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Paris Sisters Visit Paris

Sharon J

100+ Posts

By Sharon J from Texas, Fall 2010

Highlights of two sisters as they visit Paris and take a night train to Venice, September 23, 2010 - September 27, 2010.

This trip report was originally published on SlowTrav.com.

Day 1 ... Arrival​

I'm not too sure how great this trip report will be, as we pushed really hard, which is not something I normally do when traveling in Europe. The trip was geared for my sister, who is almost 70 and has never traveled outside of the U.S. We had five full days in Paris and I knew she would never return, so it was important that she see as much as possible.

Upon arriving in Paris, we checked into our apartment at 52, rue St. Andre des Arts in the 6th (St. André des Arts). My husband and I had stayed in this apartment once before. It wasn't quite ready, but they did let us freshen up and store our luggage. We were given the keys, which was nice as we wouldn't need to meet them again later in the afternoon.

Upon our arrival, we learned that there was a major strike going on and a lot of things, including the Metro and stores, were shut down. Fortunately, I had hired a private driver to pick us up. Our first stop was the SNCF Boutique on St-Michel to pick up our train tickets for our overnight adventure to Venice the following Monday. Thank goodness, they were open. We were then off for our boat cruise, followed by lunch and then a visit to St. Chapelle and Notre Dame. We were pretty exhausted and returned to the apartment and didn't leave again that night.


Happy Sisters

Day 2 ... Versailles (Friday)​

The following day, we took the RER to Versailles, which was not open yet, as they hadn't decided if they could open because of the strike the day before. This did not make me happy since I had pre-purchased our tickets.

Two hours later, they did open and the lines were a nightmare, even with our prepaid tickets. Since we had been walking in the gardens, we were now at the back of the line. We enjoyed the Chateau and gardens and left to find a place for lunch.

I remembered someone here mentioning lots of lovely little places nearby, if you turn left after exiting the Chateau grounds. We found a darling little Italian Cafe, which had some of the best food I've ever had, especially the Panna Cotta. It was a very small place and we heard only French being spoken, so I think we picked a winner. We noticed everyone had dessert and it was always this Panna Cotta. After hearing and observing the four ladies sitting next to us, scraping and practically licking their plates, we decided we should give it a try. I mean, it was to die for and we later tried the same dessert in Venice and it didn't come close to matching the wonderful taste from this little place. I'm ashamed to say, I didn't write down the name of the restaurant.

We then walked back to the train station for the trip back to Paris. Again, we were too tired to go out that night.

Day 3 ... Opera House, Domes and Lunch (Saturday)​

I had planned this day around the Palais Garnier and the department stores on Haussmann. My sister's daughter has studied ballet most of her life and now teaches it full time, so the opera house was one of the most important visits of our trip. It hadn't been that long since I visited the Palais, but after standing like a dope on the front steps for forty minutes, I finally asked someone why they weren't open. We were told that you now purchase tickets and enter from the back of the building. They also now have machines to purchase tickets with a credit card, but I had my cash ready, as this was a must not that long ago. The cash line was longer, however. There is something rather sad about not entering from the front and seeing the grand staircase immediately upon entering. They have also expanded their gift shop and it has some lovely items.

We were then off to visit the two famous department stores, Printemps and Galeries Lafayette. We weren't interested in shopping, but I wanted Valerie to see the beautiful domed ceiling in each and also the panoramic view from the ninth floor of Printemps. I marched her to the middle of the makeup department at the Galeries and told her to look up. Her mouth fell open. She said she couldn't figure out why I was interested in makeup and then she saw why. Also, the balconies overlooking that department are stunning.

We then walked several blocks to have lunch at the lovely Jacquemart-Andre Cafe, also on Haussmann. We had a wonderful lunch and she enjoyed viewing the house. It's one of my favorite places and the first time I've had lunch there.

Our last stop was the Laduree store on the Champs Elysees. This little store is a jewel and I love it there. As usual, the line was out the door. We bought a dessert to take home to our apartment and I also bought another one of their darling canvas/plastic type bags, that I now collect. This one has a picture of a cute little Chihuahua on each side with her name, Mademoiselle Fifi underneath, Love it! We then took the Metro home and enjoyed our wonderful dessert.

Day 4 ... Eiffel Tower/Louvre (Sunday)​

I had pre-purchased tickets for the Eiffel Tower and our arrival time was for 10:30am. We took the RER over and couldn't believe the mass of people everywhere. Also, the street was closed to traffic. Wouldn't you know, they were having a Marathon. We finally worked our way to the tower and up we went. This was actually the first time I'd gone up into the tower and it was fun, but very cold that day.

Then we again took the RER to the Louvre, where we waited in a short line to purchase tickets. My sister is not an art fan and I have been to the Louvre several times, but I really wanted her to see Napoleon's Apartment ... stunning! This is something you should not miss. I then took her to see the Mona Lisa, as I thought it was crazy to visit the Louvre and not see Mona. As expected, she took one look and was done with that. It was raining when we were ready to leave, so we sat inside for a while, waiting for it to stop. We then walked back to the 6th and ate dinner at our favorite Irish Pub. Yes, I know, but I love Fish and Chips and the beer tastes so good with it. Back to our apartment and we crashed for the night.

Day 5 ... Medal's and Lunch with Tessmar (Monday)​

This was our last full day in Paris and we had lots of business to take care of. Our first stop was the Chapel of the Miraculous Medal. I had carried three prayers from different friends to place in the prayer box. When we arrived, a full Mass was taking place and I was unable to reach the box at the front of the Chapel. We could not wait, as we were meeting Marty, (tessmar) and his wife, Sherri for lunch. We had planned to meet at the Luxembourg Gardens at 11:30am, and we didn't want to be late. It was quite a walk to the gardens and we were only about five minutes late. Thank goodness, I had seen Marty's profile picture and walked right up to him near the boat pond. We had planned on meeting last year for dinner in Montepulciano and actually had to stand them up because of our lost luggage and having to drive into Rome to retrieve them that night, so it was nice to finally meet.

Marty had made reservations at a nearby restaurant and we had a very enjoyable time with them. After lunch, we all walked back through the gardens and parted ways. Super nice people. My sister and I needed to get back to the Chapel and, hopefully, place my prayers in the basket.

When we arrived, another mass was about to start, but I was able to deposit my precious packages and say a few prayers myself. This is a very special place for my family and I always become very emotional while there.

We now needed to get back to the apartment to finish packing for our departure at 6:15pm, for the train station. The taxi arrived right on time and all we had to do was wait to board the train.

That Train Ride​

First of all, let me start by thanking everyone who helped me secure these tickets, especially, "Just Travel." Christy went above and beyond, helping me understand the French website and not making any mistakes. Thank you Madame.

Now, I know many of you have really enjoyed the overnight train to Venice, but I was totally unprepared for this miserable adventure. We were able to board the train 45 minutes before departure, which was great. When I opened the door to our little couchette and I do mean little, I was shocked. Little does not describe this room. The Orient Express it's not! I thought we would have seats and the beds would be made up later. We climbed onto the bottom bed, where we ate the dinner we had brought with us. We had no floor space for moving around, as our two suitcases took up all the room. We couldn't even open them to retrieve our PJ's. We couldn't do much, and decided to sleep in our clothes. Since I had just had my surgery a few weeks before, I was unable to climb up into the top bed, so my poor 70 year old sister climbed up and hung on to the strap for dear life for the rest of the night. I had ridden trains before, but never a sleeper train. We were totally unprepared for the movement and severe jerking along the way, which seemed to happen just as we were dozing off. Also, for some reason, I thought this train only stopped in Milan, before moving on to the Mestre and Venice. I believe it made, at least, ten to fifteen stops along the way. I'm not sure either of us got more than an hour sleep, if that.

The only time we saw the porter, was when he picked up our passports and tickets upon departure and right as the train entered the station in Venice. I thought he would come around the next morning to replace the beds, so we could sit comfortably in the seats, but he was never around at all, so we huddled on the bottom bed for four hours until we reached Venice. Also, the bathroom at the end of the car was giving off a very unpleasant odor by morning. Since, I was not allowed to lift anything over 15 pounds, we waited for everyone to exit the car before us. I pushed the two suitcases down to my sister onto the platform, which was not an easy task. This has always been my fear with the trains and luggage. What I would do if my husband wasn't with me. I had warned my sister not to pack too heavy because of the train, but I don't think she quite understood how difficult it was getting the luggage on and off. Of course, there was not one porter around.

As bad as this experience was, we actually know that it will and has given us a lot to laugh about and probably will for many years. No more night trains for me!

That's it. We had a wonderful time and the best memory of all didn't cost a thing. Every night, we would climb into our beds and talk about our day, giggling like the two young girls we once were. It doesn't get any better than that.

Sharon J

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