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Trip Report: Normandy and Paris

Old Jun 29th, 2007, 03:23 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
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I wonder if you had French maps loaded in the GPS. Great report!!
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Old Jun 29th, 2007, 04:34 AM
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Off to babysit for my 2 grandchildren...but a quick reply. thanks to everyone who is reading this!

bdj- we all used Capitol One Visa. Just the standard one you get here. We never had any problem. Used it for all tolls and gas stations. Everywhere. No problem. Capitol One Visa has no foreign transaction fee, either. My other Visa card charged a 3% fee.

Gretchen - MS and C had borrowed the GPS from very savvy travelers. It was all loaded and ready to go. Or so we thought!!

Iwan2go - I do not have time to go back and check, but if you had written a report on Normandy, I probably got the idea of Chateau de Bouceel from you! It is not mentioned often on this site, and it is a shame. With good maps and a working GPS, it is maybe a "gem" instead of a "hidden gem".

Tower - I am glad you can picture that beautiful Citroen plodding through those tiny streets. We all commented, however, that the French highways were absolutely gorgeous. Great roads. and the round-abouts are really a great way to keep traffic flowing.

Off to work. More later.
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Old Jun 29th, 2007, 07:45 AM
Join Date: Jul 2004
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I've so enjoyed reading your report. It makes me smile. I did a similar trip in May 2006 by myself. I totally understand about not moving your car while in Honfleur. At least you found an easy way out of Honfleur. I wound up heading out in the same direction in which I came into town. Not good.
I'm sorry you weren't able to head to Etretat, but you can save it for another trip!

I also had Stuart as my tour guide for the American Highlights tour. Did he take you to Angoville-au-Plain?

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Old Jun 29th, 2007, 07:02 PM
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Wednesday, June 20th

We meet at 8:30 for breakfast. Visit with Regis while we eat. He tells us lots of great stories. Talks about how Countess Nicolle got the home ready to receive guests 7 years ago while he stayed in Paris and worked. The new roof took 60,000 pieces of slate.

When we had first arrived at Chateau de Bouceel, Regis had told us he would show us the book his father had made about the war. I figured it was a scrapbook or something like that. We forgot about it until right before we were leaving. P saw a book on one of the tables in the entry - called me over and asked if I thought that it was the book Regis had mentioned. Regis came back in and said it was, indeed, his father's book. Let me tell you, this book is a masterpiece. It was printed for the 60th anniversary of D-Day. It is called Chronique Illustree de la seconde guerre mondiale 1939-1945 by Arnaud de Roquefeuil. It is a completely illustrated book of the war. All the pictures were drawn by Regis’ father. We each bought one of the books. Regis signed our books with a wonderful note about his father, the hero with a smile so sweet (written in French, of course). If you are interested in this book, I did find it on-line, too. It is a treasure. My French is not good enough to read all the captions, but I am going to work on it. There are family stores in the book, as well.

The website for the Chateau is Can you tell how much we loved this place??

So, we leave Bouceel, and head to Chartres. We need to have the car back to Orly by 3:30 to avoid paying for another day’s rental. But we make time to stop and see the Cathedral in Chartres. Leave Chartres and the closer we get to Orly, the traffic gets tougher and tougher. Stop and crawl situation for awhile. We, who have convinced ourselves that the euros we have been spending for the past 8 days are play money, are killing ourselves to get this car back in time. We finally get to Orly Airport. This is the only time everyone is shouting advice to the driver at once. P panics, pulls into the parking lot, takes a ticket and the arm goes up. We are telling him, no, no, not in here. So with the parking ticket in hand, the arm up waiting for us to pull forward, we back out of the situation, make a sharp turn, and head down a ramp and to the National desk to give the car back at 3:15. We don’t laugh about this one till dinner when we are relaxing knowing the car is no longer in our hands!!

Take cabs into Paris. We are staying at the Hotel de Varenne. First impression is a good one. We unpacked and actually got to put stuff away for a change. We will be here for 5 nights. Went to La Maupertu for dinner. I had made reservations for this before we left home. Sat outside at a table overlooking Les Invalides dome. Took a walk after dinner and then back to the hotel.

Tomorrow – our first full day in Paris.
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Old Jun 30th, 2007, 05:31 AM
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TR - Stuart (Battlebus Tour) did not take us to Angoville-au-Plain. Where is it and what did you see there?
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Old Jun 30th, 2007, 09:42 AM
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DH always heaves a HUGE sigh of relief when the unscathed rental car gets turned back in.

We ran into horrendous stop and go traffic returning to CDG because it was a May 8 holiday and the end of a 3-day weekend for the French.
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Old Jun 30th, 2007, 12:44 PM
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About American credit cards: they DO work at many autoroute toll stations. The problem is unmanned gas stations.
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Old Jun 30th, 2007, 02:52 PM
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Thursday, June 21st

FYI: We have all been to Paris before, so we did not hit all the usual Museums and must-sees.

The Hotel Varenne is lovely. A decent sized room, and a good bathroom with shower curtain! No dog baths for us! We meet C and MS for breakfast at the hotel. By this time, P’s gluten-free donut holes (brought from home) are looking rather sad. MS told P they might be better if he “nuked” them. I looked at her, asking “Where in the world are we supposed to do that? She replied, “In the microwave in the room.” After I stopped laughing, I explained that it is not a microwave above the in-room refrig, but a safe!!”

Our first stop was Musee Rodin to get our 4-day Museum Pass. Had a look around, then went to the Tuileries area by metro. The Orangerie was not open yet, so we walked over to the Louvre. I had never seen Napoleon’s Apartments there. On each of my previous attempts, it had been closed due to shortage of museum guards. I was glad I finally got to see them. Now, that’s what I call living! Back to the Orangerie. Of course, we enjoyed this, too.

Getting to be lunch time, so we take the metro to St. Germaine area. We eat at Relais Odeon. Then walk to the Luxembourg Gardens. What’s not to love here…

In previous visits to Paris, we had eaten at Brasserie Lipp. P has been dreaming about the ile flottante for 2 years now. (I even made it for him for New Year’s Eve – even poached the meringues!. 2 out of 3 of our adult kids have celiac disease, too) So, we make a reservation for dinner there for tomorrow night. Back to the Varenne. We stop at a little store and buy some drinks and fruit which we eat in the little courtyard. We are loving the courtyard! So pretty!

We had reservations for dinner this night at Le Florimond. What a fabulous meal! This was probably the best meal so far. And they have all been wonderful! High praise. C and MS had veal stew with asparagus. I had the Chou Farci. P had filet. On the walk home, there was a classical concert going on in the Invalides. We walked in and listened for a bit. This is the Summer Solstice, and everyone is celebrating. We are glad our hotel is in a quiet area!
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Old Jun 30th, 2007, 05:18 PM
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Hi Kansas,

Angoville-au-Plain is a small village where 2 US medics took care of the wounded - American, German, and the villagers for a few days after jumping on D-Day. The church still has the bullet holes in the ceiling and the walls. It's the story that makes this place rather moving.

When I did the tour, traffic wasn't that bad and we had extra time. It's not normally a spot on the Highlights tour, but since you had Stuart as your guide, I thought I'd ask.

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Old Jul 1st, 2007, 09:07 AM
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Friday, June 22nd

We met for breakfast and then set off for the Petit Palais. A nice musem with a special exhibit: Peintures en Armenie 1830-1930. We all enjoyed this. After this, we decided to look for film for MS and C. This has been a recurring theme…the 400 film is elusive. They have decided that most people are now digital. They will have to get with the program next time!!

As we head toward the Champs Elysees, it began to rain. All of a sudden it REALLY began to rain. We ducked into a pizza place on the Champs and sat outside under huge awnings. It absolutely poured. Three of us enjoyed very good pizza, my poor husband had to settle for chocolate mousse. Nothing else was gluten free.

On to pay our respects to Napoleon at Les Invalides. Then off to Rue Cler to meet a friend of my daughter’s who lives in Paris. We met at Café du Marche. It absolutely poured again while we were inside.

Met at 7pm to go to Brasserie Lipp. We sat upstairs which is now smoke free. There was a family with 2 little boys. The youngest (maybe the terrible twos??) was a nightmare. Threw one tantrum after another. Only happy playing on the stairs which was not too far from our table. Everyone upstairs was now in a miserable mood, having a miserable time, as this family (No, they were not American!) was oblivious to the world around them. The waiters were extremely cranky, the people were furious. A horrible time. Our food was mediocre at best. Now, eating and dining well in Paris is part of the experience for us, so this was a major downer. P ordered his ile flottante, the whole reason we came here. All of a sudden, the four people at the table next to us (basically adjoining ours) get very animated. All talking at once. One asks me (in French) if we can get this dessert in Britain. I tell him we are from Les Etats-Unis. Well, we are now off and running!! They are so excited, shouting TEXAS, DALLAS, SOUTHFORK!! REX MORGAN (who? why?). We now have new best friends, taking our pictures, having us take their pictures, taking pictures as a group, taking pictures of their desserts (they have each ordered ile flottante!) The conversation was something akin to Password, Name that Tune and the Gong Show all rolled into one! We exchange e-mails. They are in Paris for some business meeting. Something to do with Aloe Vera and Forever Living Products. The woman pantomiming what Aloe Vera is used for will stay with me forever! So! What started out as the most miserable of evenings turned out to be one of the most fun we had! Even the waiters were getting in on the fun at the end. At the Brasserie Lipp, they do like to turn the tables. One kept pantomiming to the woman to stop talking and eat!! But it was all in good fun and everyone was enjoying themselves again. They were going somewhere in August – Dallas? Phoenix? California? Who knows. All I know is we had a great time!

We got back to Hotel Varenne about 11:30pm.
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Old Jul 1st, 2007, 09:51 AM
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Kansas - my husband wanted to know which brand (if you remember) was the GPS in the car? Garmin? Tom Tom? Just curious

Love your report! We'll be going in April and are planning already.
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Old Jul 1st, 2007, 11:24 AM
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Pat and Hank,

I do not know what kind of GPS was installed in the rental car, but the one we had borrowed was Tom-Tom. And it definitely was loaded with maps of Western Europe. It could have been us, afraid to play with it too much, since it did not belong to us....
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Old Jul 2nd, 2007, 06:42 PM
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Saturday, June 23rd

We met at 9:00 for breakfast at the hotel. Then took the metro to Georges Pompidou Center. We got there to find it would not open for another 30 minutes. We decided to move on. We walked throught the Marais area and did some shopping. We got to the Cognacq-Jay Musee. They had a special exhibit by Philippe Garel. Crazy stuff! But lots of fun to see. A chandelier made of plastic forks and hangars. Metal objects, flattened, squished, whatever and formed together to make a washing machine (you step on a button to make the water in a two litre bottle pour out), refrigerator, stove, desk, etc. Wacky stuff!

Carnavalet Museum next. We enjoyed the temporary exhibit by photographer Willy Maywald.

Now we needed a lunch break. We walked over to a café on Place des Vosges. Sat outside. Musicians were playing (strings) nearby. It was a lovely day.

After lunch, we made a quick tour of Victor Hugo’s house. Then found the Promenade Plantee. This is the garden planted on an old railway viaduct. We probably walked along this raised garden area for 2 miles. Then got off, found a café and took a much needed break. We now headed towards Gare Lyon to catch the metro back to our hotel. While we enjoyed the Promenade Plantee, I think our time would have been better spent back at the Luxembourg Gardens again. You cannot beat them for people watching and just enjoying Parisian life. I love watching the children sailing their boats and playing on the wonderful playgrounds.

A metro note here: I had purchased 2 carnets of tickets for P and me. I kept them in my new favorite baggalini purse (very small, like the old wallet-on-a string things). Because the purse is so small, the metro tickets were very close to my credit cards. Evidently, the magnetic strip on the credit cards messed up the magnetic strip on the metro tickets. Oftentimes, they would not work. Especially, the longer they were in my purse, the less likely they were to work. We would have to go back to the person behind the glass and say “Le billet ne marche pas. They would check them over, and give us a new one. But it took time and was a pain. And there are a few metro stations that are unmanned, and then you would just have to try a new ticket. So, do not keep your tickets near your credit cards! Lesson learned!

On the metro , on our way back to the hotel, there was a cute young girl (20’s) dressed like a baby – bonnet, pacifier, bib, etc. She was handing out candy and asking for coins for her wedding. Her cute friends were filming the whole thing. I guess it is like our version of a bachelorette party! They were real cute to talk to, and having a grand time.

Back to the hotel before dinner. We went to a place recommended by friends of MS and C. Le Petit Columbiere. Near the Arc de Triomphe. The food was excellent, but the prices were really high. Le Florimond had spoiled us.

Tomorrow: Our last full day in Paris.
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Old Jul 2nd, 2007, 07:22 PM
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How was the Ile Flottante? Is Brasserie Lipp known for it? I've never had it(although I really want to), and I heard not to many places in Paris still make it.
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Old Jul 3rd, 2007, 04:48 PM
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My husband says the ile flottante was wonderful. I had asked for an extra spoon, but with all the conversation going on with the people next to us, I never got a bite! On the menu at B. Lipp it is called Oefs a la Neige. Same thing. I did not realize it is disappearing from menus around Paris. If you check out the book Good Eats in Paris, it is mentioned as a dessert in some restaurants. I cut up my book and took pages with me, then discarded them. That is why I cannot be more specific.
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Old Jul 3rd, 2007, 05:49 PM
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Thanks for the info Kansas - I remember a thread a while back on Fodors where someone asked specifically about Ile Flottante, and where they could find it - I may be wrong, but I thought many said it was a hard dessert to find now in restaurants.
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Old Jul 5th, 2007, 07:35 AM
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Sunday, June 25th

Our last full day of the trip we spent a year thinking about! The good news – we would do it again. It has been a wonderful trip!

We met as usual at 9am for hotel breakfast. We left the hotel at 10am and headed for Musee Nissim de Camondo. A private mansion. It shows Parisian life in the early years of the 20th century. It houses a marvelous collection of important 18th century furniture and objects d’art. We all thoroughly enjoyed this museum.

Afterwards, we went around the block to Parc Monceau, a lovely park with lots of joggers and families on a Sunday morning.

Back to the Metro. We decided as long as we were this far, we would head up to Basilique de Saint-Denis. This church houses many tombs of the kings of France. It also has the tomb of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. And the heart of the dauphin…The Basilique interested me, in particular, because I had read the book, The Lost King of France by Deborah Cadbury. (How DNA Solved the Mystery of the Murdered Son of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette). I had also recently read Abundance (A novel of Marie Antoinette) by Sena Jeter Nashlund.

Now to the metro for the long ride (about 40 minutes) back to the Cluny Museum area. We had a bite to eat at the corner of Cluny and St. Jacques – Le Villon. Terrible. Awful. Warning: Do not eat here, you will be sorry!!

Then to the Cluny. We waited in a long, long line to get in. We were told by a museum employee that even with the Museum Pass we had to wait in the line so we could get a ticket. This was absolutely not true. When we finally got inside, we were just waved through. Maybe we were still sour about getting ripped off at the lunch spot. Maybe we were museum-ed out by now. But we just gave the Cluny a quick once over and moved on. I was glad to see the Lady and the Unicorn Tapestries, though. I had also read Tracy Chevalier’s book, The Lady and the Unicorn, so felt like I had to see the tapestries.

We now headed over to Place St. Michel. Then walked over to Notre Dame. Hordes of people. We did not go in. We went over to the little bridge that connects Ile de la Cite to Ile St. Louis. We sat on the curb and enjoyed a street performer using a bicycle for his act. Actually, P and I sat on the curb. MS was given a nice chair to sit on by the performer, and C was given a tiny, plastic child’s chair to sit on! Then the obligatory ice cream sundaes at Le Fleur d’en L’Ile.

Then back to the metro to the Trocadero. In front of the Eifel Tower, we watched young men on in-line skates going up ramps and sailing over very high hurdles.

It is now time for dinner. No one wants to be responsible for our last pick. Many places that I had made notes about were closed on Sundays. So, I suggested we try Café du Trocadero. I had been there before, and had good memories. So, that was what we went with and it was wonderful. We sat outside and enjoyed the beautiful view of the Eifel Tower for our last dinner in Paris. The perfect way to end a wonderful trip.

We then head back to Hotel Varenne to pack and get ready for a 7:30 cab in the morning.
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Old Jul 5th, 2007, 09:47 AM
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Wonderful trip, Kansas - I really enjoyed reading about it. Sounds like you, hubby, and traveling companions were quite compatible - and agreeable.
Glad you had such a good time!
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Old Jul 5th, 2007, 11:20 AM
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I enjoyed your trip! Thank you for posting. I'll bet you're just fine to travel with!
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Old Jul 5th, 2007, 08:22 PM
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Do you remember what street Cafe du Trocadero was on? I hadn't even thought of sitting at at cafe in that area to get a view of the Eiffel Tower - is the food good?
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