Paris Trip Report--May 2002

May 20th, 2002, 03:16 PM
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Paris Trip Report--May 2002

I wanted to say thank you for all the trip advice. And I thought I'd give a quick report. I'm not an expert and this was my first trip, these are just little tidbits.

The Rodin Museum really is lovely, especially the gardens. It's also a great place to start and get the museum pass as it doesn't tend to get long lines. You'll definitely want the pass before you hit
the Louvre or Orsay.

We went to the Louvre at 9am on a Wed, via the underground metro stop entrance. No line
whatsoever and we were able to see the highlights of the museum, including the Mona Lisa, Winged Victory, Crown jewels, Vermeers, etc., without any crowds.

Go to the Eiffel Tower after 6:30pm, or even later. We went on a Tues and there was no lines and we were able to go all over the platform without many people at all around us. Spectacular view--don't miss it!!
May 20th, 2002, 03:17 PM
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Try Chartres as a day trip and I would really recommend Malcolm Miller's tour (it's 10 euros per person.) He's incredibly knowledgeable. Make sure you check out the view at the back of the church and the small park. Very pretty. Buy you train ticket at an SNCF office in the city, makes it easier.

I saw another trip report saying to make sure you list the shops you want to go to as part of your itinerary. I would totally agree to that. There's so much to see and do that if you don't have it as a specific destination you probably will overlook it. So write down the name and address of that
chocolate shop or you probably will end up skipping it.
May 20th, 2002, 03:18 PM
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Also, if you see something you want, buy it. You probably won't have time to go back and get it.

The Printemps and Layfayette (go inside the Layfayette, the ceiling is gorgeous) are hectic but good places to get gifts, especially scarves and perfumes, trinkets, bags. The Marais, though I didn't explore it in detail, looked like another great shopping area, less hectic than the big stores.
Jewelry, ceramics, perfume.

I barely saw anyone (except for a couple of American women) dressed all in black. Lots of people were dressed casually, jeans, jean jackets, casual sporty shoes. I saw plenty of fashion don'ts, lol, as well as some very well put together women. It's true that Parisian women wear spiky hills in
challenging places--the rocky, dirt paths of the parks, cobbled streets.
May 20th, 2002, 03:19 PM
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We watched the boule players in the Invalides for while one afternoon, which is a great way to wind down from all the sight seeing. We also really enjoyed picnicking and people watching in the Parc Champs de Mars at the base of the Eiffel Tower. Even sitting on a bench in a small square in town can be a great way to rest and watch.

The fallafels on rue Rosiers are really delicious.

We went into Notre Dame during Sunday mass, which was very nice. Sunday is the day the bird market is out--we enjoyed walking through that as well. It's right near the art nouveau metro stop on the way from Notre Dame to Saint Chapelle.
May 20th, 2002, 03:20 PM
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If you find yourself in the Luxembourg gardens, go over to St. Etienne. I loved this church. It's so beautiful inside. Around the corner is a remnant of a 12th century city wall (I'm pretty sure I have the date right, ha). It's right next to the Pantheon. I did find the Pantheon worth seeing. It's a great
way to get a feel for French history and culture. You will need to know some French to read the biographies to the tombs in the basement.

I didn't think the Jardins de Plantes were so interesting or impressive. The zoo is a little depressing, too. Lots of college students hang out there.

Versailles is very easy to get to via RER. It's a quick, short walk from the train station. Again, it's a great idea to have your museum pass before you come here. They charged us to enter the
gardens (despite our museum pass). But it was worth it. The grand canal is gorgeous, as are the fountains.

There's a tram that goes around the grounds and makes stops at the grand and petit trianons (entry to both covered by the museum pass) and at the grand canal. They come every 15 minutes
or so and you can get off and on as you please at those major points of interest. Beware that the seats are small and close together facing each other though.
May 20th, 2002, 03:22 PM
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There's also a horse drawn carriage that will take you to points of interest.

You can find both to the right of the main entrance as you walk up to the Palace from the train station.

We stayed at the Hotel du Champs de Mars in the rue Cler area. The room was fine, the bathroom and shower a nice size. The breakfast had terrific croissants and bread, with yogurt, fresh
squeezed orange juice, the coffee was a little weaker than I drink and that you'll find normally. It would be a big stretch to call the couple that ran the hotel friendly, but we liked the dog that sat in the lobby. Unfortunately, we did come home one of the days and noticed our bags had been gone through. Luckily we hadn't left anything of value in them. For the price, $72/night, I thought it
was a great bargain and well located. If we left the window open at night it could get noisy since it's right across the street from a popular restaurant, and you can hear the deliveries and garbage trucks at all hours. But with the windows closed it was very quiet.

Coming home we encountered a long line to have our passports checked, followed by a long line to check into our flight, followed by a long security check line--so go to the airport early.

Hope this helps people.
May 21st, 2002, 09:37 AM
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I can't believe the staff went through your bags! Did you discuss it with management?

Glad the rest of your trip went well.

May 21st, 2002, 11:57 AM
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since nothing was taken I didn't bring it up with the management. I guess it would have been better if I did, but they weren't too friendly to start off with.

it really was a fantastic trip. the more I think back on it, the more I'm amazed with Paris.

the first morning we were planning on going to the Orsay, so we walked up the Invalides, saw the columns that are at the end of Pont Alexander III and the Palais across the Seine, stunning. Then we casually walked across the Pont de Concorde, and there was Place de Concorde in all its amazing splendor. Great memory.

I guess when it comes down to it, any negative than happens in Paris is so greatly outweighed by how wonderful it is. I'm wondering how long my chocolate supply is going to last....
May 23rd, 2002, 03:32 PM
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I also stayed at The Hotel Champ De Mars, and I also found the staff to be a bit aloof. They seemed annoyed at having to deal with any of the routine hotel business. That was a little unnerving at the start, but you get to ignore it or it will ruin your trip. I also found it a little disappointing that in the ten days we were there, even though we smiled alot and tried to appear friendly to people, not one person ever returned the gesture.
May 23rd, 2002, 03:40 PM
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I think people go to Paris with unreal expectations! Paris is a city just like any other city, it has alot to offer, just like most world class cities. You can find culture and the things you are looking for in a place that suits you, but don't take a city and try to make it fit your mold for what you want to get out of it. I found that this was my experience in Paris, I expected it to be the way I always heard it was, and when it didn't turn out to be what I had expected it to be, I was disappointed. But this was more my fault than anybody else's. Paris is not for everyone. Next time I'll try London and try visiting it with no expectations.
May 23rd, 2002, 04:37 PM
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That was my sense of Hotel Champs de Mars when I dropped by to pick up a brochure.

We have been very happy at Hotel La Motte-Picquet and have seen no reason to change.
May 24th, 2002, 01:39 PM
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s.fowler, La Motte-Picquet seemed like a busy street. Did you have any problem with noise at that hotel? or do you usually request a room in the back? Thanks.
May 24th, 2002, 03:38 PM
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Ditto to the comments about the behavior of the staff at Le Champs de Mars. I've stayed at the Muguet and the Grand Leveque in the same area and will not return to Le Champs de Mars. I can deal with the Parisian 'tude that I sometimes experience, but there is really a black cloud hanging over that front desk. They may have been nice to Rick Steves, but they sure don't seem care much about their guests.
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