Trip Report, Paris and Normandy

Aug 20th, 2013, 07:33 AM
  #1  
PMJ
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Trip Report, Paris and Normandy

My husband and I, age 59 and 60, just returned yesterday from 5 days in Paris and 3 days in Normandy. We travel quite a bit, like to be very active and rely on forums such as Fodor's, Trip Adviser, Cruise Critic etc. to research and plan our itineraries. We had been to Paris about ten or twelve years ago, and had a miserable experience (cold, rainy, everything closed for Easter, Eiffel Tour lines four hours long, and museum guides on strike). We had a wonderful experience this time, and thought we would share. This is my first trip report, so don't be afraid to critique.

Paris- Arrival and accommodations:
Overnight direct AA flight fromm Dallas to CDG, arrived at 10 a.m. We were able to upgrade to Business class with miles and cash, and it was a great flight. We took a cab to the Hotel Brighton in the 1st Arrondisement, which cost about 45 euros. Sunday taxis charge a bit more. We also had to fight our way past a lot of gypsy drivers on the way out of customs who wanted to charge us 80 euros for the same trip. Make sure you get an official taxi at the curb.

Checked in, and the room wasn't quite ready, so we stowed our luggage and hit the road. The Brighton is across the street from the Tullieres (I am going to apologize now for all my spelling of any French words), and a couple blocks down from the Louvre. We strolled through the gardens, had lunch and went back to the hotel. Our room was great- very large, with two twin beds pushed together, a large bathroom with tub and shower, and on the third floor. We got a superior room for $239 euros per night. The room had two sets of double French doors in the bedroom and a set of them in the bathroom, and was quite light and spacious. We did not opt for an Eiffel tower view room and I'm glad we didn't- there is a ferris wheel and other rides right across the street from the hotel, and I think it would have been quite noisy. That is one of the complaints I have heard about the hotel- that it was noisy. We could hear footsteps above us and some light street noise, but as we travel with a little white noise-maker, it didn't interfere with sleeping. Being on an upper floor helps as well. The staff were wonderful- very helpful and spoke good English. We had our 38th anniversary while at the hotel, and on that day a basket of fruit and bottle of chilled champagne were left in our room. With the size of the accommodations, the hospitality of the staff, and the location of the hotel, I would not hesitate to recommend the Brighton, and we would definitely return.

Activities:
We had set up five walking tours with Philippe of My Hush-Hush Paris. Philippe is a native Parisienne who is extremely well-informed and enthusiastic about Paris. He also went to UCLA and worked in LA for some time, so his English is very good. Check him out at www.myhush-hushparis.com. We did five of his six tours. Although they are supposed to be 90 minutes each, we rarely finished in under 2 hours. His tours are fast-paced and interesting, and I feel like we have a much better feel for France than we had before. We usually met at a metro stop, which was fun in itself. After our initial panic (we live in the Dallas area- what do we know about mass transportation?), we found it easy to use, as well as a novelty. We covered much of the city that we hadn't see before, such as Montmarte and Marais. When we finished each tour, Philippe recommended a local restaurant or bar, and his recommendations were great. The cost of the walking tours was 20 euros per person, payable after the tour.

Eiffel Tower "Skip the Line Tour with My Parisian Tour.com.
We had pre-booked this tour in May, but six weeks later they e-mailed us that they had a conflict and needed to re-schedule us, which also impacted the Louvre Skip the Line Tour we had booked with them. This also caused us to have to change our schedule with Philippe, who was very accommodating. So ultimately, it all got on our schedule. Or so we thought. When we got to the Eiffel Tower, we were not on the guide's list for that day's tour, and the group was filled to maximum. The guide let me speak to the management, and it seemed like they still had us scheduled for the original tour we had signed up for. When I asked about the Louvre, they had us on the original tour for that as well. Luckily, two people did not show up for the Eiffel Tower, so we were able to join the group. They changed our Louvre Tour as well to fit what I had on our itinerary.

Both tours were very good, and I would definitely recommend some kind of skip the line tour. The Eiffel Tower lines were probably 3 hours long. Our tour guide gave us information about the Tower, and then guided us up to level 2. We took the elevator to the top, which was fun just to have done it. We took the elevator back down to level 2 and had a 'picnic lunch' at their casual restaurant. It was a great break from the activity before we tackled the stairs down. Line for the elevator down was long.

The Louvre Tour was a small group tour of six people, and it was worth it to upgrade to the small group. The museum was quite crowded, but our guide was good at getting us around to the major artworks, and she was quite informative.

Both tour groups used individual headsets and a mike so you could hear them clearly. Their English was good, and both very professional.

The Ferris Wheel Ride in the Tullieres provided a great sunset view of the Eiffel Tower. Also, beginning at 10 p.m., the Tower turns on it's twinkle lights for five minutes, which is quite a sight.

To be continued!
PMJ is offline  
Aug 21st, 2013, 06:50 AM
  #2  
 
Join Date: Sep 2007
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What a great start... I am looking forward to more!
ParisAmsterdam is offline  
Aug 21st, 2013, 07:18 AM
  #3  
mms
 
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Yes, looking forward to reading more about your trip
mms is offline  
Aug 24th, 2013, 07:45 AM
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Looking forward to the rest of your report.
eyemom84 is offline  
Aug 24th, 2013, 10:48 AM
  #5  
PMJ
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Activities, continued.

As I said earlier, the foundation of our itinerary was the five walking tours of Paris with My Hush-Hush Paris and Philippe. We did the Crib of Paris tour, Montmartre, Secrets of Marais, Secret Passages and the Golden Triangle Tour. On our own, we explored the Invalides, which was quite interesting. Napoleon's tomb is quite large and somber, and a bit out of proportion with his natural stature. The tomb of Field Marshall Foch was quite impressive, and the Musee De L'Armee was worthwhile, as well. Lots and lots of armor and weapons.

We did a river cruise with Les Vedettes du Pont-Neuf, and it was excellent. There are several river companies, but this was the one Philippe recommended. It lasts an hour, they have a great English pamphlet/map, and it's narrated by an English speaking guide.

We also enjoyed St. Chappelle, the small church- I think it is next to the police station. It has the most beautiful stained glass, and every window tells a story from the bible. We have been to Sacre Coeur and Notre Dame, but I think this is the best little church in Paris (which probably makes it one of the best in the world, right?)

Since Thursday was our anniversary, we decided to splurge and go to Moulin Rouge. We had no idea what to expect, but Philippe said it would really be a fun thing to do for a special occasion. We booked it through our hotel, and booked it with a driver. I know we paid a premium (approximately 500 euros for the two of us), but my husband looked on line and there were no tickets available. We would have paid about 150 euros less on line, I think. However, no regrets. It was a great anniversary celebration. The driver picked us up at the hotel and she already had two people from another hotel. She took us to Moulin Rouge, parked and walked us in and turned us over to the staff. We had a great table next to the stage, and sat at a table with six other people. I think the hotels do get the best tables. You can also do just the show, without dinner, but best seating is for those who are dining. The show was highly entertaining, and a good mix of entertainment. We had no clue what to expect, which added to our enjoyment, so I'm not going to give a run-down of the show. You can, however, go to You tube and find the Feerie show and see parts of it, if you would like. The food was good, (I had salmon and my husband had chicken), and came with a bottle of champage. Great desserts, too. After the show, our driver was waiting outside the door for us and swept us out of the crowd and away quickly. The Moulin Rouge itself is neat to look at, so I would suggest walking by, even if you don't go to the show. The interior looks exactly as it did in the movie, and I'm assuming looked originally.

Food:
My husband and I are not big foodies, and we would generally rather be DOING something rather than sitting through a three-hour meal, but we did eat at some really good and interesting restaurants.

L'ete en pente douce- This is in Montmartre, I believe, and again was recommended by Philippe. 8 rue Paul Albert, and I think in the 18th arrondisement. It was a great lunch place with very nice staff, and not touristy at all.

Chartier. http://www.bouillon-chartier.com/index.php/en
This was a really fun place to dine. Philippe said to go early to avoid really long lines, and he was right. There was a line when we got there (about 6:30), but we only waited about ten minutes. When we came out two hours later, the line was around the block. You are seated randomly wherever they can fit you in. We shared a table with two young ladies from Japan who were studying at the Sorbonne. We enjoyed their company immensely. And the food was fabulous- and inexpensive, believe it or not. My husband and I both ordered the perch with mushroom sauce (the most expensive entree, at 10euros), and it was great. I had a delicious appetizer of half an avocado topped with shrimp in a type of remoulade sauce (@3.00e), and a wonderful creme brulee for dessert (@3.00 euros). One of the best meals we had in France, and definitely the least expensive.

Mini Palais. http://www.minipalais.com/en/index.html. Again, a great dining experience. We walked over here for lunch after going through Les Invalides. We sat on the terrace, had a couple glasses of wine and a delicious lunch. I would tell you what it was, but I don't remember.

58 Tour Eiffel. http://www.restaurants-toureiffel.co...fel-tower.html
This is a good place to have an Eiffel tower dining experience without paying the big bucks. This is on the first landing of the tower, on the same level as the expensive restaurant. It's called a picnic lunch, because it is all served in cute packaging. We had the pasta and it was good.

Angelina Tea Room, 226 Rue de Rivoli. http://www.angelina-paris.fr/#/home/ This was such a wonderful treat, so we had breakfast here on our anniversary. It was just down from our hotel, so my wonderful husband went down there every morning to get me a chocolate croissant (see why we've been married so long?) You need to go here for breakfast, lunch or afternoon tea- not open for dinner. The chocolat chaud is fabulous. It's like drinking chocolate pudding. Unfortunately, we forgot to have the Mont Blanc, so we'll have to go back. This place is an institution. Philippe said his grandmother used to bring him here when he was a little boy.

As you can see, we really did enjoy our visit, and I'm so glad we went. Now I'm taking a break before I start on Normandy and the story of how I lost my husband on the train.
PMJ is offline  
Aug 24th, 2013, 12:19 PM
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Nice report so far. I was in Paris in May and stayed right around the corner from the Brighton. In fact, I knew of the Brighton because an acquaintance was staying there and I tried, unsuccessfully, to connect with her while in Paris. I even sat in the lobby of the Brighton one morning for about ten minutes hoping I might run into her. Seemed like a decent hotel for sure. In May there was no ferris wheel etc. nearby, either. I guess that stuff comes out in the summer...

Did you see the golden statue of Joan of Arc near the Brighton? It's a few blocks up toward the Louvre on Rue de Rivoli. I stumbled upon the statue by chance while strolling near the Brighton. We have a replica of that statue here in Portland.
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Aug 24th, 2013, 12:56 PM
  #7  
PMJ
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We did see it. The French spelling looks more like Fannie than Joan, so my husband and I referred to her as joan' little sister. That was funnier after a lot of walking on a hot day! But we love that area!
PMJ is offline  
Aug 31st, 2013, 11:48 AM
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I believe it is Jeanne in French (Jeanne d'Arc).

Sainte Chappelle is part of the Palais de Justice complex.
denisea is offline  
Aug 31st, 2013, 12:40 PM
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We leave for Paris in 18 days, but who's counting. Anxious to see more.
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