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France - Travel Update

Reaching Paris tomorrow morning at 9:18am. Opened this thread today just so I can update it daily with the good, bad and ugly of my trip :). Here is the overall plan:

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0AnrLPwp6tHypdDRLeWFsT1VmLU1QMFUxS0RQcWZ0SHc&usp=drive_web#gid=22

France is country 4 on my list. I've been through London, Brussels and Amsterdam already. Hopefully Paris is as nice as the rest and we have a lot of great memories to take back :)

Posted by
7653 posts

Hey Arvind, glad you made it! So, are you going to Italy after all?

We just returned from our 2 weeks in Scotland, and one of our best meals was at an Indian restaurant in Edinburgh. We went to another in Fort William. Happy travels!

Posted by
7653 posts

Ok, now I saw you'd posted other reports for your other countries. Hope your Dad's knees aren't giving him too much trouble. I'm not going to try to offer medical advice, but if you do wind up needing to get some Ibuprofen in Europe, it will be more expensive than in the USA, but will likely come in stronger doses, too.

Posted by
137 posts

@Cyn: Good to see you again and glad you enjoyed your trip in Scotland :). Indeed I added Italy in after all..haha. And Indian food is indeed delicious, did you eat vegetarian food too by some freaky coincidence? :). If not, try that out next time. Dad's plugging on with his knee, but it isn't fun for any of us. Overall though, its been quite nice. My hotel Internet has been pretty bad :( so I haven't been able to post as regularly and will now write this from an internet cafe.

Posted by
137 posts

Day 1:
- Thalys train from Amsterdam to Paris. 3 hours. Fairly comfortable. Love the fact that you book seats for 3 but invariably no one turns up in the 4th seat and you have it to your own. Also cool to see dustbins under your seat. Makes things easier.
- Paris Metro is HARD. I've navigated in quite a few places all over the world, but this is tricky. Managed to get to Oberkampf though and check into Mary's hotel at Rue De Malte near the Bastille, which is a really really nice hotel :)
- Checkin was 2 pm and it was only 11 when we reached, so I went off asking for directions in my awful awful french. Managed to buy a carnet of 10 tickets as recommended on the forum a long time ago and get to Gare De Nord and get lunch from an Indian hotel. Dad loves his home food, and gets homesick without it you see :)
- Walked back a mile or so to the hotel, to get my bearings. Passed the Place De Repblique on the way, a pretty large square and plenty of people.
- Paris is more like London, only quieter I felt. Plenty of shops of all kinds, wide enough roads and lots of traffic. People still jaywalk even here - but its nowhere as much as Brussels, Amsterdam or London. Amsterdam was the worst :) - although really I don't mind it - I've jaywalked all my life in India.
- Bicycles drive on the pavement and there are lanes for them here. And skateboarding and roller skates are a big thing. I got missed being hit pretty narrowly a couple of times. Its good now though, that I know how life is.
- Ate lunch. Tried to post on the forum but failed. Internet is pretty bad.
- Mom and Dad are both asleep on Day 1 - very very tired - probably just as well they get the rest. We've nearly 10-11 days left on our vacation.
- Wandered off to Republic square in the evening, while I went bus route hunting - the metro here is worse for Dad's knees than London, as there are no elevators and escalators in many places.
- My latest technique when the metro can't be avoided, is to make Dad sit on 1 step, keep his hands on the step and propel himself upwards or downwards. Looks ugly and people stare at you, but it works and his knees are benefited. He doesn't like it though, I try and make him do it as much as I can though.
- Back to the hotel and we eat and sleep today.

Posted by
137 posts

Day 2:
- Caught 96 to St. Michel and saw the Notre Dame cathedral. The cathedral inside was very peaceful and had some really detailed architecture. I realized it had been in existence a 1000? years +++? Wow. There was some very nice calming music playing as well and a bunch of choir girls singing. It was quite nice.
- Bit of a fight here with Mom and Dad coz they kept saying they'd go anywhere, but when I suggested a place they wouldn't want to :). Sorted out though.
- My Nexus 7 didn't charge overnight so I was low on battery and not enough maps. I don't have a phone and realtime GPS and haven't planned well enough today. I'm running out of things to do at 12pm and Dad is already tired.
- Eventually we slowly make our way to a garden behind Notre Dame. Sit there for a while.
- Then cross Pont Sully and cross into Ile St. Louis. Walk around all its little streets. Mom asks if Ile means Island? and where the Island is :). I don't know. But every street has the Seine all around it - maybe that's why?
- Ile St. Louis is a nice little place though. I like it. Saw lots of Bataeu Mouche cruises and huge ships going around all the time. Dad says we should do a cruise down the Seine. Lets see.
- Walked around to the Arab Institue and peeked at Paris from the 10th floor. Its free too, nice way to spend half an hour.
- Took a bus to Planet Jardins and walked around a bit. I was pretty tired by now with no plan, no maps, worn out with all the walking and just sick of all the planning :(
- Took a bus to Gare De Lyon and then Gare Du Nord. Ate some stuff and packed some stuff at another Indian hotel. Dad took a bus back, lost his way and then found it. Mom and me walked all the way back. A nice walk.
- The Internet is still crappy and I can't book tickets to Versailles. The only negative of this entire visit. I sleep at around midnight.

Posted by
137 posts

Day 3:
- Get up late. Figure out how to get to Versailles. Gare De AUsterlitz. RER C to Chateau De Versailles.
- No tickets. I stand in the tickets line. Mom stands in the entry line. Dad rests.
- Cobblestoned roads are not kind to Dad's knees. Plus the security guards don't let Dad sit anywhere in the courtyard though, so he has to hobble around.
- My timing is good and I get back with the tickets just as Mom reaches the start of the line.
- We only bought the 15 euro palace ticket - gardens are just huuuugeeee .. but no way we can see too many of them, specially with Dad's knees.
- The palace is quite ornate as expected. Pretty similar to Buckingham - plenty of art and paintings and sculpture. Hall of Mirrors is nice - Mom was a bit disappointed that they weren't trick mirrors :). Quite unique though, you could see the garden reflections everywhere.
- Spent around 2-3 hours there and caught a train back to Paris. Did a little bit of souveneir shopping there.
- Back by 6 pm. Dad went to the hotel. Mom and me walked to Places Des Vosges and sat for some time in that nice little park there in front of a water fountain.
- Got dinner from a vegan place called the "Loving Hut". Food's good as per Dad. Haven't eaten yet. Finished writing this post - now will sit and eat.
- Go down to the Internet cafe and try and post this.
- Tomorrow we go to the Jardin Des Luxembourg, do a boat cruise maybe and see the Arc de triomphe, Champs Elysees and Dad goes up the Eiffel tower.

We'll then have a day left and are pretty much done. No one wants to see any more museums or art galleries unless they are something really unique. I thought of getting in touch with the Paris greeters on Monday. That apart any other suggestions on nice things to see? .. keeping in mind Dad's knees as well?

Posted by
5697 posts

Hope you can do a boat cruise - we did the one leaving from near Notre Dame and enjoyed lots of sitting time with great views. If Dad can make it up to the top deck, the views are even better but downstairs isn't bad.
At Arc de Triumph there's an elevator for seniors -- just ask. If the entry line is too long, the free area beneath the arch itself is worth seeing with memorials to French soldiers from many battles.

Posted by
7653 posts

Hi Arvind- we never pass up the opportunity for Saag Paneer, but being in Scotland, had some lamb, too.

In Paris, indeed, the Ile St. Louis is an island in the middle of the river (connected to the mainland by many bridges), as is the Ile de le Citie, on which the Notre Dame Cathedral sits. The Crypt across the square from Notre Dame has a lot of information on the formation of what is now Paris, and the various cultures that have lived in the area over the centuries.

Glad your Dad is hanging in there with his knees. Take a taxi once or twice, if it would make things more manageable, even though you have your carnet tickets.

Posted by
11294 posts

"Take a taxi once or twice, if it would make things more manageable"

Absolutely do follow this advice. Especially for 3 people and one of them having a problem with walking, it's the way to go. This will preserve your father's knees for sightseeing.

Posted by
137 posts

Day 4:

  • After some more research and discussion Dad decided he wanted to see the Louvre.
  • Bought another carnet of tickets. Took 2 buses, hopped off at Palais Royal.
  • Clicked a few pics of the Royal Palais, which is basically just some government building. Dad likes his camera to be full of those type of pics, even if he doesn't actually visit those places.
  • The Louvre is a massive massive massive (you get it) structure. Nothing else needs to be said. I loved the pyramid shape though, you could click quite a few pics just outside it itself.
  • Dad went off in to "surf" the Louvre.
  • Mom and me went off to the Tuleries garden. Walked almost all of it, it's a really nice place. They have these lovely steel chairs, some of which have a sloping backrest. Bag of chips. Sun out. Fountains everywhere. Stretch out and relax. Life :)
  • We then thought we'd give Dad a small surprise by buying him some hot Indian food for a change from the bread and cheese and biscuits we'd been eating everyday. Sadly all of Gare Du Nord was stuffed with South Indians due to some festival and hotels weren't packing food to take away.
  • The bus route got cancelled too and we had to take the Metro back.
  • Bicycle rickshaw over to Place De La concorde, a very nice central place which we visited purely on Mom's gut feel that Dad would love it - as usual she was right :)
  • Dad then walked the whole of the Champs Elysees all the way up to the Arc De Triomphe. It took us a good part of 3 hours and numerous breaks, but he did it and big props to him. He was pretty worn out by the end though - hopefully he looks back at it and feels a bit of pride about it.
  • Photo shoot at Arc De Triomphe, sadly couldn't go up due to Dad being dead on his feet.
  • Bus to the Eiffel tower , stopped a bit further away at Bosquet Rapp and we had to walks down the Quai D Arnly (probably) which took longer than expected.
  • Reached Eiffel at 9 pm. Dad went up, Mom doesn't care for heights so we both stayed down. Eiffel's nice, too many vendors competing with each other to sell their wares though.
  • Caught a cab at 11 and got home. Just 16 Euros from Eiffel to Oberkampf which I thought was pretty cool, considering it was that late.
Posted by
137 posts

Day 4:

  • After some more research and discussion Dad decided he wanted to see the Louvre.
  • Bought another carnet of tickets. Took 2 buses, hopped off at Palais Royal.
  • Clicked a few pics of the Royal Palais, which is basically just some government building. Dad likes his camera to be full of those type of pics, even if he doesn't actually visit those places.
  • The Louvre is a massive massive massive (you get it) structure. Nothing else needs to be said. I loved the pyramid shape though, you could click quite a few pics just outside it itself.
  • Dad went off in to "surf" the Louvre.
  • Mom and me went off to the Tuleries garden. Walked almost all of it, it's a really nice place. They have these lovely steel chairs, some of which have a sloping backrest. Bag of chips. Sun out. Fountains everywhere. Stretch out and relax. Life :)
  • We then thought we'd give Dad a small surprise by buying him some hot Indian food for a change from the bread and cheese and biscuits we'd been eating everyday. Sadly all of Gare Du Nord was stuffed with South Indians due to some festival and hotels weren't packing food to take away.
  • The bus route got cancelled too and we had to take the Metro back.
  • Bicycle rickshaw over to Place De La concorde, a very nice central place which we visited purely on Mom's gut feel that Dad would love it - as usual she was right :)
  • Dad then walked the whole of the Champs Elysees all the way up to the Arc De Triomphe. It took us a good part of 3 hours and numerous breaks, but he did it and big props to him. He was pretty worn out by the end though - hopefully he looks back at it and feels a bit of pride about it.
  • Photo shoot at Arc De Triomphe, sadly couldn't go up due to Dad being dead on his feet.
  • Bus to the Eiffel tower , stopped a bit further away at Bosquet Rapp and we had to walks down the Quai D Arnly (probably) which took longer than expected.
  • Reached Eiffel at 9 pm. Dad went up, Mom doesn't care for heights so we both stayed down. Eiffel's nice, too many vendors competing with each other to sell their wares though.
  • Caught a cab at 11 and got home. Just 16 Euros from Eiffel to Oberkampf which I thought was pretty cool, considering it was that late.
Posted by
137 posts

Day 5:

  • Last day in Paris. Not too much left to do as we'd done more than I expected we would in 3 days.
  • Got up a little late. Lots of shops closed on a Monday. Bought some food for the day. We have to do that all the time as the number of vegan/vegetarian (no egg) restaurants are low.
  • Headed off to Pont Marie to do a Batostar cruise.
  • Turns out that a bus route got suspended that day so we got stranded half way.
  • Adjusted plans and headed off to Montparnaase. Dad went up as usual, Mom and I searched for boat cruises around the area. Unsurprisingly, we found none - its a land locked area.
  • A little window shopping in the Lafayette Gallery alongside.
  • Metro to Gare Du Nord for lunch. Montparnaase is a massive station, we'd have walked a lot to get to the platform.
  • Lunch. Late.
  • Off to Jardin Des Luxemborg. RER line better than Metro - look wise anyway. Larger stations too maybe?
  • The garden's wonderful. Also used the self cleaning toilet once. Wonderful concept, now that's something I would not mind paying all my taxes for :)
  • Roamed around quite a while. Nearly 2-3 hours.
  • Back to Loving Hut and ate a banana split with icecream.
  • Back to hotel and paid up.

Checked out next morning. Called cab at 5:45am. He showed up earlier and the meter showed 12.50 euros when we climbed in. A mile or so drive and we paid 18 euros or so. I'm fairly certain I got fleeced a bit - but maybe it was night charge and the waiting charge as well. Didn't want to fight early morning :)

Got the TGV Lyria and I'm off to Zurich :). 5 days in Zurich and 3 in Rome and I'm done. I'm pretty exhausted, tbf.. more mentally than physically.

Switzerland thread will be up in a while. Maybe tomorrow morning...or by night for sure if the Internet keeps working here. Au Revoir and I like Paris a lot - its a city I'd be willing to *live * in for sure ..someday.

Posted by
145 posts

Arvind:

Could you please elaborate on why Paris Metro is hard? Coming from Mumbai, surely metros should be a piece of cake (notwithstanding you father's knee).

And like I think I said in my message to you, I loved your write-ups though I did roll my eyes about your touching the paintings and the other artifacts - I am not much of a museum person, but surely I would never do that! That said, a good comeback should've been "those Crown Jewels are Indian" (hello Sing Sing!) ;-)

Oh, also on Paris, which museums did you enjoy the most and which not so much? I got confused by the marks that you have around the restaurants in your blog - could you please explain?

Posted by
137 posts

HaHa... not crowd wise ;) - nothing beats Mumbai railways for that :)

But there were quite a few interlinked lines and the map wasn't super easy to read, to understand what to catch to get where. But if you can familiarize yourself, and are clear on where you want to go - there is no problem at all. There's lots of steps though, which was a problem for me coz of Dad.

That apart - its super efficient. I'd just be clear on how to read the maps (which you get at every station) anyway. Read up at home - plan your day properly, and all is cool.

The museum touching stuff was fairly dumb on my part :). TBF though, I touched it really really really lightly - just took my finger very near the surface, but that was wrong too obviously. We learn.

I don't think I did too many museums in Paris - most of those were in London. RED in my sheet means I didn't visit those places despite planning to do so.

Hope that helps.

Posted by
1501 posts

I've enjoyed reading your blog so very much! You've got your hands full with the dietary restrictions and your Dad's knees. I also had trouble with the Paris Metro (I have a bad knee), and didn't find out till the third day that there ARE escallators! They apparently hide them! I hope you all took the time to enjoy the night-time lighting of the Eiffel Tower! I took my 11 year old grand daughter last year, and we sat in the Park every night and watched breathlessly for the lights! I don't think either of us will ever forget that trip! Your parents will never forget how patient and wonderful you are for taking them on this trip!

Posted by
137 posts

I am very glad you enjoyed it Donna :). Yes, I'm very happy I managed to do the whole trip and am very glad that Mom and Dad loved it and hope that they carry these memories with them lifelong.

We did indeed do the Eiffel tower - it was quite pretty and the shimmering lights at night (we did the 9-10 slot in the night) were really nice. Only Dad went up though - Mom and me just enjoyed it sitting on a bench.

Ha. That's news about the metro to me and we'd have done it more, had we known it was there. Maybe you could update this/some other post with info on how to use them? :) - so porcupyn above and others will be helped.

Posted by
2 posts

Thank you, Arvind, for writing your posts. I have enjoyed reading them very much! I have not yet traveled Europe, but look forward to in the next year or two. For now, I travel vicariously though others who are willing to take the time to write about their travels. Again, thank you. Kelly

Posted by
137 posts

You are most welcome Kelly. I'm glad you enjoyed my posts and wish you make your Europe traveling dreams a reality in the next couple of years :)

Posted by
46 posts

I'm a very experienced subway user in many cities around the world. And, I love the Paris Metro, but I will admit that some of those stations are HUGE and a bit intimidating. Especially the stations that include RER. But, with that said, the Metro is clean and lightening fast. And, if you get lost in a station, someone is always willing to help you out. No bad experiences in that regard. J'adore Paris!

Posted by
137 posts

You are welcome lpricehike :). Yes the metro is very cool, the RER as you rightly say was huge - I got off at Luxembourg to see the gardens there.

Posted by
145 posts

Arvind:

Thanks once more for your pioneering efforts. We had a fun trip and look forward to more. This time we only visited Paris and Berlin. Next time, maybe we will cover other locations which you have documented :-)

Kelly:

Note that if you are willing to brave it out in reasonably nice but still inclement weather in November, you can have a Europe visit under your belt without breaking the bank.

Porcupyn

Posted by
137 posts

Most welcome Porcupyn :). Glad you had a great trip.