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Trip Report Trip Report, Paris and Normandy

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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!

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