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(July 23, 2007 to July 29, 2007)
The last time Diane and I were out of the country was a trip to England
in January 2000 for my last work assignment before retiring later that
month. We haven't been out of the country since that time. Every year
we talked about using some of our Delta miles and Marriott points that
I accumulated and going abroad, but we always talked ourselves out of
because we were having such a great time being fulltime RVers. This
year was our 30th anniversary in June so we decided to celebrate by
booking a trip abroad. We decided on Europe for
a couple of
reasons. One was that we hadn't seen our friends, Peter and Yoko, in
Switzerland for eight years and it was way past time to visit with
The other reason was to finally make plans to visit Prague, which was
on our list of places to see. Once we decided to do that it was a no
brainer for us to include Paris on our itinerary as we both love Paris.
We made our plans and bookings in the fall of 2006 and it was already
getting late for getting free business class flights to Europe. The
Delta agent was great. He worked with me for about an
hour to find us a flight to Paris and a return from Prague. The
downside was that we couldn't get on one of the direct flights from
Atlanta to Paris, but had to connect through Dulles in Washington, D.C.
We were wait listed on two direct flights out of Atlanta, but neither
one cleared prior to the commencement of our trip.
DEPARTURE DAY - Sunday
Jill dropped us off at the airport and we were off from
Atlanta to Dulles. Given that our international leg was in business
class we also had first class seats to Washington. It was a long time
we got to sit in a Delta Crown Room while waiting for a flight and it
felt good. It got our juices flowing again for international travel.
The flight to D.C. was uneventful and the airport was rather empty when
we arrived. Our connection was with Air France, an airline we have
never flown. Given that our flight wasn't scheduled to leave until
10:20 PM, that gave us a three hour wait. I figured there wouldn't be a
big meal on board until
breakfast, so we went and got a sandwich. That turned out to be a
mistake as we had a full dinner on board the flight. Oh well.
We found the business class lounge for Air France and went there to
wait the almost three hours until our flight to Paris was scheduled to
leave. We read, had something to drink, and watched as the crews
prepared the plane for the flight. The time came to board and now we
were really getting excited. The Air France plane was an Airbus
wide body and was great. The business class (and first class) seats
reclined totally flat. We've never been on a plane with seats that did
that. It sure was more comfortable than seats that just reclined part
Still, there really isn't much time to sleep by the time the plane gets
airborne and the meal is served. We did get a couple of hours in before
it was time to have some breakfast. To say we had become spoiled when
we were doing a lot of traveling from 1993 to 2000 would be an
understatement. It will be quite a bit different when the miles run out
and we have to pay for our flights as that means flying long flights in
DAY 1 - Monday
The flight was uneventful and we arrived at the Charles deGaulle
right on time. We got through passport control and customs quickly and
went to pick up the one bag we had to check. We waited and waited and
waited and no bag. It ended up taking us about two hours to get out of
the airport due to the time waiting for our luggage and then having to
file a report for the lost luggage. I had set up a ride with a shuttle
service to get to the hotel and they were on time. The weather in Paris
was heavy rain all day on Monday when we arrived so we just sat back
and enjoyed the ride to the hotel.
Paris is divided into 20 arrondissements, or areas. When I was there on
business, we always stayed in the 9th arrondissement near the Opera.
This time we opted to stay at the Marriott Rive Gauche (Left Bank)
and Conference Center in the 14th arrondissement. It was a bit
for us, but gave us an opportunity to experience staying in another
of Paris. The hotel was previously a Sofitel and was being renovated.
Most of the work was done and we had a nice room with a great view of
the city. We could look out our window and see the Pantheon, the towers
of Notre Dame, and way off in the distance was the Basilica of Sacre
Coeur (Sacred Heart) up on the hill of Monmartre.
It took Diane about a second when we got into the room to
notice there was no coffee maker or way to boil water for her tea. We
had never been in a
hotel that didn't offer a way to make coffee and tea. We asked the
concierge about this and he said they were still renovating and the
coffee/tea maker would be available in September. I indicated to him
that didn't help us as we wouldn't be there in September. There was no
way we would pay Marriott prices for coffee and tea from room service,
so I told him
that I thought it would be nice if Marriott gave us complimentary
coffee and tea. He hesitated for a bit and then said
he would take care of it. So we had coffee and tea whenever we called
for room service and it just cost us a tip for the person who delivered
the tray. I'm a firm believer in "if you don't ask, you don't get."
The other disappointing thing was that there was no free access to the
Internet. Actually, Marriott, and I'm sure some other chains, rip
people off to access the Internet in some of their properties. The cost
was eight euros for an hour
and more than 12 euros for a day. With the horrible exchange rate due
to a very weak dollar, that came to about $11 per hour or $16 per day.
Luckily, we came across Internet shops as we walked around the city and
were able to spend 30 minutes to an hour for one or two euros to catch
up on email.
After getting unpacked we went out to find a place to eat and found a
restaurant a block away where we had a pizza. We noticed pizza being
eaten a lot as we walked around the city, and that's probably because
it's affordable. There was a metro
station across the street so we went there to buy two carnets
(pronounced "car nay" and there are 10 tickets to a carnet)
to use during the week. Then it was back to the hotel to crash. The
secret to dealing with jet lag on a trip is to stay up as long as you
can and then go to bed on the local time. The worst thing to do is to
go to bed in the morning or afternoon after arriving from the US. That
really screws up the body clock. I learned early on in my travels that
it was best to stay up until bedtime wherever it is I landed.
DAY 2 - Tuesday
Thankfully, our luggage was there waiting for us when we got
the market. Good for Air France and Delta for finding the bag and
getting it to
us so quickly.
We ate breakfast and headed out about noon for our first walk around
Paris since 1999 when we were last there. Our plan was to walk to Notre
Dame and then to the Opera area to find a restaurant we remembered from
prior trips. Along the way we stopped for photo ops and a quick stop in
an Internet shop. The Pantheon was on our path, but we had been there a
couple of times so we just stopped to take some photos. Then it was on
to Notre Dame on the Ile de Cite. We never tire of walking through that
marvelous cathedral situated on an island in the Seine.
As we continued our walk we crossed over Pont Neuf. I
noticed on the map that we were very close to the church in
which Eva Longoria and Tony Parker were wed a few weeks earlier, so we
detoured a couple of blocks to look at the church. We did see some of
the photos of the wedding in magazines and it must have been quite a
We had walked around the city so much in past visits that the route to
the Opera came back to me as we walked and I didn't need the map to get
us there. The restaurant we were looking for, Chez Clement, was still
there. We had a nice meal and then crossed the Boulevard des Capucine
to the Cafe de la Paix on the corner overlooking the Opera. We thought
we'd have a cappuccino and tea for old time sake. However, thanks to
low value of the dollar against the euro, those drinks were $9.70 each
and we both drew the line and said no way. It was nice to be back in an
area in which we had spent 10 weeks on four prior trips to Paris. So we
kept on walking to the Hard Rock Cafe and then got on the metro back to
the hotel. We had forgotten that the Paris metro is not air conditioned
and it was pretty hot on the train.
When we got back to the room we were pleasantly surprised with a tray
containing coffee and tea waiting for us. With the end of our first
full day in Paris all we could say was AH, PARIS.
DAY 3 - Wednesday
Today we planned to go to some old favorite sites,
the Eiffel Tower, Trocadero, Champs Elysee, Place de la Concorde, the
Madeleine. We started out walking up to the metro and saw a sign for
the catacombs, which we had never visited. It wasn't crowded so we
bought tickets and spent some time walking through
Underneath Paris are old abandoned limestone quarries. The area is
known as the Denfert-Rochereau Ossuary, but more commonly as the
Catacombs. Here lie the bones of maybe five or six million Parisians
that were placed here to avoid disease from rotting corpses in
cemeteries as a result of the French Revolution in 1786. The
re-interment of the bones went on until around 1860. We entered a long
dark and damp tunnel and kept walking, but saw no bones. I started to
wonder what the big deal was with this attraction. Then we crossed into
an area where the walls were actually neatly stacked bones of humans
along with skulls. We didn't see any full skeletons, just rows and rows
of bones that were stacked a good five feet, or so. The bones went on
and on and on as we walked through the tunnel. Some areas were blocked
off by steel gates behind which were more bones. We weren't sure why
those areas were blocked.
There is a huge underground in Paris that is made up of 125 miles of
the metro, 1,300 miles of sewer, and about 185 miles of catacombs. We
learned that it is actually illegal to go into some of the areas, but
it is so huge that the "cataphiles" find ways to get into areas that
are blocked off. Although it was a strange feeling to be among so many
human remains, I'm glad we finally got to see the catacombs.
The exit was several blocks from the entrance so we had to figure
how to find the nearest metro station. It really was always kind of fun
for us to walk around cities with a map trying to find places. It's a
challenge. We did finally find a metro station and took it to the stop
for the Trocadero, which is across from the Eiffel Tower. The Trocadero
has a huge fountain, actually several fountains. When they are working
it takes about an hour for them all to cycle from small fountains to
the finale with several water cannons shooting water far out into the
fountain. We bought some food at a vendor and sat on a bench eating
lunch while taking in the scenery.
Paris is definitely a walking city and we have done our fair share of
walking around the city. We walked to the Arc di Triomphe and took some
photos before walking the full length of the Champs Elysees to the
Place de la Concorde. Workers were setting up bleachers along the
Champs and we found out later it was for the finale of the Tour de
France bike race that would conclude on Sunday.
From there we could see the Madeleine and walked there to tour the
inside of the church. We don't get tired of visiting some of these
marvelous places again and again. We found out that a concert by the
Oxfordshire Schools' Senior Orchestra was about to start in about a
half hour, so we stayed around and listened. What a magnificent sound
inside the church.
We hopped the metro back to the hotel to find a restaurant to eat near
the hotel. Another fine day in Paris.
DAY 4 - Thursday
Montmartre (Hill of Martyrs) is an artsy area on Paris and
way up on a hill overlooking the city. We decided it would be a good
idea to test the metro route to get to the Gare de l'Est train station
from which we would catch the high speed TGV train to Zurich on Monday.
It would mean taking the metro to the Gare du Nord and then walking a
couple of blocks to the Gare de l'Est. The metro is actually made up of
local trains usually referred to as the metro and higher speed trains
known as the RER. We love riding the RER with it's bigger, heavier,
smoother cars. There are five RER lines crossing Paris and into the
suburbs. We needed the "B" line, found it and tested the route to the
Gare de l'Est. From there we walked up to Montmartre.
There are two ways one can get up to Montmartre. One is steps, of which
there are many around Paris, or the funicular, which takes a metro
ticket. We've done the steps before, so we opted to take the funicular
up and the steps down. Our first stop was to tour the beautiful
Basilique du Sacre-Coeur (Basilica of the Sacred Heart). From a
distance it doesn't look like a Catholic church at all, but almost more
like a mosque. It was built between 1875 and 1914. Although we do love
walking through the basilica we find that they take things much too
serious in there. It is one of the very few churches we've visited in
which photography is not allowed. There was a "guard" near the entrance
who we saw turning away some women who he deemed had shorts on that
weren't below the knee, as well as women who had shirts on with no
sleeves. But thems the rules and they enforce them.
Around the corner from the basilica is the Place du Tetre where
portrait artists abound and will all ask if they can make your
portrait. This is a plaza in the center of which are several outdoor
restaurant eating areas under canvas tops. We walked around the square
and then selected La Boheme in which to have lunch. When I saw they
offered "moules et frite" (muscles and fries), I couldn't resist as it
had been a very long time since I had that meal. Diane opted for the
"jambon et frommage crepe (ham and cheese), which was also delicious.
We walked around a bit more taking pictures of the city from in front
of the basilica. Although it was relatively crowded when we were
there it's on the weekends that
it bustles with people. Along with the locals and tourists
there are always lots of
mimes, street performers, and artists and great people watching.
We made our way down the steps to the street below and continued on to
Pigalle which is home to the Moulin Rouge. Along the way are shops
reminiscent of how Times Square looked before it was cleaned up. Lots
of shops selling some very interesting "gadgets".
Our plan was to head back to the hotel, eat out, and then take a break
before heading out for a nighttime ride on the Seine. We took the metro
back to the hotel and stopped at a sidewalk cafe for dinner.
Unfortunately, we didn't get to take that boat ride tonight thanks to
closed RER stations that detoured us and made it too late for the last
ride of the night. So we said we'd do it another night and back to the
hotel we went. The evening did give us a chance to see Paris at night,
amazing. It isn't called the City of Lights for nothing.
DAY 5 - Friday
I woke up not feeling very well this morning, so we
stayed in until late afternoon when I felt somewhat better and we
ventured out for dinner. I had read about a restaurant near the
Pantheon, Kaza Maza, but we couldn't find it. So we decided to go over
to the Champs Elysees to eat dinner at a restaurant we liked from
previous visits, l'Alsace. On the way we wanted to stop at the Place de
l'lalma. That was where Princess Diana died in 1997. Diane and I
remember it clearly. We were in Paris on vacation at that time. We were
staying at the newly opened Marriott on the Champs Elysees and had been
out late walking until around midnight. Diana's accident happened about
30 minutes later. Given the time difference, people in the US knew
about it long before we did. We woke to the news of her death and
couldn't believe it. When we realized that the accident happened only
several blocks from the hotel, we walked over there. Lots of people
were there placing flowers and photos at the base of a replica of the
Statue of Liberty torch that sits above the tunnel in which the
accident occurred. Given that this is the tenth anniversary of her
death, we thought there may be some activity in the area. It was still
several weeks before the actual anniversary date, but people had
already started leaving flowers and photos.
We continued our walk to the l'Alsace restaurant and had a very nice
dinner outside on the Champs Ulysses. Afterwards, we walked around for
a while, got some ice cream, and then walked to the river to buy
tickets for a night boat ride on the Seine. It was a lovely night and
the city is magnificent at night. It was the end of another great day
DAY 6 - Saturday
Diane had been to the Musee d'Orsay a couple of times
and loves it. She loves the impressionist paintings, especially those
by Monet. We took the metro to the museum stop, but didn't go into the
museum as the line was very long to get in. We decided we would come
back on Sunday. Instead, we walked along the Seine to Notre Dame while
taking photos along the way. From there we walked towards the Pantheon
to St. Etienne. The church was locked but we could see folks were
waiting to get in for an event that turned out to be a wedding. When
the doors were unlocked we were able to get in and walk around before
Another church in the area that we wanted to see was St. Sulpice that
was mentioned in the DaVinci Code novel and movie. For no other reason
than to say we'd been there. We have been in many of the churches in
Paris and they are all different and beautiful in their own way.
One of the advantages to repeat visits to beloved places is that we
don't ever feel pressured to be on the move every hour of every day. We
are able to relax and move at a leisurely pace and even have some
downtime and do nothing time. Today was one of those days.
From St. Sulpice we took the metro to the Place d'Italie station near
the hotel to find a place to eat dinner.
DAY 7 - Sunday
After having great weather in the low to mid 70s all
week, we woke up to rain today. We got up and walked to Au Revell, a
restaurant close by that we knew served breakfast. Then it was on to
the metro to the Musee d'Orsay. There was a line and, of course, today
it was raining. However, the line moved fairly quickly and we got into
the museum where we spent a few hours admiring the works of many famous
artists, such as Monet, Cezanne, Degas, Gaugin, Manet, Matisse, Renoir,
Seurat, Toulouse-Loutrec, van Gogh, and Whistler. There were many other
artists represented, but those are the names with whom I believe most
people are familiar. I had never been to this museum, or the Louvre for
that matter, because the weather was always great and I only had
weekends free when I was there on business and preferred to be
outdoors. Diane loves this museum and I also had a good time looking at
the artwork and sculptures.
Diane and I can't imagine how anyone could not fall in love with Paris,
but we did run into some folks who didn't care for it at all. While we
were waiting on line to get into the museum, we started chatting with
three folks behind us. They were from Romania and had driven to Paris
because the guy didn't like to fly. One of the women spoke fluent
English. We found out it was their first time in Paris and would
probably be their last. They didn't care for the crowds and the
difficulty in finding places to park. Maybe it's easier for Americans
to fall in love with Paris and it's beautiful architecture than for
other Europeans who probably also have beautiful and historical
architecture, and I mean history that is many hundreds of years old. US
history is new compared to European history. In any case, we finally
met some folks who didn't like Paris.
By the time we left the rain had stopped so we thought we would walk to
the Trocadero to see if the fountain was working. It wasn't and that
was probably because it was a bit breezy and the water just turns into
spray when it's too windy. We did get to see the fountain working on
On the way there we saw crowds forming near the Place de la Concorde so
we walked over that way and found out it was for the end of the Tour de
France. We waited for a while thinking I could get a photo of the
racers as they rode by, but when we found out they were still about an
hour away we left. It wasn't something we were willing to sit around
for an hour to see. Actually, it was more like two hours because we got
back to the hotel room in time to see the finish on TV.
Our time in Paris was coming to an end and I wanted to ride the RER one
more time, so we took the long way back to the hotel to afford a longer
ride on the
RER. We took it from the Charles de Gaulle Etoile (Arc di Triomphe)
station to the Nation station where we transferred to a metro to get to
our stop near the
hotel. We went to Au Revell for dinner and the waiter who waited on us
for breakfast was still there. We had a nice meal and then went back to
the room to pack.
Departure Day - Monday
The TGV to Zurich was leaving at 8:24 a.m. so we got
up early to leave enough time to get to the Gare de l'Est. It turned
out that it was a good idea to test the route to the train station.
Even still, we went out a wrong door when we arrived at the Gare du
Nord and had a much longer walk, with luggage in tow, to the station. I
was turned around and finally asked an older guy on the street how to
get there. He pointed the way and we kept walking. At every street
corner I would turn around and he would wave me straight ahead. Finally
we saw a sign and got the the station in plenty of time. We bought some
sandwiches and drinks to take on the train and then found a place to
sit while waiting for the boarding call.
When that came, we walked down the platform to the train on which we
had reserved seats in car #11. I saw that there were engines in the
middle of the train so I knew the train would split at some point. I
showed a conductor our ticket and she pointed to the car to board. We
got on, stored our luggage and got our seats, # 34 and 35. However,
something didn't feel right when I looked at the digital sign. This was
a dual numbered train and I didn't see our number, 9192. I got off the
train and asked the lady again and she said, oh no, wrong car, you must
go all the way to the front of the train to the OTHER car #11. We had
FIVE minutes before the train would leave, and they do leave on time in
Europe. So we grabbed the luggage and hoofed it to the front of the
train to the correct car #11. We got on and the train started to move
within a couple of minutes. Whew. Good thing I spotted that or we would
have been disconnected along the way and ended up in Germany. Nothing
like excitement to get the blood flowing.
As the TGV slowly moved out of the station we bid farewell to one of
our favorite cities. We have no idea when we'll go back there, but we
both still harbor a dream of living there for up to six months
sometime. It hasn't become a goal yet, so it's still a dream.
Until next time, safe
Copyright © 2007,
Roaming America with Rich &
Diane Emond -
All Rights Reserved