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Notes on Amsterdam, Bruges & Paris - Sept 8-28, 2014

Notes on Amsterdam, Bruges & Paris - Sept 8-28, 2014

Old Oct 27th, 2014, 04:04 AM
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2010: just some snippets from reading your Paris parts above (will get to others later...). I just got home from a wonderful trip to Paris with Judy and her family and friends.

I had lunch at Sorza one day. It was excellent!

Thank you for the book reco - it looks wonderful. Did you have a paper version and do you recommend it, or would a Kindle version do?

I didn't make it to the Carnavalet (other than to use their facilities) and I wish I had lingered due to the WWI exhibit. I was shopping with a friend, though, and had to meet other friends for lunch.
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Old Oct 27th, 2014, 05:29 AM
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I am still following along and enjoying every day, taking notes on several new places for us.
We miss Paris so much (our June visit with our GD was just too short) that we are tempted to go for a week iin Nov. even if it is cold and dark early. Anyone know when the Xmas lights go up in Paris?
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Old Oct 27th, 2014, 09:25 AM
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<b>Leely2</b>: I agree that we must remember to 'look up' at the historical buildings that house these wonderful collections. The details in the architecture deserve our notice, too.

<b>flygirl</b>: re: Paris to the Past - Initially, I borrowed the book from my local library. I thought it was worthwhile having my own copy. So, I bought the Kindle version for my tablet. There are some maps/diagrams but they are not so detailed that you can't read them on a Kindle or tablet screen.

Glad you had a wonderful stay in Paris!

<b>TPAYT</b>: It is wonderful to be in Paris ... anytime! I understand your wish to be there, especially before Christmas. Another dream of mine is to be IN Paris at Christmas!
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Old Oct 27th, 2014, 10:16 AM
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Hi 2010.
I've been out of town but want to thank you for the AC info at Fleur de Lys. I'll be there in Aug next year so will probably need it!

I am enjoying your report and taking notes on the restaurants. I especially enjoyed reading of your visit to the Cathedral Saint Denis, I was in Paris last May and had scheduled a tour there with Context Tours. Two others and I were waiting at the meeting spot but got a call that the guide had had some accident on the way so it was cancelled. I will put it on my Aug agenda now to do on my own!
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Old Oct 27th, 2014, 11:04 AM
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Hi powhatangal,

Glad that the apartment info is helpful.

It is good to know that there are tours to Cathedral Saint-Denis. I have come across Context Tours when planning our trips to Rome & Florence and read many good reviews about this company. Hope you come back with a review of the tour when you return from your trip!
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Old Oct 27th, 2014, 12:19 PM
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TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 23RD

The line-up for entry tickets to the <b>Musee d'Orsay</b> was intimidating at first but mercifully, it was organized and well-managed. It took us just over 30 minutes to go through security and purchase our tickets.

We went straight up to the 5th floor to see the masterpieces of the Impressionist movement: Edouard Manet, Edgar Degas, August Renoir, Claude Monet, Paul Cezanne. Amongst all the spectacular works of art, I took time to gaze at three paintings of the cathedral at Rouen by Monet. We decided not to do a day trip to Rouen after all and this would have to satisfy me! Paintings by Alfred Sisley and Camille Pissarro appealed to DH. And I was fascinated by the sky in many of the landscapes: the clouds, the mood-setting light and colours.

Lunch at the Café Campania gave us an opportunity to rest our feet and re-energize before we set out to see more of the Musee d'Orsay's collections.

We focused on the Neo- and Post-Impressionist paintings of Van Gogh, Gaugin, Seurat (Level 2); the early works of Manet, Degas & Monet and the Toulouse-Lautrec gallery (Level 0). We also took time to admire the beautifully renovated interior. It had changed from our last visit in 2003!

It was very nice to bask in the loveliness of all this incredible art today - a pity we had to share this experience with crowds of people.

On our walk back, we picked up bread from <b>Eric Kayser</b> and from <b>Boucherie Claude</b> on rue de Seine, our dinner: rotisserie chicken, roasted potatoes and couscous.

Apartment life suited us well. We enjoyed the rhythm of our mornings and spending the occasional evening in. We liked having the flexibility to pop back home mid-day. And we could hang up laundry for as long as necessary to dry! Though after doing a few loads of laundry, DH considered taking his stuff to a local place that charged by the kilo to do it!
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Old Oct 28th, 2014, 08:19 AM
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Playing catch-up on Fodor's today, and I am really enjoying your report, 2010. "Slowing down" is such a perfect way to visit Paris. Looking forward to more!
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Old Oct 28th, 2014, 09:29 PM
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WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 24TH

On an oppressively hot July day (2002), DH & I took the metro to Montmartre. We rode up on the crowded, steamy funicular to the base of Sacre-Coeur Basilica. We spent some time in the Basilica; lit a candle for my mother; and departed. From the top of the stairs, we looked out over a hazy Paris. There was a small church around the side of Sacre-Coeur. We remember seeing stunningly beautiful stained-glass windows there. Then, we left having seen nothing else of Montmartre!

Well, THAT was going to change today!

We decided to take the elevator up from the Abbesses metro station to street level instead of climbing the stairs as we did on Sunday. The day was cool but dry for our <b>Paris Walks Tour of the Village of Montmartre</b>. We were a large group (about 50), split into two.

Our guide was knowledgeable, personable and had a voice that carried well! As we traversed the hill along old winding streets of Montmartre, we learned about its history and some of the artists & personalities who lived and worked here through her interesting stories. Highlights of places we walked by: a windmill; a vineyard; artists' homes (Renoir, Lautrec, Van Gogh); an art installation based on a charming novel about a man who passed through walls; lovely gardens; the Museum of Montmartre; St Pierre de Montmartre and Sacre-Coeur. The two-hour tour was long enough to give us a glimpse of the village and for us to get a sense of this unique neighbourhood.

We stopped at Le Consulate away from Place du Terre for a lunch of omelettes. It was surprisingly good!

In Sacre-Coeur, we lit a candle in remembrance of special people in our lives who have passed away. We sat for a moment to take in the splendor of the Basilica.

Not sure why we didn't go back to see the stained-glass windows in the church next door. Maybe intuitively we knew that Montmartre is a place we will come back to and explore on our own. We will see it then.

Tonight we had a special dinner at <b>Reed</b> in the 7th arrondissement. There were only 3 tables of diners in the restaurant. The atmosphere was relaxed. Catherine, the owner/chef seemed to recognize us from our previous visits - lovely of her to say. Our meals were superb! DH enjoyed an appetizer of fois gras; braised lamb with potatoes and peas; and for dessert, lemon cheesecake. I savoured each bite of the tomato tart; braised lamb; and the tarte tatin. We had wine by the glass and coffee to end our meal. Catherine was our host, chef & server and she did all this so effortlessly & in her usual elegant way! Towards the end of our meals, we spoke to a young American couple seated next to us. They were staying across the street from Reed while we had a bit further to go! But once again, it was oh-so worth the trip!
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Old Oct 29th, 2014, 04:05 AM
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Love Reed and Catherine is a one woman show. We plan to be back in March and cannot wait for the food. Enjoying your trip report.
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Old Oct 29th, 2014, 07:11 AM
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<b>YankyGal</b>: << <i>"Slowing down" is such a perfect way to visit Paris.</i> >> Can't agree with you more!

<b>Irock5</b>: Lucky you to be going to Paris AND having dinner at Reed in March! Enjoy!

Thanks for following along!
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Old Oct 30th, 2014, 12:44 PM
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THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 25TH

The French call it <i>leche vitrine</i> which translates to 'licking windows'. In English, it is called 'window shopping'. I call it a lovely way to pass time on my own in Paris!

My intent was to begin on Ile Saint Louis and then wander through the Marais. I was hoping to find a scarf and possibly a pretty bauble as souvenirs - you know, small, packable items. In my enthusiasm, I started out about 10:00 only to discover that most of the shops & boutiques opened at 11:00. Oh, well! That meant I had plenty of time to perfect the art of <i>leche vitrine</i>!

I moved from window to window, admiring artful displays of merchandise: olive oil & containers in <b>Oliviers & Co.</b>, fun, eye-catching coloured accessories & decorative items for the home in <b>Pylones</b>; equally brightly coloured & beautiful resin jewelry in <b>Sobral</b>; a gorgeous array of flowers in front of <b>Patrick Alain Florist</b>; interesting photographs in <b>L'ile Aux Images</b>; and other shops that carried specialty foods, sweets, frocks & accessories.

Just ahead I saw the turquoise exterior of <b>Diwali</b>. The front door was open - a sign to go in! With the help of a knowledgeable salesperson, I chose three scarves perfect for fall & winter! I also learned a few different ways to tie them. I also chose a handsome scarf for DH. I did all this before other shoppers started to come into the store!

Now that it was closer to 11:30, I doubled back going into some of the shops that I had walked by earlier. I found myself back at Sobral. I wanted to look at the necklaces. I was drawn to the vibrant colours. The resin pieces were strung on leather strands with an interesting & secure bead-and-loop clasp. In the end, I decided on two necklaces: one with a round turquoise pendant and the other, a red multi-beaded one. Goodness, the packaging was as attractive as the pieces themselves!

Now, it was after 1:00 and I was still wandering the main street on Ile Saint Louis! I had a successful shopping morning. I was DONE! So, I never did make it across the Seine to the Marais - <i>dommage</i>!

By the way, DH went off on his own this morning to visit the <b>Musee de l'Armee at Invalides</b>. He enjoyed going through the museum, checking our the battery of canons and seeing Napoleon's tomb which he said was dusty on the top!

DH came back with a bag of bread. My bags were prettier!

Tonight we returned to <b>Saigon Pantheon</b>. DH ordered <i>a la carte</i> and I ordered the smaller set menu. Together we had another fantastic meal: duck spring rolls & beef spring rolls; chicken & cabbage salad; grilled pork in vermicelli; and a carmel cream dessert with my dinner - really, really delicious! It is a family restaurant: the mother is the amazing chef while one son helped in the kitchen and the other son looked after the front of the house. Evidently, as boys, they spent summers in Denver with their grandfather. Hence, the impeccable English and the choice of music - Motown tonight! The restaurant was quite busy. We were glad that we had a reservation.
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Old Oct 31st, 2014, 01:24 PM
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FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 26TH

It was to be a slow, easy day. The sun was shining - perfect for a walk in <b>Luxembourg Garden</b>!

We headed out and just as we did whenever we passed this small neighbourhood jewelry store called <b>Aventurine Paris</b>, I stopped & gazed through the window. An open door was certainly a sign to go in, <i>n'est-ce pas</i>? A charming, older gentleman who worked in the store was pleased to show me two necklaces I selected. They both had fine silver chains with teeny tiny clasps. I explained that I had difficulty opening the clasps, having arthritis in my fingers. He replied that while his fingers were good, his eye sight was not. Guess we all have our challenges! So, after trying both necklaces on with his help, I choose the one with two intertwining circles. Since I already had it on, I wore it out of the store!

We left the bustle of Paris streets at the gate of <b>Luxembourg Garden</b>. There is a sense of calm when one passes into the garden and our steps slowed down to match.

My favourite spot is the pretty <b>Fontaine de Medicis</b>. It is a place that feels protected & serene. It is here that I dream of coming to sit and read in the dappled sunlight. One day.

The flower beds still looked gorgeous with flowers of purple, pink yellow & white. Olive trees, citrus trees and palms gave visual structure to the vast garden. Such a feast for the eyes!

There was a large group of students having what looked like a track meet of sorts. Older students were running a circuit along the gravel paths while others stood & cheered. There was even a podium for the winners! Did these kids know how lucky they were to be running in Luxembourg Garden? I just remember running along a dusty track inside an old wooden stadium - sigh!

We spent some time sitting on iron chairs warming our faces in the sunshine. Oh, such simple pleasures!

When we left Luxembourg Garden, we passed by a long line-up in front of an Air France office. With the pilot strike, travelers were scrambling to book alternate flights out of Paris. For the first time, we were glad to be flying Air Canada!

It was not easy to locate the entrance to <b>Nanashi</b>, a restaurant on rue de Tournon. We had to go through a children's store called Bonpoint and down a set of stairs to the basement! There were two rooms and a pleasant patio. Minimal décor and an interesting modern Japanese menu. We had the <i>bento du jour</i> which consisted of seared veal and aubergine over a beautiful mix of rices, raisins & herbs and on the side, a fresh green salad. Not your traditional Japanese bento but it certainly was delicious! It was well-worth the hunt!

We picked up salads, quiche & fruit tarts for dinner at home. We had tickets for a concert this evening.

We arrived at Saint Ephrem Church about 30 minutes early and picked our prime seats ... in the front row. It was a program of Bach Suites for Violoncello Solo performed by Timothee Marcel. As a young musician from the National Conservatory of Music of Paris, it was delightful to hear his interpretation of three suites. For me, the experience was enhanced by being able to watch him perform: seeing his expressions (facial, body); being aware of his breathing; watching his fingers as they moved on the finger board and his bowing. Now, I have heard 'cleaner' performances of Bach's cello suites. But there is a uniqueness & beauty of a live performance. It's authentic. It's honest. It's real. And we got that tonight!

Tonight's concert inspired me to think about bringing my cello out of storage. I don't know if my mildly knotty fingers would behave but it would be fun to work at it again. Unfortunately, I have neither the talent nor the ear to do this really well ... but I have just enough to give me pleasure!
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Old Nov 1st, 2014, 09:19 AM
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SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 27TH

We took part of the morning to do a few things: checked in with Air Canada and began to organize our stuff for the trip home tomorrow. Where has the time gone? It feels not that long ago we were in Amsterdam!

It was 18 years ago that we first/last walked along the Champs-Elysees. We thought, after all these years, why not do it again? We took the metro to the Concorde station. From here, we began our walk along the <b>Champs-Elysees</b> towards the Arc de Triomphe ... along with a gazillion other people. It felt like one long high-end strip mall - a bit soulless and uninteresting. At least in 1996, there were stores we didn't see in North America which made it sort of special. The only fabulous places to stop were the Mercedes-Benz and Peugeot dealerships. Talk about cool and only-in-my-dreams fun! We took a selfie with the <b>Arc de Triomphe</b> in the background ... yes, just to show that we were here! Instead of walking back on the other side, we caught the metro to Tuileries station and transferred to Pyramides.

We were looking for Izakaya Isse on rue de Richelieu for lunch. It took us a while but when we got there, the restaurant was closed! There was an official-looking notice posted on the door. It was in French so we could not determine the circumstances of its closure. Too bad! Onto Plan B: find another place for lunch. We came across <b>Zen</b>, a casual Japanese restaurant where the hostess & servers were Japanese - perhaps a good sign. When we entered, I decided to cover my bases by saying, "Bonjour ... Konnichiwa ... Hello!" DH & I each had a bowl of yaki niku donburi (fried beef on rice) + a Kirin beer + water. It hit the spot!

We walked to the <b>Louvre</b> to see I.M. Pei's glass pyramid. It continues to be an architectural paradox to have the modern glass structure surrounded by the historical palace. Never mind ... just expressing my own personal sensibilities! It is still a sight to see!

Then, while we were in the neighbourhood, there was one last store on my list that carried mywalit. It was called <b>Rives</b> on rue de Tivoli. Well, hallelujah! After so many failed attempts, I was excited to see that this store actually existed and it was open! It carried some stock of the zippered fan credit card holder I wanted to get for my cousin. There was one that would coordinate nicely with the coin purse I picked up for her in Lucca. Mission accomplished!

Final quest ... ice cream cones! Oh, how I craved a cone filled with some cold creamy deliciousness! But can you imagine that we did not pass one ice cream vendor en route to the apartment? Well, maybe, just maybe, there will be ice cream on the menu at tonight's dinner.


More to follow ...
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Old Nov 2nd, 2014, 08:06 AM
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SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 27TH continued ...

We had planned for an early dinner tonight. Mid-week, I called for a 7:00 pm reservation at <b>Marco Polo</b>. It would be determined that night whether we would dine inside or outside.

As luck would have it, the weather was pleasant and we did indeed sit outside at a table below the bright red awning. From start to finish, we were treated to a pleasurable dining experience. The service was impeccable. Our servers were charming & personable. Our meals were very, very good! We shared an appetizer of melon & prosciutto - so refreshing! DH had tortelli in a classic butter & sage sauce and I had the most delicious spaghetti alla vongole. Wine by the glass. For dessert, we had ice cream, of course! DH had coffee ice cream and I had vanilla ice cream with a cherry sauce topped with whipped cream. Oh, so good! We finished off with coffee.

As the evening progressed, the restaurant filled. We enjoyed the bustling atmosphere. Jean-Jacques Sempe, a well-known French cartoonist who designed the restaurant's logo sat a table behind us - a regular, evidently. Interactions with staff, especially our host, a charming older gentleman made our experience even more enjoyable!

It was our last night in Paris. DH & I decided that we will always come back to this beautiful city if only to taste French butter or to walk through Luxembourg Garden again!


<i>Paris is a seminar, a post-graduate course in Everything.</i>
James Thurber, 1918


<b>Next: Travel Day Home</b>
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Old Nov 2nd, 2014, 10:20 AM
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SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 28TH

A Long Way Home - Travel Day Highlights:

> DH's alarm clock woke us up at 6:00 am.

> By 7:00 am, we were wheeling our luggage to a taxi stand on Blvd Saint-Germain. Soon, we were on our way to Charles de Gaulle Airport.

> We arrived at Terminal 2A. We were confused like many other travelers. Where are the signs to direct us to the Air Canada desk? Are there kiosks to print our boarding passes? Is this really the (very long) line-up to check in?

Once the Air Canada agents started to process passengers, the line move steadily. Our bags were checked through to Vancouver and we had our boarding passes.

We stopped for coffee and muffins at Starbuck's. On our way to the gate, I bought two French magazines: one, fashion and the other, home décor. Okay, so I like pretty pictures! It was a long walk from there to our gate.

> Boarding went smoothly but we were slightly delayed leaving Paris. In the air, we had the usual on-board meals, snacks and movies, most of which we had seen. But it all helped to pass the time. 8 hours 30 minutes later we landed in Toronto.

> We did the immigration, customs and security dance. It was only because we had a long lay-over that everything went without a hitch or a delay!

> Hungry for a real meal, we went to the Mills Street Pub for burgers and beer! The burgers were messy but tasty.

> Our 7 hour lay-over was only made palatable with access to the Maple Leaf Lounge. DH had received a free voucher and we used Aeroplan points to purchase a second voucher to the lounge. We found two comfy, wide chairs and settled in. DH said that at one point, I curled up like a snail on my chair and fell asleep! One of the few times it paid to be short! At 8:15 pm, we were homeward bound!

> We both managed to sleep a bit. Our noise-cancelling headsets were a god send. And exhaustion helped! It had been a while since we had such a long travel day.

We planned that this trip would be our last using Aeroplan points. No more weird flight itineraries!

> Home at last about 11:00 pm. DH did a quick walkabout to make sure everything was fine around the house and garage. We didn't even unzip our bags. We just piled into bed. Ah, to be horizontal in our own bed! Sleep came quickly for us!


<b>Next: Some final notes ...</b>
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Old Nov 2nd, 2014, 12:55 PM
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Some final notes about our trip:

It was our first all-city itinerary, traveling exclusively by train. We were pleased with our choices as each city was so unique. We did wonder if 19 days in 3 cities would be too hectic for us but happily, it wasn't. We enjoyed every minute! Also, we liked that the train brought us into the centre of the city which made transfers to our accommodations direct, easy & quick - a real advantage!

As a result of our particularly long journey home, the travel portion of a trip has lost its luster for us ... at least for now. We found ourselves brainstorming destinations with the following criteria:

1. Must be a direct flight.
2. Must be no more than 9 hours in duration.

Here's the beginnings of our list: Montréal, San Francisco, Hawaii, Chicago, London, Amsterdam. We will revisit this list and other destinations when it comes time to plan our next trip. You see, we are not ready to discount Italy nor France completely just yet!

Our holiday photos are neatly arranged in our Shutterfly photo book. Other photos are uploaded onto my e-frame. They are all sweet reminders of our wonderful trip and other special times!

Oh, Emma, our 10 year old lab spent a most wonderful month of September with friends at their lakeside cabin in B.C.'s Cariboo region. This was evident in the many emails ('Yes, I am missing you ... really!') and photos (swimming in the lake, sleeping by the fire) we received while we were away! DH & I considered driving up and spending four days with them when we got back. But the rigors of travel got the better of us. Emma was delivered home on Saturday, October 4th. Lucky dog!
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Old Nov 2nd, 2014, 05:21 PM
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2010, I really enjoyed your trip report and am sorry it's over! I especially enjoyed your notes on Emma. Sounds like she had a great vacation, too!
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Old Nov 2nd, 2014, 08:39 PM
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Hi powhatangal,

Thanks for following along! Have a wonderful trip to Paris next summer. Hope you enjoy your stay in apartment Fleur de Lys!

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Old Nov 16th, 2014, 06:39 AM
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I finally took the time to read and absorb your report from beginning to end and I really enjoyed it. Your memory serves you well - we are going to France in April. We will have ten days in Paris then about 4 and a half in Provence. Your report and Ina Caro's book "Paris to the Past (thanks for recommending it) have lots of good ideas that I intend to copy. Thanks for taking the time to write this. Did I miss a link to your shutterfly albums?
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Old Nov 16th, 2014, 07:07 AM
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glad you topped this, john - it enabled me to come across it as I missed it first time round.

Thanks, 2010 - I've really enjoyed reading about your "jaunts", and picked up some good ideas for things to do the next time we're in Paris, Bruges or Amsterdam.

I've never been to any of them when it's been hot - the best we've done is warm, but mostly it's been freezing, especially in Paris; I was as cold as I've ever been when we spent an hour or so in St Denis before a rugby match at the Stade de france one February. That place is really CHILLY - even when it's sunny outside.
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