Robs & Deb's Excellent Trip to France Sept 2014

Once again I'll say that this is written more for me then for you. It's so we can remember our trip. I know it's too long but you can skip through parts using the list below. I hope to add some movies to this soon.

Some history... I had planned in the back of my mind to take a trip to the Loire valley and see some of the great chateaux there. We also had planned on driving in northern Italy and France with a final few days in Paris. The Institute we attend offered a class on the chateaux of the Loire Valley. We did not sign up for the class immediately and started going to the class at the fifth of ten weeks. After much thinking we decided to make it more of a vacation rather then a frantic chase after history so we decided to do only the Loire valley and Paris.

We had just completed a three term class on the history of France so are pretty knowledgeable. Perhaps a bit of a review is in order -

Three nights in Chartres - 16th, 17th, 18th
   Day 1 - Flight, Driving from Paris. Hotel and cathedral
   Day 2 - Fontainebleau, Bill and Alice.
   Day 3 - Crypt tour, Up the tower, Medieval city walk, Special dinner

Three nights in Orleans -
   Day 1 - Driving to Orleans, Help from a stranger, Hike around Orleans
   Day 2 - Chateau Chambord, Chateau Cheverny, Dogs, Free parking
   Day 3 - Chateau Blois, Storm at lunch, Small Chateau de Talcy, Free tours today, Paul and Martine

Three nights in Tours
   Day 1 - Drove to Tours, Big hotel
   Day 2 - Chateau Amboise, Chateau du Clos Luce/Parc Leonardo da Vinci, Lost in Tours, Walk to the Loire and dining area
   Day 3 - Chateau Villandry, Chateau d'Azay-le-Rideau, Lost in Tours

Three nights in Angers
   Day 1 - Drive to Angers, Lost, Large apartment, Angers Chateau (fort).
   Day 2 - Angers City pass, Cathedral tour, Train ride, Beaux Arts, Tapestry, Natural History museum, Home
   Day 3 - Monterey pastry guy, Chinon, Abbaye de Fontevraud

Four nights in Paris
   Day 1 - Drive to Paris to return the car, Train, Apartment snafu, Grocery
   Day 2 - Walk to St. Eustace, Checked The train, Dinner at our old Pizza place,  Palais Royal, Louvre
   Day 3 - Palais Royal, Pont des Artes to Rive Gauche, St Germain, St Sulpice, Lunch at Odeon, Luxembourg garden, Notre Dame, Flowers
   Day 4 - Place Vendome, Joan of Arc, Tuleries, Place de la Concorde, to Musee d'Art Moderne


Home - Hike to train, Train, Airport, Flight, Home

We made a deal with a local taxi guy, Pratap of San Jose Airport Taxi. We've used him before to pick us up and take us to SF. No problems. We flew United. No extra leg room and near the back of the plane.

Three Nights In Chartres

Day 1 -

The flight was a long 11 hours direct flight. We hit the ATM for some Euros. No problem signing up for the rental car but then we needed to take the shuttle to another terminal to pick it up. We thought it was a shuttle bus but found it was a shuttle train that goes between terminals. We finally got our car.
   Off we went. No major problems. We were driving around 1:30 or so so it was pre-rush hour. It was tricky and I had to signal and change lanes abruptly a couple times. No problem. No honking.  Deb was a very good navigator. I must say the French tailgate really closely. We finally got to the toll road, got a ticket and away we went. The speeds on the big toll roads is 130kph or about 85 mph. Not bad. We got to Chartres (link) in about 3.5 hours. After some driving around we found our place. I parked in the wrong spot. Checked into out hotel and moved the car to their parking area.

Nice hotel. What a view! We opened the double window and looked out at the cathedral. Amazing. We could lie in bed and see it big as day. We were a couple blocks away with a few buildings in the way but none the less we had a spectacular view. We could clearly hear the bells. We were pretty shot from staying up over 24 hours but decided to continue on, after a nap, until later to try to get over the jet lag. We hiked over to the cathedral. extras

This version of the cathedral was built between 1194 and 1250. There have been at least five churches and cathedrals here since the 4th century (300's). The most interesting feature is that the two towers are different. During construction styles changed, the plainer one on the right was completed in 1160. The left one was constructed on top of another tower in the early 1500's. There are three great facades, each covered with hundreds of sculpted figures illustrating key theological themes and narratives. The porch on the right is under going cleaning and restoration.
   Inside the windows were amazing, the western light lit up the big rose window. There were many intricately carved biblical scenes used for education. Also a large statue apparently of Mary.
   These cathedrals are absolutely amazing. You step inside and can't believe these were constructed hundreds of years before Columbus discovered America.
   The stained glass is mostly original. Apparently it wasn't badly damaged in the revolution.

We had dinner at a place right next to the cathedral. Deb and I both had croute monsieur. We think we ran across the factory where croute's are made.

Apparently some folks in full garb had been practicing for some singing.

We bought some wine for the room.
That night we could see some of the light show on the cathedral from our room.  Top

Day 2 -

Stopped into a little place for coffee and chocolate pastries. We then drove to Fontainebleau (link). Some parking problems... We had a lunch before entering. Deb had the famous croute monsieur and I had the croute madame with an egg on top and some wine on the side. A rather expensive lunch. I guess because we were in a major tourist area.

Fontainebleau is second only to Versailles as a royal place to stay outside of Paris and much older. It was used by Francis I and also the Bonaparte's. One wing is dedicated to the Bonaparte's. Lots of family stuff including the son's toys. Another wing had a lot of things from Francis I including a spectacular room where he received guests. There was also a ballroom and two chapels. Francis attended mass at least once per day.

The grounds are hundreds of manicured acres. We should have taken the horse carriage ride around. We walked through a very nice garden. extras

Back to Chartres. While having lunch at a large outside restaurant. I noticed across the way a guy that looked like a guy in our class. After looking and looking Deb finally got up an walked over to check them out. Ha! It was Bill and Alice from our class! He's quite a talker so we had a fun time. We planned on seeing them the next day for a tour of the cathedral crypt.

We hung around and toured the cathedral area a bit more. 

Deb and I had a nice dinner outside in front of Bill and Alice's B&B. We saw the famous light show projected on the cathedral and the Musee Beaux Arts. 
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Day 3 -

Today we shopped around for a different place for breakfast. We had some nice pastries and coffee.
We met up with Bill and Alice for the crypt tour. It was a little disappointing. We did see the famous relic which is a piece of Mary - mother of Christ's shawl.
We had a nice pizza lunch (thanks Bill). extras

Deb and I were going to climb the left tower. Bill and Alice decided to tag along. A great climb and some great views plus good looks at the construction of the cathedral. extras

We tried to go to the Musee Beaux Artes but it was closing for lunch.

We  then decided to do the walk through the old medieval area. The city was promoting a festival of lights so if we did this walk or took the little train in the evening things would be lighted. It was quite a long walk. We got some help with directions - they spoke no English and we spoke no French but it worked out. We accidentally walked up to the cathedral half way through the walk so we went back down and completed the lap. The ending was a climb up a huge long staircase back to the cathedral. extras
    During the walk we ran across another large church. It seemed to be newer but in poor repair. There were large stained glass windows but over the seating area was a big net to catch things falling from the ceiling.

We ended the day at a nice dinner with Bill and Alice at Esprit Gourmand which is supposed to be the best in the city. Top


Three nights in Orleans

Day 1 -

We had one last pastry and coffee in Chartres. Got some money from an ATM and drove off to Orleans.

Getting there was no problem but finding our parking and hotel was impossible. We drove around and around and around until we found ourselves parked on a little square to look at our maps again. Deb noticed a guy across the square sitting on a bench. I walked over to ask for directions. At first I wondered if he was homeless or violent or who knows what. I greeted him and found he knew zero English. I know .1% of French. He looked at our maps and address and tried to explain how to get there. He did what we all do when we find somebody doesn't know our language - he talked slower and louder. After a few minutes he gave up and walked over with me to our car and got into the back seat. He directed us droite/gauche to our place. It was not intuitive. A very tricky access to the underground parking beneath  a major square. He even walked us to our hotel. What a good citizen. I suspect we were only two or three blocks from where he was sitting. We thanked him beaucoup.

Our hotel room is quite small but very new. The wifi is very good. We hiked out to the square to get the feel of the place and some pictures of the large statue of Joan of Arc (The Maid of Orleans). We shared a pizza at a place just off the square for lunch.

We hiked over to the local cathedral. Quite nice. They have a nice statue and a painting of Joan. extras

We went to a museum near the cathedral and recommended by the tourist office. It was a nice museum but not much that we knew.
We went back and relaxed in our hotel room before hiking out to go to the river and find dinner, hopefully at one of the best and reasonable restaurants in Orleans. We did hike to the river and down and back on the street where most restaurants are located. We needed reservations to get into the nice restaurant so we hiked back to the square and had dinner there. Deb's fish was great, my steak was under done and tough as nails. Top


Day 2 -

Up in the morning and another pastry and coffee. I'm not too crazy about the little teeny strong coffees. I've taken to ordering a double. Also l'eau chaud helps (hot water).
We couldn't find the parking ticket so I stopped at the office near the exit. After a minute or so the guy let us go without paying.

Today we are driving out to Chateau Chambord (link). It is a gigantic hunting lodge built by Francis I and probably designed by Leonardo DaVinci. Francis brought Leonardo to France and associated with the genius as much as he could. There is a famous painting of Francis at Leonardo's death bed. This is quite a place. One thing is it is very unified. Some places look like they have grown up over the centuries. This place is like a fairy castle. movie

Chambord is amazing. One of the features that make us think it was designed by Leonardo is the spiral staircase. Spiral staircases were the rage in Italy. The name of the LaScala opera house in Milan means "stairs". This spiral is a double helix spiral. There are two entries so two people can climb up on opposite sides and meet on each floor. It's still not clear to me how this works but we did climb it separately and meet on the various floors.
   The place is covered with intricate detailed decorations. It looks like a fairy castle.
   The place is quite tall with grand vistas of the estate. The plan was that the ladies could go up and look out and see the king and his men hunting. It is not particularly well furnished but impressive none the less. extras

We had lunch on the grounds here. I had a beer and cheese plate. Deb had champagne and a beautiful avocado salad. Quite an elegant setting. Some rain fell but we were covered.

We visited Chateau Cheverny(link). It's a beautiful home in a beautiful setting. It was completely furnished and quite elegant. We took the tour and walked around the grounds. There was a dedicated "students" garden where they raised a little of everything - flowers, vegetables and exotic plants. The garden was located next to the dog compound. Rick Steves says the dogs are fed at 5:30 so we decided to hang around. At it got later more and more dogs came out of the kennel. I'd guess there are around 40 dogs. I asked a worker when they were going to feed them. In French without a single word of English she told me she was sorry they were not going to feed. The dogs are huge hunting dogs. extras movie

We had a fun dinner at a pizza place just off the big square in Orleans. I had pizza, Deb had chicken risotto
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Day 3 -

The parking ticket machine was not working so we drove to the office. Unfortunately seeing it was Sunday it was closed. Hmmm. I drove to the exit (sortee) and gave an attendant our ticket. He took it into an office and returned and gave it back to us and said to just go - free parking again.

We drove to Chateau Blois (link). I'm quite familiar with this place because I built a paper model of it a few years ago. This place has several sections and was built over centuries. Joan of Arc came here to be blessed before leading her army to drive the English from Orleans.

The Chateau has 100 bedrooms. It took a long time to tour this place because of its complexity. Many rooms are decorated and there are many historical presentations. There is also a workshop where they are working on reconstruction. Lots of these places were damaged during the revolution. Plus time and weather take a toll.

Francis I had a section built for his wife who unfortunately died and didn't really use the place. Francis didn't use it either. The section he built has a grand spiral staircase. extras

We hiked around and looked at the views and then hiked into Blois for lunch. We found a nice little place, Chez Bruno, and ordered our food. Deb had a bucket of mussels. OMG a big storm came through with a lot of wind and a torrential rain. We all had to go inside. We watched as it blew, downpoured and hailed. We sat and had lunch and conversation with a couple from Rio de Janiero. Much fun. movie

On the way back we stopped at a small chateau - Chateau de Talcy (link). A sweet little place. Very human sized. We toured the house. Apparently it is well know in French poetry.
There was an interesting wine press and a large garden and a silo. It looks like it was a prosperous working farm for many years. It is said Catherine de Medici and her son Charles IX planned the Bartholomew's day massacre here. extras
   Some local ladies had set up a card table and a cooker and were making crepes at .50€ each. I had a chocolate one with Nutella on it and Deb had an apricot. Fun.

Back to Orleans. For dinner we hiked down to the restaurant area. We met a couple, Paul and Martine, from Brussels who were traveling back from Spain on a motorcycle. We had a good conversation. Top
 
Three nights in Tours

Day 1 -

As we were leaving our room to check out we discovered the next door neighbors were Paul and Martine. We looked over their motorcycle and gear and said goodbye. Then a bite of breakfast.

Today not free parking. In fact it was 24€! I'm glad the other two days were free. I suspect we had a communication problem with the hotel lady, who didn't know two words of English. I'm sure there were some sort of parking arrangements that we didn't use.

I missed the turn while getting off the toll road and we ended up driving all over hell and back until I finally pulled into a parking lot and went into a patisserie/bolangerie and asked directions. Of course not a word of English, but no problem.

We soon found our place. It's a bit tricky getting into the parking garage here but we figured it out. We came up and our place is right in front of the large rail road station. We were in "le Grand Hotel"! We had a gigantic room. movie Two windows that opened onto a square in front of the station. The bathtub was amazing. Unfortunately we didn't use it. extras

We found that we really couldn't take our car out or it would cost us like 24€. We can take it out once a day. They charge us 8€ per day for parking.

We hiked down to the cathedral. Quite a nice cathedral. Very large and beautiful. The two children of Anne of Brittany are buried here. It has been partially redone so has some modern stained glass windows. Had we known we would have gone a bit further and visited the local Chateau of Tours. extras

We hiked down a street lined with restaurants and found a place on a medieval square for lunch. Rick Steves says in France slow service is good service. Two girls sitting near us looked like they had already been there for a couple hours.
   We walked around and looked at old buildings. We hiked past the left over parts of a cathedral that was dedicated to Martin of Tours. Two standing parts indicate how large it must have been. It was torn down because it was in disrepair and a danger. We went into another church where the remains of Saint Louis lie.
   During the revolution all abbey's and nunnery's were disbanded and most churches closed and damaged. So with a shortage of funds and people many religious places deteriorated.

We walked back along a rather nice and wide transit mall. movie

We were going to hike back down to the restaurant area for dinner but decided to eat in our neighborhood. It must be good because we can see a French couple eating in there. So in we went. I had steak again. It was undercooked and tough as nails. I couldn't eat it. I should have complained. I need to order it well done not medium. Deb had a wonderful meal of Boquelle St Jacques. We met the French couple and found they live in Salinas California. Ha! So back to the hotel.
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Day 2 -

Croissants and coffee on the street.

Off to Chateau Ambois (link) and Chateau du Clos Luce/Parc Leonardo da Vinci. One of the claims to fame here is that in 1498 King Charles VIII died after hitting his head on a door lintel.

We parked about a mile away and hiked in. I'm sure there was closer parking.

The chateau is up on a hill and is more like a fort then a place to live. It has a great view of the Loire river. The grounds are spectacular. We really covered the grounds in this place. This is the first resting place of Leonardo DaVinci. extras

Down below is Chateau du Clos Luce where DaVinci lived most of his time in France. We stopped for a bit of wine and rest. There are DaVinci models in the building. The associated Parc Leonardo da Vinci has many full sized replicas of DaVinci's designs. Anne of Brittany also enjoyed staying here. I can see why it's a nice place in a nice setting with a town nearby. extras
  
We had lunch here. A buckwheat crepe with ham and cheese folded inside.

Once again we got scrambled up trying to get back to our place. We drove through suburbs, industrial parks, neighborhoods, over hill and over dale. Suddenly we saw the patasserie/boulanger where I'd previously gotten directions. We finally made it back. We stopped into the little place where we had dinner last night.

Later we hiked down to the restaurant area and walked around for a while before finding a cute little place for dinner - "la Plume Blanche". I had a delicious poached egg entree and a steak for dinner - tough as usual. Deb had a pate with toast and duck. We shared a dessert. A very fun dinner. Then a hike home up the transit mall area.  Top


Day 3 -

Drove out to Chateau Villandry (link). It's gardens are famous and spectacular. Perhaps the most beautiful gardens anywhere. Napoleon bought it for his brother. It is now privately owned and restored by the family who lives here. I can't say enough good things. You can't take a bad picture. There are classic Italian gardens and an ornamental vegetable garden. extras movie movie

We were looking for lunch after 2pm but most places were closing. We had a pizza lunch in the little town on our way to Chateau d'Azay-le-Rideau (link) it means "Azay the burnt" because it was burnt down in 1418.
It is spectacularly situated. A river was diverted around it so it could be displayed as though it was floating on the river. This chateau was built to be a house to live in rather then a fort. It has staircases with landings though the style at the time was circular staircases. It's not completed because the person who had his wife oversee the building of the chateau was caught in a scandal and had to flee France. However it is beautiful. extras

Once again we got lost trying to get back to our hotel. What a mess. We actually drove places that we remembered from being lost before and became even more lost. Finally we ran across the patissery/boulanger and found our way home.

This is the night we had our nicest dinner at "le Theleme". It was around the corner from us. I saw it on Google maps and Traveladvisor said it was good. It was very nice. A fine French restaurant. Deb had fish and I had duck. We shared a dessert. Loved it. This is our last dinner out. From now on we'll be in apartments.

Three nights in Angers

After studying Google maps it appears we have been going the long slow way out of town to the chateaux. There is a much easier way to go. Coming back this way would have kept us from getting lost three times. Darn. This time we went zip and onto the toll road and off to Angers.
Apparently Google maps gives you the shortest route but not necessarily the most convenient.

Day 1 -

Drove to Angers (on-jay) (link). I guess we found our place fairly easily. It's a huge apartment. (extras) Rather sparsely decorated but nice and modern. We can park on the street in front of our apartment for free but there are never any spaces. So we are parked on Rue Pasteur. Turns out it's quite inexpensive. It's about 4E for eight plus hours during the day then 12 hours for 1E after 6pm. Not bad.

I think at this time we hiked down to the tourist area and to the tourist office. We left there and went to look at and enter the Chateau d'Angers (link). It's clearly more of a fort then a chateau. We walked around and looked at the Apocalypse Tapestries (link). They are a series of about 90 scenes from the bible book Apocalypse They are in a very dark room. It took about ten minutes before we could see them very well. Our cameras acted like night vision goggles so we could see them better. An amazing piece of work. It would take days to look at and study them all.
   We walked on the ramparts and looked out. It has an imposing view of the river as well as the town of Angers. One of the interesting features of these forts is openings high up the wall but at the bottom of the top of the tower. It's for dumping things on people trying to scale the wall. extras

We went back to our apartment and then out for food. We had looked at Google maps so knew of a patisserie/bolanger near by. Turns out the owner spent a lot of time in Monterey and spoke good English. He told us where a supermarket was located. We hiked over there and got a bit lost. Two older guys were happy to help but then they just asked girl on a bike where the market was. We picked up some food, a baguette and wine. On the way home we passed a larger supermarket. It's funny because these so called supermarkets are not too super. Usually small with a few narrow aisles. They usually have a large array of stuff though. After I dealt with the parking we settled in and watched an American movie in French.

The only English on TV is news and that gets pretty boring after a bit. French commercials are quite creative and entertaining. 
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Day 2 -

We hiked over to the tourist office to buy a city pass which gets us into most everything. On the way we stopped at a gallery , David d'Angers, with large statues. They were setting up an exhibit so let us in free to see just a part of the museum. We bought our passes and waited to take the little tourist train around the sights and across the river. In the mean time we toured the cathedral. Finally the train took us on a nice ride around. We saw some things we might want to visit.
   We had a very nice and fancy lunch. It appears that many French take their big meal of the day at noon. Most places have noon specials that are cheaper then dinner specials and often the same exact thing.
   We went to a nearby museum - Musee des Beaux Arts. Deb then decided we would hike to the tapestry museum of Jean-Lurcat on the other side of the river. So off we went on a rather long hike. The museum has a modern set of tapestries which are supposed to be in opposition to the Apocalypse Tapestries. Quite interesting and a nice display as well as the information sheet was very good.
   After that we went into a nearby museum in the same complex. I could hardly stand anymore so I basically sat while Deb looked at the museum.
   We then started the trek home. I noted that there was a Museum of Natural History on our route. After some searching we found it. It was a bit old and funky but another thing to add then check off the bucket list. We stopped by a butcher shop and bought a few items for dinner. We paid for parking and snuggled in for the night. The potatoes and things we bought at the butcher were delicious and plentiful. 
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Day 3 -


This was Saturday. I bought some pastries from the Monterey pastry guy for our breakfast.

We drove out to Chinon (link). This is described as a castle but is obviously a fort. It's high on a hill overlooking a town and a vast area including the Loire river. It appears to have been extensively rebuilt but there are original parts still there. We parked too far away again and only had two hours parking. We hiked to the tourist office and got tickets to Chinon and another place. We took the elevator up then hiked up some more to the castle. It's pretty amazing. They had a good Joan of Arc presentation. I guess the Knights Templar owned this at one time. There was an interesting exhibit about the Knights. Jacques deMolay was imprisoned here. You can see the actual place. It's well down in the ground.

On 6 March 1429 Joan met Charles VII. This may be the place where he pretended to be a courtier but she identified him anyway. He sent her to Poiters to have her questioned to see if the voices speaking to her were real. When she returned Charles granted her supplies and sent her to join the army at Orleans where she helped to break the siege there and earned the name "Maid of Orleans". extras

We had an especially nice lunch here sitting under trees and umbrellas.

We hiked back to our car and spent some time looking for the statue of Joan. We parked and took a look.

We then drove out in the country to find Abbaye de Fontevraud (link). It was getting a bit late so we got an excellent parking spot. This was a large place with both men and women founded around 1000AD. The men lived outside of the main abbey. It was run by aristocratic women for 800 years. There were four orders here ranging from rich widows to repentant prostitutes. It was ordered disbanded after the revolution, as were all abbeys and monasteries. It then served as a prison for 150 years. It has had extensive restoration. It is quite impressive. The Plantagents Elanor of Aquitaine and Henry II were buried here. Their graves were destroyed during the revolution so there only effigies remaining. There is a very nice large chapel and a famous kitchen fire area which had eight fire places for cooking. extras
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Deb got directions back to Angers. I was going to take the toll road but this drive along the Loire on a Saturday afternoon/evening was beautiful. I'm glad we did it though we got a bit lost finding our place back in Angers.

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Four nights in Paris

Day 1 -

Seeing it was Sunday the traffic into Paris was not bad only a few stop and go places. Deb directed us directly to CDG airport. The fee for getting off the toll road was 26€. Not bad seeing it was nearly 200 miles and we were going 85mph all the way. We filled up the rental car at the last possible gas station. Returning the car was a bit confusing but we accomplished that. No receipt because their computer system was down (!?). We jumped on the shuttle and went to terminal 2 to catch the train into Paris (10€ each). It drops us off right near the neighborhood where we will be staying - Les Halles near St. Eustache.
   The train ride was pretty bad. It packed up to standing room only. Seeing we had two suitcases we hogged up four seats. We rearranged things so one person could sit down. Not a good experience. We got there with no complications other then we had to lug our suitcases up a couple flights of stairs when exiting the station. OMG! Some guy picked up Deb's bags and sprinted up the stairs. I was trailing behind with two heavy bags. It just about killed me. I suffered later for that bit of  foolishness.
  

I had carefully written down exactly where the office is where we are supposed to meet the owner. We found the office. Nobody there. I knocked on the door but it was obviously closed. So we decided to hike to the apartment and see if somebody was there to meet us. With some help from a pretty girl on a motor scooter we found it. Nobody there. We decided to hike back to the office. This is like a half mile hike across several streets. Nope, nobody there. Deb went into a small Hilton hotel nearby. We didn't have a personal number for the owner. The hotel sent yet another email for us. After a while I took our Kindle in and asked for wifi access. I looked over the emails and did not find a phone number. I then Googled the owners name and got what looked like a cell phone number. The desk girl called it and told me "no answer". I asked her to try to leave a message. After twenty or so rings he picked up! I talked with the owner and he said he could be at the apartment in thirty minutes. Damn! So we hiked back to the apartment. I sent Deb to go have a drink at the "Thirsty Mad Cat" at the end of our street. She said she was going to buy a 50€ bottle of champagne and drink it. Ha!
   I stood around for about 40 minutes until he arrived. The owner of the company was a surprisingly young guy driving an American SUV. He let me in, cleaned up a bit and made the bed. After he left I went and had a beer with Deb.
   Finally we are in our tiny Paris apartment. I must say the price is right (100€/night). The bed is in the wall. It seems to have everything including the best shower of the trip. However it does look out to a street. Not a busy street but none the less if the curtains are open I'm sure anyone could look in. extras
Here is our general neighborhood. movie

We hiked out and found a supermarket and a pastry shop. Back home to snuggle in, have dinner, drink some wine and watch American movies in French.
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Day 2 -

We walked through a nice covered gallery and had an elegant cup of coffee and pastry for breakfast. We ran across a movie shoot. I took a couple pictures. We then walked through the Palais Royal. Once again it was raining so it wasn't packed with Parisians relaxing and children frolicking as described by Rick Steves. We hiked over to the Louvre which is closed on Monday. We decided we weren't going to do the Louvre this time.
   We hiked over to our old neighborhood. We went to the pizza place we had eaten at many times last year. We were warmly welcomed and they even had the card Deb had sent. We had an interesting discussion with two gentlemen sitting next to us. They have a translation business - Arabic and French. Deb had a salad and I had a salad with cheese croquettes plus some wine. They gave us a free pre-lunch sweet wine. (Here is the toilet).

We decided to check out the train station again. We found an elevator that would take us down to the train so we wouldn't have to schlep our bags down stairs if we take the train. Seeing it's right next door we went into Saint Eustache extras and looked around. It's still not real sunny. Deb lit a candle for my sister Bernice.

With some advice from our lunch friends we hopped on a train and rode out to the area where all the big office buildings are located. Paris has a limit of something like five floors for buildings in Paris so big buildings are located in a planned area outside of the main city. I had see it on Rick Steve so wanted to see it myself.
   It was quite spectacular. You come up under a building called the "Arch".movie We hiked out on a walkway to get a good view. I was certain there was a large plaza nearby that should be amazing. Sure enough on the other side of the Arch is where the big amazing buildings are. I understand that if the weather is nice and you are there at the right time the plaza is abuzz with people walking and people eating lunch. It was very cool, windy and threatening rain so it was pretty quite. I'm glad we did this. One person described it as the Paris Dubai. extras

Back on the train and back to our apartment where we ate and watched an American movie in French.
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Day 3 -

Today the left bank (Rive Gauche) and Luxembourg garden. In the past the left bank was where the poor people and students lived. We hiked through the Palais Royal past the movie set, past some elegant shops and on to Pont des Arts across the Seine. Note all the padlocks on the bridge. We walked through an area with a lot of art galleries. We visited St. Germain-des-Pres (link) which is the oldest church in Paris - of course rebuilt a few times. Then on to Saint Sulpice (link) a large church with an obelisk that marks the winter solstice. We saw some sort of protest going on. We couldn't figure it out with our small knowledge of French. (Later Peg figured out that it was a protest over allowing other places other then drug stores to sell products currently reserved for drug stores only.)

We had an interesting lunch on the square behind the Odeon which I guess is a theatre. The waiter was a hoot. He asked a profound question - "Where are you from?". I answered "California". "No where else?". "Michigan?". "No where else?". "Ah, Ireland and my wifes from Germany". He said "Yes there are no real Americans. Everybody's family is from someplace else." "Unless you are an American Indian".

On to Luxembourg gardens(link). It was created for Marie de Medici (daughter of Catherine) by Henry IV. It was to be a Tuscan garden and be similar to the Pitti Palace in Florence Italy where she was raised. It is spectacular. It has lakes, statues, gardens, beautiful buildings and everything you'd like in a big city garden. You can rent toy sail boats and take a pony ride here. We enjoyed it quite a bit. extras
   We decided to hike back past Notre Dame. We walked near the Sorbonne on our way. We crossed the Seine and found ourselves in front of Notre Dame. The crowds didn't look too bad so we went in and walked around. The place is larger then I remembered it. It is quite a rich church. Nearly destroyed during the revolution. All exterior statues were broken the original remains were saved by a wealthy person and buried in his back yard. They were discovered a few years ago and are on display at the Cluny museum. I forgot to look at some paintings or mosaics in the back of the church of students being harassed by the town folk.
   Deb bought some flowers. We hiked along the Seine to Pont Louvre where we turned back into our old neighborhood. We stopped at our old bar. The girl bartender recognized us and expressed some reserved happiness. She acknowledged the photos Deb had sent. We had a drink and promised we'd be back - we never came back. movie

To home and dinner.
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Day 4 -

Today we are looking for the Joan of Arc statue and "The Paris Museum of Modern Art".

I wanted to see the Galleries Lafayette which I understood to be markets under those glass roofs. It's not far from our apartment. It turned out to be a large department store, a bit of a disappointment. From Tripadvisor it looks like we should have explored it further. We then walked around the rather spectacular opera house. Wow! We could have taken a tour and seen the ceiling painted by Chagall but it looked like a lot of tour buses were in the area. We hiked down through the plaza Vendome. Unfortunately the obelisk is totally hidden while being referbed. We hiked on to the Tuleries gardens. There seemed to be some major event being set up in the garden. After some walking we found the gold statue of Joan of Arc.  It has been reproduced a few times. There is one in Portland and one in New Orleans.
   We walked through the less then spectacular Tulleries garden, around some construction to Place de la Concorde - largest plaza in Europe. It was a mess with construction. We continued hiking for what was miles along the Seine toward the museum. We finally stopped for lunch on the square just before the museum. We had a fun time talking with a couple from Mexico City.
   Finally the museum. The lady from Mexico said it was the worst gallery she had ever been in. Hmmm. We though it was very good. Not many famous pieces but quite an interesting collection nicely displayed. We enjoyed it though I am pretty shot from walking. I think I'm still suffering from the effort of lugging those suitcases up those stairs.

We took the metro back to the Sentier station in our area.

We got more fancy pastries, a baguette and food at the supermarket. We tried to get to bed early but couldn't sleep very well.
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Home -

We got up at 5:30am, showered had some coffee, packed up and about 6:30 started walking for the train. Actually I think we left more like 6:40. We only had to ask one person if we were on the right course to the train station. We used the elevator but had a bit of a trial getting our tickets and getting on the train. A station worker helped us identify which track to be on. The train ride was not 50 minutes but more like 30 minutes so we made up some time.
   At the airport we hopped on the shuttle to terminal 1. We stood in an enormous line waiting to check in. Turns out they had some computer problems which had delayed check in. We were finally given access to the priority boarding line. No problem after that. We hiked forever to our gate and boarded the plane.
   The plane ride was rather grueling. We called our taxi guy and told him we had landed. We got our bags and called him again. He picked us up and away we went home.

Quite a nice trip.
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Comments -

- Here are a lot of nice pictures chosen by Debbie - Shutterfly

- Comments about driving in France.

- At the start the Euro was $1.30 as it went along it went down to $1.27. We mostly used cash though I did use the debit card to charge the gas.

- Gasoline was $88.65, $86.02 and $56.73 for a total of $231.40. Not bad for all the driving we did. Probably cheaper then buses and trains.

- Lots of smoking. Seems like every girl over sixteen is smoking while walking down the street. Tons of cigarette butts all over the place.

- Beware of the dog poop.  They are encouraging picking it up but nobody seems to be doing it.

- Nobody smiles on the street. Americans look like grinning fools.

- Here's an interesting fact - Paris is further north (48.8º) then Seattle (47.6º). London is 51.5º. Portland O 45.5º and San Jose 37.3º.