European.Escape – Paris – December.2011

Europe!  Let’s go to Europe!  So far our trips have been to Southeast Asia or the U.S. Mainland (and yes, the occasional neighbor island trip that doesn’t constitute as traveling for me).  And of course, when I mention Europe, in Jay’s mind he’s thinking, “Yes!  I can go to the Ducati factory in Bologna!”   So, as our trip planning went along, it revolved around making a quick stop in Bologna.  And what better place to start than Paris?

Our trip actually started in London, where we met our travel buddies.  They decided to join us last minute so had to get a different flight.  Fortunately, they were scheduled to land 10 minutes after us, but on a different airlines.  After careful planning, we met up at Terminal 1.  We breezed through customs at Terminal 3, but they got held up for a bit and we were a little worried.  I really didn’t want to leave them behind, but we had to catch the 6:01pm Eurostar Train to Paris.  Luckily, they made it 🙂  Onward to the Underground (Picadilly line going towards Cockfosters and get off at King’s Cross Station).

Taking the Eurostar to Paris via "Chunnel" - the underwater tunnel.  Basically, just black all the way through.

Taking the Eurostar to Paris via “Chunnel” – the underwater tunnel. Basically, just black all the way through.

where.we.stayed

Hotel ibis Paris Italie Tolbiac.  177, rue de Tolbiac.  We took public transportation all the way from London to our hotel in Paris.  It was actually pretty easy and convenient.  The only hangup was that when we got off our stop in Paris and looked around (it was raining, by the way, and our umbrellas were conveniently packed nicely in our suitcases), we could see an ibis Hotel nearby and of course, we started walking.  However, we soon realized it was the wrong one!  We walked in the opposite direction and had to walk back in the rain, hopping from awning to awning.  Once we got our bearings right, we realized that the location of this hotel was very ideal and close to the subway station.

photo from their website.

photo from their website.

what.we.did

Every touristy thing possible.  This was my second time to Paris.  The first time I was with my family on a speed-through tour of Europe.  I believe we only spent a couple of days in Paris before quickly moving on.  I remember it looking very pretty at night when we arrived, then the next morning being disappointed with all the grayness of the buildings and dog poop on the sidewalk.  I had a much better impression this time around.

  • The very first day, we decided to go to Versailles.  We caught the RER C (marked Versailles RIVE GAUCHE – these trains should be marked with a V).  While waiting on the platform, a group of American tourists got on one train and I overheard them asking each other, “This one goes to Versailles, right?” just as the doors were closing.  I would’ve said I didn’t think so if I had more time – oops, I hope they eventually got there.  Again, this was my second trip to Versailles and it was exactly how I remembered it (not that it would’ve changed much anyway).   But on this day it was FREEZING cold!  We followed the crowd for about a half mile and rushed inside where it was toasty warm.
Audio tour of the palace room by room.  you really can't miss anything.

Audio tour of the palace room by room. you really can’t miss anything.

The gardens from the inside.  It was closed because of a possible snowstorm (which I don't think happened).  Entry to the gardens are a separate fee, though.

The gardens from the inside. It was closed because of a possible snowstorm (which I don’t think happened). Entry to the gardens are a separate fee, though.

  • Catacombs of Paris.  1, Avenue of Colonel Henri-Rol-Tanguy, 75014 (the last two digits of Paris’ zipcode tells you which arrondissement it’s located in.  In this case, 14eme).  Metro: Denfert Rochereau (line 4).  This was most interesting and I was expecting a long line because when I went to street view on Google Maps, the line wrapped around the corner.  However, no line was to be seen and we basically paid (8 EUR) and went right in.  It’s a self-guided tour and follows a path so you can’t get lost really.  Pretty eerie since there were just a few people (alive) with us.  One just so happened to be Emma Stone – no picture though as we realized this a little too late.
Rows of bones, skulls and bones everywhere you looked!

Rows of bones, skulls and bones everywhere you looked!

We really should respect this individuals at rest, but it was a pretty cool photo!

We really should respect this individuals at rest, but it was a pretty cool photo!

  • Notre Dame.  Place du Parvis de Notre Dame, 4eme.   Metro: Cite (Line 4).  We quickly peeked into this famous cathedral, but opted not to pay the extra fee for entrance to the Tower (7,50 EUR) and the Crypt (3,30 EUR).  Since it was Christmas time, it was decked out with Christmas deco both inside and out.  It was beautiful (and still freezing cold!)
Christmas tree fronting the Notre Dame.

Christmas tree fronting the Notre Dame.

  • Place de la Concorde.  Metro:  Concorde (Line 1).  There’s a nice ferris wheel and a fountain to take pictures in front of, but that’s about it… oh, and the obelisk.  We stopped, we saw, then turned around to walk down Champs-Elysees.
Place de la Concorde

Place de la Concorde

  • Louvre Museum.  Yes, we had to go here just to see the Mona Lisa.  I can appreciate art, but I can’t look at art for that long and this place is HUGE!  We’ve read about the long lines and if there were any, we probably would’ve skipped it (can you tell that we HATE lines?).  We decided to go on Friday night after 6pm, because I read somewhere on the internet that it was discounted.  However, we found out it wasn’t, but there were absolutely NO line.  So we paid the 10EUR and headed straight to the Mona Lisa (signs led the way).  Yes, it was small; yes, there was a crowd; and yes, we took pictures.  10EUR for that?  We decided to check out the Venus of Milo and …. some other statue I forgot the name of, then we were done.  🙂
the famous Louvre pyramid

the famous Louvre pyramid

the crowd around the Mona Lisa

the crowd around the Mona Lisa

  • Eiffel Tower.  No matter where you are in Paris, you will eventually get a glimpse of the Eiffel Tower.  We decided not to climb the tower (other than lines, I hate climbing) and just admired from the ground.
one of the many shots of this tower.

one of the many shots of this tower.

  • Various Open Markets and Christmas Markets.  Jay LOVES markets.  Well, let me rephrase that.  Jay LOVES food markets!  He could’ve done without the Christmas Markets, but there were food stalls here and there, but he keeps an eye out for deli’s and fruit stands especially.
finding meat on Rue Cler open market.

finding meat on Rue Cler open market.

peeking in a window

peeking in a window

Christmas Market along Champs-Elysees

Christmas Market along Champs-Elysees

another Christmas Market near the Eiffel Tower.

another Christmas Market near the Eiffel Tower.

  • Arc de Triomphe.  We stood at the end of Champs-Elysees and took a picture.  Again, it required walking up stairs to get a good view.  Maybe next time.
Jay trying not to get hit by a car in the middle of the road taking a picture.

Jay trying not to get hit by a car in the middle of the road taking a picture.

  • Les Puces Flea Market.  Metro:  Porte de Clignancourt (Line 4) The biggest flea market in Paris, but not in the best area of town.  The front stalls are vendors there especially for tourists.  Skip those and then you will see the antiques and knick knacks and cool stuff.  We didn’t buy anything, though.  We actually ended up buying t-shirts from the touristy vendors.
lots of cool stuff we couldn't bring home.

lots of cool stuff we couldn’t bring home.

  • Montmartre.  Our last stop in Paris.  I loved it – artsy and cool all at the same time.  But crowded especially around the moulins (windmills), and Place du Tertre.
artist taking a break in the warm sun at Place du Tertre.

artist taking a break in the warm sun at Place du Tertre.  I’ve seen him in other people’s blogs recently.  I guess he makes an interesting subject.

see that frown?  It's because I'm climbing up stairs towards the Sacre Coeur.  Then it was made worse when I saw the funicular which ended up at the same spot!

see that frown? It’s because I’m climbing up stairs towards the Sacre Coeur. Then it was made worse when I saw the funicular which ended up at the same spot!

at least there was a beautiful view at the top of those stairs.  Sacre Coeur.

at least there was a beautiful view at the top of those stairs. Sacre Coeur.

the famous, but ultra tacky Moulin Rouge

the famous, but ultra tacky Moulin Rouge

one of the real moulins.

one of the real moulins.

what.we.ate

  • Croissants.  You cannot get a better croissant outside of France.  Well, at least in the U.S.  Our first breakfast was at McDonald’s, only because it was close to our hotel and familiar.  I was told, “You go to Paris, you eat a croissant.”  So I tried and didn’t expect much since I was in a McDonald’s.  But O-M-G!  It blew my mind!  So soft and flaky! And my cafe was pretty too.
Yummy breakfast

Yummy breakfast

  • Croque Monsieur.  It’s basically a ham and cheese sandwich – French style.  This one was my lunch at the Palace of Versailles.  Pretty good.
croque-monsieur

croque-monsieur

  • Le Poulbo.  In Montmartre.  We saw this tiny restaurant while walking around Montmartre.  There was a short line (but a long wait) so we figured it was good.  This is the exception to waiting in lines – at restaurants.  Jay figures if there’s a line, it must be good.  And yes, it was good.
small restaurant, but very good.

small restaurant, but very good.

I actually like escargot, especially with LOTS of garlic and butter!

I actually like escargot, especially with LOTS of garlic and butter!

one of my favorite foods - duck.  almost every single one of my meals in paris was duck made in different ways.  this one was the best!

one of my favorite foods – duck. almost every single one of my meals in paris was duck made in different ways. this one was the best!

what.I.thought

This trip was taken almost exactly a year ago.  Does it say anything that we are leaving next Saturday to go BACK to Paris?  And we’re staying for two weeks – nowhere else, just Paris.  And just the two of us.  Awww, how romantic!

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One thought on “European.Escape – Paris – December.2011

  1. Pingback: Market Day – Paris.France – December.2012 | a.d.t. - attention.deficit.traveler

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