Paris Trip Report, March 2008

Old Apr 14th, 2008, 10:29 AM
  #1  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jul 2006
Posts: 368
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Paris Trip Report, March 2008

First, a big thank you to all of the Fodorites whose knowledge and comments helped to make our visit to Paris a success. Paris is a wonderful city, and anyone would have to try hard not to appreciate it, but the advice provided by the Fodors community enhanced every part of our trip.

I am not a gifted storyteller, so this report will be a more businesslike, bullet point presentation of facts that will hopefully be useful to other visitors, especially those who are traveling to Paris for the first time.

About Us: My 15 year old daughter (DD) and I traveled to Paris from 10 March to 18 March. This was my first visit to the City of Light, and my daughter’s second. She was there two years ago as part of a trip with People to People Student Ambassadors. DD saw most of the major sites during that visit, and was charmed by the city, but desperately wanted to return and enjoy things at a more relaxed pace. I desperately wanted to see this storied city, and after our visit to Rome and Florence last year, particularly wanted to see it with my daughter.

We get along remarkably well for a mother and teenage daughter, and share many common interests in art, history, literature, shopping and people-watching. We discovered during our visit to Italy that we travel really well together, sharing a taste for moving at relaxed pace, stopping to smell the roses, and a willingness to see fewer things better and throw the schedule out the window if we are enjoying ourselves. We also both like to take a nap!

Preparing for our trip: Of course, the single most important thing I did to prepare was check Fodors almost every day. The information I found here helped me to do everything from booking the airfare to finding a hotel to choosing restaurants. I also leaned heavily on Trip Advisor when working through the hotel options, Chowhound for the restaurant options, and many other websites including Paris Escapes and Paris Marais.

I love guidebooks and purchased a bunch, including Rick Steves Paris (I know, I know, but I find him very helpful), Suzy Gershman’s Born to Shop Paris, Pudlo’s Paris, Great Eats Paris, several Paris Walks books including ParisWalks and Memorable Paris Walks, and Eyewitness Paris (I get the Eyewitness Books for the inspiring pictures, not because I think the text is particularly helpful.) I took many of them on the trip, pulled out the relevant sections to carry around as I needed them, put them back in the book, and left all the books in the hotel for other travelers.

To be continued...
samsmom1127 is offline  
Old Apr 14th, 2008, 12:12 PM
  #2  
 
Join Date: Jul 2004
Posts: 3,860
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
You're off to a great start, samsmom ... looking forward to reading more.

Anselm
AnselmAdorne is online now  
Old Apr 15th, 2008, 12:52 PM
  #3  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jul 2006
Posts: 368
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Packing and Flying: DD and I each took one 21 inch expandable suitcase and a tote bag size carry-on, in addition to our regular handbag. I lean towards the “light packer” side of the controversy over how much to bring, DD leans the other way. However, I am the mother in the relationship, so I win. In addition to the clothes I wore over, which I also wore on the flight home, I packed two pair of slacks, a skirt, four tops, a blazer and an additional pair of shoes for our seven days. DD packed similarly, but tossed in an extra sweater dress instead of a blazer. Even DD had to admit that by coordinating well and tossing in some scarves and jewelry, we managed very well without looking like we were wearing a uniform every day. Our carry-ons contained a change of undies, PJs, a few travel size toiletries in case of lost luggage, reading material, and a laptop. This was the first time I took a laptop with me, and I must say I found it very useful.

We flew US Air nonstop out of Philadelphia. I booked our tickets over six months in advance directly with the airline, and did pretty well (under $600 pp.) I might have been able to save some money by taking a connecting flight, or by booking with a third party, but I think that there are real advantages to both non-stop flying and direct booking. Obviously, every leg of a journey provides the airline with an additional opportunity to lose the luggage, and I get completely paranoid about missing connections. Fodors has taught me that booking directly with the airline puts the burden of overbooked and delayed flights right in the lap of the airline, instead of allowing them to try to pass the buck onto a third party. So, if I paid a little more, so be it. I am fortunate enough to live in a hub with nonstop flights to Europe, and I try to take advantage of it.

Sure enough, our flight was both overbooked and delayed. Actually, the issue with the booking was that since it was off season, the Airbus 333 was not full, so they moved to a smaller Boeing 767. There were too many passengers for this smaller plane. US Air started calling around several days in advance looking for volunteers for alternative arrangements, but our plans were firm. We ended up having the location of our seats moved to an aisle and middle seat in the middle of the plane instead of two seat abreast next to a window. It seemed to me that they left people with existing seat numbers alone, but if you had a seat number that didn’t exist on the new flight, they squeezed you in where they could. Something to think about for next time. Fortunately, after the call about the overbooking, I rechecked our reservations and found the change in seating. I was able to find a couple of free seats next to a window and made the change online. This is a small thing, but when you are flying for several hours in coach, every little thing you can do to make yourself more comfortable counts. Speaking of more comfortable, even though the entertainment technology is not as updated on the 767, I find that the seats and legroom are better than on the Airbus.

The flight was delayed for about three hours due to a mechanical malfunction (don’t you love hearing that when you are going to be spending 7 hours over the ocean?) It was serious enough that they decided to fly a whole new plane. I’m just grateful that we were in the airport and not on the plane while all of this was going on. While the replacement was being prepared, we were provided with meal vouchers. When we were finally on board, there was a brief delay on the ground. Why, we wondered, since the weather was good and we were the last flight out so no one was ahead of us? Well, it seems that a group of three college aged young ladies, who I saw early on during our wait at the gate and who were very lovely girls who seemed very happy and excited about their trip, decided to spend the delay at an airport bar. Two of the girls were absolutely smashed, and one of them became very ill as soon as she took her seat. The flight crew had her tossed off the flight, and almost tossed the second girl as well. The third girl, who had remained sober, managed to convince the flight crew to allow the second girl to stay since she did not seem in imminent danger of being sick, and was too tired to be rowdy. So, this was an interesting experience for my teenager. Yes, they really will keep you from flying if you drink yourself sick and obnoxious; no, drinking is not worth losing out on a trip to Paris; and no, you do not want to live though explaining something like that to your mother.

Once in the air, the flight was pretty comfortable. DD and I both book a Benadryl and actually managed to sleep for a few hours, which is unusual for us when flying. Amazingly, the pilot managed to make up a lot of time in the air, and we were only about an hour late arriving at CDG.

There is a website called EasyCDG. First timers to Paris should look it over before flying. CDG is not especially user friendly, but having gotten a look at the lay of the land, we had no problems getting through customs, claiming our luggage, finding an ATM (I hoard euros but didn’t have enough for cab fare), and found the taxi stand. Since we were delayed, I’m glad that I had decided to spring for a taxi instead of a shuttle van (sorry, I’m just too woozy after an overseas flight to deal with the Metro.) The cab got us to our hotel in under an hour and for less than 40 euro.

To be continued…
samsmom1127 is offline  
Old Apr 15th, 2008, 03:45 PM
  #4  
blh
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 752
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
I'm enjoying your report - 40€ for a taxi seems very reasonable. Where did you stay?
blh is offline  
Old Apr 15th, 2008, 04:29 PM
  #5  
 
Join Date: Dec 2003
Posts: 554
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Love your maternal attitude, and look forward to reading more of your report. Thanks for sharing. EJ
elsiejune is offline  
Old Apr 15th, 2008, 05:19 PM
  #6  
 
Join Date: Jan 2004
Posts: 1,121
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
What makes you think you're not a gifted storyteller?

I'm enjoying your report and waiting for the next installment.
shellio is offline  
Old Apr 15th, 2008, 06:09 PM
  #7  
 
Join Date: Apr 2008
Posts: 16,658
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
really enjoying it - more please
MomDDTravel is offline  
Old Apr 15th, 2008, 06:20 PM
  #8  
mms
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 17,622
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Keep writing please Last summer I went to Paris with my DD (16) as well as my mother. DD and I are headed back next year as well. There is just something about traveling with a daughter and the bonding that goes with it
mms is offline  
Old Apr 15th, 2008, 06:57 PM
  #9  
 
Join Date: Nov 2003
Posts: 2,478
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
samsmom...

You're off to a great start! I'll be in Paris with my mom in September, (we are in an older age bracket then you and your daughter)and I'm always reading trip reports to find helpful tips!

LowCountryIslander is offline  
Old Apr 16th, 2008, 10:27 AM
  #10  
 
Join Date: Sep 2007
Posts: 45
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Thanks for the CDG website. I've bookmarked it for our trip to Paris next month.

Can't wait to see more of your report!
elyang is offline  
Old Apr 16th, 2008, 10:49 AM
  #11  
 
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 54,752
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
hi samsmom,

yep, I'm looking forward to more too.

regards, ann
annhig is offline  
Old Apr 16th, 2008, 10:54 AM
  #12  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jul 2006
Posts: 368
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Thanks, everyone, for the encouragement. I really hope that others benefit by my remarks in the same way that I benefited by the information here on the boards. It is great to hear about other mother/daughter teams invading Europe. It truly is a special way to bond.

blh, we stayed at the Caron de Beaumarchais in the 4th (the Marais.) My next post is about the hotel, so stay tuned. And yes, I was surprised by the reasonable cost of the taxi in both directions.

elyang, glad the EasyCDG site is helpful to you. In fact, I think I found it in a post here! Two other sites I forgot to mention that were a huge, huge help to me are Mappy for pedestrian directions and pagesjaunes, which is the Paris yellow pages but also provides photos of both the location you are looking for and the street on which it is located. I looked up everything just to see what it would look like!
samsmom1127 is offline  
Old Apr 16th, 2008, 10:55 AM
  #13  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jul 2006
Posts: 368
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Where We Stayed: We stayed at the Hotel Caron de Beaumarchais at 12 rue Vieille du Temple in the Marais. I wrote a detailed report on the hotel over at Trip Advisor, but I’ll say a few words here as well. We were very, very pleased with the hotel, with the neighborhood and with the hotel’s specific location in the neighborhood. When we arrived, the gentleman at the reception desk saw our cab pull up and rushed out to lift our bags out of the trunk and bring them into the hotel. The small lobby is crammed full of loads of antique, or antique-looking, “stuff.” The front desk is just that, a desk and not a counter as at bank. It was quite over the top, and I was charmed. We were handed a real key, not a card, and assigned to Room 11, a front facing room on the first (U.S. second) floor. The desk attendant was prepared to escort us, but given our light luggage (with which he was quite impressed, by the way…) and the tiny size of the elevator, DD and I assured him that we could manage.

Our twin bedded room faced out onto the street, which we had requested. It was definitely small by U.S. standards, but not impossibly tiny. Like the lobby, the décor is best described as “shabby chic.” In an email home I described the hotel as “an elderly French grand dame, once beautiful but still with great bones, lovingly cared for by devoted retainers.” Everything was in good repair and spotlessly clean. We did not have a balcony, but we did have two large windows that cranked open. I did not find the street excessively noisy, but then I live in a big city on a street that is a bus route, so I am not especially bothered by, or even notice, noise. There was not a bureau in the room, but two narrow closets each with some hangars, and a shelf for folded clothes. There was also no in-room safe, but a safe was available at reception. There was a desk with a lift top that could be folded down for a smooth surface when needed. There was also a small, wall-mounted television and free WI-FI (we just needed to call down to the desk for the password and we were set.)

The bathroom was larger and more modern than expected. There was a tub/shower combo with no glass or shower curtain but very pretty tile, a sink with an adequately sized vanity, and a toilet (no bidet). Under the sink vanity was a mini-bar refrigerator with enough room to store some personal purchases. There were plenty of towels provided and changed daily, plenty of hot water and good water pressure whatever time of day we chose to shower, and Roger and Gallet toiletries. I just don’t get the no shower curtain thing, but since I didn’t have to mop up the floor, I was able to live with it.

I’ll throw in a few words here about how much I liked having free WI-FI. I’m not sure that I would pay (much) extra for it, but having it available was great. I was able to email notes home, check opening times of attractions, look at restaurant menus, consult Mappy for the best route to get where we were going, and DD was able to check Facebook every night.

The reception staff was always kind and accommodating. We did not need a whole lot of help, but they were always happy to make our restaurant reservations and just chat as we came and went. They all spoke perfect English, but were polite enough to speak French when DD or I practiced on them.

I can’t begin to say enough about how well located the hotel is. It is a half block back off the convenience of the rue de Rivoli, but what a difference the half block makes. It definitely is part of the neighborhood, not of the main street, if that makes any sense. There is a wonderful bakery two doors up, a small grocery on the corner, and numerous cafes, restaurants and shops, and that is only on the block or two right by the hotel. I will say more about the wonders of the Marais in a separate post. There are metro stops five minutes away in either direction on the rue de Rivoli as well as plenty of buses (including Rick Steves’ famous Bus 69) and ATMs. We were five minutes from the Ile St. Louis, and right over the footbridge and another two or three minutes to Notre Dame. The Louvre was a fifteen to twenty minute walk.

The cost of our room was 162 euro per night, and I believe that starting this spring the price goes up to 170 euro. People always ask, “Is it worth it?” I don’t really know how to answer that. I will say that I was very happy and comfortable, and that on a return visit to Paris I would most certainly stay here again.

To be continued…
samsmom1127 is offline  
Old Apr 16th, 2008, 11:07 AM
  #14  
 
Join Date: Mar 2003
Posts: 9,705
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Enjoying your report. Keep it up!
avalon is offline  
Old Apr 16th, 2008, 12:48 PM
  #15  
 
Join Date: Jan 2004
Posts: 3,700
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
What a good trip report. Thanks for taking the time. And you are a good storyteller.
Will be ready for more as you have time.
cynthia_booker is offline  
Old Apr 16th, 2008, 01:11 PM
  #16  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 14,829
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
I'm enjoying your report and looking forward to the rest. I have taken a few mother-daughter trips and they have been wonderful. I left for Paris the day after you came home, and it is great to read about others' experiences.
Nikki is online now  
Old Apr 17th, 2008, 12:34 PM
  #17  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jul 2006
Posts: 368
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Where We Ate: I put a lot of time and effort into making restaurant choices before traveling in Europe, and from what I read on the boards, I’m not the only one! I create a spreadsheet with names, addresses, opening hours, phone numbers, etc. to take with me, but will try something else if I see a place that appeals once I get there. Dinner and a stroll afterward is, in fact, pretty much our evening activity. Obviously, I’m not heading out to a club or even stopping at a bar for a drink with my 15 year old in tow!

I prefer to eat within walking distance of my hotel. I know that this leaves out a lot of terrific options, but after a busy day of sightseeing, I don’t want to have to travel for dinner. Fortunately, the Marais is restaurant/café heaven, and the choices were many and wonderful. We made our reservations for 8:30 most nights, occasionally 9:00. We did not go to any starred restaurants, so did not make any reservations from home. Instead, we asked the hotel to call in reservations for us the day of, or maybe a day in advance. I don’t like to stop for a major meal during the day, so generally we ate breakfast in the morning and just held out until dinner. We kept two “grazing” days aside when we did not plan a major restaurant dinner and instead snacked during the day and stopped in a café in the evening.

As an aside, my daughter, while not a vegetarian, does not eat beef or pork products, or duck, or rabbit, or lamb,and is not a big fan of offal. She does eat chicken, some other birds, most shellfish, and some fish. On the other hand, she is not a chicken fingers and pizza only kind of kid either. She likes sophisticated preparations, and does not consider things contaminated if there is an ingredient she does not eat in it. For example, if the salad has bacon in it, she pushes it aside and eats the rest. I was assured that if worse came to worst, every menu has roast chicken and frites. Let me tell you, we did not see roast chicken once! Not even in a café! No big deal, because she found many great things to eat, but it was not as cut and dry as it was in say, Italy, where there was always pasta to fall back on. If you have a truly fussy eater, be sure to check out the posted menus before venturing into a restaurant or café.

So, here’s the list:

Bofinger, 5-7 rue de la Bastille, (4th): We ate here our first night. I thought a classic Parisian brasserie would be a good choice to get our trip started, and indeed it was. The food was good, the surroundings lovely, and the waitstaff very professional and helpful, especially since I don’t speak especially good French and they didn’t speak especially good English. I have read less than stellar things about the service here, but I thought it was fine. Service was slow, but not in a “we are ignoring you” or a “we are disorganized” way, more in a “the table is yours for the night, and there is no need for either of us to hurry” way. The food was not the best we ate in Paris, but it was also better than I was led to believe. The cold seafood platters that were delivered to some tables looked amazing. We did not go that route this time, but I think I would save our pennies and think about it on another visit. Also, not very many tourists, which surprised me.

Amuse Bouche: pretzels(!)and olives
Rolls on table
Entrees: fois gras de magret avec pain poilane (duck liver pate with toast)
onion soup gratinee
Plats: jarret d’agneau (lamb knuckle) braised with sliced potatoes and onions
scallops with butter cream sauce with finely chopped zucchini and carrots
Dessert: flan with quince and nuts
crème brulee
One glass of house red, one cup of café (came with little cookies), water (not bottled)
95 euro incl. tip (rounded up to about 10%)

Bistrot de L’Oulette, 38 rue des Tournelles (4th): This was a cute little place with good food. The staff was all pretty young and casual and very nice. They had fun trying out some English and we had fun trying out some French. There were some tourists but also some French, many of whom seemed to be having business dinners, which surprised me because this place was pretty laid back. I thought it was a little expensive for what it was, but we really enjoyed it, so “non, je ne regretted rien.”

Rolls on table
Entrees: rabbit terrine
eggplant and goat cheese in a glass
Plats: duck confit
calamari and onions in a brown sauce
Dessert: marscapone cream with pears and gingerbread
flaky baked apple served with shaved Armagnac ice
Bottle of Evian, demi bottle of house red, café, tea (served with chocolates)
100 euro (I overtipped)

Le Hangar, 12 Impasse Berthauld, (3rd): This was our very, very favorite place in Paris (I mean, I think I may have liked it more than the Louvre!) In fact, as with Armando al Pantheon in Rome, we broke our only rule, which is not to eat dinner at the same place twice. We wanted to come back here and work our way through the whole menu. In fact, on our second visit the British couple sitting next to us were also there for the second time, and were crushed that the place was closed the next day and they couldn’t eat there one more time before going home. While a few tourists have found it, most customers were French and many seemed to be regulars. On Saturday, people without reservations were seated outside (I don’t think that they planned on using the outside seating, but a very cute, very young couple came along on what must have been a big date. They took pity on them, turned on the heat lamps and set up a table. Once one table was used, they apparently decided to fill the rest.) After that, people were turned away. I still dream of this food.

Dinner I
Amuse Bouche: Olive spread with toasts Sliced bread on table
Entrees: Lentil salad
Spinach gnocchi with blush sauce
Plats: sautéed fois gras over olive oil mashed potatoes
Chicken breast with a light sweet glaze and a yummy mystery vegetable
Desserts: orange crepes with Grand Marnier sauce
Chocolate soufflé with ice cream
Carafe of water, demi of white wine, café and tea (served with cookies and truffles)
90 euro

Dinner II
Amuse Bouche: Olive spread with toasts Sliced bread on table
Entrees: polenta with cheese
Haricots verts salad with parmesan cheese
Plats: beef strogranoff with fried potato puffs
Sautéed scallops served over olive oil mashed potatoes
Desserts: chocolate cake with molten chocolate inside and ice cream
Stewed apples with crème anglaise
Carafe of water, café and tea served with little cookies and truffles
84 euro

To be continued…

samsmom1127 is offline  
Old Apr 17th, 2008, 03:55 PM
  #18  
 
Join Date: May 2004
Posts: 4,628
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
samsmom, this is a wonderful reportm, and I'm looking forward to more. I love how you won the clothing argument with your daughter because "you're the mom"!!

Looking forward to more.
Samsaf is offline  
Old Apr 17th, 2008, 06:13 PM
  #19  
 
Join Date: Nov 2003
Posts: 2,478
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
samsmom...

My mouth is watering over your meal descriptions!

When I travel with my mom we often do as you do, have a small breakfast and hold our main meal until the evening, of course that doesn't mean forgoing a taste of some yummy treats (like macaroons!) Paris has to offer!

I am definitely taking note of your restaurant information for when I am in Paris in September.

Thanks for taking the time to post this report!
LowCountryIslander is offline  
Old Apr 17th, 2008, 08:09 PM
  #20  
francophilenoob
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
Great report!

Just wondering though, why tip? (that's probably worth another thread) I thought gratuities are included in the price when eating in Europe. But what do I know? Learn me sumthin'. Or maybe I should start a new topic on this?
 

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy - Privacy Statement - Do Not Sell My Personal Information


All times are GMT -8. The time now is 06:59 AM.