I started thinking about this trip over five years ago and invited my wife to go to Paris for our 25th Wedding Anniversary. She said 'No', believe it or not, becasue she was afraid to fly after the events of 9-11 and the aftermath in air travel.
I asked her again and again each year after, but she kept saying 'no' so I figured if I was ever going to get her to see Paris I was going to have to act. I made the decision to get the tickets to Paris and just let it be a 'surprise'. How could she say 'no' now? Well, it worked and we're finally getting our anniversary trip for our 30th!!
I got the plane tickets a full year in advance (as soon as the airline could book the dates I wanted) to insure we would be in Paris on our anniversary day. I felt like 2 days of travel with 10 days in Paris would be enough to see everything and also still be affordable. I decided we should get to Paris a couple of days early so we could wake up in Paris that day and just enjoy our milestone without any fuss. Now that I have discovered the amount of interesting places in Paris and all there is to do, I'm not sure a month would be enough time! Since then I threw in a day in London, a day trip to Normandy (how can you be in France and not see that?) and discovered what Versailles is all about (pretty much takes up an entire day) and I have really crammed a lot of stuff into the remaining days!!
Next I spent weeks looking for the right hotel-something with the feel of Paris, not the Holiday Inn!! Since my wife was then let in on my little surprise during our beach vacation, I already had a ton of hotels for her to review that fit my criteria and I asked her to help decide what kind of hotel she would like to stay in. I felt like even though it was a surprise, I wanted her to enjoy the anticipation with me and also share in the decision making and planning. This is OUR trip, after all, and she needed to be part of it so we would be doing this together! We discussed the option of staying in more than one hotel, to try different ones out, but decided to stay in one hotel the entire time so we wouldn't have to keep packing up and moving-what a waste of time. So it had to be the perfect place in the perfect location. I know the location of Hotel Mansart is perfect (the secret is out!), and price was no object for this trip, but Hotel Mansart is certainly within reason (the Ritz is right next door, but we're not rich). But it was the reviews from other folks who had discovered this hotel that really sold me! It's supposed to be 'roomy' for Paris with really nice bathrooms, so I'll let you know if it turns out to be the right place.
In the months leading up to this trip I have been brushing up on my high school French, learning about the history of France and it's kings and reading about french culture. A book recommended by a friend is "French or Foe" by Polly Pratt. It gives great insights into why the french are the way they are, and what you need to know to get along with them better while in their country. I mostly want my wife to really enjoy our trip, so I'm doing everything I can to insure a good time, instead of coming away from the trip with her feeling like the french were "rude" afterwards. I prefer for her to remember how wonderful everything was.
I have also started looking at what they eat over there by looking at french menus, so we have an idea of what to expect. I don't want to look at a french menu and feel totally lost, unprepared and ignorant! I think it's better to know ahead of time what we're going to encounter in the restaurants, what meals cost, how to order and most important what to order and what not to order. They eat some strange stuff (see Fois Gras!!). Wine is a different story-but just more to learn.
I'm convinced that good planning makes for a much better trip and it's lots more fun when you already know what your doing and what's next (Rick Steves is an inspiration). It also insures the best use of your time so you can pack as much sightseeing and fun activities into the time you have, instead of wasting time running around in circles, backtracking and getting lost. I don't like wasting my precious vacation time.
The day trip to London is to show my wife the sites, since she only got to see Gatwick airport on route to Spain last year-her first time in Europe. (But, it's really so I can take the EuroStar train through the "Chunnel"--something I think is really way cool!!)
Got my wife's passport renewed and now it's time to start a diet and get into shape for all that walking in Paris! We're going to start walking at night to help get into condition so we're able to enjoy walking around everywhere without getting exhausted.
I have also been studying the Metro Maps and have added the routes we'll take when it's just too far to walk (See Sacre-Coeur and Pere-Lechaise). Besides, the Metro is another thing we need to experience and it will add to the fun.
Also have been getting exact locations for each place we plan to visit and mapping our walk routes from one venue to the next. Since we'll know exactly where we're going, we'll be able to spend more time 'seeing' the City (not 'looking' for where we are) and enjoying the beauty while not getting lost.
We just got back from a short trip to Orlando and Tampa and discovered our feet are definately not ready for Paris just yet. After an entire day on our feet in Disney World and another in MGM I realize we have got to do alot more walking in the next 85 days to really get in shape. Our feet were killing us by the end of each day and after just 2 days of walking thank God we had a few days in Tampa to rest those puppies up while fishing and just relaxing. Do they sell new feet at WalMart?
I was delighted yesterday to hear from Gemma, my son's girlfriend in England who has graciously agreed to be our local "tour guide", with her initial plan for our London day tour. She is giving up a day at work, just for us, to be our escort for the entire day and I have added those details to the trip and it looks like it's going to be another full day of fun. What better way to see the sights than with a lovely young lady, complete with British accent, showing us around and we get to visit with her all at the same time! Brilliant!! Fish & Chips on the River Thames.
It is getting close to the time to think about buying Euros for the trip. No way to know if the exchange rate is going to get better or worse in these last few months but buying Euros at the airport is NOT the way to get a good deal! It takes time to get them, even through a local bank, and there is usually a fee involved as well. It is well known that getting Euros from an ATM will get you the best rate that day, usually without fees, but who wants to go searching for an ATM upon arrival? Not me.
Well, time to get back to walking........these old feet will have to do.
Getting through these last few details has been fun and interesting. I finally booked our Normandy tour, after finding an "American" company that I felt comfortable with. They had 'on-line' booking and payment, sent an e-mail voucher and have a local presence with contact details. I have no fear that the bus will actually be there on the day of the trip and I was not feeling comfortable with the first outfit I looked at using.
I have also booked the Euro Star tickets to and from London for our day trip there and it was easy to book that on-line once I found the 'official' web site so I wasn't overpaying.
I also switched the Versailles day trip to Saturday because it worked better for everyone going and the bonus is that we'll get to see the fountains spraying because they only have them turned on during the weekend, which does not include Friday! Now we have our day trips alternating with our siteseeing days and I think that will be less exhausting for us.
I guess that the only thing left to be done is to make the last few dinner reservations and keep learning French!! I just bought Rick Steves' book on French phrases and words and a laminated Paris street map that is highly recommended and I'm feeling really ready for this trip!! I suppose that I should begin counting down the days in French: Quatre-vingt-deux jours et compte!
This week I made the River Seine dinner cruise reservation for our 1st night in Paris with Bateaux Pariseans. Got a window seat so we can see the city of lights light up right in front of us! Should be a really nice 2-1/2 hour cruise with live music and a good meal and wine.
I also made the arrangements for our airport transfers to and from the hotel with Airport Associate Shuttle and attempted to reserve a table for 6 at the Eiffel Tower for us and the Lunns, but it's too early for them, so I'll have to try again the first of April.
That only leaves 2 dinner reservations to make, but I'll do that at the hotel upon arrival, since that will be a week in advance and should be fine for those local, non-tourist, restaurants.
So I'm done!! Everything is planned, scheduled, some paid for in advance and all the details worked out--79 days from departure. Not bad. But it was a lot of work and took hours of research, mapping, coordination, decision making, letter writing and copying. hope it was all worth it.
Tomorrow, I should get my new book by Rick Steves on French phrases and words and also my Streetwise map. Time to study more French!!
The final dinner reservation is made at the Eiffel Tower, the Lunn's have their hotel and weekend plans finalized and Gemma got their hotel and Euro Star tickets "in the post" yesterday. So, everything is set for the trip and the only thing left to do is pack when it's time.
With 51 days left to departure the only change I made was to cancel the day at Euro Disney, since we just went to Orlando over President's Day, in favor of a few last sights to see in Paris on our last day. Now included are the Jardin des Plantes (botanical gardens), the Picasso museum, Hotel de Ville and the Trocadero. These are all good sites to see and we should be glad to have done them. Besides, we can always see Mickey here in the U.S.A. I also added Lafeyette's grave, which is just a bit south of Pere Lachaise, while we're doing famous dead people.
I have also found something to do for fun with the folks here at work: I'm going to wave to them from Paris on a web-cam I found in a courtyard in the Marais. At a pre-arranged time, they will go to the web site and should see me there live, waving to them. They will print the site with me there and I'll get to see it upon our return. Should be a hoot! Amazing what you can do with today's technology.
One last thing that I have discovered: My bank has a Global ATM Network with banks in foreign countries so I can withdraw Euros from ATM's in Paris without any fees. I located a branch right down the street from the hotel and there are dozens of ATM's all over Paris. So Gemma is going to bring me some "first day euros" when she visits in April and I won't need to buy any from the bank here before the trip. That makes things easier and I will save the $250 in fees I would have spent buying euros ahead of time.
That's the plan, now I only have to buy a pair of comfortable walking shoes for Mary Anna and I this weekend and continue counting the days!
Our shoe buying trip was a big success with both of us getting comfortable walking shoes. But it hasn't stopped there. My wife is now if full Paris shopping mode, buying dresses, tops, underwear and, yes, more shoes to go with the dress she bought for our Anniversary and evenings out. I got worried and asked her just how many suitcases she was planning to bring on this trip.
It's now 36 days from departure and time to start making a list of things to bring. Don't want to forget anything important-like one of those electrical converter things so we can use our re-chargers for the phones-and other stuff. Also need to get a list of addresses so we can send postcards from Paris and anything we forget we can buy over there, I guess?
My wife is finally getting excited and I just can't wait. I also bought a booklet 'on line' listing all the free public "sanisettes" (toilets) in Paris, so my wife can "go" when needed. You know, 'When you gotta' go, you gotta' go". This should prove invaluable!
With everything ready, we left for the airport, checked in without any problem and got through security in 30 minutes. When we gave our boarding passes to the agent he said, "Welcome aboard and Happy 30th Anniversary"! We couldn't believe it, but he knew! We went to our seats and buckled up and as we got ready to push back the Captain comes on the PA and says "We want to welcome aboard Mr. & Mrs. (us) who are celebrating their 30th Wedding Anniversary with us today" and everyone starts looking around for us and clapping!! What a way to start our trip!! Then, after dinner, the Flight Attendant comes over to us and presents us with a cold bottle of Champagne with a note of congratulations on it. Well, we about died but I finally figured out that our friends had taken care of all this fuss over us and it was just an amazing way to start the trip and made us feel very special on that flight. Needless to say, we really enjoyed the ride over to Paris.
We got to bag claim and needed to call the Shuttle service to let them know we had arrived before collecting our bags (per their instructions). Without a calling card and not knowing where to buy one, I went into the Air France bag office and asked a nice lady where I could acquire one to call the shuttle company, paperwork in hand. She knew this would be far too complicated to explain, so instead she asked if I would like her to just make the call (there were about 5 agents just standing around chatting with no customers at 9 AM). I gratefully accepted her offer and handed her the papers with the phone number and confirmation etc. and she made the call and then explained where they said to meet them in about 15 minutes. That was really nice and easy and I couldn't thank her enough for the kind help. It's important to note that I approached her in French, using the secret code words "Excuse me for bothering you but I have a problem...do you speak English?" She did, and from there it went very smoothly. I then shook her hand and said Merci, beaucoup".
It took a few anxious minutes to find the shuttle at the meeting point, but we did and then we dropped off 2 couples at departures and went straight to the hotel. I had pre-paid for the round trip and had the documentation and the hotel staff was kind enough to make a copy for the driver.
Although it was only 10:30 AM, our room was ready and waiting and I realized that Puspha was at the desk (we had e-mailed the hotel a lot beforehand to make dinner reservations and his was a name I knew) and I announced it was me. He knew exactly who we were and excitedly told me that he had given us his favorite room in the hotel! How nice is that? So up we went, with the bellman and our bags, to our room and it was everything we expected! Large and nicely appointed and I discovered on the floor plan that it was the biggest room on the floor.
We quickly unpacked a few things and hung clothes in the closet and set out to explore Place Vendome and the Jardin Tuileries and find Cafe Very for lunch. I think my dish was called "Croque Croque" and was melted cheese over a layer of ham on a bed of chopped vegetables (not bread) and was very good (pictured).
We did go back to the hotel after lunch to unpack a bit, take a shower and change (we were still in our Friday clothes and I was still wearing what I wore to work) and my poor wife just had to take a short nap. But that gave me a chance to get organized and then it was time to set out again to see the Tuileries and the Orangerie.
We got to the Orangerie late, about 4:40 PM, but that was perfect because earlier at lunch we noticed the line to get in was pretty long and now we were able to just walk right in. It was a bit bigger than I expected because it has a downstairs and upstairs gallery and we saw a lot of other works, by other artists, besides just Monet. We took lots of pictures of the art but I have only posted a few.
Then we walked past the Place de la Concorde and then on to the Champs de Mars to see the Eiffel Tower and take some pictures of this amazing structure. A nice couple took our picture for us so we could be in it together and then we boarded the boat for our first night dinner cruise on the Seine. We did notice some folks get turned away because they were not dressed properly, but they warn you about the dress code when you make the reservations that this is a nice affair. The dinner cruise lasts 2.5 hours and was very nice with good food, wine and entertainment. They also take professional photos of you at your table, but they are expensive at 20 euros per copy. We were pretty tired after traveling all night and spending a long first day in Paris. So at 11:30 PM we walked only a short way along the Seine before we jumped on a #42 bus back to Opera and walked back to the hotel. We arrived at 12:15 and had a good nights sleep after a wonderful day.
The Metro is wonderful and can get you anywhere in Paris, but you have to know what you're doing. Most important is what line and what direction (last station at either end). But I warn you, it can be pretty time consuming and exhausting...there are a lot of stairs and many long hallways to navigate in and out of the stations. It is also warm in some stations and very crowded most of the time. Don't expect to sit in the station or in the train unless you get lucky (meaning you just missed a train so the platform is empty). In the Metro Station (Photo)
I'm glad we used the Metro and got to expierience it, but if we ever go back I can promise you we'll be taking a taxi most of the time. It costs more, for sure, but if you feel worn out when you get where your going because of all the walking and climbing stairs up and down it isn't really worth it. And if you have to take several trains it takes more time than you would like and remember, you still have to walk some more to get where you're going after you get out of the Metro. On our first ride, we took the Metro from Ile de Cite to the Arc de Triomph.
Well, one thing is for sure--the Hotel Mansart is a GREAT hotel!
We were greeted and welcomed upon arrival by a wonderful staff and got help with our bags to our very large room on the 4th floor. The A/C worked great, the room was very clean and nice looking and there was no smoking smell from prior guests (which I really worried about since there are no 'non-smoking floors or rooms). The windows also opened to get fresh air and a nice breeze in the room when we wanted, which was very nice, but it also let in the street noise so we kept them closed at night so it was pretty quiet.
The bathroom was very nice, although the toilet was too close to the wall, to make room for the door, so you kind of had to sit a little sideways, but it also had a tub and shower with nice tiled walls and floor. Somehow, we never took any pictures of the bathroom though! We were warned that the hotels in Paris don't provide washcloths and they were right. But because I knew about it, I packed our own and the maid never messed with them-they were always left where we hung them so it worked out very well and I was glad I brought them with us.
The bed was queen size and comfortable and we had a nice desk, table and chairs, and a loveseat that disappeared after the first 5 days. We still don't know why and we never asked about it--I figured that they took it to be cleaned or something but never brought it back and my wife insists that it was because she had one of her suitcases on it. She thought they didn't like that.
The desk staff were very helpful and made many reservations and confirmations for us with pleasure. They were also very good about calling for taxis when we needed one and were always nice and willing to help in any way.
There was a nice breakfast room on the 1st floor and there was always a table available to sit and eat. The big surprise was that they even had a breakfast menu so we could order complete breakfasts with eggs and meat as well as the standard fruit, bread and cereal stuff. Coffee and juice were also there, of course.
I think I mentioned already that they even had breakfast ready for us at 6 AM in the lobby the morning we left before the shuttle came for us. And they also gave us a really good bottle of champagne on our anniversary! It was sitting on the table on ice with 2 glasses when we came back from the Louvre to change for dinner.
I highly recommend this hotel if you want a nice place with a great staff in a perfect location in Paris!! It's not the cheapest nor the most expensive, but is definately a great value for the money. The secret is out!!
On our anniversary we decided to spend the day at the Louvre. Overwhelming is the best word for this place. It is amazingly big and remember, it was once the Palace of the King of France, and it looks like it too! Not only is it huge, and way more than anyone can handle in a day, but it is always very crowded. But it is all worth it because of the fantastic stuff here. You simply have to plan to come often and see one area at a time and keep coming back until you've had your fill. But it is overwhelming and has way too much to see in one trip.
We did go through the Greek and Roman stuff and saw what we were most interested in: Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo, Winged Victory and Cupid & Psyche plus a bunch of other works of art we all studied in school and looked familiar. But we also accidently stumbled into a room that held the crown jewels of the King and Queen. The Kings crown holds a 147 carat diamond and was ridiculous. The jewels on the items we saw were really hugh and amazing and very cool to see right there in a glass case.
Some of the works of art (paintings) are really big too. Very interesting and worth the trip. One regret is that we actually missed seeing the Musee d'Orsay because we ran out of time the day we were scheduled to go. I regret that, but it just means we have to return to Paris to do it and go back to the Louvre to see another area.
We also enjoyed a very nice lunch on our anniversary at the Brasserie du Louvre, but one thing is for sure--my wife enjoyed the desserts in Paris a whole lot more than the food! And believe me, she got plenty of great desserts!
A lot of folks criticize this place because they feel like the food isn't that great or that it's just a tourist trap and some consider it just a rip off (we did pay 8 euros for an "extra" glass of diet coke) but we feel like it was worth every cent. You don't exactly go there for the food (and you CAN just go for the show, but you only sit in the very back, because all the "good" seats are occupied by the dinner guests when you arrive after dinner and before the show begins) and the show is terrific! It is a combination of a Las Vegas show, Disney, Cirque de Soleil, and Can-Can all rolled into one great show. The costumes were amazing, not to mention the topless women (who were all georgous), and it was very entertaining and lasted what seemed to be forever.
They had a couple who did acrobatics, a juggler who was very funny and played drums with plastic balls he blew out of his mouth after popping them into his mouth as fast as he could, one lady who swam ina tank full of really large snakes, and a series of production numbers with a storyline (all in French, of course). In fairness, the place was very tightly packed, so they could cram in as many diners as possible, so that it felt kind of cramped. But we really enjoyed the show and the people at our table. We booked very early and got great seats right up near the stage, however, the couple next to us had a travel snafu and were in Paris instead of Russia (they forgot to get their travel visas and got stuck in Paris--great place to get stuck) and booked their reservation only the day before and got seats right next to us. Perhaps it was because he is the cousin of the King of Jordan?? Connections matter!
Bottom line: Definately go see the show at Moulin Rouge. We loved it and have a great memory!
One thing I knew for sure was that we had to go to Normandy while in France. Our very way of live is a direct result of the sacrifices made here and our fathers fought and served in World War II and many participated in the D-Day landings, including my Uncle Fred, with the 82nd Airborne Division.
To say this trip was moving is an understatement and I publically admit that I broke down and cried at the American Cemetary after seeing the graves of so many fallen soldiers from every state in America.
Our bus tour (a 14 hour day trip) traveled from Paris past Rouen on A13 to Caen, where we visited the Ste. Gestion Memorial Musee Pour la Paix and had lunch. This is a nice memorial to peace and has many nice artifacts from the war and important photographs, viedos and information on the destruction and suffering that occured.
If you are interested in this kind of thing, you might also be interested in seeing the Deportation Memorial in Paris, right behind Notre Dame while you're there, to see the French tribute to the 200,000 French Jews deported to the concentration camps who never returned (see photo).
From Caen, the bus tour (which takes 2.5 hrs. to Normandy) traveled to Point du Hoc where we saw the landing beach site, passed Verville-sur-Mer en-route to the American Cemetary in St. Laurent-sur-Mer. This is a beautiful and peaceful place on the ocean and is the only cemetary built on the actual battleground. All American soldiers burried here face the U.S.A.
From here we passed through Colleville-sur Mer and visited Omaha Beach and Arromanches les Bains, Juno Beach and Gold Beach, landing sites of the British and Canadians and then went back to Paris. This is quite a trip and well worth the time and money. The beaches were left just the way they were after the war and I was stunned by the bomb creaters on the beach from the pounding given to the Germans from our battleships before the landing. The concrete bunkers are still there and the entire site is just amazing.
This is a trip you should not miss.
We began Wednesday with a taxi ride (a VERY wise decision) to the foot of Sacre Coeur in Montmartre, which is high on a hill--a VERY BIG hill--overlooking Paris from the North. This neighborhood is just full of stairs going ever higher and higher until you get to the church at the top. The taxi ride made it very clear that we did the right thing. The only stairs we had to climb was up to the front door to the church.
The views from here are really amazing and worth the trip even if you're not interested in Sacre Coeur, but the church is really nice too, and has a crypt underneath, although it was closed for some reason and we didn't get to go in.
Montmartre is also known for the street artists, among other things, who are very eager to draw your portrait and begin before they even say hello. Before you know it, they get you engaged in conversation while sketching away and in 20 minutes or so you get to see a picture of someone you don't know and doesn't resemble you but you somehow feel obligated to buy. Then comes the shock when you ask how much and they start off at 80 euros! Don't panic, you can walk away or negotiate all the way down to 20 euros (if you can stand the guilt trip). We paid 30 to each guy ,since they did us both, and I figured that it was worth getting totally ripped off since it was very entertaining and makes a great story, especially when we show off these charcoal portrates of a nice couple that doesn't look anything like us!! Hey, these two never said they were any good and apparently make a good living without any talent whatsoever. What a deal! Now you've been warned, so it's up to you. We don't do well with guilt as you can see.
After Montmartre, we went cross-town to the south and went to the "House of Chocolate" (a must for my wife) before seeing St. Sulpice and Luxembourg Gardens. There a 5 locations in Paris and the chocolate is very good and very expensive, but nothing in Paris is very cheap. The chocolate was worth it and we shared it with everyone, who always rcognized the brand.
From there we went to St Sulpice, of Davinci Code fame, and saw the "Rose Line" and then went to spend some time relaxing in the most popular garden in Paris, Lugembourg Garden. After being there I now understand why it is so popular, but then all of the gardens in Paris are always filled with people enjoying the peace and tranquility they offer.
The Pantheon was our next stop and the size and scale of the columns and bronze doors is unreal. But underneath, in the crypt, is the real treasure, for here is the resting place of some of the most famous people from France including Voltaire, Jean-Paul Marat, Emile Zola, Louis Braille, Pierre and Marie Curie and Victor Hugo.
One thing I have always dreamed of doing was to ride through the "Chunnel" after it was built under the English Channel connecting Paris to London. So that was all the excuse I needed to take my wife to see London.
Since my son's girlfriend lives there, she agreed to be our tour guide and gave us the grand tour and it was wonderful and we were blessed with great weather that day. After the 2 hour 40 minute train ride (only 20 minutes is under the channel) we met and had coffee on the Thames before riding the London Eye and saw London from the air. This was the coolest thing we did! What a view!!
The Houses of Parliment and Big Ben were spectacular from the top of the Eye and we could easily pick out all of the most famous landmarks in London.
From there we took a stroll over to Westminster Abby before walking to Buckingham Palace through St. James Park, where we walked on part of the Princess Dianna Memorial Walk path.
After seeing Buckingham Palace and watching a parade (the Royal Guard were practicing for the Queens birthday and we caught them coming back to their barracks) we had lunch and went shopping at Harrods. Quite a remarkable store and well worth seeing!
We boarded a river boat, after seeing more of London from a cab, and took a nice ride down the River Thames to see St. Paul's Cathedral, Tate Modern, the Shakespere Theatre and the Tower of London on a very entertaining cruise. The first mate, who reminded me a lot of Hugh Grant, pointed out all of the landmarks along the way to Tower Bridge. At the end of the line was the Tower of London, and we walked around the castle before heading to the Pride of Whitby for a diner of fish 'n chips on the river. After a wonderful day of sightseeing in London, we headed back to Paris on the EuroStar.
I think that my favorite part of Paris was the Marais, and we began this day going to Pompidou Center and then had lunch. The area between Pompidou and Les Halles was a really nice pedistrian type mall (although there was an occasional vehicle that drove through the street) full of cafes, shopping and people. The atmosphere was great and we really enjoyed walking through this entire area of Paris.
Then we headed to the Expiatory Chapel, where Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette were first layed to rest. This is a beautiful, small chapel and inside were beautiful separate statues of the King and Queen attempting to talk their way into heaven after their earthly deeds were rewarded with the guillotine! Underneath is their crypt and out back is a small garden with more above ground crypts, but we didn't bother to see who might be burried there because we were headed to the tomb of Nepoleon next, at Les Invalades.
Les Invalades is way more than just the place where Nepoleon is burried, but his tomb is quite impressive. This is also a group of 4 army museums and is full of cool stuff including the frock coat and hat that Napoleon wore and is seen in many portraits of him. The red marble tomb sits directly under the large gold dome that can be seen from many places in Paris.
We were actually supposed to be at Notre Dame to see the Crown of Thorns of Jesus and meet our son and his fiancee there, who came in from London. BIG mistake on my part. I blew it off, thinking you would never really see the crown and not only did they see it--they got to kiss it up at the altar!! This only happens on First Friday each month from 3 PM to 4 PM. Won't miss this next time!
We headed back to the hotel to get dressed for the big dinner in the Eiffel Tower to meet the parents of our son's fiancee for the first time. They came to Paris from England to meet us. First, we took a cab to Le Madeline to the flower market (check the schedule --its not there every day) to buy flowers for the ladies and then to the Eiffel Tower. We met as planned, had a great dinner at Altitude 95 (Jules Verne was closed for renovations) and then enjoyed walking all over and around the Eiffel Tower. We all went back to our hotels for a good nights rest because tomorrow we are spending the day in Versailles!
Versailles is really too much for words. What a palace! And the 8,000 acre property and gardens ain't bad either. We took the advice of Rick Steves and bought "Le Passport", which includes roundtrip train fare on the RER (we left from the d'Orsay station) entrance to the palace, entrance to the gardens and allows skipping ahead to the front of the queue. It only costs 25 euros per person and is really a good value if you intend to make a day of it and see everything, which you can easily do. It also entitles you to use the audio headset for the palace tour and I thought it also allowed unlimited use of the shuttle in the gardens, but we had to pay to use it.
In the palace you get to see their private chapel, where Louis went to mass every morning, the King and Queen's bedrooms, dining rooms, salons, crown room and, of course, the amazing Hall of Mirrors. The palace has 750 rooms but you are only allowed in certain areas, but it gives you a pretty ggod idea of what life was like at the palace back then.
We went on Saturday so we could see the fountains spreying water, which they only do on the weekends in spring and summer. There are no restaurants here, but you can get sandwiches at the small cafe type stands that are pretty well hidden in the gardens. Its a good idea to eat a good breakfast and plan to eat light at lunch. We had dinner in Paris when we returned after a stop at the hotel to shower and change.
I guess this day literally went from below ground at Pere Lechaise cemetary to as high as you can go in Paris on the 59th floor of Tour Montparnasse.
Pere Lechase is a VERY large cemetary and, even though I had directions to Jim Morrison's grave, you definately need a map to get around this place and find the graves you want to see. It was very quiet and peacefull and was a good way to spend a Sunday morning. Very interesting place and worth the visit even if you don't know who Jim Morrison, Victor Noir and Edith Pief are.
We also went to Lafayette's grave, which was an adventure on Rue de Picpus. Be advised that this place is a bit hard to find, even with the address, and is not open all the time (after 1 PM when we went).
The Bastille was torn down years ago and the only thing left is a nice tall monument, but we went by and took pictures since we had to go past it anyway on the way to Place Vosges.
This quaint little park is a secret that the folks in Paris would prefer to keep secret. The place was full of folks just sitting around on the grass and on benches enjoying a nice Sunday afternoon. We ate at a very busy and very popular place, Ma Bourgogne, where I made the mistake of ordering the Steak Tartare. The menu "highly recommended" it so I thought it would be good, especially since this restaurant is known for making the best around. I didn't know that I was ordering raw ground beef, but did notice that everyone around was having it. My wife had a cooked steak and, believe it on not, mine was much better! I might not ever eat it again, but I'm glad I had it even if it was by 'mistake'.
After walking through the Latin Quarter and seeing both Roman ruin sites we ended up at St. Germain des Pres and realized that people were coming in for Sunday mass. So we stayed for mass and it was really nice, all in French, but easy to follow. The music was great and we were glad we were able to attend.
By then it was time to head for Montparnasse for dinner at Ciel de Paris on the top floor. We were seated at a window right smack in front of the Eiffel Tower and there is no better view of Paris than from up there----and it's the only place in Paris where you can't see the Montparnasse Tower because you're in it!!
Dinner was fabulous, although the drinks and wine were pretty expensive (14 and 15 euro drinks before dinner and 10.50 euro per glass for wine) but you are paying for the view too. Check it out-pretty nice way up in heaven after being at the cemetaries in the morning.
Today we were originally going to go to Euro Disney but changed our mind because we can do that at home. Paris has too much to offer and you don't get here that often so we scheduled more places to see.
Unfortunately, we had the wrong address, so we could not find the Picaso Museum even though we thought we were on the street where it is supposed to be. I have the right address in the trip plan now. We had fun walking around looking for it anyway and finally wandered back to Notre Dame and this time it wasn't raining and the pictures were better.
We did some shopping in the area and then stood in front of the web-cam I found and waved to folks back home so they could see us in Paris. We had pre-arranged a time and while standing there we got text messages that our friends and family were watching us. It was pretty funny and everyone thought it was cool.
We walked to the Hotel de Ville (Paris City Hall) and enjoyed the garden and fountains and did some more shopping for gifts along the way back to the hotel.
Then we took a cab to dinner and had a great time in a quiet neighborhood restaurant, Le Gastroquet, owned by two of the nicest people you could ever meet. When we mentioned to the waiter that we were on our anniversary trip the owner brought us champagne and the chef (the other owner) came to our table and put his hat on my wife and sat down to give her a kiss. Then his wife came out with cookies and candles with "30" on it and made such a fuss over us that we ended up missing another river cruise with our friends from back home on their trip.
It was a wonderful way to end the trip and we had a fabulous time and made lots of new friends we will always remember.
Paris is a beautiful city and the people are really nice. Don't believe the negative things you hear from people who have never been there. Paris is great and learning about French culture and her people and history only make it better. Bon Voyage!!
We packed before we went to bed and had our clothes layed out because we had to get up early for our shuttle ride to the airport at 6:30 AM. I also settled the hotel bill before we retired so we wouldn't be pressed for time in the morning.
In the morning we came down to the lobby with our bags to discover that the hotel staff had prepared breakfast for us and had it waiting for us in the lobby!! What a great way to end our trip! We enjoyed our breakfast while the desk clerk confirmed our transportation, took some last pictures and said our good-byes and left for the airport on schedule when the shuttle arrived.
We arrived in plenty of time and spent some leftover euros on more gifts and had a nice flight home. Everything went very smoothly and we were tired and glad to be home after the trip of a lifetime.
I hope you enjoy our pictures (there are more on my Yahoo 360 page) and my journal and find the information in our trip plan useful. Happy travel in Paris and if you want any information, just let me know!