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Tour Report: Paris and the Heart of France

I had hoped to finish this this weekend, but as often happens, life got in the way. :-) So here's the first installment. I'll add to it starting tomorrow, and hope to finish in the next couple of days. And I'll borrow Gretchen's comment in her thread: Spoiler alert: This is a great tour.

We took the May 21 Paris and Heart of France tour this year, our 13th RS tour. Our guide was Michaelanne Jerome. She has been with RSE for over 20 years, in a number of roles. She is American, but went to high school in France, and continues to spend a lot of time there. Our bus drivers were Matt and Annie, a married couple from Belgium. The bus was roomy and comfortable. Matt and Annie had both hot and cold drinks available for purchase at very reasonable prices.

The group: Our group had 26 people; including 9 couples, 5 single women, and a family of three. Age range was from 18 to upper 70s; about half the people were retired. As it happened, we knew a number of people on this tour ahead of time. As some of you already know, Kim and I are members of a travel group in the Tulsa area. Kim suggested about a year ago that we might enjoy traveling together. So as soon as the 2019 tours were announced, we sat down with a calendar, and came up with this tour. Kim's husband David, my DH Stan, and another of our travel group and her husband, Eileen and Gary, all signed on. In addition, Debbie, a friend that we met a couple of years ago on the Village Italy tour also thought this sounded like a great tour, and signed up as well. So there were 7 of us who were friends or acquaintances in the group.

Stan and I have been on tours where groups of friends or relatives traveled together and tended to exclude others. We vowed not to do that. So even though we had ties to 5 other folks, we made sure that we spent time with the other people in our tour. But as Kim said before we went “At least we'll only have to learn 19 new names!”

We were a little surprised that the group never really "clicked." Everyone was nice, everyone liked everyone else (I think) but we never really gelled as a group. But that happens sometimes.

Packing: This section will be familiar to those of you who read my Eastern France report, although I've added a few minor details; skip it if you want.

Stan and I each took an Appenzell backpack and one personal item. My personal item was a smallish (about 12” x 8” x 4”) bag I got as a premium for renewing our Sierra Club membership. Stan carries an older laptop bag, without the laptop. This was his first time to use the Appenzell; usually he carries a smaller, lighter backpack that he's had for years, possibly since we were students.

His Appenzell and laptop case each weighed in at 10 pounds. My Appenzell was 13 pounds, but my shoulder bag was only 7. Here's what I packed:

  • 3 pairs of slacks, including one very light, loosely cut linen blend, which I almost never wore because it was rainy and chilly much of the tour; of the others, one was a dark gray tweed, the other off-white.
  • 5 tops, 3 long sleeved, two short sleeved. One top was very heavy, the others were more lightweight. Mixed colors, but all went with my decidedly neutral pants.
  • one cardigan
  • one very light jacket
  • one windbreaker, the kind that folds into its own pocket
  • 2 bras
  • 4 pairs of underpants
  • 4 pairs of socks
  • 2 pairs of shoes
  • 1 set of silk long underwear – which I was definitely glad to have in Chamonix
  • 1 set of “comfy clothes,” including a tee shirt and a pair of light jersey pants. These were my sleep clothes, as well as my lounging-around-the-room clothes.
  • 1 hat – a white fedora I picked up on a tour in England in 2016

I also bought a rain jacket partway through this tour. The jacket came in very handy, but was heavy and didn't fit into my bags, so I had to either wear or carry it whenever we traveled.

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Also in my bags were toiletries for both of us, our 3-1-1 bag, my supplements, useful odds and ends such as tweezers and a tiny sewing kit, my journal, and all the paperwork we would need. I also had a tablet that I brought to Skype with my dad, who at 91 gets very uncomfortable when I'm not home. My luxury item was a separate keyboard for the tablet. It added a pound or so, and took up valuable space, but it did come in handy when I had to send longer emails or handle business long-distance.

Stan carried all his clothes, (3 pairs of slacks, 4 shirts, 4 or 5 tee shirts, 2 pairs of shoes, undies, socks, comfies, a jacket, and a cap,) his supplements, plus the maps and guidebooks. On the way home he carried all the souvenirs and gifts, and I took the dirty laundry.

We realized along the way that we had too many socks, since we both wore the same size and style, and he decided he had brought too many shirts. Other than that, we were pleased with what we brought.

Hotels and meals: Most of the hotels were smaller and often a bit quirky – what I think of as Rick Steves hotels. As is common on the longer tours, the first and last hotels, both in Paris, were business class. And, as is usual for me, those were my least favorite hotels on the tour. I find they tend to have very nice public areas, but rooms that are smaller and not very interesting.

All the hotels were comfortable; I made very few notes about them in my log. Most had (I think) elevators. I know the first and last did; I'll mention in the text at least one that I'm sure didn't. And I don't know about air conditioning; we never use it so I don't pay much attention to it. As it happened, we had quite a bit of cool, wet weather on this tour, so a/c may not have been much of a factor for people.

All the hotels provided buffet breakfasts of cheese, cold cuts, a selection of breads, usually some fruit, sometimes cereals. Then coffee, tea, juice, water, and milk were always available. The group meals were uniformly good; I'll comment on a few of them later.

Pre-tour, Paris: Our tour was to begin Tuesday afternoon; Stan and I arrived in Paris mid-day the preceding Saturday. We took the Bus Direct from CDG to the Eiffel Tower. We were booked into the Beaugency near Rue Cler for our pre-tour stay. Our friend Debbie was staying in the same area, at the Champ de Mars. We opted to stay in the 7th for several reasons. One, we know the neighborhood. We have some favorite restaurants, I know the parish church, we know where the metro stops are. And secondly, we had stayed at the Beaugency before, and liked it. And it was significantly cheaper than the tour hotel. Our other Oklahoma friends booked the tour hotel, for the convenience.

We wanted to get rested up and un-jetlagged before the tour, but we did have a few activities planned. Sunday afternoon Stan and I had reservations for the Courtauld Exhibit at the Louis Vuitton Foundations, and it was spectacular. Monday morning the 7 of us met up with an Oklahoma girl we knew who lives and works in Paris. She had come to one of our travel groups recently, so we paid her a return visit. Then that evening, we all took a champagne cruise on the Seine that Debby had found. It was quite nice; I don't care for Seine cruises, but this one was fine. A smaller, quieter group, and, well, champagne!

Day 1 of the tour, Tuesday, Paris: We checked out of our hotel, and took the Metro to Montmartre, where we checked into the b-Montmartre. We still had some time before the first group meeting, so we explored the neighborhood a bit and found lunch at a cute little Argentinian place nearby.

The group gathered at 5:00, and guide Michaelanne gave us the usual overview of the tour. After a brief walking tour of the area, we headed right to dinner. The first group dinner is always fun, a chance to start getting to know some of the people we're going to be spending a lot of time with.

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Your report is off to a nice start. I love that you met up with an Oklahoma girl who lives in Paris! That’s one of the lovely things about this forum. Looking forward to your next installment.

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Jane - Paris and the HOF was our first RS tour in 2014 and Michaelanne was our guide. Loved her. Looking forward to reminiscing about this tour via your trip report.

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Mary, next time you're bored on a Saturday morning, let's say the third Saturday of any given month, pop on over to our Tulsa Area Rick Steves Travel Group meeting! It's doable, I understand, although whenever we've headed over your way we've taken the back roads, and it's a major undertaking.

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Dinner was at the BBB, and was good. We had cucumber gazpacho and salmon. Chocolate mousse for the sugar-eaters; I had a cheese plate. I think wine was included with this meal, but I'm not sure. After dinner most everyone returned to the hotel; everyone is tired, especially the folks who just arrived today.

Day 2, Wednesday, Paris: We had breakfast at the hotel; it was fine, but crowded. Then the group gathered for our first foray into the streets of Paris. Michaelanne gathered us all at the nearest Metro stop for a lesson in navigating the system. She passed out Metro tickets and we were on our way. The first stop – Île de la Cité and Sainte-Chapelle. We had all been provided with 3-day museum passes, a great perk. Ste-Chapelle is magnificent; I spent more time this visit enjoying the lower section of the structure, noting the carvings and painted walls and columns, but of course I headed up the spiral staircase to marvel at the stained glass.

After the Ste-Chapelle, we headed toward Notre Dame. Of course we couldn't go inside, but Michaelanne found a spot from which we could see much of the building. She told us the damage was major, but not as bad as some people think. She also said – and this was news to us – that providentially, there had been a full-scale fire drill at Notre Dame the week before the fire! So all the emergency personnel knew exactly what to do, and the actual damage was much less than it might have been.

We then wandered through the Latin Quarter, with Michaelanne acting as local guide. We broke up about noon, with the rest of the day free. One of the things I liked about this tour was all the free time. On reflection, though, I wonder if some of the people who were new to European travel found themselves at a loss. Just a thought. And of course our guide had plenty of suggestions for meals and activities.

We found a good lunch at a café on Blvd St Germain (great quiche!) and then went to the Musée des Arts et Metiers – Museum of Arts and Crafts. I recommend this highly. It's a delightful history of technology, so don't let the name of the place mislead you. Everything from abacuses (abaci?) to smart phones, from one of the very first airplanes (it's hanging there, looking like a bat!) to space flight. And many many other things as well. We spent the entire afternoon there. In fact, we had to leave because they were closing the place down. Oh, and they have Foucault's pendulum, as well.

We headed back to the hotel, and then went out to dinner in the neighborhood. One of our tour mates was with us, and we tried a place called Franquette, 8 Rue des Dames. Very good, very different. There's a very limited chalkboard menu, and the idea is to order small plates to share. We had grilled octopus, simmered pork, and two kinds of ravioli.

We headed back to the hotel to see if any other tour members were around in the bar, but couldn't find any. So we called it a day. A good day.

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Enjoying your report Jane. We plan to sign up for 2020 tour when they are out, so very interested in the rest of your report!

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Yay, another trip report from Jane!! :)) This is another tour we hope to take so am bookmarking. Thank you so much for these.

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Thank you so much for going to the trouble of writing up and posting! I had Annie and Matt for my HOF tour as well - what a fun couple! I thought they were retiring but I'm glad they are still driving.

I was so happy to read your comment about being inclusive even though you were in a group of friends. I've had both experiences. One time 11 people were traveling together and that really changed the dynamic but other times I've experienced groups of 6-7 that were very open and moved within the larger group. I've also had groups that didn't gel - which is always a bit odd.

Enjoying your journey and reliving mine!

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Everyone was nice, everyone liked everyone else (I think) but we never really gelled as a group. But that happens sometimes.

I ask without rancor - what makes a group "gel" if it isn't enough that everyone was nice and appeared to like each other?

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Trayla, I don't know. Stan had a long discussion about this with the guide on our Eastern France tour; she said sometimes groups work, and sometimes they don't. Out of the 14 tours we have taken, I'd say 4 of them had that special relationship.

The difference feels like traveling with acquaintances as compared to traveling with close friends. I was with a group many years ago that reminded me of the line from a Muppet Movie song, talking about "old friends you've just met."

It adds to the pleasure of the tour, adds a level of closeness. Which not everybody would appreciate, I imagine. It doesn't mean we spent all our time in each other's pockets, not at all.

Our friend Kim, who was also on this tour, agreed about the group dynamics. She had also told me about two different Ireland tours she has taken; one had that special group feeling, and the second one didn't. She said it made a lot of difference in her level of enjoyment of the tours.

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Day 3, Thursday, Paris: After breakfast, the group headed back to the heart of Paris to meet our local guide Ineke. She is Dutch, but has lived for many years in Paris. We took a walking tour of the Les Halles region (yes, I know “the Les” is redundant.) We wandered through some small neighborhood shopping streets, where we were treated to samples of cheese, olives, sausages, and other local goodies. We also visited the beautiful St Eustache church, and a couple of early 20th century shopping galleries.

Once again, we were released about lunchtime, and were free for the rest of the day. Stan and I headed back to the hotel neighborhood, and from there walked up up up to the top of Montmartre. We spent most of the afternoon at the Musée de Montmartre, which Ihighly recommend. Lots of exhibits about the glory days of the cabarets, with plenty of artifacts. But the highlight for us was the interesting exhibits on two artists with whom we were unfamiliar: Georges Dorignac and Suzanne Valadon. Wow! We loved both of them, but were blown away by Valadon. By the way, Suzanne Valadon is the mother of Maurice Utrillo. And her apartment and studio are in the museum.

As an aside, we also had a good, light, inexpensive lunch at the museum café.

Back to home base, and out to dinner at a neighborhood restaurant, Le Moncey. I mention this because it looks like not much from the street, but had great food (kidneys for me, beef brochette for Stan) and some special “back door moments” with our waiter. He good-naturedly corrected my French fairly early in the ordering stage of the meal, and then seemed to more or less adopt us. We chatted, joked, and had a lovely time.

Finally we returned to the hotel to shower and pack. Uh-oh, the hot water in the shower doesn't work. And it's way too late to ask for a repair. So it was sponge bath and pack.

Speaking of showers, one of our group had a freak accident in the shower that had him almost disabled. The big rain-type shower head fell off while he was showering, and put a nasty gash in his foot. He spent almost the rest of the tour using crutches and canes.

We also had one member (that fellow's wife) who took a tumble on the bridge near Notre Dame, and two people who were sick much of the tour – two of our Oklahoma friends. The rest of us began looking nervous, crossing our fingers and tossing salt over our shoulders.

Day 4, Friday, Guédelon and Bourges: Finally, we're on our way. We met our drivers, Annie and Matt, and loaded up for Guédelon. I must say that this one sight is the main reason we chose this tour. Not the only one, but we've been wanting to see this ever since we first heard about it.

Guédelon is the reconstruction of a 13th century castle, using (almost exclusively) 13th century tools and techniques. The work is still being done, and it'll be a while before it is completed. All (well, almost all) of the building materials – stone, sand, clay – come from within a few miles of the construction site. The workers dress in 13th century garb, with the legally required addition of steel-toed boots.

This is a grand thing, and our guide Hein was knowledgeable and approachable. He has worked there for years, previously as a stone mason, now as a guide and outreach person. My one picky complaint: several of us, me included, found is accent very difficult to understand. But when we asked him to repeat something, he did so cheerfully.

A sandwich, salad, and cider lunch had been arranged for us (by our guide Michaelanne) and it was quite pleasant.

We would all have gladly spent more time there (I guess that's my second complaint – no time to just wander around and check out the various workshops) but it was time to head for Bourges.

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Our Bourges hotel was the Best Western Hôtel d'Angleterre. A few people were worried about the “Best Western” part of the name, but Michaelanne explained that using the name gives some of the local hotels access to BW's websites. And indeed, there was nothing American motel-like about the hotel. Our room was nice – I didn't make any other notes about it.

As soon as we had checked in, we met local guide Helena, who took us on a walking tour. The highlight of the tour was the St-Etienne cathedral, built at the same time as the Paris Notre Dame, but with better stained glass windows. Helena spent some time teaching us how to “read” the windows to decipher their meaning.

Our group dinner was good; we had an assortment of entrées (first course, not mains), followed by good fresh-water fish. I headed back to the hotel early to Skype my dad, and stopped off at the hotel bar to buy a split of wine. (We hadn't had time today to do any shopping at all.) Then a hot shower, and rest. This is only a one night stay, which is unfortunate. I'd love a chance to explore Bourges more.

Day 5, Saturday, Amboise: Before leaving Bourges, we visited the bustling (and big) market. Our assignment was to buy something for ourselves for a picnic lunch later. Stan and I ended up with smoked salmon, fruit, bread, and sparkling apple juice. (Not cider – there were a few people on the tour who didn't drink alcohol, and we thought we'd get something we could share with them.)

Some of our group had problems; they didn't speak French and had no idea how to comport themselves at the market and get what they wanted. I mentioned in my tour evaluation that on another tour (Village Italy) we had a similar activity, but that time each person was assigned something specific to get: bread, cheese, fruit, meat, etc. I think that worked out better. We only had to approach one stall with no or minimal language skills, and ended up sharing everything with everyone.

Then off to the bus. We first stopped at the Souterrains winery for a wine and cheese tasting. We tried 3 wines, and 3 locally made goat cheeses. The proprietor was young, idealistic, and very personable. He told us about having bought this old castle in the hopes of renovating it while reinvigorating the vineyards. This was a great stop, and turned out to be the site of our picnic, as well. We sat under the trees with our purchases of that morning, and the winery, much to our surprise (and pleasure) opened several more bottles of wine for us to enjoy.

After lunch there was a little time to explore the castle and grounds, but not much. We did buy a bottle of wine though, to enjoy at the hotel.

From the winery we went straight to the Chambord Chateau. We had a fair amount of time here on our own, and it was indeed impressive. It is supposed that at least part of the Chateau was designed by Leonardo da Vinci, or at least inspired by some of his designs. The grounds are beautiful, as well.

Then it was on to Amboise. We checked into the hotel Le Belle-Vue, which we quite liked. I did note in Rick's France book that he says this hotel does not have air conditioning, so that might be something to remember.

We had a group dinner in the hotel restaurant, and it was good. The amuse bouche of blood sausage in a crispy crust was not universally loved, but I thought it was good. After that was a foie gras appetizer, and pork with polenta and salad. Alcohol was not included with this meal; Stan and I ordered and enjoyed a good Belgian beer.

After this long, eventful day, most folks turned in early. Including us.

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Day 6, Sunday, Amboise: Breakfast at the hotel was typical, and fine. The group activity for today was a trip to Chateau de Chenonceau. I skipped this one, though. Two chateaux in one weekend are enough for me, and I wanted to go to church. So I spent the morning following the path along the river that our hotel fronts, and exploring Amboise's Sunday market. The path ended near the 11th century church I had chosen for Mass.

{When I checked the internet this morning, I learned that our part of Oklahoma had been swept by tornadoes in the wee hours of that morning. Two of them had hit our small town. But providentially, nobody was seriously hurt, although there was a lot of property damage. That was about 6 weeks ago, and there are still lots of repairs going on in our town. When the rest of our group got back from the chateau, I let Kim and Eileen know about the storms. They checked, and their areas had escaped damage.}

The rest of the day was free. Stan and I (and many others from our group) went to Chateau du Close Lucé, Leonardo's last home. This was fascinating, as you might expect. It had been the childhood home of King François I, who had invited Leonardo to live there. Many of the rooms are furnished as they were when François and his sister were children; others are from Leonardo's time. And the basement is filled with models of many of Leonardo's inventions, as well as many sketches and drawings of ideas he had had, but which were never realized.

There's a nice café at the Clos, where joined some tour mates for lunch. The extensive grounds are also a draw, but we skipped those and opted for a long walk through town. We met up with some other tour mates for dinner, then went back to the hotel to repack. We're off to Mont St-Michel tomorrow, and we've been advised to just take one small bag to the island.

Day 7, Monday, Mont St-Michel: We left the hotel after an early breakfast, and headed for Brittany and Normandy. Our lunch stop was at the village of Fougéres, where several of us tried galettes (savory buckwheat crepes, with many possible fillings,) and the local cider. We had a bit of time tom walk around the town, and especially enjoyed the beautiful church of St-Sulpice.

Then on to Mont St-Michel, where we booking into the St-Pierre hotel. This was indeed a quirky rooming situation. Our group was split into three groups; the cuts were made in part on our physical abilities. Stan and I ended up at La Croise, just up the street. Our group didn't have to climb up too many flights of stairs (I think we were on the second floor up - 3rd floor by our standards,) but we did have to ascend and descend a very narrow circular staircase.

We had some free time before dinner, so Stan and I walked up to the abbey to see how long it took to get there. I planned to attend Lauds at the abbey the next morning, and we had been warned that if we were even 30 seconds late, we would not be allowed in.

Then we meandered our way back to the hotel for a bit of a rest, then back to the St-Pierre to meet the group for dinner. This was a very good group dinner. I noted in my log that this was the best group meal of the tour. Many of us started with a mixed seafood platter as an appetizer, and it was generous enough that it could easily have served as a main course. After the entrée (appetizer) I chose the pré-salé lamb chops, a local specialty. The sheep graze in salt marshes, hence the “presalted” name. They were very good. Stan had duck confit which was also excellent, and we split a bottle of cider. This was a great meal, and a very pleasant evening. The only thing that marred it for me was the noise level of the group, which is becoming my pet peeve on these tours.

But a lovely time nonetheless, after which we headed back to our room. A number of our group went back out later to enjoy the view by moonlight.

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Day 8, Tuesday, Mont St-Michel and Bayeux: Up early to attend Lauds at the abbey, only to discover that the actual abbey was twice as far up as we had been led to believe! But I (and several other tour mates were at the gate in good time, so one of the monks let us in and led us up up up up to the chapel where the service was to be held.

It was lovely, by the way. Monks and nuns some songs with which we were not familiar, and also read a number of scriptural passages. We were given hymnals to follow along, which was very thoughtful. The service lasted about 30 minutes. Then down down down to the hotel to pack and find breakfast. We weren't done with Mont St-Michel yet, but Michaelanne had us be packed and ready to go when we came to breakfast. Then we me our local guide for a tour of the island, ending up at the abbey once again. (If anyone's counting, that's three times I climbed those stairs!

The nicest thing about the guided tour was that it started early enough that we were out before the crowds hit. Have I mentioned the crowds? Yikes. During the day, the island is packed, shoulder to shoulder, with tourists and pilgrims. Tens of thousands of them. Which is why Rick arranges for the tour to spend the night on the island, so we have late evening and early morning crowd-free. Thank you, Rick.

After the tour we grabbed our bags, being gladder than ever that we had been advised to bring a bare minimum to the island. Back to the bus, which headed off toward Bayeux, stopping for lunch along the way. In Bayeux we checked into the Hotel d'Argouges. Our room was nice – I don't remember much about it. After checking in, Michaelanne led us on a brief orientation walk of Bayeux, pointing out shops, restaurants, and the Cathedral. Then it was time to go see the famous tapestry.

This, folks was my “wow moment.” I have of course seen pictures of the tapestry (which isn't a tapestry at all; it's embroidered,) but I was still gobsmacked when I saw it in person. The tapestry is almost as long as a football field (well, 230 feet) and about 20 inches tall. It is displayed in its full length, as the viewer wanders through a long, switch-back like line. The tapestry is protected behind glass, but we are only inches from it, so we can see every stitch. Every beautiful, careful, creative, colorful, meaningful, even sometimes humorous, stitch. Go. See it.

There's also a museum, and a good film that runs every 15 minutes or so, alternating French and English. Go.

When we finally had to leave because the place was closing, we went looking for dinner. We had a nice meal at Le Drakkar. Good pizza, and I had a wonderful salad with lots of ingredients. I love those French salads that often have cheese, meat, eggs, several kinds of vegetables... I have had salads that included escargot, and once squid fritters. And don't forget chicken or duck gizzard salad – way better than it sounds.

Back to the hotel; Stan headed out to the garden to have a drink with friends; I Skyped my dad and enjoyed the quiet.

Day 9, Wednesday, Normandy beaches: This was another wonderful day, and I'm probably going to skimp a bit on the descriptions. After breakfast (I noted in my log the cheese was particularly good – must have been local) we loaded up the bus to tour the D-Day beaches. We picked up our local guide Sylvain Kast along the way. Our first stop was at one of the small German cemeteries. As we wandered, Sylvain made sure we read some of the grave markers, showing us that many of the dead were not even German, they were conscripts. And there were some who were volunteers from other countries; not because they supported the Fascist cause, but because they opposed the British – some of these were from India, for example, which was still fighting for its freedom from Britain.

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Then on to Utah beach, where we toured the museum and had a pre-arranged lunch of sandwiches and chips. No wine or beer; that would have been disrespectful.

We also visited Pointe du Hoc, as well as Omaha beach. At each of these places, Sylvain did a great job of describing to us the troop placements, the ships and landing craft coming in, the German positions on the cliff tops... I can't do justice to the story, so I'm not going to try. I will say Stan and I were glad we had read “The Longest Day,” before we came, as well as “Is Paris Burning.”

The D-Day tour ended at the American Cemetery, where we watched the flag lowering ceremony. I was fortunate to be standing near a group of American soldiers, who stood at attention, saluting, through the entire ceremony. Another wow moment. Unfortunately, we couldn't wander through the cemetery, because it was cordoned off. This was the week before D-Day, and security was tight because of all the world leaders who would be attending the 75th anniversary observances.

It was a quiet group on the drive back to Bayeux, but once at the hotel Michaelanne had arranged a happy hour. We still had half our lunch sandwiches, so we had dinner in our room. We did head out for coffee, only to find that almost no place was open! This is a small town that pretty much rolls up the sidewalks at 7:00. We did finally find a bar tabac where we could get coffee, then back to the hotel to pack.

Day 10, Thursday, Paris, via Giverny: After breakfast we loaded the bus, heading back to Paris. We can't believe it, but this is the last full day of the tour. We stopped on the way at Giverny, to enjoy Monet's house, studio, and of course, his famous gardens. This was nice, but not the special treat I was expecting. The problem was, it was Ascension Thursday, which made this a holiday weekend. And we got there shortly before lunchtime. More shoulder-to-shoulder crowds in the garden, with long lines for the house and studio. And once we made it into the house, the crowd was even more oppressive. So I'm sorry to say Stan and I skipped out. Someday we will return, but it will be either very early or very late in the day, and definitely not on a holiday. I understand that Giverny is a great day trip from Paris.

We did have a surprisingly good lunch at a bar/café/cafeteria just up the street. I don't know why we were surprised; we never had a bad meal in France, or even a mediocre one. But this is the kind of place where one might expect microwaved everything, with sandwiches on cheap sliced bread. Nope, everything was delicious. We had soups, salads, sandwiches, and of course wine and cider. We ended up sharing a table with about 6 or 7 of our tour mates, some of whom we hadn't spent much time with yet, so that was nice.

Then on to Paris, where we said good-bye to Matt and Annie, then checked into the Hotel Waldorf Trocadero. Our room was fine, bigger than most that we'd had on the tour. The bathroom had a funky smell though, that didn't dissipate when we opened the window. The public areas were quite nice, with a lounge with coffee and tea always available, and plenty of magazines and newspapers. I am continuing to develop my hypothesis that business class hotels put all their resources into the public areas, the lobby, bar, lounge, breakfast room, an skimp on the guests' rooms. I'll continue to research this, and will report back to you.

We had some time before dinner, so Stan and I walked around the neighborhood, checking out transportation choices for tomorrow. There are a couple of metro and bus stops within 2 or 3 blocks, so we're good.

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Then back to meet the group for our final dinner together. We ate at Viktor, which is just down the street from the hotel. It was pretty good, and as a special treat, wine was included. I had fish, and finally had a chance to try oeuf meurette – egg poached in wine sauce. Again, it's much better than it sounds.

Out for a long walk after dinner, than back to the hotel to pack; we're leaving tomorrow.

Day 11, Friday, Paris: As those of you who have taken tours know, the last day has no planned activities. Breakfast is provided, and that's all. We did manage to find a number of our tour mates for a last hug and address exchange. Our TGV to Reims, where we would be joining the Best of Eastern France tour, didn't leave until midday, so we sat in the lounge for a while with some folks who were staying on a few days. Then out to the Metro station, to the Gare de l'Est.

I'm planning to revisit this thread probably tomorrow, to give a couple more thoughts about the tour. It was a very good tour, but I'd like to sleep on what I've written here before I sign off.

Thanks for sticking with me.

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Jane - I had some comments but my internet kept dropping me and lost everything I typed. I want to make a few comments, don't want to take over your trip report. I was going to do one this weekend and it did the same thing. I am so frustrated!!

Posted by
812 posts

am going to try this again.... hate my computer, had things typed and lost it!

I don't want to hijack Jane's excellent trip report but want to agree with her on a few things, etc.

On her comment about group "clicking". I felt that we never clicked either, but it may be for me because I was sick and DH was sick. It all started on our previous tour 7 day London tour. Evidently, their English sycamore trees were in full bloom and causing havoc on my allergies. With all the drugs I brought from home and bought in Europe, I could open my own pharmacy. I think I went to the pharmacy in London and Paris 6-7 to get drugs!! lol So It is probably just me, since I did not feel well to be social. Unfortunetly, I was looking forward so much to this trip, i really did not enjoy it. Nothing again RS, just ill. So glad Jane is writing an excellent report. It all seems a blurr to me and can't give a good report. I refer this trip as my trip from hell, jokely. My DH said it was not all that bad. Guess we are ready to go again somewhere next year. Ha. He even had to replace his suitcase, which he did upon getting home.
Hotels: I agree some are RS typical "quirky" style. I really had no issues with them. All seemed to have enough room for a European hotel. B Montmartre hotel was a very small room, but they sure were accommodating and staff very helpful to us "sickys". I thank them very much!!
I am going to do another reply on what we did 3 days prior.... Jane is doing an excellent job on our whole tour! Great job!

EDIT: forgot about food: As much as I can recall, I tried several different types of food. Had lamb ( which I am not that crazy about. Had mussels (which I have had on previous RS tours, tried their cheese sandwiches, omelettes.. Food wass pretty good.
Had some good wine.

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812 posts

Our pre-tour details

We arrived May 18 via eurostar coming off of the 7 day best of London arount 4 pm ish. We caught the Paris metro to our hotel. Very easy.... to do. I am comfortable with London's tube and Paris' metro systems. Got dinner nearby to hotel, then chilled rest of the night. DH started not feeling well tonight.

May 19 - Had prepaid tickets to Versailles. He wanted to go, I have been before We had it all planned out on how to arrive on metro then catching RER C but when we got to Invalides, we were told that it was not running that day. We had to retrace our route back to Montparnass to catch #N train. We arrived on time, stayed until 12:30 or so. Only snacked for lunch, could not tolerate much food today. Returned back to hotel. We had tickets for Eiffel tower tonigt but did not go due to being ill. Gary and Eileen brought us some food. That was nice of them!

May 20 - DH stayed at hotel in am and afternoon, I left to go with group to meet up with Kim from Paris. Then Gary, Eileen and I went to lunch and brough some back to David (DH). Evening our group went to evening seine champaign cruise which I enjoyed. Afterwards, we walked to restuarant for dinner. MISTAKE for us, we should have gone back to hotel, too much for david and i am still muddling thru my coughing spells.

May 21 - we had tickets for Van Gogh exhibit at atelier de lumiers. another thing i was looking forward too! we stayed at hotel, still not good. 5pm meeting in lobby for our group. Then a short neighborhood walk and to dinner. During a quick break, Michaelanne took me to the local pharmacy to help get different meds to try.
May 22 - we took the group tour but broke away after our stop by Notre Dame. Headed back to hotel via stopping for sandwiches and eat in room. chilled rest of day. I asked gary, eileen and david if everyone was up to going to Montmartre/sacre coeur for dinner. rode funnicular to sacre coeur.
May 23 - David finally decided to have the hotel call a doctor to come see him (stubborn!). He was diagnoised with walking pneumonia. Glad I got cash to pay the doctor... and I went off again to get more drugs! I Felt like a druggie!. PLus got us food for lunch/dinner at the market by the hotel. Afternoon, I ventured out on my own to the orangerie(another place I wanted to go). I wanted to see Monet's water lilies, then I decided to run to the louvre....mona lisa, winged victory . Back to hotel via metro and snacked for dinner. Wish David was not soooo stubborn to wait so long for a doctor visit but at least we got drugs to get him better and on the rode tomorrow touring France.

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812 posts

I won't go much into detail of the rest of the tour. But would like to mention.... that the main reason I was looking forward to this trip was Mont St-Michel and the Normandy beaches. Those were my highlights of this tour. Most other stuff was a blurr... Still under the weather and David ill. So glad by the time we got to these to places we were feeling much better, except for my dang cough!! it did lighten up some. Wow Mont St-- Michel.... sooo cool and awesome to be there and spend the night. Just a very moving, place. As some of you know. This was a do or die for my knee replacement. I DID IT. When David and I arrived, dropped our bags off in our room, we walked & walked up and down stairs, shopped (for grands), more walking and stairs. this was amazing.. no pain, no twitch and pinching in the knee as you step down. Going down stairs is the hardest when you have a knee replacement. Then the next morning we had our tour, I kept up, infact, I thought we were moving too slow! Got to the top of the Abbey, easy peasey! I could go again. I really believe this was the best PT recovery process for my knee. Now as I return home now..... it is still going good. Both David and I felt like our tours this years was good on our stamina, thighs and legs.

Now for the Normandy..... it was so emotional experience. I have no words for visiting these sites except humbling, very emotional and what our guys did for us. It brings tears to my eyes. Side note --- when we were in the airport CDG in the waiting area. There were some vets coming off a plane and some excorted by relatives. There were about 10-15 guys...... I just started crying!! And waved to them. When we were at the American cemetery, there were some army guys and went to thank them for their service. We even saw a young man that has our last name. We had a pic taken with him. He was from AZ and said he never met another Prater.

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812 posts

May 30 - Upon return to Paris - After dinner, we went to Troccadero square at night to see the Eiffel tower light up in the evening. Our hotel was nearby.

May 31 - We stayed another day due to flight schedule, it was a pretty good day. we got up and took off to museum Marmotten Monet see more of his paintings and other impressionists. Then lunch at Hard Rock, since we were in the area and I collect the city pins, then off to Pere-Lachaise cemetery for Jim Morrison's grave.
Hot , hot. took a relaxing coke and diet coke break at a cafe by the metro. We were trying to decide what to do next before going back to hotel and packing to leave the next morning. I was looking thru RS Paris book and saw that you could get 30% discount on the tour of Montparnasse view, so we took off. The views were spectacular. Really glad we did that. Had a snack bar there, so we took our time and relaxed with another coke, diet coke. Then metro back to hotel. THis is kinda cheesey.... but we saw a pizza hut down the street from the hotel when we went to Arc the other day. We decided to just get a pizza and take back to hotel for dinner. The hotel was kind to let us eat downstairs in the breakfast area.

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812 posts

well we all survived and have stories to tell. But one more story..... We generally fly United because we can get points and they have been good to us since 2015 but not this year.... another of my trip from hell reason .. was the out going flight. We booked our tickets summer. Had good points, price and flights. When we were in chicago boarding to London, I was first, David scanned his ticket and was told his seat was already taken by another person..... How can this happen, don't know, but the guy who ended up next to me was an issue, guy in front of me an issue and the lady next to him. David was lucky to get a seat right behind me. I thought i was going to be the next fb video "" RS tourist being taken off United flight!" But flights home from Paris were awesome.... dreamliner coming home, comfortable , no one between us on the first two flights, last flight, a nice young college student coming off a mission trip.

Thanks for letting me add my section in. Jane was spot on with our trip.
Happy travels!

Posted by
4453 posts

Kim, thanks for adding your impressions. I posted on another thread how, when you came down successfully from Mon St-Michel, you just beamed! Your smile lit up the whole area.

I had forgotten about your airplane problems. Have you posted a trip report about your Best of London tour? We haven't had time to talk about that one, and since you won't be at this month's Travel Group, it'll be August before I get the details.

I'm glad David wasn't discouraged by his bad health problems on this tour. He did seem to enjoy himself and lighten up quite a bit toward the end of the tour.

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4453 posts

And Kim, don't feel like you hijacked my thread. I was hoping you'd chime in. If you hadn't, I was going to email you a link. I may send Debbie a link, to see if she has any comments about anything I forgot, or that she interpreted differently.

Posted by
5942 posts

Oh goodness Kim I am so sorry, I can’t believe Gary had walking pneumonia!!!! Good grief!!!

I am so glad for your victorious knee and for the magic you felt in Normandy. I am so so sorry neither of you felt well for the trip but so glad that you were able to have those experiences at Mont St-Michel and the Normandy beaches (and even at CDG airport!!).

Thank you both for your “combined” trip report!!

Posted by
49 posts

Jane - I might just have to head over one of these months for a group meeting! We attended the early morning service on Mt Saint-Michel when we were there also. One of my favorite memories of that trip.

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812 posts

Kim @Paris - it was David my Husband. Gary and Eileen were fine :)

Posted by
2202 posts

Thank you Jane (and Kim) for such an enjoyable trip report. My only criticism is that the tour didn't last long enough.

Jane - I am also a fan of the Bayeux Tapestry. When we were there in 2010, the voice of the audioguide commentary reminded me of "Spamalot".

We're staying at the d'Argouges this September. Will try to eat that the Drakkar.

Posted by
812 posts

All tours are not long enough for me. :) Since we are retired ( I just work part time) , we have the time. I like 3 week time frame.

Yes the tapestry was so interesting. I do needlework and work in my LNS and enjoy it.

Posted by
189 posts

This was so fun to read after being on the same tour a week earlier! We also had the same bus drivers and some of the same local guides and stayed at the the same hotels. Thanks for helping me relive it!

Wasn’t Laudes at MSM Amazing?!? I could live in Bourges or Bayeux.

We were in Paris for a few days before our tour and stayed in the 2nd right by St Eustache and shopped & ate dinner on that cute little market street.

We were lucky our group definitely jelled we were quite lucky!