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Some quick hits (and misses) from our trip to Paris/Normandy

Louisville, Kentucky
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Some quick hits (and misses) from our trip to Paris/Normandy

We just got back a week ago from spending a week in Paris and a week in London. It was my wife and I, our two 8 year olds, and my 60+ year old parents.

**Hits:

*Tour of D-Day Beaches with Dale Booth - this was absolutely fantastic. Dale was a wonderful guide and even kept the kids engaged. My son said it was his favorite thing in the Paris leg of our trip. We went to Utah Beach, Pointe du Hoc, St. Mere Eglise, St. Marie du Mont, Omaha Beach, and the American Cemetery. The whole family was mesmerized from start to finish. We did it as a day trip from Paris and had no problems. Sure, it was a long day, but the train rides allowed time to get some rest. We went from St. Lazare to Carentan. Dale deepened the adults' interest in D-Day/WWII and awoke an interest in the kids, esp. my son. Couldn't have been happier.

*Musee d'Louvre - we booked a kids tour with Paris Muse. Our guide was Inge. She was fabulous. My daughter loved her and was basically her shadow the whole tour. Consequently, the Louvre was my daughter's favorite thing in Paris. This tour was a good choice for us because of the kids and also because my parents are casual, at best, art fans. We were able to hit the highlights and move on. My wife and I were in Paris alone back in 2000 and did a pretty thorough tour of it, so we weren't concerned about just skimming the surface this time.

*Ile St Louis and the Left Bank - simply walking around these areas and popping in and out of shops was an absolute joy. Even browsing the supermarkets, picking out things we can't get in the States, was fun for the kids.

*Top of the Eiffel Tower - it's cliche and the line was long, but it was worth it. The view was a little hazy, but still spectacular. Probably wouldn't do it again, but SO glad we did it once.

*Chocolate shop walk along rue St. Honore - I'd gotten the route from chocoparis.com and, being Easter week, thought it would be fun to check out the chocolate shop windows and the various Easter creations. This was not a disappointment. The favorite was Jean-Paul Hevin. We all picked out something decadent and then went upstairs and enjoyed hot chocolate. The kids loved it.

*Versailles - it was packed, but we all really enjoyed it. We paid for the gardens/fountain show, so that gave an added spark to the visit. We could've spent all day there, but we were all sort of tired, so we cut the visit a bit short to save sanity.

*Le Caveau de la Huchette - jazz club in the Latin Quarter. Took my wife there after a mom-and-dad-only romantic dinner and had a blast. The entertainment was a blues/jazz pianist from Kansas City, and he was fantastic. The dancing by the "regulars" was really something to behold. Still, the wife and I managed to hit the floor a couple of times on the slower songs. Cover charge was steep, but it was worth it for a unique experience in Paris.

*Galeries Lafayette - essentially a big department store, but the building was beautiful, and going out on the rooftop terrace to watch the sunset was sublime. A very unexpected highlight.

*Taxis G7 - there is a lot of talk on this forum about airport transfers and the like. We used G7 for our transport from CDG to Paris and from our apartment to Gare du Nord, and were very pleased both times. The taxis were clean and modern, and the drivers were prompt and courteous. Not the cheapest option, but very easy, especially for a large group.

**Mixed Reviews:

*Musee d'Orsay - very similar to our National Gallery experience in London. My wife and I LOVED it and could've spent days there. My parents and the kids, on the other hand, could not have cared less. They basically sat on benches while we toured on our own. In hindsight, a tour probably would've been a good idea. They did enjoy the building, and several pieces of artwork, but overall they were pretty ambivalent about the whole thing.

*Sainte Chapelle - the whole left side of the chapel was covered with scaffolding, so the effect was completely lost. It was still neat to see the rest of the stained glass, and my parents were really into the subjects of the different panes, but the wow factor was diminished by the scaffolding and dust.

*Notre Dame - surprisingly, this got mixed reviews. We visitied on Easter Sunday, so I assumed everyone would really enjoy it. I think everyone did, but it wasn't really the "hit" that I thought it would be. We attended the organ recital, which my wife and I and the kids loved, but my parents thought it was too somber and heavy. They didn't care for it. On top of that, my mom is a pretty ardent Protestant, so the services didn't do a lot for her. My wife and I have a good feel for the architecture and history of the cathedral, so we were in bliss, but I think a lot of that was lost on my parents. They enjoyed walking around and touring, but overall I think they were pretty "blah" on it. To each his own.

**Misses:

*Les Invalides - my father really wanted to see Napolean's tomb (for some reason), so we headed over to Les Invalides. The arms museum was fine I guess, but it ended up not doing anything for us. Even Napolean's tomb was a letdown. Walking over and seeing the building was nice, but the museum and tomb were disappointing.

*Eiffel Tower souvenir guys - good God they were annoying. I was already for the string around the wrist and lost ring tricks - neither of which we encountered - but I wasn't ready for this. It's not that they were trying to scam us, it's just that they were so persistent. God forbid you make eye contact with them. Same with the petition girls. Terribly annoying. Granted, a firm "Non merci" was sufficient to get them to leave you alone, but it was still frustrating.

*Champs Elysees - my parents wanted to go because they'd heard about it and seen the famous view looking up the Champs Elysees at the Arc de Triomphe. So we started at the Arc and worked our way down. Meh. Could just as easily be Michigan Ave. in Chicago. It really does NOTHING for me, and didn't for the kids either. We went into the Disney Store, but it was the same stuff we could get here. By the time we got down to the FDR metro stop, we were done. We snapped a couple of pics and were out of there.

**Things We Planned To Do, or Should've Done, But Didn't:

*Park(s) - I'd really wanted to check out the Luxembourg Gardens and a couple of other parks with the kids, but we just ran out of time. Plus, the weather was COLD. We didn't get any rain, which was nice, but it certainly didn't feel like park weather.

*Catacombs - I've heard they're a bit of a tourist trap, and reviews are mixed, but I think the kids would've really gotten a kick out of it. Their principal happened to be in Paris at the same time and they went and really enjoyed it.

*l'Orangerie - my wife and I really wanted to see this museum, but no one else really cared, so it just sort of dropped off our priority list. We WILL visit it someday.

There you have it. It was a great trip enjoyed by all, from 8 years old to 66 years old. One more thing, though. There's always a lot of discussion about Parisians being rude. In my two trips, I've yet to be treated what I would call "rudely." I've received much worse in Boston and Baltimore and NYC. I think Parisians simply go about their business. At worst, I think they tend to be aloof. But, it doesn't take much to break through that barrier. One anecdote I'll share that I thought was really neat. At the end of the Paris Muse tour, the kids had a "treasure" they'd been trying to find. It turned out to be at the coat check. So the kids had to go up and ask for their things, but in French. So the guide gave them a quick tutorial on what and how to say it in French, and sent them on their way. I'd been watching the associate at the coat check, and he didn't seem particularly friendly. He was very rigid in his duty and was courteous, but not overly bright and sunny. So I was a little nervous for the kids. We all stood back and watched. When the kids got up to the counter and began asking for their package in French, the guy's face absolutely lit up. It's like he was a different person. When they were done, he applauded and gave them a big "tres bien!" Then he told his co-worker to come over and had the kids do it again for him! :-) Smiles all around, and you've never seen two prouder kids. They still talk about that and how "cool" the guys at the Louvre coat check were.

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1. Re: Some quick hits (and misses) from our trip to Paris/Normandy

Great report! I think Napoleon's tomb can be a hit - if you're from someplace with out big monuments and you've never been to Europe (which was the case when I first saw it - I had NO idea it would be a matroshka tomb). However, we're big history fans, and I needed to brush up on all the Napoleonic conquests (after Les Invalides, I was surprised to see how many other references to Napoleon and those battles were all over Paris). The story of how his body got to be where it is (and the various proposals for his cause of death) also became an interest after seeing it. I take it you did not do the military museum (because generally, kids really enjoy armor - and the exhibits on Napoleon's campaigns are really interesting). I agree that the church at Les Invalides is not a huge draw after one has seen others (too bad about Sainte-Chapelle).

That's an endearing story about the coat check at the Louvre.

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2. Re: Some quick hits (and misses) from our trip to Paris/Normandy

Hey CatManDoo73 - Great trip report. I am considering taking the trip to Normandy from Paris.

I already have Giverny on my to do list and was wondering how to go about including Normandy in my itinerary. I'm traveling solo and a first timer to Paris and don't really know if this would be to much to absorb. I will be there for 10 nights so I think I have enough time.

What train did you take from St. Lazare to Carentan? Which tour company did you use?

In planning would Giverny be first then on to Normandy? Should I plan on spending a night?

Thanks in advance.

Louisville, Kentucky
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3. Re: Some quick hits (and misses) from our trip to Paris/Normandy

I can't imagine doing Giverny and Normandy in one day. I would do Giverny, then train up to Bayeux and spend the night, then take a tour in the morning. I used Dale Booth Normandy Tours (he's ranked #1 here on TA) He was excellent.

Louisville, Kentucky
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4. Re: Some quick hits (and misses) from our trip to Paris/Normandy

Actually Cookie, we did do the armor museum, but for some reason the kids didn't really get into it. Not sure why. There were obviously some things they enjoyed, but for the most part I felt like they didn't really care all that much. But, they're 8, so who knows.

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5. Re: Some quick hits (and misses) from our trip to Paris/Normandy

Thanks for the great trip report!!

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6. Re: Some quick hits (and misses) from our trip to Paris/Normandy

Great report; loved the coat check story - they will remember that. how fun for them...and you.

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7. Re: Some quick hits (and misses) from our trip to Paris/Normandy

good report, thank you! I checked in my 'carry-on' case at the Louvre and when I went to collect it, I explained (in French) that it was the one with a red ribbon on the handle. The guy came back and said 'Rouge ou Bordeaux'? I clarified and said that I didn't realise that I had to be quite so specific and he was quite amused. I can't say often enough that I have never experienced rudeness in Paris - maybe because I speak good French, maybe because I try to treat people as I wish to be treated :)

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8. Re: Some quick hits (and misses) from our trip to Paris/Normandy

Thanks CatManDoo73 - So from Giverny I take the train to Bayeux. Got it! going over now to check out Dale Booth Normandy Tours. Any recommendations on where to stay once in Normandy?

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9. Re: Some quick hits (and misses) from our trip to Paris/Normandy

How great was your coat check story.

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10. Re: Some quick hits (and misses) from our trip to Paris/Normandy

Great tip about doing a kids' tour at the Louvre. What a fun way to get them interested in a museum and what a confidence boost for their language skills! I'll have to remember that when I visit with my niece next year.