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Christmas 2005, Paris © R. Craig Collins, 2005/6

December 25
09:30 Leave the house, heading for DFW
11:15 Arrive Park Air Express, spot B20
11:45 Arrive US Airways Departure Desk, switch to an earlier departure time
12:15 Clear security, everyone but Diane tagged for random searches
12:30 Grab a light lunch at Au Bon Pain
12:40 Board flight 1272 to Philadelphia, 737, seated Row 17, seats A-D
13:30 Take off
17:00 Arrive in rainy Philadelphia, gate B20, head for International terminal A; grab snacks and a disposable camera
19:40 Board flight 26, Airbus 330, seated Row 31-32, seats A-B
20:15 Depart late, due to weather
Onboard: really wild roller coaster ride for a while, had pasta for dinner. Had to buy earphones to watch movies (all other international airlines we have used gave us earphones free); watched Madagascar and hit our books. Had buttermilk bars for 'breakfast' early following day.

December 26
10:00 Had to circle twice, landed 15 minutes late. Clear customs but had a little trouble with Paris Shuttle connection. PS, it was cold, overcast, and snowy.
11:00 Finally cram into a VW Van Paris Shuttle.
Paris Arrondissements
Drive to hotel: passing the Moulin Rouge, and Sacré Coeur in the 18e Arrondissement,
Moulin Rouge Sacré Coeur
then headed south to drop off other riders. On the way we went through the Latin Quarter (named for the latin spoken by college students, near the Dôme Church where Napoleon is entombed, and past the Pantheon, where many of France's 'great men' are buried. We finally arrived at the Novotel, after the driver took the scenic routes around and around the train station next to the hotel, Gare de Lyon, in the 12e.


We then went to the train station, and hunted for the entrance to Metro line 1, then bought our unlimited rides metro cards, the Carte Orange, and rode to Tuileries station, where the Paris Vision tour company was. The Jardin des Tuileries was across the way, and one wing of the Louvre was to our left.

Louvre near Tuileries

After changing our voucher for the boarding pass for the Paris Panoramic tour, we explored the area, and had some hot leek soup at café Sarl.

We then caught the bus portion of the tour with recorded dialog, which went past Place de la Concorde, the Arc de Triomphe, Place du Trocadéro, the Eiffel tower, Hôtel de Invalides (Napoleon's tomb), Jardins du Luxembourg, the Pantheon, Place de la Bastille, near Notre Dame and the Île de la cité, Pont Nuef (the old bridge), and Place de l'Opera. Then we boarded a Bateaux Parisiens boat, and down the Seine we went, starting near the Eiffel Tower. Again, with recorded dialog, we sailed past Musée de Orsay, the Institut de France, Notre Dame, the back past Hôtel de Ville, the Conciergerie, Place de la Concorde, the Petit and Grand Palais, the Trocadéro, and back to the Eiffel tower docks.

Then on to the Eiffel tower. The guide had given the paper work to one of the guests, so we all formed up, and headed to the tower. After a little confusion, we shot to the front of the line, boarded the elevator to the 2nd floor, and had a great view of the city. For 10 minutes at the top of each hour, the lit tower 'sparkled' with strobe lights, like bubbles in champagne... it was great, as was the view.

Eiffel tower at night View from Eiffel Tower

It was also very interesting looking down the elevator shaft in the Eiffel Tower...

Eiffel Tower

We then walked in the bitter cold to the RER station, caught the C train, then linked to the metro to cross the Seine, and back to the Gare de Lyon.

Gare de Lyon

We explored the station for a bit, and bought some sandwiches from one of the Croq shops, bought our Carte Musee passes for front of the line entry to all the big museums, grabbed some cookies, and headed back to the hotel. We hit the hay about 22:00.

December 27
We got up at 06:30 for breakfast in the hotel. They had a great buffet: tea, coffee, juices, cheeses, ham, sausage, bacon, hash browns, yogurt, cereal, and a great bread basket. We headed to the Metro station about 8:00, and boarded the bus in the snow at Paris Vision about 08:45 for our Royal day at Versailles. We toured the Château de Versailles, and were told about how most of the furniture was sold at auction during the revolution, but most of the art was left in place. The gardens out the windows were magnificent, with the canals in the background, and even though the hall of mirrors was half closed for renovation, it was wonderful.

Versailles Versailles Gardens
Versailles Room Versailles Hall
Versailles Ceiling Versailles Sculpture
Versailles Canals Versailles Hall of Mirrors

We then wandered the gardens, the long back view, then headed back to the entrance court.

Versailles Gardens Versailles Gardens
Versailles Rear Facade
Versailles Front Facade The Girls at Versailles

Of course, we had to buy souvenirs and books, and finally met back with our guide once again for the horse drawn carriage ride to La Flotille, a restaurant on the Grand Canal. Our three course lunch began with salad, bread, Beaujolais wine, and crepe Suzette, followed by Salmon and rice, and ended with fruit tortes. From here, we walked to the Trianons, the smaller residences on the estate. The Grand Trianon has a lot of Napoleon's clocks and furniture, plus its own gardens.

Grand Trianon Trainon Gardens
Trianon furnishings Napoleaon's touch in Grand Trianon
Versaille Gardens

The French Pavilion was in the shadow of Petit Trianon, which was full of Marie Antoinette's furnishings.

Trianon Petit

From here, we walked to the beautiful hamlet Marie Antoinette's had built, and then headed back to the bus for the ride back to Paris.

the Hamlet
the Hamlet the Hamlet

We hopped the Metro back to Gare de Lyon, did a little shopping, picked up some more sandwiches at the same Croq shop, a new box of chocolate cookies, and headed back to the hotel. While every one else prepared for bed, I went exploring, found some nearby cafés, and then we all turned in about 22:00.

December 28
After the breakfast buffet, we took the Metro to the Louvre. We wandered under the museum for a bit, wandered around the Arc at the Carousel, found the Carte Musée entrance, and entered the museum right at 09:00.

Louvre Louvre Carousel

We headed past the views of the Palais Royal to Winged Victory, and straight to the Mona Lisa.

Louvre view of Palais

From here we worked our way around the rest of the South and East parts of the 1st floor: Italian paintings in rooms with ceilings to rival the art, and over through the greek and Egyptian areas. We had quiche for lunch at the restaurant, then explored the ground floor statues, the code of Hammurabi, the Mesopotamian area, saw the seated Ramses statue in the Pharonic Egypt area, the Venus de Milo in the Greek area, the Sarcophagus of a Married Couple in the Etruscan area, the Borghese Gladiator in the pre-classical Greece area, and Psyche and Cupid in the Italian sculpture area.

Louvre roof detail Louvre Venus de Milo
Louvre Hammurabi's Code Mesopotamian area

From hear we went to the lower ground floor and the Medieval Louvre display, then on to the 2nd floor and the Northern European artists, where we saw the Card Sharps in the French area, the Rubens room, and the Holland area, including Vermeer's lace maker.

Louvre Ruben Louvre Vermeer

We then went down to the 1st floor to tour Napoleon III's apartments.

Napoleon III's apartments Napoleon III's apartments

We of course hit the book stores, and got our coats from the cloak room about 16:00.

After a short rest at the hotel, we went around the corner to a little hole in the wall called Rapide for Pizza and Frites (french fries).

Our Room

We hopped the Metro to the Champs -Élysées, and walked from the lighted trees to the shopping district.

Champs-Elysees Champs-Elysees

After scouring a Benneton, Gracie settled on a knock off purse from a street vendor, and we boarded the Metro at the George V station to head back to the Gare de Lyon, grabbed some cookies, and get back to the hotel to knock if off for the day.

December 29
We slept in a bit, hitting breakfast about 07:30, and the Metro about 08:30, to head to the Île de la cité. This island in the Seine is the home of the old city, and we began by going into the Palace of Justice ...

Palace of Justice

to see the wonderful stained glass of the Sainte Chappelle, built in 1245.

Stainte Chappelle

From here we toured the Conciergerie, the prison of Marie Antoinette during the revolution. Built in 1284, it was pretty fascinating. We then walked around the island, past Place Dauphin, the Pont Nuef, and Conciergerie.

Pont Nuef Seine

From here we went to excavations of the old city, Crypte Archeologique, and then up to the grand lady herself, Notre Dame. After circling the cathedral, we attended Mass (in French)...

Notre DameNotre Dame Notre Dame interior

before heading back to the Champs -Élysées for lunch at Quick, a european version of McDonalds. The food was what you would expect, it was crowded, the floor covered with coke, but the girls have enjoyed Quick since Brussels. We then walked in the snow to the Arc Triomphe.

Arc de Triomphe Arc de Triomphe

A tunnel took us under the road, and 200 some odd stairs to us to the museum at the top, which had a lot of Napoleon's war memorabilia. The view from the roof was wonderful, with the great churches all around, and the Eiffel tower in the distance.

View from Arc View from Arc View from Arc

We stopped in Peugeot Avenue to see a lot of concept cars before heading back to the Île de la cité.

Peugeot cars

We had hopped the line to the Towers of Notre Dame would be shorter (no front of the line privileges here), but they closed just as we got to the front of the line! We circled the cathedral to see the flying buttresses, buy souvenirs, and then head back to the Gare de Lyon.

Notre Dame Girls resting

We took a short break at the hotel, then ate at an open air restaurant that had plastic barriers up, called Parisienne. We had Kabob (lamb) and ham and cheese sandwiches with Frites, and watched Grease, in French, on the TV. From here we headed to Concorde, the square where so many royals were executed. There is a great Ferris wheel there, a 33 century old obelisk, a great view of the Eiffel Tower, and a crepe stand.

Concorde Concorde

Diane got cotton candy while the rest of us had chocolate crepes. Back to the Gare, more cookies, and a little sleep.

December 30
We had a little more time, due to the late opening of the days stops, so breakfast was at 07:40, and we took the Metro to the Hôtel de Ville, the town hall.

Hotel de Ville Hotel de Ville

Hotel de Ville Carousel

They had a two story Merry Go Round, an Ice rink, and some neat displays in the square... but nothing was open yet, so we headed back to Île de la cité, and got in line to climb the 422 steps of the Towers of Notre Dame. We waited about 50 minutes, but it was worth every second. We stopped in Esmarelda's cell on the way up, the walked among the gargoyles at the bell tower bases. We took the narrow passage to the top of the right tower for an incredible view of the cathedral the city, and the island. The bell housing itself was tight and wooden, and we all felt nervous on those steps, having left the comfort of the rock circular stair cases used to come up.

Tower of Notre Dame Notre Dame
Notre Dame View Gargoyles at Nortre Dame
Notre Dame Bell Gargoyle Rectory

Notre Dame Roof
Notre Dame Buttresses

It was two way traffic on a staircase built for one small hunchback down to the base of the bell towers, and then we had one way traffic down to ground level.

From here we took the RER train to Musée d Orsay, dedicated to the Impressionist era, 1848 to 1916.

Musee Orsay

The museum itself is a converted train station, and it was in the middle of the most impressive snow storm we had been in.

Orsay Orsay Clock Tower

We started on the top level with works by Cézanne, Degas, Gauguin, Manet, Matisse, Monet, Pissarro, Renoir, Toulouse-Latrec, Van Gogh, and Whistler.

Orsay Degas

We tried to get into the café for lunch, but it was very crowded, so we dropped to the ground level, under the clocks, and went through the sculptures on the central aisle to the Rodin terrace, and down the Lille Terrace. The girls were about cultured out, and wanted to do some Paris shopping, so I grudgingly accepted not seeing the middle level exhibits of lesser known artists, and we headed into the now rainy, slushy streets to Rue de Bac. We tried to go to Gracie's choice, Luceine Pallate-Finnet, but it was closed for lunch, so we trudged to the Café Le St. Germaine, and opted for Mousse, Crepes, and Tortes for lunch in this very nice, but pricey brasserie. We headed back to Luceine Pallate-Finnet and left after just a few minutes... the tee shirts were €200! Diane decided she wanted to go to the Hard Rock to shop, so we took the 12 train to Concorde, then the 8 train to Grand Boulevards. Gracie took pictures of famous guitars while Diane tried on Sweatshirts and such before deciding on a Paris Bruce Springsteen tee.

Shopping Hard Rock guitars

Back to the Metro. Now, in many of the stations there were accordion players who really added atmosphere, but on these trips we encountered gypsy string musicians, and back at the Gare de Lyon, a wonderful classical string ensemble.


We listened for quite a while before grabbing a little rest at the hotel, more pizza at Rapide, and a trip to the Bastille Square, past the new Opera house, in search of souvenirs. Then we took our last Metro ride back to the Gare, loaded up on snacks for the evening and for the trip the following day before packing, and retiring.

December 31
After a late breakfast, we wandered the courtyard behind the hotel and found a little grocery store. The girls loaded up on candy, and we headed back, and checked out of the hotel. Right at 10:00 the shuttle driver showed up right on time, and we were at the US Airways hall of the Airport by 10:20. We were grilled repeatedly by the much more thorough security folks, and took the clear tunnels toward Satellite terminal 2. We then had a long people mover ride over hills and valleys to the final duty free shop and final baggage security check. The sky was clear today, for the first time, but this was good for flying... the snow added a charm during the week we loved. We boarded on time, found our seats on rows 31 and 32, but this time on the far side of the plane, in seats G-H. Lunch after a delayed takeoff was chicken and pasta, the same programs from the first flight were on, so to fight boredom I watched War of the Worlds, Wedding Crashers, a documentary on Basements, a show on Rome, and we all did more book work. The most exciting point was when the plane was hit by lightening! A huge flash of light, a huge boom, and a lot of nervous, but well behaved passengers. The pilot let us know the plane was okay, but we were a little late into Philadelphia. We cleared customs and made our way to Terminal B, gate 9. We grabbed some dinner at 'Eat at Joes' and waited for our plane. Boarding started late, but we got into Row 21, A-D in time to sit on the tarmac about an extra half hour. The flight was rough, but we made it to DFW about 9:30 pm, and made a quick get away to the parking lot, so we were on the road by 10:00. We pulled into the garage about 11:45, in time to celebrate New Years, before crashing after a long day, and a great vacation.