OUR TRIP TO PARIS

August 1998


Travelog by Jim & BettyAnn



Prologue:

Back safe and sound after a delightful holiday. The food on international flights is much better than domestic. The beverages are complimentary also, at least beer and wine. We got into Paris early Sunday, and were at the hotel by 8:00 AM. This is after 22 hours of up time and a nine hour time zone change, of course we slept on the plane some, but it's not very good sleep. Would you believe we couldn't get into our room until 1:00 PM. But when we did, we crashed.

The hotel we stayed at was the Frantour Paris Berthier. The hotel room was really small, but functional. TV of course was in French, except for CNN & BBC. The hotel provided daily, Frantour Paris Berthier Hotel a free continental breakfast (included in our travel package) of Orange juice and coffee, or hot chocolate, a croissant & hard roll, with butter and jam. We had a wonderful view of the Eiffel tower, and the Arc De Tromph from our sixth floor perch. The hotel also had a computer with Internet and e-mail available in the lobby, so if you should go, take along your passwords.

The metro system (subways and busses) was really nice. There are three train lines with overlapping routes, metro system and a very comprehensive bus service. We preferred the subway because it wasn't subject to rush hour traffic delays and was the most dependable. Tickets can be purchases singly, in blocks of ten at about half the cost, or a weekly pass that provides unlimited use of all systems (by far the cheapest, and most convenient). Every attraction in Paris is within a block of a subway station. The system is easy to use, we were able to master it for the most part after the first two days.

Language is no problem, unless you can't speak English or French. Almost all tourist service persons spoke multiple languages, sales persons and street venders spoke at least two other than French (generally English and German). So Betty Ann's fears of a language barrier never materialized.

Travel days to paris were August the First, and Second. After arriving, and transfering to the hotel, we went to bed.

Monday - Aug 3, 1998: Day 1

On Monday we had our first free continental breakfast, which turned out to be a very valuable benefit. After breakfast we took the subway to Notre-Dame, (our first few days were routed by the subway information booth). Notre-Dame The Cathedral is located on Ile de la Cité Island, and is currently under restoration, the front of the building is covered with plastic. Entrance is free, and we spent several hours wandering around this beautiful Cathedral. In the back of the Cathedral is a park called The Square du Jean XXIII, which has trees and benches, a monument and a fountain. We also walked around this area and saw the ancient Royal Palace, which is now used for law courts. These buildings date back 16 centuries. In the Same compound is the Palais de Justice, next to which is a church Sainte-Chapelle. And at the far end is the Conciergerie prison, used during the French revolution. The largest building is the police station (Préfecture de Police).

We had lunch at a sidewalk café, it consisted of a sandwich which Betty Ann & I shared, I had a draft beer, and Betty Ann had water (to save on expenses). Cultural shock #1, the water (small bottle) was more expensive than the beer, the total for lunch came to about $14.00. It was then that we knew why the people around us were going to the trouble of carrying bottled water, and a loaf of long skinny French bread. We used a guidebook that Betty purchased from Costco. Actually we had two, but "Frommer's 98 Paris" guide was the least popular with only two sited. The one we used "Eyewitness Travel Guides Paris" was very popular, we saw over a hundred in use in several languages. So each day, along with the primary site we visited, we also took the walking tour in that area (if the shops didn't distract Betty Ann). Monday evening we ate at the hotel. We stumbled into the hotels premier restaurant, Cultural shock #2.

Tuesday - Aug 4, 1998: Day 2

Store Momtmartre District On Tuesday, I discovered that breakfast included extra hard rolls if you wanted them. Also, lunchmeat was available for about $2.50, this allowed enough to make two sandwiches, coupled with the large bottle of water we purchased from a store the evening before, Viola, inexpensive lunches. Today we went to the Montmartre (pronounced Mou-mont) district. This area is on a steep hill, reminding us of San Francisco. Again the metro subway took us to the base of the hill, where we could connect to a metro cable car to the top. We were unaware of the cable car on the first visit, and took the "too many to count" stairs. At the top of the hill is Romano-Byzantine Church, built in 1870, and completed around 1910. The church is very large, and beautiful, as are most buildings and churches in Paris.

This is the area where Betty Ann had her portrait done in chalk. The place abounds with artists. We both had our silhouettes done as well. This is a tourist area, and a silhouette shouldn't cost more that FF30, naturally we paid FF100. There are just all sorts of shops in this picturesque area. So we did some shopping while there, as tourists that's one of our jobs. We had supper at the hotel again, but this time at the cafeteria where pasta is the specialty. We discovered a pasta entree and salad for each of us was too much to eat, and quite expensive.

Wednesday - Aug 5, 1998: Day 3

Eiffel Tower On Wednesday we started sleeping in a little later, we were on vacation after all. When I got up I took a trip to a local super market that had a bakery, and picked up some cookies, and French pastry, to supplement our breakfast, and bananas to pack with our inexpensive lunch. Today we went to the Eiffel Tower. We have seen lots of pictures of it, but close and personal it's awesome. The first and second levels have restaurants and shops. The third level is an observation deck 900 feet above the ground. We took the elevator to the very top, and took a couple of rolls of pictures, as tourists that's our other job.

As long as we were along the Seine River, we signed up for a one-hour river cruise, which took us from the Eiffel Tower, past the Louvre, to a point past Notre-Dame and back. It was during that trip that we saw the naked sunbathers on an island. When we returned, we found yet another artist selling his paintings. We didn't purchase any that day, but returned and bought several from him later.

We again ate at the hotel, this time I ordered seafood pasta, and Betty Ann made a Grande Salad. We split these items, had plenty to eat, and finally got the cost under $15.00, comparable to PoPo's Del Sole or Denny's in Phoenix.

Thursday - Aug 6, 1998: Day 4

Moulin Rouge On Thursday we slept in late, but got up in time for a late breakfast. After exploring the area around the hotel we visited a Chinese restaurant for lunch. Betty Ann & I shared a Chinese chicken delight. During the course of the day, we used the subway to visit the Hard Rock Café, and then we went to the Moulin Rouge to take some pictures.

Friday - Aug 7, 1998: Day 5

On Friday, after packing our lunch, we went back to the Montmartre (pronounced Mou-mont) district. Betty Ann wanted to see if she could find a magnet she saw earlier, as well as a purse vender that she saw earlier. She successfully found the vendor, but not the magnet. We had our lunch in the park where Betty Ann had her portrait done the other day. We met a retired lady from Canada, who had lived in the area for 15 years. She now paints as a pass time, and say's she loves the area. On our way home, because it was early, we took the Pigalle metro exit, and roamed the sex shop and red light district, we walked far enough to see the Moulin Rouge again as it's only one metro station away from Pigalle, at Blanche. We didn't purchase anything in this area. When we returned to the hotel, we each had a draft beer. The cost was $12.25, this quickly reminded us of our cultural shock lesson #1 "Expect High Prices in Restaurants and Bars".

Saturday - Aug 8, 1998: Day 6

Saturday was the day we picked for our only trip outside of Paris. We went to Varsailles, a palace, said to be the summer home of Napoleon Bonaparte, about 30 miles South West of Paris. Because this was outside the Metro area, we had to purchase tickets for the train. The train trip was nice, and the 30 miles was covered in short order.

Versailles Palace Once we arrived, the palace was some distance from the train station, a good half hour walk. Of course we got lost, which didn't shorten the walk any. The palace and grounds are gigantic. Admission to the Palace was a mere $8.00 each, and worth every franc of it. The tour through the palace seemed to go on forever and ever. Each room was adorned with oil paintings, painted ceilings, period furniture, sculptures, and wall coverings. The hall of mirrors where state events were held, and the Treaty of Versailles was signed, was very grand indeed. There were over 24 crystal chandlers in this room alone. This palace was a favorite residence of Marie Antoinette.

Construction was stone, with hard wood floors, lots of arches, and an obscene number of rooms. The court grounds were as large as four or five football fields, and the sculptured gardens and fountains in the back were even larger. The palace population between 1692, and 1789 was about 3000. Defiantly more house than I would want. We dined at the hotel as usual.

Sunday - Aug 9, 1998: Day 7

Sunday we thought we would try the Louvre Museum, but when we got there the lines were much to long. Aside from it being half price Sunday, it was the second day of a Phoenix style heat wave, but it was not a dry heat. We decided to return on full price Monday.

So we took the area walking tour to the Palais Royal, a garden shopping area. The restaurant Le Grand Véfours served Napoleon Bonaparte, and Victor Hugo. The gardens in the center (Jardin du Palais Royal) are two or three blocks in length, and about a half a block wide. Ahead of the gardens is a courtyard with a bunch of cylindrical columns set at different heights in a geometric pattern, a rather odd sculpture. The gardens provided ornate water dispensers to fill water bottles.

Because I got lost on the sub-way system, I was too late to get the stuff for our inexpensive lunch, so we did Mac Donald's. Two Quarter Pounders, two large shakes, and one large fries came to $11.25. There not called Quarter Pounders in France because there weight measurement is grams and a Quarter Kilo doesn't project the image Mac Donald's prefers.

Monday - Aug 10, 1998: Day 8

Then on Monday, after packing a lunch, going to the grocery store, and getting our new Metro pass, we went on a walking tour along Winston Churchill Ave. We saw the Grand Palais Exhibition Hall, with it's Grand Entrance, the Petit Palais across the street also was quite impressive although a bit smaller.

We turned onto Eisenhower, from Churchill, to Roosevelt. At this intersection is a nice park with a round theater in it. Then down Roosevelt to the Ave des Champs Elysees. This street, towards the Louvre, has several ancient and historic buildings. And, in the direction of the Arc de Triomphe, many fine stores, and cafés. Arc de Triomphe Finally, to the Louvre, it was after three, so we got in at half price anyway. But the Louvre is open until 9:00 PM on Mondays. So we had ample time to explore the areas that we wanted to see. After a short wait in line at the pyramid, we entered the main lobby. We started our tour in the Medieval Louvre, located in the Sully wing. King Philippe Auguste built this medieval fortress, from which the present day museum originates, at the end of the 12th century. The excavation work necessary for construction of the pyramid and the Carrousel area enabled archeological digs to be undertaken. The current display that was uncovered during the construction of the entrance pyramid allows you to walk along the moats of the medieval fortress and, to pass around the base of the dungeon. Again construction is of large stones, and the size of the structure must be described as grand, for lack of another word. During the archeological digs, one of the most remarkable finds is a parade helmet belonging to Charles VI. Which was reconstructed from the one hundred and sixty nine fragments that were found scattered about.

Louvre Museum Our next stop was the painting galleries. The museum houses more than 6,000 European paintings dating from the end of the 13th century to the mid 19th century. Of course we saw the Monna Lisa, by Léonard de Vinci, which was behind bulletproof glass. I'm told that the one on display is a fake, and the original article is in a vault somewhere. Some of the paintings were literally as large as our house. I think that if a person really wanted to sit and reflect on each of these beautiful paintings, half a lifetime could be spent there. The paintings displayed at the Louvre are in a wide variety of genres and formats, from miniatures to monumental canvases, and offering encyclopedic diversity.

Our next stop was to see the Sculptures. These incorporate sculptures from the Middle Ages, the Renaissance and modern times. And include sculptures in marble, stone, bronze and wood. However the small bronzes, together with the silver, gold and ivory statuettes, are kept in the Department of Objets d'Art of the museum, which was closed on the day we visited. The sculptures in the museum seem so life like. Because of the three-dimensional effect, in my humble opinion, this is one of the most enjoyable exhibits at the museum. Of the notable sculptures that we saw were, Venus, Mercury flying on a breath of air, and Michelangelo's The Dying Slave.

We couldn't possibly leave the Louvre without visiting the shops. It's possible to purchase full size copies of sculptures, but some are so large I don't know how you would ship them, or what you would do with them once you got them home. Betty Ann settled on a couple of books, and post cards. Of course, in keeping with our job as tourists, we took lots of pictures.

After leaving the Louvre, we went to the tunnel where Princess Diana had her fatal accident. The flame (which many thinks is a monument to Diana), was covered with flowers, pictures of Diana, and notes from fans all over the world. We again took some pictures, and paid our respects. The flame is actually a military monument dedicated to the French Veterans that died during the WW-I. We again dined at the hotel as usual.

Tuesday - Aug 11, 1998: Day 9

On Tuesday we went to the Opera district, and the Opera House. The building wasn't open but it is a large building, with a total area of 118,404 square feet and a vast stage with room for up to 450 artists. Oddly enough, only half of the space is allocated to seating (2,200), the rest is stage, and logistic support. The building, like most, is very large and is ornate with richly decorated friezes, columns, and winged figures among other statues and embellishments.

Opera Theater in the Opera Distric Built between 1862-1875, its architect was Charles Garnier. The origins of the idea for a new opera house can be traced back as far as forty years previous to 1820. When construction was finally started, it was just as quickly suspended after the discovery of an underground lake and spring. Although this problem was overcome, the lake persists and lies beneath the cellars of the building.

The Opera District is also a super shopping area in down town Paris, as we took the walking tour in this district we also shopped. One of the more noteworthy shops is Printemps, a large department store featuring fashions and fine jewelry. In this area you can find La Madeleine, a large church dedicated to Mary Magdalene, about 3 blocks from the Opera House. During our shopping spree, I lost my bus pass. So to get home, I had to purchase a ticket. As we had only one day left in Paris, I later purchased a block of ten at about half the cost of individual tickets.

Wednesday - Aug 12, 1998: Day 10

On Wednesday we returned to the Opera district to do a little more shopping at Printemps, and the surrounding shops. By this time we were sleeping in quite late, but not late enough to miss our free breakfast, and the opportunity to pack an inexpensive lunch. After an exhausting shopping trip, we had our lunch then returned to the hotel for a little nap in the afternoon.

La Defense Underground Shopping Area After a short nap, we refilled our large water bottle, and headed out to see Lá Défense. At the subway station we found an underground city of shops, like a small shopping center. The Lá Défense area is an industrial area where large buildings are permitted in Paris. By industrial area, please don't confuse that with a foundry in Gary, Indiana. Far from it, the buildings belong to firms in the Sony class. The area is a large modern park, with a man made lake/waterfall type of "fountain". The park area is very large, like most things in this city, and covers the underground shopping center at the Lá Défense Metro subway station. The Lá Défense monument is a large square, open in the center, that stands 20 to 30 stories high. It's easily seen from downtown. The monument is a building itself, housing offices. The opening lines up with the main drag, Ave de la Grande Armee that changes to Ave Des Champs Elysées at the Arc de Triomphe. A line drawn through the Monument Lá Défense, would then pass through the Arc de Triomphe, then through the center of Place de la Concord, terminating at the entrance pyramid at the Musée du Louvre. All this may be seen from the cockpit of your Cessna in Microsoft Flight Simulator 95.

From there we took the subway to the Elysées exit, which placed us about half way between the Arc de Triomphe and the Place de Concord. Another neat shopping district. We were looking for Shalimar Perfumes, but after finding it discovered that the perfume was less expensive at Betty Ann's store. She did purchase some body powder however. A quick stop at Quick Burger (Mac Donalds competition) for a quick soda, and rest room stop. It seems strange to see beer and wine served at hamburger places. While we were wandering around this area we stopped at the BMW dealer to price cars. As it turns out, I probably wouldn't be very happy with a BMW anyway. We finally stopped at Vesufis for dinner. This was an Italian sidewalk restaurant a short distance from the Arc de Triomphe. We split lasagna, Betty Ann had ordered a salad as well, but it was never delivered. This evening we packed for our return trip to Phoenix.

Thursday - Aug 13, 1998: Day 11

Our very last free continental breakfast, we sure got tired of them. And we don't have to worry about an inexpensive lunch today. Our plane didn't leave until Noon, but the Transfer Company insisted on picking us up at 7:30 AM. It's just as well, because customs and passport control took a long time. We were able to expend the remainder of our French money at the airport shops, and when it got down to the nitty gritty, Betty Ann even used my two remaining Metro tickets to complete a purchase.

The flight was uneventful, the movie was Titanic (being an international flight, the movie was free), and the food was good. We had to pull our luggage for customs in Chicago, which was a pain. It couldn't be done in phoenix because after leaving Chicago, we were no longer on an international flight, and it landed in a domestic area in Phoenix. We got in about 5:00 PM, and Laurie & Kristina were there to pick us up.

Thank you for your kind attention.

THE END