The Adventures of BJ and Tony Morris

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Paris, France
November 2009
"Paris on a zillion dollars a day"

For the past 18 years or so, our Thanksgiving tradition has been to take a niece and/or nephew on a trip to Europe. We have always tried to travel with a "real" parent to make sure that we knew what to say yes and no to. Its not really necessary now that the "kids" are adults, but we all really enjoy being with the other families. One of our very best friends and her son were able to take the trip with us this year. All of the kids, now in college, thought they would be able to miss a few classes and still maintain their grade point average so we planned our trip to Paris.

We added a slight complication to the trip by adopting a puppy the week before we left. Lucy, while absolutely adorable, is not yet house-trained so we were afraid we might have trouble finding someone who could keep her while we were gone. My sister thought it would be a fair trade if she took care of Lucy while we took her kids to Paris. She even planned to take Lucy to school with her where she teaches.

The week before we were to leave, BJ thought to ask her sister whether the kids passports were valid.  Oopsy!  Lauren's passport expired November 4th, so Lauren and Tony had the added adventure of flying to Washington D.C. to get her passport renewed the Tuesday before we were to leave on Saturday.

The flights to Paris looked really wide open (that's airline lingo for lots of available seats) until a week or so before we left. Aside from airline employees, who flies to Paris on the spur of the moment?  Thankfully Delta flies to Paris out of cities other than Atlanta so we were able to make a connection through Cincinnati. We took an early flight to CVG and after lunch at Max & Erma's, we spent the afternoon in the Sky Club, giving the kids a chance to study while we waited for the flight. 

We were hoping that we would all get to sit in Business Class but it was not to be. The kids had to rough it in the economy section while Tony and BJ were wined and dined up front. We watched "The Hangover" and "500 Days of Summer". BJ tried to watch "The Proposal" but fell asleep.

One of the passengers in the coach section was convinced that our niece and nephew were a couple and kept telling them what a romantic city Paris is. They didn't have the heart to burst his bubble by telling him that they are brother and sister. They later regretted telling us about this, since we picked at them about it throughout the trip.

Our friends were traveling on a higher priority than we were so they took the flight from Atlanta, arriving ahead of us in Paris. They found the train station and got our tickets into town while they waited for our flight to arrive. There was a "buy 10, get 2 free" special going on, so they bought our return fare as well to take advantage of the special.  The cost for the round trip train ride was 65 ($98).

We took the RER B line to Saint-Michel/Notre-Dame station and then transferred to the RER C line, exiting at Pont de Alma. From there, it was a little bit of a walk to get to the hotel.

Finding a reasonably priced hotel in Paris had been a bit of a challenge. We took a recommendation from Rick Steves' guide and settled on the 2 star Hotel Kensington at 78/night ($117). We have said before that we are not 2 star people, but for the right price we can sacrifice a little comfort. The Kensington was conveniently located in the rue Cler neighborhood where we had stayed on a previous trip. The hotel was a rather unimaginative place with tiny rooms and even tinier bathrooms but it was clean and adequate for our needs. Our room, on the noisy front side of the hotel, was equipped with a small double bed. There was a view of the Eiffel Tower if you sat on the window sill and leaned out. The other two rooms on the back side of the hotel with their pushed-together twin beds had barely enough room to walk around the beds. There was only one electrical outlet in the entire room so charging all of our electronic devices was a bit of a challenge but we had two extension cords so we were able to kluge together a fire hazard that would suffice.

Check-in time was not until noon, so we dropped our bags and went for a walk. We were surprised to find rue Cler bustling with activity even though it was Sunday. Fruit stands and Antique stores spilled out onto the pedestrian street. We went in search of a beverage and a snack. We were surprised at the prices posted in the windows. Things were much more expensive than we remembered. We found La Tour Maubourg had reasonable prices in the window, but once seated, we realized that the window prices were only for take-away. We were already seated so we ordered beers and snacks. The waiter apologized that there was no cook so the food on the menu was not available. We got a baguette and some jam to go with our beers. The total came to 44 ($66). We finished our snack and kept looking for something more substantial. We stopped at the Campanella where we got a variety of uninspired Croques and Terrines with salmon, goat cheese, chicken and ham. The total for this less than adequate feast was 100 ($150).

Back at the hotel, we checked in and agreed to meet in an hour. Some napped while others showered and then we were ready to hit the town. We took a brisk walk to the Notre Dame. The weather was overcast and chilly but the long walk warmed us. 


When we got to Notre Dame, afternoon Mass was in progress. We were surprised that they let tourists mill around the cathedral during the worship service. 


We had planned to follow Rick Steve's Historic Paris Walk, but the long walk to the Notre Dame and the drizzly weather dampened our spirits so we decided to stop at the Cafe le Cardinal St. Germain to enjoy the ambiance of Paris over a few glasses of wine. The cost of wine was slightly more reasonable than coffee or beer.  The total for this stop was 33 ($50).  We were surprised that dusk came early. We caught the subway back to the Eiffel Tower for a nighttime view. At 6 o'clock every evening, the lighted Eiffel Tower started sparkling and shimmering. 


After a few snapshots, we walked back to our neighborhood and found the little pizza place La Gourmandise around the corner. We devoured the pizza and a few "pichets" of vin rouge for 103 ($155). The one drawback to the restaurant was that it did not seem to have a restroom, so some of us had to run around the corner to our room.

Back at the hotel after dinner, we gathered in BJ and Tony's room to review the day. Ours had the most room since it had the smaller bed.  Total for day one = 579 ($870).

First on our agenda the next morning was to climb the Eiffel Tower. 


Tony wanted to take the elevator up, but the long line convinced him to join the rest of us on the stairs. It cost 9 ($14) for adults to climb the tower while those under 25 were only charged 4,5 ($7). We didn't understand why the fat old folks had to pay a premium to make the climb while the athletic youth got a discount. The climb wasn't bad at all. We made it to the 1st level with very little effort and got a birds eye view of the city as it spread out before us.


 By the time we got to the 2nd level, it had started to drizzle and the wind had picked up. A video showing how much the tower swayed in the wind convinced us that we didn't want to take the elevator to the tippy tip top.

We found a nice little patissrie for breakfast. A few pastries, a couple of coffees and the requisite Diet Cokes for the addicts set us back 40 ($60).


We took the Metro to the artsy little section of Montmartre, touring two churches and stopping at a few tourist shops. We took a break at Croq' Minute Creperie for some frites and beers.  There went 50 ($75).


We wound our way to the little square where artists were painting scenes of Paris and portraits of tourists. 


As we walked down to see the vineyard, it started to rain so we stopped into the little wine bar Au Reve. 


44 ($66) Euro later, the rain had slacked up so we continued our walk toward the Moulin Rouge. 

A quick jaunt through the raunchy Pigalle section led us to a Metro station. We took the metro back to the Arc de Triomphe, forgetting that we had put it on the schedule for the next night. BJ had carefully planned out our visits to the museums and monuments to take advantage of the 2 day Museum pass on Tuesday and Wednesday. Oops, there went another 40 ($60).

Again, the 18-24 year old crowd got a break on the price of the climb while the old far... folks paid full price. The view from the Arc was worth the price of admission though, as we gazed at the city and watched the cars hurrying around the traffic circle.

Dinner was on rue Cler at the Italian restaurant Tribeca. The lasagna was delicious as was the cream pasta with pears. The pizza was decent, but the risotto was not recommended. The meal with a few carafes of house wine came to 96 ($144).

We decided on a night cap at O'Brien's Irish Pub afterward. Beers were 7 ($10) each so we didn't stay too long.  Total for day two = 644 ($966).

Tuesday, we took a walk down the famous Champs Elysees. 

We were hoping for a quaint little patisserie for breakfast, but no such luck. We passed through the Christmas market that was being set up and wound up at the Ferris wheel. 


We walked around until we found a non-descript little place for breakfast. It set us back about 40 ($60).  Next on the agenda was D'Orsay where we bought our 32 ($48) 2 day museum passes. We enjoyed the beautiful paintings and sculptures for a couple of hours. 




When we left, it was drizzling again so we found the Buisson D' Argent where we enjoyed beers and frites. BJ reached in her backpack for the Rick Steves' book and realized that she had left it at D'Orsay where she bought the museum passes. She hurried back and was relieved when the lady behind the desk saw her come in and held it up.  She got back just in time for the check which was another 98 ($147).

Next was the Rodin Museum. After the sensory overload at D'Orsay, the Rodin museum housed a refreshingly small collection of sculptures, many outside in the gardens. We had fun posing like statues while admiring the talent that went into creating them.



Dusk was upon us so we decided to head toward the river to take a ride on the Bateaux Mouches. The cost of the cruise was 10 ($15) each.  The temperature dropped significantly when the sun went down and the breeze off of the river chilled us through and through. 


Our view of the sights of Paris was blocked by a family of obnoxious tourists intent on taking pictures of each other in front of every monument. It became rather humorous after awhile to watch them jockey for position and block everyone's view.


Dinner was once again on rue Cler, this time at Le Cafe du Marche.  

We couldn't really recommend it. The chicken was dry and the portions were small. At 90 ($135) though, it was one of the less expensive meals we had on the trip.  Jared tried the duck which surprised us since he has pet ducks at home. We thought that was kind of like eating your young!

We stopped by the Greek Restaurant Ulysse En Gaule for banana nutella crepes on the way back to the hotel. Once again, we discovered the price differential between sitting down inside to eat and standing up outside. The indoor price was 6 ($9) while it cost only 4 ($6) outside, making the cost for six people to sit down for a few minutes $18!  Including wine, the dessert stop set us back 53 ($80).  This was our most expensive day at 767 ($1150).


The only souvenir my sister asked for from the trip was a picture of the kids worthy of sending in her Christmas cards. The weather was a little nicer on Wednesday morning so we trekked back over to the Eiffel tower to try for another shot.  Hopefully one of these shots will satisfy her.  She's known to be very particular about the Christmas picture, sometimes taking hundreds of shots to get just the right one.


We considered taking the train to Versailles but decided that if we did the Louvre and L'Orangerie that would be enough for the day. We had breakfast at the same little patissrie where we had eaten on Monday.  Cha Ching.  40 ($60) again for pastries, coffee and Diet Cokes.  A small cup of coffee at 3,20 ($4.80) didn't even include a refill.  This even makes Starbucks seem like a bargain.  

Speaking of bargains, Lauren bargained with one of the vendors near the metro station to get 5 souvenir Eiffel Tower keychains for 1 ($1.50)!   We took the Metro to the Louvre. We set a 2 hour time limit and agreed to meet back outside the entrance. Everyone went their separate ways to explore the museum. 


It was complete sensory overload.  We saw the famous Winged Victory,  the Crown Jewels, Venus de Milo and numerous paintings and sculptures by the old masters.






Art wasn't just in frames on the walls, but on the ceilings as well.  



There were plenty of opportunities for BJ's posing like statues collection, but since we had split up, she had no photographer to capture her poses.



The most crowded room was the salon that housed the Mona Lisa.  It was difficult to get close enough for her to get a good look at you.


We had agreed to meet back in the mall near the Apple store where there was free WI-FI!  The drawback to this meeting place was that it was apparently against the rules to sit down, even on the floor.  A guard came by and insisted that we stand up.  A few had reached their art saturation point long before the rest, so they had a lot of standing to do.  

Next was L'Orangerie. Again, a small museum and a welcome break from the overwhelming Louvre. We basked in peace of the quiet oval rooms amongst the water lilies and then explored the rooms of impressionist paintings downstairs. A quick stop in the museum shop for a print or two and we were back on the street.


Tony split off from the group for some alone time.  The rest of us found the little (and I do mean little) cafe Les delices du Fournil for some lunch. It was a bargain at 70 ($105). Of course, there were only 5 of us at this point.

We meandered our way back to the hotel to interrupt Tony's alone time and relaxed at the hotel until it was time for dinner, back at Tribecca. 

A couple of us had the gnocchi, which was delicious.  Most everyone else had pizza.  With wine, the meal was 120 ($180).  The total for our last day was 464 ($696).

After dinner, we decided to give the kids a little freedom on their last night in Paris. BJ thought it was a mistake after the previous year's misbehavior but she was overruled. We gave them a midnight curfew which they CLAIM they adhered to. At least they got their story straight and all gave the same answer when we asked them what time they came in (since none of the adults were still awake at midnight!). They did seem a bit tired when we got them up for the trip back to the airport the next morning.

Thanksgiving morning, we left the hotel around 9:30AM for our 1:40PM flight. We like to be compulsively early to the airport to be safe.

We caught the RER C at Pont d'Alma and connected with the RER B at Saint-Michel/Notre-Dame. Rick Steves had warned us to be sure to get on a train that showed the CDG airport as a stop. We had difficulty understanding the schedule but we thought we were on the right train. We were a little nervous until we took the correct fork on the train line.

We had to get off of the train at Terminal 1 and take the CDGVAL to Terminal 2. Check-in took a little while since our agent was training another agent. Ground handling for Delta is done by Air France so we don't really have much visibility into "the competition" (other standby passengers). We've heard horror stories about mishandled standbys so we were hoping to be boarded in the correct order.

Tony and BJ both lost corkscrews at the security checkpoint. In the US, it is permissible to carry a corkscrew without a knife. Not so in most European countries.

The Sky Club in Paris is also run by Air France. They told us that do not allow the use of Sky Club membership while traveling stand-by but decided to let us in anyway. Inside, we found another stand-by passenger for our flight. We shared stories of our trip. BJ tried to use the WI-FI to check on our position on the stand-by list but by the time she got connected it was time to head for the gate. 

At the gate, the agent waited until the last minute to clear the stand-bys. Our entire party was seated in business class so we were happy. Both BJ and Tony were randomly selected for another search. They ruffled through our bags and then gave us what BJ calls "the massage". They patted us down, rubbing their hands over intimate body parts and then passed a wand over our arms and legs.

The flight home was a long one, giving us time to watch a number of movies: 500 Days of Summer, Adam, Away We Go, Imagine That, the rest of The Proposal.

Another great (albeit expensive) trip!  The total spend for the six of us for the 4 day trip was 2455 ($3683) plus airfare.  Stay tuned.  There'll be more travel once we have saved up some money!

Destination Information For This Trip In A Nutshell