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Paris, RS Eastern France and more Paris...

A previous post this summer encouraged more of us to do trip reports, so....

This was our 4th RS tour and we've learned to add extra days for maximum enjoyment of the tour. We chose Eastern France because we both love history, wine and good food. This itinerary went places we were excited about. The tour was mid-August to the beginning of Sept. We started with two days in Paris to adjust and and because we love Paris. My husband is the poster guy for "American tourist", complete with the required baseball cap, but he loves the French and they seem to love him. This is our third trip to Paris together, so we've hit most of the well-known stops. This time we want to see some new things, except I promised him we could go to the Louvre again.

Day 1: We landed on Thursday around 10 a.m. after two uneventful flight. Immigration was manageable and there were lots of staff directing arrivals. Walking through the doors into Terminal 2A. there was a TI with no line. I dimly (everything is dim after flying from the west coast) remembered there would be a surcharge for either the Paris Museum Pass or the metro carnet, but having them in hand so easily was worth it. The surcharge was for the carnet. On to the taxi rank. Thankfully, there was a post reminding people to be careful of unlicensed taxi drivers trying to direct you to their cars. There were several right as we exited to the taxi rank. Got our legit taxi, flat rate to the hotel and we're off to a good start.
Our hotel in Paris is the French Officer's Club (aka Cercle National des Armees). It's in the 8th, near St. Augustin church and metro stop. The hotel is in the process of being renovated (I had my eye on some of their antique furniture last time we were there) and the area is much busier. There is now a Monoprix diagonally from the hotel and the area is more lively in the evening. Security is very tight at the hotel. Arriving at 11 a.m.was well before check-in, as the desk staff gently reminded us. However, as they watched our feeble attempts to regroup and be off after dropping our luggage, they told us a room would be ready in 15 minutes. My heroes. The room wasn't large, but plenty of room to move around, a closet with hangers and drawers, full-length mirror and a view of the Eiffel Tower. They have an area behind the front desk where you can iron clothes - love it.
Luggage dropped and we're off. Perhaps this is obsessive, but I now write down all the directions I need ahead of time, i.e. metro stops, direction metro is going and the correct stop. Nothing yells "tourist" faster than me standing around squinting at a map or the directions on my phone. Knowing the number of the line we want and the direction we need to be traveling keeps us moving through the metro. We had one incident at the end of our trip when the ticket machine wouldn't take the credit card and then we went through the turnstile before realizing that the line we wanted was down an escalator. We've had worse. Our first stop was the Marmottan-Monet. We successfully navigated the metro, climbed the stairs, planning to follow the RS Guidebook, "cross the street and follow the brown sign. Which street? there are two choices and where is the brown sign? It may be there, but we didn't find it. We got ourselves sorted out and headed downhill. After a few blocks we see signs, so we're feeling confident again. The museum is everything I hoped it would be. It's like being invited into someone's home and they happen to have fabulous art on the walls. It's quiet, uncrowded and you can get quite close to the art. The basement was especially enjoyable because you can view the art from so many different angles. I thought there was a cafe here, but I was wrong. So, off we go to our next activity. On the first day we try to keep moving as much as possible. If we sit too long, we'll be asleep.

Posted by
2215 posts

I hope I'm doing this correctly, but several people have commented that they like the trip reports to stay in the same thread...

Activity #2 was the Picasso Museum. We managed to navigate successfully to another uncrowded museum. We've been to the Picasso Museum in Barcelona, so this enhances our knowledge of his work. However, I learned more about the way he treated the women in his life and I thought he treated his first wife rather shabbily. They have an audio guide, which might help as most of the plaques are in French (duh). There is a cafe here, so we ate lunch on the roof-top. Return trip was through Place des Vosges and then on to the hotel. We decide to have dinner at the restaurant where we ate 6 years ago. I'm not sure if the meal was sub-par because they were closing for vacation the next day, but it was disappointing. We watch the Eiffel Tower sparkle before going to bed - we made it to 10 p.m.!

Fri. Day 2 - It's raining...oh, well, it's Paris. We like Paris in August, if we stay away from the big tourist areas. It's not crowded as many are on vacation and the vibe is more relaxed. The activities for the day are: L'Orangerie, The Louvre and the Delacroix Museum. Another successful metro ride, climb the stairs and??? I think I need a compass. There is a sign but it's a little vague (sharp right? diagonal right?). We find it and...it's fabulous. Besides Monet's "Waterlilies", there is the Jean Walker & Paul Guillaume
collection in the basement. They also have a gallery upstairs that has special events. There was a wonderful exhibit of a Japanese private collector's Impressionist art. It looks like it has closed to make way for another exhibit.
We walk through the Tuileries on the way to the Louvre. Even though it's sprinkling, we get a gelato at Amorino's stand. The passion fruit is delicious and they make the gelato in the shape of a flower. The Louvre is a mad house, but we've remembered the advice to enter through 99 Rue de Rivioli and it helps....some. I'm too short to see "Mona Lisa", but I've seen her before. The crowd around her is 5 deep. We have lunch in the cafeteria, where the staff is multi-lingual. There are several stations serving different kinds of food and while it looked like it would be difficult to snag a table, they seem to turn over frequently. There is even a quiet room off to one side that has quite a few tables. By 3:00 the crowds have thinned considerably and the noise has died down.
Next stop is the Delacroix Museum. We cross the Pont des Artes with nary a petition girl or gold-ring scammer in sight. They were pretty prevalent when we were here 6 years ago. My navigation skills desert me, and although I think we're following the signs, I send us right instead of left at Rue Jacob. But, there is a Laduree shop!! That's my reward on the way home. I had been to the Delacroix in 1971 with my mother, which must have been soon after it opened. Visiting it again brought back memories and I'm looking forward to checking new pictures with those from 1971. I'm glad we saw it after the Louvre because those paintings were still fresh in my mind. The museum is very peaceful and a great setting for his works. It's time for a return trip to the hotel and decisions about dinner.
We swing through Monoprix for something to drink and some snacks. We are doing a taste test of various potato chip brands. We check Trip Advisor for restaurant ideas in our immediate area, as we're not in a "RS Guidebook" area. The top choices in our area are closed for vacation, but we find an Indian restaurant, Tandoori Punjab, a few blocks away. We start out trying to order in French, but the waiter stops us and asks us to order in English. He has only been in Paris a 2 months and English is easier for him than French (or maybe just our French). The chicken vindaloo is exceptional, at least to our palate, the prices are reasonable and the portions are just right. Tomorrow we are off to Reims....

Posted by
27362 posts

I like what you've done. It's easier to follow if everything's in one thread.

Posted by
985 posts

Patty, it sounds like y'all are off to a great start! Very glad the hotel let you go ahead and have your room early. I too have been doing the metro planning. I have found as I do it I am getting more and more familiar and comfortable with it. However, trying to navigate a little metro map on my phone will be challenging, I know. For special out of the way places I have already written out directions and am taking some sticky notes to at least get me started each day.
A friend just posted a beautiful pic of her chocolate and banana gelato from Amorino's. Thanks for the additional reminder.
Enjoy the rest of your trip. I'm looking forward to reading about it.

Posted by
1080 posts

Patty,
Really enjoyed the trip report, I was in Paris 2 weeks ago and loved it! Have fun.

Posted by
2252 posts

What a terrific trip report, Patty. I'm very much enjoying reading it and will be bookmarking for my trip next May with my sister! Thank you for posting! Andi

Posted by
5046 posts

Great trip report Patty. We loved our stays at Cercle Nationale des Armees. It was a nice perk during DHs NATO tour. We had a room with a view of the ET too. Nothing better than to watch it sparkle before turning in for the night. But, oh the heat (the downside of a west facing room during a heat wave.) The AC just couldn't cope. Do they still deliver the big basket of goodies to the room for breakfast? I remember having THE BEST pain au chocolate.

Posted by
11294 posts

"several people have commented that they like the trip reports to stay in the same thread..."

I'm one of them. Otherwise the pieces of a report get separated and become impossible to find later.

"I hope I'm doing this correctly"

You are, and it's great so far - keep it coming!

Posted by
2215 posts

Sat. Day 3 - we're off toReims
11euro G7 cab ride to Gare de l'Est. We'd printed our tickets at home, so there was no need to validate. 20 minutes before departure the platform went up and off we went to find our car. We were upstairs, which meant hauling luggage up the stairs - glad we travel light. It was an easy 45 min. ride, then off the train, out the front door and then just a short walk to the Hotel Continental. We dropped our luggage and went for breakfast at Waida's. Their fresh orange juice was delicious and we sat outside enjoying the pedestrian only(occasional cars) street. Then it was off on foot to the Museum of the Surrender...except it's closed for lunch. And, Mumm's, which was supposed to be open, was closed. So, we wander Reims until the museum opens. It was worth the wait. It's small, but fascinating - reminiscent of the Churchill War Rooms. We had dinner at Les 3 Brasseurs. The food is good and the staff is great. The area is packed and lively. Students are coming back from vacation and tourists are still there, too. I talked my husband into going to see the light show at the cathedral. It was an easy walk and a breath-taking show. Basically, they project a screen over the building and you can watch the construction of the cathedral over the centuries, all set to music. I did not know that originally the cathedrals were painted. Tomorrow the tour begins...

Posted by
2 posts

We discovered the Marmottan-Monet this trip to Paris, as well! It was worth wandering around without signs to point the way-we had a nice lunch at a pub that was on the way back to the Metro. It felt like our own private museum...and so many Monets in that new wing! Just fabulous, especially when you have been to Paris many times and are "museumed-out"!

Posted by
6364 posts

Patty, this is great! Thank you. And yes, we too are fans of the Marmottan-Monet. Can't wait for the next installment. And yes, I too have bookmarked this page.

Posted by
2215 posts

Thanks for all the positive replies; it keeps me going!

Sun. Day 4:
The tour will start tonight, but for today we will taste some champagne. I have to admit that I am not a super champagne fan (I usually gives me a headache after 1 glass) and I was not really excited about this portion of the tour, but...it seemed like the thing to do. We thought about going to mass at the cathedral, but between residual jet lag and the partiers in the park across the street, we didn't make it. Instead we had a real breakfast at Waida's. They remembered us from the day before...with a smile. Another delicious breakfast and we won't need to eat again til dinner! Then it was off to try some tastings.
We stopped by the TI near the cathedral to see about reservations at Taittingers and Martel. They told us Martel's was closed, but they called Taittingers to check on tours and were told that an English tour would start in 30 min and there was plenty of room. The RS guidebook said it was 30 minutes from the TI to the cellar, so we set off briskly...and got there in 15 minutes. The tour was excellent and so fascinating to realize how far the caves extend under the city. We opted for just the standard tasting, but they were generous with their pours. On our wander back to town, we came across Martel's and decided just to take a look. Apparently we had a communication gap with the TI; they no longer do tours, but they do have tastings. We waited while others in front of us bought copious amounts of champagne ( a good sign). Then it was just us and the manager for a private session. We bought a standard tasting and a top of the line tasting to see the difference. What a good choice. The manager was generous with his time and knowledge and I discovered I do like champagne ( and no headache after). The hard part was deciding which bottle to purchase, since we knew we'd be carrying it for 2 weeks. Back to the hotel to wait for tour time.
At 5:00 p.m. we meet our guide, Julie, and the rest of our traveling group. Most are RS vets; only one first-timer. After an orientation walk it's time for dinner. There are 3 choices: mussels 7 fries, duck and cod, except they substitute salmon for cod. I had the mussels and spouse had the duck. We both thoroughly enjoyed our choice. After dinner we are treated to a demonstration on how to slice off the neck of a champagne bottle with a saber. Most of the group goes to see the light show at the cathedral. We opt for bed.

Posted by
1384 posts

Enjoying the report, I head back to Paris Aug/Sep next year. I added Musee Delacroix on my places to visit. You mentioned the Louvre entrance at 99 rue de Rivoli, is that a side entrance other than the pyramid & from below through the mall?

Posted by
2215 posts

Sorry for the delay on this report. We 'reposition" to Las Vegas in the fall and then ran into the events of Route 91 when we got here. I think I'm back on track...

Mon. Day 5:
We enjoy the generous buffet breakfast before donning wet weather gear and setting off on a walking tour of Reims. The guide is excellent and the audio system has improved from previous trips. There are now two types of ear buds - standard and one that hooks over the ear. The latter is most popular. We walk through the historic section and learn about the shabby treatment Joan of Arc received after leading the army of Charles VII. The cathedral is breath-taking and the guide teaches how to tell the different periods represented in the architecture. After the tour is over, Julie gives some lunch suggestions and points out things like the ATM location. We grab a sandwich for lunch. In the afternoon we gather to take the city bus for our champagne tasting..at Martel's.
We give in to temptation and buy a second bottle of champagne - I will have moments of regret as I hoist off the bus daily, but now we're home, I'm glad we did. Julie has made sure we know how to take the bus back on our own, but we chose to walk. Dinner was on our own and we pick L'Apostrophe. We're off on the road tomorrow.

Tues. Day 6:
Eric loads the big beautiful bus and we're off to Verdun. Husband and I are both history buffs, so we've reads and watched lots of movies on WWI. This stop is one of the reasons we picked the tour. Ingrid is the excellent guide and she brings knowledge and respect to the site. The walk through the bunkers impressed me with the ordeal these soldiers went through. It is August and hot, and yet the bunker is cold and damp. Add to that the constant shelling they underwent...Outside a cemetery is in front of us. Graves are marked with personal and religious information. The Muslim section reminds me of the colonials' role in the war. Communication trenches are still visible as we drive along. Ingrid joins us for lunch and answers more questions. We've been offered a choice of sandwiches and dessert. There's a bit of a scrum while sorting out who ordered what.

Back on the bus headed for Colmar. The bus can't navigate the narrow streets, so we walk/drag out suitcases to Hotel St. Martin in the heart of town. Note to self: heads up and pay attention to directions, not just the person in front of me. This hotel is right in the heart of town and it has an elevator. Delicious group dinner at Le3, tarte flambé and rosti. There is a folk dance performance after dinner in the town square. The it's off to discover our attic room...with defunct AC. Julie scores a fan for us.

Wed. Day 7:
This town looks like a living postcard - flowers and canals everywhere. Our morning walking tour does a great job of orienting us and it's essential to do it in the quiet cool of the morning. The crowds are about 2 hours behind us. One of the unscheduled "highlights" is a demonstration by French farmworkers, complete with tractors in the march, in front of the city hall. Starting off early means we're ahead of the crowd at the Unterlinden Museum. We're dismissed to follow our own goals after viewing the famous alterpiece. We start at the top and work our way down through the rest of the museum. We've left the rain behind and now temps are heating up. We grab sandwiches and head for a boat ride on the canal. It's not a spectacular ride, but it is a pleasant way to see the town. I did learn that one of the benefits of all the geraniums in the window boxes is to keep the bugs away. I'll be trying that at my house next summer. We spend part of the afternoon in the Bertholdi Museum - he of Statue of Liberty fame. Dinner is on our own at one of the many outside restaurants. Delicious gelato at La Sorbetiere d'Isabelle.

Posted by
9784 posts

Wow, this sounds like you really enjoyed this trip -- thanks for your fantastic trip report! So happy to see you enjoyed Colmar.