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Paris and Brussels Trip Report with a Day Trip to Bruges by Tweeter

Paris and Brussels Trip Report with a Day Trip to Bruges by Tweeter

Old Oct 10th, 2005, 05:09 PM
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Paris and Brussels Trip Report with a Day Trip to Bruges by Tweeter

We enjoyed a fabulous trip to Paris and Brussels September 3- 11th, and I want to share a little of our trip. We now see why so many people fall in love with Paris and we are on that list. Of course, I must thank the Fodor’s forum for making our 2nd trip to Europe successful.

We spent 5 days in Paris and EASILY could have spent more. We didn’t even have time for all the top 10 sites, which only means we will go back! Highlights included hanging out in cafes, trying amazing pastries daily, drooling over the pastries we didn’t have time to try, the Eiffel Tower, Paris Walks, dining experiences, the easy to use metro, and walking around different neighborhoods. Following Paris, we went to Brussels for 2 days, with a day trip to Bruges. Highlights included the Grand Place, the Markt, Belgium beer, the smell of chocolate coming from the numerous chocolatiers, and Belgium waffles.

We used Eating and Drinking in Paris, second edition, written by Andy Herbach and Michael Dillon. This book was a tremendous help in figuring out menu items. It has a comprehensive French menu translator, dining recommendations and specialty food shop recommendations. I highly recommend it, particularly if you don’t know much French. We were able to translate almost every menu item using this book and many of dining recommendations are also mentioned by Fodorites. It is pocketsize and $10 USD. We also had the DK Eyewitness Top 10 Guide for both Paris and Brussels/Bruges/Antwerp/Ghent.

We purchased the Carte Orange for transportation within Paris. It cost 15.40 Euro per person and it is valid for unlimited use of the metro and bus Monday through Sunday. We had brought 1x1 inch head shots of us for it that we took from our digital camera. We had no problem purchasing. You get the actual metro ticket to use for the week and the holder/card to put your picture. You use the ticket for the metro entry or show your pass for the bus. It really made transportation easy.

We departed MSP on Northwest with a little rocky start. We were concerned about the Northwest strike, but weather turned out to be the worry factor. We sat on the airplane for over 2 hours at MSP due to a lightning storm. We couldn’t leave because the cargo door was open on the plane and the workers weren’t allowed outside during lightning. We were connecting through Detroit with a 1 hour 15 minute layover, which quickly disappeared as we waited. I thought it was interesting that the crew started giving options on what we could do if we had an international connection. The good thing is they told us that there were 17 of us trying to make the Detroit-Paris connection and they would hold the Detroit plane 30 minutes for us. It turned out that they actually held it 45 minutes, which really surprised us. We finally made it to Detroit, all 17 of us boarded, and we were off! We love the Airbus 330 with individual video equipment!

Day 1- Upon arrival we got Euros at the ATM and found the Roissybus pickup. When the bus arrived, we boarded, paid the driver (8.30 Euro per person) and drove about 45 minutes to the Opera stop. Our hotel was a block away. It was very easy. If you are interested in this option, see http://www.ratp.info/informer/anglai...hp?partenaire=

We stayed at the Le Grand Intercontinental Hotel. We got a great rate at 230 Euro per night during a promotion they had. The hotel is beautiful. The room was nicely decorated and a pretty good size. We had a little balcony off the bedroom and bathroom. It was small but we could both stand out on it together. The minibar was very expensive with a coca cola costing 8 Euro. If you removed anything, they would charge since it was computerized. If you wanted it emptied, it would be 18 Euro. It did have a small space for personal use. The metro and bus were located within a block. The location was good with transportation options, shopping and dining nearby. We did enjoy the hotel and recommend it. However, I think we may try to stay in the 6th next time, since we ended up there so often.

For our first afternoon, we just walked around the area around the hotel and the St. Germain area. We had decided to go to dinner at Le Relais de l’Entrecote, 20 bis, Rue St-Benoit, (Metro: Odeon) in the 6th arrondissement, phone: 014-549-1600. I was reading Fodor’s the day we left and it was recommended by Hoggy. It caught my eye as being a good place for our first night. Since it was still early, we stopped at the Café Bonaparte for a drink down the street from the restaurant. We were amazed to watch our restaurant choice fill up upon opening at 7:00pm. Outside dining was full when we finally arrived, but we could sit inside right away. The only choice for dinner was steak and frites and it was really good! I believe it was around 50 Euro with wine for both of us. I would definitely go there again.
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Old Oct 10th, 2005, 06:25 PM
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I'm looking forward to the rest of your report! I'm doing a similar trip next year(Paris, Bruge Amsterdam). I'm glad you liked one of my favorite restaurants - Relais Entrecote (sp). I have recommended it here several times and I have eaten there more than anywhere else in Paris! Interesting story - for about 15 years, I have had a photo in my kitchen of a restaurant called Le Petit Zinc. I never knew where it was, it was a print I picked up somewhere and liked. I was quite surprised to see it across the street from Relais Entrecote! Thanks for the report so far!
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Old Oct 10th, 2005, 07:26 PM
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Cls2paris - Thanks for the nice comments! I had the Le Relais de l’Entrecote on our list already, but when Hoggy posted it seemed like an easy first night. I am so glad we went!

I will continue my report tomorrow.
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Old Oct 11th, 2005, 09:49 AM
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Day 2 – We headed to the Cite metro stop for Paris Walks of Ile de la Cite and Notre Dame at 10:30am. http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/ParisWalking/ We really enjoyed it and we felt we got a lot more taking the tour versus doing it ourselves. The guide really points out a lot of detail on the outside of the Notre Dame that we wouldn’t have noticed ourselves. We lucked out and had a small group (maybe 12 people), so the guide was able to go into the Notre Dame with us. Usually with larger groups, he wouldn’t bring the group in. It was 10 Euro per person and lasted about 2 hours.

St. Chappelle was our longest line of the whole trip, maybe 10 minutes through security then another 10 minutes waiting in line to purchase tickets at 5.50 Euro per person. The stained glass chapel is really amazing. It is recommended that you see it on a sunny day and I see why. It was much smaller than I expected, but a definite must see.

We walked to Ile St-Louis and shopped in the boutique stores down main street. The Amorino has a location there, so we got Gelato. (Berthillon was unfortunately closed since it was Monday.) It was fabulous and my first experience of Nutella!

Dinner was in the St. Germain area at Pizza Vesuvio, 1, rue Gozlin. It is off Blvd St-Germain opposite the St-Germain-des-pres Church. We both enjoyed the pizza very much. The takeout area was very busy, so it must be popular with the locals too.
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Old Oct 11th, 2005, 11:37 AM
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Day 3 – I had really wanted to go to the free fashion show at Printemps at 10:00AM, which was only a couple of blocks from our hotel. We cut it short on time and didn’t realize how big Printemps is. There are 3 different buildings and we didn‘t know which one to go to. After wondering through the store, I had given up on the fashion show, so we went up to the 9th floor viewing area. It is a great view of the city for free, which I recommend. My husband was persistent on finding the fashion show, so we did finally find it and were able to watch the last 10 minutes. I love how the models will pose for you if you have your camera ready. It was pretty cool, but I wish I saw the whole thing. Oh well.

We walked toward the Jardin du Tuileries garden and ran into a café, Le Carrousel, 194 Rue de Rivoli. It was still serving breakfast. It offered a Prix fixe breakfast menu for 14 Euro, bit we ordered Crepes from the menu instead. We tried a crepe with ham and cheese and another one with chocolate for 12E total. I am not sure if it is a touristy spot, but they were great! It was the only time we really noticed crepes being served.

We strolled through the Tuileries garden, down Champs Elysees and ended at the Arc de Triomphe. It is a really nice walk, passing the Grand Palais and Petit Palais (I believe) and window shopping. There is a spot on the Champs Elysees where you can cross to the middle of the street and get a great picture/view of the Arc de Triomphe down the road. From there we took the metro the Latin Quarter for the 2:30pm French Revolution Paris Walks (10 Euro per person). This one we didn’t enjoy as much. It was more standing and listening than walking. It was ok, but we did sneak off a little before it ended and went to the Centre Georges Pompidou. We walked and window shopped around the area. This was probably our least favorite area.

Dinner was again in the St. Germain area at Chez Maitre Paul, 12 rue Monsieur le Prince, 01.43.54.74.59 70E. The Prix fix menu was 35 Euro per person including ˝ bottle of wine. We both had the 2 different appetizers that could have been a meal in themselves, 2 different chicken dinners and 2 different desserts. We really enjoyed the food and the experience.

After dinner, we took the metro to the Trocadero stop, where we got off and saw the Eiffel Tower at night. It definitely is a great viewing area of the tower. We were just leaving when it started its light show at 10:00pm. All my reading on Fodor’s and I almost forgot about the twinkling! It was really cool!
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Old Oct 12th, 2005, 10:15 AM
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Day 4 – At 10:30am, we went on the Paris Walks of The Village of Montmartre. We really enjoyed this walk and the guide. It was my favorite of the 3 walks we went on. The area around the meeting spot, Metro Abbesses, has a number of great places to eat and the guide highly recommended the area for lunch versus up near the Sacre-Coeur. The walk ends at the Sacre-Coeur, which we went into on our own after the walk. I had read so much about the horrible crowds around the Sacre-Coeur and we were surprised that it wasn’t bad at all. We used our metro ticket to take the funicular back down the hill and found a place for lunch. It was our first experience having a Croque Monsieur. Wow, it was good!

We then did the Rick Steve’s walk of the Bastille and Marais area, which included shopping on rue des Rosiers and place des Vosges. We had dinner at Ma Bourgogne, 19 place des Vosges. The food was nothing memorable, but the square has a very nice atmosphere.

Day 5 – Today, we walked a few blocks from our hotel to the Place de la Madeleine, where we browsed in the incredible specialty food stores in the area. Everyplace we walked into had fabulous foods! We then took the #42 bus and stopped at the beginning of Avenue Montaigne. We strolled down it for a little window shopping and walked to the Eiffel Tower. I really never pictured it so incredibly big! Between buying tickets to the first floor and getting on the lift, we probably waited 10 minutes. Again, we were pleasantly surprised at the lines. Once we got up to the first floor, we walked around the tower for about 45 minutes. It was a definite highlight to our vacation.

For our final night in Paris, we again headed to the St. Germain area for a little shopping and a drink at a cafe. We had dinner at Mezza Luna – 35 rue du Buci (Italian). We both had a different pasta. We ended up eating most of mine, since it was so good!
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Old Oct 14th, 2005, 05:51 AM
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Day 6 – Today, we traveled to Brussels. We took the bus with our luggage to the Paris Nord train station in the morning. We had purchased the Thalys train tickets in advance on www.voyages-sncf.com. It was a SMILYS rate and I believe it was 49 Euro per ticket. It was a quick hour and ˝ ride to Brussels.

We took a cab to our hotel (15 Euro with tip) – The Manos Premier. We got a great “weekend” rate of 195 Euro including tax and breakfast for a Suite. We had Suite #29, which is huge. It has a loft that has a huge bed and bathroom. The main floor has a kitchen, dining room table, living room and a large terrace with a beautiful garden view. The room is normally 460 Euro, so it was a great bargain for us. The breakfast was quite extensive and we really enjoyed it. The front desk was always very helpful in answering our questions. They also have a computer in lobby with free Internet access. Thanks BTilke for recommending this hotel. We really enjoyed it.

We walked down St Louis with all the designer shops and found a café to have lunch at. We then headed toward the Grand Place passing the Sablon. We were really impressed by the area. We got a Belgium waffle with cream and hung out in the Grand Place to take it all in. Wow, the waffle was great! We found the Manneken-Pis a few blocks away, which is entertaining with the crowds. We did a little window shopping nearby and then walked back to the Sablon for some beers at Café Leffe. They have a good selection of Belgium beers and we actually ended up eating there. We had ordered the Waterzooi (chicken in broth) and Carbonnades Flamandes (Beef stew cooked in Belgium beer). Nothing fancy but we really enjoyed the experience.

Day 7 – We decided to do a daytrip to Bruges. We had sat by an Australian couple in Paris who highly recommended the day trip and our taxi driver in Brussels couldn’t stop raving about Bruges over Brussels. We took the tram from our hotel for 1.50 Euro per person to the metro Louis, where we took the metro to the Gare Midi. From there, we purchased roundtrip tickets to Bruges at a kiosk. They offer a discounted 50% weekend rate, so we paid 12 Euro per person roundtrip. The train we took was packed! We ended up having to stand for the 40 minute trip to Ghent. Then, we were able to sit for the 20 minutes to Bruges. We spent the day walking around. It was a beautiful city with all the little shops, canals and historic sites. We snacked on French fries with mayo from Frituur Peter (a stand in the Markt), then another Belgium waffle with cream later in the day. Going back to Brussels was a much emptier train so we could sit the whole way and rest our feet.

Back in Brussels, we passed by the Manneken-Pis again. This time the statue was dressed in a sailor’s outfit. Very funny. We ended up going to a sidewalk off of St. Louis for dinner. It started pouring rain, so we quickly made a choice from one of the many restaurants in the area. We ended up at La Fringale, Rue Jourdan, 5. It was a very authentic Italian restaurant ran by Italians and very good. We had dinner and drinks for 40 Euro. It was a nice ending to our trip.

I would be happy to answer any questions about our trip.
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Old Oct 14th, 2005, 06:21 AM
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Sigh...Frituur Peter...love the curry sauce.
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Old Oct 14th, 2005, 07:40 AM
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Enjoyed your report. Good details. Thank you for sharing your trip.

gg
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Old Oct 14th, 2005, 08:54 AM
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Thanks very much for the interesting and nicely detailed report.

The hotel (in Paris) wanted EIGHTEEN EUROs to empty the mini-bar?????????? WOW!!
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Old Oct 14th, 2005, 05:23 PM
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Enjoyed your report - sounds like you had a delightful trip. I would like to do a sidetrip to Bruges one of these days. I go to France frequently, but just seem to stay there!
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Old Oct 15th, 2005, 06:43 AM
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I am glad you enjoyed my trip report.

Voyager - I guess I mentioned the 18 Euros because we had never seen a charge like that before or the computerized minibar. I am sure it discourages people from having it emptied!
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