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Posts tagged Paris

Eight summers ago…

ellie paris

Ellie in Paris (2008)

Eight years ago this month this blog began. I started it a year before we were going to live in Japan, to work out the kinks before Japan. That first summer we lived in Denmark and visited Paris. One of the main reasons I began the blog was in the hopes that my kids would chronicle their travels. That didn’t happen much. But it’s fun for me to look back and see how much they’ve grown and changed. Ellie is about twice as tall as she was then, and she is off to college this fall. She is also going to visit me for a week in Copenhagen in July, her first time back since 2008.

Champs-Elysees Walk

After the Arch we followed much of Rick Steves‘ “Champs-Elysees Walk” including the Petit Palais, Place de la Concorde, and all the snobby-looking shopping. Actually, we didn’t shop, but we saw the snooty shopping and over-priced cafes.

For dinner we went out to Chez Janou Bistrot, near our apartment, and then went to Nectarine for dessert. Dinner was good, but not cheap, and we had to wade through a sea of smokers to get to our table on the inside. Paris recently banned smoking on the interiors of restaurants which means that all the smokers (most people it seems) eat and smoke on the tables just outside of the entrance–curbside if you will. This now makes walking down any street with restaurants and cafes pretty gross as nearly everyone outside is blowing smoke. If you don’t like being around smokers then forget about eating or drinking outside in Paris.

I highly recommend Nectarine on the Place des Vosges. Although we only had dessert there, the service was the best we had in Paris. It was the only place we ate or purchased something from where the person doing the selling didn’t make you feel like you were putting them out somehow. The man was actually friendly and nice. Believe it or not he even smiled too! We didn’t see many smiles in Paris–especially from those working.

The next morning we were leaving early. Since the trains don’t operate before our flight was to depart we were stuck taking a cab. Avoid this if at all possible by making sure your departure flight from Paris is after 9 or so in the morning. Why? Because the cabs charge you extra in the early morning hours. They also increase their fare by coming to pick you up. Our cabby had 12 Euros on the meter (about US$20) before we even left our apartment. It ended up costing about $80 just to go to the airport.

The above photograph sort of sums up the whole trip since it includes both Denmark (with the flags) and France (with the Arch of Triumph). I hope you had a good time reading along. I’ll post more on our European adventures in the coming months, mingled with some Japan stuff as well.

Arc de Triomphe (part 2 of 2)

Today’s entry features a couple more pictures from the top of Napoleon’s Arch of Triumph.

Whoever decided to line these streets radiating off of the Arch with trees should be commended.

From the Arc de Triomphe, La Grande Arche or Grande Arche de la Fraternite or Defense, in the center of the business district, can be seen straight down the boulevard in the distance. You can walk directly under one, and if you don’t turn a bit, make it under the other. Of course you’ll probably be run over by about a thousand cars before you get there, but in theory you could.

When Napoleon envisioned the Arch of Triumph he probably didn’t foresee the French flag being flown side by side under it with the European Union flag (unless he was head of the EU too), but that is what it now looks like.

The Arch of Triumph (part 1 of 2)

For our last full day in Paris we decided to start at the Arch of Triumph (Arc de Triomphe).

To reach the Arch you go underground and then pop up pretty much right under it. In the underground, pedestrian tunnel to get there you can purchase tickets to walk up the narrow, winding staircase within the Arch to the roof. It’s not cheap to get a view from the top at almost US$20 a person. Luckily, my kids were young enough to do it for free.

The skies were a bit more “normal,” compared to the day we went up the Eiffel Tower, since there wasn’t rain the night before this time. Smog was in the air, but the views were still pretty good. A bunch of streets, a dozen I believe, begin (or end, depending on your vantage point) at the Arch.

From the Arch there are similar views to those you get on the first level of the Eiffel Tower, including Sacre-Coeur. I’ll post some more photographs from the top tomorrow.

Disneyland Paris (part 2 of 2)

I won’t show you pictures of the Main Street Parade at Disneyland Paris because of the insanity involved. My pictures of the parade reveal people, people, and more people. If you happened to be wandering around these parts of the concrete jungle known as Disneyland Paris within 15 minutes of the parade you became instantly trapped and couldn’t go forward or back. I’ve been to sold out general admission concerts that allowed more freedom of movement.

Needless to say, most visitors to Disneyland Paris were not very happy at this point. We witnessed verbal fights between strangers (in French), and I heard someone from the UK behind me comment that this was the “Unhappiest Place on Earth” (knocking off on Disney’s propaganda that Disneyland is “The Happiest Place on Earth”).

The rides were mostly like those in Anaheim Disneyland with minor variations and several omissions. Space Mountain was cool at the outset with a “blast off” I hadn’t previously experienced, but then it was mostly painful blackness without all of the stars you experience on the ride in Southern California. Space Mountain was very jerky and had a harness that helped to cause, rather than cushion, the blows. My wife actually came out of it with her shoulder quite sore and bleeding a bit.

The one fun roller coaster was Big Thunder Mountain Railroad which was very smooth and long. As you can see from the above picture (that’s me in the middle right with my hat on backwards), I whooped it up to try and make this day have some silver linings.

The photo is one I took of the monitor after the ride. Prices for a picture of yourself started at 15 Euro (or over $24).NOT disneyland paris nachos

I mentioned the food being bad at Disneyland Paris in yesterday’s blog entry. I’ll offer one example of what a joke it was. My son ordered “nachos” and we envisioned something like what you see in the picture to the right. The price was high enough to warrant something like your typical nachos with cheese, etc. that one expects in the states. But what did we actually get? 6, that’s right SIX, nacho flavored Doritos. Can you believe that ordering nachos in a restaurant would result in Doritos without any toppings–not even cheese? Neither could I.

While generally lacking the charm and character of a place like Tivoli, which we visited in Copenhagen, and with the shortest lines being longer than Tivoli’s longest queues, Disneyland Paris does get somewhat better after the sun begins to drop.

The Mad Hatter’s Tea Cups spin wildly under an array of Chinese lanterns which are kind of neat once lit in the evening.

Our last ride of the day was It’s a Small World, which has the same soundtrack as that at Southern California Disneyland but looks more recent in construction. The same goes for Pirates of the Caribbean and Phantom Manor.

The above photograph is of the Japanese part of It’s a Small World.

In summary, avoid Disneyland Paris at all costs. It doesn’t matter if your kids are of the right age or if you want to say you’ve been there. The odds are pretty good that your money can be spent on something else that won’t cause misery for much of a day. You couldn’t pay me to go back to the place.

My kids may say otherwise, but they are under the influence of the Dickens’ quote which kicked off yesterday’s blog entry.

Disneyland Paris (part 1 of 2)

“One always begins to forgive a place as soon as it’s left behind.” — Charles Dickens

Our second to last day in Paris we decided to go to the place formerly known as Euro Disney–Disneyland Paris. I take that back. We didn’t decide to go; I didn’t want to go. I knew it would be a day from hell. But my veto was overridden 3 votes to 1, and there was nothing I could do but blow nearly US$500 to stand in lines all day (and eat horrible food).

The trip to Disneyland Paris didn’t get off to a great start. When we got to the RER station we found the ticket machine wouldn’t accept bills or our credit cards. Since Disneyland Paris isn’t in Paris, the RER train you take to get there is not exactly cheap with a fare of over US$10 a person each way. The only way someone without a local credit card can buy a ticket is to use coins. Who carries around $40 in coins to ride a train?

We wanted to get there before it opened at 10 to avoid the lines (yeah right) but soon realized that wasn’t going to happen when we had to find someone who could provide so much change. Not many businesses are open in Paris at 9 in the morning, and the bitter, French shopkeepers who were open were not willing to provide us with change without us buying their overpriced wares.

Eventually we found a change machine in the post office which ever so reluctantly provided the needed handfuls of coins. The train was packed so we had to stand for most of the 40 minute+ journey.

Once we were at the “park” we had to stand in four lines. The first, pictured above, was for security. The second was for tickets. The third was to get in. The fourth was for our first ride. From the time in which we arrived at the train station until we got on our first ride four and one half hours had elapsed. 99% of that time was spent standing and waiting. Now do you see why I wasn’t looking forward to my veto being overridden?

We have been through this before, at Universal Studios Japan in Osaka, and I vow (once again) to never let it happen again. If my kids want to go to Tokyo Disneyland, next year, they will be going without me.

In our first ride line (which took an hour even though it wasn’t a fast pass type of ride) we met a really nice man from Poland. He heard us speaking in English and asked, “Are you from the USA?” When we responded in the affirmative, he asked why someone from the USA would go to Disneyland Paris. I agreed with him–no one from the states (or anywhere else for that matter) should go to Disneyland Paris. The discussion with him was the most enjoyable part of the day. It turns out he is an excommunicated, former Catholic Priest. He was excommunicated for wanting a family and was visiting Disneyland Paris with his son. It’s not every day that an excommunicated Catholic and an excommunicated Mormon like myself meet up in a line in Paris Disneyland.

As you can see from the above photo, Disneyland Paris is very similar to Disneyland in Anaheim, California. There are a few minor differences. One major difference is that you can smoke in Disneyland Paris, and the French, like the Danes, love their cigarettes. Few things in life are worse than spending a day in queues at Disneyland. Spending a day in lines with people blowing smoke in your face is one of them.

But the biggest disappointment of all (not really) is that there is no Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride in Disneyland Paris. There is a restaurant called “Toad Hall” though.