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Paris trip report: coach vs. business, Le Regent, restaurants, daytrip to Blois & Amboise, etc.

Paris trip report: coach vs. business, Le Regent, restaurants, daytrip to Blois & Amboise, etc.

Jun 7th, 2002, 12:16 PM
  #1  
lisa
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Paris trip report: coach vs. business, Le Regent, restaurants, daytrip to Blois & Amboise, etc.

Paris trip report, May 25-June 2.

Full disclosure: If you are one of those who dislikes reading about the minutiae of other peoples' trips, stop reading now. Don't say I didn't warn you.

Took USAirways from Washington National through Philadelphia into Charles DeGaulle. Those personal screens showing your choice of movies at every seat really help the time pass. Envoy class on the way there, coach on the way back, so I got to compare the two. Both have the personal screens showing the same movies and TV shows, but the screens are larger in Envoy class (not a big deal), plus the Envoy class seats are pretty dreamy (they adjust electronically about 10 different ways), obviously the food is way better (duck breast with mandarin oranges for the first course, followed by a green salad with yellow grape tomatoes and parmesan in a tomato-basil vinaigrette, a main course of filet mignon or sea bass, a selection of cheeses, and opera cake – and would you like more champagne with that?), and you get a little black travel-size kit full of Crabtree & Evelyn goodies (lip balm, lotion, soft socks, eye mask, toothbrush & toothpaste). It's fun to be upgraded to Envoy class, and it certainly makes it easier to sleep in flight, but no way would I pay thousands or even hundreds extra for it.

CDG is, as many Fodorites have noted, inefficient and chaotic. Long waits everywhere – for elevators, for ATMs, for shuttle buses between terminals – you name it. Took the shuttle bus to Terminal 2 to meet Mark's flight, then took the shuttle to the RER and arrived at St. Michel station around 1pm to sun and blue skies. Tried to buy our 5-day museum pass at St. Michel metro station but they were out of them. Walked the few blocks to our hotel, Le Regent, where we were welcomed warmly but told our room would not be ready for an hour or so. No problem; we left our luggage with Angelique and headed off to Les Deux Magots for lunch, where we stared out at Eglise St. Germain in a daze and said, "I can't believe we're really here." Delicious provencal omelette and pretty good green bean salad. Walked back to Le Regent and were given the key to a room on the 4th floor which was not only tiny (which we expected, having reserved one of their standard rooms at 122 euros/night as opposed to a deluxe room which would have been 183 euros) but also kind of musty-smelling, and frankly, ugly (which we did not expect). After inquiring politely as to whether there were any other rooms available, she gave us the key to the only other available room, on the second floor, and told us we could take our pick. Happily, room 24, although also small, was much nicer and had an attractive marble bathroom, so we switched.
 
Jun 7th, 2002, 12:17 PM
  #2  
lisa
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Although tiny, the room had a comfortable full-size bed, a small desk, a mini-frig, closet with plenty of hangers, a safe, and a window looking out onto a wee courtyard. It was, as advertised, very quiet. The air conditioning worked well. The room had a few quirks in addition to its lilliputian size. The hair dryer blew air with all the force of the breath of a sleeping infant. The toilet seemed to operate on the principal, as Mark observed, of "flush early and often." The shower drained so slowly that you had to turn the water off in the middle of your shower to prevent the water in the bottom of the shower from overflowing out into the rest of the bathroom. But these were pretty minor issues. The pluses of the hotel far outweighed the minuses. The staff was friendly and helpful in making dinner reservations for us, providing ice for Mark to ice down an arm injury, etc. And the location could not have been better. The bathroom had no bidet or bathtub, but the shower stall did have doors (unlike many in Paris that lack even a shower curtain). Decent towels, washcloths, and shampoo/bath gel were provided, but no conditioner. Iron and ironing board were provided on request. I would not hesitate to recommend Le Regent to anyone looking for a moderately-priced 3-star hotel with air conditioning in a great location – with the caveat that their standard rooms really are about as small as they can be, which is not a problem if, like us, you don't plan on spending a lot of time in the room.

After settling in, we walked over to Notre Dame, took lots of photos, discovered that the bells were starting to ring for 6:30 mass so we attended (why not), then walked to Chez Maitre Paul where we had made reservations by e-mail for 7:30 pm. The poulette a la creme gratinee was as delicious as I remembered (3 courses with wine, about $60 for two). By the time dinner was over we were having trouble keeping our eyes open, so we went back to the hotel and crashed.

Day 2 – Sunday
Next morning we slept in and decided to get a late breakfast at a place recommended by Fodorites called Paul's, about a block away from the hotel. We loved it so much that we ended up eating there about every other morning. They have a window on the street where you can watch them make the breads and pastries. Café au lait, freshly squeezed orange juice, croissant, and baguette with butter and jam for 5 euros (less if you got it to go). You could get 2 eggs with it for an extra 2 euros. The bread was warm and fresh, the coffee was terrific, and the price was right. (Breakfast in the hotel was an extra 10 euros per person; we skipped it altogether.) After breakfast we had planned to visit Ste. Chapelle and climb the tower at Notre Dame to photograph the gargoyles, but it was overcast and sprinkling off and on, which we decided wouldn't be ideal for either appreciating stained glass windows or taking photos outside, so instead we walked over to Ile St. Louis and wandered the streets for a bit, then to the Marais and the Picasso Museum (we tried again to buy museum passes there, but they were sold out; no matter, we paid the admission of 4 euros each). I hadn't been to the Picasso Museum in 13 years and it was as wonderful as I remembered. It's so entertaining to see how his paintings of various women reflected the stage of his relationship(s).
 
Jun 7th, 2002, 12:19 PM
  #3  
lisa
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Then we walked around the Place des Vosges, listened to street musicians, peeked into some of the galleries, and decided to eat a late lunch/early dinner at Ma Bourgogne. My veal with onions and carrots was delicious and so was Mark's rack of lamb, and we shared a nice green salad and a half-carafe of their house red wine. It was fun to sit outside and enjoy the people-watching from our table. I believe the total came to around $50 or so for the two of us. Afterward we walked around the Marais a little more and ended up at the Pompidou, where we took lots of photos of the fountain. Unfortunately, by the time we finished with that, the museum was getting ready to close, so we had to save it for another day. We walked back to St. Germain (it was fun throughout our trip to walk by walls full of campaign posters for the upcoming elections; we enjoyed trying to figure out the slogans and see how the various wings were marketing themselves) and ended up sitting outside at a café on Rue de Seine for a while, where we had dessert and a glass of wine before heading back to the hotel.

Day 3 – Monday
After brunch outside at Café Bonaparte (around $25 for 2 for omelette & croque monsieur, salad, juice, and coffee), since the weather was on the chilly side again and sprinkling off and on, we decided to go to the Louvre. With our museum passes finally in hand, we were able to use the group entrance and avoid the line at the pyramid. Although we had hoped to take one of the guided tours, all of the English-language tours were already booked, so instead we bought the self-guided audio tour (5 euros each I think) and both of us thought it helped us appreciate what we saw. We spent most of our time in the Denon wing, which happened to be open late that evening. First we saw Greek antiquities, then lots of gorgeous sculptures, then French, Italian, and Spanish paintings. We were there for a total of about 5 hours, with a short caffeine break in the middle for me. I had been to the Louvre before, but not for about 10 years. Highlights for me this time, which I don't think I had seen on my previous visits, were Michelangelo's two Slave sculptures, the sculpture of Sleeping Hermaphrodite, and the paintings of Liberty Leading the People, The Raft of the Medusa, Napoleon Visiting the Plague Stricken, and The Wedding Feast at Cana. By early evening, the Denon wing was starting to clear out. It was wonderful to be in the museum with so few people. We were able to walk right up to Mona Lisa without fighting through throngs of people as I had remembered doing before.

After the museum we walked over the Pont Neuf and decided to take the Vedettes du Pont Neuf boat ride just before it began to get dark. It was a bit chilly on the boat but we enjoyed it. Afterward we went to the Creperie St. Germain for dinner, which was okay, but not as good as I had hoped. On our way back to the hotel we stopped and picked up a bottle of white wine and a bottle of red, some cookies, and postcards.
 
Jun 7th, 2002, 12:19 PM
  #4  
lisa
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Day 4 Tuesday
Paul's for breakfast (see a pattern here?). Ile de la Cite flower market (which I had high expectations for, but few of the stalls seemed open). Climbed the Notre Dame towers – I had never done this before and it was one of the highlights of the trip for me. The view was spectacular, and it was really fun taking photos of the gargoyles. Afterwards we made a quick stop behind Notre Dame at the Deportation Museum and then walked over to Ste. Chapelle which was as beautiful as I remembered. Lunch at Creperie des Arts. We enjoyed the decor and the crepes better than at Creperie St. Germain, although frankly the two menus are pretty similar. There was one crepe that sounded bizarre that had avocados in it but it was very good. After lunch it was chilly and rainy and I was feeling the effects of jetlag, so I went back to the hotel for a long nap while Mark explored St. Germain and the Latin Quarter with his camera. I awoke refreshed just in time to make our dinner reservation at Le Bistrot de Breteuil, one of my favorite restaurants from my trip to Paris last year. It was as terrific as I recalled – efficient service, wonderful kir royale, nice salad, very good duck breast and lamb chops, and amazing profiteroles with hot fudge for dessert. Wow. And still a bargain at 29 euros per person including kir, wine, 3 courses, and coffee.

Day 5 Wednesday
Weather a bit nicer – some sun, a bit warmer. Atlas for brunch – yummy onion soup; Mark had good steak frites. Purchased a 2-day L'Open Tour bus ticket & took the bus to the Champs Elysees, Arc de Triomphe (climbed to the top and took lots of pictures), Eiffel Tower (rode the elevator to the top – the lines weren't very long – again took lots of pictures and enjoyed the view). Dinner at La Bastide Odeon. Eggplant millefeuille and zucchini stuffed with vegetables, mozzarella, and bacon for appetizers, both of which were excellent. My main course of tiny ravioles du Royan with tomatoes and parmesan was absolutely amazing and delicate and Mark said the roast chicken was good too. And the dessert of moelleux mi-cuit with Valrhona chocolate and vanilla ice cream was yummy. Dinner for two, with a bottle of house wine, was about $70 US.
 
Jun 7th, 2002, 12:20 PM
  #5  
lisa
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Day 6 Thursday
Picked up breakfast a emporter at Paul's and ate it on a park bench outside St. Germain church. Paul's pastries are fab, especially the one with apples on top. Took the second half of the L'Open Tour (worth the price of 26 euros each for two days, we thought). Weather much warmer and sunnier. Went to Montmartre and Sacre Coeur – lovely. Had lunch of beef bourgignon, frites, and cold beer outside at a café on the square watching the artists paint – touristy but fun. Went to Musee Pompidou that evening (it's open until 9pm). Loved Calder's Josephine Baker and the Matisse works. Had a marvelous dinner at Allard – excellent salad, salmon with bearnaise sauce (Mark's steak was great too), house red, dessert of tarte tatin and Paris Brest (mmmm). Dinner for two with wine was about $75 US or so.

Day 7 Friday – Loire Valley. Gorgeous weather – warm, sunny, in the 70s. Picked up some fresh cherries and pastries to eat on the train with coffee and took the 9:10 am train from Gare Montparnasse to Tours and then another 20 minute train to Amboise. Walked from Amboise train station to the chateau, a healthy 20-minute walk over the river. Took a couple of hours to see the chateau, which was more impressive outside than in, but well worth seeing, then had lunch outside at a little café at the base of the chateau (ham, emmenthal, camembert, chevre, salad, soup, wine), where a group of schoolkids sat in the back glued to the screen watching France vs. Senegal in World Cup Soccer. Took the train to Blois in the afternoon and walked to that chateau, which by contrast didn't look like much on the outside but was marvelous on the inside. The interior decor was very vivid, and I could just picture kings and courtiers walking the halls. Afterward we got ice cream cones and wandered through Blois until we found the old part of the city with its narrow streets, and climbed the steps to the front of the cathedral. Walked back to the train station and took the train back to Paris in time to have dinner at Portuguese restaurant around the corner from our hotel – don't recall the name but wouldn't really recommend it anyway – disappointing steak, pretty good potatoes, carafe of nice Portuguese red wine, friendly service, deeply annoying couples on either side of us, one of them chain-smoking.
 
Jun 7th, 2002, 12:21 PM
  #6  
lisa
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Day 8 Saturday
Decided to have a picnic brunch for our last day in Paris. Stopped at a cheese shop on Rue de Seine for some lovely St. Nectaire and Muenster (two large pieces, 3 euros total), then Gerard Mulot to pick up fruit juice, pastry (raspberry tart, chocolate eclair, apple turnover, brioche) and coffee and took the whole lot to Luxembourg Gardens and sat outside and ate what seemed to me like the best food in the whole entire world. Watched the kids sailing their boats and clicked away with the camera. Took the metro to the Musee d'Orsay and got the headphones for the self-guided tour and headed straight up to the top floor. I never get tired of the Musee d'Orsay. It may be my favorite museum in the world, and I never feel like I have enough time there. As they shooed us out at closing time I had to remind myself that I can come back another time. Dinner at Chantairelle – tiny lentils with country ham, truffades with cheese and ham, duck breast with honey and thyme, blueberry tart, and the house white wine – all delicious, made more so by the comfortable atmosphere on their back patio. Dinner for two, around $60 US. Afterwards took a walk along the Seine to the Pont des Arts.

The next morning, said goodbye to Paris, checked out, took the RER from St. Michel to the series of long lines that is CDG (note to self: arriving at CDG an hour and forty minutes before flight time is not enough). USAirways flights again on time and pretty comfy, even in coach (thanks to those personal screens at every seat) – and the food wasn't bad. On arriving back home in DC, everything looked so big – the streets, the sidewalks, the cars.

Thanks to all the Fodorites for your tips! Any questions, feel free to post.
 
Jun 7th, 2002, 01:50 PM
  #7  
Rema
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Lisa: I enjoyed your trip details! I will be traveling from Paris to Amboise in September and do not understand how to use the trains. Did you make your Loire Valley train reservations from the U.S. or did you buy the ticket at the Paris train station? Also, is there no direct Paris-Amboise train? You changed trains in Tours. I would appreciate all your train details. Thank you.
 
Jun 7th, 2002, 02:02 PM
  #8  
Mari
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Lisa, thanks so much for your informative report on your Paris trip. We are leaving in just a few weeks on our trip which starts in Italy and ends witha long weekend in Paris.

We are also staying at the Le Regent (reserved the superior rooms at the suggestion of several helpful people here) so learning about where you went from that location was so helpful to us.

I do hope we are pleased with the hotel itself. We were considering changing but we also thought the location was very good.

Thanks.
 
Jun 7th, 2002, 04:47 PM
  #9  
Sandy
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Lisa... I would love the arrondissenments where those wonderful Paris restaurants are. We will be staying at the Paris Intercontinental near the Tulleries Gardens. Are your restaurants close? Thanks for the wonderful report!
 
Jun 7th, 2002, 05:43 PM
  #10  
Sue
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Lisa, wonderful report--I feel like I just had a mini-vacation in Paris. I'm definitely copying it for future reference!

Rema, there is a direct train from Paris to Amboise, but it takes about an hour longer and leaves from Gare d'Austerlitz. I chose that route, however, because I don't like to change trains (with luggage). I bought the tickets on the SNCF website and picked them up in Paris at an SNCF Boutique rather than the station, just because it was easier.

My trip report is at
http://www.fodors.com/forums/pgMessages.jsp?fid=2&tid=1371813
(Lisa just thinks she went into minutiae.)
 
Jun 7th, 2002, 06:20 PM
  #11  
John H
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Lisa,

Very enjoyable trip report -- thanks for sharing. A few questions:

1) I am staying in Paris only 2 days this trip, but want to fax Le Bistrot de Breteuil for reservations. Given that we will be jet lagged, want to make relatively early reservations. Do you know how early they open (this would be a Friday or Saturday night)?

2) Do you -- or does any other poster here -- have an address for Paul's? Sounds delightful for breakfast.

Again, thanks for bringing back good memories and getting me excited for this fall's trip.

John H.
 
Jun 8th, 2002, 10:44 AM
  #12  
Julie
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Nice trip report. Love the minutiae of other peoples' trips.
 
Jun 8th, 2002, 01:31 PM
  #13  
topper
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topping
 
Jun 8th, 2002, 03:15 PM
  #14  
Davis
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Where exactly is Paul's? I'm leaving tomorrow and want to look it up!

Thank you for your details.
 
Jun 8th, 2002, 03:38 PM
  #15  
Paul
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Nice report. However, in violent disagreement with USAir flights between Philadelphia and CDG. Just returned in May and both flights were horrible. Crew seemsed to be at war with each other (reason unknown); seats tiny and uncomfortable in coach; food awful (but that was expected) and the TV screens didn't really work well. But is was only 8 hours and we got back safely. I know there are better ways to get to Paris.
 
Jun 8th, 2002, 05:45 PM
  #16  
Katherine
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Lisa hon I live in Fort Worth Texas. My house burned down in March and I cannot leave due to the construction. I love your report...these types of posts I love since I cannot travel at the moment. Details details details that is what makes your report so nice!! Anyway thanks for posting it and I am glad you had a nice trip and a safe return.
 
Jun 9th, 2002, 05:53 AM
  #17  
kavey
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Lisa
I really enjoyed reading your report, thanks for sharing, I liked all the details.
Kavey
 
Jun 9th, 2002, 06:45 AM
  #18  
francesca
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Nice report. Paul's in a chain and there are many locations. The bread there is pretty good.
 
Jun 9th, 2002, 08:03 AM
  #19  
Alice
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For Davis:
According to Les Pages Jaunes -
Paul’s – boulangerie, patisserie:
Forum des Halles 1 r Pierre Lescot 75001
63 r Montorgueil 75002
89 r St Antoine 75004
14 bd St Michel 75006
21 r Bonaparte 75006
77 r Seine 75006
84 av Champs Elysées 75008
37 r Tronchet 75008
49Bis av Franklin D Roosevelt 75008
45 r Jacques Hillairet 75012
44 r Annonciation 75016
4 r Poncelet 75017
22 r Lévis 75017
13 r Pierre Demours 75017
18 av Ternes 75017
218 r Pyrénées 75020
Aux Délices de Saint Paul (different?)
129 r St Antoine 75004
 
Jun 10th, 2002, 07:12 AM
  #20  
lisa
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Rema: I believe there is a direct train from Paris to Amboise but it leaves from Gare Austerlitz rather than Montparnasse, and it is a regular train rather than a TGV. We chose to leave from Montparnasse and take the TGV to Tours and then a regular train to Amboise, and then take the regular train back from Blois to Paris Austerlitz, but could have done it the other way. We bought our tickets at the station about 20 minutes before departure.

Sandy -- Most of the restaurants we ate in were on the left bank, except for Ma Bourgogne which is on the right bank. However, we love to walk, and from where you are staying you can easily walk across the Seine to restaurants in the 6th and even the 5th.

For those who asked about Paul's -- the one we went to was at the corner of Rue de Buci and Rue de Seine in the 6th.

Katherine: I am so sorry for your loss. I hope you are doing ok -- keep your chin up.
 

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