A November 2003 trip
to Paris by MikeInTown
Quote: I flew to London to join my wife, Traci, who had been there for a week of business meetings. After a day of sightseeing in London, we took the Chunnel to Paris. We spent 5 days in Paris visiting marvelous attractions, eating great meals, and meeting some remarkable people.
One of the most efficient ways to get around in Paris is the metro. It is relatively cheap and can get you to just about anywhere in the city. The metro runs from early morning until around 12:30 or 1am. The concierge at our hotel told us to consider getting a multi-day metro pass. This turned out to be helpful advice. We bought a 3-day Visit Paris metro pass at one of the metro station. The pass came with discount coupons to some popular tourist attractions. In addition, the metro passes can be used on public buses and at several tourist attractions.
Like in many cities, the metro can get extremely crowded during rush hour. At these times, it is pretty much standing room only. The cars near the back of the train were typically less crowded, but even these become packed during rush hour.
Hotel | "Le Faubourg"
Our travel agent had helped me find this hotel. I chose it because of its proximity to some of Paris' major attractions and because it has a fitness center with a treadmill. The treadmill request was from Traci, who ran her first marathon three days after we returned from Paris. The fitness center has a half dozen or so cardio machines. Traci did use the treadmill during our stay. Her only complaint about the fitness center, was that it was located on the bottom floor of the hotel behind a labyrinth of doors and hallways. She said she felt a sense of eerie isolation when she worked out down there alone.
Le Faubourg hotel was fabulous. Upon our arrival, we met Teri who worked at the front desk. He gave us a tour of the hotel and our room. He was very friendly. I practiced speaking French with him each morning before Traci and I headed out for the day.
Our room was medium-sized and nicely decorated. There were terry cloth bathrobes and slippers for both of us. Each evening, the room attendant would turn down our bed, and leave chocolate candy, bottled water, room service menus, and the weather forecast for the next day.
Breakfast, whether eaten in the dining room or ordered via room service, was included in the price of our hotel. This was not a continental breakfast either. It was a ,"Have a seat. May I take your order?," type of breakfast that included eggs, breakfast meats, a bread/pastry basket, fresh fruit cups, freshly squeezed juices, and more. The food was excellent.
The hotel also had a computer with a high-speed Internet connection in one of the lounges. The use of this computer was free of charge. We used it occasionally to check email and once to get directions to one of the restaurants we visited.
Finally, I have to give props to the concierge staff at Le Faubourg. These guys hooked us up with accurate directions, reservations, and great suggestions on how to take advantage of our limited time in Paris.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on September 26, 2004
Le Faubourg Sofitel Demeure
15 RUE BOISSY DANGLAS
Percy was born and raised in the U.S. in Norfolk, Virginia. He has studied at culinary schools and practiced his craft all over the world. He now lives in Paris where he operates his restaurant. Percy combines down-home, southern U.S. cooking with exotic flavors and techniques from all over the world.
Our meal was very good. I had seasoned wings as an appetizer, barbequed spare ribs, and mashed potatoes as my main course, and an exotic key lime pie for dessert. I also had an interesting soft drink with my meal - cactus juice. It was green, tasted citrisy, and a little bitter. I would drink it again but probably would not go out of my way to order it.
We enjoyed our meals but what truly made our evening so special were the nice people we met at Percy's Place. We met the couple seated beside us, Kim and Philipe. Kim was from the U.S. Her career in dance had taken her from Chicago to New York, London, and, finally Paris, where she has been living for over 20 years. Her husband, Philipe is a native Parisian who works in the film industry. We enjoyed listening to their experiences of living in Paris.
We were entertained by a wonderful singer named Stacy and an outstanding keyboard player whose name I've unfortunately forgotten. Stacy sang in English and in French. Audience participation was encouraged. There were two talented women at the end of our table who each sang songs in French and English. There was also French male model sitting at the end of our table. Not only did he have a nice voice, but someone had a copy of an advertisement he had posed for. This guy was definitely a hit with the ladies. Eventually, Percy came out and sang a song. He had everyone dancing and clapping their hands.
By the end of the evening, I ended up playing a tune on the keyboard. Afterwards, I accompanied Percy as he sang a blues song. I guess you could call it my first international performance :).
Percy also asked me to accompany him on a gospel song but it was after midnight and I knew that the metro was going to stop running soon. We said goodbye to Percy and all the other wonderful people we met. Kim and Philipe offered to drive us back to our hotel but I thanked them and declined since we had already paid for an aller retour (round-trip) metro ticket. We all exchanged email information. Percy's Place turned out to be a great way to spend our first evening in Paris.
15, rue d'Auteil (16e)
Paris, France 75016
01 42 88 14 44
Traci and I were the only patrons of the restaurant that evening. The only other people there were the lady who owns the restaurant and a cook. Neither one of them spoke English, and my French was extremely limited.
The interior of Kamukera was nicely decorated with an orange, red, and yellow color scheme. There were African and Caribbean paintings on the walls. There was club and dance music playing on the stereo.
Traci and I thought we'd use the dictionary at the back of our phrase book to determine what items were on the menu. Unfortunately, none of the items were in the dictionary. They were African and Caribbean dishes, so, even if we could translate them, we still didn't stand much of a chance of figuring out what they were. The owner tried to describe them for us, but my French vocabulary was much too limited to understand what she was saying. I could see she was getting frustrated, but she smiled anyway.
The only things I recognized on the menu were beans, rice, potatoes, and chicken. I figured that you can't go wrong with chicken. There were three chicken dishes on the menu, so Traci and I chose two of them for our main course and a sampler plate of appetizers. One of the chicken dishes was citrusy and the other was spicy. I'm not sure what was on the appetizer sampler plate other than plantains. Most of the items were breaded and fried. Some of these fritters contained vegetables and some contained meat. Overall, the food was okay.
Member Rating 2 out of 5 on September 26, 2004
113, rue du Chevaleret
Paris, France 75013
01 53 61 25 05
Restaurant | "Jules Verne Restaurant"
We took the metro to the Eiffel Tower for our Jules Verne lunch. We were crammed into a little elevator and taken to the restaurant at the second stage of the tower. I felt a little out of place because the other people on the elevator were wearing suits and dresses. Traci and I were dressed casually. I could understand wearing suits and dresses for dinner, but for lunch? I felt a little better when the couples at the tables next to us were also dressed casually.
The meal was outstanding and the view was great. Traci had lobster in some type of sweet sauce as her first course. She talked about that lobster dish for the rest of the day. I had a delicious pastry stuffed with crabmeat and covered with cream sauce as my first course. For my main course, I had some incredible prawns. Traci had ordered sea bass but didn't like it. She told the waiter and this seemed to alarm the maitre'd. He came over to our table very concerned and asking all types of questions like, "Is it not to your liking, Madame? Is there some way we can make it more suitable to your taste?"
This place is all about customer satisfaction. He eventually took it back and allowed Traci to order another fish dish. This one was superb.
The course I enjoyed most was, by far, the dessert. It was made of pineapple and some other sweet goodies. I could have eaten that all day.
We were extremely pleased with our lunch at Jules Verne. We were there for almost three hours. This was my first time dining in a restaurant that is in such demand. It was also the first time I've experienced the type of bill that comes along with this type of dining. The bill for this lunch was almost as much as my round trip plane ticket from Philadelphia to London. Ouch!
2e étage de la Tour Eiffel (sud)
Paris, France 75007
+33 1 45 55 61 44
The Eiffel Tower is impressive to look at up close. I enjoyed standing under it and looking straight up at its web of iron. There are four elevators, one in each leg, that ascend and descend the tower; although, not all of them go to the top. We bought tickets for the elevator that goes to the top. It makes stops at the first and second platforms at the base of the tower before heading to the top. There was barely a wait to board the elevator. I'm sure the rain had something to do with it.
It was cold, windy, and rainy at the top. We took a few pictures of the magnificent view from the top and then headed inside where it was warm and dry. There are souvenir shops, exhibits, and restaurants at each of the elevator stops in the tower. There is even a world-class restaurant at the second stage of the tower called Jules Verne. It has its own private elevator. People make dinner reservations at this restaurant months in advanced. I tried to get a dinner reservation at Jules Verne before we got on the elevator to ascend the tower, but the host chuckled and told me there was no way I could get a dinner reservation during my stay unless I had reserved a table months in advance. He pretty much gave me the same reply when I asked him about lunch, but I'll discuss Jules Verne later in this trip report.
Traci and I spent several hours exploring the tower and its history exhibits. Around 5pm, the rain stopped and gave us the opportunity to see Paris from the top of the Eiffel Tower as the sun began to set. It was a beautiful sight to see all the city lights illuminated beneath us. The Eiffel Tower is also adorned with thousands of lights. Sometimes the lights shine orange and other times the lights flash white in a random fashion, making the tower appear to sparkle from a distance.
Champ De Mars
Attraction | "Versailles"
I was interested in seeing Versaille because I remember sitting in my high school French class while my teacher told us about this lavish palace. It was originally a hunting lodge for Louis XIII, but became the official royal palace of Louis XIV after his father's death in the late 1600s. The palace has remained and is now open for tourists to see how the French royalty lived during the 17th and 18th centuries.
My advice to anyone visiting Versaille is to bring good walking shoes and never visit on a Monday! Traci and I traveled to Versaille only to discover that the main chateau is closed on Mondays! How did I miss that in the brochure? Anyway, the huge gardens and the smaller Trianon palaces are open on Mondays. We decided to check these attractions out and maybe come back another day to see the chateau. Somehow, I think both of us knew we would not have time to make it back again on this trip.
The gardens of Versaille seem to stretch forever in all directions. There are fountains and statues all over the place. We toured the Petit Trianon and the Grand Trianon. These buildings served as mini-palaces. They are lavishly decorated with 17th- and 18th-century furniture and paintings. Unfortunately, no photographs were allowed in these buildings. However, it is really worth the trip to see these places. Again, bring good walking shoes or buy a ticket for the tram because it is a long walk on sand and gravel from the chateau to the Trianons. You can rent bicycles but we didn't know this until after we had already spent several hours walking through the gardens and touring the buildings. The area in front of the chateau requires a good amount of walking over cobblestone. Our feet were already aching from walking through the gardens all day. The cobblestone really did us in.
Finally, since Versaille requires a lot of walking outdoors through gravel and sand, avoid visiting this attraction on rainy days. Fortunately, we were there on a sunny day. I just wished it wasn't Monday.
Palace of Versailles (Chateau de Versailles)
20 Km Sw Of Paris
01 30 83 78 00
Attraction | "Seine Boat Tour"
This trip was absolutely beautiful. We were cruising the river just as the sun was setting, and the city lights were beginning to shine. We saw Notre Dame Cathedral, Place de la Concorde, the Louvre, La Sarbonne University, Invalides, and many other historical buildings. The inside of the boat was heated and had large windows while the outside was subjected to the chilly air as the boat moved along the river. Despite the chilly air, I spent much of the cruise outside with my video camera filming the sights. I highly recommend seeing Paris this way.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on September 26, 2004
Seine Boat Tours / Dinner Cruise
Attraction | "Notre Dame"
By the time we left Notre Dame, it was beginning to get dark. As Traci and I strolled along the streets, I could hear the bells of Notre Dame ringing; I could smell the pastries as we passed the numerous bakeries; and I could see the boats on the Seine River go under the bridges. It was at that moment I smiled and said to myself, "Wow! I am actually in Paris."
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on September 26, 2004
6, place du Parvis-de-Notre-Dame
Paris, France 75004
+33 (1) 42 34 56 10
We met our tour guide (Ricki Stevenson) and the tour group at Chez Clément Cafe for lunch. There were eight of us in all. Ricki is a former newscaster from the U.S. and has been living and working in Paris for six years as a journalist and tour guide. She ran down the names of some famous blacks that made Paris their home or visited often. Some of the people she told us about were Josephine Baker, Sally Hemings, Sidney Bechet, W.E.B. Dubois, and Langston Hughes. The information Ricki gave us at lunch was pretty much the bulk of our black history lesson for the day. The rest of the tour was dedicated to shopping, sightseeing, and insights into Parisian culture today.
We began our tour at the Paris Opera house that was across the street from the cafe. Next, we took the metro to the garment district. The garment district is where clothes are made and shipped to retailers all over the world. You really have to be careful that you are not run over by the guys rolling the clothes racks through the streets. The vendors generally do not sell to individuals - only retailers.
We all hopped on a public bus with Ricki and headed to a section of town referred to as Little Africa. This area is inhabited by mainly immigrants from Africa. Just about every country in Africa is represented here. We went to an open-air market where all kinds of foods, from produce to seafood, were being sold. Just beyond the market were garment shops, cafes, and beauty saloons. The market and cafes were starting to fill up because the sun had already set. It was Ramadan and many of the Muslims had been fasting from sun up to sunset. As we walked by the neighborhood mosque, we saw the men putting on there shoes and heading out into the streets.
Our tour continued by taking a bus to Sacre Coeur Basilica, where we got a great view of Paris at night. From there, we rode a bus down the winding streets behind Sacre Coeur. The area behind the church reminded me of San Francisco. When we got off the bus, we were two blocks from the Moulin Rouge. Ricki gave us some history of the area and told us this was the end of the tour. We all said our goodbyes to our new friends and wished them a bon voyage. After snapping a picture of the Moulin Rouge, Traci and I hopped on the metro and headed back to our hotel.
Black Paris Tour
+33 1 46 37 03 96
Attraction | "Louvre"
The interior of the Louvre is beautiful. It still looks like a palace. We saw ancient Greek and Roman sculptures. We saw huge Renaissance paintings, and, eventually, the Mona Lisa. It was encased in glass. There were a lot of people in front of it taking photos. After looking at the Mona Lisa and snapping pictures, Traci and I were thinking the same thing - "It's nice but why has this painting received so much attention throughout history?"
After seeing the Mona Lisa, Traci and I decided we had had enough culture for one morning and headed out of the Louvre. On the way out, we also checked out the African, Asian, and Latin American exhibits. The things that impressed us the most with these exhibits were the carvings.
Musée du Louvre
99, rue de Rivoli
Paris, France 75001
+33 (1) 40 20 51 51