TRIP TO PARIS May 2000 Return to Homepage

Overview

On May 1 we went on a two-week trip to Paris on TWA. The flight was Phoenix-St. Louis-Charles De Gaulle in both directions. On this our fourth trip to Paris, we spent 2 glorious weeks living like Parisians. First week in a large one bedroom apartment in Les Halles, second week in a truly luxurious loft apartment in Montmartre. Day trips to Fontainbleau, Rouen, Rheims, and to Versailles. Plus of course walking and using the buses and metro in Paris to enjoy the city to the max. So this story tells you about the apartments, the day-trips, and Paris itself. Also some of you may find the postscript amusing.

The Apartments

At the Paris airport we took the RER B train directly to Les Halles where our first week's rental apartment was located. This apartment was several flights up on a quiet street in the middle of an area of pedestrian market streets. The apartment consisted of an entrance, bath with washer and dryer, kitchen, living room and bedroom. It was very charming and comfortable and less expensive than a single hotel room. The English speaking landlord was only two doors away. The TV had cable with 3 English-speaking channels that were news repeated every hour.

Our second week was in Montmartre at an apartment that far exceeded our already high expectations. This apartment was a loft with wide plank hardwood floors, an elaborate alarm system that we chose not to learn, and a thick clear glass door from the entrance to the loft area. Up a few steps to the left was the bath area with cobalt blue tile floor and a marvelous shower with 4 adjustable jets, an overhead ring of light with a very large showerhead and a hand-held shower. I never wanted to leave! The bath had a wonderful round sink and ceiling high cabinet with an opaque glass curved door. The toilet room was separate. There were many, many fluffy white towels (just what I like). The kitchen was modern with the best appliances, a Porsche coffeemaker,

Meile dishwasher, refrigerator, stove burners and a teakettle that whistled like a train. The microwave was a combination oven and micro. There was a bar with 5 chairs and overhead tiny lights. A silver matte finished steel beam ran the length of the loft area and had a matching steel girder in one corner. There were two large windows with pale celery color sheer curtains that were very long and pooled at the bottom in soft folds. There was a raised platform along one wall that had storage for many sheets and towels inside it . The wall had two very large photographs of the face of a lovely woman in soft focus. The lighting was lots of track lights and a yellow light fixture at the head of the bed. The king size bed was totally adjustable electric with 6 motors built in to do all the adjustments. On the bed was a marshmallow cloud duvet and elegant sheets in white. Along one wall was storage and various built in shelves of glass with porcelain pieces. In one niche was a Bang & Olufsen CD player that worked with a wave of the hand. Along the wall near the windows was a very elegant large rectangular screen Bang & Olufsen Digital TV with an "invisible" VCR player. The TV swiveled with the touch of a button and had satellite TV connection with 3 English channels and 100 foreign ones. The room had a futon seat/sleep area at one end of the platform and a celery tone large sleep sofa. The windows were equipped with steel shutters that came down and closed tightly. All lights were on dimmers and everything was super-modern.

Incidentally, we met "Peter", the owner of the Montmartre apartment. He was in town from his home in Brussels with his family checking out his nearly completed second apartment in the building. He invited us in to see it. This second apartment was smaller but had everything built in. The TV there was a wall hung flat TV with DVD player. At one end of the room was a huge glass wall behind which was an immense white circular tub with a built in hand-held shower. At the touch of a button the glass wall became opaque and the tub "disappeared". This apartment also had an electrically operated bed. The weeks went by too quickly, and as Arnold says, "we'll be back!" Write to me if you want to know how to rent these units. (naoma@cheerful.com)

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In Paris

Getting around we used the Paris Visit card a little but mostly we walked around the city. In the second week we found the Carte Jeune is much better value than the Paris Visit Card for getting around Paris. Either card can be bought in Paris or at the airports. One nice touch about the Metro was how people enjoyed the musicians that played on the trains. Sometimes there was one musician and sometimes several in a group, but they were always entertaining.

Upon arrival at Les Halles I immediately had to have my croissant. I chose "croissant ordinaire" only to find it was plain bread. So I had to get one that was beurre (butter). Thereafter, I had one (at least) every day. We also enjoyed going to various cafes for cappuccino that was made as many different ways as there were cafes to visit. And not one version was anything like you get in Starbucks

We visited the Louvre twice for a total of 8 hours and checked out the Rembrandt sketches as well as most of the prominent and famous works of art in the museum. We went there to see the Etruscan exhibit that we missed last year in our visit. We also spent 5 hours at Les Invalides (it is Napoleon's tomb) and the adjacent Army museum that had an overwhelming display of armor.

We visited many, many churches and cathedrals to see the architecture and stained glass works. The church in Les Halles (St. Eustache) had a Reubens on one wall with no visible security nearby and another had stained glass by Chagall. The Joan D'Arc church in Rouen was very futuristically modern with modern stained glass. Plus we again enjoyed walking from our apartments to Notre Dame near Les Halles, and Sacre Coeur in Montmartre,

The Pompideau Center had several special art exhibits, including one of a circular screen with a woman in a glass bubble. The most spectacular part of the museum was floor after floor of modern art. We managed to look at it all, but to really "see" everything we'd have had to go there at least one more day. Be sure to see the 5th floor with all the famous artists before seeing the much more modern 4th floor. Each floor requires at least 2 hours to enjoy the works.

Of several pedestrian-only street areas in the city, Les Halles was by far the best. The Science Center Museum sounded good on paper. However it is really aimed at French kids and while we did rent a hand-held narrative machine all the exhibits were done in French and we could not understand them. We also visited the Rodin museum which we consider a must see, Bois de Bologne (a large Park but not in the same league as Hyde Park) and a special exhibition of Colombia gold (at the National museum). We went to several fancy restaurants but were unable to eat because of the smoking. It is supposed to be the law that they have "non-smoking" sections, but it is ignored in all but the large chains, and even there the smoking and non-smoking areas were close together. We did go to several lovely sidewalk cafes were I enjoyed smoked salmon both times. Also I was able to find real Greek yogurt in nearly every market and ate it daily. It is wonderful but is impossible to find at home.

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Day Trips

Some of our day trips by train were to Fontainebleau, Versailles, Rouen (twice), and Rheims. The reason for the two trips to Rouen was that the first time we went the entire city was closed for the May 8 Armistice Day holiday that we were unaware of. It was such a lovely place (pedestrian only mediaeval streets, unusual churches and a stunning cathedral) that we decided to return when everything was open. Of all the day trips Roen was the best with its medieval town, unusual churches, marketplace, and large number of restaurants Versailles was vast and awesome (with only one rest room!) and the gardens were quite grand. Don't miss the separate tour of the Kings' Rooms. We preferred our day trip to Fontainebleau, which was Napoleon's home where the chateau was as beautiful as Versailles, the town was picturesque, and both were far less crowded than Versailles.

In Rheims we visited two Champagne caves where they had tours. The Maxims tour was a new one and we toured on our own because we were the only people there. It started with a very informative movie and many caves to wander through at your own speed that showed the winemaking process. Afterwards we went to a beautiful room and sampled vintage Champagnes. The Piper- Heidsieck tour was in a car on a track that drove around and had a narrative inside the caves. We also tasted Champagnes there but not the vintage stuff. At both places we bought a bottle of vintage champagne at reasonable prices. If you can only go to one, the Maxim's cave is better

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A postscript -the French may understand English

Near the end of our visit I was walking down the street and turned to look at a café when I tripped over a tree stump. I fell in slow-motion and thought for sure I had broken something. As it turned out I only sustained a saucer size black/blue bruise on my left hip. My clothes didn't even get dirty. This is definitely a city to watch where you walk - the problems of uneven pavements and holes in the streets are compounded by doggy doo-doo everywhere. In Europe people do not pick up after their dogs and so you must carefully navigate the sidewalks watching where you step. One day in Galleries Lafayette in the cosmetic department a women came in with a dog and it started to crap on the lovely floor. She picked up the dog and started to walk out. Now I'd had about enough of dog crap on the streets, but in this beautiful store, it was the end of my rope. I yelled at her "pick it up." Although I'm not sure she understood English, she knew what I meant and hurriedly picked up the dog's mess and left. Mission accomplished.

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Naoma can be reached at naoma@cheerful.com 

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