We left home on 4/30/18,( six days before the start of the tour )and stayed in Paris. We flew Aer Lingus on the direct flight from Hartford (BDL) to Dublin and transferred to Paris CDG. The Rick Steves Paris guidebook enabled us to find a great place to stay in the Latin Quarter - the Hotel des Grandes Ecoles. https://www.hotel-grandes-ecoles.com/. The setting was beautiful - quiet yet convenient to everything. For dinner, we would often buy takeaway food and a bottle of wine and eat in the garden. On our first morning, we met a woman who stays at this hotel twice a year, and has been doing so for the past seven years. A couple of days later, we talked to another couple who had been coming to the Hotel des Grandes Ecoles for 20 years. Toward the end of our stay, we met a woman from Canada who had been coming to the hotel every year since she was a teenager - 40 years ago! She said: I have travelled all over the world, and this hotel is my favorite spot.
Tuesday was the May 1st holiday, so many attractions were closed in Paris. However, it didn’t matter much to us since we were still recovering from our overnight flight. There was a peaceful Mayday demonstration with plenty of attention from the Police Nationale. On the next day we purchased four-day museum passes at the Pantheon. We had been to most of the major museums before, so this time we spent 2-3 hours in each one. The Musee de l’Orangerie had an excellent exhibit on Monet’s work vis a vis Abstract Expressionism. It was good to be able to visit the Picasso Museum, which was closed for renovations on our last visit to Pairs. We enjoyed a return visit to the Rodin Museum, which had been partially closed the last time. A special find on this trip was the Musee Marmottan, which contains the world’s largest collection of Monet paintings including Impression Sunrise.. At the Louvre we met an Australian couple with whom we had an interesting cultural exchange conversation.
On Sunday May 6th we walked from our hotel to Gare Austerlitz and caught a train to Chartres. During the layover in Voves, we had the fun of meeting four of our tour members. There was some confusion about train travel from Paris to Chartres. Ordinarily there are frequent one hour direct trains from Gare Montparnasse to Chartres. I had been informed that work was being done at Gare Montparnasse on Sunday May 6th, and that alternate routes were available via Gare Austerlitz. The alternate routing took several hours including a lengthy layover in Voves. However, upon retrieving our tickets at Gare Austerlitz on May 5th, we were told that we could have travelled from Gare Montparnasse after all.
**The next section of this report covers the tour itself. I will copy the daily itinerary from the RS website and add my own comments**