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Paris Nov �07 Very Belated Trip Report (with pictures)!

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Paris Nov �07 Very Belated Trip Report (with pictures)!

Old Mar 31st, 2008, 09:13 PM
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Paris Nov �07 Very Belated Trip Report (with pictures)!

Hi all,

I feel so guilty! I scoured Fodor�s message boards for months before I went to Paris, taking all sorts of ideas and hints from all of you, and never paid it back with a trip report.

So here goes!

I am 31 year old woman from Sacramento who has always dreamed of Paris. My boyfriend , Matt, was reluctant at first, but finally agreed to go (I think it was after I threatened to go without him).

I took 4 years of French in high school and was completely confident I could do this. Matt took Spanish in school, so this means I was more or less in charge if figuring things out. When it comes to travel though, I thrive on getting the most bang for my buck.

A few years ago (thanks to Fodor�s message boards!) I realized one does not have to stay in a hotel while traveling. All hail the apartment idea! Perfect for an 8 day trip. Months of research on the internet and we finally decided on www.vrbo.com/139753. It was in the 2nd, very close to Rue Montorgueil. All I wanted was a towel heater, or at the very least, a fireplace. Matt wanted a balcony, so we agreed on this one. We spent a total of maybe 20 minutes on the albeit beautiful balcony because of the very cold temperatures, and I could think was �I gave up a fireplace for this?!�

Anyway, the apartment was perfect in every way. I highly recommend it, and the owners were very pleasant to deal with and prompt in their email responses. There was a computer with internet access, which was worth it�s weight in gold, due to the ongoing transit strike (more on that later!). The combo washer / dryer was laughably small, we could wash maybe two pairs of pants, a shirt and if we were lucky, a pair of socks in one load. The drying cycle was more like a moist heat, an undesirable quality for a dryer, so we hung things up around the apartment a lot. But on the plus side, I figured out on day 2 that I could pop my pajamas in the dryer to heat up before I put them on, as well as my towel while I was in the shower. So I guess the towel heater was a moot point after all.

The only down side was the apartment was on the 5th (6th American) floor without an elevator! I was cursing those stairs by the end of the trip.

Day 1

Arrived in CDG on United Airlines ($800 from Sacramento, woo hoo!). Flight was pretty uneventful, food blah, movie selection blah, seats cramped, the usual. The main reason I chose UA was the 2-4-2 seating arrangement so we�d have our own row. I seriously don�t know how people handle sitting next to strangers on such a long flight. Every time I needed to get something out from under my seat, I had to sprawl myself out on Matt�s lap (somehow I don�t think he minded).

We arrived around 10 a.m. ish, changed some money, were thrilled that all of our luggage made it, and made our way out to the RER station. Lucky for us, the transit strike wasn�t scheduled to start until 8 p.m. that night. We got to the apartment about an hour early to meet the apartment guy, so we schlepped our luggage out to Rue Montorgueil to find lunch. We sat down outside a small café and had my first taste of a Croque Monsieur. I love grilled cheese!

We got settled into the apartment, and then had to walk around for a few hours to keep ourselves awake to adjust to the new time. We walked around Notre Dame, into the Left Bank, then back to Rue Montorgueil for dinner. We ate at Le Comptoir du Commerce. I ordered Duck Confit and Chocolate Mousse. Matt wanted to practice his French, so I let him order dessert. We were full so it was our plan to share a dessert. Matt accidentally ordered two mousses, so we had to eat both, what a shame.

Day 2

We started out the morning by getting Pain au Chocolats from one of the many bakeries on Montorgueil (a tradition we proudly kept for all 8 mornings). This was also our first of many experiences lingering over a Café Crème and people watching. We took the Metro line 14 halfway to the Eiffel Tower and walked the rest of the way (thanks transit strike). We were teased with fleeting glimpses of the ET on our walk, but once we got close, we turned a corner, and there she was in all of her breathtaking glory.

I was really thirsty so I stood in line at one of the snack stands which was under siege from the aggressive pigeons, They kept landing on the counter and the cashier would spray them with glass cleaner to make them go away. A bottle of Evian in hand, we stood in a very short line, about a 20 min. wait. I�ve seen pictures of the lines snaking through the courtyard in the height of the summer season, those lines are insane. We bought tickets for all 3 levels. The view is amazing. It reminded me of Istanbul, the size of the city is overwhelming, it�s just wall to wall city. We mailed postcards from the post office and stopped on the first level for our first of many Chocolat Chauds. After descending, we walked across the street and had our fist crepes.

We walked by the Quai Branly, which was just about to close, and I had the brilliant idea of buying our 6 day Museum Passes there as there was no line. The Museum Pass is a must; skipping lines full of tired tourists waiting out in the cold made us giddy!

Dinner was at Shalimar in Passage Brady. We love Indian food and were thrilled to learn that Passage Brady, full of Indian restaurants, was just a few blocks from our apartment. I got the Chicken Tikka Massala, my favorite. I had a Kronenbourg (also the first of many!). When the waiter was taking away the empty bottle, he asked me something in French that I didn�t understand. I said �d�accord� which means okay. A few minutes later, he brought out another beer, which I had apparently just ordered. Not that I�m complaining mind you. If there�s one thing I�d want to accidentally order, it�s beer!
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Old Mar 31st, 2008, 09:52 PM
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Day 3

The usual Pain au Chocolat from Stohrer bakery. Not our favorite, actually, considering its reputation. Our favorite came from Maison Collette I think it was called, on Montorgueil. We walked to the Louvre and walked right in thanks to the Museum Pass. We decided to split up the Louvre into 2 separate visits, this day we were covering the major paintings. What is the deal with the Mona Lisa?! Shes so small. Same thing with the Venus de Milo, I dont get it. My favorite was Liberty Leading the People, by Delacroix. Its always surprising to see these paintings are so enormous, after studying them in textbooks.

After the Louvre, we walked to Angelinas to have their famous Chocolate lAfricain and Mont Blanc. The hot chocolate is the stuff of my dreams, totally worth it! The Mont Blanc I thought was too sweet and kind of tasteless. We then walked around the Jardin Tuilieries and sat by the pond where I was promptly pooped on by a pigeon. At least it was on my leg, it could have been worse!

Then we walked to Ste. Chapelle but it had closed early (thanks transit strike). Back to Montorgueil, which was having a street market. We bought a rotisserie chicken and potatoes and stopped by a wine shop to pick up a bottle. Living about an hour and a half drive from Napa, we have very limited experience with French wines. Not knowing what to buy, we settled on a bottle with a picture of a chicken on the front, because, hey, chicken was our main course. We also stopped by a bakery and got a baguette, which I swear was the best bread Ive ever had. This is where the apartment is really worth it, as we were able to take this all home and have a lovely candlelit dinner.

Since we are all about maximizing our days, we then took an evening cruise on the Vedettes Pont Neuf. The view from the top deck of the boat was just gorgeous, but bitterly cold. Luckily I discovered that my scarf makes a decent, if ridiculous looking, hat. Stopped by Le Comptoir du Commerce for some tea to warm us up, then back home.

Day 4

Pain au Chocolats from Maison Collette. We took the Metro to Gare Montparnasse and caught the SNCF Ter Transilien (which I think was unaffected by the strike) to Versailles. Figuring out where enter Versailles and where to buy the audio guides was a total hassle, but at least there were hardly any crowds. Again, hats off to those who do this in the summer and survive!

The audio guide was well worth it. There were lots of school children running from room to room on some sort of field trip. One boy asked Matt if he spoke English, and for some reason, Matt said Si. The boy walked away very confused. The palace was fascinating, but I think I liked walking around the grounds in the back better. We stopped at La Flotille for lunch and I had the best French Onion Soup! Of course its all better with a Kronenbourg. After lunch, we walked in the direction of the back of La Flotille. It was just before dusk and there was no one around. We came upon a huge green field with a bunch of grazing sheep. It was so pretty and peaceful, it looked like Ireland. We passed by the Neptune Fountain just as the sun was going down. I noticed the water in some of the smaller fountains was freezing over.

Back in Paris, we ended up on the fullest Metro train in history (thanks transit strike). We were so squished, it almost became hard to breath. And yet people kept getting on. At least it was warm. When we came to our stop, I said, Sortie, merci, sortie, merci, and amazingly, like the Red Sea, the people parted and let us off. I got this feeling of comraderie, like we were all in this together. I love the French civility! I was left wondering what this experience would have been like in New York or LA.

Back home to do laundry and eat Grand Marnier Flambeed Crepes.

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Old Mar 31st, 2008, 10:22 PM
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Day 5

Pain au Choclats from Eric Kayser bakery. Today was Pere Lachaise Cemetery day, which was a perfect choice because of the sunny weather. The cemetery is really beautiful, I loved exploring the graves and getting lost. We bought a map at a newspaper vendor outside of the cemetery, but we quickly found out the map wasnt very detailed and not very helpful. We tried finding Edith Piafs grave, but no luck.

We rode the Metro to Ste. Chapelle, which was thankfully open. This place really takes your breath away! The stained glass is just astounding. We ate lunch across the street (Onion Soup and a Kronenbourg!).

We made our way to Notre Dame. After setting foot onto the courtyard, we were promptly accosted by a girl asking us if we spoke English. I said no and kept walking and she left. On a side note, we were approached in the Place de la Concorde on our second day by a Gold Ring Scammer. Obviously, the fact that we were sitting on the curb studying a map gave us away as tourists. I shook my finger and sternly said no and the guy left. A few minutes later we saw an older couple get taken in by the same guy. There started to be a scene when the couple dropped the ring on the ground and refused to pay. Everyone was waving their arms and yelling, but I think the guy just gave up and left.

Anyway, in Notre Dame we were able to walk in for free, not sure why. We were there for a few minutes when a choir started to sing. I wasnt sure where they were from, but they were fantastic! It was one of the most magical Paris moments for us. We just sat there transfixed for their 6 song performance. It was so disheartening to see so many tourists mill around not even mildly interested in enjoying the concert.

While walking home, we passed by the Pompidou. We werent planning on making a visit there, since modern art falls by the wayside for us compared to all the other sights in Paris. But we dropped in for about an hour with our Museum Pass, just because we were right there and there was no line. Not really my thing, but at least I can say Ive been there.

Dinner was at Little Italy on Montorgueil. We really wanted a pizza, and thought that would be the obvious choice. It was only after we sat down and got the menus that we realized they dont serve pizza. Oh well, we had really good pasta dishes anyway. In keeping with the Italian theme, we stopped by Amorino Gelato afterward.

Day 6

Pain au Chocolats as usual. Today was Musee dOrsay day. Thank god for the Museum Pass, because we literally got to cut in front of a huge line shivering in the cold snaking through the courtyard. A fellow tourist said jokingly, Thats the pass to have! as the doorman let us cut in front of them. Seriously, buy the Museum Pass, you won't regret it!The dOrsay was enjoyable, but the layout was weird and hard to figure out. I loved Manets Dejeuner dans lHerb. Again, its one of those paintings I studied in Art History class and was giddy seeing it in real life!

We decided to hoof it to the Sewer museum, thinking we had plenty of time since it closed at 5. We got there at 4:05 and were supremely disappointed to find out they closed the ticket office at 4.

Hopped on the Metro to the Arc dTriomphe. We wanted to go up to the top, but it was closed early (thanks transit strike). I was not terribly impressed with the Champs Elysee. Dinner was a baguette, leftover chicken and potatoes and the rest of the chicken wine.

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Old Mar 31st, 2008, 10:25 PM
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Wow, thanks for bringing back great memories! We were also there 8 days in November-- about a week later, toward the end of the strike-- and rented an apartment not far from there. Instead of pain au chocolat, I was sampling croissants aux amandes from a different bakery each morning.

Where's the link to the pictures?
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Old Mar 31st, 2008, 11:00 PM
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Day 7

Um guess what? We had Pain au Chocolats for breakfast! We took the Metro to Notre Dame and went up to the top. It was interesting to find out that the things we normally think of as Gargoyles are actually called Chimeras and Gargoyles are really just fancy rainspouts. Its virtually impossible to take a bad picture there, theres so many awesome photo opportunities. More chocolate crepes, then it was on to our second visit of the Louvre. This time we focused on the ancient art. After going through the usual archaeology phase when I was younger, I loved seeing all this ancient stuff. The cat mummies were cool to see! We had to speed through the Egyptian section because the museum was closing an hour early (thanks transit strike). Since I didnt have time to really study each piece, I started taking pictures of statues then taking pictures of the signs so I could remember what they were later.

Did some gift shopping in the Carousel Mall. I found some really pretty Christmas ornaments that I bought for gifts.

Tonight was our Big Night Out. We decided to pack one set of dressy clothes for one fancy expensive dinner. We chose LEscargot on Montogueil because of its proximity to our apartment and I like escargot and wanted Matt to try them. We were only one of three groups of people there, so we got lots of attention. Our waiter was the epitome of the stereotypical snooty French waiter, but he was the nicest guy! We had escargot, spit-roasted duck, wine, Clementine pastry for Matt and Mint Souffle for me. After we were finished and stuffed from the duck our waiter brought out 2 more plates of duck. He said, Now you eat the duck legs. We were like, theres more? We did our best to eat the duck legs while still saving room for dessert. Anyway, its the fanciest most expensive meal either of us have ever had, but worth every penny for the experience.

We played a game of cribbage (we are addicted to the game and bring the board and cards with us everywhere) before rolling ourselves into bed.

Day 8

Our second to last Pain au Chocolats. Today was souvenir shopping day. We needed to get them anyway, but it was also the start of the civil servants strike so no museums were open (thanks &%[email protected] striking strikers). We went to the Galeries Lafayette, which was the most glorious shopping experience Ive ever had! Too bad Matt was with me, because I would have spent way more time shopping! Stopped for a Kronenbourg on the way home then played cribbage and took a nap.

Our last night in Paris, and we decide to eat at an Indian restaurant. Did I mention we LOVE Indian food?! This time we ate at Le Rajpour on Strasbourg St. Denis. The vindaloo was out of this world!

At this point I was really ready to go home. My poor feet were in a constant state of soreness from the ungodly amount of walking we were doing each day.

I spent some time writing some really nice things in the apartment guest book before going to bed.

Day 9

Our last day L. I had booked an airport shuttle online earlier in the week. I dont remember the name, but even if I did, I wouldnt recommend it. I purposely asked them to pick us up an hour earlier than normal because we thought the traffic might be bad from the strike and we didnt want to take any chances. We stood outside in front of the apartment with our luggage for an hour before the guy picked us up. I was starting to break down in tears thinking he wouldnt show up. I had NO contingency plan to get to the airport. I wouldnt have even known where to find a public phone and how to use it to call the shuttle company or a taxi and the RER to the airport wasnt running (thanks transit strike). But it all worked out fine, I was so relieved to see the shuttle pulling up.

The flights home were again uneventful, I managed to sleep on both flights which is unusual for me. We had an hour and a half layover at ORD which wasnt quite enough. We had to pick up our luggage from the carousel and recheck them, go through immigration and customs, switch terminals and go through security again. And this was the day before Thanksgiving! We had to run through the terminal with our shoes untied and half on. Ive never had to run to catch a flight before.

As a result of the short connection time, our luggage didnt make it to Sacramento. It was put on the next flight and someone from the airline showed up Thanksgiving morning to deliver our bags. I was so relieved to see that my gift set of mustards, Christmas ornaments, watercolor painting and two bottles of wine came through unscathed.

Final Thoughts

Thank you Kerouac for all of the invaluable information you provided during the transit strike! I checked Fodors from the apartment every morning for your posts.

Because of the strike, as annoying as it was, we did far more walking than we probably would have, making for some scenic hikes.

My dad, who visited Paris in the 60s, was completely amazed that we werent treated rudely. I convinced him the Parisians were polite everywhere we went. We tried to speak French as best we could and always said bonjour, bonsoir, sil vous plait, merci, etc.

The things we didnt get to see that we wanted to were the Rodin museum, Luxembourg Gardens, Sewer Museum, the catacombs and that weird taxidermy place, Deyrolle. This means well have to go back (when its warmer!)

The second we landed back in Sacramento, I told Matt our next trip is going to be to a warm tropical island, where theres not much to do besides laze about in a hammock with a beer in hand!

Oh, I almost forgot! The pictures!
www.mycatmiko.shutterfly.com
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Old Apr 1st, 2008, 07:04 AM
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Thanks so much for sharing your trip with us! Your photos were great -- have saved them for when I need a fix!

Sounds like you had a fabulous time -- are you planning your next trip yet?!?!?

Enjoy!

joy/luvparee
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Old Apr 1st, 2008, 07:10 AM
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I have a picture of my wife sitting on the edge of Edith Piaf's grave. The funny thing was she sat down in frustration of not being able to find it!
Brings back fond memories. Our second trip was interrupted by circumstances beyond our control, but we are again saving our nickels to get back. (We may be saving for a while though.)
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Old Apr 1st, 2008, 07:18 AM
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Thanks for the report. Better late than never!

We were in Paris in Oct 07 and were also affected by the strike. We weren't able to get to Versailles at all.

My husband loves beer, and was disappointed that Kronenbourg is the only beer they have in France.

Quick question: did you get into Versailles using your Museum Pass? Or did you buy the forfait loisirs?
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Old Apr 1st, 2008, 08:05 AM
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luvparee - yes, we are planning on going to the island of Roatan off the coast of Honduras in September. It's exactly what I wanted, a cheap caribbean island where there's not much to do besides snorkeling, hammocking, and drinking fruity drinks!.

yk - We used the Museum Pass to get into Versailles. The train tickets to get there were only a few euros anyway, so we didn't want to mess with trying to figure out the forfait loisir.
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Old Apr 1st, 2008, 08:16 AM
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Bookmarking!
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Old Apr 1st, 2008, 10:44 AM
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Thanks for a very enjoyable trip report.

I also love walking around in Pere Lachaise cemetery. It is so beautiful and peaceful.

It has been several years since I last saw Paris and I am craving a return.
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Old Apr 1st, 2008, 11:26 AM
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Saving to read later. I just returned from Paris two weeks ago. I promise a trip report very soon!
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Old Apr 1st, 2008, 05:52 PM
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I love your pictures! I'm glad to see we are not the only "tourists" to take 300+ photos in a week!


Can't wait to leave... 16 days and counting
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Old Apr 1st, 2008, 06:31 PM
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yk, i'm surprised. i've had many different beers in France.
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Old Apr 1st, 2008, 06:36 PM
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LOVED THE PHOTOS!!! Thank You.
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Old Apr 1st, 2008, 06:46 PM
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Great trip report and fantastic pictures! Thanks so much for sharing. We are going in June with our teenage daughters. I am definitely checking out that department store . Also, that one church with all the stained glass was beautiful.
We also have all the same tastes in food. I love, love, love pain de chocolate! I love onion soup and grilled cheese. So, I should just follow your path
thanks again and I enjoyed your humor.
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Old Apr 2nd, 2008, 05:37 PM
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What a fun trip report! Thank you so much for the report and all your wonderful pictures!

DH and I are going for our 3rd time to Paris in May, taking a 16-year old niece with us this time. I'm so glad to hear that the museum passes are worth the investment, because we've already bought ours. (The niece doesn't need one, since 18 years and younger get in free.)

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Old Apr 6th, 2008, 05:29 PM
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Thanks for sharing your trip report and photos-- love all the details!
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