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Paris Trip Report - in progress

I decided to start my trip report while I'm in Paris and the details are fresh.

The flight to Paris was amazing - see my latest post under the Half-Empty Flights thread. When we were waiting in line at passport control, an American woman on the plane with us told an airport employee that she had a first-class ticket and wasn't there a shorter line she could get in? The employee said her ticket had nothing to do with passport control. She didn't have an EU passport so she had to wait in the same line as everyone else with other passports. The woman dealt with this rule by butting in line repeatedly. Every time the line moved, she'd get past the person in front of her.

I expected lots of questions from the passport control agent because of terrorism concerns in Europe, but he didn't ask me anything. He was talking with another agent and continued the conversation while he stamped my passport and waved me through.

The weather was beautiful today - warm and sunny. Lots of rain is in the forecast for the next few days so we tried to make the most of it. We walked around the islands, went into Notre Dame, took a nap for an hour in the afternoon, purchased our Paris Museum Passes from the Cluny Museum (which now has a security tent set up in the courtyard - security officers inspected our bags and wanded us), went to Luxembourg Garden, and went to the site of the Bastille to try to find an outline of part of the fortress in the pavement but had no luck.

Posted by
4506 posts

Sarah,

Thanks for posting your trip report -in progress!

I think it's funny that the passenger who had a first class flight ticket, expected a special
line at passport control.

It sure sounds like you had a very productive first day in Paris!

I will be following this thread closely, as we will be in Paris in early June ;-)

Our hotel is near the Cluny Museum, so is that a good place to get the Paris Museum Pass?

Was there a line to buy the pass?

Have a wonderful trip!

Posted by
329 posts

What??? There was no Special Snowflake line? How primitive! ;)

Posted by
11430 posts

Bahaha " special snowflake" line!

Thanks for posting i love on the ground reports!

Posted by
11430 posts

Bahaha " special snowflake" line!

Thanks for posting i love on the ground reports!

Posted by
1509 posts

Actually at some airports there is a fast track lane for 1st class and Business passengers.

Posted by
1976 posts

Priscilla - unfortunately, the Cluny is an excellent place to buy the Museum Pass. There was no line to buy passes or to get into the museum. We just went in and bought the passes. I say "unfortunately" because many people don't seem to be interested in medieval art or ancient Roman bathhouses. That's good for those of us who are, however - more art-viewing and less wait time!

My sister and I laughed about that woman in the general line, as did an American couple behind us. The best thing was that she got in a line for one agent and we got in a different line for another agent, and our line moved much faster than hers!

This morning we walked to the Jewish Quarter in the Marais and bought gifts for family at a Judaica shop (Diasporama - the owner is very nice and speaks English). We ate at a fantastic felafel place - L'As du Felafel - and bought kosher-for-Passover treats at the Sacha Finkelsztajn bakery.

Posted by
7680 posts

Thanks for the report!

L'As du Fallafel...my favorite place! My mouth is watering in anticipation of my visit the end of August. I think I have eating there penciled in for 3 out of 5 days! Closed Saturdays so plan ahead for your next meal.

Good to know about the extra security at the Cluny. What a wonderful place!

Posted by
1976 posts

Pam, we also had delicious felafel at Felafel Hanna, just down the street from L'As. And there's a great Middle Eastern place near the Pompidou called King Falafel Palace.

After the Marais, we took the Metro north to the Basilica of Saint-Denis, the first or one of the first Gothic churches ever built. The neighborhood seems to be mostly inhabited by immigrants (Muslim and/ or North African); we never felt unsafe. I say this because I want people to know what to expect if they decide to go to Saint-Denis. The church is stunning and free; the crypt costs money but is covered by the Paris Museum Pass. We were there for an hour. It's like a playground for someone like me, who studied medieval art and is an amateur photographer.

Then we went to the Ile-St.-Louis and got Berthillon ice cream, which is so good! We walked around the island and then returned to our hotel room fora rest.

Posted by
7680 posts

Since you may be on a falafel hunt, the little walk up takeaway stands called Maoz are pretty good too! Noted your recommendations down as well!

Posted by
908 posts

Heading to Paris at the end of May and the Basilica of St. Dennis is on my list to do. Did not make it there on my last trip but will this time.

Posted by
10 posts

Are you blogging about your travels on a personal blog, or just updating here? I recently started one with an easy platformand found it to be a great way to discuss my travels and share the experience with friends and family. Writing seems to come quite easily to you, I'm sure your travel blog would be really entertaining to read. I look forward to reading more about your travels!

Posted by
7633 posts

I do blog on my international trips. I'm not sure why I don't blog my others. Are they not worthy? Anyway, I give my blog information to individuals I know that want to follow along. I thought that links to blogs were allowed now. Hmmm...

Sarah, are you having any difficulty finding food during Passover?

Posted by
329 posts

I don't think it has anything to do with worthiness, but the desire to keep spam off the forum. I'm not saying anyone in this thread would post spam, but if such links are permitted, then it would open things up more to spammers.

Posted by
1976 posts

I'm not keeping Passover here - it's too difficult.

I don't write a travel blog per se, but I do post pictures on Facebook with captions so that's basically my travel blog.

On Saturday we went to the Marmottan Museum in the 16th. It's a beautiful museum, with lots of late 19th- and early 20th-century furniture and decorative arts. The museum is made up of the collection of a wealthy Parisian. It also has an extensive collection of Monet's paintings. I'm not a huge fan of Impressionism but seeing Monet's early works in person really impressed me.

After that, we went to the Eiffel Tower. We bought tickets online in advance for the summit. Our tickets said to go to the green sign at the West Pillar - it was very easy to see where to go. Security is extensive. First your bag is searched and then you follow the line to an X-ray machine for your bag and a metal detector which you walk through. They don't allow Swiss army knives into the tower. They had large plastic jars full of confuscated items. The woman ahead of us in line asked a security agent if she could leave her knife with him and retrieve it afterwards. I didn't hear what he said, but I suppose it's always worth a shot to ask.

The views are amazing, but the crowds are insane, and this was in April on a chilly day. If you have tickets to the summit, you first stop on the second level and look around. Then you get in an incredibly long, winding line which crisscrosses much of the second level. People in line can be pushy and loud and kids have trouble being patient. We waited in that line for 10-15 minutes before we reached the elevators and went up to the summit. It's quite possible that visitors may wait in lines for the elevator longer than the time it takes to look at the views.

Posted by
694 posts

You might want to go to Parc Monceau for a little picnic then to Musee de Camondo. The park is beautiful and the musee is a home turned museum. Its absolutely beautiful and I want to live there! LOL Seriously you might really love it. My favorite musee in Paris is Carnavalet in the Marias. We also enjoyed the newly opened Picasso Museum too. I love Paris so much! I shed tears the first time I went up La Tour Eiffel. Enjoy the rest of your trip.

Posted by
1976 posts

Well, I've been home for 5 days now and am experiencing an odd kind of "homesickness" for Paris. What do you mean, I have to drive everywhere and there's no Metro? I can't just turn a street corner and see Notre-Dame? There aren't two small, beautiful Gothic churches in my neighborhood? I can't have Berthillon ice cream whenever I want it? And we weren't ready to come home! We didn't get to the catacombs or the crypt below Notre-Dame or the Rodin Museum or the Picasso Museum.

Does anyone else experience reverse homesickness when they come home from a trip?

Last night I went with a friend to The Fountain, a restaurant here known for its delicious ice cream creations. I ordered a Zanzibar chocolate sundae and was surprised it didn't seem to have much flavor...that is, not much compared to Berthillon's chocolat noir.

Trip report is continued below:

Posted by
1976 posts

Saturday evening, after we rested up from the energy-sucking Eiffel Tower visit, we went to the Arc de Triomphe to see views of the city at sunset. For some reason, I believed there were only 40 stairs to the top but it turned out to be closer to 200. I owed my sister many apologies!

The views are lovely from the top. We were there at 9:00 when the Eiffel Tower light show began, and that was pretty. Two things annoyed us: right before the security checkpoint at the base of the Arc, a family of 3 butted in line in front of the people in front of us. No one said anything, probably because we all thought someone else would say something. The other annoying factor was that, at the top of the Arc, a loud Italian family was running around, yelling to each other, and taking pictures of themselves with selfie sticks.

I noticed quite a few mini selfie sticks all over the city and wondered if they were a new invention. They look like regular sticks but at the top they have a small boxy camera instead of a smartphone.

On Sunday morning we went on our first Paris Walks tour called the Village of Montmartre. It was wonderful. The guide was British and lived in Montmartre. She told us about the significance of the Abbesses Metro stop where the tour began (it's one of the few remaining Art Nouveau stations which still has its roof). We walked by the apartment buildings where van Gogh and Toulouse-Lautrec lived; and the building where Renoir had his studio. We saw the Moulin de la Galette and passed the long, low apartment building where Picasso and Modigliani lived. We saw one of the three remaining vineyards in Montmartre.

The tour ended at Sacre Coeur. As my sister and I headed to the Auvers Metro stop, we passed quite a few of the "friendship-bracelet" sellers who were aggressive and trying to tie bracelets on the arms of passersby. We also saw a lot of shell-game stations. As we went by one station, the player/mark actually won her game. I couldn't believe it. That must happen once in one hundred games.

Our next stop was the Louvre, which I believe must be one of the most poorly laid out museums. It wasn't meant to be a museum, I know, but it's frustrating to get from one area to another. The area I most wanted to see, 17th-century Holland and Flanders, was closed off. We exited via the Carrousel, the underground mall, and my sister stopped to use a restroom in the mall. The cost was 1 euro fifty! She was annoyed and said, "I could have used a bathroom in the Louvre for free!"

After that, we walked to Sainte-Chapelle. When we were there in 2012, half of the windows were hidden by scaffolding for restoration, but this time the whole chapel was visible and it was stunning. The afternoon sun was coming in through the western windows and the effect was beautiful. I could have stayed there for an hour.

Posted by
11154 posts

"I noticed quite a few mini selfie sticks all over the city and wondered if they were a new invention. They look like regular sticks but at the top they have a small boxy camera instead of a smartphone."

Those aren't different selfie sticks - they're different cameras. That's a GoPro; they're specifically designed to be small and capture video. When you see a video taken from a helmet, for instance, these days it's from a GoPro.

Posted by
1976 posts

On Monday morning, our last full day, we went to the end of Line 1 on the Metro to walk around Chateau Vincennes, a 14th-century castle. I couldn't get over that. Imagine living in a city with medieval castles, Gothic churches, and Roman ruins, which you can visit any time you want.

The castle was really cool. It accepts the Paris Museum Pass and there are guided tours but they may only be in French. Visitors are free to explore. The Holy Chapel was undergoing restoration so we couldn't go in, but we were able to go inside the castle walls and the keep. There are plaques everywhere explaining what things are. Prisoners were kept in the castle up to the 19th century.

In the afternoon, I went on the Medieval Latin Quarter Walk with Paris Walks and my sister did some shopping. Our guide was British and had lived in Paris for 18 years. He and his wife live very close to where the attacks in November took place, and they live just down the street from the Charlie Hebdo magazine offices. He said right after the November attacks, the Paris Walks groups were very small and over time, grew larger.

This walk was wonderful as well. We walked down some streets untouched by Baron Haussmann's renovations and we saw 16th- and 17th-century buildings, some with some half-timbering exposed. I loved seeing those beams. Someone cut down the trees, cut the beams into shape, built the building, and plastered over the beams. It was like I was looking across four or five hundred years.

He talked about the character of the Latin Quarter - there used to be many bookshops but in the last few years, a lot have closed. The town hall of the 5th arrondissement subsidizes the rent of independent bookshops and gives them tax breaks so they'll open in the 5th, or be able to stay open. The 5th is also the location where the Roman town was built, and that's why the Roman bath complex is in the 5th. We went inside St.-Severin and stood outside St. Julien-le-Pauvre, two small, beautiful Gothic churches.

There was a group of 5 or 6 American women on this tour. They came up to where the guide and several of us waited by the Odeon Metro stop for the tour to begin. One woman, in a Southern accent so exaggerated it sounded fake, asked the guide, "Do you own that sunglasses shop?" She pointed at a storefront near the Metro stop.

"No," he said. "Why?"

"There's a sign on the door that says it's closed and the owner is on a walking tour," she said. She kept talking to her friends about how badly she needed to buy some sunglasses.

Right before the tour started, the guide handed out April 2016 Paris Walks brochures. He asked the woman if she needed a brochure. He pronounced it the British way and she misunderstood him and said, "Yes, I need sunglasses!" Her friend told her what the guide actually said. He made a joke (or subtlely made fun of her) and said, "I didn't know sunglasses were an emergency."

When we were standing outside St. Julien-le-Pauvre, the woman looked at the fence surrounding the church and said, "You know, this iron fence makes me wonder if I should get some iron fencing around my house."

I have no idea why ignorant people go on these tours if they have no interest in learning anything.

Posted by
1976 posts

We went home on Tuesday and didn't want to leave. Here are some general things I noticed in the city:

We saw soldiers in camouflage with assault rifles at the Eiffel Tower, outside the Louvre, and other places.

Security in museums is tight(er) everywhere:
-Eiffel Tower: they look in your bag, X-ray your bag, and you walk through a metal detector
-Louvre: bags are checked at the Carrousel entrance (to the mall); bags are checked at the entrance to the Louvre proper; bags are X-rayed; people walk through a metal detector
-Cluny Museum: bags are checked in a tent in the courtyard and a security guard wands people
-Arc de Triomphe: bags are X-rayed and people walk through a metal detector
-Marmottan Museum: bags are checked; people walk through a metal detector
-Chateau Vincennes: bags are checked; people are wanded
-Notre-Dame: bags are checked
Pompidou: bags are checked; people walk through a metal detector

A lot of employees in all kinds of places - museums, restaurants, shops, Metro stations - speak English now, it seems. Even if you start out in French, they hear your accent and switch to English. People were friendly and helpful everywhere we went. Any rudeness we encountered came from tourists from all different countries.

Hotel information:

We stayed at the Hotel du Levant on Rue de la Harpe in the 5th, between Blvd. St.-Michel and Blvd. St.-Germain. The location is fabulous. Our room was on the courtyard side and wonderfully quiet. The street is very noisy at all hours, especially on weekends. There are lots of ethnic restaurants in this area: Greek, Italian, Asian, and also French restaurants, crepe storefronts, and a Tunisian bakery selling tasty pastries.

The wifi in the hotel is spotty. If you want to stream anything with Netflix or other services, the video may freeze up often. Sometimes there was no Internet signal.

Breakfast is included and very good: croissants, sweet breads, cornflakes and muesli, jams, butter, yogurt, soft-boiled eggs, cheese, and cold cuts.

The front desk staff is fluent in English and very helpful.

The only issue we experienced was with the "Do Not Disturb" sign. We placed it on the door every morning because my sister doesn't like it when they come in and make the beds, move stuff around, etc. The maid ignored the sign and came in every day to clean the room. We knew the sign was turned to the correct side (as opposed to the "Please Clean" side) because we checked it every morning when we left. If you don't want your room cleaned every day and you stay at this hotel, note that they might ignore the sign.

Posted by
1976 posts

Tuesday, the day we came home, was a doozy. The national rail company, SNCF, started a strike that day. The hotel staff told us that the RER was running, but it could be tricky to get to CDG on it. At 9:00am we went to the RER B stop at St.-Michel and saw that all northbound trains, for at least the next hour, were terminating at Gare du Nord. There was an announcement over the P.A. system, in French, and I caught enough of it to understand that we needed to go to Gare du Nord and there catch another RER B train going to CDG.

At Gare du Nord, we didn't know which platform to go to. There were no signs anywhere. We asked a security guard and he told us to go the top level and look for platforms 32 and 33. We took 2 flights of escalators up to the top and then asked a maintenance worker where the train to CDG was. He pointed and we saw platform 32, with a TV monitor listing all the stops on the way to the airport.

Everything worked out fine, but my advice is that, if there's even the slightest possibility you might be affected by a strike and you need to get to the airport, call ahead for a taxi or have your hotel reserve a shuttle.

We meant to get to the airport at 10:00 for our 1:00 flight but didn't get there until 11:00. That turned out to be fine. There were no long lines at immigration or security.

We connected through Newark and arrived early, around 3:00. Our flight to St. Louis was supposed to be at 7:15, but there was weather between the East Coast and Midwest and all flights at the gates near ours were delayed. Our flight was delayed until 7:45, then 7:50, then 8:30, then 8:45. The plane arrived around 8:00 but there was no crew. Two crew members trickled in between 8:00 and 8:30. The other captain was supposed to arrive at 8:29 but he didn't. We boarded the plane around 8:30 and sat by the gate until around 9:00, waiting for him. Then we taxied a bit and sat on the tarmac for 20 minutes while they rerouted us. We didn't take off until around 9:30 and got to St. Louis at 11:00 local time. I had been awake for 23 hours by then. I didn't sleep on the flight from CDG to Newark because I thought I'd be home at 9:00 and would be asleep by 10:00. And I couldn't sleep on the plane to St. Louis because there was almost constant turbulence, which I hate. We flew through one huge cloud between New York and St. Louis. I couldn't relax.

And now I'm home and getting over jet lag and dreaming of Paris. "How you gonna keep 'em down on the farm, now that they've seen Paris?"

Posted by
7680 posts

Sarah, thanks so much for your Trip Report! I've enjoyed it all and love your observations.

When I got back from the Rick Steves 21Day Best of Europe one of the other participants posted on FB that she was vacation-sick. I thought that was great...opposite of home sick and yes, I experience the same thing.

Posted by
1976 posts

Thanks to all for reading! Glad you enjoyed it and I hoped I could help with others' plans.

Harold and Diane - thanks for your explanations. The GoPro sticks are just as annoying as selfie sticks, in case anyone wants to know. :)

Posted by
25 posts

Thank you for posting all this wonderful information. I'll be leaving for a 22 day trip to England/France in August. I'll do updates too while it's fresh in my mind. It helps to know they are checking bags etc at the museums too.

Posted by
11430 posts

Sarah i love it when the maaid comes in and cleans the room, its like my mini holiday from housework, is your sister a masochist..lol

Loved your report thanks for posting.

Posted by
4213 posts

Thanks, Sarah -- great visit and I know you'll return to Paris. How could you not?

If the sunglasses-and-fence lady was the worst you saw, you were lucky. But we must remember that it takes all kinds and we may annoy others in our own ways, without realizing it. C'est la vie.

Posted by
5435 posts

What a wonderful trip report, Sarah! Glad you had such a good time. It sounds like you really made the most of it!! sorry for the problems on the way home but glad you were able to make it to the airport in time, albeit with more hassle than one would like!

Posted by
5435 posts

What a wonderful trip report, Sarah! Glad you had such a good time. It sounds like you really made the most of it!! sorry for the problems on the way home but glad you were able to make it to the airport in time, albeit with more hassle than one would like!

Posted by
11613 posts

Sarah, you have convinced me to go back to Sainte-Chapelle, I was there during restoration. And Saint-Denis is my favorite church in Paris.

Posted by
113 posts

Sarah, thanks for posting about your trip. I just got back a week ago from my Paris and heart of France tour. Security is everywhere as you said, which did not bother me at all. The Cluny Museum was my favorite museum. I loved the unicorn tapestries.

Posted by
1976 posts

Pat, I don't mind when the maid cleans the room every day but my sister has a very strong reaction to it! She hates undoing the bed, she doesn't like it that they move her stuff, etc. I don't mind the daily cleaning.

Zoe, yes, go see Sainte-Chapelle before they cover up another wall of windows! And I absolutely loved being in Saint-Denis. We were there for an hour and even my sister, who thinks my interests (medieval art and architecture) are "boring", really enjoyed the visit. She did reach her limit of medieval architecture by the end of the trip, however.

Posted by
213 posts

Sarah,
Thanks for a great report! Yes! I miss Paris and think about ways to fit it in every time we visit Europe. Just so beautiful there! If I ever win the lottery, a Paris apartment is high on the list! lol Never hurts to dream! :0)

Posted by
11738 posts

Thanks for your report. I'm visiting Paris, for the first time, this September and also love medieval sights best.

Regarding stupid tourists, I grew up in San Diego. When we were kids, we'd often just shrug and say, "Otra tonto tourista" after being asked the most inane questions by people who were a couple knotches below clueless. (ex. "Is that the same K-mart they have in Cleveland?"). It's like "customer service" in Italy, you have to laugh about it because it's either funny or depressing.