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Just Call Me Madame...Blissful R&R in Paris

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Nov 18th, 2010, 06:36 PM
  #1
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Just Call Me Madame...Blissful R&R in Paris

Before the glow fades too much, I thought I'd write a quick trip report about my recent 10 days in Paris. Some of you have helped with my planning and others have helped me in the lounge with getting through some recent bumpy days. Either way, just wanted to share this wonderful trip with all of you and say thanks for your Fodoricious support!

WHY
I always say there is no problem that can't be made better by a trip to Paris.

After 4 years living in Switzerland we were somewhat abruptly transferred back to the US by my husband's company. I simultaneously got a new boss at my job who was a bit of a nightmare and held me to my 90 day contract termination which made the move and re-situating my family a wee bit STRESSFUL and unpleasant.

My sweet husband said that once the furniture was on the ship I should take a final lap around Europe to relax, reflect and regroup. He's a mensch, isn't he? Thanks dear mr. gruezi it was just what I needed. I thought about hitting a few unvisited cities but was so tired and weary (and frankly some days a bit sad) that the idea of planning a lot of logistics in unfamiliar places was just too much for me.

So, I went to Paris for the first 10 days of November. This was my 6th trip. My first trip there was solo (27 years ago) and this was solo as well. Not that I don't have travel companions, but I do treasure my alone time, and I definitely needed some of it before I headed back 'home.'

MY GOAL

To surround myself with beauty in all its forms - art, antiques, decorative arts, food, and most of all joie de vivre. Paris seemed the perfect place to do this and it did not disappoint.

When my soul is weary, I find such solace gazing into a beautiful work of art and then enjoying a glass of champagne and some foie gras in a lovely dining room, or strolling a charming street and looking at beautiful interior decorations in a window, or hunting down a lovely piece of linen for a gift for a dear friend. Paris offered me all this and more.

Where I Stayed

As I would be solo and don't usually dine out alone at night I decided to try an apartment instead of a hotel this trip. I used Guest Apartment Services and chose the I'le St. Louis. For details on the apartment, see the thread I started on it....

http://www.fodors.com/community/euro...n-november.cfm

To summarize: I LOVED this neighborhood and felt immediately at home. I felt safe and definitely not lonely and in a couple days was a regular at the local grocery, boulangerie, and cafe. The apartment had a lovely view of the Seine, Notre Dame and even the twinkling Eiffel tower in the evening and I liked being able to eat my little dinners in at night when I felt like it.

In the evenings, the strains of music from a saxophone or accordian could be heard on the tiny balcony. Some evenings I just enjoyed strolling in the neighborhood or having tea at Le Flore en I'le a friendly cafe just at the bridge that connects I'le Saint-Louis with I'le de la Cite (by Notre Dame).



Just Call Me Madame

I don't know if there was a sign on my forehead that said, "treat this woman with extra special care" but I can't say enough how embraced I felt by my favorite city. Everywhere I went I was treated with such care and friendliness and I felt so very welcome to sit in any restaurant alone for as long as I liked. I don't know why, but being called 'Madame' just made me smile every time.

Young french men are beyond charming and more than once I was told by a handsome one, "Madame, it has been a great pleasure to help you..." I was kissed on the hand and the cheek on a few occasions and it just warmed my heart. At my favorite Le Flore, the old waiter would take my face in both hands just to listen to my order of green tea and pain au chocolat. After the reserved people of Switzerland and my stressful few months it was beyond delightful and just what I needed to feel myself again.

So, Paris rolled out the red carpet and filled my glass to the brim and I sipped up every drop.

Next: What I Did followed by Where I Ate
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Nov 18th, 2010, 06:45 PM
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This sounds just delightful and I can't wait to follow along on you time in Paris.
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Nov 18th, 2010, 06:47 PM
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Please show some restraint in the What I Did chapter.
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Nov 18th, 2010, 07:50 PM
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So glad you loved the apartment living. Looking forward to more.

(Don't listen to colduphere, we want to know whatever you want to tell us!)
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Nov 18th, 2010, 07:56 PM
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Dearest Cold-

Regarding WHAT I DID...

I behaved. Don't worry.

They are charming but NOT as funny as you are...so unable to completely steal my heart away

gruezi
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Nov 18th, 2010, 08:18 PM
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gruezi,
Glad you liked Guest Apartment Services. I chose them when my sister and I visited with our mother--in her sixties and picky! I have seen your long apartment thread but somehow never managed to wade through all the posts to see which apartment you chose. Could you please just give us the link here? Thanks!
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Nov 18th, 2010, 08:24 PM
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Thanks for reading challiman and cw... Here is the next installment...

What I Did

Mostly I walked and wore out my feet but I deliberately gave some structure to my days as well so I wouldn’t feel lonely or blue especially if the weather got gloomy. (Mostly I was lucky with balmy days but the last few days it did bluster and POUR).

I noticed my reflection a few times in the windows as I walked and I saw that my face often had a big smile on it that actually surprised me a few times. Who was this woman? I hadn’t seen her in a while.

I didn't have time to make a lot of advance plans but I did make sure to get tickets for the Monet Exhibit at the Gran Palais and also tickets for a ballet at the Palais Garnier. (More on these below and thanks to those who gave advice on getting tickets in advance.)

I tried to visit some favorite art museums as well as some I haven’t been to before. Also, I love bookstores so I made a few of those destinations as well. I sampled the top bakeries and chocolate shops as I love that sort of thing – Gerard Mulot, Pierre Herme, Laduree, etc. Almost every day my husband had reserved a lunch table for me at a lovely restaurant from a list I compiled from here on Fodor’s and some suggestions he came up with himself from an Eyewitness book. (I’ll share the details below!)

Here are the museums I visited:

Musee Marmottan – I loved this small but wonderful museum in the 17th. I have wanted to visit it for a while and it was always my unfinished business reason to go back to Paris. In conjunction with the larger Monet exhibit at the Gran Palais they were having a special Monet exhibit. I spent a long, long time on my first full day in Paris just sitting in front of “Impression, Sunrise.”

I don’t normally do this but I did buy a print of this masterpiece as it really touched me deep in my soul. I’m having it framed for over our little café table in our kitchen. I also loved the neighborhood around this museum and strolled through the park afterward in a gloriously sunny springlike day. One thing I thought during my 10 days in Paris and visits to a number of museums was how could one single man have painted so many beautiful things? Beyond the waterlilies he was so much more!

Musee Delacroix - A beautiful studio and garden where this artist worked. I loved the buildings and grounds but the lighting was very dark, all the write-up only in French, so the art viewing was difficult for me. My eyesight is not great in dark rooms. I did have a nice meditation in the lovely garden. I love this neighborhood as well because all the interior design shops are here. They were all closed for All Saint’s Day but I strolled and window-shopped anyway after the museum.

Musee Maillol - Another beautiful building that normally has a collection of art that I would have loved, but this month was having a special exhibit “Treasures of the Medicis’”. Well, I was already there, and all of Paris was closed for a holiday so why not? I am a bit tired of the Medicis from many trips to Italy, not really big on this type of art, but I was able to see a beautiful Botticelli and no day that I see a Botticelli is truly wasted. Afterward I rewarded myself for absorbing so much culture with treats from Pierre Herme which is right across from Ira’s beloved Hotel Bonaparte and in a lovely location that I might try sometime. So, I thought of our friend Ira and his lady wife while I ate some post-art treats.


Musee D’Orsay- I love this museum and always visit it when in Paris. The good thing was I had it mostly to myself as I got there early on a cloudy morning in November. The bad news is a few of my favorites, including Whistler’s Mother and the Degas Dancer were out on loan. The collection has also been completely re-organized due to a renovation. I actually liked the way they set up the temporary exhibits and so enjoyed it very much in its changed format.

There is one lovely little room upstairs in a corner off the ballroom with a large painting of a vast snowy landscape and some smaller paintings – one by Mondrian. I don’t remember the landscape artist but I loved this little room and its contents and after my tea went back to spend some extra time there. Altogether a very nice visit. Would have liked to go back again but my week filled up and I wanted to have fresh art eyes for Monday and the Monet Exhibit so tried not to ‘art out’ as I have been known to do.

I did buy a book that is a guide to this museum’s collection at their bookstore. I enjoyed looking through this the rest of my stay in Paris and am happy to have it here at home now.

The Louvre - I love this museum but I also find it exhausting. I decided I would just go for an hour and mostly just see the Vermeers. Went early, no line, yippee! Unfortunately, I picked the one day of the week the wing with the Vermeers is closed. ☹ I wore myself out a bit wandering about deciding what to do instead and then happened upon a small special museum exhibit that took my breath away. Here is a description:

The Louvre invites Patrice Chéreau
Faces and Bodies

Chéreau stages some forty paintings from the collections of the Musée du Louvre, the Centre Georges-Pompidou and the Musée d’Orsay… using their interplay to give new expression to the stories told by the other events he has in store for the public at the Louvre.


I spent a while at the above and then finished my visit by taking a look at the Botticelli frescoes. Despite being a bit overwhelmed, it was a good visit and I also enjoyed a lovely walk outside. I happen to be one that very much likes the pyramid and all the surrounding architecture seen from that location. It is actually just as amazing to me as what is inside.

Maison Victor Hugo - I was headed to the Place des Vosges and it was pouring rain so it seemed a good time to visit this museum. Beyond the major books he has written, I knew little about Victor Hugo and I liked the audio here very much. I was a bit in over my head with some of the other famous people that were part of a photo exhibit and also a bit of the history but it was interesting and worthwhile and I especially liked the portraits of his family and his lifelong mistress.

LAST BUT NOT AT ALL LEAST!

Monet at the Gran Palais
Even though I love Impressionism, I would never say that Monet is my favorite. But, I do love seeing the life work of just about any artist brought together into one large exhibit. I walked away from this exhibit with a whole new appreciation for Monet and with the visual memory of some artwork I had never seen before (and likely will never get to see again) that will stay with me for a very long time. I loved how the various parts of series he had worked on were brought together to be seen side by side. I also loved learning about his love for the sea and for color and light because I share this passion.

I was lucky to see this on a very rainy Monday morning and so it was not at all crowded. The audience was so polite about giving each other space and I felt I could linger as long as I liked. I spent about 2 hours.

It was a once in a lifetime experience for me – a highlight of my trip and it was fitting that my trip started with Marmottan and ended here. I got to go from here to lunch at Le Cinq… What a way to spend my final day in Paris!

More of WHAT I DID to follow soon... off to bed...gruezi
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Nov 18th, 2010, 08:29 PM
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Hi Leely,

Here it is but you might want to read my last post on the other thread...

http://www.guestapartment.com/proper...io/acacia.html

It was a perfect location, but not necessarily a perfect apt.

gruezi
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Nov 18th, 2010, 08:30 PM
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good for you, Gruezi...you deserved it..best wishes for a good, healthy, fun life back in the USA!
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Nov 18th, 2010, 08:49 PM
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Madame, we are charmed. More please.
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Nov 18th, 2010, 09:20 PM
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gruezi, thanks! I will read the end of your other thread. Coincidentally I went from Maison Victor Hugo to lunch at Le Cinq to the Petit Palais to a performance at Opera Garnier the last time I was in Paris solo. If we are fortunate enough to do so, it is so good to treat oneself to various forms of art, beauty and pleasure Paris offers.

Looking forward to the next chapter.
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Nov 19th, 2010, 12:38 AM
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What a lovely report - thank you. We are planning our first visit in May and this has given me some great ideas. How I wish I could see the Monet exhibit - I will just have to settle for a visit to his house and garden.

Best wishes to you - I hope all goes well in the next chapter of your life.
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Nov 19th, 2010, 04:47 AM
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Hi Stu - nice to hear from you, thanks for reading and for the good wishes.

Leely - I agree completely! Didn't they make you feel like a Queen at Le Cinq? What did you see at Garnier?

Maudie - If you plan it right you can see a lot of Monet in Paris even after the exhibit ends. Many works came from the D'Orsay and of course don't miss the Marmottan. The park there will be gorgeous in May. Have a great trip and thanks for the good wishes.

gruezi
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Nov 19th, 2010, 09:50 AM
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Oh my, Gruezi. We are leaving for Paris on Sunday and you have truly put me in the proper frame of mind. Thank you thank you thank you.
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Nov 19th, 2010, 09:57 AM
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Gruezi, this is such a lovely report! I'm fully involved, and would like to hear more.

BC
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Nov 19th, 2010, 11:01 AM
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I loved reading about how well you were treated in Paris. In all of our trips there we found the same to be true, but we are so tired of having untraveled people who have never been to France tell us with all certainty how rude the Parisians are.

The minute you mention France, so many people feel compelled to ask "Why do you go there? Aren't they very rude to you there?" I'd like to know where this idea comes from. Our response always is "When was the last time you were there?" Then most often they respond with "Well I've never been there, but everyone knows that they are rude".

I'm constantly amazed at the unexpected, unsolicited, random acts of kindness that we have experienced while traveling in France. IMO, their undeserved reputation for rudeness says more about us than the Parisians.

I am loving your report and enjoying "living " in Paris for a few days with you.
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Nov 19th, 2010, 11:19 AM
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gruezi,

Welcome back. Very nice reporting so far.
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Nov 19th, 2010, 11:21 AM
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I'm really enjoying reading your report and looking forward to reading more. I leave Saturday night to head to Paris for a week. I will also see the Monet Exhibit while I'm there.

TR
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Nov 19th, 2010, 11:22 AM
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I'm really enjoying reading your report and looking forward to reading more. I leave Saturday night to head to Paris for a week. I will also see the Monet Exhibit while I'm there so I was excited to read about your experience.

TR
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Nov 19th, 2010, 11:23 AM
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Oops. Sorry for the double postings. I hit the stop button and when I went to refresh, it posted the first one. Ugghh.
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