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Paris, Chartres, Champagne Country and Giverny 2019

Paris, Chartres, Champagne Country and Giverny 2019

Sep 8th, 2019, 02:10 PM
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Paris, Chartres, Champagne Country and Giverny 2019

For years now Iíve said my favorite city to visit was Paris but my favorite country to visit was Italy. I really love Italy. Paris is still the leading city but after this trip where we saw lots of new places and met a bunch of super friendly people, France is making a serious challenge to Italy. What a nice dilemma to be in trying to choose a favorite between these two fantastic countries. I know I have really seen very little of either country but what I have seen is just incredible in both. Anyway we had another great time.

We had not planned on going to Europe this year but our friends, who we have travelled to Europe with several times before, had rented an apartment for a month in Paris and graciously invited us to spend a week or so with them. We had enough frequent flyer miles for airline tickets so combine that with a free place to stay and it was a no-brainer. We went to Paris. For background info we are all in our late sixties/early seventies and have travelled together several times.

Thanks to everyone for your suggestions/advice for our trip. Of course PalenQ gave his opinion and of course he was challenged on it. I have always found his advice for me useful and he will be missed.

We arrived on Wed Aug 28th and left Thu Sep 5th. Our friends had rented a 1 bedroom 1 bathroom apartment with a pullout sofa in the living room. We knew it was going to be a cozy situation but my biggest concern was just how bad the pullout sofa was going to be. My fear was unfounded because the sofa bed was very comfortable - actually more comfortable than some hotel beds Iíve slept on. And the coziness was not an issue at all Ė it sure is nice to have such good and considerate friends.

Day 1.

Easy getting to the airport, through security and to One Flew South where we had our usual good food (duck sandwich for me) and an exceptionally good Bordeaux to kick off our trip to France. Deltaís comfort plus was nice, dinner was not quite horrible and I took an ambien, ready to settle in for my usual 5 hours of good sleep. It was not to be. For the second trip in a row now ambien did not work its magic for me. I slept some but not what I had hoped for.

Something we like to do on arrival is try to make getting from the airport to the apartment as easy and stress free as possible to get a good start to the vacation. It was nice to have Victorís Cabs meet us outside baggage claim and take our luggage to the car for a quick uneventful ride into Paris. We arrived at the apartment at about 8 AM, chatted with our friends for a while and did a little unpacking. For the first time ever on a trip to Europe I was not able to power through the jet lag so I had to take about a 2 hour nap. My wife didnít get much more sleep than I did but she handled it better. Iím going to ask for a refund on my ambien Ė HA.

The only thing we had planned for the day was to visit the Cluny Museum. As we were walking towards it we went past the Pantheon and decided to go in. Good decision. The Rome Pantheon is my favorite building anywhere but for some reason I had never done any research on the Paris Pantheon so had never tried to go there. My mistake because it is quite a place. It has great history, a working copy of Foucaultís pendulum, incredible art and lots of interesting people interred in the crypt. Plus the structure itself is something else. Very enjoyable visit. We then had lunch at a little place in the pretty Place de Sorbonne.

After lunch we went to the Cluny where it was free admittance and I think a lot of it was under renovation. We were practically alone when viewing the tapestries of the Lady and the Unicorn. We then walked around the excavation area downstairs and again we were almost alone. Another very enjoyable visit.

Our friends had been there a week already and had made friends with the manager and servers at a little place near their apartment on the Place de la Contrascarpe where they stopped for drinks nearly every evening. When we walked up, the manager and servers all came over and shook our hands when they met us. We went back several times during our stay and every time they shook our hands and found us a table no matter how crowded it was. The Place de la Contrascarpe is filled with lively places and was crowded with young people every single evening. Several times young folks sitting next to us struck up conversations with us. Very enjoyable place.

Eventually back to the apartment where we had a light dinner and more conversation before pulling out the surprisingly comfortable sofa bed and going to bed. A great start!
john183 is online now  
Sep 8th, 2019, 03:32 PM
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Nice start. I will be following along, as I went to Chartres and Giverny last year.
Nikki is offline  
Sep 8th, 2019, 07:44 PM
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Looking forward to reading about the rest of your trip.
pgtraveler is offline  
Sep 9th, 2019, 11:25 AM
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Well, I am on board. One Flew South is our pre-Europe drink and lunch!

I have to say there is no drug strong enough to get me to sleep on an aircraft if the seat doesn't go flat. Now it takes a flat bed, prescription and a glass of wine to get a few hours of sleep. We flew in Delta Comfort Plus a few years ago and were both too uncomfortable to sleep. We were the walking dead the day we arrived. I have always said Ambien is the greatest drug invented (I am an awful insomniac) and since this is on the France forum, you should know in case you hadn't put it together that the trade name Ambien comes from a very rough translation of "good/well" AM. Alright, trivia is over...

I look forward to hearing about Champagne (always) and Giverny. I can't wait to go back in Summer and Fall after FINALLY making it there last year in Spring! Victor actually drove us to Giverny last year. One of these days, we will finally go to Musee Cluny. I don't know why we haven't gone in and we have passed it many times.

Look forward to more....
denisea is offline  
Sep 9th, 2019, 11:46 AM
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Originally Posted by denisea View Post
Well, I am on board. One Flew South is our pre-Europe drink and lunch!
Same here! And if I have a connection at the ATL I may sure it's a long one so I can have dinner there.

Looking forward to going along on this ride!
starrs is offline  
Sep 9th, 2019, 12:42 PM
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One more for the ride, Paris, Giverny, Chartres and Champagne, whatís not to like?!!! 😃
geetika is online now  
Sep 9th, 2019, 03:58 PM
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Nikki - thanks. We really liked both Chartres and Giverny.

pgtraveler - thanks. I hope to get some pictures uploaded soon too.

denisea - thanks for the trivia. It was you who recommended One Flew South to me - thanks for that too. Ambien has worked great for me on 9 of our 11 trips to Europe. The last two were not good and this time I was shocked that I could not power on through. I was the walking dead until I took a nap.

starrs - For us, One Flew South is a fun place to get in the mood for Europe.

geetika - I agree. Add in the other places we have been in France - Upper and Lower Normandy, Loire Valley, Provence and a small part of the Alsace and you see why France is now challenging our beloved Italy as our favorite country. There is a lot more to see in France and I hope we eventually get to see it.
john183 is online now  
Sep 9th, 2019, 04:03 PM
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Day 2.

Had a good breakfast in the apartment of quiche and pastries that we bought from a nearby shop before heading out to Luxembourg Gardens. We visited these gardens on our trip in 2004 and for several reasons did not enjoy them as much as we hoped. In 2004 they were setting up for a big concert and had a lot of the area blocked off. There was hardly anyone at all in the gardens and there were no little boats sailing around the pond. On this visit we were able to see what the gardens are all about. It was a nice day and there were lots of people everywhere. The flowers were beautiful and there were several of the vintage boats sailing in the pond. We walked all around and saw people of all ages enjoying the park. What a difference from 2004.

Back to the apartment and rested a bit before catching the metro to Rue du Bac for our 4 PM walking food tour of Saint Germain from Paris By Mouth. I am always a little skeptical about this kind of tour but we had a really good time. There was no sales pressure (like I thought there might be) for us to buy anything at the shops we visited. The group was small (7 people). The four of us, a couple from San Francisco and a lady from Atlanta who lives relatively close to us – talk about a small world. Our guide, Amber, was great. She was very knowledgeable and fun. We had stayed at an apartment on Rue du Bac in 2004 and loved the area. Our tour covered a lot of the area near that apartment and it was fun to see the changes in the neighborhood since we were there. It appears to be much more upscale now.

We walked from shop to shop doing some tasting and learning quite a bit from the shop people about their individual specialties. Amber bought food at each shop for us to eat at the end of the tour. We finished up at a private upstairs room in the wine shop (La Cave du Cherche Midi) where Amber served us more food and wine than we could eat or drink. Our favorite was all the different cheeses. She also gave us all kinds of interesting information about France - very informative for a novice like myself. The tour was advertised as a three hour tour (no Gilligan Island pun intended) and it was. About 2 hours of walking and an hour of eating/drinking at the end. I will say again that we really had a fun time, good food, good wine and good company.

Amber sent an email with a recap of what we did on the tour and I’m going to copy it in here.

Shops visited during our Taste of Saint-Germain food tour:
Patrice Chapon chocolate shop at 69 Rue du Bac, 75007. From here, we tasted: Mousse au Chocolat from Peru and chocolate from Chuao plantation in Venezuela.
Polmard butcher at 53-57 Rue de Grenelle Beaupassage, 75007. From here, we tasted: Saucisson de Boeuf ,Patť pur Boeuf,jambon de Bayonne.
La Patisserie des Reves at 93, Rue du Bac 75007 from here we tasted: Paris-Brest and vanilla Madeleines.
La Ferme d'Alexandre fromagerie at 19 Rue Saint-Placide, 75006. See below for a list of cheeses we tasted from the fromagerie.
La Cave du Cherche Midi wine shop at 19 Rue Saint-Placide, 75006. See below for a full list of wines we tasted.

French wines tasted during our tour:
- Cremant de Loire Domaine de la Pichonierre (Chenin Blanc from Loire Valley)
- Julienas Domaine de Beauvernay 2017 (Gamay from Beaujolais)
- Cote du Rhone Albin Jacumin 2017 (Syrah,Grenache from Southern Rhone)

French cheeses tasted during our tour: AOP stands for Appellation d'Origine ContrŰlť and means that the cheese is made according to specific guidelines in order to carry its name.

Racotin (goat, Bourgogne, aged 3 weeks): this cheese has a pronounced fresh flavor compared to other goat cheeses.
Boucanier Fumť (goat,Provence,ages 2 weeks) This small soft goats cheese is smoked over beech wood.
Brie de Meaux AOP (cow, őle-de-France, aged 6-8 weeks): a complex raw milk cheese that can taste of mushrooms, earth, wet leaves, cauliflower, beef stock, or oysters. Some longer-aged versions have a strong ammonia smell which a few connoisseurs like. Hand-ladled using a perforated ladle (dates back to 12th century) that allows the curds to be transported to the mold unbroken in order to achieve the smooth, voluptuous custard-like interior.
Cantal AOP (cow, Auvergne, various ages): one of the oldest cheese recipes still made in France, Cantal was noted in the journals of Roman soldiers who came to conquer Gaul in the 2nd century BC. It’s one of the only French cheese that uses a cheddaring process - milling the curds to make them more crumbly. Cantal Jeune has been aged for 30-60 days (1-2 months) and has a mild nutty and milky flavor. Cantal Entre Deux has been aged for 90-210 days (3-6 months) and Vieux Cantal has been aged for a minimum of 240 days (8 months).
Hercule (Sheep/goat,Pyrenees,ages 4 months) A pale yellow,mild hard cheese from the heart of the Pyrenees mountains,its made in small batches at local farms. Usually eaten in summer.
Fourme d’Ambert AOP (cow, Auvergne, aged 2-3 months): one of the oldest known cheeses in France. Legend has it that the druids in the ancient land of Gaul knew of this cheese before the conquest by Caesar's army in the 1st century B.C. The name "fourme" comes from the ancient Greek "phormos" and the Latin "forma." One of the mildest of all blue cheeses, commonly used in cooking, and found widely all over France.

Last edited by john183; Sep 9th, 2019 at 04:59 PM.
john183 is online now  
Sep 10th, 2019, 10:00 AM
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Oh, I am jealous as we have enjoyed our food tours with Paris by Mouth. We attended their cheese workshop at La Cave du Cherche Midi last year and throughly enjoyed it. A cheese lovers heaven and we did learn a lot! I love how the tours are all quite different depending on the guide, the area and the interests of the group. I could go for a madeleine about now!

Enjoying and waiting for more.
denisea is offline  
Sep 10th, 2019, 11:32 AM
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May I ask the price of Victor's Cabs?
kerouac is online now  
Sep 10th, 2019, 03:29 PM
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It was 75 Euros to the apartment in the 5th. As usual we had way more luggage than we should have and we are getting spoiled and lazy in our old age. None of which really justifies the 20 Euro difference we paid. Ha. We have used Victorís Cabs 4 times and have been happy with them every time.
john183 is online now  
Sep 10th, 2019, 04:34 PM
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denisea - I did not expect to like the food tour as much as I did. Iím sure we will do a different one from Paris by Mouth the next time we are there. A madeleine sounds great right now.

Last edited by john183; Sep 10th, 2019 at 04:49 PM.
john183 is online now  
Sep 10th, 2019, 05:58 PM
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Day 3.

We spent four days outside of Paris on this trip. One in Chartres, two in champagne country and one at Giverny. I could start every one of those days with this sentence: Spoiler Alert Ė we had a great time today. We were lucky. I also want to get something out there so I can take the flak about it now. When we are on vacation, time and convenience are important to us. One thing that helped accomplish both of these priorities on this trip was taking Uber quite a few times. So there it is.

This is the day we went to Chartres. We purposely picked Friday because the chairs are removed from the labyrinth on most Fridays and we really wanted to be there when the chairs were removed. We took an Uber to Montparnasse, bought our tickets and had an easy trip to Chartres. Walked toward the Cathedral and found a place to have a coffee before our noon tour with Malcolm Miller. I had emailed him about his tour and he replied that he planned to be there on this day. A little before noon we checked in at the ticket counter and found he was not going to be there. We were disappointed but hoped he was doing OK. We found that a tour in English was available later in the day so we headed out to walk around the town and have lunch.

What a beautiful little town. We stopped by the tourist information office and found a map of different walks. We wandered around for a while and took a lot of pictures of this very picturesque town. We had lunch, bought our Cathedral tour tickets and spent time admiring this incredible place. The chairs were in fact removed from the labyrinth so we walked it as people have done for hundreds of years. It is believed to have been constructed in the early 13th century. Finishing the walk looking up at all the stained glass truly was inspirational. Then it was time for our tour.

Iím probably going to jinx myself but we have been on a roll of getting just incredibly good guides. Our guide here was outstanding. Somehow she was able to take a group of about 25 people and transport us back to earlier times as she described things that happened here. At one point in a chapel in the crypt, she unexpectedly sang a beautiful hymn as she slowly walked by herself with her arms outstretched, up the aisle towards the altar. Our group just stood there mesmerized as her beautiful voice slightly echoed around the empty chapel. Goose bump time. The claim to fame for this Cathedral though is the veil of the Virgin Mary displayed in the crypt. It was goose bump time again when I thought about exactly what I might be looking at.

You can google the Cathedral and whether you believe it all or not, it has a very interesting history. I think I understood that you have to take a tour to be able to go into the crypt. I donít usually highly recommend things but if you have any interest in the history of this Cathedral, I highly recommend taking a tour Ė especially if you get a guide as good as ours was. The upper part of the Cathedral, the crypt and all the stories about them were just incredible. I could go on and on but I think you get the picture Ė it was a very moving experience at a very historic place with a great guide.

Easy train ride back to Montparnasse and easy Uber back to our neighborhood where we stopped at our favorite little place on the Place de la Contrascarpe for some light food and drinks. A perfect way to end a perfect day.

Last edited by john183; Sep 10th, 2019 at 06:01 PM.
john183 is online now  
Sep 11th, 2019, 02:43 PM
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Always like reading your reports, John, and that moment with the singing - how wonderful.
Adelaidean is online now  
Sep 11th, 2019, 04:37 PM
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My last visit to Chartres was eons back, when I lived in Paris in the 1980s! Need to go back again next time when Iím in France...
geetika is online now  
Sep 12th, 2019, 09:38 AM
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Adelaidean - thanks. The entire Cathedral was wonderful but the unexpectedness of her singing was something else.

geetika - We liked everything about Chartres. The town is very nice and the Cathedral (especially the crypt) is terrific.
john183 is online now  
Sep 12th, 2019, 09:53 AM
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Day 4.

We had an easy day planned for today. Go to the Orsay and Orangerie Museums then have dinner at a nice restaurant somewhere. We are believers in the Museum Pass to save time even if we wouldnít save money but there is no one day pass and these were the only museums we had planned to see on this trip. When researching how to buy advance tickets for Giverny I saw an ad for combination Orsay/Orangerie skip the line tickets from GetYourGuide for 22 Euros. We took our printed tickets to the completely empty advance ticket line at the Orsay and walked right in.

We visited this museum in 2004 with our oldest granddaughter and loved it. We had a nice lunch at the restaurant behind the clock and went outside to the viewing area. We visited it again in 2011 with our other granddaughter and sadly for us it was being renovated. The Impressionist art was moved to the bottom level and both the restaurant behind the clock and the outside viewing area were close. This time all was good again and it was surprisingly not crowded. We had a nice lunch in the restaurant behind the clock and spent some time viewing beautiful Paris and the Seine from the outside viewing area. We then took the short pretty walk along the river and across the pedestrian bridge to the Orangerie. Just like at the Orsay, we walked right in. Another nice visit and again it was surprisingly not crowded.

Back to the apartment for a break before dinner and to spend a little time packing a bag for our overnight trip to Reims tomorrow. We had a restaurant recommendation from the manager at the little place we liked in our neighborhood and arrived at about 8:30. It was a nice evening to sit outside and we ended up having a very good meal. I probably should not do this but Iím going to confess my unsophistication/inexperience of eating in a nice Paris restaurant. In almost every restaurant Iíve been to we are given menus and a wine list when we are seated. We sometimes have a cocktail before the meal but we like red wine with almost every meal so we sometimes order a drink, choose a wine in our price range then choose our food. Here we were given food and drink menus but no wine list.

When I asked the waiter for a wine list, he said it was his job to pick the wine for us depending on what we ordered to eat. Oh lord, I could just picture the final bill with a couple of several-hundred-euro bottles of wine on it. We eventually ordered our food and the waiter then asked me a question that allayed my fears. He asked what my usual price range for a bottle of wine was. I told him under 100 Euros would be good. I then relaxed and we had a very fun time Ė and I ended up liking the waiter a lot. The wine he picked out (we had two bottles) was very good and surprisingly was only 48 Euros per bottle. I guess I should have trusted him from the beginning.

We had such a good time at the restaurant that we missed a couple of turns trying to walk home but eventually made it. Another good day.
john183 is online now  
Sep 12th, 2019, 01:00 PM
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What was the restaurant you went to?
Nikki is offline  
Sep 12th, 2019, 02:02 PM
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Our friend had asked the manager of the little place they like near their apartment for a restaurant within walking distance and he recommended La Petite Perigourdine. It certainly isn't big or fancy but it worked for us. I did not try to find any reviews before we went so I just now looked. It seems people either love it or hate it.
john183 is online now  
Sep 12th, 2019, 05:18 PM
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Super to find this! John, I share you love of Paris and Italy. DH and I decided southern France is like Italy. Lol. More soon please.
TDudette is offline  

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