We've been to Paris more times than we'd care to mention (the last time in 2004)! The greatest sight seeing capital in the World.
1969 With brother-in-law Ron (my first trip abroad). Didn't want to fly (too scared) so went on the ferry. Such a long journey out that I decided on two things. Number one, as soon as we're on the ferry coming back we're going to the restaurant to have a meal (that relieves the boredom). Number two, I'm flying next time! Did the touristy things (including The Lido night club, excellent. Sexy at the time but tame by today's standards). No notes taken then but a few isolated incidents I can remember. In our Hotel a couple of American girls wanted some bottled water to go with Whisk(e?)y. They had not one word of French and pointed to a bottle and asked us if that was what they needed. "Yes", said I, pointing to the label and said "eau is water". "Gee thanks." Then to the concierge (there wasn't a bar, this was in a cabinet next to reception) "Can we have some of that oy water"! Another story involving Americans. On a night coach trip (possibly The Lido) an American got off the coach to buy a couple of crepes. When he got back on he suddenly realised that he had paid 10 times the cost! Can't remember what the cost was but if it was 100 francs he'd given 1000 francs and received no change. Needless to say the street trader had disappeared! To correct the balance I must tell a story against myself. On the Champs Elysees I approached a street trader and asked, in my best school French, "Do you speak English?". He replied (in French of course) "No, but you speak French very well!". Needless to say, I bought something from him - clever chap looking back on it. The main thing (and I blame - or thank - Ron), when we went for our first dinner he asked if I wanted wine. Nah! I'm not bothered about wine but I'll just have half a glass of yours. Second night, wine, yes. Haven't looked back.
1971 With Richard, a chap from work, flying this time. British Caledonian BAC111. Did the Lido again (or was it the Moulin Rouge, or the Folies Bergere? I've done the lot at one time or another!). The one thing I remember about this trip is that, when we dined out one night, Richard was fed up with me ordering everything and he decided that he wanted to order the coffees. OK. "Deux cafés" said he. "I suppose you realise that you'll get two black coffees", said I. "I hate black coffee", said he. Anyway, called the waiter back and he never ordered again!
1977 Edna mentions in her 1978 journal that the guided tour of Paris didn't show us "much more than Easter last year". So, we must have visited Paris at Easter 1977 but have no recollection of it!
1978 Went for Edna's birthday. Left a wet London and had a, not too pleasant, hovercraft trip to Boulogne. 3 hours by train to Paris and it's still wet. Day two an included coach tour of Paris. For dinner we went to a restaurant where the (rather miserable) waiter asked us if we were English. When we answered in the affirmative he brought a menu in English which was half as expensive again as the first one. We asked for the first one again and ordered from that, not a bad meal at all for 23.50f each. Day 3 Versailles. Very disappointing. The rooms were bare of furniture and very few paintings. The fountains weren't working either! When we got back we went to the Travelscene Office to complain that, since we'd arrived, we'd had no hot water in the hotel (whatever it was) and we were transferred to the Hotel Bel Air just around the corner. Up to Sacre Coeur in the evening. Dinner at a pleasant restaurant, 21f fixed price. One plus today, we saw Christopher Lee in W.H.Smith's. Day 4 Went up the Arc de Triomphe and across to the Eiffel Tower but, as there was a long queue, we didn't go up. Went on a Bateau Mouche and it was damned cold (this is mid-May)! Ate in the "Au Val de Loire" in the evening. The web site now calls it "cool and trendy", couldn't have been in 1978 - we don't do "cool and trendy". Day 5 Up the Tower in the morning, cloudy but at least it was warm. Afternoon coach trip to Chartres. Beautiful stained glass windows in the Cathedral. Day 6 and pouring rain. Had a walk to the site of the Bastille and to the Latin Quarter but the rain didn't help. Day 7 Our last full day. Just had a wander along the Seine and chose "Le Thermometre" for our evening having checked the menu outside. When the menu came it was a lot more expensive and when we asked the waiter about the menu outside he showed us to another part of the restaurant "for snacks". Some snack followed, the total cost was 131.70f! Nearly £16, quite a lot in 1978.
1981 Went for our wedding anniversary with sister Ann and brother in law Tom. Hovercraft again, better this time, and the 3 hour train journey. Hotel (whatever it was) was within walking distance of the station. Room, 4th. floor, no lift and the size of a large cupboard. We must have been going cheap. Just went around the corner for our evening meal and, when we got back to the hotel, found that our room had been burgled. Money and duty free cigarettes stolen so went straight downstairs to report it. Apologies of course, nothing like this has ever happened in this hotel before. Talking about it at breakfast and the couple at the next table said that they'd had £50 worth of francs stolen two days ago. That did it! Down to the Travelscene office and they arranged for us to change hotels. After moving we went to the Police Station but there was only one officer there and he was dealing with a woman and it went on and on. Decided to call back after lunch. We were seen straight away but the officer had no English and my French wasn't good enough so we had to wait for the Inspector. He didn't speak English either but got the gist and we had to fill in a form which was only for the Insurance claim, he didn't even ask the name of the hotel! At least we had an excellent meal in the "Don Vittorio" in the Rue de Montmartre but what a way to spend our anniversary. Day 3. Poured with rain overnight but a lovely day. Left Ann and Tom at Trocadero so they could "do" the Tower as they've never been before. We went for a wander along the Champs Elysees, bought bread, pate and wine and had an al fresco lunch in the Tuilleries. Paid 6f (about 54p) to go in the Opera. Magnificent. Rained in the evening so dinner locally and just a metro trip to Pigalle for a wander. Day 4 to Sacre Coeur and it was very crowded. Lunch in the Tuilleries again. In the evening we went back to the "Don Vittorio" (Ann chose, it was her birthday). Day 5 rain. Last day. Walked to the Station and had a bite to eat there. Awful crossing and Edna and Ann were seasick. Got to Waterloo at 00.20 and the only train we could get that went anywhere near home was to Teddington so caught that, taxi from Teddington and got home at about 02.00.
1984 Air France from Heathrow, excellent flight. Stayed at the Sofitel (not doing cheap this time), 18th. floor, room smaller than expected but very nice. Wandered out for our evening meal and ate at a place opposite the nearby Exhibition area. Took the outside lift up to the 23rd., Montgolfier Bar, but as even non-alcoholic cocktails were about £3 and others £5 - £7 (remember, this is 1984) we decided we weren't thirsty. Day 2. Caught the free hotel bus to Place de la Concorde (ran every 30 mins.), wandered to the Palace of Luxembourg, walked around the park and gardens, very pretty. Had our al fresco lunch (which we'd bought in a supermarket earlier) in the Tuilleries. Wandered to Pigalle via Place Vendome and back to Concorde for the last free bus at 18.00. Very weary so ate locally and when we switched the TV on just in time to see that Sweden had won the Eurovision Song Contest! Day 3. One of my best friends, Alasdair, had told us (laughingly) that his wife Pat was going on a coach trip to Paris with her parents and other old fogies. When we said that we would be there at the same time he stopped laughing! Today's the day we spent with Pat. Her coach had dropped her off at the Eiffel Tower (they were off to Versailles). We walked to Invalides and then some back doubles to buy lunch at a supermarket. Lunch in the Tuilleries (of course) and then walked her to the Place de Vendome, La Madeleine and Concorde. Then to the Tower again because her coach party were booking an evening boat trip. After sorting that we caught the Metro to the Hotel de Ville and found a place for our evening meal. Pleasant enough and then to Pont Neuf for Pat to meet up with the rest. On the metro back to the hotel. Had a drink in the bar, beer and a rum and coke, £4-£5. Very expensive for those days. Day 4. Wet. Last day. Bought our wine to take home (my brolly broke on the way to the shop), packed, paid our bill and caught the free bus to Concorde. Cold and wet so browsed the shops in the Rue de Rivoli (footpath under cover), then to Rue St. Denis to fall into the first comfortable looking restaurant for lunch. Fixed Price 35f. Then back to the hotel, picked up at about 18.00 and home.
1985 Went for my birthday. Had a bit of a shock when we found that we were travelling Malaysian Airlines and an even bigger one when we found that it was in a Jumbo (never been in one before)! Paris was first stop on the way to Kuala Lumpur apparently. Stayed at the Sofitel again and were disappointed to find that the complimentary bus service from the hotel to the centre had been discontinued, also found the breakfasts very disappointing (watered down juice for example). 4*luxe? We probably won't stay there again. As it was my birthday trip one of our main goals was to visit the grave of Alexander Alekhine (World Chess Champion in the '20s, 30's and 40's) in Montparnasse Cemetery. Went twice and walked miles, couldn't find it. It was this trip that we decided that most of our time was spent looking for Supermarkets to buy lunch and Restaurants to have dinner. We've seen most of what we want to see and needed specific reasons to come again.
1987 With Edna's sister Rosemary and nephew Richard AND again by Malaysian Airlines Jumbo. Evening flight and a 2* Hotel (don't remember what it was), small! Went out and had a couple of drinks (we'd had a snack on the plane) and so to bed. Day 2 To the "Welcome Bar", Rue de Rivoli, for the welcome party and booked a trip to Versailles (140f each, £56 for 4). Along the Seine to Notre Dame, Richard bought a model of The Eiffel Tower and found out later that it was made in Italy! Into the crypt of Notre Dame and it was 14.00 by the time we emerged so ate nearby before getting the Metro back to the Hotel to change Richard's glasses (a lens had fallen out of the pair he was wearing), then to Sacre Coeur for a look around the Church (a choir inside dressed like the Vienna Boys Choir - perhaps it was) and the Square where the artists congregate. Wandered down to see Moulin Rouge, couldn't find an ordinary bar for a drink so back to the Hotel for a drink nearby. Day 3 Walked to Rebublic to catch a direct train to Trocadero, reasonably tourist free but queues for the Tower. I didn't want to go up again so the other three did, looking around at each stage. Bought our lunch at a supermarket and ate al fresco on a park bench near the Tower. Boat trip after lunch but the commentator's accent was so strong we couldn't understand most of it, back to the Hotel to freshen up and out at 20.00 for dinner in Republic Square. Day 4 Edna now has a sore throat so, to the Chemists who supplied lozenges but to no avail. To Versailles, 2 hours there - not really enough time. Very disorganised inside, people coming from every which way and no-one to sort out the traffic. A quick walk around the gardens but no fountains working. Coach back to Tuilleries where we bought, and ate, our al fresco lunch. As Edna was so unwell Rosemary and Richard went off to the Louvre while we stayed in the Tuilleries. A look at The Opera (closed) when they joined us and a drink on the pavement outside "Cafe de la Paix". Place Vendome and a wander down the Rue de Rivoli, back to the Hotel where Edna went to bed and the rest of us wandered out for a meal. Day 5 Edna stayed in bed (as she says in her journal, lucky that she'd been to Paris before) and the rest of us went to Invalides, down the Champs Elysees, up the Arc de Triomphe and got back about 19.30, whacked! Had a take away (chicken and chips) in our rooms. Day 6 Rosemary's birthday. Packed and got Reception to order a taxi, away at 07.30. Home by 11.00 and, as it was Rosemary's Birthday, we'd booked a table at a local restaurant ("Patrick's") but Edna managed to see the Doctor before then and got some anti-biotics AND she managed to eat a meal which was finished off with a cake with Happy Birthday Rosemary on it being brought to the table and all the Restaurant singing "Happy Birthday to you". She was tickled pink with it all!
1989 With friends Brian and Janet. Picked up at 05.30! (We wouldn't do that now). Hotel Cervantes 3*, 6th. floor, room small but adequate. All had a kip in the afternoon. Just as well, we went to Sacre Coeur in the evening and found a nice restaurant with a very good singer and guitarist. Didn't leave 'til 23.30 and then saw Sacre Coeur floodlit. Quite a night! Day 2 and up the Arc de Triomphe (steps not lift), Brian counted the steps coming down (232), how sad is that. Then to Trocadero and lunch al fresco (which Edna had bought earlier, very proud that they'd understood her French). Brian and Janet went up the Tower but we didn't bother. Another Bateau Mouche trip. Evening meal in the "Casa Nostra" in the Rue de Douai. Day 3 Beautiful day, up to Montmartre to see all the "arty" folk. People wandering around doing silhouettes of people (cutting paper out with scissors) and Edna and I indulged ourselves, about £19 - damned expensive actually but, we still have them. Got the Metro to Concorde and saw part of the Paris Marathon and cheered on a chap wearing the union flag on his shorts. Across to Invalides and found somewhere to have our al fresco lunch. Saw Napoleon's tomb and the Army Museum, by then we were so whacked we went back to the Hotel for a kip. Out to dinner at St. Denis, al fresco. Day 4 Went out to get our wine to take home, packed and then took the Metro to Cite. Had a look around Notre Dame and opposite the Pompidou Centre we had wine and sandwiches for lunch, 100f (about £9.50) for all four of us (we'd earlier had 3 coffees and 1 apricot juice next to Notre Dame and it cost 86f). Walked down the Champs Elysees, had a look at the George V Hotel then to Concorde Metro where we caught the train to St. Lazare, walked to Rome where we had a last drink and then walked back to the Hotel. Had a wash and brush up and so into the taxi. Uneventful flight and home by 21.45.
1997 Not a good start! When we were packing we suddenly realised that we hadn't received our tickets and our flight was 10.15 the next morning. Went to the Air France desk when we arrived at Heathrow and they suggested we go to the Thomas Cook desk when it opened at 08.30. We had booked through Staines and the Heathrow desk said they had a different computer system so it couldn't be done that way. Eventually (09.05) they heard from Staines and they were sending the tickets by courier so I went outside to meet them. Air France had kindly issued us with seats even though we didn't have our tickets. Eventually checked in properly and were told to go to gate 2. Ten minutes to spare and gate 2 is an Alitalia flight! Over the tannoy "Will Mr. & Mrs. Smith go to gate 15 immediately." Off we rushed to find it had been delayed! While we were waiting we heard our names again, go to the desk. The lady on check-in had rung to apologise for sending us to the wrong gate. As people started boarding, an Air France girl came up and asked to see our boarding passes. She asked if we were travelling together as (we hadn't noticed in all the rushing) our seats were not together. By this time we were wishing we hadn't come but it all came out right in the end as she had to upgrade two people and it was easier just to issue us with new seats rather than go through the computer. Business Class, very nice. Had the choice of orange juice or champagne before we'd even moved, guess what we had? Took off 45 minutes late. Taxi from CDG to the hotel (Fleche d'Or in the Rue d'Amsterdam), very pleasant room on the 3rd. floor overlooking the courtyard. Unpacked, flaked out for 10 minutes, changed and went for a wander. VERY hot so, by the time we reached the Tuilleries we needed a sit down. Place was packed and everywhere was geared up for next Monday (14th. July). Back to the Hotel for baths and then walked to Rue St. Denis, where I wanted to eat. Settled on an American place, "Front Page", no complaints. Day 2. Breakfast in the basement, very attractive. Went by Metro to St. Paul, which is the nearest to where the Rudolf Nureyev Exhibition was - the reason for our visit! First in when it opened at 10 and the ladies on the ticket desk commented on Edna's Nureyev T-shirt. Another young man approached Edna inside and asked where she got her T-shirt from. A fashion icon! The place was packed with photos, costumes, posters, programmes, paintings and some of his furniture etc. and a film at the end which included Zizi Jeanmaire who I only knew as a line from "Where do you go to my lovely?"! I, apparently, was "very patient", but I did enjoy it - I can appreciate real talent even if the content is not my cup of tea. To the Bastille area where they were putting up stands etc. for the big day and we ate an al fresco lunch on the Boulevard Richard Lenoir. After lunch a look at the Place des Vosges, rather lovely, surrounded by 36 houses some 400 years old. Walked past the Hotel de Ville and Notre Dame (long, long queues) and had a bateau mouche ride for a rest! Back to our hotel (by metro) for baths and a bit of a rest before dinner. Went to a nice Italian place near the hotel called La Venise, both had veal (Marsala for Edna, Milanese for me) and a dessert. Very nice and so to bed. Day 3. Rain forecast! So, brollies and sun tan lotion. Headed for Boulevard Saint-Michel (Zizi has a lot to answer for) and that's when we saw Nureyev's last abode on the Quai Voltaire.
Edna was now dead beat (very hot and too much walking) so I left her on a seat and went to find a supermarket to buy lunch. Couldn't find one so we ate in a little place nearby. Had a rest and then found the narrowest house in Paris and the Shakespeare Bookshop. Had another rest by Saint-Julian-le-Pauvre and a little beggar boy came around clasping hands and looking piteously upward, no-one gave him anything. When we left we saw him with his family, a bunch of well fed, well clad and brightly clothed gypsies - surprise, surprise! Walked along the bank of the Seine where all the booksellers were and bought some postcards of famous people and their homes and, yes, Nureyev was there
Back by metro to the hotel and flaked out (again). Baths and out to dinner. We had a voucher entitling us to a free Kir and dessert at any "Bistro Romain" so, as there was one nearby, we gave it a try. Nice red velvet decor. We had a fixed price menu, I had paté, Milanese and ice cream (bit of a problem, the frites had some tomato sauce, which I hate, so - a rarity - I left some chips!) and Edna had Oeufs Napolitain (what egg dish would it be? Looked like a Swiss roll omelette!), she doesn't say in her journal what she had for main course and she had sliced orange for dessert, very nicely served. Washed down with a bottle of rosé - not chilled but that seems to be the way a lot of places serve it out here. Came to about £26. Good value. Edna had one of her giggling fits when she read the menu and saw Pomme Vert Ice Cream. She got her translation mixed up (she never did French at school) and thought it was Green Potato Ice Cream! We felt up to a walk now so we went to L'Etoile where half of Paris seemed to be congregating. Terrific atmosphere. And so to bed. Day 4. Packed and watched the Bastille Day Parade on the TV in our room. Excellent. Checked out, left our luggage in the hotel and went to see the remnants of the Parade. Wandered back via Place Vendome and had our lunch in a place by Gare St. Lazare. Back to the hotel and ordered a taxi for 15.00. When we got home the garden was like a parched desert so I took the hosepipe to it while Edna cooked up a scratch meal. Not an uneventful 4 days!
2004 Caught the 10.12 Eurostar (it went from Waterloo then, which is on a direct line from where we lived) and arrived in Paris about 14.00. Hotel Le Royal in Montparnasse (3*luxe), only 3 nights. Small room and dark (we looked out on a brick wall!) but adequate. Main reason for this trip was to try and see Rudolf Nureyev's grave and what a palaver that turned out to be! Asked our courier how to get to St. Genevieve du Bois (I think that's it) and she didn't have a clue, so we walked to the Champs Elysees Tourist Info Office and found it was closed. On the door was a list of other offices so we went to the one behind the Opera. Lady gave us explicit instructions BUT, the line was closed for part of the train journey and a bus was laid on. Think we got off at the wrong place and had to get the Metro to Austerlitz for the train to St. Genevieve. Didn't know if we had tickets to cover the whole journey but jumped on anyway. As it seemed a very long journey we probably didn't have the correct tickets and were expecting to be fined by an Inspector at any time. Anyway, got there and saw a stand for taxis (but no taxis). There was an out of order phone and instructions for mobiles (which we didn't have). Saw a couple of taxis flitting around but no luck and, when it started to cloud over, we decided to make our way back. Bought single tickets to Austerlitz (just in case). Disaster, and this is only our first full day here! Anyway we had included tickets for a boat trip from the Eiffel Tower which had a good English commentary so it wasn't all bad. That evening we dined in an Italian restaurant two doors from the hotel. Why? It poured down and we weren't going far, after dinner straight back to the hotel and raided the mini bar. A not uninteresting day looking back on it. Second full day and to the Montparnasse Cemetery (right behind the hotel). Found Alexander Alekhine's grave immediately (see our 1985 trip). I must have looked it up on the 'net to see where it was. Next, to Pere Lachaise Cemetery. Oscar Wilde (monument sculpted by Jacob Epstein), Chopin, Edith Piaf (couldn't get near it because of the crowd) and Jim Morrison (couldn't get near that either).