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New & Improved Thread: An Injured American In Paris: Maitaitom's Miracle Christmas Trip

New & Improved Thread: An Injured American In Paris: Maitaitom's Miracle Christmas Trip

Jan 26th, 2007, 03:44 AM
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Just looking for more!!
jody is offline  
Jan 26th, 2007, 05:24 AM
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I kept wondering why your other post had stopped...so, duh, I finally clicked on your name and ***VOILA!*** here you are. Phew! I'm so glad you've continued this. It's a wonderful trip report.
kamahinaohoku is offline  
Jan 26th, 2007, 06:40 AM
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Our string of blue-sky mornings ended, but there was no need to worry with my big, black, cumbersome, disaster-waiting-to-happen overcoat to keep me warm. Besides, it was Christmas Eve.

We got a relatively early start and headed toward the St. Germain area. It was of paramount importance that we stop and savor the obligatory coffee and croissant (or two) at a little neighborhood place we ducked into. I believe I now weighed close to 800 pounds.

It was basically a morning of window-shopping, from a cool little store with fun umbrellas to a great store full of old-style travel posters (the kind you frame and put on a wall, not the ones who write overly long trip reports).

By 11 a.m. (or as I like to call it, “Early Cocktail Hour”), I stopped at a little booth along St. Germain and mulled over having a cup of Vin Chaud, which I did. We had passed many signs for hot wine throughout the week, so it just seemed like a good time to try it. I don’t think it was the hour of the day, but I can’t imagine ever getting a taste for Vin Chaud. Of course, I finished it.

With the smell of Vin Chaud on my breath, we stopped at St-Germain-des-Prés, one of the oldest churches in Paris. I told Tracy I wanted to light a candle for my liver, but we decided that would be in bad taste.

Although we already had reservations at Rotisserie Du Beaujolais that night, we checked out the area to see how many restaurants would be open on this night, considering this was both Sunday and Christmas Eve. In the vicinity of where we were at the moment, both Allard and Le Christine had Christmas Eve dinners with slightly inflated prices going on that night. We also checked out the restaurant where I wanted to dine before we left Paris, Chez Fernand on rue Christine. Alas, it was closed.

The Vin Chaud must have gone to my head by this point, because the next thing I knew Tracy was in some jewelry store, and all I remember is, “How many euros do you have on you?” I don’t even know if it was Tracy or the clerk who asked the question. By the time I answered, Tracy had some new earrings and a necklace. Love to buy the bling, baby!

In need of some food, we stopped by a little place and picked up a Jambon y Emmenthaler sandwich, which just has such a better sound than ham and cheese. It was then on to the candy store to buy a gift for Tracy’s grandmother.

By now I had the overcoat problem pretty well solved, so Parisians stood in awe as I quickly removed my gloves, retrieved my wallet, pulled out the money and then reversed the process. As my gloves were safely back on my hands, I thought I heard someone say, “Mon Dieu, David Copperfield?”

I was now navigating stairs with ease, so we headed to the nearest metro station.

DIGRESSION: Someone on a post not too long ago said the metros in Paris were depressing. I must respectfully disagree. While I love walking in Paris, taking the metro is an expedient and efficient way to get to where you want to go next, and deciphering how the system works should only take a newcomer about a minute to figure out once in town. Plus, it’s great when the temperatures dip below freezing.

I find it amazing how the entire system was constructed with its labyrinth of tunnels, stairways and escalators. Since I grew up in Los Angeles, a place where the phrase rapid transit was an oxymoron for decades (and still is to a large extent), I marvel at how easy it is to get from Point A to Point B or even to Point H in Paris.

There must be pickpockets (because I read threads about them), but in eight trips here, I have never felt threatened or scared on a metro. We watch our personal belongings carefully, and maybe I hold on to my camera a little tighter.

I also know there are beggars in the tunnels. Unfortunately, the less fortunate are a way of life not only in Paris, but in countless major and not so major cities worldwide.

And, while not all the musicians who send their distinctive sound cascading throughout the tunnel maze will be confused for Mozart, there are others playing instruments who make the halls resonate with musical magic.

Now, it’s back to Christmas Eve. We took the metro and got off at the Opera, but decided we would wait until the day after Christmas to go see the inside (hey, we have to save something). Since we were near Harry’s Bar, we thought we’d see if it was open. No dice (or martinis).

It was getting darker, so we started walking back to the hotel, where we finished the champagne from Kim and Mary that we started the previous evening.

Before we headed toward La Rotissere Du Beaujolais, we walked over to the Place Vendome, which was really decked out for the holiday. Spotlights zoomed in on Napoleon at the top of the column. There were lots of white lights shining all around, and the entrance to the Ritz was particularly stunning with white Christmas trees and lighting in one part that sent off a beautiful bluish tint.

At 7:30 or so we were at the entrance of Notre Dame with hundreds of our closest friends, who were in line for mass. A mass was playing on giant jumbotrons in front of the cathedral, and I thought for a moment about taking a picture, cropping it and saying we were in there, too. But that would have been wrong.

The huge Christmas tree in front of Notre Dame was lit, and for some reason, it just looked better on Christmas Eve than it had the other night we looked at it. People were clamoring to get their pictures taken in front of the tree, and the atmosphere was festive.

We walked over to the small church over on the left bank, Saint-Séverin (I think). We walked inside and people were already getting seated for Christmas Eve services.

It was now time for our Christmas Eve meal at Rotisserie Du Beaujolais, which is owned by the Tour de Argent folks (fortunately, not the same prices as their more famous counterpart).

We were seated next to the window. The restaurant is informal, but cute. It has a country French motif, and the windows are adorned with lace curtains, while the tables are topped with yellow linens (thank God Tracy takes some notes). On this particular night, everyone, from the hostess to the servers, was more than jovial, which made for a relaxed meal.

After a while, Tracy seemed like she was giving me “the look,” however since I didn’t have food hanging out of my mouth and my zipper was up, I ascertained I was not the object of her Spock-like countenance.

“What’s up?” I said.

“Have you seen the woman behind you?” she asked.

Since I had not grown two eyes in the back of head during my second Campari Cocktail (remember my motto, “you’ll never be sorry with another Campari”), I answered in the negative.

“This woman looks exactly like Cruella de Vil,” she whispered (now remember, Tracy is the nice one of the two of us). Coincidentally, we had not seen another woman similar in appearance to Cruella de Ville since we visited Ribeauville in 2003. This woman, I was told, had some wild Cruella-type clothing on, too.

Tracy then added with a look of terror, “She also has a dog.” The dog was a very friendly Golden Retriever.

I never got a really good look at “Cruella” throughout the entire evening, but I can only hope she didn’t have an extra gold coat the next time she visited.

The meal was quite good. I started with escargots and handled the tongs expertly, so no snail shells flew onto unsuspecting tables. Tracy started with warm leeks with vinaigrette, diced onions and parsley.

We both had the rotisserie-roasted chicken served on a large platter at our table. The creamy, buttery mashed potatoes were delicious, especially on a cold night.

Dessert consisted of a warm, chocolate cake with framboise sauce and vanilla glacé for me, while Tracy had the Bouche de Noel in a crème anglais with citron (perhaps Grand Marnier). Both were very good.

As we savored our meal over an Irish coffee (or two), we were visited by one of the owners. Well, sort it. The Rotisserie Du Beaujolais has a resident house cat who is, to say it mildly, a little rotund. Obviously, the chicken is made to his liking. The cat (being very feline-like) said a quick “Merveillmeow” to us and then moved on, presumably to have another meal.

As the evening wound down, we encountered the only ugly American of our visit. At a table a good distance away, a gentleman (and I use the term very loosely) was attempting to entertain the rest of his table (and unfortunately the rest of the restaurant) with jokes…very bad jokes.

Now that would be bad enough, considering the decibel level of the man, however the jokes were also racial in content. The people at his table varied in response from fake laughter to “I wish the French still used the guillotine.”

Fortunately, we were done with our drinks by now, as was most of the restaurant, so we left the group in the corner to contemplate how they became acquaintances of the guy. The hostess bid us a Joyeux Noel, and it was out into the Arctic we went.

Overall, the restaurant impressed me. I had heard mixed reviews, but I have no regrets choosing Rotisserie Du Beaujolais as our Christmas Eve choice. Everything from the food to the décor to the service was more than pleasing, and they make a hell of an Irish Coffee.

We got back to the metro stop at Varenne just before midnight, and after we walked up the stairs and took a few steps; we gazed to the left where the Eiffel Tower (or what we could see of it through the fog) was doing its hourly dance of lights. Tracy and I looked at each other and, I believe in a moment of husbandly passion, I kissed her.

It was Christmas morning, and we were two of the luckiest people on earth.

maitaitom is online now  
Jan 26th, 2007, 07:11 AM
Join Date: Sep 2006
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Very nice. Thank you for taking the time to write about your trip. I took Paris out of my upcoming trip with my husband but now maybe I should reconsider.

Much Aloha
cafegoddess is offline  
Jan 26th, 2007, 07:26 AM
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...sniffle, sniffle, reaching for a tissue...that is sweet ..

you certainly are one of the luckiest couples... I think.
SuzieC is offline  
Jan 26th, 2007, 07:43 AM
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I love that umbrella shop on Blvd Ste Germain and did the poster store still have the French Army Knife poster in the window..I really wanted that for my kitchen.

Sorry you didn't make it to Chez Fernand, it's our favorite too!

Love the way you tell a story!
jody is offline  
Jan 26th, 2007, 07:44 AM
Join Date: Mar 2006
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wow. I think I must plan a Christmas vacation in Paris now. I've been there in late Summer; and plan on a Spring 2008; but your description of the Christmas Eve sounds marvellous.
lmlweb is offline  
Jan 26th, 2007, 07:47 AM
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Tom, is there any possible way you can get this done today? I'm leaving for two weeks without reliable internet access.... that's a looooong time to wait for a good story!
marigross is offline  
Jan 26th, 2007, 08:20 AM
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"Sorry you didn't make it to Chez Fernand, it's our favorite too!"

We just didn't make there on Christmas Eve. Wait until the day after Christmas......

maitaitom is online now  
Jan 26th, 2007, 08:23 AM
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Paris is so romantic....and your report is wonderful as always. I look forward to the next installment.
CRAZY4TRAVEL is offline  
Jan 26th, 2007, 10:10 AM
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Tom, I knew you were a romantic! Very sweet . . .
LCBoniti is offline  
Jan 26th, 2007, 10:30 AM
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Tom, as usual your report has me enthralled. And I agree, you two are a lucky couple..may love follow you all the days of your lives!

And lots more trips too so we will have more fun trip reports to read! Merci.
LoveItaly is offline  
Jan 26th, 2007, 11:02 AM
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I spent my all-time favorite Christmas in Paris. Reading your report transports me back to that holiday. We had very similar trips, except yours involves a little more alcohol.

Thanks, maitaitom.
Leely is offline  
Jan 26th, 2007, 11:15 AM
Join Date: Jan 2004
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Maitaitom - Thank you for this wonderful report. May I ask you the name of the RA medicine you have been taking these last 12 years?

charlieg is offline  
Jan 26th, 2007, 11:35 AM
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"Maitaitom - Thank you for this wonderful report. May I ask you the name of the RA medicine you have been taking these last 12 years?"

Absolutely, because it changed my life. It is a once-a-week injectable called Enbrel. It was developed by Immunex (a Seattle company) and is now in the Amgen collection of products.

When I was 34 (1986), I was diagnosed with RA. Between 1986 and 1999, I had my knees drained of fluid so many times, I sometimes thought they were faucets. There were literally days I walked like I was an 80 year-old man, but I kept hoping.

Fortunately, my RA doctor got me on the Enbrel program early. I have had no side effects (except for one upper respitory cold...no big deal) in nine years.

I now walk without limping, can play some backyard basketball and live a perfectly normal life. Tracy gives me the shots because (1) I'm a wimp and (2) because if she's angry at me, she can let out her aggression by shooting me. The shots come in one of those pop-up type injectables.

I tell people with RA who have not tried this drug to ask their doctor about it, because I tried so many tings before this, it was hard not to give up when they all failed.

The downside is Enbrel costs a fortune, but fortunately my insurance covers it. The other downside was that I never bought Immunex stock. If I had, I would have been traveling on their money for the rest of my life. Oh well, who needs money when you have good (well, better) knees.

Sorry for straying so long about medicine, but Enbrel has changed my life, and knowing the pain RA sufferers go through first hand, I would be remiss not to answer this question.

maitaitom is online now  
Jan 26th, 2007, 03:09 PM
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It was Christmas morning in Paris, but like every other morning Tracy and I put on our walking shoes and hit the pavement early.

We had thought about how much we had liked Le Florimond, so we walked over to the restaurant, only to see the sign that the restaurant would be closed for the rest of the holidays. I also was hoping to figure out what the name of that wine we drank the other night.

Next, we found a little place to grab some coffee and croissants (hardly anything open) and then walked through the area near the Eiffel Tower.

The only place we saw open was a Chinese restaurant, and as we passed by it about 10:30 a.m. a huge contingent of Chinese tourists were being whisked off a Tour Bus and into the restaurant. The entire scene made me think about the family in Christmas Story who ended up having their Christmas meal at the local Chinese place. I wonder if the restaurant was serving Chinese Canard as their Chinese turkey.

We walked up Avenue Rapp and saw a couple of our old favorite haunts, the Puryicard candy store and restaurant Clos des Gourmets (both closed, of course), a restaurant we had eaten at shortly after it opened in the late 1990s. We kept walking.

Tracy had picked up a brochure at our hotel shortly after we arrived in Paris that had some information about a museum we had never heard of before, but it said it was open on Christmas Day, so we figured, “Let’s go.”

We got ourselves back over to bd. Haussmann (our Pomze street) and headed for the Musee Jacquemart-André. This was our little “undiscovered gem” moment of the trip (many of you well-seasoned travelers already know about it, but it had never been on our radar before).

This is a mansion that was built in the 1870s and belonged to Edouard André and Nellie Jacquemart, hence the name. These two would have been able to do some great trip reports, because they traveled often to Italy and collected art that they would bring back and exhibit at the mansion.

Even after his death, Nellie made other trips to Italy and also to the Far East. In 1912, after her death, the art and the house were left to the city of Paris.

The free audio guide here was terrific, and Tracy especially liked the commentary because it talked a lot about the house, its history, how it was utilized, the couple themselves and the elegant parties they threw here. You could also learn about specific pieces of art, but to us, the history of the people and the home was the most interesting facet of the tour.

From Tracy, “I found the Italian art collection to be amazing. I loved how the doors in the entry parlor drop into the floor and the walls on either side of the parlor could fold back to accommodate more than 1,000 people. During the parties, musicians played upstairs in the balcony area, while people danced below.

“The amazing staircase was suspended in air. The architect had lost out on the design for the opera house, which has a similar-type stairway, but the museum staircase was deemed better and more amazing.

“The house is still used for private functions. Maybe we could renew our wedding vows here.” Boy, is she sneaky!

There was also an exhibit going on of golden treasures. There were television monitors that explained the exhibit in English with French subtitles, but we were getting hungry.

During the tour, our noses had been tempted by the smell of food wafting through the building, so after we dropped off the headphones and had lunch in the restaurant at Jacquemart-André. It was charming…and good.

Tracy had the Le Prince salad, which consisted of a mixed salad with curried chicken and carrots, raisins and grapefruit. I don’t remember what I had for lunch, because we split ½ bottle of Pommery Champagne, and I, as usual, took more than my fair share.

We then ducked into their nice, little gift shop, and Tracy bought a bunch of butterflies (not live ones). Tracy again: “Butterflies were quite the decoration in Paris this year. We saw them in white, pink, red, gold, black and pale blue. They were displayed in front windows and on the tree in our hotel lobby.

“The only place we saw them for sale was at the museum gift store, and the lovely Tracy (man, how she sneaks these comments in) came home with pink, red and gold butterflies – 1.30 euro apiece.”

The rest of the afternoon we just wandered somewhat aimlessly (but in a good way), and there was not a lot going on. Then up ahead, we saw a bunch of people, and the entire area was bustling with people. We had made it back to the Jewish Quarter in the Marais, and it was hopping full of people.

I was thinking of grabbing something else to eat, but I had a couple of more wardrobe malfunctions earlier in the day, so I didn’t want the local populous to think I was some sort of meshuggener by flailing away in my misguided attempt to get out my wallet.

As soon as left the area, it was quiet again until we reached the next multitude of people. Out in front of the Hotel de Ville, it looked like a Dorothy Hamill (one of my first true loves after my unrequited love affair with Peggy Fleming years before) reunion.

Tracy asked (jokingly) if I wanted to get out on the ice and try it. Since I had not ice-skated since the Nixon administration, I deferred.

On this afternoon, we had also thought about going to the Pompidou, but the line had been rather long, and for me to go back to the Pompidou, it would have to have been a much shorter line. We also stopped in some other “art” exhibit near the Marais, which looked like half art exhibit, half bad flea market, but it was nice to go inside, because it was chilly.

Our Christmas dinner on Christmas night was at Bofinger. It was when we got off the metro at Bastille, that Tom’s Tuscan Tours (please see 2005 trip report for details) got a little derailed. I had forgotten to bring the address, and at the Opera Bastille (a place I knew it was fairly near), there were about eight or nine options on which way to head.

Now a sane and raisonnable person would, of course, ask one of the people standing nearby which way Bofinger was located. Not I. In a moment of temporary insanity, I decided I could figure it out with that GPS system of a brain installed in my stubborn head.

For the next ten minutes, I did my best Keystone Kop imitation as I headed one way, then another and then another again. After ten minutes, Tracy was tired of this movie and said, “Please ask somebody.” Good idea.

Trying to be as French as possible (of course, they had probably seen me do my cartoon act for the past ten minutes), I went up to a gentleman in front of the opera. In my best really bad French I said, “Oú est Bo-fahn-jay?”

He looked at me and said, “You mean BowFinger.” Yeah, that’s the place. By the way, there were lots of restaurants open in this neighborhood. I know that because I saw them all on my ten minute joy walk.

We were now 20 minutes late for our 8:30 reservations, and we walked in the door. “Bonsoir,” I told the Maitre’di. “We are Mr. and Mrs. Late People.” He could not find our names.

I then told him our reservations were for 8:30. He said, with a little bit of an attitude (which I like), “Oh, you should have made them for 9.” He then gave us a quick “I’m kidding” look and directed us to our table located under the belle epoch ceiling. It was quite cool and, even better, there is no smoking in this section (although smoking in restaurants did not bother us at all on this trip).

A large number of Americans presumably dine here, but on Christmas night it was mostly occupied by French families, lovers and a couple who we surmised were either on their first date or heading for divorce because they talked about as much as a couple at a Marcel Marceau convention (now that’s a reference I didn’t see coming).

I liked the traditional French waiters, the room and the experience. Dinner was fine, but, once again, it wasn’t one to write home about.

It was more escargots for me, while Tracy had an arugula, egg and bacon salad. My beef in peppercorn sauce wasn’t bad, and Tracy had a Napoleon of seared scallops with Parmesan crisps on a bed of cornichons.

Dessert was good. We had a chocolate mousse cake with caramel on a cookie crust.

For drinks, we had started with some champagne, then a bottle of 2003 Chateauneuf de Pape L’Orateuers (or at least that’s we wrote down) with dinner, and for some strange reason, I had another Irish Coffee after dessert. Interestingly, or maybe not, at home if I have caffeine after 2 p.m., I’m a mess trying to sleep. In Paris, I can drink one at 11 p.m. and sleep like a baby.

Our waiter told us that Bofinger can serve 1,000 or so people on a very busy day, and on this Christmas they were above 700 for the day. The kitchen stays open until 1 a.m.

When we looked at the Eiffel Tower after exiting the metro stairs, we could only see a little of its base through the thick fog. I remembered I had not taken a picture of it at night with its upside down Christmas tree glowing, and I only had one more night in Paris.

As we drifted off to sleep, I prayed to the weather gods to let the fog lift enough the next evening to get my picture of the Eiffel Tower at night.

maitaitom is online now  
Jan 26th, 2007, 03:18 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
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You have me rethinking our November trip..I might have to hold out until Christmas!
jody is offline  
Jan 26th, 2007, 05:28 PM
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Tom... I didn't think you could outdo your Italy report, but this had me snorting! Very fun and informative.

I too have had RA for many years, can't imagine traveling in the midst of a flare-up. Then again, like you, can't imagine not getting on that plane.

Many thanks for taking us along for this fun ride.
Danna is offline  
Jan 26th, 2007, 07:42 PM
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The last time my husband and I went to Paris, we went to Bowfinger. We exited the metro in dumping rain and then proceded to wander in circles (without an umbrella) until we finally found the restaurant. I could relate to your confusion.
(another LA fodorite)
Kristina is offline  
Jan 26th, 2007, 11:05 PM
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Maitaitom - You have said you have been to Paris 8 times. Which months are your favorites or do you always travel there in the Winter?
Madison is offline  

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