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Katmu's Trip to the Real Paris, the one in France not Las Vegas

Discussion in 'Non-Vegas Trip Reports' started by katmu, Mar 13, 2015.

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  1. katmu

    katmu Well-Known Member

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    My Trip Report

    Background: I found out at the end of January that I won a trip for 2 to Paris, France from Tarte Cosmetics. The trip was to originally include 2 round-tip plane tickets and 3 nights hotel with a budget per night for the hotel up to $400. Tarte agreed to let us extend the return flight by one extra night and let me pick the hotel. Because the hotel came in under budget since early March is still the off-season, Tarte surprised me by paying for the 4th night as well. I decided to bring my mom, who is 75 and had never been to Europe and my younger son who is 22. So I booked 1 additional plane ticket and a 2nd room at the same hotel. My older son agreed to dog-sit in exchange for a trip later this year to the destination of his choosing, within reason.

    Travel Day March 5:

    We were booked on non-stop flights from Minneapolis to Paris departing at 5PM. I had checked us in and printed out our boarding passes the night before. We arrived to the airport around 2PM, dropped off our checked bags and proceeded to security. We were pulled aside to the Pre-screening line so we had zero wait at security. We stopped by French Meadow Café for some food to take on the plane. If you are ever in the Minneapolis airport and want some healthier options, I would recommend French Meadow. We get to the gate and the plane is already there (good sign) but there is also a list of names on an overhead display as the flight was oversold by about 20 seats. Other than the fact that the plane was oversold, boarding went off without incident and our flight took off on time.

    IMG_1005_zps7ertymyl.jpg

    The flight crew on this flight was the most helpful and polite crew I have encountered in many years. And there was a lot of food served, compared to flights I have taken to Mexico or the Caribbean recently – 2 meals and a snack. The flight over took about 8.5 hours and was pretty smooth. I still couldn’t sleep though and by the time we landed my back (herniated discs and scar tissue from a nasty car accident 13 years ago) was hurting pretty bad.
     
  2. katmu

    katmu Well-Known Member

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    Day 1 March 6:

    We arrived at Paris CDG airport about ½ hour early at 8 am. We were through customs and had our bags by about 9 am. We stopped by the Paris tourist office and bought 3 4 day museum passes for 56 euros each (about $59). We took the RER Line B train from the airport to the Saint Michel Notre Dame stop and then walked the block and a half to our hotel and arrived about 9:45. The train from the airport into Paris costs 10 euros (about $10.50 currently).

    I picked the hotel, Villa D’Estrees, for a few reasons. The Saint Michel Notre Dame stop not only had access to the train to/from the airport, but also the train that runs to Versailles and multiple metro lines. I was trying to minimize the amount of walking for my mom as much as I could. The hotel itself is small, only 10 rooms total with 2 rooms per floor. We were originally supposed to have both rooms on the 4th floor, but the previous guests had not checked out yet so the front desk clerk asked if we would be ok with the 3rd floor. We agreed to take the rooms on the 3rd floor and went up to check out the rooms. The staff brought our bags up shortly. My son and I had the larger room. The pic shows the room when we arrived before the bed was split into 2 twins. My mom had the smaller of the 2 rooms. The good thing about only 2 rooms per floor is that unlike some hotels I’ve stayed in, including in Vegas, it’s a really really short walk from the elevator and no hallway noise.

    Larger Room:
    DeluxeSuite_zpsxcn3wvlz.jpg

    Smaller Room:
    IMG_1008_zps4yge7sjj.jpg

    Bath:
    IMG_1007_zpsbjtqrm5m.jpg


    We freshened up a bit and then headed out to catch the train to Versailles. The train to Versailles cost 7 euros round-trip and took about 40 minutes each way. The train station is about a 10-minute walk from the Palace itself. Our museum pass covered entrance to the palace, and the wait to get through security took about 5 minutes. There were free audio guides available which gave some more detail about some of the rooms. They had just finished restoring one of the rooms, and just for the ceiling it took a staff of 20 people 9 months to finish so the amount of upkeep is extensive. The palace itself is huge.


    This picture is of the Hall of Mirrors where the Treaty of Versailles ending WWI was signed:
    IMG_1013_zpssq1cfelx.jpg


    When we finished touring the castle, we walked around the gardens and out to the Petit Trianon, a “village” built to amuse Marie Antoinette. It was really nice to have a sunny day in the mid-50s as it was about 10F when we left Minneapolis. But at this point, my back is really starting to spasm so I didn’t enjoy the gardens as much as I normally would have.

    Upon arriving back at the train station, there was a crowd of people standing in front of the turnstiles and in front of the ticket office. Finally a ticket agent comes out and announces that there are no more trains to Paris today. We had to walk to another station about 10 minutes away. This became a problem, as the other station was not on the map I had from the tourist office, and looking at the signs it’s not obvious where the train would end up in Paris. We get on the 1st train labeled RER C but after 2 stops we think it’s not going the right way, so we get off and get on another train back to the 2nd Versailles station. Looking at the schedules at the station, I think our best option is to take a train to the Montparnasse station and then transfer to a Metro line that will take us the 2 stops to our hotel.

    When we finally make it back it’s about 5 PM and we are all having a hard time staying awake so we crash.
     
  3. katmu

    katmu Well-Known Member

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    Day 2 March 7:

    In the morning, we decide to local bakery near the hotel called Eric Kayser. My son picked out a loaf of bread and we picked up a few pastries, all of them were excellent. We then stopped at Monoprix, probably best described as the French version of Target with a grocery in the lower level. We picked up some water, juice and yogurt. After stopping back by the hotel, we walked a few blocks to Notre Dame. There was about a 10-minute wait to get into Notre Dame. We did not climb the tower at Notre Dame as I wasn’t going to make my mom climb 300+ steps, but the inside of the church is beautiful.

    Notre Dame:
    IMG_1016_zpsm2i5rzpv.jpg
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    When we finish at Notre Dame, we walk back to the Metro and catch the line to the Musee D’Orsay, the art museum of impressionist art. The museum pass also covered admission, good since it allowed us to skip the line to buy tickets. The Musee D’Orsay is in an old converted train station. The art at the D’Orsay includes a lot of big names – Monet, Manet, Renoir, Van Gogh but also some lesser-known names and some art nouveau furniture that was incredibly intricate. I have postcards of the art, but there are no pictures allowed of the art but here is the inside of the building:
    IMG_1026_zps15b2ohzr.jpg

    From the D’Orsay, we walk across the Seine through the Jardin Tuilleries towards the Louvre. When we get to the front of the Louvre by the glass pyramid, there is a really long line to get in. I remembered reading in one of the guidebooks that there were additional entrances that tended to be less busy, so we walked north of the museum to Rue di Rivoli. Under an arch, there was a sign for an entrance for groups and museum pass holders. We go in and there was 1 group of about 8 people ahead of us, but still much better than the other line. When we get inside, we try to prioritize what we wanted to see as the museum covers several city blocks. We decide to start with the Denon wing, where the Mona Lisa and Winged Victory are located.

    Jardin Tuileries:
    IMG_1031_zps7r7agvyz.jpg

    Louvre Exterior:
    IMG_1032_zpsgd5krmwz.jpg

    Unfortunately since the Louvre is in an old castle, there were some stairs that were unavoidable for my mom. We see the large Winged Victory statue before heading to the Italian galleries. A clear box now covers the Mona Lisa with a barricade around it (different from when I visited in the mid-80s):
    IMG_1033_zpsflfbrvcb.jpg

    My son wanted to see the Egyptian, Islamic and Middle-Eastern galleries so we head there next. This was not my favorite area as it was a lot of pottery. At this point we still haven’t had lunch so we stop at the museum cafeteria for a snack. This ended up being the only food I had in Paris that could best be described as “meh”. We finished with the decorative arts area, including the rooms from Napoleon’s state apartment. His taste is décor is not exactly what I would call understated:
    IMG_1034_zpsfmfdwtfu.jpg
    IMG_1035_zpsztinz9sj.jpg
    From here we head across the river to catch one of the 1 hour Seine river cruises. I had bought the cruise tickets ahead of time so it was 10 euros each. It was nice to get a break from all of the walking and get a different view of the city from the river:
    IMG_1037_zps7lfnocdn.jpg

    After the cruise, we walk back to the hotel to get ready to head out to dinner. For dinner, we went to a little café in the Latin Quarter called Maison de Verlaine. I was a little nervous that the restaurant was in a touristy area but the meal was absolutely amazing, from the fish soup I started with to the wine to the scallops and shrimp with white asparagus in cream sauce to crème brulee for dessert.

    IMG_1040_zpsrjwakqzi.jpg
    IMG_1041_zpsvwxxt4mf.jpg


    It was about 11 by the time we made it back to the hotel. My son headed out to check out the nightlife near the hotel while my mom and I gave up for the day as we were still jet-lagged.
     
  4. S'AllGoodMan

    S'AllGoodMan High-Roller

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    Thanks for the report. Makes me want to go back to France.
     
  5. DBear

    DBear VIP Whale

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    Only had a chance to glance at this tonight. Will read thru this tomorrow. Sounds like a fantastic win to have airfare and hotel paid for!
     
  6. PayTriple

    PayTriple The Cucumber King

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    Thanks for sharing! What a great trip!
    And what a great time to take the trip. The dollar is at an all time high against the Euro, 1 usd to 0.952 euros. Thus, all the prices you quoted in euros are almost at parity in dollars. This may also explain why they gave you an extra night, since the euro has been dropping quickly.
     
  7. katmu

    katmu Well-Known Member

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    Thanks all. I still need to add the last couple of days.
     
  8. katmu

    katmu Well-Known Member

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    Day 3 March 8:

    We slept in later than I had planned this day. We stopped by a crepe / sandwich place called Mich near the hotel for some breakfast. I had a sugar and cinnamon crepe (so good), my mom had an apricot crepe, and my son for whatever reason decided to have a chorizo sandwich.

    We caught the Metro to go visit Napoleon’s tomb / army museum. We started in the army museum. The 1st floor was a lot of armor and medieval weapons, mostly French but also some Japanese and Chinese swords and armor. I was mostly noticing the building, as I really loved the ceiling:
    IMG_1044_zpsfupuj0tm.jpg

    This photo is of Louis XIV’s armor. I’m not sure if you can tell in the pic but it has what looks like scrollwork all over it. I think it must have taken a really long time to make:
    IMG_1045_zpsjgtjzfdb.jpg

    The rest of the museum is devoted to war history, obviously with a French focus. I was most interested in the WWI and WWII areas. I thought the museum did a good job of explaining the factors that led to WWI. I thought the WWII section overemphasized the role of the French Resistance in the Allied Victory in WWII, perhaps that is just my American bias talking though. The one thing I would say about the museum is that they could do with a better map, although one section of the museum seemed to be under construction, which made getting to Napoleon’s tomb a bit more confusing.

    The tomb is underneath a huge dome. I was looking at it, wondering if Napoleon was compensating for something???
    IMG_1046_zpszzx8cz7d.jpg
    IMG_1048_zpsueon0dzu.jpg

    After leaving the tomb, we stopped by a café for lunch before walking though another park and across the Seine towards the Champs-Elysees. After we had crossed the river, we passed a large building called the Grand Palais that was apparently going to be hosting a fashion show for the line Akris later that day. My son was obviously keeping his eyes open for models but we didn’t see any.

    We walked down the Champs-Elysees, stopping at some stores along the way.
    IMG_1049_zpsjc3ue8zy.jpg
    I stopped by Sephora and Guerlain and my son wanted to stop in all of the car showrooms along the way. I found it a little odd that there were so many car showrooms. We then caught the metro again, farther down the Champs-Elysees to the Arc de Triomphe. We walked around the arc but did not climb the steps. In lieu of the recent VMB thread on roundabouts, I was especially noticing the traffic in the giant roundabout around the arch- no lane markers and seemed to me to be absolute chaos.
    IMG_1050_zpsvjljhht2.jpg
    My mom wanted a coffee and my son was hungry again (French portion sizes are smaller then at home) so we stopped for a snack at a café and then did some more shopping. I was keeping an eye on the clock as I had made reservations in advance to go to the top of the Eiffel Tower at 7:30 pm. I had 1st looked for Eiffel Tower reservations right after Tarte booked our flights in January but there were zero openings for any of the dates of our trip. I checked periodically in the weeks leading up to the trip and finally about 2 weeks before there was an opening at 7:30 on Sunday, so I grabbed it. This ended up being a good move, since even in early March the lines to buy tickets were pretty long.

    When we arrived it was still daylight, but as we walked to the reserved line entrance the lights on the tower went on. When they first turn on the lights, they blink so those are the white dots in the 2nd picture. I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves:
    IMG_1058_zps3xyuvwp5.jpg
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    IMG_1061_zpswjyn39lt.jpg
    IMG_1062_zpsjvaxkodd.jpg
    IMG_1063_zps6n9camth.jpg

    We took the Metro back to the hotel and changed to go for dinner. Tonight’s dinner was good but not as good as the dinner the previous night despite being more expensive.

    We stopped by Monoprix on the way back to the hotel, and I stocked up on French skincare, much cheaper than the prices I pay when ordering it in the US. At this point, it’s around 11 pm so we turn in for the night.
     
  9. tringlomane

    tringlomane STP Addicted Beer Snob

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    Great stuff!
     
  10. katmu

    katmu Well-Known Member

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    Day 4 March 9

    We started this morning with crepes again from Mich (yes they were that good.) We then walked maybe 2-3 blocks across the river to Sainte Chappelle. There was a bit of a line maybe about 20 minutes or so, which turned out to be just to get through security. There was then another line to buy tickets if you didn’t have the museum pass but we were able to skip that line.

    I had seen pictures of the church in guidebooks but I don’t think the guidebook pictures or my pictures really do it justice. It’s much smaller than Notre Dame (or Sacre Coeur) but the stained glass is really like no other church I’ve ever seen. Each panel tells the stories from one book of the bible, but I would recommend Sainte Chappelle even if you aren’t religious as the workmanship of the windows is really something to see.
    IMG_1067_zpsrplnordh.jpg

    From Saint Chappelle we walked back across the river and my son did some shopping. He bought a really cool pair of shoes, although it seemed to take him an hour to decide which style to buy. We stopped back by the room before catching the Metro to Galleries Lafayette. I had also wanted to tour Opera Garnier to see the building but it was closed to tours due to performances that weekend, so we headed right to Galleries Lafayette. Note: There are 3 large buildings - 1 for food and housewares, 1 for men, and 1 for women. We did some window-shopping, as I wanted to see how it compared to the big department stores in the US. The women’s shoe department was impressive but I didn’t find something I absolutely had to have. (Confession: I have too many shoes already.) We then went to the rooftop deck as there is an escalator to it, so my mom didn’t have to climb all of the stairs.
    IMG_1069_zpsrqyinjnv.jpg
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    Here are the views from the roof deck:

    We then stopped by the restaurant on the top floor for a late lunch. Before we left my mom bought a nice box of chocolates that was supposed to be a gift for my brother and his wife.

    We did a little more shopping before heading back to the hotel to pack as we had to leave early the next morning for the airport.
     
  11. katmu

    katmu Well-Known Member

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    Day 5 March 10

    Our flight was again a nonstop back to Minneapolis, only it left CDG at 10:35 am which meant that we had to be to the airport around 7:30 am. Security was really tight, I'm assuming due to the attack a few months ago. I think I showed my passport at least 6 times before we finally boarded the plane.

    Boarding was super-quick because this flight was super-empty. So empty that I was able to lay down across 4 seats for most of the flight in one of the rows in the back section of the plane. I still couldn't sleep but my back felt much better than it did on the flight over. The return flight was about 9 hours so we arrived in Minneapolis at about 2 pm (Paris wasn't on Daylight Savings Time yet.)

    Customs in Minneapolis was pretty fast as they now have terminals where you scan your passport and it does the face scan before 1 final check with a customs officer. We pick up the car and head to my house.

    Later that afternoon, we decided to head out for some dinner since there weren't a lot of groceries in the house. I didn't notice that my mom left her carry-on bag unzipped. My chocolate lab helped herself to the box of chocolates from Galleries Lafayette (luckily only 1/4 dark) and some trail mix (with raisins --also poisonous to dogs) my mom had left in her bag. So promptly upon returning home from dinner, we rushed to the U of MN Veterinary Hospital to have her stomach pumped. She spent 2 days in ICU as a precaution but all of her blood-work has remained normal. She is back home and up to her usual antics.

    Sorry no gambling, no debauchery, no hooker stories....although I'm predicting leather shorts may be the next trend with the working girls as they were everywhere in Paris. Now I really need to get back to planning my next trip to Vegas.
     
  12. NYNYGirl

    NYNYGirl High-Roller

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    Enjoyed reading your report. Congrats on winning that!
     
  13. bribhoy

    bribhoy Low-Roller

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    Nice report. Thanks for taking the time to write that up. I'm glad you all had a great trip.
     
    Bright light city's gonna set my soul...
  14. tringlomane

    tringlomane STP Addicted Beer Snob

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    Great report! If we ever make it to Paris, I'm going to use this as a guide!
    Glad your dog was okay!
     
  15. PayTriple

    PayTriple The Cucumber King

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    Am I the only one who thinks this looks weird because there's no lit up balloon next to it?
     
  16. Packer

    Packer VIP Whale

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    Wow! Just read this. Great stuff Kat! Nice that you took your Mom and Son to enjoy this trip with. You did it right and now I want to go. Thank you for this TR.
     
  17. Kari

    Kari Low-Roller

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    Thanks for sharing that! I plan to go to Paris and your TR made me want
    to make plans! How fortunate that you won the trip. It sounds like you were
    able to cover a lot of ground while you were there. Fascinating!
    P.S. looking forward to Pat Benetar!
     
  18. katmu

    katmu Well-Known Member

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    Thanks, they both really loved Paris. And it felt great to do something nice for my mom as she is so dedicated to helping other people. At 75, sometimes I need to convince her to slow down a little still.

    And You should definitely go. It's so worth it.

    Thank you. Yes, we really did cover a lot more than I thought we could in the amount of time we had.

    And I'm really looking forward to Pat Benatar too!!
     
  19. Jordan

    Jordan Caveman

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    Your pics certainly bring back memories....PARIS is our 2ND favorite place we have visited so far ;)
     
  20. fabriano

    fabriano Tourist

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    Thanks for sharing. Sis & I went to Paris 2 yrs ago---loved it. I was prepared to return to Paris last year(solo) but sis & I went to Amsterdam---another great city. Have fun in Vegas.
     
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