Paris Trip Report

Apr 6th, 2006, 08:47 AM
  #1  
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Join Date: Feb 2006
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Paris Trip Report

This was my first trip overseas, solo, 3/27 – 4/4.

The flights on AA were better than expected and the shuttle to and from the hotel was easy. I stayed at the Hotel Residence Monge, top floor in the back. Wonderful hotel and Julie was just great. The room was plenty big enough and had a view of the Arenas de Lutece which was really nice. The elevator says it has occupancy of three but you’d have to be three REALLY close friends . The shower is also very small with a hand held shower head. It took some practice to be able to get clean and not flood the bathroom. I’ll post a full review on TA but it was a terrific hotel.

I got to Paris the day of the first strike and left the day of the second strike. There were some protestors marching on Rue Monge the 28th but it was raining and they were docile. Other than that the only sign of the times were caravans of federal vehicles lining some avenues, especially by monuments - lots of federal police smoking cigarettes, playing cards, and otherwise looking bored.

Using the Metro was really easy and quick, I never waited more than 5 minutes for a train. There are signs everywhere and it would be almost impossible to get lost. Buses were not as frequent but a nice way to get around when you were not in a hurry. Not only do you bypass all the stairs in the subway, you get to see Paris while traveling. On some routes it is like taking a tour bus. Taxis were also very reasonable. Some taxis have a 5.50 euro minimum and some do not. My most expensive fare was 10 euros from Pompidou to Sacre Couer – we had to take an alternate route because some of the streets were closed off for bicyclists.

The monuments and museums were all bigger, grander, and more beautiful than I had pictured. I had no line on Wednesday for the Louvre and walked right up to the bullet-proof glass encased Mona Lisa. It was hard to see any details but I can do that on the web site. No photographing in much of the Denon wing and they are serious about it, watch you like a hawk. The guy next to me tried to sneak in a photo of Mona and two guards swooped down on him, demanded the camera, and deleted the picture. They said he could pick up the camera on his way out!

Long line at D’orsay on Friday and the opening was delayed about 40 minutes. I got to experience first hand the Parisian Line Experience. Personal space is not a concept recognized in these lines; the French also seem to enjoy smoking in the lines without regard for the proximity to bare skin and fabric; if the line is too long they’ll just jump it at a closer point and bring 6-7 of their friends with them  Once in the museum all of that is forgotten. It is a truly beautiful museum with masterpieces all around you that you’re able to get up close and personal with.

I visited the Eiffel Tower at sunset (outstanding, even with all the different lines); Sacre Couer (great neighborhood); Rodin Museum (strange man); Invalides; and pretty much most of the touristy things. I walked the Louvre-Arc de Triomphe route and it was easy and interesting and I’d definitely recommend doing it for first time visitors. I took in Pompidou on the free Sunday. It’s a great looking museum, very colorful and alive. The art itself takes some getting used to. It has a great little boutique too. Walking in different neighborhoods is really a must.

There were things I missed, most notably the Cluny museum, Monet museum, and Pere Lachaise but that is what return trips are for. I did have a couple of beers at a café on Rue Cler. Other than being able to walk in the street without getting run over it was a lot like many of the other neighborhoods in the city, including Rue Monge.

Speaking of beer, I tried the Kronenbourg 1664 beer and it was delicious! Likewise with the Bitburg beer - It got to the point where I would be disappointed if they only had Heineken or Amstel. Another drink I was surprised I enjoyed was café au lait. I don’t take milk in my coffee at home but for whatever reason these were delicious! I might even get on at a Starbucks here but I already know it will not be as good. C’est la vie.

For food I pretty much ate where I got hungry. I’d find a place without English menus and try something different. I had chocroute garnie in a place called Le Sarah Bernhardt and it was very good. I went to another place at the south end of Rue Monge and asked for the special without looking at what it was. It turned out to be a spring chicken in tarragon sauce with raisins, potato on the side. Delicious and it made me wish the bird was bigger. I had Greek food in a place called Roger de Beyrouth. It was quieter than the busy cafes and the food was great. Delicious vinaigrette on the salad, excellent couscous with a hint of cinnamon, and skewers of beef, chicken and lamb. Other meals were not as notable but I didn’t have a bad one the entire trip. Maybe my favorite eating experiences were buying the supplies I needed and then sitting in the Arena and watching the kids play football and men playing boules.

I shopped at Galleries Lafayette (Chanel and Jean Patou for my wife, some scarves, some shirts for me); Fauchon (I’m not a great chocolate eater but even I could taste the difference) – my wife loves the chocolate ‘jam’; and Maille for some excellent mustards and vinaigrettes. Of course I picked up a few things along the way at each of the sites I had visited.

I had no problems being an American. Between the little French I know and the little English they know there were no problems doing or getting anything. Most people were exceedingly polite and some even friendly. The hawkers weren’t as bad as I had read and one of those tie-a-string-on-your-finger guys had relatives in NY close to where I also have some.

Some tips for first timers:
- Not all the doors open on all the subway cars when it stops. You either have to press a green button for the door to open or pull a lever upward, depending on the type of train.
- Some of the newer buses have a marquee on the ceiling by the rear exit that scroll with the destination and next stop – very helpful for the first and second times to an area. Also, you need to press a red button to alert the driver to your stop.
- On the Metro, if you’re not sure which direction you should be going just keep going towards your train line. When you get to that tunnel, on the wall will be the name of the stops left on that line. If you don’t see your stop go to the other stairway for that line.
- Look both ways when crossing. Really.
- Act like you know what you’re doing even when you don’t; be polite and soft spoken.
- Do not be afraid to take a detour down a street you weren’t planning to go.

Finally, thanks to everyone who posts here and helped make my trip incredibly enjoyable, whether you know it or not.

If you have any questions, ask away.

Jay







JJS2006 is offline  
Apr 6th, 2006, 09:17 AM
  #2  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
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Welcome back, Jj Paris is a wonderful city for a woman travelling alone as you have found out.
cigalechanta is offline  
Apr 6th, 2006, 09:21 AM
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Join Date: Feb 2006
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How nice..was it your first trip?,,,but not the last I'd bet!
StLSusan is offline  
Apr 6th, 2006, 09:23 AM
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Join Date: Mar 2006
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great write up thanks, I will be sure to use this info in my upcoming trip
whoadude is offline  
Apr 6th, 2006, 09:28 AM
  #5  
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Yes, my first trip and most definitely not my last. I was so excited when I returned home I believe my wife will accompany me next time Have fun whoadude, it is almost impossible not to.
JJS2006 is offline  
Apr 6th, 2006, 12:04 PM
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It might be worth pointing out that if you ate couscous, you were not eating Greek food but North African food. In any case, couscous is the #2 favorite dish of the French. (Just for information, #1 is "blanquette de veau" -- a veal dish in bechamel sauce served with rice, and #3 is steak and french fries.)
kerouac is offline  
Apr 6th, 2006, 01:15 PM
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Join Date: May 2005
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Thank you so much for this post! I leave a week from today, and I am now very excited to get back over there!!
dalkey22 is offline  
Apr 6th, 2006, 03:53 PM
  #8  
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kerouac: Upon further review the restaurant was Lebanese. Sloppy narration on my part, kind of like D'orsay instead of d'Orsay

dalkey22, have a great trip!
JJS2006 is offline  
Apr 6th, 2006, 04:40 PM
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Join Date: Sep 2005
Posts: 242
JJS: Thank you so much for your report. I was in Paris solo in October and am already aching to go back. Any day I get to read a 'Paris Trip Report' on Fodors is a good day!

Gina
travgina is offline  
Apr 6th, 2006, 05:35 PM
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Join Date: Jan 2003
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Oh geez. Just what is a tie-a-string-on-your-finger guy?????
HappyCheesehead is offline  
Apr 6th, 2006, 05:51 PM
  #11  
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Cheesehead: On the plaza at the bottom of the steps that lead up to Sacre Couer are a bunch of guys who make bracelets (I think) from string. I didn't actually see one made.

Gina: Solo was great. Very relaxing and the freedom was .... liberating


I don't know how I almost forgot this. One day I was in the Metro and a man was playing an accordion. I was in a bit of a hurry so I didn't pay any mind to it. When I sat down and waited for the train I realized he was playing Ave Maria. It sounded so beautiful in that tube I let the train go to hear some more of it and then when back to give him some coins. It's the little things.

JJS2006 is offline  
Apr 6th, 2006, 06:12 PM
  #12  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
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Thanks JJS - I think I will avoid them! They don't sound too harmful in any case.

Thanks for the report. I am sitting here doing everything but getting ready for my own trip!
HappyCheesehead is offline  
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