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Paris, Normandy & the Loire Valley with our Granddaughter

Paris, Normandy & the Loire Valley with our Granddaughter

Old Aug 17th, 2011, 11:01 AM
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It took us a while to figure out that one can sit as long as one wishes at the table and must ask for the check.

Glad you like Ste. Chappelle-It remains a major wow in my memory banks. I too loved the Louvre's sculptures and sold several times photos of Psyche et Amore. I often titled it "What better than a man with wings?"!

Very enjoyable report.
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Old Aug 17th, 2011, 04:14 PM
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We liked Psyche a lot too and took several pictures of it. I think between the three of us we have 4 or 5 pictures of it. It just doesn't seem possible that anyone can have the talent to turn just a big rock into such a beautiful work of art. Or to create such incredible paintings. Great stuff.
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Old Aug 19th, 2011, 12:46 PM
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Wed (Day 7 – Circling Sacre-Coer, Orangerie, packing to leave Paris)

It was raining hard when we got up but it quit shortly after we left for Sacre-Coer. We took the Metro to the Pigalle stop so we could take the Montmartrobus and hopefully save some uphill walking. This would have been fine had I followed my own advice to do thorough research beforehand so I would have known what to expect. I had just sort of glanced at the map and saw the Montmartrobus line left from Pigalle, circled around behind Sacre-Coer and had a stop right in front of the Basicilla. Sounds simple right? What I did not research thoroughly enough was exactly what “circled around behind Sacre-Coer” meant.

It was easy getting to Pigalle and easy getting on the Montmartrobus (although it was very crowded and we had to stand). We went up some steep hills and we were feeling pretty good about our decision to save some uphill climbing by riding this bus. Since I knew it just “circled around behind” I was not paying attention to the stops and was just waiting until we came to the stop directly in front of the Basicalla. Bad mistake. At one of the stops, most of the people got off the bus and that should have been my clue. We stayed on and all of a sudden we were going downhill and quite a distance away from Sacre-Coer. Eventually the bus stopped at a square and the driver kicked us all off the bus.

There were a few other tourists on the bus and none of us spoke French and none of us could figure out why we were being told to leave the bus - after all it was just supposed to "circle around" and drop us off at the front. As we were walking around the square trying to figure out what to do – really hoping that having to walk all the way up the hill was not the answer – we saw a different Montmartrobus on the other side of the square facing toward Sacre-Coer. We got on that bus and eventually it took us back up the hill and dropped us off right in front. Had I done my research properly, I would have known to get off when all the others did, only a short distance away from where we needed to go. Oh well, it’s not a true experience without adding in a little unnecessary stress – which I’m pretty good at doing.

We walked around enjoying the fantastic view and toured the Basicalla. We then walked to the Place du Tertre and found an artist who did a very nice sketch of A (took about 30 minutes). At first B and I thought it did not look like her because she looked older in the sketch. But as we looked at it more while holding it next to her, it did look very much like her. The artist saw A as she really is, not as the little 5 or 6 year old granddaughter that B and I were still seeing. A was very pleased with it. I know this was a touristy thing to do but we had a lot of fun doing it and we were well satisfied with the results.

After having some sucre crepes and cappuccino, we walked down some weird steps and through some interesting areas to the Abesses metro station. We took it to the Concorde stop where we then went to the Orangerie Museum. What a perfect museum. The 8 huge panels of Monet’s Water Lilies are of course incredible but the art downstairs is fantastic too. The manageable size of the museum makes it a great place to enjoy for an hour or two.

We then went back to the apartment, spent a little time packing (how could seven days go by so quickly?) and went for dinner at a little café just around the corner. It was so cold we ate inside for one of the few times on our trip. We were actually lucky, the next week in Paris was unbearably hot – I’d much rather have our weather. Went back to the apartment and finished packing. Miraculously, after buying a lot of souvenirs/gifts, new clothes/books/pocketbooks etc. – we were able to cram everything in to our suitcases. We ordered a taxi for the next morning to take us to St Lazare. I knew better, but the taxi dispatcher said if we wanted to get to St Lazare by 8, we needed to leave our apartment by 7. I say again, I knew better, but we set our alarms for an ungodly time, watched the Eiffel light show and went to bed. An excellent seventh day in Paris!
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Old Aug 20th, 2011, 01:21 PM
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I am learning so much from your report. Thank you for sharing your trip. I hate that you are already leaving Paris
Very touching about the sketch of your granddaughter.
Do you recommend the trip up to Sacre Couer?
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Old Aug 21st, 2011, 07:03 AM
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What I really wish I could do is be able to edit my last posting and correct my spelling of Sacre Coeur and Basilica. I have no excuses and I apologize for the mistakes - I know it detracts from the story (at least it does for me) and I apologize again for this and all my other "butcherings" of the lovely French language.

To answer your question, yes we recommend going to Sacre-Coeur. And for the record, it is not really a trip, it is just a few metro stops away (unless you accidentally turn it in to an adventure like we did). It is very easy to get to and the whole Montmartre area is very interesting. We had dinner with A last night and asked her this question - her answer was "of course I recommend it - duh"!!! So there you have it.
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Old Aug 21st, 2011, 07:17 AM
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Enjoying this very much. A sounds like a wonderful "grand"!
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Old Aug 21st, 2011, 08:27 AM
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Ok. Well, then, we'll have to make the "trip" to Sacre-Coeur!
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Old Aug 21st, 2011, 01:25 PM
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Thur (Day 8 – Train to Rouen, Drive to Etretat)

The alarms went off at that ungodly hour (and we heard them thankfully). We finished packing the last minute toiletry things and did the final apartment cleanup. The taxi showed up right on time at 7 and it took us all of 10 minutes to get to St Lazare. I will say one more time that I knew better - but we now had an hour and a half until our train departed.

We found a café just outside the train station and had breakfast. We went back inside and they finally put our track number on the screen. Trains and I go way back (Italy 2001 was our first European train experience) and our history is not good. So I always enter a train station with a little bit of anxiety. This time it worked out perfectly. We found seats, put up our luggage and sat facing each other across a little table. I wish I could say we had an exciting and interesting train ride but both B and A fell asleep for most of the trip (remember that ungodly hour early this moring???) But at this point I was happy with boring and uneventful.

Easy to get off the train in Rouen and went in search of the Avis office. Almost walked past it but luckily B spotted it and we went in to find a very nice and helpful person at the desk. There were several options of how to get from Paris to Etretat but we wanted to give A the experience of riding on a European train and we wanted to visit Rouen so we chose this one. My plan was to store our luggage in the trunk of our car which was parked in the Avis secure garage and come back for the car when we had finished touring Rouen. The train station is close enough to walk to the sites of Rouen and leaving it at Avis would eliminate having to try to find parking. That worked perfectly. We really enjoyed walking around Rouen. We toured the cathedral, many Joan of Arc sites, many other Rouen sites, had lunch at a neat timbered-ceiling restaurant, walked back to our car and left for Etretat.

Several months before our trip, I had bought a Garmin GPS with European maps and it worked very well all over France. It took a little while to acquire the satellites but after that it was great. We only had one incident on our drive to Etretat. I had somehow pulled in to the credit card only lane at a toll booth and tried to pay with my AMEX. The machine would not work and it kept my credit card. A guy came over the loudspeaker and said I must go to a different lane. I said it took my credit card. He repeated, I repeated, he repeated again, I repeated again and finally my card popped out. I had to back up to get to a different lane and unfortunately there was a car with a trailer behind me. Finally made it to the correct lane, paid with cash and never made that mistake again.

The rest of the drive was uneventful and we easily found our hotel (Dormy House). http://www.dormy-house.com/ We had stayed here in 2004 and really liked it so we actually stayed in the same room again. It has a nice setup with a great view and a comfortable bed for a third person. Quickly unpacked and went for what was supposed to be a short walk on the beach. It was very windy, very cold and the waves were huge – but it was actually sunny and really beautiful. A somehow talked us in to climbing the cliff up to the little church. The view is great from the top and we walked along the cliff for a ways. There is a pasture up there where a couple dozen cows live and they have some of the best views of any creatures in France. Not often that I’m jealous of a cow!! Since it was supposed to be a short walk, I was wearing my Sperries with no socks and not my walking Mephistos but we made it OK with no permanent damage. Another lesson learned, with A you can never assume a short walk so always wear your walking shoes.

We walked down - A had crepes and we had cider at one of the ocean view cafes. We went back to the room and enjoyed the view and sipped some wine. After a while, we went in search of a restaurant for dinner. We found a tiny little place and we were able to get the last table. No one working in the restaurant spoke English so ordering was interesting but everything was delicious. Our server explained every dish in detail as she served it to us. The only thing is she explained it in rapid French. She would finish the explanation, smile and say bon appétit. We had a lot of fun trying to translate at least some of the explanation – but no matter – it was delicious and the food presentation was great too.

We went back to our room and tried to stay awake until dark to see the lights on the cliffs at night. We finally saw the lights and went to bed. An excellent first day in Etretat!
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Old Aug 21st, 2011, 01:34 PM
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Still following you with interest and pleasure!
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Old Aug 21st, 2011, 01:34 PM
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Still following you with interest and pleasure!
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Old Aug 21st, 2011, 01:37 PM
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John -

I love the name of one of the cafes on the square in Rouen right next to the St. Joan church. It's called the "Carpe Diem" (Seize the Day) Cafe! You didn't by any chance eat there, did you?

Funny you should mention that you had trouble acquiring satellites with your Garmin. I bought a Garmin for use in the U.S. a number of years ago and it took such a long time to acquire satellites that I finally got rid of it. Was yours any major problem in France?
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Old Aug 21st, 2011, 04:19 PM
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John:you are writting a most interesting report.A questiono you think rouen can be a good day trip from Paris;or do we need to think of two days?(Just collecting information for a somewhat long visit to Paris in 2012).
Thanks for your report!!!
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Old Aug 22nd, 2011, 04:45 AM
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Oh dear, the toll booth story made me tense
Climbing cliffs - aren't you glad you took your granddaughter?
Your hotel in Etretat looks lovely. Sounds like a great day!
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Old Aug 22nd, 2011, 07:03 AM
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Jelopez - I know I'm not John, but I visited Rouen last fall. It's a nice little town, with a very interesting cathedral and clock, but you can do it as a day trip from Paris. I wouldn't spend two days there unless there is really something special there that you want to see.
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Old Aug 22nd, 2011, 07:14 AM
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Tom:
Many Thanks!!!Of course,your opinion in welcome.I was thinking almost the same,and I think I will plan Rouen as a(beautiful) day trip.
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Old Aug 22nd, 2011, 07:14 AM
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ttt
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Old Aug 22nd, 2011, 01:09 PM
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I don't know why it took me so long to discover this trip report. Thoroughly enjoying it thus far!
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Old Aug 22nd, 2011, 04:26 PM
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Don't you hate it when work and family obligations cut in to your fodor's time? HA! Thanks to all for the nice words.

lantana - hope your visit to Sacre-Coeur doesn't turn in to a "trip" like mine did. Believe me, I was more than a little tense at the toll booth. And yes, if A wouldn't have been so persistent we wouldn't have climbed half the things we did.

tom - We ate two doors down from Carpe Diem at La Toque d'Or but we liked the name too. Our GPS worked great everywhere we went in France and it works great back here at home. Her pronunciation of some of the street names was pretty hilarious at times though.

jelopez - I agree with tom in that if you just want to hit the highlights like we did, a day is enough. But there is enough really interesting things to explore for a couple of days if you want to dig a little deeper. I think it depends on the mix of people and the interests of your travel group. How about that for a political answer???
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Old Aug 22nd, 2011, 05:56 PM
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Fri (Day 9 – More cliff climbing, A’s revelation, a fortune in tolls to get to Honfleur, how much should we trust the GPS)

Up late and barely made it to the breakfast buffet (a good variety of choices) in the hotel before it closed at 10:30. Took a walk on the beach and it was much less windy but no less beautiful than yesterday. A talked us in to climbing the other cliff (after changing in to our walking shoes) and it was more beautiful than we could believe. If you ever get to Etretat, you HAVE to climb to the top of the cliffs on a sunny day – it is spectacular beyond words.

It was on top of this cliff where A told us that visiting the museums in Paris made her want to become a painter and visiting Etretat showed her what she wants to paint (seaside landscapes). She never mentioned a word about being inspired to paint while we were in Paris. You just never know what goes through their minds. It turns out our visit to the Orsay that I classified as not memorable may have helped shape A’s future. I was seeing things through my eyes and comparing it to the good time we had in 2004 but she was just seeing it for the great museum that it is. Another lesson learned!!! Anyway, she has her dream scene pictured in her mind and she wants to use a little trowel, not a brush.

We didn’t want to leave the cliff but knew we had to. We walked down past three older ladies (about our age) playing golf on the course at the top of the cliff. The views from the golf course are fantastic but we thought it was a strange place for a golf course. We went to the veranda at our hotel and ordered some wine and lemonade. The waiter brought some smoked salmon, cream cheese and olives for us to enjoy with our drinks. As we sat there, a sea gull landed near us and had his eye on our food. When we finished and walked away, he jumped up on our table to see if we had left anything. Well our waiter must have been watching pretty closely because he immediately ran out shooing the sea gull away and I’m sure used some colorful French expressions in the process. It was a very funny sight.

We then headed for a day trip to Honfleur. The GPS told me exactly where to go but for some reason I kept missing the correct turn. I ended up paying a fortune in tolls trying to get turned around to get back on the right roads. It is not hard but until I figured out exactly how it worked, in congested areas I would either turn to early or too late and end up having to pay a toll to get turned around. It became funny after a while as we kept hearing the dreaded 5 syllable “R” word – we didn’t even want to say it out loud – recalculating!!!!

Finally made it to Honfleur and B & I were a little disappointed in the colors of the buildings surrounding the harbor. We thought we remembered lots of vibrant bold colors but we saw a lot of dark gray or black. We finally decided that in 2004 it was a bright sunny day and in 2011 it was very cloudy – which we think made a huge difference in our perception. It was still pretty though and when we looked at our 2004 pictures, the buildings were the same color so we just remembered wrong (nothing knew about that for me). Had dinner at a restaurant on the harbor. A ordered an omelette, a crepe and a banana split – even the waiter was amazed. B had a chicken gizzard salad (very good), mussels in a cider sauce (very good) and a flambé crepe. I had a goat cheese salad, whitefish in cream and a crème caramel – all very good.

We left Honfleur for Etretat and only missed one turn on the way back but it took us to a dreaded unmanned toll booth (luckily we had the correct .50 Euro change). It was on the way back we wondered about our GPS. At every new turn, it was taking us down ever more winding rural roads until it finally sent us down a one lane paved road. We kept trusting Janine and she got us back to Etretat just fine. This sending us down rural roads became a habit with Janine (I think she enjoyed hearing us squirm when she did it).

When we were getting ready for bed, we could not find A’s pajamas. We looked forever until we finally found them folded up nice and neat under her pillow on her made up bed. A’s comment once we found them - crazy hotel people! With the last mystery of the day solved, we looked at the beautiful night lights on the cliffs for a while and went to bed. An excellent second day in Etretat!
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Old Aug 22nd, 2011, 10:40 PM
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John, Really enjoying your trip report. We were in Normandy last year. our friends from UK took their car, he had a Garmin. but we mainly used our Tom Tom, bought in the US which was very good. We used his Garmin for the last few days (just for a change of voice ) but that as very good also,
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