Paris & Provence trip report

Nov 20th, 2005, 01:27 PM
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Paris & Provence trip report

My daughter moved to Belgium in October and I went with her to help her get moved in. We knew her furniture and household goods would arrive about 10 days after we did, so we decided to spend that time in France. That is how my first trip to France came about. I had previously spent time in Scotland and Italy, but had never really had a desire to see France. But, it was better than hanging out in an empty house in Brussels and I would be spending time with my daughter and grandkids.

I don't know if this trip report will be of any use to anyone. We did not go to any fancy restaurants as we were always either looking for a place that had food the kids would eat (cheese pizza mostly) or eating food from street vendors. We were only in Paris for four days and Provence for four days, so we saw only the highlights. But I fell in love with France and wanted to share that experience.

We drove from Brussels to Paris. It was a pleasant drive that took us about 2 1/2 hours. My SIL did the driving and since it was Saturday, he drove right into Paris city centre and was able to drop us off at our Hotel. We stayed at the Michelet Odeon in the 6th. The grandkids and I had a room with two bedrooms while my daughter and SIL had a standard double room. We really liked this hotel. The staff was friendly and helpful, the rooms were good sized, and nicely furnished. The location could not have been better. We were 1/2 block from the Luxemburg Gardens where the grandkids delighted in sailing boats in the pond. When we checked into the Michelet Odeon and I looked around, I wondered why I had never thought about coming to Paris.

We did the obvious sightseeing:

Riding the Batobus at sunset, ending at the Eiffel Tower after dark and seeing the light show.

The Lourve and Orsay Museums (sighhhhh). To see the Mona Lisa in person is indescrible, but my real love was the impressionists at the Orsay. Wow.

Notre Dame, first from the batobus then up close. Then watching a skateboard exhibition outside. The grandkids liked that part the best.

Montmarte for a picnic lunch while listening to a street violinist. The sound of a violin always brings tears to my eyes.

Riding the metro everywhere.

Eating hot dogs smothered with cheese from street vendors.

Taking my 10 year old granddaughter shopping for her first "Paris" outfit.

Trying to explain to my 8 year old grandson what a bidet is for. Of course, he had to immediately go try it out.

Watching my daughter's delight as she watched her children experience Paris for the first time.

We spent our last night in Paris all sitting around the hotel room (adults drinking wine) discussing what we like most about Paris and preparing for our trip to Provence the next day.

Why did I ever think I would not like this place? Paris absolutely delighted me! It was beautiful and exciting. I can't wait to go back for more.


granbury is offline  
Nov 20th, 2005, 02:46 PM
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SIL had to return to Brussels for work so he dropped us off at the Gare du Lyon train station. This was my daughter's first experience with train stations in Europe and she was a little overwhelmed. If fact, this was her first trip to Europe. I thought the train station experience was mild compared with train stations in Italy. Twenty minutes notice of which track your train is on seems a lifetime compared to the 3-5 minutes we had experienced in Italy. But just as I was really feeling like the "experienced traveler" I happened to look at our tickets for the first time. It seems that the 2 children had been given seats in one car and the 2 adults had been given seats several cars away. We had twenty minutes before our train was schedulted to leave...plenty of time to fix this minor problem. I told my daughter not to worry and assured her that I knew exactly what to do.

I finally located a ticket window with an English speaking agent. I explained my problem to him and asked that he change the tickets. He spent five minutes playing around with his computer and then told me that he didn't know if he could fix the problem. He said the train was full. I asked him to explain to me how, in the middle of the day and middle of the week in off season, the train could be so full that my grandchildren had to be seated in another car. (Note to self: train station agents do not have a sense of humor) After another 10 minutes of playing on the computer, he finally was able to seat us all in the same car...not together, but in the same car. I now had five minutes before the train was to leave. Maybe this is not so much different from Italy after all. I ran back to where I had left daughter, grabbed luggage, and dashed to find our train. We made the train and were able to all sit together as the train was not full after all.

Two and a half hours later we pulled into the train station at Avignon Center. There was a slight problem here. We thought we were going to Gare TGV Avignon where we were to pick up our rental car. A short taxi ride fixed that problem and soon we were in our rental car heading to our hotel in Villenueve les Avignon across the river from Avignon. We stayed the night at the Hotel L'Atelier. Our rooms were very large and the grandkids fell in love with the resident shaggy dog.

Next morning, after a great breakfast at the hotel, we headed for St. Remy early because it was market day. I gave each of the kids their own money and let them find their own treasures and make their own deals. They shopped hard all morning and ended up with lots of treasures. We really enjoyed the market and then we ate lunch at a restaurant (it had hamburgers for kids) right on the town square. After lunch we checked into our B&B, the Mas Shamrock, which I have already written a report on. We explored St. Remy that afternoon and then drove to Tarascon to see the castle. Unfortunately we arrived just as it was closing so we just explored around the outside of the castle and let the kids skip rocks in the river. We returned to St. Remy and went to bed early. Tomorrow we will explore Le Baux.

Next....Le Baux de Provence
granbury is offline  
Nov 20th, 2005, 03:36 PM
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This is great. Thanks so much. Your love of the place really comes through. Keep it coming.
JulieVikmanis is offline  
Nov 20th, 2005, 05:41 PM
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Thanks for sharing your memories, Granbury and looking forward to more!
Nov 20th, 2005, 05:46 PM
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Love your report granbury, Provence to me is a true earthly paradise.
cigalechanta is offline  
Nov 20th, 2005, 05:54 PM
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Thanks so much for sharing - sounds like you brought back memories.

Out of curiosity - do your grandkids speak any french? Your comment about them making their own deals at the market just let me to wonder.

Hope your daughter enjoys Belgium!
cpd is offline  
Nov 20th, 2005, 06:13 PM
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Merci, granbury!
We will be in Paris and Provence with our kids for the first time next June, and I LOVED reading about your first time experiences.

2 questions, please:
What's the "light show" at the Eiffel Tower?
Where did you picnic in Montmarte?

Can't wait to hear about Les Baux!
dina4 is offline  
Nov 21st, 2005, 03:50 AM
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Thanks everyone for the kind words.

cpd - Neither myself, my daughter, or my grandkids speak French. We did, however, teach the kids a few basic polite words: hello, please, thank you, goodbye, etc. We found that if we were polite, the French people were very gracious and did their best to help us. We never had a problem. The children were always treated kindly and with respect. They had no trouble communicating what they wanted and how much money they had to spend.

dina4 - The Eiffel Tower is covered with lights and at night periodically the lights will flash, making a spectacular light show. At Montmarte we just rode the fununcular(?)to the top and there was a scenic lookout area that looked over the city of Paris. We just sat on several benches and had our picnic lunch while listening to the violin music.

I'm almost finished with the Le Baux part of my report.
granbury is offline  
Nov 21st, 2005, 04:25 AM
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Thanks for sharing, G.

ira is online now  
Nov 21st, 2005, 04:38 AM
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Le Baux de Provence

After breakfast we headed out for a day of sightseeing. We stopped at the ruins at Glanum just outside of St. Remy. The grandkids were facinated with the stories of the ruins. They spent quite a bit of time trying to envision what the area had looked like. Their interest surprised and delighted me. Then we headed to Le Baux, thinking we would spend a couple of hours max there and then move on to several other towns.

The drive from St. Remy to Le Baux is about 15-20 min. The first glimpse of Le Baux is spectacular! We drove right up to the entrance of the city and parked in a parking lot that was free that day. Not sure why it was free. The kids needed to use the bathroom and we took them to the public restrooms just before the entrance. My granddaughter came back out and told me it was a men's restroom. I showed her that it was clearly marked as the women's room but she insisted that it couldn't be because there was no place to sit down. I then had to explain how to use the "hole in the floor" potty. What an education these kids are getting...first the bidet and now the hole.

Le Baux is filled with wonderful little shops and we had to go in them all on our way to the top. We decided to stop for an early lunch at a restaurant with a terrace overlooking the countryside. I wish I had written down the name of the place because it was wonderful! The best meal I had in France. But the kids were in a hurry and ready to see the "castle."

After lunch we headed for the Chateaux des Baux at the top of the hill. When we entered the kids were given a treasure map that explained all the areas of the Chateaux. At each site there was a hidden letter they had to find. In order to find the letter they had to read about each thing they were seeing. We spent the entire afternoon going over every inch of the ruins and learning every detail about them. We climbed to the very top of the fortress, we saw the kitchen and baking rooms, sleeping chambers, catapults, etc. After the last clue was obtained, the kids turned their treasure map in and won a prize. What a clever way to teach kids about the history of the area and its people. This ended up being the kids favorite day in France.

After the Chateaux, we visited the Santon Museum. I had been telling the kids about Santons and they were very anxious to see this museum. After the museum, we visited several shops selling Santons. The kids were hooked. They were ready to do a full scale search for all the Santons in Provence! My daughter and I did buy a few Santons that day. (The kids were so enthralled by the Santons that they even found a very old one at an Antique Fair in Brussels the next weekend. My granddaughter bargained with the seller and bought a great one!)

We shopped some more and I bought some gifts to give as Christmas presents. We left Le Baux and decided to finish exploring St. Remy. St. Remy is a delightful town. It is large enough to have plenty of shops and restaurants, but still be a small town. We wandered the streets and did a bit more shopping. I love the feel of St. Remy. I will definately come back but next time I will spend a lot more time here. Tomorrow we leave for Avignon.
granbury is offline  
Nov 21st, 2005, 05:26 AM
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We left St. Remy after breakfast and drove to a market in Eygalieres. The grandkids are now hooked on markets and consider themselves to be very good "bargainers." Their first find at the market was a live baby pig and they were ready to negotiate. (I am still hearing what a mean Mimi I am for not letting them buy the live pig!) It was a really small market but we bought a few things and then drove on to Avignon. My daughter had taken on the responsibility of driving and I did all the navigating. We arrived in Avignon with no problems but soon found parking to be a bit of an ordeal. Plenty of parking lots around the city wall, but all were full. After wandering around in more than a few lots, we finally found a slot. Since we had no hotel reservations for Avignon, we decided that the best thing would be to start with the Tourism Office. As we were walking the six block from the parking lot to the TO it started to rain. Not just a little sprinkle but a downpour. We got a list of hotels from the TO and decided to try the one across the street, the Bristol Hotel. It was still pouring down rain. We got a quad room at The Bristol for 90E. It was a very large room, great bathroom, and they had valet parking. We got the car out of the lot and put it in the hotel parking.

It continued to pour down rain all afternoon but we just got out our raincoats and umbrellas and went about our sightseeing and shopping. The kids loved the Pope's Palace. We shopped some more and I purchased a set of pottery from Terre e Provence. They had a great collection of pieces and I picked out quite a few. Shipping is a bit of a chore, but we finally came up with a way to do it. I can't wait for it to arrive! At dinner that night we all agreed to eat something French on our last night in France. The kids had hot dogs and fries. (they said it was French because they were eating it in France) and my daughter and I had foie gras. A wonderful farewell to France dinner.

The next morning we did a little more shopping and then turned our rental car in at the train station. If you have noticed, I have used the word "shopping" quite a bit in this trip report. Now it was time to get all this stuff on the train with us. Not a small matter but we made it. 5 hours later our train pulled into Brussels Midi and our France adventure was over. We had a great time. The kids learned a lot about France, both culture and history. I learned that I really love France. Sharing this experience with my daughter and grandkids was very special. Leaving them in Brussels was the hardest part of the trip. But I will go back again.

Many thanks to the Fodor's forum and all you great posters whose experiences helped me plan this trip.

granbury is offline  
Nov 21st, 2005, 06:55 AM
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Thanks for sharing your report, granbury!
What a wonderful experience to be able to enjoy this time with your daughter and grandkids!
My grandchildren are still just babies, but I hope I can do the same when they're old enough.
marcy_ is offline  
Nov 21st, 2005, 08:56 AM
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It sounds like you thoroughly saw the area you were in. Do you have any detail on how you shipped the pottery?
hopingtotravel is offline  
Nov 21st, 2005, 09:46 AM
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Dear granbury, I'm not a mean mimi
So happy the children loved Eygalieres. It's where we base ourselves every year.
cigalechanta is offline  
Nov 21st, 2005, 12:35 PM
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Granbury, I just have to ask: Did the Shamrock rock?

letour is offline  
Nov 21st, 2005, 04:33 PM
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hopingtotravel - my SIL works for UPS in Brussels. He set me up a temporary account and will send a truck for a pickup at Terre e Provence after they have the package ready for shipping. They are waiting for some of the items I ordered to arrive from Aix. I am paying the shipping plus insurance. Not sure how much that will be but I suspect somewhere around $200.

cigalechanta - I really liked Eygalieres and want to spend more time there on the next trip.

letour - I'm not sure I understand what you mean by "did the Shamrock rock?" If you mean did I like the Shamrock, the answer is yes. If was a lovely B&B and my grandkids had a great time with the horses. I posted my impression of the Mas Shamrock here:

Maybe I posted it in the wrong place. If I misunderstood your question, please let me know.
granbury is offline  
Nov 21st, 2005, 09:41 PM
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Granbury, I met Mirielle Guiliano tonight at a dinner. She wrote "French Woman don't get fat." She's president and CEO of Cliquot. It learned by chatting with her that she is also called, mimi, and has a home in Eygalieres. Her main home is the West Village in New York, and a secondary one in Paris. She puts her friends up at the mas De Brun(there's a famous medicinal garden there that you can visit for a fee)
cigalechanta is offline  
Nov 21st, 2005, 11:13 PM
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Thankyou granbury for that beautiful report! You have now got me enthused about the infamous Mas Shamrock! Did your family go horse riding after all of that? I would love to do that in Provence with my beginner husband - well he's a beginner rider I mean!
ozgirl is offline  
Nov 22nd, 2005, 01:06 AM
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"mimi" - what a wonderful first encounter with france - with your children and grandchildren. i loved your paris report especially - a wonderful list of impressions and great memories. how old are your grandchildren? i too fell unexpectedly in love with france when i visited a few years ago with my 11 year old son. i hated to leave and can't wait to go back. thank you for sharing your memories. - "mom"
kahern is offline  
Nov 22nd, 2005, 09:08 AM
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Yes, granbury, thanks for pointing out your report on the Shamrock. I am glad, particularly after all of the controversy, that it worked out so well. A happy ending!
letour is offline  

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