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GAJayhawks Feb 22nd, 2013 10:44 AM

Trois jours à Paris
 
Just returned from our whirlwind three days in Paris. I am very grateful to all the dedicated, passionate Fodor’s posters for all the helpful advice. My research and your input on this site truly enriched our experience and I thank you all.

Day One- Feb. 17-18 Flight and “near disaster” journey to hotel

Quick recap, hubby is an airline employee and we have the awesome perk of flying standby when there are seats available. Typically, February is the good time to snag seats to some pretty nifty locales…like Paris! We’d been watching the loads on the flights to Paris for several weeks. It looked as if we’d have no problems flying standby out of Atlanta. I was afraid to miss out on a really great hotel first suggested by adrienne and went ahead and booked http://www.hotel-grandes-ecoles.com/, knowing that I could cancel a week out if we didn’t think we’d make it on the flight.

I felt sick to my stomach when just days before our departure, our intended flight started filling up. B (hubby) frantically started to look at other options and saw that the flight out of Chicago was wide open. This was actually better for us as it left a couple hours later than the Atlanta flight and got us in at a much more reasonable hour (8 a.m. versus 6 a.m.).

I put lots of thought into what I packed and thought I did pretty well. There was only one shirt I did not wear. I also brought a pair of sneakers that I never wore. I thought I’d need a break from my new walking shoes, but they turned out to be really comfortable. I listened to what everyone said and came prepared with layers. Luckily, the weather was exquisite. It was cold but there was plenty of sunshine and very little wind. I’d have to say I was never uncomfortable.

Our flight was lovely. Despite being so very excited, we did manage to sleep a little. How fun it was to see Paris and the Eiffel Tower as we landed! Customs was a snap and we were off! B is very frugal by nature and poo pooed the €55 cost of the cab to our hotel. He thought we were rested enough and savvy enough to tackle the RER to Luxembourg station. That and the fact that it was only around €27! That made sense as we would have no connections and it is relatively close to the hotel. Despite what could have been a catastrophe, we made it in one piece. I swear, I still shudder when I think of what could have happened.

The train was fairly crowded on the ride to our station. One thing that I did not learn on this site but every first timer SHOULD ABSOLUTELY KNOW! When on a busy train with luggage, be prepared to exit before you arrive at your stop. That means climb over people and their suitcases and stand by the door before your stop. That might be common knowledge to many, but we made a critical error. Only I made it off the train. I had no phone. B did not know where our hotel was. CRAP!!! Enter a lovely young man who witnessed our debacle. At first, the man suggested I get on the next rain and try to “catch” hubby. Uhhh, I don’t think so. Thank goodness B had an international phone. The nice gentleman let me use his phone and after a couple of tries I was able to reach B and he said he was already on the return train with W (son). What if it was W alone on the train?! I revisited that thought often during our visit and we were very careful to have him in between us whenever traveling on the metro. Worst case scenario, W did have the address and phone number of our hotel in his iPod. The man did not want to leave me until I had B in my sight across the track. So very sweet.

Yes, we had to climb the stairs with our luggage, but it wasn’t a big deal. How exciting it is to see Paris unfold itself for the first time as we exited the station! Earlier I had mapped out the exact route to our hotel. It took us right beside the Pantheon. Stunning! I’m sure we looked like grinning, crazy Americans as we craned our necks to take it all in. The Eiffel Tower, behind us, the Pantheon ahead and peeks of Notre Dame down the side streets.

The hotel was easy to find and as charming as everyone who’s stayed there described it. Luckily our room was ready and we were able to drop our luggage off and change clothes. Our room was on the 2nd (3rd) floor facing the courtyard. It was a bright, cheerful, good sized room with a single bed for our son and a double for us. There was even a heavy curtain which separated the two sleeping areas in case we were up later reading. More later…

di2315 Feb 23rd, 2013 01:01 AM

What a lovely start to your report - I'm just waiting to read more . . . Di

cathies Feb 23rd, 2013 01:40 AM

I loved the first instalment, more please!

FrenchMystiqueTours Feb 23rd, 2013 03:13 AM

That's good advice for first timers on a crowded métro/RER (be ready before your stop) and something those of us living here just do automatically. You did the right thing too by waiting for them to get off at the next stop and catch the RER back in the opposite direction. Hopefully the rest of your visit was incident free.

taconictraveler Feb 23rd, 2013 07:00 PM

What fun to follow your first visit to Paris! First installment is a winner. I'll be waiting for the rest.

latedaytraveler Feb 24th, 2013 04:38 AM

“B is very frugal by nature and poo pooed the €55 cost of the cab to our hotel. He thought we were rested enough and savvy enough to tackle the RER to Luxembourg station. That and the fact that it was only around €27!”

Hi GAJayHawks,

Wow, €27 seems quite a bit for public transportation from CDG into the city. But I am glad you made it after your initial mishap. Entre nous, I found the Paris Metro very challenging and I didn’t have luggage on my jaunts around town.:)

Look forward to hearing the rest of your story….

GAJayhawks Feb 24th, 2013 06:58 AM

Sorry, lateday, that was the charge for all three of us. €9.5 per person from CDG to Luxembourg station.

GAJayhawks Feb 24th, 2013 07:06 AM

Let me preface this by saying I haven’t written a trip report before. Please excuse me if I am rambling.

Day One- My eyes hurt!

Eager to explore, we grabbed our maps and took off with a plan to walk, absorb, and see. Our hotel really was in an ideal location. After a quick walk down the hill of Rue de Cardinal Lemoine (Whoever mentioned it was a steep hill must be from the flat Midwest. I’d say it was more of a slope. ;) we were on the Île Saint-Louis. I was torn between walking by the Seine or down the middle. I wanted to see the little shops knowing I would not be shopping this trip so we chose the Rue Saint-Louis en l’ Île. As it was, that was my only “window licking” I participated in during our visit. Have I mentioned I want to come back?

And there it was, beautiful Notre Dame. Thus began my mantra the whole three days. “Elle est trop belle ça fait mal mes yeux.” I have no idea if it was grammatically correct. I didn’t care. I just kept saying it under my breath. What I felt was, everything was almost too beautiful to fully take in. Even seemingly obscure buildings and churches were exquisite. Any one of them would have been a major focal point in an American city.

The boys were feeling a bit peckish. I would have preferred waiting til we got out of the touristy areas, but they were charmed by the outdoor cafes we’d been passing. They wanted to eat right then! Ugh. So, we went to a little creperie/café right beside Notre Dame and ordered crepes to take away. It was so fun to see them being made for the first time. Little did we know then that those are available everywhere, and a lot more cheaply…and better tasting. W got Nutella, B got jambon et fromage, I got jambon, fromage et champignons. Boys liked theirs. Mine was okay. Do they only use canned mushrooms? It was a bit runny and I ended up having to toss about a third of it because it was too much and too messy. We took them to sit on a bench right behind Notre Dame. Yay! My first “picnic!” On our way to sit down, a woman came up to me and asked me if I spoke English. My initial thought was that she was in trouble. “Of course I speak English! How can I help you?” Ha ha! My first “gotcha.” She wanted me to sign some petition for the deaf. Luckily I knew that was a scam so I gave her a firm “No” and walked away.

We walked around to the front of Notre Dame and saw a long snaking line to get inside. We swore that we would not wait in any lines this short trip, but it seemed to be moving quickly and it gave us time to take everything in. For a city that is so beautiful, what is with the temporary 850 year celebration set up in front of the cathedral? Now that DID hurt my eyes! Inside, we were treated to a service that was being conducted. How fun it was to watch W and B experience ND for the first time. We opted to not climb the tower right then. After being couped up in a plane for 8 hours we were ready to move!

I had read how magical it is to exit the Trocadero station, turn the corner and have the Eiffel Tower hit you in the face. So we headed to the metro station for our first time buying tickets and figuring out transfers etc. Keeping W between us, and managing the transfers gave us the confidence we needed and almost erased the bad memory of our almost separate vacation. Seeing the Eiffel Tower up close was thrilling. W took about a hundred pictures. We did not buy advance tickets to go up and had no desire to wait in line. We were just happy to walk around and under it. We walked all the way down to the École Militaire, with stops along the way for more photo ops. About halfway down I am admiring an adorable family. They have a boy about W’s age and I was thinking how very French he looks with his stylish scarf and clothes. Then W says nonchalantly, “I know that kid.” I’m thinking yeah, right. “No really, mom, he’s in my band at school.” And then I look closely and remember talking to the mom once at a band event. Except, they’re not French, I think they are from Spain. I am just amazed, and of course I want to run up and say something, but W stops me with an agonized, “NOOOOOOOO!” “I don’t even really know him, he’s a grade below, and if he doesn’t recognize me I’ll die a thousand deaths.” Okay, he didn’t really say all that but I respected his “rep.” Kids are so weird.

So then we walk through the grounds of Les Invalides and walk into the cathedral. Too dang beautiful. We then stop at a tobac for trois café crèmes. I’m having fun with my very limited French. Sometimes people will jump right into English, but many cannot or do not so I get to practice. So far everyone is patient and kind. We are on a residential street and we admire the beautiful buildings where people actually live in this wondrous city. What do they do for a living? How much does it COST to live here?

We were quickly fading from being awake for so long. We hop on the metro back to our Cardinal Lemoine station. I am beginning to see the value of being near a station that has several connections. Ours, of course, does not. Oh well, more metro practice. Against advice, we have to put our feet up for a little, so we go back to our hotel. Love that there is free wi-fi there. We were able to check emails and let family know we arrived safely. We took a little nap but felt better and ready to attack dinner. We did not have plans so we ask the nice girl at our hotel for a rec. She mentioned a place on Rue du Pot de Fer. It looked a little to modern, too fast food. And they served hamburgers. After a bit of searching we settled on Chez Robert on Pot de Fer. The atmosphere was really cool. It looked small and intimate with exposed rock walls. Kind of cavey. The waiter did not speak much English but was so eager to please. I saw him kind of hovering waiting for any signal from me that we needed anything. The food was unfortunately, so so. W had penne with three cheeses. I had canard confit and B had a porc dish. We had a white burgundy and W drank from our carafe d’eau. Waiter was very sweet and brought W a bottle of coke on the house. We were kind of bummed because it was almost €90 total for a meh meal.

We walked along Rue De Mouffetard for a bit and promised we’d return. To bed!

Gretchen Feb 24th, 2013 07:16 AM

On Rue Mouffetard there is a good little restaurant-Au Piano Muet. Serve raclette and grills at the table as well as other things. Good value for good food.

TPAYT Feb 24th, 2013 07:34 AM

It was nice to read of the kind young man who helped you in the Metro. This type of kindness has been our experience. Our first stay was so wonderful that we try to return every year.
I am looking forward to your adventures and opinions of this lovely place.

taconictraveler Feb 24th, 2013 09:32 AM

Loving your report. Imagine your son seeing a kid from his school band! some very funny experiences, but it's a pleasure to read!

latedaytraveler Feb 24th, 2013 06:20 PM

“We are on a residential street and we admire the beautiful buildings where people actually live in this wondrous city. What do they do for a living? How much does it COST to live here?”

GAJayhawks, I hear you. I also was intrigued looking at these Parisian digs when I strolled from the Rodin Museum, around Les Invalides, to the Eiffel Tower area. No doubt, a high rent district, n’est ce pas?

You certainly made the best of your first day. I got a kick out of your mentioning the Rue Pot de Fer. That was one of our stops on a Hemingway “Paris Walks” tour because that is where George Orwell (one of my favorite authors) lived in Paris. Of course, Hemingway and James Joyce, among other famous writers, live in the Mouffetard area in the 20s and 30s.

Following your progress with interest….

nukesafe Feb 24th, 2013 08:32 PM

Bookmarking to read later.

PatrickLondon Feb 24th, 2013 09:09 PM

Just out of curiosity, I googled a bit and currently there is a three-bedroom flat on Cardinal Lemoine to rent for €2500 a month and a 30 sqm studio for €1500 a month.

GAJayhawks Feb 25th, 2013 10:25 AM

"On Rue Mouffetard there is a good little restaurant-Au Piano Muet. Serve raclette and grills at the table as well as other things. Good value for good food."

Gretchen, I looked it up and it would have been perfect! Next time for sure! I also looked up the restaurant we did go to on TA and it got bad reviews. One of the many times I missed having data on my phone.

I had a really cool app on my phone that will help you with transfers on the metro, but that only helped us if we knew exactly where we were going ahead of time. Typically, we would just walk and walk until we got tired and then take the metro.

GAJayhawks Mar 6th, 2013 07:50 AM

Day Two- Feb. 19 Vive le vélo!

Firstly, let me apologize for the delay in finishing my T.R. Thank goodness I took pretty good notes while there.

We had arranged to do a bike tour on this day in case we wanted to revisit any sites the next day. We got up early (7:30 a.m.) in order to get some breakfast and find our way to our bike tour. We opted out of the breakfast offered at our hotel ( at € 9 each, I knew we could get a better deal). We settled on a little café down the street and for € 7.5 each we got o.j., coffee, a croissant and a huge slice of toast. My son, the carb. king, was in heaven. We definitely wanted to do a tour during our short stay in Paris. I read up on all the options including bus (too big and impersonal), personal tour guide (son vetoed- boo) or a bike tour (reasonable cost, personal). Bike tour it is! Then I had to narrow down the choices between companies. A friend had done a bike tour several years ago with Fat Tire. She did not like it at all as there were too many people on the tour and the streets they were on were too busy and too intimidating.

I read all the reviews on Tripadvisor and decided to go with Blue Bike Tours. http://www.tripadvisor.com/Attractio...de_France.html I liked that it is a small, family run company. I really liked that they take no more than 10 in a group. They were extremely prompt and personal with our email correspondence prior to setting up the tour. Hava sent me a photo of our meeting point at gare d’Austerlitz, which was very helpful when finding the location. She, her husband, J.B and brother-in-law, J.P. helped get me, my husband and son (13) set up with our bikes including safety and signals.

We were the only ones booked on this tour so it was like a very personal, private tour! For the most part, we took very quiet streets and routes stopping in front of points of interest. We always felt safe. The biking was very easy and comfortable. Hava was so knowledgeable, passionate and enthusiastic about her adopted country and her family’s business. There was not one question she could not answer!

When it was time for a snack/lunch break on Rue Cler, we were still full from breakfast. Instead, Hava did an impromptu tour of some of the shops of the area (cheese, honey, pastry, produce). She introduced us to fresh lychees. I have never seen them in the states. She used to live in India and knew that they were in season. I had only had canned before. Like peaches, there is no similarity between fresh and canned lychees. They have a tough outer shell that you crack and peel much like a hard boiled egg. The fruit is very sweet and almost tastes floral. Delicious!

We covered about 15 km on the tour stopping at points of interest. I liked that the Louvre was closed that day as it seemed we almost had the courtyard to ourselves. I couldn’t believe how quick it is to get around the city on a bike. It is much faster and so much more scenic than the metro, and much easier on the feet! We were so inspired that we wanted to try the velib system. Ugh, no chip in our credit card. Son was relieved as he felt it was “easy” because we were with someone who knew what they were doing and where they were going.

We had a bit of time so we went to Ste. Chapelle. B and W did not know what we were doing as I had reserved this, “in case we had time.” They were ahead of me as they walked up the tight, winding staircase. I had goosebumps and tears in my eyes to hear their reaction when they entered the chapel. We were there in the late afternoon when the sun was directly hitting the west stained glass windows. Just stunning. This was another stellar recommendation by adrienne. It was stunning.

We had a bit of time before sun down so we raced up to Montmartre. Actually, it was some tricky metro changes, but we did almost run up the hill! The famous soccer guy was there and W had a blast watching him. As we walked through the basilica, a service was about to begin and the nuns were assembling. It was very quaint and almost as if someone ordered it to make our visit even more memorable. “OK, cue the nuns!” Upon exiting the church, I heard, “Please help me!” Pretty crafty to set yourself up right outside a well-known church. And how did she know I was American? She spoke with almost no accent!

We had aspirations of taking a night cruise on the Seine after a quick bite by our hotel. We had seen a line out the door of this little place after we had already eaten so we headed back to http://www.tripadvisor.com/Restauran...de_France.html. Now this is how crepes should taste! Again we had ham and cheese but we added lettuce and tomato. The service was really quick so I didn’t get a chance to really look at the menu. While my crepe was wonderful, I wish I had ordered the Greek one with feta. We ate at the stand up counter in the back of the restaurant, more of a take out place really.

We were wiped from a really full day, and swore we would make the cruise on our last night, so it was back to the hotel to pass out.

Nikki Mar 6th, 2013 02:45 PM

I'm enjoying your report, thank you.

kansas Mar 6th, 2013 05:51 PM

I also am enjoying your report. Nothing boring about it! (as you said on another TR!). Funny that you and the other TR couple both had metro incidents. Glad everything worked out fine.

kerouac Mar 7th, 2013 02:28 AM

Very interesting report and also a fine example of how different people have different travel styles. Lots of people here want to be in the center "so that we can walk everywhere and not have to use the metro." Other people don't mind crisscrossing the city by metro as it strikes their fancy (I am like that, too.). It's one reason I never give advice on "what is the best travel pass?" because people have completely variable needs.

YankyGal Mar 7th, 2013 08:29 AM

Agreed on this not being boring! Really enjoying it, GA.


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