March 26- April 5 Paris/ Chartres/ Loire Valley
Cheapest possible week in PARIS!
First off I have to thank everyone for the fabulous tips and advice we had a great time and I owe a lot of that to the helpful folks here. Merci everyone!!
This is the Readers Digest version of our fabulous trip- feel free to send me a PM for details. Enjoy!!
Best Part- 11 whole days with my honey and no kids!
Favorite Museum- The Orangerie- WOW!!
Worst- I was appalled at the filthiness of the Paris suburbs- people warned me but this was too much.
Most Frustrating- Waiting 2 hours for the towers are Notre Dame even though I had a museum pass- go half hour before they open! Also Versailles waited 1 hour with online ticket in hand, another hour while they searched their system for our reservation. So frustrating!!!!
Biggest Dissapointment- no flowers at all at Versailles and all the statues were covered in Burlap bags. Everyone else had tulips and pansies- so disappointing. And the 2 hour wait meant no time to see other buildings before they kicked us out.
Best Deal- Showed up half hour late at the Palace Hotel and they had given away our reservations (I had called them 10 times on the phone to double check too!!!) But he call the Hotel Ariane around the corner which was cheaper and way nicer!!! It never saw it searching online but what a break! We had a big room with 2 beds 3 windows, a wardrobe and fireplace mantel and small room with sink and bidet (toilet 2 steps away in the hall and shared with only 3 other rooms) for only 28 euro a night!!!!!!!!! It was old, really old, but very charming. Exactly what I wanted from a hotel in Paris. I felt like I was stepping out of an old Audrey Hepburn flick. And the very, very old lady who ran it was so sweet and even let us leave our luggage while we were in the Loire. Less than 100 yards from the Strausburg/ St. Denis metro stop (in the 11th I think). Bring ear plugs.
Biggest Thrill- We got into the Opera Garnier to see Faust after waiting an hour in the last minute ticket line for only 7 euro! We were seating in a red velvet box (there was a little couch in the back for ??) with limited sight lines but it was amazing!!!!!! We were able to see the whole theatre, the staircase everything! Plus watch all the very rich Parisians out for the evening. I was seriously underdressed but I had the time of my life. Cross that one off my bucket list!
Best Food- We loved the crepes with nutella, 10 euro 3 course meal on the pedestrian streets in the Latin Quarter, escargot was not bad! Fabulous pastries everywhere- my favorite the “religious”! I died and went to heaven!
Favorite Places: Montmartre- I expected seedy but I was sweet and fun. We kept going back. The place de Voyages was such a pleasant surprise- all of the walks in Rick Steve’s Paris were great- take it with you!! Loved the Marias, and the Luxemburg Gardens on Easter afternoon. The street markets/ flea markets.
Must have- the museum pass (don’t miss the mussee de moyen age- it was a favorite of ours). The carnet of tickets for the metro/ bus. Good shoes. Rick Steve’s Paris. Capitol One credit card (no foreign fees) plenty of cash- many places wouldn’t take a card. Water bottle- I never saw a single drinking fountain the whole trip!
What I’d do differently- take the bus more often, we finally tried it the last day and it was much nicer than the subway and really very simple, there’s a screen in side that tells you were you are and where you’re going and maps. You can’t get lost if you stick on the routes that run with the river. Get a chip card somehow so you can use the Velib bikes. They were everywhere and so cheap and convenient. Even though we ordered a special blink card in the states it did not work over there. Pre book your time to go up the Eiffel tower on their web page. We thought we’d go cheap and take the stairs- 2 hours!!!!! Just for the stairs!!! We never made it up.
Although we liked PARIS we really loved the LOIRE. Its apples and oranges- you can't compare the two, but if I go back to France I'll spend 2 days in the city and the rest in the countrside it was indescibably beautiful and more the way I wanted Europe to be. I felt comfortable and really a part of the history. It was unspoilt and slow paced and so peaceful.
Part 2 in the Loire forum- when I have time to write it!Edited: 1:35 pm, April 14, 2010