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Trip Report Nukesafe in Paris, Welkenraedt, and Amsterdam

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I'm a bit late in beginning this report, as I got a cold somewhere over there, and it developed into pneumonia after I returned. I'm well on the mend, so it is time to share some of our adventures. I am indebted to all of those on the Forum from whom I received advice and council in the year-long planning stage.

I am going to try to dampen my tendency to give too many details (worked for the Government, you know) and skip reporting the parts most of you have already done or read about.

The short of it:

Left Seattle on 14 May, 2011, and returned from Amsterdam on 31 May, 2011.

Things happened between those two dates.

The somewhat longer of it:

We flew on an open jaw Icelandair flight out of Seattle to Paris, and back from Amsterdam for two main reasons. First, it was cheap. Second, it offered the shortest travel time. I used Hipmunk , a site that was new to me. The advantage was one can sort flights a number of ways, one of which is “Agony”. They combine factors such as cost, flight time, and layovers to come up with a list that had, in our case, Icelandair the second shortest flight, 11 hours 25 minutes, and by far the cheapest price. Air France nonstop was the shortest flight by about an hour, but it cost well over double the $829 we paid. There was a 45 minute stopover in Iceland, and a longer one coming back

Be warned, Icelandair is one of those “desperate to survive” airlines where nothing is free. Each passenger is given a bottle of genuine Iceland glacier water on boarding, and that is it. Period. You pay for everything else. Load up on snacks in your carry-on. They also have very strict weight limitations for carry-on, at six kilos. Our traveling companions could not believe they really meant that. They did, so they had to check their bags. We believed them, and put everything heavy in a daypack, or big handbag, and squeaked our roll-aboards just at the limit.

The other negative about Icelandair is their aircraft are obviously configured for short hauls. The pitch is 32 inches in economy, which is all right, but the seats themselves are covered with some sort of plastic, and are HARD.

Not comfortable at all for a 12 hour flight. See if you can grab an extra pillow for your sit-upon.

When I talk of “We”, I'm not using the Imperial, We, I'm talking about myself, Dick, my Dear Wife, Annette, and our great next door neighbors Dan and Amy. I'm 80, DW is about ten years behind me, and Dan and Amy are mere youngsters. We have been to Paris a number of times, as has Amy, but this would be Dan's first time.

Our flight left at 4:00 pm from Sea, and got in shortly after 1:00 pm Paris time. No sleep for anyone, as it never got dark on the polar route. We left the decision of whether to taxi or RER into town until we arrived. We were pooped, but wired, so we lined up at the ticket counter, and got all of the transport stuff done right then. I got RER tickets to town, recharged our Navigos, bought new Navigos for Dan & Amy, and a Carnet for each couple, as it was Sunday and the Navigos would not be valid until the next day.

We checked into our apartment on the Ile de la Cite, without problems. It was just as advertized; simply perfect. We were concerned because the beds shown on the website are “Murphy” beds; the kind that fold up into the wall, and we were afraid that meant the rooms were very small. Not true at all. We never saw the need to fold the beds out of the way in either bedroom. After choosing bedrooms and unpacking a bit, we resisted the urge to collapse and went walking over the Petit Pont into the Latin Quarter, where we picked a cafe at random, and ate something I cannot remember. Walked a bit more and hit the hay.

Monday morning, I had arranged for us to take a sightseeing tour with the new bus company, Foxity. at 11:00. I thought it a good way for us to get Dan an overall view of the city, and the rest of us a refresher. We caught a bus to the Madeleine area, intending to grab a cheap breakfast. We soon found out that this was not the right area to expect cheap breakfasts. We ended up in a bar, where a croissant and cafe crème cost as much as we had planned for lunches. From there we wandered around, looking in windows Ladueree, Fauchon, and high end fashion houses, until we found the passage in which Foxity was supposed to live. It was not open, but the sign said if that were the case, go to the bus. Around the corner, we found the 10:00 bus getting ready to depart. I showed the nice lady my reservation, were handed a set of ear buds, seated ourselves up top, and away we went. Very good value for money, IMO. We got a glimpse of, and a bit of history about a lot of things I had never seen and/or noticed before in just under two hours.

When we got back to the Madeleine, we got off the bus and thought about lunch. Our experience with the cost of breakfast made us start looking for a bus – but then I remembered that lunch was served by volunteer ladies in the basement of the Madeleine itself. I could not remember exactly where the entrance was, so we walked all the way around the building (it's a big mother), to find a sign on the East side near the flower market.

You first go down a few steps, where a lady behind a table will help you to buy a membership in the “Association du Foyer de la Madeleine” for only a few Euro; five I think. That lets you come back as many times as you wish. You then go to your left, where you pay another nice lady €7.50 for lunch. She will also sell you small bottles of (quite drinkable) wine for €3 (?) Yet another lady will find out the number in your party, and lead you to a suitable table. Our lady spoke some English, and explained the menu. There were choices of at least five entrees, three plats, and three deserts. Not up to the standard of Jules Verne, perhaps, but well prepared, tasty, and served with good humor. Our volunteer lady kept coming back and gushing about her trip to visit her Sister in Florida.

A really enjoyable experience. We all said we would come back again, if we were in the area and hungry. Didn't happen this trip, but I'm going to keep my membership card for next time.

I'll post this part of the report now, and guilt will force me to go on to complete it.

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