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Trip Report The nieces take Bruce and Marija to Paris, Venice and London

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Many of our trips are planned quickly but this one was not only planned quickly but also unanticipated. We have a 16 year old niece who watched the travel channel since she was old enough to turn on the TV. Her mother would find embedded notes in her room such as "when in Bali make sure to find the shrine behind the McDonalds." She's charmed her way into accompanying a Japanese classmate on a visit to Japan, gone to Iceland on a school trip with a class she wasn't enrolled in, and twisted Santa's arm for a family trip to Paris and Rome. She even flies with us to visit Bruce's 90 year old parents in a retirement home.

On a recent visit (like a month ago!), she bemoaned the boredom of the summer without any trip on the horizon. Ever sympathetic, I muttered that maybe next summer she could join us on an international trip. Grabbing the suggestion she lectured me on the hazards of postponing such activities at our age since you never know when the Grim Reaper might reap or at least throw a wrench into the works. To avoid further morbid musings, I changed the topic to our vault of frequent flier miles which surely couldn't be redeemed this summer. So confident was I that I gave her the password to our Virgin Atlantic account. Before I could gather my wits, and it does take a little longer now, she located four upper class tickets on Virgin Atlantic. Seems that while we were all eating at our favorite Neapolitan pizzeria, she had obtained her mother's permission to go and enlisted her 18 year old sister to join us. Damn those iPhones. So a couple of quick clicks, a credit card number and the deal is done. Twelve night in Europe starting and ending in London.

After the initial flurry of excitement, I was entrusted with working out the details. (Our intrepid traveler has prepared many hypothetical itineraries but none of them as tame as Europe.) Dipping into our stash of British Airways miles, I booked us flights from London to Paris and Venice to London, and Easy Jet from Paris to Venice. This gave us five nights in Paris, three nights in Venice and four nights in London. (Since none of us had been to Nice, I tried to include Nice instead of Paris I but just couldn't get the flights to work. Lucky break.)

This was our first flight to Europe with Virgin Atlantic. We usually fly British Airways with miles. The food was great but I think the BA lie flat beds are more comfortable, even though they are shorter. The seven crying children in upper class didn't endear themselves to the rest of the passengers and may have impacted my opinion of the beds.

Perilous Paris

We wanted to rent an apartment in Paris with two bedrooms so we would all have our space. With a two week lead time that wasn't easy. We found an apartment on
Ile St Louis on Trip Advisor and put a deposit on it. Within the allotted 24 hours the owners changed their mind and credited back the deposit. There was a Paris Perfect apartment that was available but a wise Fodorite pointed out that it was on ground level and people would walk right by the windows. I failed to see this in the photos. We finally booked with Guest Apartment Services which seems to have a good reputation, takes credit cards, and has an office on the main street of Ile St. Louis. A week is usually their minimum rental but they made an exception and rented for five nights. The apartment was perfect for us:

We paid city tax separately. When booking I had no idea if the apartment met the "legal" criteria. One day we did receive a call and email from the rental agency warning us not to let anyone, including people posing as city inspectors, into the apartment. Draw your own conclusion.

The rental agency arranged for an airport pickup at Orly but the driver was a no show. However, I had a contact number and another driver was dispatched quickly and we were not charged for the ride. Since it was a Sunday the rental agency was not open and the prearranged driver gave us keys and introduced us to the apartment. There was a very strong military and police presence in the airport which I suppose should have been comforting but instead reminded us of the fear gripping Paris as Bastille Day approached. But our close call turned out not to be from terrorists.

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