7.17.2017

10 Things To Do in Paris

I landed in Stuttgart on Saturday morning, and we were on a Sunday 12pm train to Paris.  We were so darn close to missing that train too.  We ignored our alarms.  I was tired, confused about what clothes to bring, and I just couldn't get it together.  We were all but running to the train, and of course our seats were in the part of the train waaaay down at the end.  I didn't know exactly what time it was, but I could tell that train was about to take off and had we shown up 1 minute later we wouldn't have been on it.
That croquette was so good!!!
But we made it! We spent four days, three nights in Paris, and I was jet lagged the entire time.  I was wide awake at 3am, ready to face plant at 6pm, and just generally tired much of the time in between.  I pushed through except for that one nap I took on our last full day there after a long day in Versailles.

Nobody comes to Paris to sleep. 


View from our hotel room

side view of the hotel

10 THINGS TO DO IN PARIS

Stay in a teeny tiny hotel.  There are reasonably priced hotels to be had in Paris.  Maybe not in the 1st Arrondissement, and even pricey ones will likely be pretty small, but tiny hotels are typical of Paris, and as long as it's clean and you have a place to lay your head at night it's fine.  Hotel Eiffel Saint Charles where we stayed is in the 15th.  The hallways were narrow and the elevator barely fit the two of us and our luggage.  The room had a wardrobe closet, but no drawers.  This is when traveling with packing cubes comes in handy.  The bathroom was miniature.  Our room was the size of a postage stamp, but it had everything we needed.  They even put us in the same exact room we were in five years ago.  We had five cities to book, and I was over it, so I didn't even bother to look elsewhere.  I already knew it was clean, reasonably priced, near all the train stations we would need, and walking distance from the Eiffel Tower.  Hotel Eiffel St Charles is our Paris home away from home.  We've stayed there twice.  I can say that now! There are pics of the hotel room in the link at the bottom.

Visit The Catacombs of Paris.  It's cold, dark, damp, and is full of history.  132 steps down a spiral staircase is hallway after hallway lined with bones.   It's pretty fascinating, and you won't be the only one interested in seeing it up close.  The line snaked around the entire block, and it was HOT.  I read that this would be the case so I reserved tickets on Headout.com.  With a printed reservation we were able to pick up the tickets down the street from the little tobacco shop next to McDonald's.  We walked right up to the front and got right in.  I've got this odd fascination with all things dark and creepy.  I've been to Catacombs of Naples and the Catacombs of Rome so the Catacombs of Paris had to be seen.   If I had to pic my favorite catacombs it would be Naples.


Ride many, many trains.  Most of them will smell of body odor, but they get you where you need to go, and it's just the reality of public transportation on a hot humid day.  There are a few stations and trains with air conditioning but the majority are not.  The humidity of Paris was really unexpected.  I think I may have been one of those stinky people on the train.  The first thing I did when we checked in our hotel was take a shower.  Then I had to take another one after the Catacombs.  We were on trains every single day.  I still don't know how to ride them.  My husband did all the work.

Eat a typical European breakfast.  You don't really see eggs, bacon and pancakes at most of the cafe's in Paris.  You also won't see any Splenda or Stevia.  Europe seems to be the land of carbs.  It's bread based foods for breakfast and lunch in most casual bars and cafes.  For breakfast on our first day we had hot bread, jam and coffee. 
The Louvre
Hop on Hop off Bus Tour.  The trains are cool for getting from point A to point B, and your legs can only take you so far, so a good way to see a lot of the city is on a tourist bus.  We did one with 8 stops and paid about 2 € extra for the ability to hop on and off at any of those stops we wanted to.  You just sit back, relax, and listen to the pre recorded vocal tour in the ear buds you get with your tickets.


Eat lunch on the Champs De Elysess.  At the end of the street you will find the Arc Di Triomph.  You have to go there, so you might as well stop for lunch when you get hungry.  There are plenty of restaurants to choose from.  This was our only hop off of our bus tour.  The plan was to buy one item of clothing from Paris.  Probably a shirt.  I went into Zara and H & M and discovered something odd.  All the clothes were weird.  By weird I probably mean fashion forward...and fashion forward I am not.  Maybe these things just haven't hit the US markets yet, but I was hard pressed to find a single thing that appealed to me.
A must see show!!!
See Moulin Rouge, C'est Feerie.  I took one look at the ticket price and figured I'd pass, but MJ said, if you want to do it we should do it, and so we did it.  I bought the tickets here.  We went to a 9pm showing.  The theater is super nice.  Everyone is seated at tables and packed in pretty tight so it's not typical theater seating.  I hear if you order dinner you get seated closer to the stage, but I didn't want to spent that much money and I heard the food wasn't the greatest.  One woman had on this magnificent red dress, and there were some others pretty dressed up, but we were not.  We knew to stay away from shorts, sneakers, and flip flops, but that jeans are okay.  The show was fantastic, and in my opinion worth the money.  Some of it was topless.  Small breasts were very appreciated by casting, and every single performer had a fantastic body.  Male and female.  There were abs and pecs popping all over the place.  There were only two songs that weren't in french.  There were three specialty acts.  One involving snakes, another involving roller skates, and a comedian, but it was basically a variety show made up mostly of group numbers.  The costumes were absolutely beautiful.  The singing and choreography was great.  We tried, but we could not finish the bottle of champagne that we got as an extra with our tickets.  Moulin Rouge is in the bad part of town, but as soon as you step out of Blanche metro train station the theater is in your face.  You don't have to walk far so if you take the train there isn't a lot of time above ground for you to be mugged, harassed, or whatever else supposedly happens in the red light district.


Visit the Palace of Versailles.  I was kind of on the fence about this one because it is a full day affair.  Versailles is a 45 min train ride from city center, but it was only about 20 minutes from our hotel.  I wasn't sure if I wanted to wake up at the crack of dawn and spend one of our precious days outside of Paris.  If you plan on heading to Versailles you have to go early or maybe don't go at all.  The tour  buses show up around 9am right when they open and it's all over from there.  All it takes is a bus or two and the line is almost out of control and the palace is packed.  We woke up at 6:30am to be there by 8:30am.  After a late night at Moulin Rouge.  Sigh.  But it was the only way.  The tour prices are super expensive, and I read with some of them (not all so be careful) you get right in and avoid the long security line, but I really didn't want a tour.  At 8:30am there were only a small clump of people in front of us at the security line to enter, and a small group waiting for the ticket office to open.  On our way out the line was snaking back and forth full of people waiting in the hot sun.  The early bird really does get the worm on this one.  It was a rough wake up, but I'm glad we went.  We didn't want to stand in a line to buy tickets so I bought them on my phone.  You do have to print them so I ordered tickets online direct from Palace of Versailles, and emailed them to the hotel for printing.  The website is kind of complicated because there are all these different things to do on different days, and different ticket options, but basically buy the Passport ticket and you have access to Palace and Gardens.  The palace is impressive, but the Garden of Versailles is what really makes the place so special.  If I ever go back to Paris I would actually like to skip the Palace and just spend a day hanging out in the Garden.  There is a lake, restaurants, and food stands.  The grounds are very peaceful and make for a really nice walk.  It is the biggest garden I've ever seen in my life.  It's so so beautiful.  Pictures really don't do it justice.   
Duck, Beef, Dessert
Eat dinner at a traditional french restaurant.  We ate outdoors where they pack everyone in all tight.  On our first night I had a croquette and pom frites at a brasserie.  Oh my goodness.  It was so good.  I'll admit, I was ready to have another one two nights later, but MJ had other plans.  He made reservations at Le Tournebievre, which is right across from the Palace of Notre Dame.  I was a little disappointed that I wouldn't be getting that croquette, but it was nice to get some protein, and dinner was delicious.  From start to finish we enjoyed every bite and I am so glad MJ convinced me to get dessert.  It turns out that cassolette de fondant au chocolat, 55% sans gluten is actually good old fashioned Molten Chocolate Lava Cake, and it was so good.


Sit in the grass at the foot of the Eiffel Tower and wait for her to light up.  I considered going up.  Maybe if I'd felt like it and there was no line we would have, but I didn't want to buy tickets in advance and be pinned down to a certain time.  I just wasn't really that vested in going inside.  Maybe next time.  I would have been all over the bottle of wine that many tried to sell us that night.  It is such a great hustle, but we were stuffed from dinner.  If I ever go back to Paris, that is probably the only other thing left that I really want to do.  Picnic dinner and wine at the foot of the Eiffel Tower.  It doesn't even seem to be a tourist thing.  There were plenty of locals hanging out.  The days are so long that you have to wait a while for the lights to come on, but when they do everyone cheers and it's pretty spectacular.  It was really the perfect end to our time in Paris. 

Our first trip to Paris was rainy and quite chilly, so I'm really glad we got to go again.  We could not escape the rain this time either but at least it was scattered.  The plan was to try not to do too much.  Catacombs, Moulin Rouge, and Versailles were the only major activities, but even still our days were filled.

We've been back in Stuttgart for five days and we are off to our next trip today.  I'm finally going to Greece! It is the place I've wanted to visit for a long time.

Related:  Our First Trip to Paris


7.06.2017

Plenty of Time for a Melt Down


My fourth of July came a little early.  At least that's what it felt like.  As the weekend approached I was wondering if I'd bitten off a little more than I could chew.  For a normal person, no big deal, but I'm not a normal person.  I'm a highly anxious traveler so having people over, then hopping on plan for a weekend trip, then coming home to get ready for another trip is kind of a lot for me to take in.  My parents arrived on Saturday.  My older sister and nephew arrived on Tuesday night.  They all drove back to Vegas on Thursday morning.  My little sister along with her husband and my niece arrived in Vegas on Thursday night, and I followed them all to Vegas on Friday evening.



The thing is.  I couldn't miss it.  I was really disappointed thinking that they might be coming out while I was gone and was thrilled to find out I'd still be here, so I didn't hesitate to get my tickets booked.  I couldn't miss out on seeing my little sis and I couldn't miss out on a family gathering.  They are just too few and far between.  I did see all the adults in April, but again.  It's rare.


I made a detailed packing list in Word a month in advance and carried it around with me so I could revise as needed.  I packed for Vegas the weekend before, but started packing for Germany three weeks in advance because when you work full time you don't really have three weeks.  You have three weekends.  I made multiple lists and checked them a million times twice. I ran around buying things I needed.  I started taking my trash to work.  I know.  Weird right?  I don't have neighbors to bring the trash bins in and it's never a good idea to piss off the HOA.  I got some cleaning done the day everyone left, and when Friday evening rolled around I was ready.  To bad my plane wasn't.  One hour delay.  Super annoying, because this is the 3rd time out of the last three times I've flown to Vegas, but one hour is a heck of a lot better than four.  C'mon Southwest I really like you, but you are testing my patience.

I went shopping with my mom.  She worked out with me.  We all went to the fair.  By the time I made it to Vegas on Friday night everyone was pretty close to winding down for bed, but by Saturday night we were dancing in the streets.  Literally.  My parents have great neighbors.  They borrow each other's hoses and pull trash bins in for each other.  They also do block parties.  I haven't been to a block party since like the 1980's.  It was fantastic.  Everyone set up their little tables with food.  Someone was on the grill doing burgers and hotdogs.  There was music.  Someone set off fireworks.  The drinks were flowing.  People were mingling.  I danced with my parents in the cul de sac and we were having such a great time it was hard to break away, but I had to hit the strip.  It's a must do on every visit.


It was hot.  Like 90 degrees at night and 103 degrees during the day hot, but I tell you what, I love those warm nights.  We grabbed an uber with one goal in mind.  Have one drink on the strip at Fat Bar.  That's it.  And the thing about the strip is that it's so massive it could take you a few hours to accomplish.  We got dropped off near the Bellagio.  The fountain show wasn't happening yet and it was late, so we headed straight to Fat Bar. I don't know why everyone followed me (of all people) off the strip, but I guess I was the ring leader so follow me they did.  Someone (not me) realized that we weren't on the strip.  We rerouted, had our drink, and ubered home.  I think we made it back around 1:00am.  I could be wrong on the time, because I had a little too much sangria at the block party, but it was pretty late.



My sister and I got our nails did.  I haven't had a manicure in like three years.  This is a big deal.  We grabbed lunch at the Habit.  We ate yogurt at Golden Spoon.  We hung out.  I booked by flight for as late as possible Sunday night, but before we knew it my parents were driving me to the airport.  It was a quick trip and I didn't pull into my driveway until about 1:00am.  Work the next day was pretty much hell on earth, but it was worth it.

The 4th of July was my recovery day.  Tuesday.  I regrouped.  Slept.  Did laundry.  There were more last minute things this week.  I'm getting ready to leave the country and I can't find my wallet.  Still calm. The good people at Madewell were kind enough to email me, but I realized my mistake when I went back to work and couldn't find it.  Get the key to the house sitter.  Mail that box to the husband.  Make sure the fence gate is locked.  One last trip to Target.   Is four pairs of jeans too much?  How about 15 tank tops? But I'm calm.  The suitcases are all but sealed shut.  I trust the process.  I trust my list.  The anxious traveler in me seems to have left the building.  There is still plenty of time for a melt down, but I'm hoping it won't come to that.  I'm ready for my next adventure.

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