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Sunday, April 02, 2006

Paris

Just back from a couple of days in Paris with my girlfriend.

We flew for the first time from Doncaster Airport. Open for just under a year, it is a conversion of the old Finningley RAF base. The flight (with Thomson Fly) left early at 6:30am but as it arrived at Orly airport in Paris around 9am it gave us most of the day to enjoy the sights. And at just £1 each return can’t be argued with for value for money.

Having come through passport control and collected our baggage we (and everyone else) were forced through the “red” channel where a customs officer (though he had no badge or uniform) again asked for passports!?!?!? Having been to France many times before I was amazed as this is the first time I have seen a customs office in France never mind been stopped by one.

After grabbing the Air France Bus to Montparnasse we got a couple of 3 day pass’s for Paris’s public transport and got the Metro to Miromesnil just a few hundred yards from the Holiday Inn Garden Court where we were staying. Although too early to check in we left our luggage and made the short walk past the Palace Elysee to the Champs Elysee looking across to Invalides with the Arc de Triumphe up the road to our right and Place de la Concorde to our left.

Our leisurely walk down Champs Elysee took us over Place de la Concorde, through the Tuilleries Gardens and to the Louvre. We then spent a couple of hours wandering round the museum taking in the likes of Venus de Milo and Mona Lisa.

From here we carried on down the Seine crossing Pont Neuf to Isle de la Cite and Notre Dame where we grabbed a late lunch with heavily over priced drinks. The RER and Metro then took us back to the hotel where we checked in.

The hotel itself was well situated in central Paris with good access to the city via the Metro as well as on foot. While fairly basic it was clean and comfortable with a mini-bar a good quality continental breakfast.

Later on we ventured out for dinner. Restaurants in the area were aplenty however offered food from all over the world except France. We did find a few however they tended to offer either very expensive set menus (50Euros plus) or reasonably priced menus with little if any choice of two courses. We eventually found a nice little restaurant just off the main streets around Gare Lazare with a sub 30 Euro menu of three-course with plenty of choice. The food was excellent and came to 100 Euros for both of us including tip, wine and supplements for some Foie Gras and a decent steak.

Day 2 and we were straight off to the Eiffel Tower after breakfast, which was just a 10 minute direct ride on the Metro. A short queue and we were in the lift to the second floor where we again queued to get to the top. The views over the whole city were superb and well worth the 11 Euro entrance fee. After a Croque Monsieur and a coffee on the second floor we strolled down the Seine to the Bateaux Mouche for a cruise past the various sights. A great way to catch a glimpse of much of what Paris has to offer from a tourist point of view.

From here a walk up Ave George V to the Champs Elysee and a quick visit to the Arc de Triumphe before catching the Metro to Mont Matre and a walk up to Sacre Cour.

After a quick trip back to the hotel we headed in the opposite direction for dinner hoping to find a little more in the way of reasonably priced restaurants. We quickly found success at Olives Café Restaurant and had a lovely meal including wine and tip for 65 Euros. With both evening meals what really stood out were the desserts, both nights they were fantastic, particularly the various apple pie/cake/crumbles that we had.

Jumping back on the Metro we went back to the Eiffel tower to view it lit up. At 10pm we were just about to leave when flashing lights appeared all over the tower prompting a Bonfire night “Oooooooo” from the assembled crowd.

A short Metro ride back to the hotel had us find the road just after the hotel that led to the Palace Elysee had an armed police barricade. Earlier in the day the French President had announced he was going ahead with a controversial employment law which had lead to riots in previous weeks, it would seem that this was just a precaution as the night passed without incident, though earlier we had seen riot police by the bus load passing the restaurant while we ate.

An early(ish) start the next day saw us check in for our flight by 9am only to find out once through passport control that the flight was delayed. Eventually we left around two hours late on what appeared to be a replacement plane Thomson had chartered though no (plausible) explanation for the delay was ever given. Comedy moment was landing in Doncaster to find there stairs were slightly too high for the cabin doors, though not enough to cause a real hindrance.

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