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No Reservations...our laidback Paris Christmas

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Dec 29th, 2016, 04:19 AM
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No Reservations...our laidback Paris Christmas

Well, almost No Reservations….

We have been waiting for this trip for over a year. It's been two years since we were last in Paris and we missed it. We began planning the trip last Christmas and briefly thought of a trip to London instead. I was a little surprised that the man formerly known as Mr Starbucks really wanted a trip to Paris again at Christmas. I am lucky to have a husband who loves Paris and with no kids, travel at Christmas works for us and is much better for me from a work perspective. So, the Paris planning began.

We talked about so many of the things we miss and love in Paris. We continue to be surprised at how much there is in Paris that we still have not seen and done. We debated about dining and which restaurants we wanted to go back to or not. We made a decision that we just wanted to really relax and enjoy whatever presented itself, especially around dining. So, for the first time we went without many reservations. The reservations we made in advance were a second food tour with Paris by Mouth, this time in the Marais. We wanted to go back to Allard on Christmas Eve for the sole meunière and roasted potatoes. So, we made that reservation. We wanted to visit the newly reopened Ritz and decided on a late lunch at Bar Vendome on Christmas Day.

Paris has great dining and some of our favorite dinners have not been at the big name places. Sometimes making all the reservations is a chore in itself. I don't know why but we just decided not to plan much at all. It worked for us in Positano last year and we knew it could work for us in Paris. We loved it. I think maybe because we have been to Paris many times and are comfortable there and know we can find great dining anywhere. We always see new restaurants and want to check them out. Some places we love but just decided to skip this time. No Joel Robuchon this time (and that was hard to say no to). No Verjus, another favorite. No Bistro Belhara or Reed. I am sure they are all still wonderful and we missed several places that were closed for the holidays. But, we still had great food and wine and don't feel like we missed anything.

We made list over the weeks of things we might want to do and tried to find some things we had not done/seen in Paris. There is still a lot after 6 trips. It was actually nice not to plan and fuss over reservations for every meal.

One thing would stay the same, we would stay in St Germain des Pres and near The St Germain des Pres church again. We love the area for shops, restaurants and find getting around is easy as there are several Metro stops near by. I really like the area around rue du Bac, Cherche du Midi, Saint Peres, and Varenne and we continue to find new streets and interesting things every time we are in Paris.

We got to a few new things this trip but not as many as we wanted to. We never do! This trip flew by fast! I guess they all do but this one was over in a flash and we still have lots on our lists of reasons to go back to Paris. We really had a great time and are very happy with the decision to “under” plan and skip the chase for the next great Paris meal. We didn't have to chase anything and still had amazing food. We always pack light and packed even lighter this trip.

We used my miles to book a direct flight business class on Delta (the payoff for all the business trips I take all year to exotic places like Minneapolis, Baton Rouge, Lexington and the like....no offense to any of those places. It's only that people tend to think all the biz travel is so glamorous and fun but generally is decidedly unglamorous in any way. So, I dream of Paris until I can get on a plane headed there ☺

We had really good weather while in Paris and for once it didn’t rain on Christmas Eve. We had very little rain at all, maybe one shower. It was actually warm most of the time. Our last day was gorgeous, sunny and a bit cooler. It’s hard to decide if this was the best trip ever but it was up there! I would say we only had one little misstep (part of the under planning, more on that later).

We used the Metro and a few taxi rides. We had planned to take Uber on Christmas Day but didn’t want to use Uber Pool (all that was available at the time we were ready to go) so we just took a taxi. We did not use the bus this trip.

We saw more police and armed military presence, here and there (particularly on the Metro), we felt perfectly safe while in Paris, just as we expected. I had to open my little travel purse at Sacre Coeur and upon entering Chanel on rue Cambon and I think at the Museum of Decorative Arts (I think). We had to walk through a metal detector and put my purse through an x-ray machine at Louis Vuitton Foundation. That’s all the additional security requirements we encountered while in the city. I am sure there were measures at Notre Dame for Christmas but we did not go to Notre Dame this trip.

One thing we did this trip was a pocket wi-fi hit device. There is a great company located in Paris that offers a unit that you can have sent to your hotel or apartment for pick up when you arrive. You can also pick it up at their office in the Marais. It was very easy to use (no need to configure) and you can use for up to 10 devices (for us, two phones and a tablet) to have consistent access all over Paris. The unit is smaller than a phone and light and I threw it in my little travel purse. The battery lasts all day easily and you can charge it at night, if needed. It was great to not worry about data plans and SIM cards, etc.... you can use your devices and have access to wi-fi everywhere. Loved it!! We used wi-fi everywhere for walking directions (awesome), to see what was near by, check email, respond to texts from family, post a few things on Twitter and other info. Thumbs up on this!

http://www.travel-wifi.com/


The trip over and the first day, December 21, 2016:

Well, even vacation travel can be a royal pain. It was all going so well, security and TSA pre-check (part of our global entry that I continue to LOVE) made it all quick (except for the woman in front of me who had several large full size (but half empty) containers of cocoa butter, Nivea etc....in her bags and decided that she could not give them up and wanted to bargain with TSA about that. (I wanted to hand her $10 to let TSA pitch them so we could all get on with it). Oh well, on to One Flew South for our traditional lunch and glass of Champs before our flights to Europe. Excellent, as always. We got a text that the flight was boarding and we were off to the gate.

The pre-boards got on the aircraft and then they stopped boarding. Uh-oh.

It's a very long story but we got a new gate AND and a new plane and were told we would board shortly. Nope, apparently not. There was an issue with the new plane in the form of a leaking water line. We did board about 3 hours after our original departure time...and still sat at the gate for about another hour. I think the worst was the lack of information and then incorrect info but we eventually got underway. The in-flight food was pretty good but the movie selections were not. Not sure how there can be so many movies you don't want to see!! I think we both got an hour or two of sleep. We arrived in Paris about 3 hours late. We had entry to Access One lanes for passport control and no line at all. Our driver was there to meet us and into Paris we went! http://www.victorcabsparis.com/

Traffic was congested but not awful. It's always energizing for me to get to central Paris. We got settled and off we went. Finally!

The first order of business was a little food and back to our favorite cafe from last trip, Le Bonaparte. Not sure why we love that spot so much but we do. Very warm inside, waiters are friendly and tolerate our bad French and usually want to speak more English than French. It is usually our breakfast spot but today it was lunch. I got a warm goat cheese salad and he chose the croque madame. Both very good with our first glass of wine in Paris, and a perfect way to get started.

The first item on the agenda, Longchamps on rue du Vieux Columbier. I travel a lot and have wanted one of their totes for a while. I love that they can be folded up when not in use and they make a great extra bag for bringing back purchases (see the foreshadowing here?). They are also not very expensive. I had a little trouble deciding between hot pink and black and I ultimately I got the black because that will be more versatile...so that's the first purchase.

Next, we stopped by St Sulpice and lit a candle for a friend, which is our "first day in Paris" routine. I love St. Sulpice. It is never crowded but lovely. While I was taking Chaz' picture outside by some Christmas trees, a local couple was passing by and offered to take a photo of us. I always find the French to be lovely and warm. This couple was quite friendly and the wife jokingly got onto her husband for "flirting". They were a hoot. We have always had volunteers in Paris offer to help direct us when we were obviously lost, offer to take photos, etc...

We had a plan for our first day and a good one. Can't thing of anything more invigorating than an Ice Lounge and this year the George V has created one in their courtyard. We cleaned up a bit and decided to catch a cab as we hadn't bought a carnet of Metro tickets yet and were a little brain dead. Not for long.

The George V never disappoints and is always dressed for the holidays. The courtyard was decked in huge blue penguins and twinkle lights with the Ice Lounge in the center. Mulled wine and crepes are available just outside the lounge. We were there for what was likely the coldest glass of Champagne ever. No way to feel jet lagged at -20 degrees. Oh, they also have apparel to borrow if you need it. We had a blast. American Christmas carols, cold Champs and we had it to ourselves! It was a ton of fun. My hands got cold but when you get too cold, you just step back into the courtyard...which feels like the tropics after the Ice Lounge! We had a great time and decided that a trip to the hotel bar also sounded like fun. We were lucky to get a table quickly and the bar was also dressed up for Christmas. Chaz had an old fashioned and I had a Jack Daniels and ginger ale. I love that Jack Daniels seems quite popular in Paris and it's a nod to my home state!

After a few sips of Tennessee whiskey and rye, we decided some cheese would be in order. The cheese arrived and gave us a memorable experience. There were three and two were incredible and the last was certainly interesting. I can't explain it and I got the equivalent of "this is terrible, taste it" from Chaz. I have never tasted a cheese I did not like, but it happened. The server could not tell us what it was (off for a hotel like that) but it started out like grass and onions and finished like a fine manure. Seriously. I still can't believe it but ya can't win them all. Well, we needed a little something to end on a more positive note (although it was still enjoyable). Chaz was completely obsessed with the Ice Lounge and back we went. We still had it mostly to ourselves and people came and go but most not even staying for a drink. There was a man and his son, who looked about 15, who did do a shot together and an Aussie couple from Brisbane that we started up a conversation with.

It was their last night in Paris and they were quite curious about the recent Presidential election in the US (I knew this would likely come up at some point). We certainly can't speak for the entire country and explained that we had never seen an election where both major candidates were so unpopular. There certainly is a divide in the US about the outcome and I can't explain it but we certainly feel like no party really represents us very well. I won't go into it all but she seemed very intrigued and apparently Australians are quite curious about the election and she wanted to understand and explain our thoughts to their friends back in Oz. They said their goodbyes and we briefly chatted with a young man from Saudi Arabia before heading back to the 6th arrondisement.

We decided to visit an old friend for dinner. Would it be wrong to go for Italian our first night in Paris? We love Marco Polo and always go when in Paris. Albano is still there and is still warm and welcoming. The place was busy but we got a table in the back. Tagliatelle with black truffles for him and lasagna for her. (I was so glad as on our last visit I was too full to enjoy their lasagna but this time I ate every bite). Both dishes were awesome and we split some panna cotta with berries for dessert. Day one in Paris lived up to expectation! We did a great job at staying up until bed time locally and we turned in around 11:30.

We logged almost 12,000 steps (according to my FitBit) on day one and we are hoping to have a weight neutral trip.
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Dec 29th, 2016, 05:25 AM
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I have been waiting for this! Had lunch at Cafe Bonaparte when we were there a couple of weeks ago.

Try Freddie's Wine Bar on Rue du Seine if you have time.
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Dec 29th, 2016, 05:36 AM
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We did! You recommended it and we went early in the trip...loved it! That will be in coming posts! Thanks for the rec!
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Dec 29th, 2016, 06:11 AM
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Looking forward to reading more about your trip. I always enjoy "seeing" Paris through your (and Chaz's) eyes!
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Dec 29th, 2016, 06:31 AM
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Hi denisea - though your style of travel isn't mine [though I can dream!] I love the style you bring to your trips and I always learn something new, in this case ice bars. I definitely feel like a country mouse here, and I had to look them up, at least the one at the Georges V:

http://press.fourseasons.com/paris/h...16/ice-lounge/

well - what a great idea! [especially I suspect on a bright sunny day].

AND I learnt that le cinq has now got its third Michelin star - a good reason to return, perhaps?

looking forward to reading more of your culinary and other adventures in Paris.
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Dec 29th, 2016, 07:28 AM
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Thank you for 'transporting' me to Paris at Christmas, denisea. Longchamps and Marco Polo on the first day - GREAT start to what I anticipate to be a wonderful holiday!
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Dec 29th, 2016, 10:58 AM
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Thanks...annhig, you are not the only country mouse. I found out about the Ice Lounge on Twitter (which is I why I am on it...good travel info I would never find anywhere else).
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Dec 29th, 2016, 11:25 AM
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Sounds like a wonderful start! Can't wait for more! We love Paris all dressed up for the festive season!!
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Dec 29th, 2016, 11:35 AM
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Looking for more, denisea.
Sorry to hear about your airplane delay, but then, better to spot the problem before it takes off than later. I had once a similar delay -they moved us to a new plane which was not ready yet. I was sitting on that new plane and seeing some worker putting bolt, nils & screws onto the wing. Not feeling assured at all. And it was a transpacific long flight.

Glad you have a laidback Paris Christmas, it's the best.
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Dec 29th, 2016, 02:03 PM
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Oh how I needed a Paris fix on this cold, gray winter day in Wisconsin. Can just picture the streets you are walking on and the places you visit. Marco Polo is always a favorite. One we skipped this last Sept. glad to hear Albano is still around.

Making notes because you always write a good report with lots of excellent suggestions.....travel wifi. Who knew??? Victor cabs, good choice. Ice bar? Love the idea but probably not open in Sept....maybe we should take a short run over in Jan/Feb

Carry on---------
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Dec 29th, 2016, 04:20 PM
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We both sure picked the perfect time to go! We also went to Longchamp on the first day and bought the expandable Pliage travel bags at 140 Euro. They sell here online at $255. I picked up a L.V. bag for my sister as a Christmas gift and saved well over $500 on the price which I would have paid at home. Processing the VAT refunds at CDG was a hassle free breeze.

Had lunch with Joan at the Ritz Bar which was most enjoyable. We thought it had a better menu than Bar Vendome although the Vendome perhaps has a better atmosphere if you are seated in the original (dark) part of the restaurant. We went to Hermes after lunch and the place was a complete zoo. Knee deep at the scarf counter and you would have thought they were giving the stuff away. Absolutely amazing. We attempted to look at some of the watches and bracelets but gave up trying to get some sales assistance. We saw a few taking delivery of their long awaited Birkin bags which was fun to see.

Next time you go try the Little Red Door Bar in the Marais. Loads of fun! We went with a mother/daughter duo who sat in front of us on the flight over and who happened to be staying at our hotel. Small world to say the least. Left the LRD and had a great dinner of empanadas/wine at a place just around the corner.

I booked a ticket this morning and will be going back for a quick weekend at the beginning of March. Couldn't turn down an airfare of $732. Am going to stay next door to Marco Polo so all will be well....
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Dec 29th, 2016, 04:24 PM
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Nice to be back in Paris with you! Great start.
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Dec 29th, 2016, 04:37 PM
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Thank you for starting your trip report, Denise. Your rationale for why you "unstructured' your trip this time makes sense. We all have something to learn from this if we haven't already found that we need to let ourselves be open to what's around the next corner in a magical city like Paris. I can see smiles on your faces as you relaxed and were delighted with your spur of the moment choices. Restaurants don't seem difficult to get in to these days, so maybe we can be more relaxed anyway. I'm hungry to hear your next installment, and can't wait to see what gets packed in that Longchamps bag!
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Dec 29th, 2016, 08:03 PM
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That travel wifi is a great find, thanks!
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Dec 29th, 2016, 08:15 PM
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Bookmarking for later... looking forward to it!
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Dec 29th, 2016, 09:53 PM
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That travel wifi is a great find

Usually it's more convenient to use your phone as a wifi hotspot. If your phone doesn't work in Europe, buy a cheap Android phone, and you can use it for phone calls as well. It will almost certainly be cheaper than renting a "mifi" device, and you'll have the phone for future trips.
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Dec 29th, 2016, 11:08 PM
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Love your trip reports.....looking forward to reading more.
We will be in Paris next July....cant wait!
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Dec 30th, 2016, 01:26 AM
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Thank you Denisea - very nicely written. Its been two years since my last visit to Paris. I think I need to be back there in Jan/Feb.

What hotel did you stay in?

regards Ger
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Dec 30th, 2016, 02:16 AM
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Looking forward to more. After more than 40 stays in Paris, I am still obsessed with planning. So taking lessons from you on how not to. Thanks.
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Dec 30th, 2016, 03:06 AM
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Thanks everyone. I appreciate that anyone reads my reports at all and I also appreciate the responses and interest.
eurohop- glad that get what we were trying to do--JulieV---I also have been planning obsessed but did not have the time or mental capacity to do it this time and it was good...there is hope for both us! OReilly - we stayed in an apartment this trip.

bvlenci - I totally get that there are other ways to manage the phone situation but we would definitely use the travel wi-fi again for the ease of use. Also, for those with multiple devices, being able to connect up to 10 devices is a plus--espeially for those with teens who will be all over Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat. There are likely always less expensive ways to do things than I do them. I am definitely someone who will pay for convenience and simplicity, especially these days as my job is demanding and stressful. I want my vacation to be easy. I am sure your suggestion is a great option for many and that's one of the things I love about this forum--so many great ideas and something that will work for everyone. Thanks for posting the suggestion!

TPAYT - the Ice Lounge closes up in early January, I think. The George V often does some sort of temporary thing in their courtyard for the holidays. Several years ago, they had this display/exhibit of Swarovski crystal that was very interesting! I say go for a trip!

Weekender - Hermes is always packed at the holidays! It's not really my style (even if I could get a Birkin or could afford one The couple in front of us on the flight back had a Hermes shopping tote that contained about 8 scarf boxes (very nice gifts for someone, I am sure)! Jealous that you are already heading back and maybe some day we will be in Paris at the same time!!! Are you staying at Louis II hotel? We stayed there several years ago...tiny room but comfortable and well located! Thanks for the suggestion for next time!

I am trying to get a link for pictures up (I am particularly challenged in this regard)!
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