���. And so our first trip to Paris is over but I���d like to thank other reports on TF for advice and info and a general feel of what to expect and Paris certainly exceeded our expectations, here is a run down of how we got on ������������..
Day I (Wednesday 4 May)
Departed from Glasgow, Preswick on Ryan Air flight to Beauvais airport on an early flight which put us in France for 9.45am local time. On arrival at Beauvais it was very simple to follow the signs which lead you outside to the ticket kiosk to buy the tickets for the bus into Port Maillot (we bought return tickets for 26 euros each ��� 13 euros oneway). My wife was abit panicky about the possibility of missing the bus but the company had put on two buses which easily accommodated all of the passengers who wished to travel onto Paris. A word to the wise, the toilets inside the airport see a lot of use (although there was a lady about to start cleaning them) but just before the ticket kiosk outside there is a portacabin with toilets inside which were given the ok in the cleanliness stakes by my wife so we would recommend that you use those instead! (I know how you ladies get upset if toilets are below a certain standard!). The Ryan Air flights were excellent both ways (we were actually 5 minutes ahead of schedule each way). We had taken our own snacks and drinks although you could buy refreshments in both pounds and euros on board and the prices seemed reasonable.
The bus journey into Paris was pleasant enough and took just over the hour. On arrival at Port Maillot we crossed over the road to the taxis rank ��� which wasn���t that obvious, ask the bus driver to point you in the right direction ��� and took a cab to our hotel ��� a journey of about 15 minutes which cost 8 euro and was definitely worth it so we did not have to negotiate train/metro with luggage and had a stress free journey right to the door of our hotel.
We stayed at the Austin Saint Lazare which was a small, pleasant 3 star hotel less than 5 minute walk from Eglise de la Madeleine and 10 minute walk from the Opera. Our hotel didn���t look that promising externally but we were very pleasantly surprised by inside which has been recently decorated and has new carpets in the public areas. The hotel was very small and spread over 6 floors but there was a lift (which was very good news as we were on the 6th floor!!). Our room was also small but very clean with fresh linen and towels daily and the ensuite was up to standard with a bath with shower over it, wc and sink and plenty hot water. Our only thoughts on the hotel was that it had no air conditioning which if we had been there in July or August it would have been uncomfortable with no air con. We did have French doors which opened fully and that allowed ventilation and fresh air in the couple of nights that it was a bit warmer. The other thing both myself and my wife thought was abit strange was that there was no tea/coffee making facilities in the room (a norm in the UK usually) and we would definitely have taken a travel kettle if we had realised that was the case ��� my wife is a bear in the morning until she has had her first cup of tea!!
One of the things we were glad about was that breakfast was included in our room rate (a saving of 9 euros per head). Breakfast was served in a very small cute cellar room which had the original stonework exposed. This was a help yourself affair with tea/coffee, orange juice, cereal, croissant, bread roll, hard boiled egg, cheese, yogurts etc on offer ��� basically all the makings of a pleasant breakfast which certainly kept us going until lunch time.
After checking into the hotel and a quick freshen up we left on foot to explore the area. The Madeline Church is wonderful and worth a quick look around (all churches public areas are free and it was lovely to take a pew and soak up the atmosphere in these places whilst marvelling at the architecture around you). We also visited the art deco loos by the Madeline Church (thanks to other TF recommendations else we would have missed these!) which were definitely worth seeing and yet another clean place to have ���a visit���! On leaving the Madeline Church we walked straight down the avenue (passed all the designer shops) and emerged at the Place de la Concorde ��� Wow. We stopped there awhile and marvelled more at the way the French drive than the wonderful fountains etc. We were amazed that we didn���t witness a smash!
From the Place de la Concorde we walked down rue de Rivoli window shopping and stopping to take a seat at a caf�� for a glass of wine before entering the Carrousel du Louvre. Those of you who are fans of the Da Vinci Code will understand what I mean when I tell you that upon walking through the carrousel and coming into the centre and seeing the glass pyramid inverted hovering directly above the small pyramid below and seeing this as described in the book, that every hair on the back of my neck stood on end (and yes I know that it is only a story!!!!) well I must confess that I had to take a moment and marvel how clever Dan Brown was to run a fine thread of reality through his book. We also took a small stroll around the Jardin du Palais Royal (very pretty, small and perfectly formed gardens with a sweet little fountain). My wife was thrilled upon leaving when she noticed a small brass disc imbedded in the floor clearly marked with N and S which we wouldn���t have noticed but for reading Dan���s book!
As it was Wednesday night the Louvre was open until 9.45pm and we waited until 6pm when entry is only 6 euro each. You buy your ticket from a machine and we found that the machines in the galleries had no queues unlike the machines in the entrance foyer of the Louvre (again thanks to TF for the late night opening tip it was definitely worth visiting later as the crowds seemed less and we got about quicker).
As reported on this Forum, the Louvre is certainly a vast, vast place but as we had been prepared for this, we went straight to Denon Wing to see La Joconda as the French call her and Winged Victory. Mona Lisa certainly had a large crowd gathered in front of her and you have to shuffle along patiently to get near and I���m not sure that it was worth being squashed, other than to marvel at what exactly makes this one of the most famous paintings on the planet ��� well at least I can claim to have seen her in the ���flesh��� so to speak!! To be honest, once we had a roam around Denon Wing we were both ���dead on our feet��� and we had spent 2 hrs in the Louvre just in that one area so we decided to call it a night and head back to our hotel. We easily caught a cab from in front of the Louvre and the journey back to our hotel cost no more than 5 euros!! In all fairness we didn���t use the Metro once as we found Paris so easy to walk around and we just took a cab at the end of the day, which were cheap and plentiful and as our time was short we thought it best used above ground, although if we had been in Paris longer we would have used the Metro also.
Day 2 (Thursday 5 May)
After a leisurely breakfast, we strolled down to Madeline where we bought a two day ticket for the Hop on, Hop off bus (28 euros each), we used the Open Tour one which had three routes, Green Line (the main one), Yellow Line and ? sorry can���t remember the other colour! You can jump on off these routes all day long and they are frequent so we certainly never had long to wait. We did the whole of the Green line to begin with to give us a feel of the city and to listen to the recorded commentary and this was certainly worth while as it reinforced that Paris is very well laid out with broad tree lined avenues. Indeed we commented that Paris is a very light, clean city with a lot of the buildings in a lovely mellow yellow sand stone which has a spacious feel overall. We also loved the extensive use of wrought iron in railings and intricate balconies all over the city. Paris is definitely an elegant lady and the city���s fathers seem to have made sympathetic decisions to maintain her ambiance ��� it was nice so see so much restoration work underway also.
We jumped off the bus at the stop for the Musee de Rodin and paid our 3 euros (5 May was a bank holiday and so entrance fees were reduced). This was the day of my wife���s 40th birthday and I can���t recommend this museum enough for its romantic atmosphere and wonderful gardens ��� the perfect place to stroll with the one you love and share a kiss whilst being inspired by the masterpiece that is ���The Kiss���. Take a stroll in the gardens and ponder over ���The Thinker��� and take a moment to wonder what inspired ���The Gates of Hell���. Really this visit was one of the highlights of our trip and we would both love to visit again. Rodin was certainly a genius!! We were blessed with the weather that day also as the sun shone whilst we took coffee in the tree sheltered caf�� before taking a seat in the sun in front of the magnificent fountain with the gardens stretched out in front of us ending with the fa��ade of this wonderful house! Bliss!!
We jumped back on the bus to return early to our hotel as I had booked an evening dinner cruise on the Seine to celebrate my wife���s birthday as she had wished. This was one of the nights that we dressed up and stepped out in style which added to the sense of occasion. The cruise left from across from the Eiffel Tower and we took a cab there for convenience. We both thoroughly enjoyed the cruise and the sight of Paris all lit up from the river with the Tower twinkling in the background as we enjoyed a slow dance on the dance floor was a sight neither of us will forget in a hurry. The cruise was a tad touristy but very enjoyable for all of that. The boat returned us back to the Tower at 11pm and we took a cab to the Champs Elysees and strolled arm in arm down this very busy through fare before hopping in another cab to return to the hotel. My wife said it was a perfect end to a perfect day!
Day 3 (Friday 6 May)
Hopped back on the bus to tour the Yellow line which took us up to the fantastic Basilique du Sacre Coeur. My wife was a bit fazed by all the steps leading up so we took the funicular lift to save our feet! We were lucky enough to catch the end of a service which was being held by the nuns. Most of the service was sung and the nuns had voices of angels which all added to the atmosphere of this amazing building.
After leaving the Sacre Coeur we walked along to the artists square and took a turn about. We had a lunch at a wonderful eccentric little bistro called Le Poulbot, 3 Rue Puolbot, tel 0142233207 just off the artist square. We both had the 9 euro lunch menu (I had the most amazing French onion soup, the wife had country pate and we both had the beef stew), the portions were not huge but were more than adequate for lunch. A glass of wine each was a further 3.80 euro, making the bill 25.60 euro in total ��� a bargain for the atmosphere and quality of food. The restaurant was full of local folk which I always take to be a good sign too.
We took a wonder back down the hill window shopping in the many little boutiques in this area. It was also full of the more cheap tacky touristy souvenir type shops which we steered clear of. We then jumped back on the bus to go round the remainder of the Yellow line jumping off where it intersected with the Green line to take us to Notre Dame.
Notre Dame is amazing and again we were lucky enough to observe the last part of the service that was being held by the priests ��� a reminder that these houses of worship are still very much in service today and not just old monuments.
Upon leaving Notre Dame we strolled along in the sunshine across the bridge (on which the most amazing jazz band was playing) across to the Ile St-Louis and treated ourselves to some of the Bethellon ice cream we had heard so much about and it certainly did not disappoint ��� the vanilla was delicious. We had a quiet stroll in and out of the lovely little shops in this area before going for dinner at the Taverne du Sargent Recruiteur as recommended on this forum by Vicky. Well we can see why Vicky and her hubbie enjoy it so much ��� it certainly was an experience! I recommend you go hungry as the food never stops coming ��� neither does the wine!
Day 4 (Saturday 7 May)
We took a short stroll from our hotel to the Galeries Lafayette for a look at this famous store. It is worth a look in for the amazing domed ceiling never mind all the mind boggling merchandise on sale! We thought we would only be in here for 1 hour but somehow managed to emerge over 2 hrs later just in time for an early lunch!
After lunch it was down to the Eiffel Tower to join the queue for a ticket to the top (10.70 euros). The queue seemed large but went down quickly and soon we were in the lift on our way to the second floor where you catch another lift to the top. The view from the top is truly spectacular and whilst we were up there the French equivalent of the British Red Arrows flew BELOW US with red, white and blue smoke trailing behind them ��� quite a sight!!
We then caught the Batobus (which is the jump on / off water bus that sails up and down the Seine), ticket was 11 euros but that is for the whole day and the last complete journey is at 10pm in the evening so if you use it right, it is very good value. We had already been on the Seine on the dinner cruise but going up and down the river during the day gave a different perspective and sailing along in the sun shine was very relaxing way to bring our last day to a close.
My wife and I had a fantastic trip and brought back some happy memories of a wonderful city. The weather was kind over all ��� although we did get caught in a couple of very wet down pours that came without warning! We didn���t find Paris to be as expensive as we thought ��� certainly in line with what we budgeted for when visiting London or any other large city in the UK and using the ATM���s was a piece of cake and so convenient. We found the people of Paris to be very friendly ��� a big smile and a few words of French went along way. We were very glad that we took the advice of other members of this forum and did not try to squash too much into our time, gives us a good excuse to go back! Biggest top tip from us ��� wear comfortable shoes, pack your smile and good humour and most of all ��� enjoy yourself!!
Au revoir from a successful romantic!!