We arrived at the hotel around 4:30pm, after approximately 5.5 hours on the trains (1.5 hrs Lucerne to Basel & 4 hrs Basel to Paris) we moved in to our spacious room and put away all our important stuff. We got a little surprise from the hotel staff …… yes those are real Parisian macarons. We tried them the next day and determined that “le Macaron” in Regina has just as good if not better macarons.
Since it was a late arrival for us into Paris, we walked to the Eiffel tower to see what had changed in the 2 years since our last visit, and were interested in the impact (if any) since Paris was awarded the 2024 Olympics ……. well the major change is the level of security now in place – 2 years ago you could walk from one end of the park then underneath the tower right up to the bridge over the Seine river. You may have seen police or military guards with machine guns, but they were generally not conspicuous. Today, when we approached the base of the tower, there were multiple barriers and a perimeter fence and …….. we had to go through a thorough security search. Once inside you can walk around taking pictures, buy souvenirs or tickets to the top of the tower ….. when done, you exit through security. This is the fewest number of people I’ve seen lined up at the tower in the 12 years since we started visiting.
……. but she still is an amazing Lady!
Afterwards we crossed the bridge to see what else had changed …… the huge fountains, Jardins du Trocadero, were partially covered over with (we couldn’t tell if they were constructing or taking apart) an enormous stage. We will probably know by Thursday ……. plus on top of the concourse, at the center of the Palais de Chaillot, a huge set of Olympic rings faced toward the Eiffel tower. Great for the selfie crowd, us included.
On to dinner ……. after a half hour stroll we saw an outdoor cafe, called ‘le Kleber’, that looked inviting. We sat just inside one of the window doorways, keeping warm yet able to crowd watch. It was “*French onion soup”, salad and lasagna – washed down with red wine …… all very good for an outdoor cafe!
After dinner we walked down the street and proceeded to get lost ….. eventually we found our way back to the Seine ……. took some pictures of the tower and made our way back to the hotel.
All-in-all a good start to our 4 days in Paris …….
Paris – Day 2
After a breakfast at our favorite first Paris spot (2005) we decided we needed an extra luggage bag for all the catch we didn’t release ……. so we picked up a duffle bag on wheels for 22€ …… I can use it for my photo gear when we get back home. Gerda stuffed it full of the catch and it looks like we may have room for on or two more fishing expeditions.
Next stop …. Sacre Coeur Basilica, to visit it from a different angle ….. this time we take the bus so we can see the surrounding culture ….. it appears almost the same as in 2005 – just more commercial.
I took a few pictures for Gerda to show Christa the staircase they posed on 12 years ago. A little more grungy but still looks the same (the staircase).
Then we wander through the artists enclave, looking at the amazing talent – there must be over 100 different artists. Brian picked out a lovely water color painting of a typical Paris scene.
The visit and subsequent wandering took up the full afternoon. On the way back to the hotel we stopped at a cafe for ‘un grande’ beer and chips. It turns out our waiter, Clement was born in Canada but raised in France ….
We had a great conversation about where he had worked (another linguist with 6 languages), and what to expect when he comes to Canada in January 2018 ….. he plans to drive across from Montreal to Vancouver and then back from Seattle to New York. He’s in for a surprise about the weather, how quickly it can change and how cold it can get! Best of luck Clement……. drop us a line when you pass through the prairies.
Back to the hotel to try to fix the blog …. #!&$?!#& my blog service provider did an update and screwed up the blog database – it will probably take a special reboot to get it back ….. while that happens we’re off again to have dinner in a different arrondissement (district). As you can see the blog database is finally back up and running.
We finally found a restaurant that had the goat cheese salad that Gerda craved …… more “*French onion soup”, braised duck with potatoes, and beer. Turns out to be another hidden gem – the soup made with white wine was delicious and the duck was excellent (it was accompanied with a pepper gravy).
After the meal, we needed to walk it off, so it was down to the Seine river …. across Pont Alexander (bridge), over and down to the bridge that will take us to rue Rapp but dodging potholes as there is a lot of construction in this area…… then back to the hotel.
Paris – Day 3
One day behind on the blog …… it seems to only happen in France …… very poor, sporatic internet service. It took over 30 minutes to load a video to the blog database (when I could get it to connect), the same upload in Lucerne was 2 minutes, the average for all other locations was 4 minutes. So you can see why I am behind.
On day 3 we started, after breakfast, by catching some truly French fashions for the grandkids at the same shop Gerda got clothes in 2015. Afterwards, we walked along the Seine to check out the tent like structures to see what was going on ……. turns out they were setting up a venue, with multiple booths, for a cooking festival starting Friday ….. we will definitely have to check it out before we leave Saturday morning.
From there we walked to the unique bridge built for pedestrians only, to cross the Seine for access to the park in front of the Louvre museum and art gallery. Once more, the inevitable love-locks ….. with vendors selling them and encouraging people to place them on the bridge …… however, here it looks like the bridge panels can be easily removed so the weight doesn’t cause safety issues.
We walked through the park, realizing we had never visited this area in them past. It is very calming and much quieter than the surrounding city ….. we even sat by the fountain and ‘people-watched’ ….. it can be very cheap entertainment!
Our next stop was in front of the Louvre where Gerda pointed out the symmetry of the “Arc de Triomphe de l’etoile” (Champs Elysees), the “Luxor golden Obelisk” and the small “Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel” by the Louvre …… looking through the central arch, you can see the obelisk and then the large Arc de Triomphe at the top of the Champs Elysees …. all lined up perfectly.
We walked to the glass pyramid to take some pictures, but decided to move on when ten soldiers in full gear, including machine guns, shifted position from the side of the Louvre to just in front of the pyramid entrance.
After stopping at one of the many cafes for refreshments, we walked back to the hotel. Doesn’t sound like we did much, however that stroll was about 10 miles ……. of dodging people, bikes and cobblestones ……. so you can understand how tired a person can get.
After all that, Gerda had a rest while I had a beer and then checked out the Eiffel tower …… unfortunately it turns out to be closed due to a strike! No elevators or access to the restaurants today …….. bummer. On day 1, I said that was the least number of people we had seen at the Eiffel tower, well this was even less.
We had dinner across the Alma bridge, near the monument to Princess Diana ……. afterwards we walked up to the Jardins du Trocedaro ….. and yes, they are definitely building a stage of some sorts. We went to the top of the stairs, took some pictures of the Olympic Rings and Eiffel tower lit up.
Then back to the hotel ……. and a stab at updating the blog …… still the same results …. unfortunately no surprise!
Paris – Day 4
Breakfast on rue Cler …. we definitely like the charm of this place ….. then some catch and release at the local shops.
Still trying to find a good patisserie (bakery) to get the shot of a baker …. no such luck, they are all modern ….. few filled with culture and charm. Although I did find an interesting shop near the Eiffel tower ……. this one looks the most promising. We tried a carmel-pecan pastry, it was simply delicious! PS we did try the pastry – Gerda got one bite and guess who ate the rest! Yummy!
We moved on to the walkway by the Seine river to check out the cooking festival, unfortunately only half of the venues are setup and operating ……. we decide to come back later, if we have time, to get the full impact.
So it’s down the Seine, past the Eiffel tower to the Metro overpass. Lots of boathouses moored on both sides …… unusual way to live with so many tourists going by on the tour boats …. not our cup of tea. The overpass has been a backdrop in many movies ….. interesting to see it up close.
We are now officially in “wind down mode” ……. checking the boarding passes online to ensure there are no last minute changes.
One last note …. the park outside the Eiffel tower has been closed off with a metal fence, it took a while to find out why ….. sometimes a picture is worth more than a thousand words!
* Greg ….. a note about “French onion soup” the French restaurants have listed their onion soup that way on their menus.
Journey Home – Saturday, September 23
Up bright and early …… off to a good start ….. then we wait for a taxi ….. when he comes we wait again while he runs in to talk to the concierge. Finally we’re off, but in a different direction than our normal route to Charles de Gaulle airport. Gerda’s worried about the route as we seem to be heading down town, but there are many roads to the same place …… so ironically we get there faster then the normal route.
Terminal A2 is our entry point …… checking in with Air Canada turns out to be the easiest and fastest part of entry. Next we line up for passport control and then security. The last time we came through, Passport control was handled in a large hall which was accessed by a down escalator ….. where we entered a corral 100ft long and 10 rows deep, taking 40 minutes to get through. This time we line up on the main concourse about 200 m from where the escalator should be ….. taking 55 minutes to the reach the escalator ….. down in the main hall, all rows are full ….. it takes us another 45 minutes to get to the front of the line ….. and another 20 minutes to pass through the security check (analysis: too much time on passport control and not enough on security). Instead of having a 90 minute wait to board …… we have 15 minutes …… and just like 2015, Air Canada calls us by boarding zones (1, 2, 3, 4&5) …… processes us through the gate and then …… we board a bus – to wait. We finally were driven on the tarmac to the Air Canada plane. We overheard a passenger say that their passport control agent said it was the busiest he had ever seen. Also an American we talked to indicated his friends had been lined up earlier that morning for 4 hours!
Our general observation is the Charles de Gaulle airport is extremely disorganized or the public service was staging a “wild-cat” strike …… kinda-like at the Eiffel tower on Thursday. With Paris being awarded the Olympics they have a lot of work to do or it will be chaos!
The flight from Paris to Toronto was for the most part uneventful, other than we had paid extra for the seats in front of the bulkhead ……. unfortunately everyone, including the flight attendants used it as a walkway to move from one aisle to the other. If they are going to allow that, then don’t charge extra …… it made it extremely difficult to sleep!
Toronto has the right idea when it comes to passport control, short lines and few questions, we were through in 30 seconds, unlike the Paris experience. The flight from Toronto to Regina was our wind-down time. No passenger nor flight attendant interruptions …… we were bobbing before the plane left. Also Toronto was 31°C while Regina was 2°C …… quite the temperature swing!
Now that we are back, I think we need a vacation from our vacation.
…………... once I get the trip material sorted, I will update the blog ..……………
One final note on Paris: There is a lot to love and some things that could, but probably won’t change – and that’s the charm of Paris …… you either love it or you don’t
…… besides, Paris has been around a lot longer than any of us has, combined!