Paris In A Day

Yesterday was our one full day in Paris, and we were determined to see as much as we could. After a breakfast of fresh strawberries from a market on Rue Cler and pastries from the bakery next door to out hotel, we walked 3 blocks to Champ du Mar, the large park in front of the Eiffel Tower. We had decided this was not a day to wait in lines and passed on going to the top. I did take photos from every possible angle, as well as things that caught my eye in the park.

From there we crossed the Seine and walked to the Arch de Triumph – Matt kept track of the embassies along the way, and I photographed beautiful doors. At the Arch we jut sat and watched the traffic for awhile. It is utterly amazing how all of the cars, trucks and buses go around the circle with no marked lanes and not run into each other. You have to see it to believe.

After walking down part of the Champs-Élysées, we crossed back over the Seine, and back to the hotel for a break. But instead, we decided to ride the Metro to the Louvre to see it just before closing. We made it in time to see a few exhibits, and discovered if you arrive late enough it’s free!

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First Impressions of Paris

Arriving at Gard du Nord

We arrived in Paris yesterday evening by Chunnel. The ride was incredibly smooth and I slept for most of the trip, missing everything between London and Paris, including the tunnel and the French countryside. Hopefully I’ll stay awake on the return, although Matt said I didn’t miss much going through the tunnel – it was shorter than he expected.

In just over 2 hours we arrived in the chaos of Gare du Nord Station. I had no idea what my first impressions of Paris would be. The size of the station was overwhelming with stacks of luggage, throngs of people, noise and an abundance of shady looking characters. The waiting line for a cab stretched for a block and we were told it was about a two hour long wait. The Metro seemed like too much to deal with after a long day and we opted for a shuttle/limo. It was a big SUV with a driver who spoke some English – anything for a quick escape to our hotel! We gladly paid the higher fare and were soon on our way, winding through the streets of Paris in the rain.

Drive Through Paris

The drive through Paris was a memorable one filled with swarms of motorcycles and scooters, breath-stopping maneuvering by the driver and what seemed like several near misses with anything that was in our path. He was soon pointing out the House of Chanel, Place de la Concorde, the Paris Opera, The Eiffel Tower…   even with the rainy, gloomy evening and wild ride, the beauty of Paris came through. We arrived at our hotel, Relais Bosquet, during a thunderstorm. The hotel was small and the staff were warm and welcoming. We checked in quickly and went up to our room which was small and cozy with a french balcony on the courtyard. The rain stopped quickly and we decided to walk to Rue Cler, a block away, for dinner at an outdoor cafe.

These are my first impressions of Paris, taken during a walk after dinner. Black and white photos seem appropriate for a rainy evening in Paris. It fits the mood of the evening – a bit arty and mysterious.

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When Making Hotel Reservations For Paris….Be Patient

As I mentioned yesterday, making hotel reservations in Paris can be particularly challenging and patience comes in handy.

We’ve decided to stay near the Eiffel Tower in the 7th, and I’ve seen several reasonably priced hotels listed in Rick Steves’ book on France. One is quaint, close to Rue Cler and the price is reasonable – in fact for Paris it’s great. They don’t use a booking service like Booking.com (which I used for several hotels) so I sent them an email requesting availability. After a day or so and plenty of leeway for the difference in time, I sent it again, and then again and again. Six days – no answer.

By now I was determined. I was not going to give up! I had heard booking French hotels could be difficult, especially if you don’t speak French. Was arrogance at play here? I decided two could play this game. I copied my email into Google Translate and immediately had it printed out in French. I had no idea if it was good French, bad French or even if it said what I hoped it would say since I don’t speak a word of French. But now I had something in French , so I pasted it back into the email and hit send. Two very short hours later I received a reply. Back to Google Translate to find out what they said. And so it went for 4-5 emails as I reserved a room, and worked out details. I sent one last email requesting a final written confirmation, to which I received this reply, “ Madame, Your reservations is now confirmed. And by the way, you speak very good French.” The reply was in English.

I almost wrote back and said, “ Thank you for the compliment. However, Google Translator speaks very good French.”

I did further reading on the hotel and found terrible reviews on Trip Advisor that I had missed. Several people mentioned arrogant, rude staff, reservations confirmed and later denied upon arrival and luggage moved from the room to the hall when they decided your stay was finished and someone else needed the room – and paid a higher price. While one or two negative comments don’t bother me these left me feeling uneasy. I didn’t want to arrive in Paris at night, with no room, traveling with a 16 year old who is already a bit leery about not being able to speak the language.

I ended up canceling the reservation and reserving another room, well, actually several rooms, but I finally found a hotel with excellent reviews, Hotel Relais Bosquet, and staff who have been gracious in their correspondence in English. It is located a block off of Rue Cler and looks, small, charming and right where we want to be.

When in Paris I plan on making an attempt to speak French. I have a phrase book and iTranslate. My French may be barely passable, but I’m willing to give it a try.