This is a report of our December 2006 first outstanding trip to Paris. Thanks to all for your advices! Hope you enjoy reading it and hope it might be useful. Since we come from hot weather all year long, we packed our thermals, hats, scarfs and gloves and ended using them all trip long, temps ranging from 35 to low 50s F.
Day 1: (Monday December 4, 2006)
After our overnight trip we paid under 50euros for a nice mini van taxi (for 2 couples + 4 suitcases) from CDG airport (at the regular taxi stand, pretty easy) to our BW Premier Left Bank Hotel, at rue L’Ancienne Comedie, small quaint boutique hotel in St-Germain area (nice but small rooms, good bath, very small elevator). Paid 140euros per room with breakfast included (reserved through the Best Western site). Excellent area steps off rue de Bucci and rue St. Andres des Arts, four houses away from a convenient Odeon metro stop. You have the Boulangerie Kayser across the street for good bread, croissants, pastries etc. Also there is a Champion supermarché around the corner from the hotel at rue de Seine. Not to mention the excellent ambiance at all the little streets that surround the hotel with cafes, bistrots, restaurants, clubs and even a flower stand and a stall of roast chicken.
After checking in, we did the first walk of our trip, walked by Blvd St-Germain des Pres to Place St Michel, on to Notre Dame church by the Petit Pont, where at its entrance awaited us a big beautiful Christmas tree. Afterwards and just across we paid 6.50eur to get inside Sainte-Chapelle where the church's walls are made up almost entirely of stunning stained-glass scenes “tiffany” style windows. We also went into the Palais de Justice to feel at home since I am a lawyer. Walked back to the hotel by the quays of the Seine and by Pont Neuf into rue Dauphine and hitting the hotel through its back by rue de Bucci area. Both walks were marvelous with nice temp in the 50s F. After dark we went for another walk starting again by Blvd St-Germain des Pres this time opposite way towards Brasserie Lipp which is across the street from Les Deux Magots Café which is one corner before Café de Flore. Afterwards we walked back towards St. Sulpice and had fun at Horses Tavern across the street from Café Les Editeurs at Carrefour de l'Odeon. On our way back to the hotel we stopped for excellent chocolates and pastries at a nice standing only small place at rue de Bucci.
Day 2: (Tuesday December 5, 2006)
After breakfast at the hotel we went for a great long walk (two things that I found are awesome in Paris is that you can walk and walk and never get tired and if you do then you have a superb metro system as backup) from the little side streets of our hotel this time crossing Point Neuf and left by the quays of the Seine and passing by the Musee du Louvre, on through la Grande Arche, into the Jardin Des Tuileries, walked it complete into the Place de la Concorde, then we walked all the Champs-Elysees until we hit the Arc de Triomphe. And believe me it felt so good to climb every step of the petit circular stairway ‘cause the spectacular views of the city from the top made you feel like you have climbed a “stairway to heaven”! Amazing city, just my second day in town and here I am, just turning 51, celebrating my 25th wedding anniversary, and finding out why everybody falls in love with Paris! Another romantic kiss to my beloved wife and no words to describe how I felt, just lovely!!
Then we bought a carnet of 10 single-use metro tickets at a cost of 10.70€ and in minutes we were back steps from our hotel at Odeon metro stop. At the metro station Chatelet where we changed metros, we ran into a bunch of youngsters playing classical music with violins and they sounded like a whole orchestra, superb entertainment for free! or better for them a good tip from us music lovers.
At night we rode the metro to Le Marais, walked around (Place des Vosges at night seemed closed and dark! so we decided to return at daytime) chat with a local guy who told us to go to rue de Lapp (beautiful little street) by the Place de la Bastille, lively area, where we ended having an excellent dinner at Chez Paul “le bistrot traditions” at corner of rue de Charonne. Afterwards we hanged by rue de Lapp and rue St Sabine little streets, chat with a local guy who suggested and helped us jump into a taxi to “Duc Des Lombards”, at rue des Lombards in the first arrondissment, where we paid 12euros cover for a fabulous live jazz night out. Nice street for jazz bar hopping.
Day 3: (Wednesday December 6, 2006)
After breakfast and shopping for our train picnic around our neighborhood (we bought at Champion supermarché some different types of cheeses and prossutto etc., and also bought excellent bread at Boulangerie Kayser). Checked out and left most of our luggage stored at the hotel (no charge) and went light by metro to Gare du Nord station to catch our Thalys train to Amsterdam.
Note: Since we were out of town in Amsterdam for 3 nights (this side trip review will be listed elsewhere, under Amsterdam, intentions not to tire all of you Paris enthusiasts.)
Day 4: (Saturday December 9, 2006)
We arrived at nighttime to Gare du Nord from our Thalys train trip from Amsterdam (four hours trip, paid 65euros roundtrip per person, “Smyles rate” at the Thalys internet site, excellent rate not always available, if you see it buy it because they disappear pretty fast); again it was a fantastic transport system, then took the metro #4 towards Porte d’ Orleans and in minutes we were steps from our hotel at Odeon metro stop.
After checking in at the same hotel, we went to party to Le Riverside, a small club playing live classic rock music from the 70s (no cover charge) excellent musicians, great ambiance on the mature side. It is located on one of the little nice streets near our hotel named rue Gregoire-de-Tours, between rue L’Ancienne Comedie and rue de Seine. Afterwards we had pastries and great hot chocolate at Les Deux Magots a couple of corners down Blvd. St-Germain des Pres, very classical.
Day 5: (Sunday December 10, 2006)
Day trip to Chateau de Versailles, we bought a passeport at the RER station at St-Michelle station, which included round trip in the RER line C plus entrance to the chateau. So once we got there (about 40 minutes ride) we did no lines and went straight in. Since we are art enthusiasts we did the whole thing with the headphones: the Royal Chapel, King’s and Queen’s Grands Apartments, Dauphin’s and Mesdames’ Apartments. We also rode a little tram and got into le Petit Trianon (Marie-Antoinette), saw the fountains but they were off, but we knew from beforehand. So we have an excuse for coming back, yeah, more excuses to follow.
Later in the evening we had an early dinner at Chez Clement, at their location in St. Michel at place St-Andres des Arts, and believe me for being a chain restaurant it was not bad at all, excellent service, food and ambiance plus it was opened early and we were really hungry.
Afterwards we went by metro to have a close encounter with the ever-lovely Tour Eiffel, which we have been seeing almost from everywhere, but we wanted to touch it also. So we figured out that at nighttime will be most romantic time to “hug her” and make her blink at us as well. Well it was a unique and awesome sensation to feel tons of iron on top of you as you stand under it, nonetheless was the excellent light show which we timed perfectly to see as we approached it. We had a great view by the Seine river walking from le Palais de Chaillot through the Pont d’lena. Then the grand ascension de la Tour Eiffel, (almost no line only like 20 people before us, probably since its mid Dec, around 36 degrees F and 9:30 in the night!) paid 7.70euros each to get to the second or third level ‘cause our ladies were afraid of heights and refused to go to the very top. Anyways, great view of the “city of lights”. (and yeah another excuse for our next trip)
Metro back to our hotel, but before going to sleep (in cloud nine-Paris with my soul mate) we enjoyed a hot chocolate and shared a tarte tatin (very good apple tart) at Café de Bucci, at the corner of rue de Bucci with the intersection of our hotel street L’Ancienne Comedie and rue Dauphine. We took pictures of a little yorkie dog with his small toy in his mouth sitting by himself at one of the chairs in a table with his elegant local Parisian owner.
Day 6: (Monday December 11, 2006)
Rainy day so we are doing the Musee du Louvre experience today, notwithstanding, we are non-stoppable so we walked with our little umbrellas. No lines outside the pyramid so we went straight down and after a short time in a line to buy the tickets, they opened a new station and called us in, so we were lucky and didn’t do lines at all. As well as music and wine lovers we are also art enthusiasts, so we had fun as first timers, half a day 8.50euros basic tickets, not to get overwhelmed. (Venus de Milo, Victoire de Samothrace, obviously La Giaconde or La Joconde, Le Sacre de Napoleon by Jacques Louis David, La Belle Jardiniere by Raphael, Wedding Feast at Cana by Veronese, a lovely sculpture by Antonio Canova, “sique and the kiss of love”, spectacular (my favorite)).
Afterwards we headed to Montmartre by metro. From the metro stop it was like a bazaar row of cheap thrifty like stores and since the funicular was not working we walked up the hill and up the stairs into the fabulous Basilique du Sacre Coeur. The views are again magnificent so we got all romantic again and after some kisses and more photos went inside the church and since it happened to be the exact date of our 25th anniversary (December 11) we happily got married again this time by ourselves but at one of the most precious and sublime churches of the world. Once outside, the sunset was bringing more emotions into the lovely scenery. Then we celebrated with the artists and some more rain at Place du Tertre, the plaza was beautifully decorated with blue Christmas lights all over the trees. We had more wine and great crepes around the plaza at Chez Eugene. Maison Catherine was also beautifully decorated. Afterwards we walked down into Pigalle and walked by Moulin Rouge.
Then we took a metro to the Arc de Triomphe because we wanted to see it during the night and also see the illuminations of the Champs-Elysees, pretty spectacular.
Later in the night we had dinner at Le Procope, conveniently located next to our hotel.
Then we went for a walk to the Quartier Latin, walked rue des Ecoles (which I found kind of dark and desolated; thanks again to paris 1204 who told me he liked better the location of the Premier Left Bank Hotel than the Sully Hotel at rue des Escoles, because now I totally agree with him), then up to rue de la Harpe, rue St Severin and rue de la Huchette, much more lively.
Then walk by the quays of the Seine (quai de Montebello and quai de la Tournelle) to see Notre Dame at night and to get to see the end of Ile de la Cite and the beginning of Ile St-Louis so we went to Pont l’Archeveche and saw Notre Dame from the back. Then walk to the quai Aux Fleurs and saw the start of Ile St-Louis. The interesting observation is to be able to see the romantic Seine River get divided in two channels by the islands. Looks like if the Seine gave birth to both islands just for the pleasure of Parisians.
On our way back walking to our centrally located hotel, we stopped for hot chocolate at Café Le Petit Pont, at rue du Petit Pont with a marvelous view of Notre Dame. There was also soft live piano music going on, we sat outside in a nice setting with warm gas lamps (temp at low 40s F). We were told this outdoor café goes non-stop le week-end.
Day 7: (Tuesday December 12, 2006)
After breakfast we went for our last walk of our trip; we walked through rue St-Andres des Arts towards place St-Michel, and later into upscale Ile St.-Louis which we crossed from left to right through its middle street rue St-Louis-en-I’lle checking the stores and the glamour and peacefulness of this island in the Seine.
Then we kept walking to Le Marais where we saw the charming Place des Vosges (in daytime) and along colorful rue des Francs Bourgeois, rue des Rosiers and various other streets. Stopped for beers and light lunch at Kings Falafel Palace, continuing to Centre Pompidou with its unusual outside façade. Then we walked to the Forum Les Halles and saw St. Eustache church from the distance.
We took the metro to Opera Garnier station, and went to the Galleries Lafayette and Au Printemps, the grand magazzines. We were happy it was December because we saw the beautiful Christmas decorations and lightings. Their picture windows were just amazing.
After some shopping we took the metro back to the hotel and later had dinner at La Citrouillat at rue Gregoire-de-Tours.
Day 8: (Wednesday December 13, 2006)
Early walk around the neighborhood to say good bye. After breakfast we checked out and took a taxi to CDG Airport for our flight back home. Now I feel addicted to Paris so I need to come back again and again.
Thanks again to everyone!!