Grant McWilliams

Travel Trip Journals Paris/Lyon - 2008

Paris/Lyon - 2008

I've cut down the number of photos in the Paris/Lyon gallery by half. There were about 1300 there and now I think there's 664 or so. I also added a module so I can have my youtube videos embedded in the gallery so you don't have to check both places for videos. All photos should be rotated so you don't have to get neck cramps and there shouldn't be too many duplicates. I've not edited very many as I don't have time but there are some that I've cropped, rotated or cleaned up a bit, mainly food photos.

Paris/Lyon photo gallery

Now to complete the travel journal...

Grant

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Everyone knows about the Eiffle tower, most know about the Arc de Triumph, fewer know about the Louvre, even fewer know about the Seine river cruise boats. We've done all of that multiple times and this year we're doing things we've never done before so what's next? Doing something that most tourists haven't even heard of, the canal cruise.

Many don't know that there are miles of canals in Paris that pass through a bunch of locks and that you can take a boat or barge up them. Back when the citizens of Paris relied on the Seine for fresh water they'd neardly drain it most of the year so Napoleon decided to dig a canal (not him personally) from a water source many miles away. The canals have been in service for 175 years now. The ride is about 2.5 hrs and it goes about 3 miles through 7 locks and a stretch of tunnel under the Bastille. We had to get up early to get to the Musee Dorsay are of the Quay to catch our boat. Thankfully it was a small boat with possibly 30 people on it which contrasts nicely to the Seine river cruises with their massivly powerful spotlights, blaring speakers and the crowds of tourist that pile on them.

At 9 oclock sharp we head up the Seine past the Notre Dame and the Louvre to enter a tunnel near the Bastille.

 

More later...

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After the long day yesterday we went shopping again. The Tati that we'd seen outside the metro windows seemed a lot bigger so we aimed for it. Boy is Paris different around the Barbès area where Tati is. As soon as we get out of the Barbès - Rochechouart metro station we're bombarded by middle eastern and African people wanting to sell us sunglasses and corn grilled in a shopping cart. It felt as if I'd been transported back to Turkey again.There's an Arab market here on certain days of the week and about 5 blocks north there's an African market too.

The Tati here spans about 3 buildings on 3 floors so it's quite large. The strange thing is that it looks like they took over a bunch of smaller shops because you'd actually have to go out the door to the sidewalk to get to the door to the next section. Each section had cash registers so you could pay before you leave but still it was quite odd. Not knowing what size I wore I took some large and extra large shirts and the largest pair of jeans into a dressing room and attempted to get them on. I gave up on all of them. I can't fit into an XL shirt in France! I did however find two XXL shirts that fit me tightly. I pulled a "woman" and bought a bunch of XL shirts because I liked them, they were cheep and I have no intentions of weighing as much as I do for the rest of my life. Women do this all the time and it doesn't make sense and here I go and do the same thing. I will fit my XL clothes!

From Tati we left and walked to the Les Halles area again to pay for our pans. Walking this is about 3.2km or 40 minutes. We (I) wanted to walk so we could go by Passage Brady which is a street with nothing but Indian stuff on it. I also wanted to see new territory. We got to E. Dehillerin about 10 minutes before it closed and bought the pans. The day before we leave we'll come back and get them.

One of the coolest market streets (if a little busy) is Rue Monteguil that empties out near Les Halles so we strolled down it and stopped at the two cherubs for Gelato. I miss Gelato. It's pretty good in Paris but about twice the price as in Italy.

We did more shopping (read that as Natalya did) and ended up finding little music boxes that played Le Vie en Rose which is so quitisentialy French. I bought one for my friend Sherri back home.

Dinner was provided by some Tibetans and wasn't bad although I wasn't sure what to order and we're still not sure what we did get. I do know that I ordered steamed bread which was strange in that they cook the dough by steaming it so it comes out tasting like gooey wet bread dough. Overall I wouldn't go out of my way for Tibetan food but it's no less apealing than most Chinese food. I do think the lady that waited on us was very attractive though and of course didn't look Chinese at all.

 

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[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uo-AM2Jzsow]

Our plan today is to go to Parc Asterix. Paris has several theme parks including Disneyland, Parc Asterix and Le Sable de la

Mer. I've not been to Disneyland Paris and I'm not interested in it either. I'm sure it's fun just like it is in America but going to Disneyland Paris is like eating at McDonalds in Paris. We've been to Parc Asterix before so we decided to return to it. I'm curious about Le Sable de la Mer as it's an old west (American) type park with indians etc.. It seems to be aimed more at younger kids though. Note that it is the oldest theme park in Paris, run by the Parc Asterix folks and is cheaper than the others.

 

So off to Parc Asterix we go. We got up early and took the metro to Gare de Nord where we caught the RER to the CDG airport. I've been in Gare de Nord a million times and I still think the lower levels are frustrating. It took us a while to find our RER train. Forty minutes later and $45 poorer we're at CDG airport on the shuttle rail between terminals trying find the Asterix bus. Last year we got an all-inclusive ticket from SNCF with the RER tickets, bus ticket and entrance fee. This year the train company was out so we are doing it ourselves. Information in the airport train station pointed us to a booth saying Parc Asterix on it (surprise surprise). We bought our bus tickets and Parc Asterix tickets there and preceeded on.

I've said this before but the Euro is beating us up pretty bad. The tickets to Parc Asterix are about 35 euros each which a couple of years ago wasn't bad. Now that is equivilent to nearly $60. Times that by four and add in 34 euros each way from the airport to Paris and the bus fair and we'd just dropped $330 on going to Parc Asterix. Two years ago it cost us about $90 less. Oh well, it's just money right?

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Today was a bit of a slow day because yesterday was crazy busy. Since we're only in Paris for 2 weeks we decided to do some shopping. On an old travel video Justine Shapiro talked about a shop called Tati that we never see in the guidebooks. On the number 2 metro we've seen Tati out the window so we knew roughly where it was. Our plan was to go to Tati and then to E. Dehillerin to see about picking up some more copper cookware.

Whenever I leave the apartment I go down a different street in order to get to know my neighborhood. Today we went straight east to Avenue de Clichy because we knew we could catch the metro at the Clichy stop. Surprise to us but Avenue de Clichy is lined with cheap clothing shops and kebab restaurants, score! We also found that it had it's own Tati shop. Natalya bought a few pieces of clothing and then we went to Tati and loaded up on Parisian clothes that made the girls look very nice. Paris is not the place to buy clothes as everything here is very expensive but Tati is decent. It's probably the French equivilent to a Factory2U or TJMaxx. Things that would have been $20 at home was probably near there here. They didn't have hardly any boys or mens clothes though so that will have to wait.

After leaving we took our clothes back to the apartment and headed to E. Dehillerin to check on pans. If you don't know Le Dehillerin it's a 150 year old cooking store that speciallizes in copper. Even with the horrible exchange rate it's cheaper to get your stuff in Paris and bring it home over going to Wiliams Sanoma or Sur La Table. A 9.5 inch Mauviel Sauce pan with lid at E. Dehillerin is $266 US dollars, at Sur La Table it's special order and costs $455. Almost $200 in savings is huge. You could ship it for $50, pay tax and still be $100 ahead. We chose to put them in our bags and carry them back. That way we can go to customs in CDG airport and have them stamp our documents and E. Dehilerin would refund our tax. We bought two sauce pans, one lid and another 11 fry pan which cost us a total of $477. At Sur La Table that same stuff would have been $865. Buying our stuff there paid for half of one plane ticket.

Even though you can get Mauviel pans at Williams Sanoma they aren't the same. They've adapted them for the American home cook. The copper walls are just over half the thickness and they have brass handles to make them lighter than the cast iron ones. Yes, they're more practical in the weight category but if you don't have 2.5 mm of copper than why are you using it? I don't think that 1.5 mm copper has any advantage over alluminum. The Williams Sanoma product liine doesn't match up exactly to the professional stuff you get in Paris but buying the stuff closest to what we got it would have cost $715 there. We saved $250 and we got the real thing.

We'll stop back by and pay for them at a later date.

 

 

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I have to weight the things we do when on vacation. People have been prompting me to put together travel videos or guides about how to travel with kids. There's an amazing number of things that kids like to do that are also fun for adults, this museum included. We "discovered" it last year in the same manner that SE Asia or Tenochtitlan was discovered by Europeans (and Pocahontas discovered England). Anyway it was hidden in the "other things to do in the outer regions" of our guidebook. So last year it was a big hit and we decided to hit it again this year.

To give you a bit of a primer the Cité, Museum of Science and Industry is as you have probably guessed a Museum of Science and Industry. If you guessed that then you get special prize. Anyway it's a lot like the Puget Sound Science Center or OMSI in Portland except for one small detail - it's about 10x larger than either! It has a bit of history in that this area used to be farms and later Napoleon dug canals from a basin to the Seinne to provide drinking water to Paris. The canal was also used for very industrial purposes like shipping or grain and other produce from and to the outerlying towns. Because of it's location outside Paris the area became very industrial and a giant slaugherhouse and livestock yard was built here. As the city engulfed the Villette area the famous president François Mitterrand decided as one of his grand projects to provide an education place for Parisians to take their children and the Cite was born. They converted the livestock yards to themed gardens which span the canals and the slaughterhouse is now the museum. On the property there is also a music museum but we've never gone to it. Overall the Cite and adjoining Parc de Villete are one of our favorite things to do. You'll see zero to very few tourists here and it's very educational. The sheer size of the museum is hard to get over. Look at the picture here and focus on the bridges that go into the side of the building. Those are people on them! See the Paris/Lyon gallery for more full resolution pictures that you can zoom in on.

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If I could title this trip to Paris it would be the "What we've never done before" trip because we've spent a lot of time discovering new parts of Paris. That is outside of going to the Eiffel Tower and Pompidou Center.

The shopping mall which seems like a trully American thing actually existed long before we started building them. In the middle east there are large indoor markets (grand bazzaar in Istanbul is one) but in western terms it was probably the French that introduced them to us. They started out as passageways between buildings called galleries which were covered with glass and lined with shops. At one point there were hundreds in Paris but now I believe there are only about 16 left if my guide book can be believed. Our aim was to go see some of these galleries.

It's kind of sad to see them go because they're really a part of Paris and unless you're looking for them you'll walk right on by because they look like grand entrances to buildings. Inside they're elegant and so period Parisien. They ooz style. Unfortunately by the time we got out and about to see them it was dark and we could only look in through locked iron gates. This one however was open and we were able to walk though. Even though the alley is covered it's still somewhat open above and I imagine that there is no heat in the center hallway. Notice the "street lights" on the walls.

I'm glad I got to see a piece of history before they're all possibly removed. I don't know if that will happen but who knows?

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The rain has lessened so we did our normal shopping in the morning to get croissants and some fruit from one of the many fruit stands. Natalya has been begging to go to Pompidou center to hang out so that's our plan today. If you don't know Pompidou you could just google it! Ok here's a link - Pompidou Centre.

When someone in my family says they want to go to Pompidou it doesn't mean they want to go to the modern art museum named after George Pompidou which we've done twice but rather they want to go to the area surrounding Pompidou Centre. The area is host to many street performers and a really strange mix of people. Many are tourists but many are locals. There are a lot of Arabs and Blacks from north Africa lending a very vibrant exotic element. It's also an area where it's best to keep an eye on your wallet so take note. Pompidou center is a large strange buiding with all the guts on the outside. The pipes, escalator, heating ducts etc are all on the outside leaving the inside basically wall free. It's the perfect building for a modern art museum and to get in the mood you might want to run up the down escalator.

Anyway in front of the buiding is a large sloping concrete and stone area where the street performers gather and at the top are a plethora of artists just waiting to do your caricature or portrait for $30. Some are very good and if nothing else are interesting to talk too. I've met restaurant chefs that have closed down their restaurants and turned to drawing peoples picture for a living! I guess its the French equivilent to moving to Manhattan and becoming a dog walker in central park.

You just never know what you're going to find at Pompidou and today was no different. There was a Chinese guy with a guitar singing old American songs to French people. Every year at least one of us get's sucked into a street performance and this year was Natalya's. She got shake the noisemakers while he sang an American song. The video will be on Youtube eventually so stay tuned.

We gave him change and moved on to have our portraits one. I need a characature for this site so I've had several done and this was probably the best. We chose the Chinese section of the artists apparently as there were about 10 Chinese people drawing. The lady that did Natalya is from Shanghai and has lived in Paris for 5 years. She's going to be heading back now as I assume her VISA has expired. She'll be in for a suprise when she gets there because I think China has changed a lot in the last 5 years. I also met another guy from the northeast of China that learned German at home and moved to Germany for 3 years to study art. He had just arrived in Paris and couldn't speak French but seemed very nice...He needed a lesson in business though as he wasn't quite understanding that a lone person that can't speak the language wasn't going to attract business over his competition.

I was going to go back and work some entrepeneurial magic but was tired so didn't. The next time we went by there he wasn't there. So I got a fairly decent characature and in time I'll scan it an put it up here.

 

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Our first day in Paris comprised of us trying to stay dry. Piper and I ventured out to find stereotypical Parisien breakfast of Croissants, nutella and confiture with fruit juice to drink. My internet search of a grocery store showed a G20 a few blocks away so we ventured that way but never found it. There are Franprix on about every 3rd block around here so we picked up the juice, milk and Jade's cereal there. The Batignolle area is blessed with many Boulangeries to choose from but we stopped at the one right on the main city square and were pleasently surprised with the quality. Immediately next door to the Boulangerie was a Franprix so we didn't need to wander all over the neighborhood afterall. Doesn't matter, now we know a bit more about our suroundings.

The rest of the day we basically spent holed up in our apartment until dinner when the rain stopped. Indian food is a pretty safe bet so we went looking for the place that we ate at last year only to find it closed down. We continued down the street to another on the corner of Rue Batignolles and Blvd Batignolles. The owner was very nice and the decore was fixed up. One of the main differences between Indian restaurants in Seattle and those in Paris is in Seattle they're usually dirty little places in strip malls that server mediocre food. In Paris the interiors are decked out with rugs, fancy Indian furniture and the walls completely adorned. There will be Hindi music playing and all the people working there will be Indian (so far all men). In the states Mexicans cook the food, white people serve it and the only Indians in an Indian restaurant are the owners. They play top 40 and there's very little "Indian culture to get in the way of a good meal". Maybe the Indian culture is too much for Americans to take so it all has to be watered down. I don't know.

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So we'd gained an extra day in Lyon but now it was time to move on. I woke early and walked to the train station to get tickets. I think it's about a 35 minute walk but I wanted to make sure we could get the right train. I told the Conceirge that we'd be in Paris at 4 and we'd be at the apartment. He said he'd sent me an email so I could give him an update before we left. I checked my email and saw nothing from him, maybe it got thrown in the SPAM box. I got tickets out of Lyon at 2pm which would allow us to get to Paris at 2 and the apartment at 5 using the Metro. On the way back I stopped at a boulangerie and picked up some Chauson and Pain aux Chocolate for breakfast.

We cleaned up the apartment, my kids did their last minute checks and we headed out at 12. This would put us arriving the station at 12:45 leaving us about one hour to check out Le Halles for food. I know I've said it before but the French know food. Just walking down the aisles and smelling the cheeses, the pastries, the cured meats etc.. is a neat experience. It's something that I don't think you can experience in the states. We didn't really find any food because the French unlike the Italians like to provide a lot of raw ingredients making it a bit difficult if you're looking for a complete meal. In Italy they have a lot of little shops but the food is generally prepared, in France a cheese shop has cheese, a charcuterie has sliced meats etc... Some assembly required.

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