Travel slowly, staying in vacation rentals (villas, farms, cottages, apartments)
Report 1135: A Traveller in Paris
By Doug Phillips from Canada, Fall 2006
Trip Description: October 21-28, 2006. A very enjoyable week in Paris in a great location in the Marais, featuring a different restaurant each evening, an afternoon mini-GTG, very smooth transportation connections and local travel. A real bonus was unexpectedly good weather.
Destinations: Countries - France; Regions/Cities - Paris
Categories: Vacation Rentals; Art Trip; Foodie Trip; Sightseeing; Independent Travel; 3-4 people
Page 1 of 10: Why Paris?
BW enjoying a gelato on Île St. Louis on our last night in Paris
BW (aka Beautiful Wife, picture on the right) & I never planned on any European travel from our home in Eastern Ontario in 2006. One of our daughters got married at the end of July. We had spent most of the past year squirreling away any funds that we could to prepare for the financial shock. We did such a good job that we had some money left over after the last bill was paid. Most people find that hard to believe.
Why Paris? To many people the answer might be “Where else but Paris for a week?” but there’s a bit more to it than that. I had been to Paris twice, back in the early 1970’s. BW had been once, over a Christmas break at university around the same time - to visit a friend who was studying in France for a year. My memories were quite pleasant. Her experience was horrible – including lost luggage, stereotypical rude Frenchmen and miserable weather. She never had a good word to say about Paris for most of our marriage. When we planned our trip to Tuscany in 2004, we flew to Paris, then on to Florence. I asked her if she wanted to spend a few days in Paris on the way home, such as we had done in London on our way back to Canada from the Algarve on a previous trip. “No!” was her immediate and emphatic reply.
However, as we were planning our September 2005 trip to Provence, which also involved flying into Paris, she suggested that we spend a few days in the city on our way home. We only had three full days in Paris, but had such a great time and knew there was much more that we wanted to do and see that Paris was an easy choice for our “reward week” to ourselves. So that’s “Why Paris?”
I am a retired History teacher/teacher-Librarian. Our three days in Paris in September 2005 stimulated me to find out more about the city and its history, especially when we decided to return. In particular I liked three books. The first was My Life in France, Julia Child's memoir of her years in France, mainly in Paris, beginning in 1949. The second was Things Seen in Paris by Clive Holland. While the book was published in 1926, I enjoyed the photographs, descriptions and perspective of the book.
The third book I enjoyed was Seven Ages of Paris by Alistair Horne. I was especially impressed by the influences of Henry IV, the Second Empire and the leadership of Charles de Gaulle in the post-war years on modern Paris. I can never think of the beautiful Place des Vosges without associating it with the tragic death of Henry IV. The influence of the 19th century's Baron Haussmann is everywhere to be seen in the Paris of the 21st. Another influence that I saw everywhere I looked in Paris was the effect of de Gaulle's inspired choice of André Malraux as France's first Minister of Culture from 1960 to 1969. To me, the most unexpected revelation in the book was how important the German occupation in World War II looms in the long history of Paris. According to Horne, this was the saddest period in the history of the city - even more devastating than the l'année terrible of 1870. I became aware of the numerous plaques, especially in the Jewish section of Paris, commemorating this very difficult period.
This was the first trip we planned with the aid of Slow Travel from the outset – and the first trip we planned without consulting a travel agent. Since we live in Canada, the most economical air carrier to Paris is a newer airline, ZOOM. We began by looking for a one-week return flight to Paris sometime in September, but the earliest we could book a suitable flight was from Friday October 20 and returning on Saturday October 28. We rented an apartment in the Marais through Paris Bestlodge, thanks to a recommendation from Steve and Linda Jones.
We decided to get around in Paris by using the Batobus water taxi for the first two days and purchasing a Carte Orange for the Métro and RER beginning on Monday. Both of these decisions were the result of SlowTrav discussions. We also made a list of restaurants based mainly on SlowTrav recommendations and our previous experience. I made restaurant reservations for the first three evenings while still in Canada. Similar to our previous visit, I planned my phone calls around 6:00pm local time. I figured there would be staff in the restaurant, but it would not be open yet for the evening meal. I wrote out a script before I made the phone calls and tried to conduct the conversation entirely in French.
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