir on a trip to Scotland with a 3 day stopover in Iceland on our return. My discontent with IcelandAir was their boarding process. Hopefully it is better than it was 4 years ago. It was like a huge stampede even though we all had assigned seats. It seemed to take forever to board the plane. I guess I am just too impatient when faced with disorganization. Deborah
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Apr 10th, 2006, 12:28 PM
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Great report opaldog, thanks for posting. Barb
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Apr 10th, 2006, 01:05 PM
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Hi opaldog, welcome home and back to our crazy Boston weather. Loving your report. I was there in March and lunched at the Brasserie Lísle saint-Louis and it was the only time I dined outside ecause of the jazz group playing on the Strret. I wonder if you stopped in the same pinini shop I did on the rue de Montorgueil, it's called Caldo Freddo, almost across from the Old landmark bakery.
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Apr 10th, 2006, 04:18 PM
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I appreciate everyones comments.
DeborahAnn: The boarding process was mixed. In Boston we boarded by row and business and children first. From KEF to CDG it was Business and children (we lucked out and were put in business) and then everyone. From KEF to BOS it was those in the front of the line got on first. It was pretty orderly though. I think it did take longer. It was snowing and I just wanted to get off the ground, so that is an area in which they could improve. We had a similar experience with Virgin Air at BOS. Everyone just rushed the gate and kind of shoved aboard.
BabsB: appreciate your comment.
cigalechanta: I'm pretty sure it was the same panini place on montorgueil. We didn't eat there, we ate along the way. I didn't get one for myself and regretted it. It was tasty. Did you go to the Willy Ronis exhibit when you were in Paris? I really enjoyed it. Apparently it had been scheduled to close and they extended it. They also had an exhibit on the French Cinema which I didn't have a chance to get to.
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Apr 10th, 2006, 04:24 PM
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Yes, I did and several more you can read in my trip report. I'll top it for you. I loved the Dora Marr at the Picasso.
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