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Paris, Venice, Florence, Rome - Sept 2010

Paris, Venice, Florence, Rome - Sept 2010

Sep 30th, 2010, 11:33 AM
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 2,355

My specific question is, when will you come back to this thread? It's not that I couldn't wait another week or so for your interesting trip report to be continued, it's more... moving to Pakistan these days seems more than just a bit frightening, and I would love to know that all is well with you.
franco is offline  
Oct 2nd, 2010, 10:02 AM
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I am alive! = ) Thankfully, Pakistan is not as bad as it sounds! I've been MIA because I arrived Friday early morning, unpacked over the weekend, and started work Monday morning. I'm still not quite over the jet lag = /


8th September 2010

Breakfast this rainy but lovely morning was at the Paul's on Rue Saint-Antoine - a croissant and a chocolate chaud with my newspaper.

I headed to Les Invalides. The last time I was in Paris, I only managed to see it lit up at night. I'm quite a history buff (and a history teacher) so I was rather interested in seeing Napoleon's tomb. And it was so clear, when I went inside, that the man considered himself an emperor!

When I left, I got lost. Again! I actually loved all the times I got lost throughout this trip. I would randomly wander around looking for a bus stop or a street I recognised, stopping in shops that caught my eye or taking photos along the way.

I finally ended up reaching the Musee de Orsay though. I had seen some of it on my last visit 3 years ago, but not the painting collection. However, the place was SO crowded, I soon got quite annoyed. It was impossible to actually take a look at a painting in peace, because either someone was blocking your view or someone was chattering away near by. I especially detest when one person is giving another a very loud art lesson or when one in a group of tourists starts reading aloud from a guide book.

After some debate, I decided to have lunch in the museum's restaurant. I was quite lucky - I got a table next to the window in the lovely salon. I had a rather delicious salmon tartine and some tea. It's interesting how tea revives me and how I will often get a craving for it in the middle of looking at a statue or a painting!

I explored the museum a bit more and then headed out. I caught the Batobus to Notre Dame, hoping to get to the Pantheon before it closed for the day. When I got off at the stop though, I decided it was too late to go there. Instead, I wandered around the area, poking my nose into shops and gazing at shop windows, and then walked a little way along the Seine.

I decided on dinner at Le Montebello. It was close by and I remembered someone recommending it on a post here. I picked a four cheese ravioli, grilled chicken in a thyme sauce, and, you guessed it, a creme brulee = ) The ravioli was delicious, but the chicken was a disappointment, the skin too tough for my taste. At first I thought it was just me being super particular. But when my creme brulee showed up with the caramelised sugar slightly burnt, I decided the problem was in the kitchen.

In addition, I thought the service quite lax and rather uninterested. By the time I left, I was somewhat exasperated. The walk back to the hotel helped though - across the Ile st Louis and down Boulevard Henri IV - a charming walk.


9th September 2010

It was a lovely morning, this one. Breakfast was a croissant and a chocolate chaud to go at a small patisserie a couple of store fronts down from Miss Manon, and half the price! It's called the Maison Hilaire.

I walked to Notre Dame via the Ile St Lousi, stopping, of course, at Berthillon's for a chocolate cone. I wandered the streets of the Isle a bit. Amazing shops, some of the most fascinating I saw the whole trip.

At Notre Dame, I got in line to climb up the tower (you have to queue even if you have a museum pass or any other pass, allegedly for the security check.) An hour and 15 minutes later, and with the gentleman at the gate having taken a cursory peek inside my bag, I was in.

I really thought my lungs would burst on the climb up, but it was totally worth it. Lovely views of the city, one in particular when the whole city was clouded over except for a ray of sunshine on Sacre Couer in the distance.

I then headed toward Shakespeare and Company, but instead of going in, I took a seat at a restaurant nearby. A mango juice, a crepe, and a chocolat leigoies later, I was ready to explore some more.

I spent some time at the Pantheon and then headed to the Eglise Saint-Sulpice where I read a note addressed to fans of Dan Brown's novel with much amusement.

I strolled leisurely through St Germain, an area I came to love this trip. Some kind of art exhibition was on, called the Parcour, so it was quite busy and interesting for people watching purposes = )

I took the Batobus to the Louvre and decided to check out the much advertised Carousel. I found it to be very much out of context with the way I think of the Louvre.

On my way to the hotel, I got lost again! But I enjoyed strolling along looking for the right bus stop, watching people sitting down to their dinner. It was a lovely night


10th September, 2010
sam86 is offline  
Oct 2nd, 2010, 11:09 AM
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Looking forward to more of your report!
Samsaf is offline  
Oct 2nd, 2010, 11:58 AM
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sam- So glad you made it to Pakistan ok. Looking forward to more of your report!
sarge56 is offline  
Oct 16th, 2010, 06:27 AM
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Thank you everyone for the encouragement! Apologies for the long gaps in posting.


10th September 2010

I woke with the clear feeling that my time in Paris had to be wrapped up.

I grabbed a crudite saumon and chocolat chaud at Maison Hilaire, and sat near the Bastille to eat it. I then took the Metro to Anvers. Headed straight up to Sacre Couer.

At the first level up from the carousel, I sat in the sun to read my newspaper. I moved up to the next level after finishing it and people watching a bit. Right in front of the Basilica, a guy was playing a guitar to quite an audience. Nearby, another guy was doing all sorts of tricks with a football. I think the hour or so I sat there listening to classic tunes in the sun was one of my favourites from this trip.

I eventually got up to go into the church. On my way out, I tried to head up to the dome but the machines weren't manned and they wouldn't accept my 5 euro note. I gave up - not all that upset about not getting a chance to climb up - and went and sat on the steps to hear the music again.

After another 30 mins or so, I finally got up, stopped to get a quick look at the Moulin Rouge, and then headed off in search of Angelina's for hot chocolate.

Le Mont Blanc and L'Africain - wow. And I do not have a sweet tooth. 2 Canadians were seated next to me. They had heard about the place but once seated, were having qualms about calorie counts = / I'll say that I found that a bit silly.

Went into Galignani's bookstore next door. Sat for a bit and read a book I had picked up at random - Mrs. Miniver. Fell in love with it and walked out having bought it. Wish I could've bought the arm chair I'd sat in too!

I suddenly felt the need for a cup of tea at this point. I stopped at a cafe on the intersection of Rue de Pyramide and Rue Saint Honore and watched the world go by.

I thought of going to Printemps or Galleries Lafayette, but wasn't much in the mood. So I ended up in a chair in the Jardin de Tuileries. It was a lovely day for a laze there, kids floating boats and the lot.

At 6:30pm, I decided to go see if I could get a table at Le Florimond. When I got to the restaurant, it was about quarter to 7 and they said I could have their last table, outside, if I came back in 15 mins.

I wandered around rather aimlessly for the 15 minutes, then headed back.

What a meal. I didn't mind sitting outside as it was a lovely evening, the service delightful and the food delicious, even if the view was quite ordinary. I read my Mrs. Miniver while I waited. An American couple was also seated outside and it was amusing to catch snippets of their conversation.

My meal was ravioli homard, beef steak with ratatouille and potatoes and a mutton stew, and a creme brulee citroen to finish.

The meal just got better and better. The ravioli could've done with a bit more pepper but that is probably because I have a South Asian palette. The beef was tangy even if a tad tough for me in places. But it was the mutton that wowed me. It just fell apart when I touched it with my fork. Fabulous. And the creme brulee - magnifique. The service was amazing, super friendly and very attentive.

The wonderful meal was capped with an espresso and 2 tiny, delicious macaroons. I finally left to go see the Champs Elysee by night. The street never impressed me, perhaps because I expected too much of it. Also because I don't have the money to truly enjoy it = P So it is perhaps my least favourite popular sight in Paris.

Finally headed back to the hotel to pack since I had to check out of the hotel next morning and take the train to Venice in the evening.
sam86 is offline  
Oct 16th, 2010, 06:54 AM
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11 and 12 September 2010

A poor strat to the day when I realised I couldn't find the keys to my place in London. After turning everything upside down, finally decided to just forget about it till I got back home.

Checked out of the hotel and stored my luggage with them since my train was in the evening. I grabbed a croissant and chocolat chaude at Maison Hilaire, and sat on the Boulevard Henri IV to eat it. Took the bus to Ile Saint Louis, an area I love. The shops were amazing. Posted some post cards, then saw a fromagerie and bought a chunk of gouda cumin, and a baguette from the boulangerie close by.

Strolled toward Notre Dame and sat on the bridge listening to the bands playing for a good 30 minutes or so. I finally got up and went around the back of Notre Dame to the river. Sat there watching the boats go buy, eating my bread and cheese with a coke.

Then headed to the Batobus stop and rode to the Hotel de Ville. I explored Le Marais a bit, then took the bus to the Louvre to see the sun glinting off the pyramid. The hopped on the Batobus again and took it all the way round to the Hotel de Ville again (via Eiffel Tour etc.) and walked back to the hotel to pick up my luggage.

My trian for Venice was leaving from Paris Bercy, so I headed there a bit early. I ahd a seat in a six berth. There were 4 others with me, all young people, 2 from Glasgow and two formt he US. The former were well travelled, the latter on their first trip to Europe. After a bit of awkwardness and absorbed reading on all our parts, we got down to the business off setting up the couchettes and getting to sleep.

The conductor came by to get our tickets and passports, which he kept overnight. He then showed up at midnight to ask why our berth ahd only handed over 5 passports. We said because it just had 5 people. He said 'Ahhh!'

He showed up again about an hour later with a gentleman in tow who he assigned to the spare couchette. He was an American who had missed his earlier train to Rome. He woke up very early to get off at Milan.

We got to Venezia Santa Lucia around 9:30ish am. I deposited my luggage at the station and set off.

I had planned to stick to itinerary Franco had outlined for me (you can find it in my pre-trip posts). However, I soon suffered a setback - I got utterly and totally lost trying to find S. Niccolo Mendicoli.After an hour of fruitless wandering, I gave up. In that wandering, I did get to see bits and pieces of Venice and that's why I decided not to waste more time.

I back tracked and took the vaporetto from Piazzale Roma to S. Girogio (I had bought a 12 hour vaporetto pass when I had left the station). The ride is highly recommended, lovely view, as Franco said, of the windows of Venice.

Got off at S. Girogio. The church there is lovely, very Grecian as intended. I wasn't able to see Fondazione Cini as their tours don't start till every alternate hour and I was in the middle of the dry spot when I was on the island. I did enjoy the lovely view of the Doge'e Palace and Piazza San Marco from the island though, especially as it was a lovely day.

I headed around the corner of the church and found a cafe and had some tea. - much needed after the overnight train. Then caught the vaporetto to S. Zaccaria. By now I was firmly enchanted. My Venice gasp moment was the first vaporetto ride an its view of the windows actually.

Piazza San Marco, Doge's Palace and the Basilica - I found the area overwhelming. I took tons of photos but feel like I didn't scratch the surface, which I didn't.

I got a shot of the Bridge of Sighs from between its Bvlgari scaffolding, but didn't attempt to go and cross it. Instead, I headed past the Doge's Palace (saved that for my next trip) to the basilica. Gasp moment - the interior. It was a Sunday, so there was a service going on. But wow, what an interior. I was awe struck at the mosaics that covered every surface.

I left as they were closing for the afternoon. I spent an hour looking for glass and masks at prices I could afford. Finally found a small bottle and a small mask that I liked. Then I ahd my first Italian gelato. Oh my God, it was fabulous. I literally stopped in my tracks in the middle of Piazza San Marco, closed my eyes, and went 'Mmmmmmm' audibly!

There was a band playing in the Piazza so I went and stood to hear them. An old gentlemen was feeding pigeons but the police had already arrived to stop him.It was a lovely scene nonetheless.

The area around the Basilica was flooding, but I picked my way, slipping and sliding a bit, back to S. Marco vaporetto stop. Again, a lovely ride to Rialto. I quickly got onto the bridge, took in the view, and came back down again. I take so many photos, I was already running out of time. I grabbed a slice of pizza rather than looking for Osteria alla Botte, which Franco had recommended, and a gelato.

Then hopped on the vaporetto for Ferrovia. Retrieved my luggage and got on the train. At 7:30 pm, I was in Florence. What a contrast. The ride was lovely though, patches of lovely Italian countryside.

I was staying away form the centre in Florence - 35 Euro a night which made up for the location. At first, I headed the wrong way out of the station. Luckily, realised quickly and back tracked. Asked an official for directions and he pointed me the right way. Then asked a couple of people on the street who didn't know the street I needed. Finally, I met two ladies who were very nice - they walked all the way with me, dropped me off on the street that led to the one where my hotel was. I was so glad I had run into them, they were marvellous.

I was staying in a bed and minimal breakfast place, a flat that had been converted into a number of rooms to let I think. My room was lovely, clearly recently refurbished, airy and roomy, air conditioned, en suite bathroom, the works. All for 35 euros. Easily the best deal of the whole trip!

I was dead tired,so after quickly unpacking and a shower, I went off to sleep.
sam86 is offline  
Oct 16th, 2010, 10:20 AM
Join Date: Feb 2006
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What a pity that you didn't get to S. Nicolò nor inside the Fondazione Cini! So the non-touristy part of Venice will have to wait until your next visit... did you try to find your way on your own, or did you have a city map that wasn't good enough?

Furthermore, I'm curious what made you decide to skip Versailles and the park. Anyway, it seems you made up for your rushed last Paris visit, and thoroughly enjoyed it this time! Your report is great, I'm looking forward to the next installments. Excellent coverage, and excellent writing, really!
franco is offline  
Oct 16th, 2010, 11:06 AM
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Thanks for your trip report. We head to Paris for my 3rd trip in December and hope to finally make Berthillon on this trip!
denisea is offline  
Oct 16th, 2010, 11:47 AM
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Franco - I was really torn over Versailles, but what really convinced me was that it was such lovely weather and I just couldn't face 40 minutes on the train when I could be outside. And there was still so much i wanted to see in Paris itself (still is!)

I was super upset about missing so much in Venice, but all the more reason to go back! I'm just so happy I did get enchanted by it. Loved the place.

Forgot to mention somehow - Went to the Frari church after Rialto. Stopped at a chocolaterie and a costume shop with some fabulous masks on my way back to the vaporetto from the church.
sam86 is offline  
Oct 16th, 2010, 11:52 AM
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Oh and yes I had a map. The problem was more that there was some construction work going on and that got me totally confused. Also, the lady at the information desk I went to to ask directions was singularly unhelpful = /
sam86 is offline  

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