Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Our diary of Paris. 4 blissful days.

PARIS - DAY ONE: Thursday 5th April.

We got up really early this morning (2.30 am) and left Cardiff. Drove to London and dropped the merc and Suzie back at Europcar Marble Arch. We caught two cabs to St Pancreas which was so easy to do. We have alot of lugguage which will be OK when we get the car on Saturday. We got to St Pancreas very early - about 6am and our train didn't go until 7.55am. It was so relaxing doing it like this as we went to a nice cafe and had ham and cheese croissants and coffee. We were all so excited about going to Paris. Boarded at 7.30am and the train left at 7.55am.
The train trip was fun at first until a turd of a child decided to have a screaming tantrum for 15 minutes. I was so annoyed and the parents were laughing. Finally the mother took the child out and the carriage cheered.
We arrived at Gare du Nord at 11.17am. We couldn't check into our apartment until about 3 or 4 so wanted to put our luggage in lockers. We found the locker room but the change machines were broken and the lockers took coins only - AND had to be exact money!! You can imagine the total bedlam with everyone trying to get coins and lockers. Eddy and George went upstairs to the platform shops to change some money and managed to get some - but not enough. Then Soph and I scrounged around buying bits and pieces to get change. At last we did it and off we went! We were all SO excited to be in Paris. Walked down La Fayette, caught the metro from Poissonniere to Pont Neuf. walked along the river to Ile de la cite. walked up to Notre Dame. It was really crowded - tons of school groups etc. but the cathedral looked great.  We were all hungry by this time so found a cafe called Esmeralda just across from Notre Dame. We thought it would be really touristy with bad food but it was great - the waiters were so warm and friendly. We were all bonjouring and smiling away just because we were in Paris. Had my first croque Monsieur of the trip and had wine and coffees. Sophie and I decided as it was 2pm and we had to go and check in the best plan was for the boys to go to Gare Nord to get the lugguage and then catch a cab to the apartment while Sophie and I went and met Marco at the aparment. Finished lunch with lots of practising of French to the waiters ( la toilette, not bain de lavins!) and got lots of tips to enhance our French.  Headed off round the rest of the Ile de la Cite over to the left bank.
The boys set off to get the luggage and Soph and I headed off to Rue de la Bucherie via Rue Dauphine, along St Andre des Artes - the area is absolutely fantastic and busy and lots of little narrow alleyways. We're coming back on Sunday. Got to our apartment and met Marco - a funny, over the top gay Italian who was so funny. He showed us round the apartment which is fantastic - a big kitchen/dining/ sitting room, 2 beds, 1 bathroom and a loft for Eddy. We were very happy with it. Marco went through everything with us - how everything worked etc. Soph and I were so excited, calling out BONJOUR out the windows. The boys arrived and were very excited by the apartment. It's a fantastic area and has so much room. When everyone had settled in and ready to go we set off and got the tube to Les Halles. Found a SNF shop and bought a sim for my IPAD from Jeremy which was interesting with the lingo!
Walked to the Louvre and through the Tuileries which are so beautiful. Walked to Place de Vendome and to Madeleine. Saw the square with Faucon and tried to go to Lauree for a "lude" (our word for interlude - a food and drink stop usually including alcohol and which happen often!)  but it was packed so headed down to Place de la Concorde which was so chaotic with the traffic - it made us all laugh. It's frantic.
Walked up Champs Elysee part of the way - the nice part with all the trees to Rue de Marbeuf and found a really nice bar called Pub Elysees. The waiter was friendly and Soph and I had a kir (wine and cassis). Had some pommes Frites. It was great.
Caught the metro to Trocodero. Looked at the lovely view of the Eiffel Tower and took lots of photos in the garden grounds of the tower and family shots.  I love the view from the Trocodero. We walked across the bridge to the tower. As gorgeous as ever. It was cloudy but not raining and really cold but it was divine. It was 10 to 9 by this time so we sat on the grass and waited for the 9pm lights to come on. It was so beautiful but we were inundated by the guys selling stuff - when we were here 3 years ago they were just selling little eiffel tower replicas and a few souvenirs -- now they are everywhere and even sell bottles of wine (to enjoy while watching the light show!!) . We had to be quite rude to them in the end. We were right in front and could see the lifts moving up and down and people at the top. It was absolutely beautiful and magical with the Eiffel tower sparkling for 5 minutes. We then strolled over to Rud St Dominique to got to the restaurant that Heidi Lillyman recommended - Cafe Constant. It was really busy with a really long wait so we left which was a shame as the restaurant looked really good and really French and bustling. It was pretty late so we decided to get back to our area and have dinner there. We were going to catch the metro but we were all starving and tired after our early start. We tried to get a cab but none of them take 5 - unlike London cabs!! Eventually there was a big van taxi - he charged us an extra 6 euro to take 5 of us - a total rip off. Got the cab to Blvd St Germaine and walked up to a little restaurant that Sophie and George went to when they were last here called Les Pipos. It was right near where we stayed last time - near the Parthenon and University and it was a really cute little French bistro. I found the menu a bit tricky but chose fish and gnocchi which was delicious. Had a really good night but by this time we were all really exhausted. Walked back to our place which wasn't very far. So excited to be in Paris.
I need to check on the voucher for our car as I don't seem to have it or know where to pick it up on Saturday - even who we are actually hiring it through. We are going to Duncan's tomorrow night for dinner so will get him to help me.
Our apartment is great - beds are so hard and shower leaks badly but such a fantastic location!!

PARIS - DAY 2 - Friday 6th April (Good friday)

Woke up this morning and couldn't think where I was. I lay there for ages until I remembered that I was in Paris - so exciting!! I got up and lent out the window that looks over the little narrow street  and said "Hello Paris"
George and I walked round the corner to the Bourlangerie - about 2 minute stroll - to get breakfast.Managed to get croissants and a bagette and coffees. ( quatre croissants s'il vous plait - aussi une bagette, merci beaucoup!haha) It's all such fun asking for things in French. Back to our apartment and we all had breakie at our kitchen table. Soph and I planned the day based on the plan we'd done. Paris was very quiet. Nobody seems to get going till much later. It's like 9am and no ones around even on a work day (they don't celebrate Good Friday here), shops are closed then it all starts waking up, shops open, people start appearing so we set off. Walked over the Pont de l'Archeveche which is full of locks - couples buy padlocks, write their names on them, padlock them to the bridge and throw the key in the river - very cute.  There are hundreds of them - thousands probably. It was really cold and overcast today but at least it wasn't raining. Only about 8 degrees - meant to be 14 later today.
Caught the batobus up the Seine. It's such a lovely thing to do but it was 75e for the 5 of us so it's not cheap - but so worth it.. I LOVE cruising along the Seine checking out all the beautiful buildings.  Got off at the Louvre stop. I wanted to go to the Musee d'orsay this time but Soph wanted to go to the Musee D'Orangerie to see Monet's water lilies - and guess who won. Sophie's reasoning was that I didn't know what art was even on display there so why did I want to go. She wanted to go to the Musee D'orangerie for a specific reason. I couldn't really argue - it's just that everyone recommends it and I like the look of it. Oh well... next time.
We walked through the Tuilleries ( I just love these gardens) to the gallery. It's in the Tuilleries. All 5 of us cost only 25e. George is free as he's an EU resident and Soph and Ed were reduced as they are 18-25. Such a good system to encourage young people to go to the galleries. The exhibition is 2 rooms only and is stunning. We got the audio to hear the history. The rooms are massive and circular with huge artwork on the walls of the water lilies. I think it's 8 paintings only. It was sensational and I was so glad we went.
Walked across the Tuilleries to Rue de Rivoli. I bought Soph some hand painted artwork of a paris boulangerie sold to us by the artist. Went to Angelina's - famous for it's hot chocolates. We had a table upstairs - the downstairs area was very elaborate and crowded but Paris finds 5 difficult. We ordered the the famous hot chocolate, some macaroons and a St Honore I think it was. The hot chocolate came in jugs and it was all quite a process by the waitress. We poured out the hot chocolate and it was thick and delicious and hot - so yummy - as were the macaroons and pastries.
Eddy and George are so funny - they get on so well and revert to like 10 year olds - giggling and being silly. Eddy walks along the street calling out "bonjour" to everyone he passes. It's such fun. The French are great - not sure if it's because we are making such an effort or not but it's all great. Caught the metro to Rue de Montorgueil - a great food street full of yummy cheese shops and cafes - it was great. On the metro at the station there was a 9 piece bank playing - there's often bands playing in the metro stations and people playing on the trains. We got on one train and a guy started up playing the accordian. The French ignored him but we got right into it clapping and giving them money. It makes the whole thing such fun. Sauntered down Rue de Montogueil looking at all the yummy things then caught the metro to Passage des Panaromas which is in the 2nd arrondissement and is so divine. It's this arcade full of really French looking bistros and book and old letter shops - really old world. We missed all these last time but thanks to our research this time we discovered them. It was so cute. There are several but we picked this one as it looked the best. Paris is pretty dirty though - lots of bags of rubbish just lying round all over the place - London was the same - not so much rubbish on the streets as piled up bags. Alot of the buildings are grotty too - but it's still so divine.  Really enjoyed Passage des Panarama - definitely worth going to. It was so cute and so French.
There were people riding around on bikes in bunny suits which we gathered was because of Easter. Walked past the Pompideau Centre which I hadn't seen before then walked all the way to the Marais for lunch. Eddy and George were whinging about being starving (j'ai faim) and all we'd had was a croissant, bagette and some cake. We went to the cafe that Sophie and George went to last time - Le Voltigeur. It was very french and cute and cute and there were only 2 things on the menu - Croque Monsieur or Quiche ( 3 types). We had a gorgeous waiter who when we left he gave us a French book which was so sweet. The food was yummy - I had quiche Lorraine. Had some wine of course and noisettes (short black with milk) Wandered all round the Marais, down Rue de Rosiers full of people queueing for falafels. So funny. Lots of lovely shops and streets. Went to Place des Vosges which is beautiful - I remembered it from last time. It was a lovely day even though it was cold. It was sunny some of the time. We lay on the grass in the square and chilled for a while. The boys all fell asleep for about 20 minutes. Then we went to find this "secret" spot in the corner of the square that I had read about in my Paris book - but it was not so secret - haha. Lovely square and buildings. We did a walking tour around the streets of the Marais. I had read about a square I wanted to go to - St Paul's. We saw a high school where they were all standing right outside the school smoking. We found the square - it was really lovely, full of shops and cobblestone streets and cafes. Walked back down to the Seine and hopped on the batobus (which was really crowded this time) and hopped off at the Arc de Triomphe stop. Sophie and I had all these things on our agenda (golden triangle and rue cler) but we had to be at Duncan's between 6 and 6-30. We walked along the Seine which was a lovely walk amongst the trees. It was so pretty. Headed to Avenue Montaigne - part of the Golden Triangle and a divine area.  Very wealthy area all around here.  Walked onto the Champs Elysee - God it's so tacky, lots of people and food outlets, big cinemas, some OK shops but it's foul and next time I don't think I'd even bother with it.
Walked past Abercrombie and Fitch - you should have seen the queue - it was amazingly long - like the first time we saw the queue in London.
The boys were starving so got Macas - which took forever. I remember last time Eddy got a burger from the same place last time and it also took forever. From there we caught the metro from George v to Charles de gaulle Etoile then the RER (normal train but quite luxurious) to Jovel a Citroen. Walked over the bridge and saw the Statue of Liberty which I hadn't seen before. Walked to Dunc's in the 16e via a supermarche. They sell everything in them including alcohol. Some of the wine there is so cheap - only a couple of euros. Got a couple of bottles of Burgundy Chardonnay for 4e each. They were hopeless in there and it took 20 minutes to get a few things. To Dunc's place. We couldn't remember what number his was for a while but eventually got in.  The flat looked lovely - it has the tiniest kitchen.Masha was away -  Kids were great - Emma is gorgeous and loud, William watched quietly for a while in his shirt buttoned up to the neck not saying a word but it didn't take long for him to warm to the big kids! I got Dunc to ring up about the car we're picking up tomorrow but didn't get very far. I'm abit concerned as I have no voucher although fully paid and not even sure who are hiring through. I thought it was Europcar, now I think it could be Hertz. I will have to email Flight Centre - although it's Easter so not sure what to do. In the end I worked out it was Hertz and we were going to set off to Place D'Italie in am. Dinner was lovely - Dunc had cooked roast lamb and me some chicken and the kids had set the table and made name tags etc. It was a lovely night. We left about 11.30 adn we caught the RER straight through from his stop to our stop with no changing - so easy. It's a lovely residential area where they live. When I got back to our place I emailed drive away holidays and flight centre just to confirm where we had to pick the car up as all it said was "Paris downtown" which could be anywhere. Hopefully I'll hear back from them very soon!
I really enjoyed tonight - seems surreal to think we are in Paris having dinner with Duncan. It was lovely to see hm.

PARIS - DAY 3 - See Champagne Post.

PARIS - DAY 4  - Sunday 8th April

We had the BEST day today - it was so good. My status this morning on Facebook was  - I feel very lucky to be in Paris on such a spectacular Sunday" or something like that.

Minky and I went to our little boulangerie and got croissants, bagettes and coffee for breakie. It was a lovely sunny day. Had breakfast together and planned the day. The plan was to wander round our arrondissement and 6e. Eddy wants to go back to the Eiffel Tower one more time so we are going to head over there this arvo and have dinner in Cafe Constant that we couldn't get into on Thursday night. Left our apartment and headed up to Shakespere & Co (famous bookshop) but it was closed and didn't open until 11am. Wandered down Rue de Petit Pont, Rue Saint Andre des Arts, Rue Dauphine to Saint Germaine. Just wandered around checking it all out - very relaxing. Wandered through passages and saw the oldest teahouse - it's completely crooked and dating back to 1600's. Lots of cute shops in Saint Andre Passage, Passage Dauphine, walked along Rue de Furstenberg full of cafes and food shops. Walked back to St Germaine and went to Cafe de Flore for coffee. It's a famous cafe here. It was busy and they sent us upstairs but we could have been anywhere and I didn't see the point of being stuck there by ourselves and not able to people watch and feel like we're in Paris. Amazing when we went to leave they found us a table in the thick of it all, in the main dining room. The service was so slack as it usually is at this big touristy venues but it was something we wanted to do that we didn't do last time. Had coffee there - won't bother going there again. Wandered off again to Rue de La Princesse. I had put this on my blog as an area with alot of atmosphere. It was a beautiful area - not a soul around but full of lovely art galleries adn beautiful streets - we loved it. There were lots of people on Blvd St Germaine outside all the churches as it's Easter Sunday. There area all around Princesse was lovely and we strolled all round there. Walked to St Sulphice where we had a drink with Duncan last time. Sat in the square for a while on the fountain and decided where to go for lunch. I had put a bistro on my blog in 6e but we weren't sure if it was open today. We found that alot of places don't seem to be open on Sundays - very odd or maybe its' because it's Easter Sunday. Got to the restaurant - Cremerie Restaurant Polidor - right near Jardin du Luxemburg which we were planning on visiting after lunch. We got a table - which was one long table. It was THE most perfect place to spend our last lunch in Paris. It was so French and bustling and just fantastic. Our waitress was gorgeous. We ordered wine, I ordered chicken and mash potato, the others ordered Boeuf Borginon - so french and so much fun. Ordered more wine and desert and laughed alot. It was great - our favourite spot for a meal in Paris we all decided - and funnily enough we saw Marco there - the guy from the agency who is our apartment contact. So funny. We had a wonderful lunch.
After lunch we strolled through Jardin Du Luxemburg which I really love (although I do love the Tuilleries as well) Jardin Du Luxemburg is so green and lovely - beautiful flowers everywhere although it was pretty cold so not really springlike. It was a beautiful sunny day but more like a Sydney Winters day. Divine nonetheless. Had a lovely stroll, took lots of photos and lots of laughing and silliness. We are so lucky we all get on so well - as a family and with George. Eddy and George are like brothers and we're all just as relaxed with him round as he really is one of the family.
Spent quite a while in the gardens wandering round and the kids rumbling. Walked down to Rue Moufftard. The markets had been there this morning but there were lots of nice shops. It was quite a steep street but lovely - lots of lovely shops and restaurants. Walked past the Pantheon and back past Les Pipos to our apartment where we had a bottle of champagne. we were all really enjoying our day. After our little Champagne lude we wandered over to Notre Dame for a last look. We noticed the green people on the roof that I've never noticed before. We bought Nutella crepes ( a paris staple) from beside Notre dame and walked along the Seine then over to Rue de Pont des Artes. Minky had seen a shirt he liked earlier today when the shop was closed so we went back to get it now. He tried on a couple of shirts - trying to get one on sale - but of course the one he liked and in his size wasn't on sale so he got one for 119e that was really nice.  Caught the RER train to the Eiffel tower stop. Got off and walked along the Seine, along the promenade d'Australie  to the Eiffel tower. Took more photos and checked out the restaurant there - "only" 86e for a starter and 316e for a set menu - quick lets go!! Walked down to the Rue St Dominque to Cafe Constant to see if we could get in this time. we had to wait almost 1 and 1/2 hours for a table and had to stay at the restaurant! We all sat at tables outside on the street and drank wine while waiting ( it was very cold). I was chatting to people on Facebook. Andrew and I had driven past the street yesterday when we picked up the car and it all looks great - lots of restaurants and shops. We were half way along at the restaurant. Eventually we got a table and had a lovely meal - the waiter was a dick which we haven't really found to be the case at all in Paris. The French have been fantastic - friendly and helpful. We have made efforts everytime though by trying to speak French - they like that. After dinner we walked up to get the metro and saw the Eiffel Tower light up and sparkle again. We were ooohing and ahhing and yelling out "au revoir Paree" all sad it was our last night. Have had the best time in Paris - really loved it adn really saw so much. Back to our apartment. Early start tomorrow - all looking forward to our new adventure in the French countryside. Packed our bags, had a few drinks and off to bed.

AU REVOIR PAREE, Je t'aime. A beintot I hope!!