Category: Paris

Finding Your Way Through Paris’ CDG

Like many of you who will be finding your way through Paris’ CDG in the next weeks and months, I’m heading there, too. It’s time to plan ahead and remember some of the things I’ve learned.  Mostly the hard way.

Travel Tips for Passing Through CDG Paris

Passing through Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris can be a daunting experience for even the most seasoned traveler. On my last trip I took notes on some of the things that make my travel a little easier…and safer. Hopefully these Charles de Gaulle Airport tips will be helpful to you. (Read more here …)

A Photo Guide to the SNCF/TGV Trains at Paris’ CDG Airport

If you’re like me it’s sometimes difficult to find my way around airports and train stations. Since I often take a train from Avignon to Charles de Gaulle in Paris, I jotted down directions and took a few photos to create a CDG Airport Photo Guide to help me learn and remember where to go. (Read more here …)

Packing Light

Thanks to all who contributed tips through comments on the post Packing tips for the 60+ solo female traveler. I’m rearranging my bags with some of them in mind. As always, please feel free to send me note with your thoughts, hints and edits!

Finding Your Way Through Paris' CDG

 

 

A Photo Guide to the SNCF/TGV Trains at Paris’ CDG Airport

If you’re like me it’s sometimes difficult to find my way around airports and train stations. Since I often take a train from Avignon to Charles de Gaulle in Paris, I jotted down directions and took a few photos to create a CDG Airport Photo Guide to help me learn and remember where to go.

This is a beginner’s level CDG train/airport guide that may help you navigate. As they say in France, “bonne chance.”

CDG Airport Photo Guide

“Gare” = Train

The first thing for non-French speakers to know when looking for a train station is the word for “train station”  in French. It’s  “GARE. ” If you plant that into your brain, you can read the signs.

Next you should know that SNCF and  TGV  train lines run out of the same station at the CDG airport. They go from there to almost anywhere in Europe. Those acronyms should also go on file in your head because you need to watch for them on the signs along the way.

International arrivals

 

CDG train/airport guide

A better map of CDG airport from the Internet

The most important thing for you to remember is that the train station (GARE) is in between Terminal 2 (A)(B)(C)(D)  and Terminal 2 (E)(F) 

CDG train/airport guide

GARE at CDG airport

Arriving Terminal 2  A-F

You have it made. Head for GARE on “Niveau 2”.

CDG train/airport guide

CDG Terminal 2 and SCNF/TGV

Arriving Terminal 1 or Terminal 3

If you arrive at Terminal 1 or Terminal 3,  you have to take the shuttle from “Aeroport CDG 1” at Terminal 3 to “Aeroport CDG 2-TGV (see below)

CDG train/airport guide

Shuttle from Terminal 1 and 3 to Terminal 2 and TGV at CDG Airport

From Terminal 3 this is one of the entrances to the shuttle. The sign is near a rack of baggage carts.

You have to go down an escalator here. (Hope you don’t have too many bags. I have no idea where there’s an elevator.)

 

CDG train/airport guideEntrance to the GARE shuttle from inside Terminal 2B

 

CDG Airport Photo Guide

After the Shuttle

When you exit the shuttle, signs for “Gare SNCF” will show you the way to the train station. This is a multi-level building. The station and trains are on the lower levels. See map of CDG Terminal 2 and SCNF/TGV above.

CDG train/airport guide

Take a left when you pass Paul’s 
If you have plenty of time and you’re hungry, stop and eat. There aren’t many choices for food beyond here.

 

CDG train/airport guide

When you round the corner from Paul’s you’ll see this huge board. Never mind it. Look for the nearest “down” elevator.

CDG train/airport guide

Downstairs looks like this.

CDG train/airport guide1

If you’ve made it here, you’re almost there!

Look for the Departure and Arrival signs that list destinations in France and Europe.  (Trains leave this same station for destination inside Paris, so be certain you’re looking at the correct sign.)

Have a seat and wait for 20 minutes until it’s time for your train. That’s when they post the platform where you board. If you don’t see the name of your destination right away, don’t worry. The train must be within 20 minutes of so from the terminal to show up on the board. 

If you miss your train, like I did, you’ll need to look for the SNCF information office. It’s on this floor and the entrance is well-marked. The information agents help with TGV, too. Be sure to grab a ticket when you walk in the door, or you’ll never be served. The line moves quicker than you think, so don’t take a ticket and walk out. 

BUY INSURANCE – It’s really cheap to purchase trip insurance when you make your original purchase, especially when you’re coming in from an international flight.

If you miss your train, you’ll get a full refund deposited into your bank. Unless you have lots of time at the station, don’t worry about getting a refund on the spot. The attendant at the information office will help you buy a new ticket and you can get a refund for the missed train from the insurance company later. Ask for a duplicate of your new ticket so that you can send it to the insurance company if they request it. You have five business days to file for a refund.

CDG train/airport guide

SNCF Information at CDDG

CDG Airport Photo Guide

How to find the right train car. 

Since I make every mistake possible, I’m going to assume you’re as uninformed as I am about trains and how to board them.

On the ticket pictured below I’ve circled the train car number and the seat number. VOITURE = CAR #         PLACE ASSISE =  SEAT #

“Depart” and “Arriv” are self-explanatory — except remember you’re on a 24 hour clock!

CDG train/airport guide

All that’s left to know is the platform where you meet the train. You find that out from the board inside the terminal about 20 minutes before the train’s arrival. (See above.)

Assuming you’ve found the correct platform, you’ll find electronic displays on the platform indicating where each car of the train will be located for boarding. You can use this chart to find the mark on the platform corresponding to the car you would like to board. Don’t hesitate to ask another passenger or railway agent for help. Even if the person doesn’t speak English, you can show them the “car” and “seat” number on your ticket and they’ll point the way.

CDG Airport Photo Guide

First class or second?

I like to pass on budget-conscious tips to others when I can. Having traveled in France by train, both first and second class, there are a few distinct differences: crowds, space, noise. Everytime I’ve traveled first class I’ve had a place that seats four all to myself. This time, on second class, all four seats were filled. There were also lots of children and babies.

If you can deal with these differences, the cost of second-class vs. first class is sometimes as much as half. They both arrived at the same place at the same time. 

CDG train/airport guide

Second class train car Paris to Avignon

Hope this has been helpful.   

For more information, this TGV post has more photos, videos and explanations.

Here’s a post with tips for safe traveling through CDG for 60+ travelers

Stay tuned for more adventures traveling in France! 

 

France Travel Guide

France Travel Guide: Living Like a King and Wallace Simpson

When my Brit friends from Uzes invited me to tag along with them to the weekend home of the Duke of Windsor and Wallace Simpson outside Paris, I was thrilled. No one really knows how much I love and follow the British Royals. It’s a great addition to my France travel guide, too.

France Travel Guide

Queen Elizabeth Doll

I vividly remember the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth. A Queen Elizabeth doll was my prized possession.

I’m so closely attached to the Royal Family that I went to the wedding of Will and Kate. Yes, I was one of the hundreds of thousands of spectators at Will and Kate’s wedding that glorious April day.

In fact, it was while I was on the same side of the ocean for the wedding that a friend invited me to visit in France. We spent a Saturday Market Day in Uzes. The rest is history.

France Travel Guide

Saturday Market in Uzes

The King and I

Nothing could have prepared me for the fact that I would spend four days and nights in the same house as the former King of England and famous American divorcee, Wallace Simpson. Who knew I’d be stomping the same garden paths and walking the same village streets?

France Travel Guide

Duke of Windor and Wallace Simpson

For any who are too young, or aren’t familiar with the story of King Edward and Wallace Simpson, it’s probably the most romantic love story in modern history (Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton next?) Edward was King of England after the death of his father; he was having an affair with Wallace Simpson — an American divorcee; he abdicated the throne to marry Wallace Simpson; and they “exiled” to France. If you’d like to see a recent recreation of the events, you must watch the TV series “The Crown.”

France Travel Guide

Wedding Day of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor

Getting there

The stay at the Duke and Wallace Simpson’s country home was planned for the week following my return to France from the States. (Hopefully, you traveled with me through CDG airport; Cook’n with Class;  and Montmartre.)

After a few days in Paris, I  left for Gif-Sur-Yvette by train from Gard du Nord in Paris to meet my friends who were driving up from Uzes.

France Travel Guide  Yes, I had a ton of luggage with me from the States to haul onto the train. Luckily a lovely young man who was catching the same train gave me a hand.

France Travel Guide

Paris Gard du Nord

When I arrived at the train station in Gif-Sur-Yvette, I was “gathered” by my friends and delivered  to Le Moulin de la Tuilerie, only a few miles away.

What a wonderful sight!

France Travel Guide

Le Moulin de la Tuilerie

Here’s a slideshow of the home, cottages and grounds. 

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A Brief history of Le Mouline de la Tuilerie

Le Moulin de la Tuilerie was the weekend home of the Duke and Duchess and the only property the couple owned together. Their formal residence in France was in Paris, 4 Route du Champ d’Entrainement in the Bois de Bologna. The history of Le Moulin dates back to the 1500’s when a working mill was on the site. The current main house was built in 1734 — as indicated by the date carved over the transom of the front door. At that time the house and grounds were known as “Moulin Aubert.” When Edward and the Duchess took possession of Moulin Aubert in 1952, the Duchess renamed the estate after the adjacent village — ” Moulin Tuilierie.”

Le Moulin de la Tuilerie was owned and occupied by the Windsors until the Duke’s death in 1972. In 2009 it became a Landmark Trust property.

An inside look

After purchasing Le Moulin, the Windsors spent two years redecorating the interior and guests houses. With the help of renowned designer Stéphane Boudin, the home was tastefully filled with bright colors and furnishings the couple had amassed during their lives separately and together. Today, only a few of the same decorations remain.

During our stay at Le Moulin, the four couples — and me — occupied the five bedrooms in the main house. My room was easily decided because it was the only single. For the other four bedrooms, my friends drew straws. Two couples joined me in the “servants quarters.” The remaining two were given the room of the Duchess and the room of the Duke. As you can see, there was nothing opulent about the living quarters of Le Moulin. Just utilitarian and comfortably dressed in a 1950’s way.

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The living room upstairs, on the other hand, was huge and inviting. During the time of the Windsors the room was used especially for entertaining. (See photos above) There are framed photographs that show the Duke and Duchess surrounded by elegantly-dressed and famous guests.

The kitchen area was added as the home morphed from a private residence to a Landmark Trust site.

France Travel Guide

Le Moulin de la Tuilerie

Wallace Simpson Parties

Not to be outdone by royalty, my Brit friends and I put on our own “Royals Nights.”  Cocktails were served promptly at seven and dinner at eight. Two evenings we all dressed the part of Wallace Simpson and the Duke. Glam, eh?

Our cocktails, aperos and meals were devine.

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All followed by fun and games… and just a bit of drama.

Note: Mas d’Augustine lovebirds, Jane and Gary Langston, made the best of their holiday away from the B&B.

France Travel Guide

Jane and Gary

Out and about 

During the daytime there was plenty of sightseeing to do.  Walking through the village of Gif-Sur-Yvette, for one.

Then a day in Paris that started with an hour-long train ride, a hop-on bus tour and a fabulous lunch.

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The most magnificent of all — a day in Versailles!

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Then … it was time to say “goodbye”…

France Travel Guide

Yet another memory … 

France Travel Guide

 

Where next? Stay tuned …

France Travel Guide

Travel Guide France: 5 Things To Do in Montmartre

If you’ve been to Paris before, you might not want to see the Eiffel Tower every time you return. This visit to Paris, I chose to stay in Montmartre. In just two days I got a taste of the town. And I loved it! 

Travel Guide FranceI confess, I’ve been to Montmartre before. A night at the Moulin Rouge was high on the “must do” list when I was a twenty-something in Paris for the first time with college friends. In the 60s it was pretty raunchy.  I stood in the line and walked through the  Sacré Coeur Cathedral many years later.

So what do you do in Montmartre if you’ve been to the Moulin Rouge and Sacré Coeur? Plenty!

#1  Cooking Class

Travel Guide France

Cook’n with Class Paris

Go to a cooking class at Cook’n with Class Paris. If it’s a Sunday, all the better. The Sunday Market Class includes shopping at the city market. Then you go back to the school to prepare a sumptuous meal with all the fresh ingredients. Read all about the fun experience — click here.

#2 Enjoy the Scenery

Even on a cloudy day, Montmartre is charming. Check out the patisseries and cafes along the way.

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Who knows who you’ll run into? My good buddy and mentor, Silver Wainhouse, lives near me in Uzes and she was in town for the day.

Travel Guide France

#3 Eat the food

Take your time to find just the right spot to have lunch or a snack. I mean, is there anything quite as good as French Onion Soup — in France?  Pair that with a glass of your favorite wine and you’re just about in heaven.

Travel Guide France

One day, wandering around near Pigalle, what should appear? Le Chat Noir. Right out of a Toulouse Lautrec poster.

Travel Guide France

Le Chat Noir

I expected Picasso or Toulouse to walk in any moment. Surely they would enjoy the cafe’s Paysanne salad — filled with duck magret and gizzards. I did!

#4 Climb the hill to Sacrè Couer

Go ahead. Even if you’ve been to the Sacrè Couer, do it again.  The views are spectacular. Yes, it’s quite a hike to the top, but there’s a lift and a small train that can take you up. If you’re around on a weekend, plan to have a coffee and croissant while sitting at a cafe near where the artists hang out. You might even snag a painting at a good price. It’s what memories are made of.
Travel Guide France

Imagine yourself here…

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Travel Guide France

Travel Guide France

Musée de Montmartre

#5 Visit Musée de Montmartre

If you want to take a trip through Montmartre’s past — to actually see where artists, writers and sculptors such as Renoir, Émile Bernard, Suzanne Valadon, Pierre Reverdy and Demetrius Galanis actually lived and worked, visit the Musée de Montmartre. It’s tucked away on a side street at the top of Montmartre and it’s worth the stop.

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Would I stay in Montmartre again? Absolutely! 

I don’t always “plug” a place that I stay when I’m traveling, but I have to give a big shout out to Le Grey Hotel. The boutique hotel is so convenient to everything I wanted to see and do on my short stay. The staff is extremely friendly and helpful. The breakfast is fresh, tasty and served late into the morning. And there is a bar and sitting room that’s cozy and inviting.

Next stop: Living Like A Royal!
Travel Guide France

Paris Through Your Eyes

Last week I published photos of Paris on the Barefoot Blogger Facebook page. Happily, friends began replying with their pictures of Paris. That gave me the inspiration to publish a post of Paris photos as seen through your eyes. 

Thank you to all who contributed your “Best Shot”.

 

 

saying

Christmas in Paris

Christmas in Paris
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This time last year I was in Paris. Just thinking about again is a thrill.

Only three months after I moved to France I was home bound to spend the holidays with my family in Atlanta, Georgia. I left France with mixed emotions since I hated to leave my new apartment and friends in Uzes. So the stop over in Paris for a few days was a perfect way to get into the holiday mood.

Now that I look back, these photos bring back memories of just how much I love Paris — especially at this magical time of year.

Christmas in Paris 2013

If, by any chance, you are in Paris this season, I’d love to know how much of the decorations are the same. A Santa’s Village on the Avenue des Champs-Élysées? Blue and white color theme?

Maybe next year I’ll come back through Paris to see for myself!

Christmas in Paris 2013

 

Christmas in Paris 2013

 

Christmas in Paris 2013

 

 

Christmas in Paris 2013

 

Christmas in Paris 2013

 

 

Christmas in Paris 2013

 

 

 

A carriage ride on a chilly December night

A carriage ride on a chilly December night

 

Followed by a view of Paris from the "Loop"

Followed by a view of Paris from the “Loop”

 

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I Love Paris!

I Love Paris!

 

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A Visit from France: Getting Back Home

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Two days is never enough time to spend in Paris. Perhaps I tried to squeeze too much into my senses, because my brain definitely went into overload.

All went perfectly as planned for my short visit to Paris. The only small mess-up happened when I realized the AIRBNB apartment I rented was on the sixth floor, with no elevator. As you’ll remember, Geoffrey came to the rescue when he summoned the cab driver to carry my two gy-normous suitcases up the stairs. He was talking on the cellphone in Uzes to the cabby at the airport in Paris.

Although I thought I would spend most of the daylight hours in Paris at the Louvre, I changed plans when I saw how close I was toorsay map the Musée d’Orsay. The museum is on the left bank of the Seine and is housed in the former Gare d’Orsay, a Beaux-Arts railway station built around 1898. Since I have suddenly become passionate about the Romantic era in France — especially since the blog about “BoBo” (Bourgeois Bohemian fashion) — the idea of spending my days among the famous art of the time seemed “heaven blessed.”

apartment in paris

  Sights along the way

A short walk from the apartment where I stayed for two nights, across the Place de la Concorde, took me straight to the Jardin des Tuileries and the bank of the Seine. The traffic and bustle of the Paris morning was drowned out by the beautiful scenery along the way. Fortunately, the weather was perfect for my slow stroll to the Musée d’Orsay. I wanted to take it all in — the smells, the people, the noise and the sights.

Motorcyclists speed to work, seemingly unaware of the city's sights.

Motorcyclists speed to work, seemingly unaware of the city’s sights.

A walk in the park

Even though I’ve been to Paris before, I’ve never seen it like this. On my own and with no real agenda, I was perfectly free to spend an hour or so taking photos, or to stop for an espresso in the park. Surely I’ve seen these statues before, but now they seem to have more meaning.

Who can help but wonder what was going through the artists head with this pose?

 Statue at Tuileries


Statue at Tuileries

Or this??

Jardin des Tuileries Statue

Jardin des Tuileries Statue

Paris

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Musee de Orsay

Musee de Orsay

Musee Orsay

Musee Orsay

Lunchtime at the Musée d’Orsay

Restaurant Musée d'Orsay

Restaurant Musée d’Orsay

The Musée d’Orsay is a “must see” whether you enjoy art, or not. Formerly an early 20th century train station, the museum holds the largest collection of impressionist and post-impressionist art in the world. Its architecture heightens the drama of the building with soaring windows and steel beams.

 

A “living” museum, the Orsay is active with learning opportunities for people of all ages that are scheduled throughout the year along with concerts and rotating art exhibits.

For “foodies” like me, the museum had cafes and restaurants that range from casual to formal.The day I visited, I ventured all the way to the top of the building to the Musée d’Orsay Restaurant. The view and the food were magnificent.

There’s something about taking in a setting like this that makes traveling more fun for me. I can imagine dining with Royalty.

Truly, I have a champagne and caviar appetite on a “plat du jour” budget. 

Getting home

The rest of the Paris trip is chronicled in the Paris Lights post. The part you don’t know is what happened next. 

Remember the spiral staircase in the apartment building? Geoffrey may have saved the day when I arrived in Paris, arranging for the cabby to carry the bags up the six flights of steps. Now I was on my own.

No problem. My kind host at the AIRBNB apartment arranged for a cab with a driver who would come up for my bags. The cabby didn’t even mind that he was picking me up at 4am for a 7am flight out of Charles de Gaul. Case closed, done.

Not so fast …

The morning of my departure home came earlier than I wished. After walking for hours along the Champs Elysee, and after a nice dinner and after treating myself to a ride on the Paris “Loop”, it was a short night.P1020297

The morning alarm clock that rang at 3AM was most unwelcomed. Nevertheless, I scampered out of bed and readied myself for the long trip home — from Paris, through Frankfurt, to Atlanta.

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Just as scheduled, the cabby arrived, hustled my bags downstairs, and we were off to the airport. Since there was hardly traffic at 4AM, we made it to the Charles de Gaul at close to 4:30AM for my 7 o’clock flight.  Not only was there no traffic on the roads, there was hardly a soul at the airport.

A few people were huddled near the United Airlines desk ready, like me, to check baggage when the attendant arrived. I sat down to make myself as comfortable as possible.

4:30 AM…. 5 AM … 5:30 AM ….6AM

No attendant at the United Airlines desk.

By 6:30 a United person showed up and a short line formed. I was in the front.Morning at Charles de Gaulle

I should have known something was wrong all along, right? My flight was scheduled for 7am. I hadn’t checked my bags, no security, no gate stop. All that was going through my mind was that perhaps flights had been cancelled in and out of Paris.

The United attendant looked at the itinerary I handed her. It was printed straight off the United Airlines website. She looked at me, she looked at my luggage. Was she going to scold me for carrying too many bags?

Instead, she said: “you are at the wrong airline.” Then she continued, “Your flight is scheduled with Lufthansa.”

I’m not certain what sound came out of my mouth next, but I’m still hoping the attendant isn’t well-versed in English 4-letter words.

“But, I made the reservation with United!” I cried. “Where’s Lufthansa?” I murmured as I fled away in tears.

“Around that way,” the nice United lady directed as she pointed to the right.

hysterical ladyScreeching through the now-busy airport to the Lufthansa desk, I was met by a very strict-looking German lady. When I told her my mistake, she wasn’t phased.

“Too late”, she said in part German/part English.

“But, but …” I literally cried, although I knew I didn’t have a chance with her, nor with my situation.

I had been ready to leave Paris since 3AM in the morning. Now I wasn’t going to get home at all!

The new me

There was a time when this news would have sent me into orbit. Fortunately, my new “sensibility” to adventure set in.

This will make a great story!

I swear, I can’t make this stuff up!

Needless to say, I was fortunate to get a flight to Atlanta through New Happy airplaneYork, in spite of the holiday tourist surge. Better yet, the tale of my airport dilemma made a big hit with the flight attendant assigned to my coach section in the very back of the plane.

He supplied me with free drinks all the way.

Vintage christmas salt and pepper shaker

Confession: Homesick in France

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I’ve been trying to decide how to write that I got homesick and came home from France for a visit.

There! I just said it.

If you think I’m a “fearless traveler” who can take off in a moment’s notice and take on a life-changing journey, you’re right. If you think I’m too tough to be homesick for my friends and family during the holidays, you’ll be surprised at my last-minute decision. I returned to the US to spend Christmas with my boys.

A quick getaway

As you know, I had a delightful Thanksgiving in Uzes introducing new friends to the American holiday. Nevertheless, for the first time since moving to France, I found myself getting very homesick. The thought of spending another holiday away from home made me sad. The trip I planned to Paris would surely be a diversion, but my heart strings were still a bit “off tune”.

Fighting the urge to go back to the States and with the map of Europe spread out in front of me, I imagined traveling by train to various well-known places, jumping off the train for a few hours to take pictures of the city’s holiday decorations, then getting back on the train ’til the next stop. It sounded like fun, but perhaps it was an adventure I should save for the spring.

Two days before my scheduled trip to Paris, I decided I was going back to the States for Christmas. As impulsively as I had decided to move to France, I called my boys to tell them I was coming home for a visit. The plan was to board an airplane on my last day in Paris and head for Atlanta.

Even with the holiday scramble for tickets, the United airlines website produced a good fare and descent schedule on a flight from Paris through Frankfurt that would reunite me with my family in Atlanta in less than twelve hours. Instead of an overnight bag for the intended 2-day stay in Paris, my baggage swelled to two suitcases. They were filled with warm winter clothes, boots, and the few presents I could gather from France in my haste. Enough was packed for several months since, now that I was home, I would stick around Atlanta and the southeast until my first grandchild was born in late March.

Rescued … again

If you think a Barefoot Blogger story must have a tale of Geoffrey, you’ll be pleased to read on.

apartment in parisThe apartment I found in Paris turned out to be perfect. In an 18th century building between the Place de la Concorde and The Madeleine Church, it met my three demands for the short trip to Paris: 1) close to the Champs Elysee; 2) within walking distance of the Louvre; and 3) the price, with breakfast, was around US$125 per night. That would allow for at least one fancy dinner.

There was only one drawback to the charming apartment . It was on the sixth floor of the building … with no elevator.

 

The day I left for Paris, Geoffrey insisted on taking me to the train station in Nimes.

2014-02-15_14-47-55After helping me lug my bags onto the train, Geoffrey and I bid each other a teary farewell. I thought: “Now I’m on my own to find a new adventure.”

Not so.

By the time I arrived at the train station in Paris and hailed a cab, Geoffrey was ringing me on the cellphone. I motioned to the taxi driver to turn down the volume on the radio.

“S’il vous plaît”, I said in my very best French. I had learned quickly that the very large and burly African from Nigeria spoke no English,

On the phone Geoffrey was chirping with all the cheerfulness he could muster: “Hello daa-ling,” he chimed in his heavy British accent. “Have you arrived in Paris?”

“Why, yes, daw–ling” I replied. “In the cab on the way to the apartment,” I added. “Just not looking forward to that sixth floor climb.”

spiral staircaseThe moment the words came out of my mouth I literally gasped. Geoffrey must have heard the sound through the phone.

“How am I going to get these bags all the way up those steps to the apartment?” I cried to him. Dreading the thought of being dumped off on the sidewalk. “I totally forgot!” I added.

Without hesitation, Geoffrey ordered, “Hand the phone to the driver. I want to speak with him.”

Obediently, I tapped the cab driver on the shoulder and handed him the phone with Geoffrey on the other end of the line.

In less time than I could offer up a quick plea to heaven, the driver handed back the phone.

“No problem, daa-ling,” said Geoffrey, “it’s all arranged”, he confirmed most assuredly.

He had done it again.

The cabby drove up to the apartment building on the busy street — right up onto the sidewalk. He quickly opened the door to the cab for me to jump out. He then hurried to the rear of the taxi and unloaded the two large bags from the trunk.

As he rolled both bags through the security gate and lifted them through the entry door of the apartment building, I stood back to watch as he assessed the climb ahead. With seemingly no effort, he grabbed the suitcase handles and carried both bags onto the wide, spiral staircase, up six tall flights of stairs, and into the front door of the apartment: my home-away-from-home for the next two nights.

Giving him a nice tip and a big hug, I wished the big, burly, STRONG man from Nigeria a “Joyeux Noël”. He would never know that his act of kindness started off my holiday in the very best way.

Stay tuned … the unexpected layover

Renting a French Apartment

Paris Night Lights

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I’ve always wanted to visit Paris or London for Christmas. The thought of either of those magnificent cities decked in holiday lighting is thrilling.

Since I’m only two hours away by fast train to Paris, I decided I’d check out the Paris lights at Christmas. London will have to wait for another year.

To find a place to stay, I turned to AIRBNB. If you haven’t used the AIRBNB website to find vacation rentals, you must. You can find just about any type of rental you could possible want — from an apartment to a whole house, to a sleeper sofa, to a berth in a sailboat — all around the world.

For my two-day visit,  I wanted a reasonably priced place that would be convenient to the Champs Elysees and to the Louvre. That ended up to be a private room in the home of an American ex-pat, her French husband and college-aged daughter. Their centuries old apartment is a stone’s throw from the Paris Loop (the giant ferris wheel), the Obelisque and the Tuileries Gardens. Everything I wanted to see was easily within walking distance, including the Eiffel Tower.

The only bad thing about my choice of apartments was that it was up six flights of stairs — no elevator. That was a feature I had read about on the AIRBNB listing, and when I booked it I wasn’t concerned. With 55 steps to climb everyday at my own place, I should be used to stairs.  It wasn’t until I had walked around Paris all day that I began to dread the spiral staircase each night.

A surprise on the Champs Elysees

If you’ve ever been to Paris, you know the Champs Elysees is pretty fancy. It’s where all the “handsome men and dazzling ladies” hang out to shop and dine. So I was more than surprised to find a “Christmas Village” with hotdog and sausage vendors, beer and wine stands, and cotton candy peddlers all along the avenue. Not that I’m complaining, because I love junk food and “chaud vin” (warm wine); nevertheless, I wasn’t expecting it.

Nor was I expecting to see a real-life Santa in his sleigh streak across the sky.

A two-day visit to Paris is certainly not enough time to take in all the places I wanted to see. Yet it gave me a taste for the city that makes me want to return again soon.

Here are some of the night scenes Parisians and visitors are enjoying this holiday.

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