Subject: Paris trip 2005
Hi, Ziners..

We decided to take the L'Open Tour this year, because we were going at Easter, and we knew the public transportation wouldn’t be running regularly – at least, the buses. We liked all the stops that L’Open Tour went to and thought it would be an easy way to go. All this was true, except that the down side was that lines of people would get on, wanting to buy tickets, which slowed things down considerably, so that we didn’t make it to all of our stops. Last year, we took the batobus and would probably take that again, as it’s less expensive, and it worked much better for us. We also bought a Carte Orange and used that in combination with L’ Open Tour and for the rest of the week.

We bought a Carte Musée for 3 days this year, but only got to Rodin's home and the Louvre. The Louvre was incredible, as we spent all our time in the newly restored Apollo Gallery in the Denon Wing. It was just beautiful! We went to Rodin's home on the way back from Bistro Breteuile, and stopped in the garden café for a drink. It was lovely, as the sun was shining.

We'd planned on going to a few more museums with the museum pass, but we never got there. We wanted to go to Musée Guimet and the Musée Maillol, as there was a special exhibit there. We did go to the Musée de la Vie Romantique, but realized it wasn't on the Carte Musée this year. It was sort of confusing, as we asked one person at the museum about the entrance fee, and she told us that it was free for permanent exhibits, and only cost for temperorary exhibits, but when we went to go in, the man we talked to pointed us to the ticket booth. We'd also wanted to go to a tearoom called Tea Follies, but we didn't find it... instead, we went to a café on the Place St. Georges, and it was fine. It was nothing outstanding, but it was pleasant, and we also found a little park to sit down on benches, and look at the flowers. It was very quiet, and we liked the area. We could see the Moulin Rouge from there, so walked up to take a picture of it. It was very close to Montmartre.

We did a lot of wandering... went to the rue Daguerre and Place Denfert Rochereau. We stopped for tea at a pleasant café, Le Rendez Vous Denfert, located at 2, Avenue du General LeClerc. The rue Daguerre is just a block or so away from this café. We found the rue Daguerre interesting, but not much was open, as it was Pâques Lundi. However, there was an Amorino, so we had to have one :-)

On Easter Sunday, we went to Jardin du Luxembourg to see a marionette show, but since it was the holiday, there was a special show, and the window was closing down before 3:30 PM. There was to be a show at 11:00 AM on Monday, which we tried to get to, but we missed it, so as yet, we have not seen a marionette show in Paris :-( We took the bus and walked down to Le Val de Grâce, which was beautiful outside, but we didn't go in, as it too was closed. Next time we will, if it's open...there's an entrance fee, but if the following is correct, it's not too expensive:

1 place A. Laveran (5è)RER Port Royal Tel: 01 40 51 51 92 Ouvert: 12h-18h Mardi, Mercredi, Samedi et Dimanche Fermé en Août Tarif : 4,60 € - 2.30 €

We picked up the bus to Val de Grace across the street from Place Edmund Rostande, on the Jardin du Luxembourg side. I believe it was the #82 bus that goes to the rue d’Assas. We got off early, though, as we saw a pretty park we wanted to explore… it was the park between Jardin du Luxembourg and L’ Observatoire… I believe it’s called Jardin L’Observatoire, and there’s a beautiful fountain there. Before we went to Val de Grace, we took a tea break at Dallyau, located at Place Edmund Rostande. There’s a nice view of Jardin du Luxembourg, if you sit outside, which we did. They had some wonderful looking pastries, and there was seating space upstairs. We just had tea, but we'd definitely go back there and pick something yummy. We went by our favorite, Gerard Mulot, and another pâtisserie near our hotel that looked wonderful, but we never found them open when we wanted to eat -- a hazard of traveling on the holiday. However, that’s when Bob has his spring break from school, so that’s when we go.

We took the bus over to the Bastille and walked on the Promenade Plantée…it was really beautiful. I had read that there was a lift near the Bastille, but we never did see it. There is one, though, right by the IBIS hotel on the rue Daumesnil, so we took that back down. Next time, we'd walk up to the elevator and walk back. There was a clear sign for the Promenade Plantée by the Opera Bastille, but we needed to look at the map to make sure which street we were on, as the street divides. It was pretty easy to get to. Later, we wandered around a lot in the Marais, and ended up in the BHV department store, near Pompideau. They have a very pleasant café in the BHV, which we were very grateful for, as it was a nice stop for something to drink and rest our feet. We saw no tourists there, but lots of French, so it was a good place to people watch. Besides that, we found a table by the window and had a lovely view :-)

52/64, rue de Rivoli - 75004 Paris, Open Mon.-Sat., 9:30am-7pm , Wed. until 10pm

Bob was even thinking we should eat lunch there, but he had wanted to try a Lina's Sandwiches, and that's what we were looking for in the Marais. We never did find it, but we enjoyed wandering around, and we ended up finding the one on the rue de Saint Pères instead. Bob liked it, but I thought the bread was a little dry. However, it was almost closing time, so I'd give them another try, but earlier. I thought they were open later, but it was 3:00 PM, and they were closing soon after we got there. We decided it was a place to eat if you were in the neighborhood, but not worth walking all over town for. It was a pleasant stop, though.... just walk East on the rue Jacob and turn left on the rue de Saint Pères. We walked from Lina’s to the little children's clothing shop on the corner of the rue Saint Benoît and the rue Jacob, the Petite Faune, and bought our granddaughter an adorable pink and white checked jumper or sun dress, with top to go under it for cooler weather. We found her a beautiful, fluffy lapin (bunny) at Natalys, right by our hotel. Natalys are all over Paris, but this one is on the rue de Seine, near the Mabillon metro stop.

On Thursday, we went to the Musée Pompideau, really just to see the view. I don’t like heights, so that escalator was a bit unnerving, but I made it to the top, and it was so worth it. The view is incredible! We would have hung around longer, but had reservations at Brasserie Balzar. We’ve gone there every year, and it was as good as ever. In fact, it was better than last year, as we didn’t make reservations for Easter… last year, they were a bit rushed because of the holiday, and we didn’t think the food was up to par. This year, it was perfect! The French couple next to us was having Cassoulet, and it looked terrific, with big chunks of sausage, pork, and what looked like duck. Might have to try that another time, but we had our usual poulet roti with frites, haricot vertes, and tarte tatin with crème fraiche for dessert. We ordered a bottle of Côte du Rhone and mineral water, and I had tea with my dessert. A very enjoyable experience and definitely not the most expensive.

We had planned to go to Versailles on Easter Sunday, but I was having a foot problem -- not good when contemplating wandering around Paris. Bob thought it best that we not go to Versailles, so we went to the rue Mouffetard instead. We ate breakfast at Le Pain Quotidian, located at 135, rue Mouffetard, and on our way back up, we happened to catch Jolie Môme, a music group that is really street theater, as all their moves are choreographed, and they dress in revolutionary costumes. They perform on the rue Mouffetard, the rue Montorgeuil, or the rue Daguerre on Sundays. I recognized one of the group members, so we waited around to see if they’d be performing. We had a good view, since we were the first ones there. We always enjoy watching them perform, and had thought we’d miss them this trip, so were glad to have seen them. I noticed that they were selling CDs, so I bought one and have been enjoying it since we got home. By the way, if you’ve seen the movie, Sabrina, Jolie Môme is in the movie briefly. I thought I recognized them, and then I saw the flag that said Jolie Môme on it.

We went to Place de la Madeleine for most of the souvenirs we brought back. We bought mustard for the kids at Boutiqe Maille – we’d bought them a mustard pot a couple of years ago, and we bought ourselves one this year. We also bought candy and coffee at Hediard. There was so much more I wanted to buy, but we filled one large shopping bag, between the Place de la Madeleine and the Grand Epicerie at Bon Marché. We also brought back lots of Côte d’Or chocolate bars from Monoprix. We bought the shopping bag from Rick Steves, and it was very handy. It has its own pocket, and it’s large and strong, but very lightweight. I think it was about $20.00.... I bought it at the last minute, after I suggested it to Linda. I thought it might work well for us, and it turned out to be a great purchase! My husband popped it in his pack, and when we went shopping for souvenirs, I pulled it out and started filling it. By the time we went back to the hotel, it was full :-)

With it raining off and on, we did a lot of sitting in cafés, people watching… Les Editeurs, Le Rendez Vous, Le Danton, Au Chai de L’Abbaye (loved the waiters at this café) Les Deux Magots and Café de Flore, among others. We ate breakfast at Boulangerie Paul once, and that was enough -- the croissants were burned. We decided it was well worth the extra cost at Café de Flore, even though it’s gone up 3 Euros from last year for our usual breakfast of 2 croissants, tea & coffee. We were really eating an expensive breakfast this year, though, as we added jus d'Orange. We didn’t mind, though, as it was good for us, and it was really delicious. It was fresh squeezed and a red color... looked as if it was made with blood oranges. Oddly enough, they gave us a packet of sugar with a long, plastic gadget to stir it with…it really didn’t need it, though, as it was sweet enough.

On Wednesday, we took the tour to Bruges with Paris Vision, which we’d booked online…. We stopped by the office when we were in the neighborhood to pick up our tickets, which made things easier on the day we left. The trip was very nice, but the ride was much longer than we had anticipated. It was about 3 1/2 hours each way, and for some reason, I’d thought it would be 2 1/2. Guess I had the time the train took in mind. That’s one good reason to take the train instead, for those wavering between the organized tour and doing it yourself on the train. Another reason to take the train instead is the fact that there are no toilettes on the buses or in the Paris Vision office. True, you do stop at a great half-way stop, with cafés, bottled water, books, etc -- like an Oasis -- and spotless toilettes. For those who decide to take a Paris Vision tour, there is a café/tabac not too far from the Paris Vision office, that is open early. We stopped there for tea, coffee, and croissants at around 6:20 AM. We sat at a table, but the French were all standing at the counter, having coffee on the way to work. If you’re standing with your back to the Paris Vision office, you turn left and walk a couple of blocks to get to the café/tabac.

Bruges was beautiful, but we had just enough time for lunch, tea, and a very quick walk before heading back to the bus. However, we did have an hour tour when we first arrived, so we didn't think our money ill spent. Next time, though, we’ d take the train and stay at least a couple of nights to have a more leisurely trip. This was a taste of Bruges, and enough to know that we’d love to go back for a longer stay. It was just beautiful, and the tulips were in bloom! After the tour by the guide, we ate lunch at the Brasserie Erasmus, which was very near the Markt -- about a 5 min. walk. We got directions in the Tourist Information Center. Bob ordered some kind of a salad, with green beans, and I had the fish waterzoii, a well known Flemish dish, which came with some wonderful whole grain bread. It’s really a cream soup, with large chunks of fish – salmon and a white fish – carrots, and potatoes in it. Delicious! We both sampled a couple of Belgian beers. Mine was called Capucine, and was somewhat like Leffe, though a bit lighter. I don’t remember the name of Bob's beer, but we left it up to the very nice, young waiter to choose. We told him what we liked, and we thought he chose well. We had time for a little walk, and stopped at the Detavernier "Carpe diem" tearoom for pastry and tea, just before walking back to the bus. It’s near Lake Minnewater, and our bus was parked by Lake Minnewater. It was perfectly located for a last minute stop, and it was very good.

Back to Paris: As usual, we didn't get to half the things I'd planned, but I never expect to, as I always over plan. With the weather, we found it easier to just play it by ear. If it rained, we'd go inside a café, museum, or shop. We did get back to the Parc Monceau and spent quite a bit of time wandering around there. It was gorgeous, and we were lucky that it wasn't raining at that time. We actually only had one day that it didn't rain at all, and that was our last day.

Our last day was perfect… the sun was shining, we had lunch at Bistro de Breteuile, did some shopping at Bon Marché, and had dinner at Fish. The weather was still somewhat warm, and we sat outside at Les Deux Magots, having a glass of Perrier with lemon. They actually gave us ice, which was really nice :-) We were waiting for the roller bladers, but we had given up and headed back to the hotel. As we were walking back around 10:40 PM, we heard them coming, whooping and hollering, as they zoomed up the St. Germain Boulevard, children, men & women of all ages. We turned around to watch... what an impressive sight!

Bruges restaurants: Brasserie Erasmus Wollestraat 35 (Cuisine Flemish)

Hours: Tues-Sun noon-4pm and 6-11pm Phone 050/33-57-81

Prices:Main courses 15€-25€; fixed-price menus 20€-30€ Credit Cards: MC, V Detavernier Carpe Diem Tearoom (near Lake Minnewater) Wijngaardstraat 8. Nice tearoom/bakery, with fantastic cakes and pastries. You choose your pastery first and go sit down to order tea. They bring you your pastry.

Note: good maps of Bruges for .20 Euro and clean bathrooms in the tourist information center.