Category: Trip Reports

Trip Report – Paris 2011

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Emirates Airlines

Day 1 – I traveled to Paris directly from Chennai, India and flew on Emirates Airlines. When I got on the plane, I was shocked. Very nice and spacious! Lots of head room once cubbies were closed. I had an aisle seat and no one beside me. Before the plane even got pushed out to the runway, the flight attendants were passing out hot towels and lime juice. Mind you, this is economy class. As soon as we were in the air, the breakfast menu came. There was such wonderful food and so much I could barely hold it. However, since it was a long double flight and I thought there was to be only one meal served, I ate everything on the plate.

I had a stopover at the Dubai airport on the way to Paris. I walked into the Dubai airport and noticed I wasn’t anywhere near any departure gates and mine was number 231. Yes, 2 hundred gates down the way. I stopped to check with one guy to make sure of my gate number because my boarding pass said 202 and the screen on the plane said 231. He said it was 231 and I asked if this was the way and pointed. We were dealing with a bit of a language barrier, but he was very helpful. He said, “Come, I will take you.” He had a cart full of people already sitting to the side with the front passenger seat still open. I hopped in and off we went. He stopped and said to go through customs here and then go upstairs. When I went up the escalator right behind customs, I was right at my gate. What service! The sign at the desk said, “gate open.” I thought it was strange that is was open so early, but went ahead and checked in. As soon as I did they directed me to a special quiet waiting room totally blocked off from everything else. Very nice!

I received more of the great Emirates service on this second flight. Hot towels came immediately upon boarding the plane (no dirty hands and faces on Emirates planes). Shortly after, came the menu. It had a list of breakfast and lunch options. I knew it was early, but figured we could choose according to what time it was for us. The girls next to me had already had 3 breakfasts that day. They were coming from Tokyo. I ordered a lunch and was told that lunch would come later, that I should choose a breakfast now. It was only 9:30, but I chose the deli plate (a breakfast option). Oh, SO MUCH FOOD! Later they came with snacks and later came lunch. I let them serve me lunch, but could only hold one small dessert.

As we got through immigration in Paris, I followed the crowd to what I assumed was customs. There were two tables with men unpacking people’s suitcases – undies and everything on the tables. I didn’t know what to think. I noticed everyone in front of me kept walking between the two tables and not saying anything to anyone so I did the same.

I got to the lobby of the airport and called my shuttle service and she said it would be there in 40 minutes. The shuttle was reserved, but I was to call when the plane landed. I got cash at the ATM and sat to wait. About 10 minutes early I went to where I was instructed to meet the shuttle – terminal 2C, exit 7. After waiting 80 minutes and making many calls to the shuttle company, I asked a man who was wrangling luggage carts to verify my terminal and exit number. I told him what was going on and he said to go in to the information desk and ask them to call the company. He said they would (in my words) grouch at them and tell them to get there NOW.

The man at the information desk called and said they would be there in two minutes. In just a few minutes, a man came from an unmarked gray van parked about a block away. The company is called the Yellow Van Shuttle Company – wrong color, no sign. He verified that I was his rider and I told him I had been told to wait at the exit 7 door. He said that he wasn’t allowed to go in that lane. However, several other van shuttles did and had stopped to ask if I was the passenger they were looking for. However, he finally got me to my hotel. IMG_4931

I checked into my hotel, Hotel Beaugency, and emailed home to tell everyone I had arrived safely. I then walked around the neighborhood. Restaurants in Paris are all required to post their menus outside. The first one I saw that said steak and fries, I stopped. I hadn’t had meat since leaving the states two weeks ago. I also got a free hat in the deal as they were advertising a new drink that night.

Day 2 – I had breakfast in the hotel, visiting with other U.S. tourists. One couple was from Oregon and the other from Texas.

I had scouted out how to walk to the Eiffel Tower (about 10 minutes away) with the little Google map man ahead of time so I knew the route like the back of my hand. However, that route was under construction for the big celebration stage for Bastille Day so I had to go cross country and feel my way along. I felt like Gene Kelly, walking in the rain in Paris. It was a cool, rainy morning, but I had been in VERY HOT India for two weeks so I tried to soak up as much cool as I could.

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My first picture of the Eiffel Tower
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View from the line under ET

I joined the line at the Eiffel Tower at 8:00. Ticket booth opens at 9:00.  The people in front of me were from South Dakota. He lived in New Delhi for a couple of years working so we discussed a little of India. When his wife went to the restroom and came back saying how clean it was, I asked if it was sitting or standing. He laughed and said, “You are back in civilization now.” After visiting all floors of the ET, including the café for hot chocolate and a pastry, and the souvenir shops, I headed toward the Orsay Museum. I arrived at noon and only had to stand in line an hour. It was well worth the wait.

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Musee d’Orsay

After seeing it all, I stopped outside at a crepe stand for lunch. I decided to head back toward the ET where the tour boats for dinner cruises are docked. I got to the boats about 3:30 and there was still room for me on this evening’s 6:00 cruise. The girl who sold me the tickets is from the U.S.

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The food on the cruise was quite delicious. By this time the sun was shining again and there was a nice cool breeze. I arrived back at the hotel about 8:45.

Day 3 – I woke this morning about 3:00 and never got back to sleep. My plan for today was to do the islands and the Latin Quarter. It would be a hard day but I wanted to try to get “everything” into this trip. I returned to my room after breakfast, deciding that I had definitely overdone it the day before. Today was Bastille Day, a holiday for everyone in Paris and it should be for me too. I returned to bed for a short nap and decided, when I awoke, to just take off walking at a slow pace and see where I ended up. It was at this time I decided that I couldn’t do everything in 6 days and that I would be coming back to Paris.

I first stopped at the fruit vender for my daily banana. Ohhhh, the French bananas! They are the most delicious I have ever tasted. I have decided that a banana is the perfect walking tourist food. You don’t need clean hands and it provides nourishment and water. I also refill my water bottle every morning and put it in my day bag.

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One of my favorite pictures of the Seine

I decided to take a different route than yesterday to the river specifically to check out a Basque restaurant that I had read about online. As I arrived at the river, there were many planes flying overhead with red, white, and blue stripes coming from them. The celebration and the parade had started.

As I approached the area of the parade, I saw that they had several army tanks and trucks lined up on George V Street for children to climb on and in. This was definitely a military celebration. 450There were large metal fences placed along the parade route and another line of fencing several feet in from that.440

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Notice the two rows of fences between the boy and the road

No one was getting on to that road until the parade was finished. I guess that means no parade candy in Paris.

Walking toward the Arc de Triumph after the parade was like being in a herd of cattle. I finally made it there and took some pictures.454

I then found a less busy street to walk back south across the Seine toward my restaurant. There were many holiday food venders out, cooking on the street. Many were making kabobs in huge skillets. It smelled so good but I had promised myself Basque food for lunch.

659As I walked into Chez L’ami Jean, the lady at the door and I tried to communicate. I asked in French if she spoke English. She said no, but she would find someone who did.

Very soon, a waiter came to my table. I asked him to tell me about the menu (since it was all in French). He shook his head and said, “No, it is not all on there. The chef has created a new menu just for the Fourth of July (I guess he thought I would compare Bastille Day to our holiday). It is 42 euros and it is two starters, a main dish, and two desserts.” That sounded right up my alley. Then he said, “Ok, I will bring you soup and then tuna. You like tuna?” I asked if it was cooked or raw and he said, “No, not cooked. I will bring you something else instead of tuna – I tell the chef to make you something different. Then I bring you a baby pig with vegetables.” I said ok, but thought a whole pig just for me???

470The soup came and it reminded me of Moto in Chicago. There were very tiny little bits of veggies and meat and when it came to me, they then added the broth. I think it was foie gras broth. It was very good. Before long, he brought the tuna, pretty raw. The waiter said the chef went ahead and made this but I can have it cooked more if you want. I said, “Oui, merci.” He talked to the chef. (Everything in the kitchen can be seen in the restaurant and it was obvious who was the boss.) He came back and said that the chef said it would not be good cooked a second time and he would make me another dish. I thought this meant something else, but I got another dish of tuna cooked more to my liking. It was also good. I then got another starter (that makes three). It was a flat bowl with rich beefy broth and an egg with solid white and soft yellow and lots of tiny mushrooms and what the waiter called “some, ah seafood.” Again, good, but by this time I was really getting full.

I had asked the waiter if they had their famous rice pudding today. They don’t make it every day and that was one of my main goals for coming here. He assured me they did.

Then came the main dish. One flat bowl with a large hunk of pork. Then came a turrine with three chunks as big as my fist and a few veggies. I ate, but not too much as I knew dessert was still coming. The waiter and two busboys kept asking if it was good and I said, “ Yes ,it was very good but just too much food to eat it all.”

At one point the chef walked across the restaurant and patted my arm and smiled as he passed.

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That is a serving spoon in the picture, not a teaspoon.

When dessert time came, the waiter brought me a huge bowl of pudding – the same size they were putting in front of families of four. With the pudding comes a dish of toasted nuts and largely grated coconut and another dish of almond flavored stuff  – all to garnish the pudding. Then he brought two more desserts before I had a chance to start on the pudding.

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Assorted desserts

I ate all I could hold and wanted to go on eating pudding the rest of the day, but could not possibly hold another bite. I told the plate removal guy that, but he smiled and I knew he didn’t understand. My waiter rushed over and said, “You told my colleague something and he doesn’t know what you said. Is there a problem?” I explained that, no, it was all great and I would like to go on eating pudding the rest of the day but couldn’t hold any more and that I was ready for the check.

We did the bill and I personally handed the waiter a quality tip. Gratuity is included with the cost of your meals in Paris, but this guy really went out of his way for me. As I left, I said my only regret was that I couldn’t eat it all. He said, “Yes, yes. Oh, and chef is outside; you must speak to him.” He went out with me and interrupted the chef’s conversation with someone. I said how good the food was, but there was so much. (I did not want him to be offended because of so many leftovers.) I commented specifically on how great the pudding was. He shook my hand, hugged me, and kissed me on both cheeks.

I said my goodbyes and went on down the sidewalk. Soon, one of the waiters was running down the street calling to me. He had my leftover pudding in a bag. The dish was about 6”x4”x3” and full to the brim with pudding and all the trimmings. Fortunately, I had a refrigerator in my room. I had eaten for two hours (well, some time between courses) and felt like I may never need to eat again.

After lunch I returned to my room to rest. There would be fireworks tonight, the only time of the year they are used in Paris. It doesn’t get dark until 10:30-11 and I wanted to for sure be back out for all of that. I napped for 4 hours, and was ready to go when I woke up at 9 to head out again. No supper needed that night.

I had checked ahead of time and found what I figured would be my best seat to see both the fireworks and the ET without having to get into the crowd at the base of the tower. I found my planned spot by the river empty when I arrived and was able to sit on a light pole base. Soon others arrived and the celebration continued.

Fireworks were over about midnight and I walked back to the hotel. The city was well lit and lots of people around so it didn’t feel uncomfortable at all to be out walking this late at night.

Day 4 – I had two great confidence victories today.

I took my first trip on the Metro. I had been told how it works, but nothing prepared me for something I had not seen before. However, once I entered the Metro tunnel, it was all as I had been told and very, very easy to maneuver. I had planned ahead and knew the colors and numbers I was looking for because I knew I would have to change trains on the route to the eastern part of the city. Everything worked perfectly and I came out of the Metro exactly where I wanted to. I felt like I could do anything now.

As I came out of the Metro, I was across the river from Notre Dame. I visited inside and out of the cathedral. Notre Dame is on the Isle de Cite.

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Notre Dame in the early morning mist

My next stop would be on the neighboring island, Isle St. Louis. If you are going to Paris, be sure to check out tomsguidetoparis.com. Tom has a tremendous amount of information on his site. Many links, like “strange and interesting walks,” take one to places that most tourists never find – at least on their first trip to Paris.

Tom says you are a wimp if you can’t walk all the way around Isle St. Louis. So I took that as a challenge and did just that. There are many buildings around the perimeter of the island that were build in the 15th century and plaques that tell the famous people who once lived there. It was so quiet and peaceful. 535531

Other popular spots on Isle St. Louis are the Berthillon ice cream factory and outlets. I intended to partake, but they weren’t open this early in the morning.

I decided to stop at the post office where I could get stamps to mail post cards. Once in the post office, I asked if the clerk spoke English and it was obvious she didn’t speak any. So I managed the entire purchase and finding out where to deposit the cards in French. Yeah me!

I followed Tom’s directions back across the river to the Latin Quarter and found the Rue de Bievre, a street that used to be a river until they put the river underground. The buildings there are said to have several layers of basements down as low as the bottom of the Seine. Within the next couple of blocks, I purchased the required Paris T-shirt and, of course, my Paris snowman Christmas ornament. I next visited St. Julien le Pauvre church. This church was built in 1165, almost 200 years before Notre Dame was open for business.

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St. Julien le Pauvre

There is a beautiful garden nearby and a pleasant place for a rest and a snack.

In the same area is the Shakespeare and Company bookstore, which is worth looking up online.562

The next big thing I wanted to see in this area was the Arene de Lutece, a genuine Roman Arena. As I started walking far away from where I had been, I wondered, does Tom really know what he is getting me into? Will there be any people there? Will I really want to be in that area? I decided that Tom wouldn’t have sent me there without warning if there were a problem and, if I felt challenged, all I had to do was turn around and go back the way I had come. However, it was easy to find and many others had found it also. There were people sitting and reading, family picnics, and children playing inside the arena. What a find! So much history here!

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I was getting tired so studied the map to find the short cut to Luxembourg gardens. I sat there and rested for a while and watched children playing with toy sail boats in the pond.610

 

 

 

 

Day 5 – Day five was a Saturday. I spent the morning walking around without a map and seeing where I ended up and finding my way back to the hotel feeling very confident and proud of myself. I also made one last visit to the Eiffel Tower.657

Then it was time for the most important thing on this trip – second only to the Eiffel Tower. On this day I was going to Giverny  – Monet’s home. I had reserved a mini van tour and there were only 3 other ladies on the trip (from Australia, Arizona, and Florida). It was a wonderful trip to Giverny. I did visit the home, but actually spent most of my time in the gardens and at the water lily pond.

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Day 6 – Time to head home. This was a dream come true and I couldn’t wait to go to Paris again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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