Paris travelogue (long)
Posted on Jul 02, 2013 by
My fiance and I spent 3 days in Paris last month. This, in addition to an overnight in London, and another week in Manchester where he lives, visiting friends, and doing a couple of day trips.
We flew to Paris from Manchester on Air France. We sat in the plane in Manchester for almost 2 hours because of fog in Paris. One doesn`t really think of Paris as a foggy city! Anyway, we got there after making up a little time en route. We were a bit concerned about getting into the city because this was during the recent transport strikes! Luckily, the RER was running. When there`s a transport strike in Paris, some busses, trains and the Metro do run though on reduced services on some lines and next to none on other routes. The advantage, at least, is that it was all free. We were never charged a cent to take a bus or metro or even the RER!
The strike only got in the way a little, but mostly we were ok. We walked a lot! Weather on Day 1 was overcast, a little sprinking of rain on day 2 and day 3 was bright and sunny. I hadn`t been to Paris in 30 years and Graham had never been. We didn`t see everything we thought we might, partly because of the transport issues and partly because I was just overly ambitious in my planning and thinking I could keep up that pace!
We stayed at the Welcome Hotel on the corner of Rue St. Germain and Rue de Seine. Very tiny elevator but the room we had was fine, small of course but clean. We only had hand luggage so space wasn`t really too much of an issue. We had enough room to get around the bed and there was a small desk, chest and wardrobe. 102 euros for a double (112 for a larger double/twin) en suite. Convenient for several metro stations. Noise wasn`t really a problem because the windows were shut but it might be in the summer with them open (no air conditioning). We ate in the area for breakfasts and several other meals.
The first day we had a lovely lunch at L`Atlas on Rue de Buci with wine, coffee and dessert for about 50 euro, tip was included. We walked to the Seine and across, wandered a bit around Ile de Cite and went in to see Notre Dame for a bit. It was stunning, dark and peaceful even with tourists wandering around. We had a coffee/chocolate and cake in a cafe at the tip of Ile St. Louis and then wandered around there for a little while as well, window shopping mainly. We bought some sandwiches and drinks and had them in the hotel that night. We actually had an early night because we`d been up since about 3:30 a.m. for an early taxi/flight.
The second day, a Tuesday, we had breakfast in Cafe Conti, also on Rue de Buci. Omelets! We sat in the outdoor area because of smokers inside and it had a clear plastic enclosure around the seating area which kept the breeze off and the warmth from the heat lamps inside. From there, back to the Seine and over to have a look at the exterior of the Louvre which is closed on Tuesdays. There was a robotic circular thingy that was traversing up and down the glass of the pyramid, cleaning it!
On the way out, down by the Tuileries, a woman came up behind us and picked something up off the ground. It appeared to be a large gold man`s wedding band. I couldn`t make out every thing she said, my high school French wasn`t *that* good, but she seemed to want to give it to us for good luck. Finally she left but she returned and seemed to say it was actually good luck for her that she gave it to us, and all she wanted was the price of a cup of coffee. Ah-Ha! Scam! Well in the end I did give her the change i had which was less than one euro. Her face fell and she tried to get us to give her 4 or 5 euro but she wasn`t getting it so she left. Later on in a cafe, I took the ring back out to look at it and it was clear then that it wasn`t real gold. The waiter noticed it and said something which ended in "pickpocket". I said oh my some woman gave this to us... "Oui, oui" he said, "pickpocket" !!! Apparently this is a very common scam, because later in the day someone approached Graham and tried to give him a ring. He just laughed and said no thanks, mate, we`ve already got one! We didn`t get pickpocketed, luckily and we didn`t really fall for the scam since we didn`t fork over anything more than loose change.
We tried to go to the Musee D`Orsay next but the Impressionist galleries were closed due to a general strike, also on that day. We didn`t bother paying to go in because that was the only thing we were interested in. Had a coffee, then thought we might try to get to the Carnavalet museum. However a metro train that didn`t come ended up changing our plans. We walked over to Place de la Concorde where I had a go on the large observation wheel during when it actually rained a bit harder. It`s got a canopy on it so i didn`t get that wet but Graham waiting for me below did.
We gave up on transport and walked and shopped down a bit of Rue Rivoli then walked towards the Opera house, stopping for lunch at a Mid-Eastern takeaway along the way. They had a few tables as well and we appreciated the warmth and chance to sit down. Walked past the Opera house and did some browsing and souvenir shopping in Galleries Lafayette and after another coffee, took a bus to Arc de Triomphe. It`s almost dark now so we saw it all lit up. However it had closed early so we couldn`t go up to the top. Bussed over to the Eiffel Tower next. Took pictures from the Trocadero and watched the hourly light show. You really don`t realize how massive that structure is until you see it close up, with teeny tiny cars and people underneath it.
We walked across the river and sat underneath it for a bit. I called my mom from there. Hey mom, I`m sitting under the Eiffel Tower in Paris!! We didn`t go up as it was cold and windy by then. Staggered off to find another bus. And waited. It didn`t seem inclined to come so we trudged to a metro station. There, the train we wanted was apparently going to arrive but there was only one train on the whole line so we had to wait for it. No matter. As long as we knew it was coming, we didn`t mind waiting. We chatted to a nice fellow who had very good English and listened to a couple of party boys down the platform who were playing guitar and singing Beatles songs very loudly and badly while they waited for their train.
We had dinner in the restaurant under the hotel that night, Le Mondrian. A nice meal with some good choices from the fixed price menu (I had salmon, he had a burger!) then up to bed.
Day 3 was sunny and cool. We slept late because we were up late the night before and quite tired. Today we headed up to Montmartre by bus. It took a little while but it was sunny and bright and we could see things along the way. We wandered around Montmartre, eventually making our way to Sacre Coeur to take in the view. We had lunch in a wonderful little restaurant around the corner from Place du Tertre on rue Poulbot called Le Poulbot. I highly recommend this place. We were there at lunchtime and through the cheapest fixed price menu was 15.50 euros but were given a small menu for 10 euro with lunch portions. We had pate to start, lasagna/beef bourguignon and creme caramel with our coffee. It was wonderful and the atmosphere was more Parisian and Montmart-ian than I ever thought possible. Old building, low ceilings, pictures and prints all over the walls, a few tables in front and a small back room with a few more. Wonderful. And on the door going in was a sign "Chien gentil, Maitre lunatique"
which basically means the dog is nice but the master is a lunatic. We didn`t see a dog so not really sure if the waiter, cook or owner was the lunatic!
From there, we took in Espace Dali which is a few doors away and then wandered the narrow cobbled streets in a downward fashion until we eventually came to Rue Clichy and the Moulin Rouge. Snapped a few pics, found a bus stop and went to the Louvre for the Wednesday evening opening. I`ve got four blisters by now and am footsore and tired but we were determined to see at least a few of the most famous things in the Louvre if nothing else. That we did, the Venus de Milo, the Winged Victory (my personal favourite) and the Mona painting along with assorted Greek statues and French paintings along the way. I did find the museum map confusing and it didn`t seem to match up with the signage around. Add to this being hot and tired and sore... I was about done in. We gave it up for a cold drink or two and a rest in the grand entrance hall.
To round off the day and our visit, though, as it was on the way back to the hotel anyway, we decided to go for a night cruise on the Seine. We went to the Vedettes Pont Neuf dock. If you are buying tickets at the dock, be warned they only take cash, not credit cards. The cruise was lovely though. It was a bit too chilly on the open top to last long upstairs but under the glass roof below, it was warm and the view was just as good.
We walked back towards our hotel and stopped in a restaurant called Muraille de Jade, which specializes in Thai, Vietnamese and Chinese fare and enjoyed a late dinner there.
We saw a lot and walked a lot. Had the transport been a bit more efficient, we probably would have gone a bit further afield but I think we did pretty well considering. We returned to London the next day on Eurostar, first class as it was my fiance`s birthday. We took in the British Museum and had a pub evening with local friends and headed back to Manchester the next day by train.
I would like to go back to Paris again, to see more of it but at least we`ve got these three days of memories.