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kimboston Oct 11th, 2010 06:20 AM

Trip Report: Paris August 2010 with family of 4
We had a great visit to Paris the last week of August, and many of our travel ideas came from, so I thought I'd share some details.

We are good travelers, fairly flexible in our schedules, and we generally try to do a mix of tourist and local things. We are a family of 4 - mom, dad, my son is 14, and my daughter is 16.

We stayed in a place from Paris Vacation Apartments on Rue Dauphine, in the 6th, very close to the Pont Neuf bridge. Apartment was great inside, lots of space, 2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, not cheap but couldn't beat the location, and the space made it easy for us to enjoy each others' company without being on top of each other. My kids decided they wanted some space from each other and my 6 foot tall son slept on the living room couch most nights, very comfortably, and the pocket doors to the living room gave him some privacy.

We weren't sure if we needed a transit pass or museum pass, and we ended up buying neither. Instead we bought carnets - 10 tickets to use in the metro, and that worked out great. We were so well located and we like walking around and only used 2 tickets per person each day.

We also didn't need the museum pass, and only went to Musee de L'Orangerie and Musee d'Orsay. We were smart enough to go to L'Orangerie first, which had a very short entrance line, and buy joint tickets for the D'Orsay so that helped us bypass the very long line at the D'Orsay. I'd highly recommend both to Impressionist art lovers. The D'Orsay also has a beautiful collection of decorative arts/arts and crafts, and the building itself is fascinating.

I loved the gardens - we spent time in the Tuileries (close to the Louvre) and the Luxembourg Gardens. It's worth just sitting and people watching, not to mention enjoying the gardens and sculptures.

I did want to see a famous French department store was like - the Bon Marche, but wasn't really that impressed, though I did buy a made-in-France baking pan (a cake pan in silicone, with a decorative shape).

What was even better was next door - La Grand Epicierie

It's heaven for foodies. We bought tea, coffee, yogurt (can't get enough of yogurt in Europe), baked goods, quiches to heat at home, etc.

We also went almost every day to an Erik Kayser boulangerie (bakery), and tried just about everything, included the pre-made sandwiches, which were another cheap dinner meal for us.

We also went to this restaurant, good, very nice service. It feels a little out of the way, on a quiet street, and there were locals.

Also be sure to go to a local cheese shop near the restaurant - Barthelemy, 51 Rue Grenelle. Warning: they only speak French but even if you just know a few words and can point, you'll be fine.

All in all, food was great wherever we went, whether we're talking about $6 sandwiches or $20 fancy salads, but service was not.

We took a day trip to Monet's House in Giverny, and I thought it was well worth the time to get there (take a train to Vernon, then a bus to Giverny). (Beautiful gardens, you can really see what inspired Monet, and a small self-guided house tour). Once we learned how to navigate the Paris trains, getting anywhere was easy, but it does take time to figure out how to buy tickets, follow signs in the stations, etc. Our lunch in Giverny was excellent - at the Hotel Baudy, down the street from Monet's House and past the museum.

Other things we enjoyed - ice cream and gelato, Notre Dame, the Pantheon, the Eiffel tower, walking along the river, (be sure to go out early evening to see how the city is lit), walking down Champs Elysees, looking at the architecture, several hours in the Pere-Lachaise cemetery (a combination of gardens, history, pop, sculpture, etc).

We also wanted to try the high speed trains, so we took a day trip to Brussels. Getting from the train stop to the famous square in Brussels was not the most obvious thing to do, so if you also try this, make sure you know what station your train stops in and how to connect to the Brussels' subway.

Besides the train ride itself, our Brussels trip was really an excuse to eat and drink. Belgium waffles are available everywhere, like pretzels in New York City and they are unbelievably good. We also had some local beer, bought chocolate from almost every store, (truffles are the best, and I liked Elisabeth's and Nehaus), mussels and Belgiun dishes at Keldekerke right on the square, nice service.

Back in Paris, my daughter and I did take some time to go shopping. I didn't find it painfully expensive, and we had some good boutique experiences, along and near Rue du Four, near Boulevard Sainte Germain.

I think that's enough details for now. Great family experience.

TPAYT Oct 11th, 2010 07:35 AM

I always love reading about Paris. It sounds like doing your research paid off. It's wonderful that you can give your children the opportunity to travel and experience other cultures.

I'm bookmarking "La Petite Chaise" restaurant for our next trip.

TDudette Oct 11th, 2010 07:45 AM

Glad it worked out so well. The apartment pix were beautiful!

What is the correct station in Brussels? This could be useful info for someone's future trip.

tejana Oct 11th, 2010 07:48 AM

I'm curious - what did a 14-year-old boy like most about Paris?

kimboston Oct 11th, 2010 07:56 AM

TDudette - Good point. I had to go back to the Brussels guidebook to check! The TGV (hi-speed train) from Paris stops at Gare du Midi. From there, we followed signs to the Metro, buy tickets, then take the Metro to Place de la Bourse, a short walk to the square - Grand Place.

kimboston Oct 11th, 2010 08:01 AM

tejana - My son loved the food, he loves cheese, waffles, croissants, pastries of all kinds, cheese sandwiches/croque monsieur etc. Honestly, when I asked him, he also said he enjoyed the trip to Monet's House for the adventure, and the D'Orsay. The D'Orsay was fun for him because my husband had finished a book about some of the art in the D'Orsay (Judgement of Paris) just a few days before we arrived, and so he played tour guide for us, telling us some of the stranger, behind the scenes stories of the artwork.

kimboston Oct 11th, 2010 08:06 AM

One other thing I wanted to note - we took the RER (train) from the airport to/from our apartment. Besides some initial uncertainty as to how to get tickets, it was definitely the way to go. It also helps that we're very comfortable with public transit, in Boston and NYC, and we travel fairly light, so it was easy to master. You can not use your U.S. credit/debit card in the machines, which is annoying.

TDudette Oct 11th, 2010 01:04 PM

Haven't put it to the test yet, but American Express does have a card with the chip technology. DH and I experienced the same frustration with the ticket machines on a visit so I did get the AE one. On our next trip, we never needed it so I haven't tried it out yet.

What I'm hearing is that it's the ticket machines, the bike rentals and some unmanned petro stations that can be problems with non-chip cards.

kerouac Oct 11th, 2010 11:21 PM

I have heard that the new metro ticket machines (the ones that also accept banknotes) now accept chipless cards. But I have no way to test this myself.

Also the ticket machines in the Louvre accept chipless cards (and I am <b>sure</b> of this because I watched my nephew buy his ticket); this might also be true of other museums with automatic ticket machines like the Pompidou Center.

Burley Oct 19th, 2010 02:08 PM

Thank you for your trip report! Especially enjoyed the little snippet about your shopping experience on Rue du Four, as I have a day of shopping planned for my June 2011 trip. I have already googlemapped the street and see many boutiques. This might be a very good alternative to the department stores, especially if they are indeed not "painfully expensive." (I'm hoping to find a dress in the $250-$300 range--do you think that is doable in this area?)

kimboston Oct 20th, 2010 03:34 AM

Hi Burley -

Oh, I wish I were going with you! Yes, your price range is definitely do-able. I wasn't shopping for a specific occasion so I bought things that were under that price range, machine washable or hand washable, for work or an evening out for dinner or to the symphony. My most expensive dress was under $200.

The biggest places where I bought a few things are mini-chains - Antoine et Lili (Rue de Seine) and Sinequanone. Don't be afraid to go into the really small boutiques if you like what is in the window. We went into one boutique that was probably 8 ft by 10 ft at most, everything was handpicked by the proprietor, and he was great help at pointing out things we would like (for me 40-something and my daughter at 16, those were different things), even on sale, and gave quite frank advice about what looked right when we tried it on, what wasn't right.

Happy shopping!

Burley Oct 20th, 2010 06:12 AM

That shopping experience you just described is exactly what I am hoping for! Thanks again for posting more specifically of your wonderful shopping excursion--it's been a great help!

Burley Oct 20th, 2010 08:55 AM

I'm sorry to keep talking "shopping" on your trip report thread, but I don't know how (or if) I can send you a private message, but can you tell me if the Sinequanone you mention store is by Printemps, which shows to be about 30 mins from the Rue du Four neighborhood you mentioned shopping in (and where the other store you mentioned is)? I'm mapping out my shopping day, and wanted to be sure of where I'm going so as not to waste time. Shopping in and around the Printemps area would be a good thing for that day, but I just want to make sure I'm on the right track! Thanks!!

kimboston Oct 20th, 2010 10:31 AM

The address for Sinequanone is 16 rue du Four and Antoine et Lili is at 87 Rue de Seine. I went on separate days to each of those. But basically we window-shopped and went into stores between where Rue de Buci intersects with Rue Dauphine (near our apartment) across Blvd Saint Germain (which also has loads of shops) onto Rue du Four, on to Rue de Sevres to where it meets with Le Bon Marche. And if you make it that far, go into La Grande Epicerie and get a snack! You'll need one!

kimboston Oct 20th, 2010 10:33 AM

One more thing about shopping - Printemps has the feel of an American mall, so I didn't see the point.

Burley Oct 20th, 2010 12:09 PM

Thanks so much for all these useful tips! Can't wait--already saving up my spending money!

annhig Oct 20th, 2010 12:45 PM

ttt for later

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