I wish I could say I’m one of those people who loves to travel, but I find it incredibly stressful to constantly be presented with the unknown, the unplanned for, and the unfamiliar. Fortunately (or unfortunately when it’s all going to hell), I do love to see new places, walk the streets I’ve read about, and find it absolutely thrilling to be able to see in person something famous. I love reliving a trip and how the experiences enrich my understanding of the world. Although, sometimes I think I would prefer to download the memories of a trip a la Total Recall than deal with the stress of going to a foreign land! Until that is an option, I find the best way to balance my travel phobia and my desire to see the world is to hook up with experienced travel companies. For this trip I used the travel company The Purple Truffle http://www.purpletruffle.com to arrange our activities on Tuesday, Wednesday morning, Friday afternoon, and Saturday morning. I’m sharing our day-by-day itinerary for those who, like me, are not intrepid world travelers ready to hop on the next train or bus to see where it takes them, but would rather know in advance that the doors on the train to and from Versailles do not open automatically.
Saturday arrival in Paris.
The hardest part about flying to Paris on the red-eye for me is that by the time I am getting sleepy (about 5 or 6 hours into the flight, so around 10 or 11pm EST), the airline is bringing up the lights to serve a light breakfast. And that means no sleep for me. Our arrival was around 8 am and customs and baggage were painless and relatively quick. We just followed the crowd and queued up. The Purple Truffle had arranged for airport transfer so a driver was waiting for us and took us straight to our hotel. On previous trips, we’ve taken taxis from the airport to the hotel.
We stayed at the Westin Paris-Vendome http://www.thewestinparis.com. There are a zillion hotels in Paris, but the Westin is located such that we were able to walk to the Marais district, the Louvre and Musee d’Orsay, St. Germain, and the Eiffel Tower. The staff is friendly and our rooms, while small, had large windows that opened and adequate clothing storage so that we could unpack our suitcases. On the occasions that we did take taxis, the doorman spoke to our drivers in French to make sure we arrived at the correct destination. And after a terrible taxi ride in 2010 where we ended up at the Louis Vuitton store in St. Germain, not the Champs-Élysées where our rendezvous point was, I always write the address of my destination on a notecard and make sure the doormen talk to my taxi driver. Ok, I realize that going to the wrong Louis Vuitton store may not exactly sound tragic, but it was scary being in an unfamiliar part of the city with myself and two of my kids and unsure how to get back to my husband and other two kids. See part about how much I hate the unfamiliar, plus the taxi driver was really mean and yelled at us. Written addresses are the way to go for this adventure-adverse control freak.
We booked our rooms to include the previous night, and had asked the hotel to hold them until our arrival the next morning. Thankfully, the Westin kept us in the same rooms for our entire visit, and did not have to check in and out of rooms. Rooms in Paris (or anywhere really) are not cheap, but being able to check in and freshen up makes the first day so much easier. On previous trips, we’ve been lucky and were able to do an early check-in to at least one of rooms. I guess one advantage to traveling as a family needing multiple rooms is that it increases the odds for a room being ready early!
After showers and resting for a few hours, we headed out for lunch. We found what would end up being “our” cafe–the L’Imperial. The food was decent, service friendly, and they have menus available in several languages. All three times we ate there, we sat near French speakers. For all I know they were tourists too, but I think it’s an indication that L’Imperial was a typical French cafe if it wasn’t catering to just American visitors.
We walked to the Champs-Élysées, and had a chuckle over how many American chains had opened up on the storied boulevard since our last visit to Paris 2010. If you are dying for a taste of home, there is now a Five Guys on the Champs-Élysées. Based on the suggestion of our driver, we had planned to ride the Great Wheel of Paris at sunset, but apparently everyone has that idea! The line was so long that we figured it would be dark before we boarded and saved that ride for another day. New post tomorrow!