TRIP REPORT - PARIS - 12 MAY TO 19 MAY

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May 20th, 2009, 09:07 AM
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TRIP REPORT - PARIS - 12 MAY TO 19 MAY

NOTE: This is the third trip to Paris for my wife and me since 2001. We arrived 12 May and returned 19 May. Anything with [N] indicates something we had never done before on our previous two trips.

DAY 1 – TUE 12 MAY

After our overnight flight from PHL to CDG (US Air 754) we got some extra cash from the ATM and took the CDGVAL shuttle to the RER station. Note: We never check baggage. We’ve managed to do all our Europe vacations – 7 to 10 days – on two carry-ons and a small shoulder bag. We also try to keep about 100 EUR from each trip for use when we arrive, in case there is a problem with the ATM or credit cards.

Money: I have come to the conclusion that there is no better deal than a credit card, if you have the right one. About two months ago, in anticipation of this trip, I got a Capital One card that has no surcharge for overseas transactions. I used it everywhere I could. Naturally, a few hundred Euros are necessary for those places that do not take plastic.

At the ticket booth the following worked well: Bon jour. S'il vous plait, Je voudrais deux passes Navigo Découverte avec les Cartes Orange Hebdomadaire zones 1 et 2 et deux billets pour Paris.

I strongly recommend the Carte Orange, even if you are only going to use it 5 or 6 days. The convenience and freedom to hop on and hop off buses is worth it. We actually each took nearly 40 rides during the 6 valid days at a cost of 16.80 EUR (+ 5 for the Navigo).

NOTE: If planning to buy the Navigo, bring a 20 x 30 mm photo. We usually carry photos in a selection of sizes when we travel.

We took the train to Chatelet, then the 1 Metro to St. Paul. (It turned out that the Hotel de Ville station was a little closer.) We dropped our bags at our hotel – Hotel de Nice on R. Rivoli – and headed out.

Walked around the neighborhood and then over to Notre Dame. Took the bus to a crepe restaurant a friend had told us about on the left bank – Creperie de Cluny on R. de la Harpe. It turned out to be so-so.

Took the Metro over to the Inst. du Monde Arabe – the Arab museum. [N] Very interesting, but I would not recommend it for first-timers. NOTE: We bought a 6-day Museum Pass there. The woman did NOT fill in the starting date. Since that was the only museum we visited that day, we filled it in on the 13th, thereby getting 7 days out of the 6-day pass. I cannot guarantee you will be that lucky.

Walked back to the right bank via Ile St, Louis – grabbed a quick Berthillon ice cream cone. Then hung out around Place des Vosges for awhile before stopping in at the Carnavalet Museum (free). This museum of Paris history is one of our favorites. Checked out the great art nouveau room and a couple of other rooms.
Then back to the hotel to check in and take a nap.

A word about food. Most people would not approve of our dining habits. We tend to find two or three inexpensive restaurants that we like and stick with them the entire trip for dinner. Our two in Paris are Pizza San Antonio (an Italian place in the place right outside our hotel) and Equinox (on R. de Rosiers, about 2 bloacks away).

After the heavy crepes and the ice cream, we were not very hungry. We each had a salad nicoises and some wine. Then we went over to the Eiffel Tower to check it out at night. We’ve been up it before, so we just enjoyed the view. Then back to our hotel for bed.

Our Hotel: Hotel de Nice. 42 bis R. de Rivoli. This was a new hotel for us, and we loved it. We had a 1st floor double for 110 EUR. Simple, but clean and friendly. The location was perfect for us – in the Marais, and close to major transport and the river. We will probably stay there next trip.

[…to be continued…]
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May 20th, 2009, 09:34 AM
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DAY 2 – WED 13 MAY

Breakfasts: Our breakfasts always involve a trip to a nearby patisserie and a take-out coffee place which we take back to our hotel room to each with some fruit that we pick up at a market. For coffee, we go to a chain – Quick, McDonald’s, Starbucks – whatever is close. This is because they seem to be the most convenient places with takeout coffee early in the morning.

Up until the last minute, we had planned to go to Monet’s gardens in Giverny, but we had been there last trip, and hadn’t been to Versailles since 2001, when we only toured the building. So we picked up tix and hopped the RER. Had a quick run through the palace and spent most of the time walking the grounds. We especially liked Marie Antoinette’s little village. Grabbed a couple of sandwiches to eat on the return train.

Transport note - The C train lets us off at St-Michel; generally walkable to our hotel, but not when you're really tired. With the Carte Orange, we just jump on the 96 bus which stops about 50 meters from out hotel.

Wednesday is a market day at Place Baudoyer, right across the street from us. Picked up some oranges and beautiful, ripe strawberries. Since it was cool this week, we just left the bag of fruit on our balcony where it kept for a couple of days without any problems.

Took a little nap – still tired from the lack of sleep over the Atlantic.

The weather got rainy. We were on our way to the Orangerie. When we got off the Metro, it was pouring outside, so we doubled back on Line 1 to the Louvre – you can enter directly from the station without getting rained on.

If it’s you’re first trip to the Louvres, you’ll spend many hours there. It’s our third, so we concentrated on a few areas: the Etruscan collection, the Dutch painters – we love Vermeer, de Hooch and Steen, and Caravaggio and his disciples.

Dinner at the pizza place again – this time we shared a pizza and salad with wine (of course). Then went to Amarino Gelati for ice cream. We love this place. Not as well-know nas Berthillon, but very good. Walked around the neighborhood for awhile; then to bed.


[…to be continued…]
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May 20th, 2009, 10:19 AM
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>>Most people would not approve of our dining habits. We tend to find two or three inexpensive restaurants that we like and stick with them the entire trip for dinner.<<

Sounds like common sense to me!
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May 20th, 2009, 10:23 AM
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Enjoying your report!
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May 20th, 2009, 10:48 AM
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Great Report.

What did you think of USAir? They have some very good fares listed right now but I've heard they offer poor service. I'm tempted to try them because they are so much lower than everyone else.

We love to eat and have never had a really bad meal in Paris. However, we are not big foodies either.
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May 20th, 2009, 10:55 AM
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Is there a booking site you use for the hotel?
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May 20th, 2009, 12:23 PM
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Suzanne2...

We paid $404 (taxes and fees included) non-stop from Philadelphia. That was such a good fare, that when I saw it early one morning on the USAir site, I woke up my wife and we booked it immediately -- figured we'd worry about hotels later. At the time, all the surrounding fares on their day grid were in the $800-$900 range. Since I'm semi-retired, I'm pretty flexible with dates.

We always fly USAir, mainly because:

(a) They have the most trans-Atlantic flights from PHL, and...

(b) We're in their mileage program -- hooked on it, you might say.

USAir's trans-Atlantic flights are better than their domestic flights -- you get a meal or two and on A330's each seat has its own video system with a wide choice of movies, shows and music.

However, my friends tell me Air France and Brit. Air are a bit more luxurious.

I have no data on luggage service, because we never check bags. Since I've racked up enough miles with their credit card to be in their "Silver Preffered" level (It' really not very exclusive), we get to check in and board with first class -- a minor but appreciated perk.

Their on-time history seems pretty good to me, other than the one time we were delayed 4 hrs in Rome because of a thunderstorm in PHL the evening before, which couldn't be helped.

As for hotels, we have never used a booking service. We first read the usual books - Fodors (of course), Rick Steves, Frommers, etc. We know the neighborhood we want. We also do some Google street-viewing to check out the availability of bakeries, markets, etc.

Then we send out emails to those on our short list and book accordingly. Never had a problem doing it that way in about ten trips. We try to email them every 3-4 weeks and a couple of days before arrival with an innoucuous question, mainly to keep us on their radar. We're pretty comfortable with this system now, but it was a little scary at first.

SS
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May 20th, 2009, 01:46 PM
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DAY 3 – THU 14 MAY

Breakfast: The usual pastry (mmmm!) fruit, and coffee.

Started out to do a walk from the Pantheon across Luxembourg Gardens to St-Germain-des-Pres…but after we got out of the Pantheon, it was raining pretty steadily, so we decided to do something indoors. Took the Metro up to St-Denis. This church is a French historic marvel. Besides being (IMHO) in the same class (or better) than Notre Dame and St-Chappel, and it has the tombs of many of the kings of France…including the first one, Clovis (d. 6th c.)

Actually when we got there, the rain had stopped. We bypassed all the touristy cafes in front of the church and headed around the block to a tiny place that sold pitas stuffed with delicious chicken (your choice of curry or paprika sauce) that they grilled in front of you, with a heap of frites and a soft drink for 5 EUR. Not a tourist in the place.

LANGUAGE NOTE: I never took French in school, but with the help of Rosetta Stone software, some books, and a bunch of French language films (with subtitles) I have learned enough over that last few years to get by without speaking much English at all. Actually, if you start every conversation with Bon jour (or soir), sil vous plait, and end with au revoir, everyone is friendly and helpful. I know I made a lot of mistakes, and it took me a long time to say many of the things I wanted to say, but everyone was patient with me – plus I did a lot of hand gestures and pointing. My wife took French in high school. She is reluctant to speak it, but her vocab is not bad and she helps with the reading at museums.

Since the weather had cleared, we picked up the walk (from a library book I checked out a few weeks earlier – if anyone wants to know what it was, I can find it again. It had a lot of great walks.) on the other side of Lux. Gardens and followed it through the area around St. Sulpice and ending at St-Germain-des-Pres. This was a pretty long walk, even without the Gardens.

Home for another nap/rest.

Dinner at Equinox, at 33 R. de Rosiers. Really nice 3-course menu for 15 EUR plus wine cost. I highly recommend this restaurant…a real bargain.

Then we walked around a little more and got the required ice cream. Then bed.

[…to be continued…]
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May 20th, 2009, 04:27 PM
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DAY 3 – THU 14 MAY – Addendum

Forgot to tell what we had for dinner:

We both had an entrée of avocado
and shrimp salad.

Linda had some kind of fish in a white
sauce with cooked vegetables.
(I don’t like seafood, so I didn’t taste it.)

I had chicken with a red rosemary
sauce on noodles – very good.

For dessert, we both had a cream,
strawberry "pie-ish" dessert that was
delicious.

Linda had white house wine, I had the red.

39 EUR total with the two glasses of wine.

[…to be continued…]
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May 20th, 2009, 04:49 PM
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DAY 4 – FRI 15 MAY

Breakfast in our room: tarte rouge (with blueberries, cherries and raspberries), an éclair, an orange, and coffee.

Took the Metro to the catacombs [N]. Really enjoyed walking among all those bones.

Then a quick 1-1.5 hour stop at the d’Orsay Museum – just the top floor. There’s always a chance of overdosing on art in Paris.

Picked up some baguette sandwiches at our local boulangerie.patisserie and headed back to hotel to eat them with our strawberries and oranges.

This afternoon we actually went to two more museums. First we went to the Musee des Artes Decoratifs [N], but only the floor with the art deco and art nouveau stuff and the tower section which covers the twentieth century.

Then we went to the building with Napoleon’s tomb and the Army Museum…but not to see them. Instead we went to a museum I really wanted to see – the Musee des Plans Reliefs [N]. This is a collection of huge models of cities and fortifications created over the 17th and 18th century and restored under Napoleon, I believe. The Mont Blanc model was the coolest. I love all kinds of maps, and these were exceptional.

Interesting experience there: Linda tripped going up the steps; nothing serious; just bruised her knee. But the employees made her sit down until a medic came to look at it and check to be sure nothing was broken. They were really concerned. She was fine; just a little sore going up stairs the next day.

Home for a nap!!

Dinner at San Antonio again. Pizza, but also a fabulous minestrone soup and a salad.

Had a really nice walk around the Marais after dinner, with ice cream, of course.

[…to be continued…]
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May 20th, 2009, 04:57 PM
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I'm enjoying your report. I'm going to check out the hotel where you stayed -- it sounds like the kind of place we like to stay.
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May 20th, 2009, 05:02 PM
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Great report. Looking forward to more.
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May 20th, 2009, 06:26 PM
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I was trying to check out the hotel too, but I couldn't get a direct site for the hotel. There are reviews of it and an article about it, but couldn't get the hotel itself. Do they have a web site?

Fun report. Reports are the only way I'm "going to Paris" for while.
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May 20th, 2009, 06:38 PM
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Really enjoying your report.
My sister and I were there 5/7 - 5/15, so we overlapped with you a bit.
This was the first time I printed out and followed walks posted here by Degas and by Kerouac. IMHO, they are as good or better than any other resource, more detailed, less likely to get lost while following them (although getting lost in Paris is not a bad thing at all), better first-hand information. And less weight to carry. I highly recommend them to anyone who does not already have an in-depth knowledge of the city.
Enjoy the rest of your trip!
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May 20th, 2009, 08:15 PM
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Cynthia;
would you happen to have the links to those walks posted by Degas and Kerouac?

Also, I'm enjoying this trip report and how much you guys can do in a day. We, too, find a couple of places we like to eat and go back again and again. You may not be a foodie but you're an "arty". I can relate.
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May 20th, 2009, 08:17 PM
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Great report. Do you remember how long it took you to get to St. Denis and roughly how long you spent there?
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May 20th, 2009, 11:30 PM
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Crefloors...

Here is the Hotel de Nice info:

HOTEL DE NICE
42 BIS RUE DE RIVOLI
75004 PARIS
TEL : +33 1 42 78 55 29
FAX : +33 1 42 78 36 07
Métro : Hôtel De Ville
www.hoteldenice.com

However...I just tried the above link, and it seems to be broken. Not sure why. We used it constantly while preparing for the trip.

Maybe they are in the process of switching providers.

SS
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May 20th, 2009, 11:39 PM
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Leely2...

Seems to me that it took about 25 min on the following route: Luxembourg - St-Michel - Invalides - Basilique de St-Denis by B-C-13.

Probably spent 45 min-1 hr in the church; then another 30-45 eating lunch.

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May 21st, 2009, 12:51 AM
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"Most people would not approve of our dining habits." Eclairs for breakfast always meet with my approval.
Great report.
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May 21st, 2009, 01:20 AM
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DAY 5 – SAT 16 MAY

Breakfast in our room: tarte rouge and something that looked like a Spanish churro, but bigger and with chocolate inside…plus, of course, coffee and fruit.

Started out with an architecture walk that took us through the neighborhood around the Ranelagh and Jasmin Metro stops. Wonderful transition from tradition late 19th c. through Art Nouveau to Deco with an emphasis on the Art Nouveau buildings of Hector Guimard.

[NOTE: Here’s the book with the walks - Frommer's 24 Great Walks in Paris.]

Then we went back to our home area and took some photos that we missed when we had walked around it Friday evening.

We planned to go to Chartres on Monday, so we popped over to Gare de Lyon to buy the tix. We didn’t want to buy them during rush hour Monday morning. This was the only time I spoke primarily English…didn’t want to make a mistake and end up with the wrong thing. We’re both over 60 (old enough for the discount, but never to old to rock 'n' roll), and only certain train times accept the discount-fare tickets.

[NOTE: Although there was an SNCF boutique several blocks from our hotel, it was always very crowded with long wait-times, even during mid-day.]

Lunch: Baguette sandwiches and fruit at the hotel again.

The afternoon was dedicated to the Belleville “Art festival” – that’s not the official name, but that’s what we call it. We discovered it in 2007. Four days in mid-May when over 100 aspiring artists in the Belleville neighborhood open their studios to the public. (Yes…we really are “arties.”). When we booked our flight, one of the first things I did was go to their website and find out if this year’s dates coincided. http://www.ateliers-artistes-belleville.org/pg.php?p=4

We took the 11 Metro to Pyranees, picked up a map of the open studios at the first one we saw (they’re marked with posters), and wended our way down to Menilmontant. Probably visited about 40 studios.

Back to the hotel for a snack.

One of the nice things about our hotel is its closeness to so many things. A few blocks’ walk allowed us to drop in to the Picasso Museum at around 5 pm, an hour before closing. [NOTE: We were there in 2001. This is a museum that, without the museum pass, we would not re-visit on subsequent trips to Paris. Lots of nice works chronologically arranged, but many of his best works are elsewhere.]

Dinner at Equinox:

Entrées: endive and bleu cheese salad and cucumber salad
(I was amazed how the strong cheese and the bitter endive went together so well – together neither was overpowering…how DO they do that?)

Mains: both had some boef with a delicious sauce and potatoes

Dessert: both had gateau tropezienne, a really wonderful cake


Then, an after-dinner stroll in the neighborhood. (Sorry…no ice cream, since dessert was included in our dinner.)

[…to be continued…]
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