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Trip Report - first time to Europe (Paris and parts of Switzerland)

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Trip Report - first time to Europe (Paris and parts of Switzerland)

Old Apr 30th, 2007, 04:48 AM
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Trip Report - first time to Europe (Paris and parts of Switzerland)

Trip background – my FIL is working in Switzerland and my very generous in-laws are making two trips possible for both me and my husband and his sister. The cast of characters for this trip include me, my husband, my MIL, and my FIL. (The next trip his sister will join us for part of …she chose different places to go.) Being my first trip to Europe, I was VERY excited!!! Thanks to a lot of advice found on this board, I was packed, planned, and ready. Plus, I am proud to say that my luggage weighed less than my husband’s did!

Day 1

I had a perfect first day in Paris. The weather was lovely and Paris was so welcoming…what a beautiful and clean city! Paris was my dream destination and I was worried that I might have too grand of expectations. However, I instantly fell in love and found that my expectations were not high enough!

Our first day went a little something like this…

Our early arrival (6:15 am) at CDG was quite easy – zipped through the airport, grabbed our luggage, and headed for the taxi stand. I was expecting something of the Yellow Cab variety (as we often ride in here at home) but was pleasantly surprised that taxis in Paris (at least the one we used) are actually very nice. We sank into the leather seats and enjoyed the ride.

My MIL and FIL met us outside the hotel (they had arrived the previous night and were waiting in the lobby). We could not check into our room yet but we put our stuff in their room and used it to freshen up. FYI – we stayed at the Hotel Napoleon near the Arc de Triomphe but there will be more about this later.

By 9:30 we were changed and ready to hit the ground running! We walked over to the Champs d’Elysees to begin our Parisian experience and picked up a pain au chocolate and some caffeine. From there we started our first long walk…the highlights include: the Jardin des Tuilleries, the outside of the Louvre, the Left Bank of the Seine, a very yummy crogue monsieur at Café de Pont Neuf, Notre Dame, Boulevard Saint Michel through the Latin Quarter, and through the Jardin du Luxembourg.

We then took the Metro to Trocadero for an amazing view of the Eiffel Tower – I was not disappointed and insisted on my picture being taken! We got back on the Metro and got to the hotel around 3:00 for some desperately needed rest. Headed for dinner around 6 and walked to a nice little place called Etoile Verte on the Rue de l’Etoile. For a fixed price menu of 18 Euros I had a salad with pears and cheese, a quarter roasted chicken with frites, and tiramisu. The food was filling, quite good, and the service was friendly.

After dinner, we took a short walk and my FIL showed us where he lived when studying in Paris (my in-laws met in college during a year abroad). Got back to the hotel around 9:15 and we were ready to call it a night!


Day 2

After a fitful night of sleep (I was up for 3.5 hours in the middle) we met outside the Louvre. Went inside with our helpful Museum Passes and made the pilgrimage to see the Mona Lisa. We waded through the crowds and then moved on to the must see sculptures and my DH wanted to see some of the Egyptian stuff. We struggled to find our way out afterwards, but made it outside and headed to the Conciergerie where prisoners were held during the French Revolution (Marie Antoinette spent 76 days here before she was killed). Ste. Chappelle was our next stop and I was enthralled with the beautiful stained glass and very detailed designs.

We were all starving at this point, so we crossed the street and ate at Les Deux Palais. My quiche with a green salad was yummy and the price very reasonable. Next, we walked up the Left Bank to the Musee d’Orsay to enjoy some of the Impressionist paintings. I could have spent all day wandering through these rooms but we hit the pavement again and walked past Les Invalides and then to a café on the Champs d’Elysees for a refreshment before heading back to the hotel.

Dinner was in the Latin Quarter where we met a friend of my MIL’s. We ate at Les Fetes Galantes…very small place (at most it could seat 10 or 12) with strange décor but my duck was good and the one person that seemed to work there was working his tail off! Afterwards, we walked through the Latin Quarter to enjoy the sights and sounds.

It was a long day – we walked 6 or 7 miles but every step was worth the effort! My small victory of the day was being complimented on my accent by my MIL’s friend who spends almost half the year in Paris. I would like to thank my high school teachers and college professors for not letting me sound like a fool!

There is a lot more to come…I will try and condense it so it is not so hard to get through...thanks for reading!
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Old Apr 30th, 2007, 07:12 AM
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Day 3

DH and I were both looking forward to going to Versailles (MIL and FIL had both been rather recently so they did not join us)!!! The weather was gorgeous and I am so happy we decided to go on Sunday in order to see the fountains!

We caught the train at Pont de l’Alma and bypassed the huge line of people with our museum passes. A very helpful person at the information desk gave us a map and explained what our museum pass was valid for (contrary to other things I read, we were pleased that it worked everywhere except the garden…but we knew we were going to have to buy a ticket for that separately anyways). We did what most would consider a quick walk through the Chateau…saw the Chapel, Opera House (my favorite spot inside), the bedroom where Marie Antoinette gave birth, ballrooms, the Hall of Mirrors (they are still working on it), and other rooms with beautiful artwork!

We then stood in line for tickets for the garden…garden seems like such a small word for such a massive space! We grabbed a bite to eat and had a small picnic before heading back towards the top for the start of the fountain display. We wandered around enjoying all the different fountains (and the cool breeze you could catch if you stood close) – so much to see, so little time! We then walked over to the estate of Marie Antoinette and tried to see as much as possible before our feet gave out on us. While there we saw the sweetest pair of swans…the mama swan was in the nest with an egg and the daddy swan was standing guard watching the people walk by. We gave him lots of space on the way past but one man was getting VERY close…we both wondered if he was attacked soon after we left!

That evening we grabbed dinner and then caught the 10:00 Eiffel Tower lighting – so sparkling and beautiful!

Once back in the hotel room, I convinced Bryan to try my foot soothing method…standing in the bathtub in cold water and then rubbing a firming gel all over. We both brought sensible shoes but we were not prepared for the warmer temperatures (would have been great had we had sandals!).

Two more days in Paris and then on to Switzerland!!!
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Old Apr 30th, 2007, 07:31 AM
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McAllister -

Having fallen in love with the French language in high school/college ***** years ago, and with all things French, I, too, was afraid that Paris would not live up to my expectations. Like you, I could not have been more wrong!

I'm happy that you enjoyed your visit and look forward to more.
Linda
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Old Apr 30th, 2007, 08:03 AM
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Loving your report - can't wait to read more!
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Old Apr 30th, 2007, 08:17 AM
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No need to condense! Don't leave anything out. So nice to hear your first day experience in Paris. It sounds perfect.
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Old Apr 30th, 2007, 08:21 AM
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Ohhhh, I agree! Please don't condense! I need all the details for my travel fix. Enjoying this and am waiting for each new chapter!

s
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Old Apr 30th, 2007, 09:17 AM
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So glad to hear that y¡¦all are enjoying this! I will try to leave all the good stuff in.

Day 4

This morning we started with trips to Les Printemps and Galeries LaFayette in order to search for comfortable walking sandals for me. I was very interested to see how Paris department stores are organized, but was disappointed that I did not find anything. Visited a few other stores in the area and settled with some running socks that had thicker bottoms.

From there we headed to Montmartre. Unfortunately, the funiculare was closed due to technical difficulties, therefore, we walked up all...those...stairs. We went in Sacre Coeur, grabbed a disappointing croque monsieur, looked at the artists, and headed to Les Invalides to take a break in the green space. Afterwards, we went in to see Napoleon's tomb and my husband's comment made me laugh, "It is really large, I think he would like it."

The four of us debated what to do next but we finally decided to go to the Musee d'Orangerie. Sped through to see the water lilies (in anticipation of our trip to Giverny the next day) and I wanted to see the Renoirs downstairs and I am glad that we took the time to do so.

Now we headed back to hotel to rest a bit before dinner and that is when I discovered that five of my toes had yucky blisters on them...ewwww. A little bit of self-surgery with a sewing needle I had with me, some band-aids, and a few tears later I was up and dressed for dinner in the Latin Quarter again. My in-laws had a particular restaurant in mind but when we got there they said you needed a reservation (this information was wrong in the travel books). The four of us ended up at a strange Swiss and French Fusion place and had mediocre steak. It is a shame that this was such an unmemorable meal because this was the night DH and I were treating his parents! It is the thought that counts, right?

From dinner we walked to the Seine and caught a 10:00 river cruise. This was definitely the highlight of the day! It was a little cool on the water and I was happy to have my black trench with me. It was a clear night and the boat was not crowded. In retrospect, I wish we had bought the cheesy picture they took of us...oh well!

Took the metro back to the hotel and crashed for the night.
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Old Apr 30th, 2007, 09:41 AM
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Great trip report. Keep it coming. It sounds like you did a great job of maximizing your time in Paris.
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Old May 1st, 2007, 04:08 AM
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Day 5

My feet were still dying for sandals (plus, who wouldn’t want to buy shoes in Paris??) so DH and I ran around this morning looking for shoes. We had a great tour of Paris shopping and got to a few areas of the city we had not been to, however, I didn't find any sandals. I ended up with a pair of white flats with black polka dots that have an open toe…at least the fabric breathes more, they slip on and off easily, and the insert of my walking shoes fits in to make them a bit more comfortable. We ate lunch at a café across from the hotel (I can’t remember the name) but they served great salads and sandwiches.

At 1:30 we met his parents at the hotel for our tour to Giverny. The driver was late because of traffic (evidently there had been an accident)…didn’t bother me much but my MIL and FIL were a bit more inpatient. Our driver’s name was Francoise and I was quite impressed that he spoke French, English, Spanish, and Japanese (he used three of the four while with us) and he was very knowledgeable about Monet and French history. In fact, he taught us about the British, Dutch, and Japanese influences on the gardens and Monet’s work…interesting stuff.

The gardens were beautiful and I was struck by the fantastic color combinations…I took a lot of photos here in hopes that one will be good enough to blow up and hang somewhere here at home. Giverny was a nice afternoon trip (smaller than I expected) but I am so glad I took the advice I got here on Fodor’s and went to Versailles as well. (At one point I was worried about doing two day trips because of time, however, I would have been very disappointed if I had missed Versailles for Giverny.)

Dinner was a quick walk from the hotel at Cap Vernet. This was our more upscale dining experience in Paris and the food was delicious! I had scallops (which were fantastic) and a violette ice cream with chocolate mouse that I am glad I did not miss for dessert! The service was pleasant enough but a bit on the abrupt side.

After packing a bit, Bryan and I went back out for some wine to sip while getting our stuff together and some snacks for the morning (very early train to catch). We also picked up a few small souvenirs. The evening was beautiful and walking around was a great way to say goodbye to Paris!


Thoughts on Hotel Napoleon: This is a lovely hotel!!! The bathroom was large and had a bathtub/shower and large fluffy towels with two bathrobes. Our room (610) had two large windows/doors that could be opened (no view but my MIL and FIL could see the Eiffel Tower way in the distance). There was a flat screen television and the bed was large and comfortable. Plus, (and this is my favorite part) they have turn down service and leave chocolates on your bed to come home to after dinner. The staff was always friendly and helpful with anything that came up.

Switzerland is next!!!!
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Old May 1st, 2007, 08:20 AM
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Can you elaborate on your driver to Giverny? How did you find him? What was the cost? Did he go with you through the gardens or only wait in the car?

How long did it take to get to Giverny? Did you make any other stops in the area?
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Old May 1st, 2007, 03:57 PM
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Amwosu, I believe that this is the link for the company we used (I will have to double check with my MIL - she scheduled this day): http://www.paris-trip.com/.

Our driver did not go through the gardens with us but he did provide our tickets, explain the layout, and tell us when to meet back at the van. We bumped into him while enjoying a cold drink at the cafe and he checked with us to make sure everything was going well.

I believe the ride took about an hour but some of it was pretty and worth seeing. We did not make any other stops in the area, but my MIL has used the same company three times and mentioned that another time they did stop somewhere else (I believe in order to see where Monet's son lived??).

I will double check the company and get back to you!

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Old May 1st, 2007, 04:09 PM
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I was probably in Paris when you were, and reading your report has made me so "home" sick! Thank you for bringing this breath of Paris to me (especially since I caught something on the plane home and have been hors de combat for the last week).
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Old May 1st, 2007, 04:37 PM
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Great report. If my luck holds and the client I am working on doesn't "Blow up" again, I will be in Paris in under a month.....(Crossing my fingers, this client is a problem LOL!)
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Old May 1st, 2007, 05:17 PM
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Day 6

We got up really early to leave the hotel by 7:00 to catch the train to Switzerland! The train was pretty comfortable and I got my first sight of the Alps – yay!!! We got off the train in Montreaux and checked into the Royal Plaza. Our room had an amazing view of the lake with mountains in the background – breathtaking!

The hotel provided cards that allowed us to use the bus for free. So, we freshened up and caught the bus to Chateau de Chillon. From the outside this castle looks rather small, however, once you get inside it is quite large! I was so impressed with the views from almost all the rooms and the built in window seats.

On the way back to the hotel, we stopped at the Migros to pick up cocktails and snacks to enjoy on our large balcony. The four of us enjoyed the setting so much that we ended up ordering room service for dinner. We took a short walk after dinner to enjoy the setting, large variety of flowers, fountains, green space, and the lovely mountains in the distance.

The hotel was great (large balcony, nice bathroom, comfy bed, etc.) – I can’t imagine staying somewhere with a better view!!!

We all tried to get to bed pretty early because we must catch the Golden Pass Panoramic Train in the morning!

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Old May 1st, 2007, 05:21 PM
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Glad to hear people are enjoying reading my recap of such an amazing trip - it is nice to relive each day by writing it up.

Likeswords, sorry to hear that you caught something on the plane...so not fun!

CarolA, hope you are able to make your trip!
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Old May 2nd, 2007, 04:00 AM
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Old May 2nd, 2007, 05:20 AM
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Day 7

If you ever get the chance to take the Golden Pass Panoramic Train, do it!!!!! For the first hour and a half of our train trips we were on the front car in the second row. There were only two rows in that section and they were situated like stadium theater seating. We were surrounded by windows that gave a fantastic view of the breathtaking vistas and idyllic small towns. The trains we took later in the day provided lovely scenery as well - small towns, beautiful little churches, waterfalls coming off mountains, and moving streams of clear water. We were on the train for quite some time today, but I loved it!

We arrived in Lucerne which is a much different town than I expected. I suppose I was spoiled by Montreaux but it was less picturesque than either me or my husband were expecting. (In the grand scheme of things though, it was very pretty.) After checking into our hotel (Hotel Magic - our room was "Aladdin" themed...more about that later!), we grabbed a drink by the water, walked around for a bit, and then changed for dinner.

We dined at the Old Swiss House and it was a pleasant surprise. We were not sure what to expect but I had a delicious fish (Fera, a white fish) and I can't wait to serve lemon sherbert with champagne to our next dinner guests! Walked back through town and I was shocked at all the shoe stores that had just what I had wanted to find in Paris...isn't that always how it works? Back at the hotel, we enjoyed a game of travel Scrabble and some reality television in German. (We still have questions about a show that consisted of an almost nude woman who was taking calls from viewers that were trying to guess what was written on the white board behind her - if anybody knows what this was, please let me know!!!)

Going to Mount Pilatus tomorrow!
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Old May 2nd, 2007, 05:24 AM
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Old May 5th, 2007, 11:39 AM
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Day 8

We started our day by grabbing breakfast at the Best Western (they run the Hotel Magic)…it was nothing special compared to the Royal Plaza in Montreaux, however, it got the job done. DH and I met up with his parents and we all hopped on the bus that took us over to the bottom of Mount Pilatus. We were a few days early for the boat ride and cog train, but the gondola ride up the mountain was very pretty! The view is great and accompanied by the sound of bells around cow’s necks. Once we got to the top (you transfer from a four person gondola to a much larger one where you stand) we went through a cave (or something like it) and followed stairs up to the top! We were all breathing pretty hard but it was worth it. You could see a chapel located on a different part of the mountain...to get there was a serious and steep hike…maybe someday.

We took the gondola back down to the second station where we ate lunch at a small restaurant. The food was interesting...my husband and I split potatoes with a fried egg on top and some yummy mac and cheese with ham. (Not very nutritious but it was good!) We then walked down to the next gondola station. The walk was about an hour and around 2.3 miles. It was a bit harder than advertised and would have been more fun with more serious hiking shoes (or at least a sturdy sneaker). However, we are glad we did it!

Before dinner, we walked over to the weeping lion statue. The lion itself is so expressive and the small garden was quite pretty...perhaps my favorite part of Lucerne. We ate dinner at Ristorante La Terrazza...we were very satisfied with the food and were able to sit outside near the water. I highly suggest the tiramisu!

Tomorrow we take the train to Zurich to be near the airport for our flight back the next day...
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Old May 5th, 2007, 12:44 PM
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I am enjoying your report. One question: I see you mention the strange decor at Les Fetes Galantes. I had dinner there a couple years ago amidst the display of bras and panties hanging on the walls, donated by former patrons. However when I walked past it again last year, it looked like those things had been taken down. Were they still there? If not, what is the current strange decor?

Inquiring minds want to know.
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