June 7, 2014

Treasures of France (Day 2, 7 June 2014)

Another day of major walking! 

We had most of the day free because the group would only meet for the welcome later in the evening so after breakfast (where they at first directed us to the function room to dine with other groups but I think that was a mistake because our tour hasn't officially started), we headed out to the metro station Anatole France to catch a ride to Notre Dame.
I had an ulterior motive to visit there today because I knew the Queen was going to be in the vicinity, visiting the flower market nearby which was to be renamed after her. Unfortunately the market was closed off to visitors and security was tight. I naively thought we could just bump into her at one of the stalls! Oh well. 

But all was not lost despite it starting to rain. Because of the road closures and our intention to head towards the Louvre next, we had to walk towards Hotel de Ville where we saw a large crowd gathered. I recalled the Queen having a meeting with the mayor prior to her flower market visit so I did eventually manage to catch a glimpse of her after we waited a few minutes for her arrival. Yay! 
Next we walked along Rue de Rivoli to shop a little, I bought some items from H&M and C&A before we wound up at the Louvre. Since the boy doesn't appreciate art and I have been before, I just made him take some photos by the glass pyramid before we continued on towards the Opera House. 
I bought a giant chocolate macaron from Paul, and we found a Japanese restaurant to stop for lunch. It was run by mainland Chinese so the ramen didn't make the cut.
From there Galleries Lafayette was a short walk away and we spent a couple of hours shopping. It was packed with lots of Chinese tourists queuing up for all the designer stores and I was a bit put off. Only managed to cover the first level and bought a Gucci belt on Swana's behalf and a couple of Vanessa Bruno bags for me, plus one for Jane. 
Came back to the hotel after that to rest and freshen up before meeting the rest of the tour group in the lobby along with our travel director Vanessa. Quite a number of Asians in the group, everyone was very friendly and in no time we boarded the bus for a short drive around the city, catching a glimpse of The Pantheon, Opera House, Place de la Concorde, the obelisk, after a quick pit stop at the Eiffel. 
We got off at the Champs Elysees for dinner near the Arc de Triomphe at a place called Chez Clement. We were just in time to catch the daily parade and homage to the tomb of the unknown soldier, I had no idea the flowers were changed everyday with a little ceremony. 
At dinner, we sat with Aussies Ray and Marian from Melbourne, as well as Bill and Naomi from Adelaide. Dinner was pretty good, best French onion soup I've had and the main was roast chicken with mashed potato. Can't go wrong. Dessert was creme brulee was which a generous portion and so smooth and creamy. 

June 6, 2014

Treasures of France (Day 1, 6 June 2014)

Bonjour, greetings from Paris!

After a 13 hour flight, we are here in the City of Lights. We had the whole day free since the tour only starts tomorrow and because the room was not available for check-in, the boy was forced to gallivant with me.

Ate breakfast in the hotel before we walked in search of the metro station which was about a 5 min walk away. First stop, Trocadero Gardens and the Eiffel. I had brought plenty of sweaters and light jackets in anticipation of cooler temperatures but it was a hot day!

I had always wanted to take pictures from Trocadero with the Eiffel in the background but unfortunately the sun was behind us and there were tons of tourists so that wish had to be dropped. And of course, the hubby has no patience to compose shots or take lighting into consideration so this trip will have many photos of him and not me!
I did wear an Old Navy tee with an image of the Eiffel on purpose...corny I suppose. Took pictures of the tower from many angles and when I had my fill, we proceeded on foot towards Invalides, where Napoloen's tomb is stored. Didn't go in but just took a picture from outside.
Next was the Rodin Museum, where an ex-colleague had told me about the rose garden. Paid a nominal entrance fee to access the garden and wandered about, while the boy chilled in the shade. There was a statue of The Thinker but to me it looked like he was on the potty, which I suppose is where a lot of people do their thinking!
From there it was a short walk to my favouritest bridge, Pont Alexandre III. Ever since I saw it in a romantic American Express ad many years ago, I have thought this bridge very pretty. Tried to recreate a shot of me standing with the lamp posts in the background which I took back in 1998 but again, the boy has no patience with these things.
We walked on towards the Champs Elysees where we spotted the Disney Store and Zara Home. I bought some tropical plates for the kids and then we found a Chinese 'economic rice' stall around the corner from Monoprix.
There were lots of stir fries which were charged by weight and we shared some broccoli, beef and chicken. By this time he was pretty tired and the room should have been ready so we headed back to the Movenpick Neuilly. Nice hotel, in a residential area though with not much else around.

There was a complimentary bottle of wine waiting for us, courtesy of the French Trafalgar team and also the hotel GM provided some cheese, tomatoes and olives.
Stayed in and watched some of the D-Day 70th anniversary celebrations on TV, live. That's one of the reasons were's here, to fulfil the boy's dream to see Normandy so why not do it as part of his 40th birthday celebrations and maximise his travel perks? ;-)