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A question for the forumites who know France
Wed 15-Sep-10
11:30 am
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Shereen
Near Belfast, Northen Ireland

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Dad Trip 2010 - The Wednesday

 

I've already mentioned the great flight cancellation ordeal that occurred on the morning we were due to travel. All I'll say about it is: don't wait for your airline to get in touch with you, keep an eye on the airport websites and get ahead of the crowd in the event of re-booking.

The flight out on Wednesday went more or less to plan. There was a bit of a delay, although not as long a one as they first announced, so we had a drink and read a bit in departures. In the end we were about an hour late. Luggage collection at the other end took a while, and the walk to the loos could have benefited from rollerskates or a segway. I didn't need to go before I set off with Dad, but by the time I got there I did. Seriously " terminal 2B at CDG airport is one long, narrow building. G tracked down our taxi driver, we loaded cases into the car and set off for Paris.

We spent one hour and 40 minutes sitting in traffic jams, getting to the hotel even later than the delayed flight had led us to expect. We checked in, dumped our bags and headed out into the Latin Quarter in search of food.

There were a load of places to choose from, seriously " streets full of eateries " but I used The Force and decided on Bistrot 30 in Rue Saint-Séverin. I know we were all starving, but it was really very good, even the house red wine of which we'd ordered a litre carafe of. I went all classic French and had French onion soup, duck in orange sauce and a cheese plate. It was all excellent " especially the mild blue cheese with the dessert. G went even more French than I did and had snails for his starter. He made Dad and I try one each. It really wasn't as bad as I was expecting, better than most shellfish with a meatier taste that stood up well to the garlic. Dad had salad (he does like a good salad, and was singing the praises of French salads by day two of the trip), followed by the same steak frites with Roquefort sauce as G did. They both had the giant, ice-cream filled profiterole for dessert.

After all that we were only fit for a gentle dander towards the Seine, and a bit of a look at Notre Dame. We sat for a while, admiring the building and listening to the tipsy teens who were singing along to a ukulele. It was midnight, a bit damp underfoot and pleasantly warm.

Wed 15-Sep-10
11:41 am
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Shereen
Near Belfast, Northen Ireland

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Dad Trip 2010 " the Thursday

We'd decided that a walking tour of the sights of Paris would be a good start to our first full day in the city. I'd found Discover Walks through TripAdvisor and G thought the Right Bank tour looked perfect for us. It meant a slightly early start, but it also gave us the chance for a typical French tea, croissant, orange juice breakfast at a nearby Salon du Thé.wine bar called le Sancerre in Rue Rappe. There I had rillettes (tasty slow-cooked pork you spread on bread and stuff your face with), while Dad and G had variations on omelettes. The rest of the customers seemed to be business suit types, but some of them had to be regulars judging from the mwa-mwaing that went on when they arrived. We all had Sancerre wine with lunch and I think Dad discovered a new appreciation for French wine in that little bar.café on the Boulevard de Montparnasse that wasn't all that memorable, apart from it being dry and being willing to serve 3 drowned rats.Restaurant des Beaux Arts, 80 Rue Mazarin, nabbing a jolly nice big round table by the desk. It was a tiny bistro with about 9 or 10 tables all full. The menu had plenty of choice on it and the house red proved to be, if not quite in Bistrot 30's league, another damn fine wine to drink.

Looking at the walk starting point on the map it looked an easy enough walk from our hotel. It turned out to be a 30-45 minute yomp through some very busy streets on a very hot morning. We were the epitome of puffing, red-faced tourists by the time we made it to the steps of the Opera House where we met our pink-waistcoated guide, Pauline.

Pauline wasn't a professional tour guide, but rather a Parisienne who volunteered for the job. She did a very good job of leading us on a gentle two hour stroll that took us from the Opera House with its phantom and streets of jewelers who provided the gifts for the gentry to give to the singers and dancers; to the Place de la Concorde where King Louis and Queen Marie Antoinette were "shortened" with the aid of Madame Guillotine.

Along the way we saw King Edward's theatre and the hotel where he had a giant bathtub which he liked to fill with champagne (and dancers); Place Vendôme with The Ritz Hotel, Napoleon's Romanesque column cast from cannons he'd claimed as spoils of war and a shop called "Fred"; on to the Texan Embassy (which is not a Mexican restaurant); the building where the Lumière brothers showed the first ever cinematic show (now a Gap shop); and then through the Tuileries gardens where we saw two men practising their sword fighting among the trees. We walked through the gardens, along the Seine for a while, catching a surprise glimpse of Sacre Coeur, before reaching the end of the walk at Place de la Concorde with its mad traffic and stunning Eiffel Tower views.

At the end of the tour it was time for us to tip Pauline, something that she seemed very embarrassed about. But honestly " she was a very good guide and the tour was well worth the suggested €10 donation to the guide. The fact that you can just turn up at the start without booking makes it a flexible option to bear in mind while you're in the city.

We left the group and headed in the general direction of the Eiffel Tower, stopping for lunch in a little

Things were clouding over when we finally dragged ourselves away from the cosy wine bar, but I was determined we'd make it to the Eiffel Tower in time for the booking (our second booking as we'd lost the first one thanks to the canceled flight). We got back onto the river side and walked along Quai Branly until we got to the tower. There were queues, but not as bad as I'd seen before. We wandered around a bit, passing time until our booked slot, taking shelter in the park beside the tower when a rain shower came on. I thought we'd chance our arm and try getting in before our time slot, but the lady on the gate was having none of it. So we loitered some more, brushing away a constant stream of unofficial souvenir sellers, and looking up every now and then to remind us where we were. At the time slot I'd booked we went to the other ticket holders' gate and presented our printout. Only for the gate guard to refuse. There followed a brief period of confusion before I realised I'd got the day wrong and we shouldn't be there until the next day. The original plan had been to do the tour and the tower on our first full day, but the flight cancellation changed that because the tower was fully booked our new first full day.

Much embarrassment on my part. Dad and G were very nice about it all, considering the amount of hanging about we'd done.

So we decided to walk on, heading in the general direction of the hotel. We walked along the river for a bit, passing the American Church, Pont de l'Alma and les Invalides, before the rain came on. And it really came on this time. You're talking rivers in the gutters and makeshift newspapers-as-rain protection dissolving in the onslaught. We sheltered under a tree for a bit, before making a break for it when the rain lessened Only for it to come on again. You need to realise that G was out without a coat, and Dad was wearing walking sandals to know how much of an annoyance this was. We ended up taking shelter, along with a horde of others, in a Metro station entrance. I think it was Saint-Francois Xavier, because we walked down Rue de Babylone afterwards. There was a stop for a cuppa somewhere in all this, in a

It was such a good feeling when the street names started to look familiar again and we got back to the hotel. I know the day started off with a walking tour, but it ended up featuring much, much, much more walking than we planned.

We took an hour's rest, got some dry clothes and headed out for dinner. I had vague plans of trying one of the many restaurants friends had recommended, so we headed to Rue Mazarin. In the rain. At least this time I had an umbrella and Dad wasn't wearing his walking sandals, because this was rain that meant business.

I'd not made any reservations because I didn't want to tie us down too much. Dad's big on taking diversions and following interesting streets, and having something booked in makes that less relaxing. So I wasn't surprised when CafetièreŽ on Rue Mazarin turned out to be fully booked.

We hid in a large doorway for a while, a long while, and at the first sign of the rain letting up a little we set off in search of a place to eat. We ended up in

I had the house pate to start " a hefty slice of coarse pork terrine, served with an oniony jam and plenty of bread. It was G's turn for the French onion soup and Dad had the home-smoked salmon. None of us can remember what I had for my main course. We're blaming the rain and the wine, but I'm still amazed I could forget a meal! Dad went for a baked fish dish for his main, and G was adventurous again, this time choosing a sauted lamb and haricot bean dish. Unfortunately the lamb was cold and the beans hot when his dish arrived, so he sent it back, both of us worrying it was a Rimmer-from-Red-Dwarf gazpacho moment. Dessert was chocolate mousse (served in a la Parfait jam jar) for me, an odd baked egg-white mousse with crème Anglais for G, and a slice of apple pie for Dad who didn't want anything too heavy. We laughed when his dessert turned out to be a giant wedge of tarte tatin that was easily 8 inches long, an inch & a half high and 3 inches across at its widest part. This hefty offering came with its own massive earthenware jug of cream. After all that we needed a cup of tea to help it settle.

The rain was over by now, as was most of the night. I do like the French habit of not rushing a meal. We ambled back along Rue Mazarin and down Rue Saint Andre des Arts, which Dad suddenly realised was one of the wee streets he'd highlighted in his guidebook for exploring. We detoured up an interesting entry and found a tiny street with the most uneven cobblestones ever, several bars and restaurants and a very nice Salon du Thé.

Not one of us had any trouble getting to sleep that night.

Wed 15-Sep-10
11:57 am
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Toffeeapple
North Bucks

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A superb account Shereen, thanks for taking the time to write it all up for us.  I think, though, that you are missing a few links in your narrative.

I've never been to Paris, through it, around it and over it but never to it.  Odd really.

I'll try that again!

Wed 15-Sep-10
12:06 pm
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danast
Argyll, Scotland

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wave  Thanks Shereen, that was so interesting.  Is there more?   I've never been to Paris either, but would love to go some day.

Old teachers never die, they just lose their class

Wed 15-Sep-10
5:23 pm
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KateUK
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I've been to Paris once- goodness, the WALKING...it is so big!I swear the scale on maps of Paris is smaller than other cities- one page in a guidebook anywhere else is managable, a page walk in Paris is miles and miles and miles.
 

Goodness that food had me drooling....

Kateuk makes things at http://www.etsy.com/shop/finkstuff and sometimes she does this too http://www54paintings.blogspot.com/ and also this http://finkstuff.weebly.com/

Wed 15-Sep-10
5:45 pm
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MOS
Cannock Chase

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WOW cool write up shereen

did you know there's a recognised illness called Paris syndrome

apparently it affects mainly orientals worst ,the are told Paris is the most incredible city in the world ,and when they get there they cant get to grips with it ,the distances the Parisians the culture ,the embassy's run a 24 hour help line to sort the out, and some have to be sent home in shock .

sound like you got it sorted though

i must admit its not my cup of tea .i go through it as quick as possible then pull over and take a deep breath ,

MOS xx

sit down with a cupa and the urge will subside

Fri 17-Sep-10
10:22 pm
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Shereen
Near Belfast, Northen Ireland

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Bonjour tout le monde. I got a message saying I'd exceeded the maxim number of links in the post, so I had to remove them.

I'm working on the other 2 days and will pop them up here sometime over the weekend.

(This time last week I was finishing dinner in a little restaurant near the Seine and heading off on a boat cruise *happy sigh*)

Sun 19-Sep-10
6:45 pm
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Shereen
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I've finally got the photos off the camera and online here.

cool

Sun 19-Sep-10
7:55 pm
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MOS
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just briliant shereen you certainly covered some ground ,no wonder you were tired when you finished

MOS xx

sit down with a cupa and the urge will subside

Sun 19-Sep-10
10:53 pm
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Shereen
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Tired, and two inches shorter the leg! G'night all!

Mon 20-Sep-10
10:49 am
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Danny
Scarborough, England
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Great write-up and some lovely shots in your online album, Shereen. I am going to have to re-read your posts again to take it all in.

Seeing the pyramid of the underground bit of the Louvre reminded me of the time Fiona and I went to visits, seven or eight years ago, and the staff called a lightning strike on that Sunday afternoon. We were sort of secretly pleased, really, and spent a few happy hours pottering about in their lovely shops. Much more fun than doing the culture thing laugh

Never knowingly underfed

Tue 21-Sep-10
9:06 pm
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Shereen
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Cheers Danny! I do the holiday diary for my blog, but thought (hoped) you guys would enjoy it too. I love pottering around a holiday city - thankfully so does Dad. He decided the pyramid was as much as he wanted to see of The Louvre, although he did enjoy strolling around the grounds too. And sure you can absorb as much culture from a pavement table at a cafe.

Wed 22-Sep-10
6:54 pm
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JoannaS
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Oh you can watch the world go by whilst having a cup of something cheers

Wed 22-Sep-10
7:06 pm
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Toffeeapple
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How on earth did I manage to miss your on-line album Shereen? doh  The pictures are wonderful and it looks as though you all had a good time.

I'll try that again!

Wed 22-Sep-10
8:37 pm
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KateUK
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Blimey Shereen, you must have walked miles and miles and miles and miles!

Very nice photos indeed.

Kateuk makes things at http://www.etsy.com/shop/finkstuff and sometimes she does this too http://www54paintings.blogspot.com/ and also this http://finkstuff.weebly.com/

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