Paris, encore (another autumn trip)

To skip the thought dump, choose from: Lodging Notes , Transportation Notes , Baby and food notes , Day 1 (Catacombs), Day 2 (Louvre and wine tasting), Day 3 (Notre-Dame and Musée d’Orsay), or go to just the bare bones itinerary

Do you have to be old to appreciate Paris?

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Or does it just depend on the people you’re with? How many times you’ve visited before?

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I only ask because the last two times it’s been harder and harder to leave. Compared to the Paris in my 20’s, why is the Paris in my 30’s so much better?

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Well, for starters, I can read the metro map now. The smells don’t usually bother me. I’m comfortable using my lame but serviceable French. At the moment I’m more financially stable (that’s huge). And after ten years of travel I understand myself more and know when to take breaks or say no to an experience and when to push through to make one happen.

Maybe because I have enough memories now, good and bad, revisiting the city is nostalgic vs. exhausting.

In the not too distant past, Paris left me feeling a bit wrecked. When someone on a TV show gushed about an opportunity to move there, I’d roll my eyes. If someone asked about visiting it, I’d be that friend who said, yeah it’s alright but don’t waste more than 24 hours on it.

There’s enough negative and unknown baked into the place for it to never be stress free. Maybe that’s where the company you keep comes in.

Recently, though, I realize I have stories and ghosts and friends that peek out around the other tourists, like little secrets between me and the city. It’s boundless, this Paris, in both good and daunting ways.

I guess the good news is that the momentum from visiting continues to build in a positive direction for me. And there’s more to look forward to.

So now that we’ve established Paris only gets better as I age, the question I’m left with is, in this analogy am I the fine bottle of wine or is Paris?

Meh. Either way, sip, swish, drink. (ooo, I have a recommendation for where to do just that below).

Here’s another easy, almost predictable, but still wonderful itinerary for the umpteenth time in Paris (practically baby-free too, hurray!)

Lodging notes:

Cody, the kid, and I stayed in different suburbs around Paris to help with the hotel cost. We settled in Mantes-la-Jolie, Les Mureaux, central Paris, and Rungis respectively.

All the suburbs mentioned are fine locations to overnight for a Paris vacation. We weren’t so impressed with the accommodation in Les Mureaux, but that was because of the facilities and not the town. The rest of the places we stayed were either fantastic or just adequate for our needs. Click on the links in the itinerary details at the end of the page to find each hotel.

One other note. our one overnight in Paris at the boutique hotel, La Parizienne, was great for couples. Much more prettily decorated than our other budget accommodations. It was a perfect location for Gare Montparnasse, the Louvre, Orsay, and the Eiffel tower. BUT I wouldn’t recommend it as family friendly. With room names like “Audacieuse” and “Curieuse”, if I may quote Guy Perkins from Never Been Kissed, there were finger-quotes serious finger -quotes couples in the other rooms and the walls were only so thick. Probably not what you want to deal with on a kid friendly vacation 🙂

Transportation:

Our friends freaking spoiled us by picking us up from Orly Airport late Friday night. Beyond that, we used the Navigo pass (official site in English) which covers all central Paris and Île-de-France transport and was a better deal than a carnet of tickets. The weekly Navigo pass has limited buying time, though, so check out this website for an excellent explanation in order to know if it will work for your holiday. Remember if you’re going to get this, bring a passport sized photo to stick on your pass.

Baby notes:

Cody and I were so fortunate to have babysitters in the form of our dear friend and her family so we were able to do a lot of fun touristy stuff without the little singing barnacle tagging along (who, btw, runs now on both legs, have you heard? Can you imagine? up and down a French museum corridor? waiting in a rainy line? I can’t.) But we saw strollers at every monument (except the Catacombs) and there were kids everywhere. So, enjoy your family time in Paris if you have kids. 🙂

Food notes:

Long live the croissant (or in my case, the pain-au-chocolat). This is James’s newest favorite food group. du buerre? du pain? Sold. Every time.

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None of our restaurant meals compared to the family meal our friend’s mother prepared: stewed chicken, vegetables, Moroccan spices, and bread. Bon apetit!

But we also loved going to local supermarkets like Auchan or Monoprix to stock up on French snacks, tarts, drinks, yogurt, cheese, etc. for the duration of our trip. Eating out less keeps our overall travel costs low and it’s fun to be a part of the local, normal routine sometimes.


Finally, duh-duh-duh-duh-DUH, the 4-day itinerary with corresponding links:

Thursday night

Arrived in Orly airport, only two backpacks and a stroller in tow. An hour-long car ride to Mantes-La-Jolie (chosen for its proximity to our first babysitter) later, we were at our Ibis Budget Hotel. Small but perfectly serviceable room. No room for a baby bed, though.

Friday, Day 1

Made a morning run to Auchan (a.k.a. AlCampo) for baby diapers (les couches), wipes (les lingettes), and tissues (les mouchoirs). Dropped off James with his babysitters. Cody and I had a train ride to Paris Saint-Lazare station, then two metro rides to the Catacombs.

We were initially scared when we saw the long line wrapping around the block. But luckily we had purchased prepaid tickets so we would be able to jump the line at our time slot. Our last trip we didn’t think ahead to do this and missed out. This time we heard other people say they had been waiting over 2 hours to get into the Catacombs without a prepaid ticket. Soooo not worth it in my opinion, especially not on such a nice autumn day.

While we waited for our time to get in, we grabbed some coffee at a local cafe and kept an eye on the time:

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Finally at 2pm, we walked down the many many steps into the deep underbelly of Paris into the Catacombs. What was it like?

Dark. And dusty. Educational. And strange. Expect a separate post on the experience at a later time.

Afterwards, we dined on curry- and wok- inspired dishes at a local restaurant. Enjoyed a child free meal in Paris! Then it was the train ride back to the suburbs on a full train with everyone else returning home from work for the day.  Got James. Visited with friends. Had sushi for dinner in Les Mureaux. Then, bedtime at Welcomotel.

Saturday, Day 2

We started the day by letting James run around the back parking lot of the hotel in the autumn sunshine. Around noon we dropped him off with our friends again. The J Train ride back to Paris Saint-Lazare station was quick and very empty compared to the evening before. The trains from the suburbs may take a half hour to an hour, but I love the scenery and seeing bits of the little towns along the way.

Once in Paris, we headed directly to the Louvre by metro and took a walk around the Tuileries in the gorgeous sunshine.

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Cody’s muse: comedie.

We know we could have just bought tickets to the Louvre on the spot from the less busy Carousel entrance, but because we were on a tight schedule to fit everything in because of childcare, we went ahead and reserved our tickets to the Louvre at 2 pm. While we waited for our time slot, we joined the other picnickers at the Tuileries with our baguette sandwich and tart and drinks from the local Paul stand.

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Sculpture just inside the glass pyramid entrance

It was Cody’s first time in the Louvre and my fourth. Overall, it was a fairly busy, successful day playing with their new Nintendo 3ds audio guides.

On our list of things, Cody experienced what it’s like to see the Mona Lisa:

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Madness.

Hint, after straining to see over the heads and screens blocking the view of the Mona Lisa, turn around. Now look up. Behold, the biggest, most elaborate painting in the Louvre, The Wedding at Cana. Imagine the silent monks in their mess hall enjoying the immersive experience as they chewed and supped. Lose yourself in the individual faces.

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“Whoa.” -everyone after turning around from viewing the Mona Lisa

Aside from The Wedding at Cana, other favorite Louvre paintings:

Plus a new section for me, Mesopotamia and Ancient Egypt.

Another hint at the Louvre…always look up when you get a chance!

Afterwards, we headed to the wine bar Ô Chateau for a wine tasting (with a side of cheese!) Highly recommend the experience. The wine and cheese were excellently paired and the company was a fun mix of tourists and locals.

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Nice half mile walk from the Louvre to wine tasting.

Next, metro-ed it to our hotel’s neighborhood. Shopped around the French supermarket Monoprix for the essentials: speculoos spread, Monoprix chips, anti-aging face masks, and a French-singing helicopter toy for James. Made it back to our hotel rooms despite data-less phone. Did said face masks. Watched Columbo in French. Passed out. Asleeeeep.

Monoprix brand chips
Once upon a time, I used to live on these potato chips.

Sunday, Day 3

Sleeeeeept iiiiinnn. Took the metro to the Fontaine Saint-Michel, a.k.a. the fountain with the lions who vomit water:

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Convenient metro entrance to the right of it if you’re coming to/going from Notre Dame

Souvenir shopped near Notre-Dame for Cody’s essentials: a bottle opener and teeny tiny Eiffel tower. After obligatory selfies in front of Notre-Dame, we took a nice brisk walk in the fuzzy off-and-on rain along the Seine.

Watched the bouquenists open. Came upon THE LINE for the free day at Musée d’Orsay (first Sunday of every month starting in October until summer):

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We meant to skip this mess by getting here before opening at 9:30, but at 7:00 sleeping in sounded so much better.

Waited about 50 minutes. Chugged some coffee and a crepe right before we got in. Once inside we followed a steady stream of people going up to the 5th floor for the Impressionists, then 2nd floor for van Gogh, and then for the temporary Picasso exhibit, Bleu et Rose (meh, I just don’t care about Picasso).

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I’m happy I got to experience Musée d’Orsay two year ago on my own when it was much less crowded. If your schedule and budget allow it, I don’t recommend going to either the Louvre or Musée d’Orsay on a free day. Our schedule necessitated it. Cody agrees he must come back when it’s quieter and he can spend more time with each painting.

It was fun to get to see which paintings appealed to Cody vs. what struck me my first time :

After the museum, we headed back to the Paris Saint-Lazare train station. Got confused over which train to take. Made it back to Les Mureaux for a delicious home cooked Moroccan family meal with friends. Headed to Rungis with James for our cozy night in the hotel.

Monday morning, Day 4

Rested. Packed and repacked to make everything fit into our backpacks. Took a walk in the warm sunshine. Ate at MacDoh. Arrived early at Orly Aéroport. Had to take a shuttle to a new terminal in the airport (FYI, to those traveling to Seville on Transavia, had to go all the way down to the end of gate B). Cody took advantage of the PS4 stations. Then we took off. And then we were back home. 🙂

Itinerary Details:

Mode To and from Overnights Accommodation
Air Round trip Sevilla (SVQ) to Paris (ORY) Mantes-la-Jolie

Les Mureaux

Paris

Rungis

Ibis Budget,

Welcomotel,

La Parizienne Hotel,

All Suites Appart Hotel

Transportation Useful phrases on this trip

English =

FrenchMetroHello! I have a reservation under the name ___________.Bonjour! J’ai un réservation au nom de __.J TrainMay I print my tickets for _____ here?Puis-je imprimer mes billets pour _______ ici?

Day 1: Catacombs, dinner in Les Mureaux

Day 2: Tuileries, Louvre, Wine tasting

Day 3: Fontaine Saint-Michel, Notre-Dame, River Seine walk past Pont Neuf, Musée d’Orsay

Day 4: Sunny autumn walk before the flight home

Things to consider buying: Speculoos cookie spread (it tastes best in France!), wine of course, chevre (goat cheese), French skin care from any pharmacy, French toys and books at supermarkets like Monoprix or Auchan

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