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RGTraveler May 30th, 2008 07:09 AM

Paris Trip Report: May 17-24
First, thanks to all of you who assisted in my planning, it helped me immensely.
We (3 fifty-year-old couples) just returned from a great week in Paris, and believe it or not, my wife & I are returning again in less than 4 weeks with our teenage son and adult daughter! Aren't I lucky? I had bid on and won two trips, so the first was adults, no kids and the 2nd was for family. The package included r/t airfare and lodging. Unfortunately our outgoing flight was delayed so our luggage did not get on our connecting flight. So we were without clothes until the following afternoon. Oh well.

We stayed at the lovely Marriott Champs Elysees. Although many posters aren't crazy about that area, it is a very beautiful, upscale area and always full or excitement and electricity and we enjoyed it very much. Breakfast buffet was included. One day Sara Jessica Parker showed up to sign autographs next door at Sephora's. It attracted hundreds of fans and the wives were excited. Me, I was trying to find out if the Lakers won (and they did, sweet).

First day arriving from California we were pretty well jet lagged so we did the Open Air Hop On bus (29 euro). It was overcast and rainy at times so it forced us inside the bus. It was a Saturday and the bus and streets were quite crowded. Just 1 loop took us over 2.5 hrs and the slow motion was lulling us all to sleep. I think those buses are a great orientation to the city, but I would recommend doing it on a sunny mid-week day.

Dinner that night was at Le Relais de Entrocote (15 Rue Marbuef, within walking distance of the hotel). ALL they serve is steak, fries and salad - no kidding. It's quite popular and they don't take reservations, so people were lined up outside. The meal was 24e and they had wine at 18-24e at bottle. Let me point out now that we are not foodies. I can enjoy a baguette with jambon & cheese or a falafel and a beer just as much as I can the meals we had at La Coupole & Bofinger, so all our meals were more than fine as far as we were concerned.

After that was a walk to the Eiffel Tower to see it all lit up. As others have said, it's much more impressive in real life and there were lots of people and exciting energy all around the Champs de Mars. From there we walked toward the Arc de Triumphe and down the Champs to our hotel.

RGTraveler May 30th, 2008 07:30 AM

The next day we had hired a private tour guide, who also happened to be a photographer. His name is Michel Colson . We started at St Michel fountain then walked thru the St Germain-des-Pres area; over Ponte de Artes and around the outside of the Louvre. While crossing the bridge we encountered an older naked man! Well he wasn't completely naked- he had on a sweater and shoes, but nothing in the middle. Maybe his luggage got delayed also. The fee for our 3 hr private tour was 150e and each couple got a CD with nearly 150 photos on it. Not only was the walking tour wonderful, but we got alot of group photos we couldn't have gotten otherwise, along with dozens of priceless candid shots. 150e may be steep for one family, but it's very reasonable for 4-5 singles or 2-4 couples and I highly recommend him.

After we ended we continued on our own in no particular direction, stopping in the massive St Eustache church and wound up in the Las Halles/Pompidou Center area. It was Sunday and crowded and I wasn't overly thrilled with the area, although I'll probably return next month to go up the escalators and inside the Pompidou Center with my kids.

Dinner reservations were at Bofinger and it was certainly busy and full of character. Pork knuckle was 19e; salmon 31e. It was all good and washed down with 3 bottles of wine (Not me - the six of us, ha!) From there we walked across the Bastille to Rue Roquette and Rue De Lappe. Even on a Sunday at nearly 11 PM it was lively with a young crowd. There are probably a dozen bars/restaurants within a 300 meter stretch. Tea-totalers may not find this area enjoyable, but we found it fun. At 12:55 AM I realized the metro was stopping in a few minutes, so we all took off running and laughing thru the vast Bastille metro tunnels along with a few young Parisians. We missed the last metro by a minute, so we laughed our way back to the bar, had another drink and took a taxi home.

We had a very slow start the next day - I wonder why. Dinner was at Le P'tit Troquet (28 Rue de L'Exposition) and it was our favorite dinner of the trip. It oozes with Parisian charm. Delicious fixed price meal at 33e + wine of course. We them took the metro to the Arc for beautiful nighttime views and photos and had a pleasant walk back to the hotel along the Champs Elysees.

francophile03 May 30th, 2008 12:33 PM

Honestly I think the tour guideís rate is high. I donít need someone to take photos although I guess thatís part of this guideís services.

RGTraveler May 30th, 2008 02:38 PM

Franco- Perhaps, however that was for 3 couples, so the cost per person was only 25e. We spent alot more than that per person for a group Louvre tour thru Paris-Vision, which I'll comment on below.

RGTraveler May 30th, 2008 03:03 PM

The next day we did the Paris-Walks tour of the Marias where we joined about 25 others at Metro St Paul. (10e). The area is lovely and I'll definitely spend more time there next month, but we enjoyed our other tour with Michel Colson better. Peter, our guide, was very knowledgeable, but he started us off with a 25 minute history lesson of the marais before we took our first step! We would have preferred less talking and more walking.
We ended up at the pretty Place des Vosges and from there we walked a few minutes to L'A de Falafel (34 Rue des Rosiers). It's hard to beat eating one of their famous falafels with a beer while people watching. From there we crossed the Seine and went to Notre Dame and up the tower. It was a 45 minute wait in line, but very well worth it for the views and close up shots of the gargoyles. After that we crossed over to Ile St Louis for some ice cream.

Dinner was at La Coupole, a huge restaurant at 102 Blvd Montparnasse (14th). Surprisingly for such a popular place our waiter didn't speak any English, so we kind of guessed at what we ordered and of course it was good. Price fix meal was 31.50e plus our dinner standard 2-3 bottles of wine. If you're having a birthday or special occasion, by all means mention it to the waiters because the production they do for you is something to remember!

The next morning the guys went to Roland Garros to see the qualifying tennis matches for the French Open. Although we didn't see any big name stars it was quite a treat seeing matches from 10 feet away. Tickets were only 17e online. In the meantime the girls went to the Opera Garnier and enjoyed it. We took the metro to meet them at Canal St Martin which we all thought was very pretty and tranquil. There's a popular local bar on the corner named Chez Prune, whic is a good place to rest and have a drink.

We then took a taxi to Montmarte and got off at Place du Tertre. I have read that many consider it tacky and touristy, but on a Wednesday around 6 PM it was just perfect. Pretty cobblestone streets full of cafes, bars and gift shops. Had dinner at Pizzeria La Petaudiere (7 Rue Norvins) which had a piano player playing rock 'n roll oldies. Not high cuisine, but pizza, beer and Montmarte at sunset was more than fine for us.

From there it was a short walk over to the spectacular Sacre Couer church, where we sat on the steps along with a few hundred of our closet friends admiring the view. And don't worry about the Nigerian's selling their trinkets, which you may have read about. They don't really bother you - just say no, or ignore them and move on. Took the metro back to the Arc de Triumphe and had another beautiful stroll down the Champs to our hotel.

dolciani May 30th, 2008 05:52 PM

Hi RG Traveler,
Ahhh, reading your report took me back to last month when we stayed at the Marriott Champs de'Elysee. I agree that it is underrated by Fodors' posters for its service and location. It is only 2 blocks from the yellow line which seems to be the main metro for Paris. The rooms were lovely and the concierge was very helpful. We split our trip and stayed at the Renaissance Le Parc in the Trocadero area and although the area was lovely and quiet, the service and the rooms were not as nice. Marriott points certainly helped ease the pang of Euros.
We also had Peter as a tourguide and he does get a bit boring, although he seems very knowledgeable.
Thanks for sharing your report! When you return, will you stay at the same hotel?

francophile03 May 30th, 2008 07:08 PM

Thanks for explaining further, RG, but if it's for one person it's still going to be 150 euro if I understand correctly.

I prefer taking Paris Walks that costs only 10 euro. I don't need photos taken.

schnauzer May 30th, 2008 10:28 PM

Great report so far. Le P'tit Troquet was our favourite restaurant when we were in Paris nearly three years ago. I loved the Pork in Lemon Confit. (recommended right here on Fodors!)

Can you please give me a little more info on the tennis? We will be in Paris next May and thought that could be a fun thing to do. Did you buy tickets before you left? Or whilst you were already in Paris? Also how easy was it to get to Roland Garros? Any details would be most appreciated.
Thanks, Schnauzer

RGTraveler May 31st, 2008 06:03 AM

Dolciani: Yes we'll be staying at the Marriott Champs de'Elysee again in June and you're right that the entire staff is very friendly.

We're actually extending our stay several days with a train trip to Bruges and then 2 more nights back in Paris at Hotel Bonaparte.

Schnauzer: Here's the website for Roland Garros then click on English. I bought our tickets beforehand online and it was pretty simple. The stadium is a 10-15 minute walk from Metro Porte d'Auteuil, line 10.

cammci May 31st, 2008 06:49 AM

What site did you bid on to win your Paris trip?

tod May 31st, 2008 09:08 AM

RG - Wow we were there exactly the same time! Wasn't the weather just fabulous?!
I agree with you about the Champs Elysees - I totally love its wide sidewalks and the glorious old buildings.

dolciani May 31st, 2008 09:25 AM

RG - Brugge is fantastically romantic with it's cobblestone roads and canals. Be sure to make a trip to "de Garre" - A tiny pub in a tiny alleyway that boasts 300 different beers on their menu. We only sampled 299 (ha).
Also, when you're back at the Marriott in Paris, make reservations for the Royal Madeline restaurant - it's about 3 blocks away (we took the metro) on Rue de Chevalier ST-George. The atmosphere was lovely and the food and service were the best we found in Paris (also not very expensive).

acgift May 31st, 2008 09:35 AM

Thanks for your posting. We'll be in Paris next April. Staying at the Vendome. I really welcome your restaurant recommendations.

RGTraveler May 31st, 2008 07:25 PM

Dolciani: I'm way ahead of you on the 300 beers in Bruges, however my notes say it's called the Beer House (T Brugs Beertje). Could there be two bars that serve 300 beers? I hope so.

Tod- I thought I saw you strolling down the Champs. Ha! It is electricfying, but in 3 minutes you can jump on the metro line 1 and be anywhere you want to be.

RGTraveler May 31st, 2008 07:43 PM

Thursday was a Louvre tour thru Paris Vision. We had the 'almost English tour" Although she tried hard, none of us could understand what she was saying. And there was some kind of a strike, so we couldn't get headphones as well. For about 40e we all thought we could have done better on our own.

After the Louvre we walked over the Seine to St Germain area and had lunch at a perfect streetfront table at L' Atlas at 11 Rue de Bucci. Their 13e plat du jour was so popular that they ran out before they got to us, so we had burgers, seafood soup and entrecote steak. While waiting we played the French lotto and my wife won 120e so of course we had to order another round of drinks to our good fortune. After a little nap we went over to Le Train Blue in Gar Lyon for drinks. What an ornately beautiful restaurant set in a train station. We didn't eat there, but it would make for a very special dinner occasion I'm sure.

We then took the taxi over to Pont Neuf for their last boat cruise at 11 PM. Get 2e discount coupons at Bring your own bottle of wine with you; sit back and enjoy the beautiful nighttime sights of Paris. All along the banks of the Seine were young people and lovers enjoying the night. Past the islands there were groups of people getting ballroom and salsa dance lessons right on the riverfront.

After that we walked over Pont De Artes bridge which was full of young people eating and drinking (mostly drinking) with some playing guitars and singing. Bob Dylan was popular and I think we surprised them a little when we joined in and sang the lyrics. If you're traveling with teenagers or young adults, they'd love to hang out here for awhile. Bring food and drink and have a late picnic.

RGTraveler Jun 1st, 2008 07:33 AM

The following day, after another great buffet breakfast at our hotel, we walked over the Seine to Rue Cler, the closed pedestrian market street. It was pleasant enough, but I prefer Rue du Bucci in St Germain des Pres. From there we walked over to the Champ de Mars area and got on bus #69 which took us all the way across town to the end at Gambetta (where Pere Lachaise cemetary is). We all enjoyed that scenic, above-ground route and it only cost 1 metro ticket.

At Gambetta we got off for a drink and then bought items for a picnic and took them inside the cemetary. We really enjoyed our time there. It's not at all like the cemetaries you're used to. It's more like a little city full of winding streets and gray doll houses. We found a large grassy area, sat down and had a wonderful picnic, reflecting on a great week in Paris. Of course we had to pay a visit to Jim Morrison's grave, along with a dozen other fans. Upon exiting we had a drink at a nearby bar where we encountered an amusing, but fanatical Jim Morrison fan who was full of conspiracy theories. We sang a few verses with him, hoisted a cold one and headed out for dinner.

We took a taxi to the Oberkampf area where we had a tasty meal of roast duck and steak at Bistrot Le Centenaire (can't remember the address). A handsome young lad at the bar helped us order from our waitress who didn't speak any English. After that it was a taxi ride home for another lovely stroll down the Champs Elysees to our hotel.

Christina Jun 1st, 2008 09:41 AM

Nice report, I like that you mentioned some different things than some people.

I thought your tour was actually a pretty good deal, considering what you got. And if the CD of photos was of you during the trip, I think a lot of people would like that (as sometimes it's difficult to get good photos of yourself on a tour), and that would cost something to make up yourself, actually. I don't know how much, but I think 150 photos on a CD wouldn't be super cheap.

RGTraveler Jun 2nd, 2008 06:35 AM

We spent a full week there and I feel we barley scratched the surface of what there is to see and do. Only because I knew I was coming back real soon, was I able to enjoy Paris at a leisurely pace. Some of the 'biggies' on my list that I still have to see include the Orsay, Rodin, Saint Chapelle and one of the flea markets.

Other than the exchange rate which is tough, the weather was great; the food and wine delicious; all the people friendly; and the sights breathtaking. Can't wait to go back in .... well, 19 days from today!

vestandini Jun 2nd, 2008 06:57 AM

Have you been to a dinner cruise ? There's one dinner cruise ( ) which costs 50 euro (wine is extra but a bottle of Cotes-du-Rhone costs 25 euros) and which is worth to consider trying. A really nice way to dine and have a glimpse on Paris monuments, beginning with the effel tower.

rickmav Oct 1st, 2008 10:10 AM

Enjoyed reading your report. It felt relaxing, don't know if it was for you, but it sounded like the kind of week I'd like to have in Paris.

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