Public transportation in Paris

I recently took my 15-year-old daughter to Paris in September. Our summer was booked with family visits so we had to carve out time during the school year. I do NOT drive in Europe. I have been legally driving now for many years, but I’m a bad parallel parker. I avoid it at all costs. I haven’t done it since I passed the test and had to. That rules out driving in a lot of places. For the record, I have countless hours of experience on city subways. We went to our trusty google to find out the cheapest way to get around Paris for 6 days was to buy a week pass. https://parisbytrain.com/paris-train-metro-week-pass-navigo-decouverte/ For like $30 per person we were able to use all of the subways, many local trains, and buses. (We never took the bus.) $30 is a great price! We bought our passes at the airport (bring a photo of yourself for the pass-like passport size) and we were able to hop right on the train to the city center. For less than the price of the taxi ride to the city, we bought a week pass to go wherever we wanted. Since I was already a highly experienced subway masterer, I put my school skipping teen in charge of getting some real-life skills. I made her figure out our routes every time we entered the subway station. It was definitely NOT her first time being in a subway in a city, but this time she was in charge. We were feeling so awesome with all of our savings from our public transportation pass that we could splurge on some extra pastry runs. Her favorite thing in all of Paris was NOT the sparkling Eiffel Tower but was éclair framboise. (raspberry eclair) We truly had to avoid having one every chance we got so we could eat real meals. We had dinner 3 nights with friends so between that and the eclair runs we didn’t get to eat nearly enough food of our own choice so I think we will be going back for a do-over.  Using the subway was economical except that we were in Paris during a transportation strike/shut down and after using our own 2 feet the entire day, we thankfully caught a cab to get us back to our hotel. That set us back like $20. You cannot predict where the strike will be if you visit Paris, but you can predict there will be one. Our total transportation costs ended up being around $80 for 2 people for one week. (That does not include the price of good walking shoes. That will cost a lot more.) The day we were forced to walk to reach our destination was priceless since we saw cool streets that we would not have otherwise. On the other hand, we spent a lot of time looking at the Louvre art from the benches due to our fatigue. Good thing we had been there before and children under 18 get in FREE.

Pedestrian streets…..

A lot of our recent trip to France was unplanned. It was very intentional on our parts. We didn’t want to have to be anywhere at a certain time with anyone depending on us. Last fall, we had a very time sensitive travel plan to meet friends and it could have been a disaster due to a flight disruption. The situation was salvaged somewhat, but it left me pretty rattled. With that said, I managed to see all of the people I intended on visiting, I just didn’t give them much warning that I was coming. If you ever don’t have a day planned on a Europe trip, the pedestrian streets are always a nice place for window shopping and a stroll. This carousel was so pretty that it actually felt very magical and other worldly. I don’t think the iphone shots correctly convey the sentiment though so you’ll have to go yourself.

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Carousel in Caen, France

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           prettiest carousel

¿Creepy place?

When I lived in France 25 years ago, I lived near a cemetery. (Along with a number of other places….) The other day, as we prepared to leave and say our goodbyes, we visited the cemetery as a last hurrah. Our hosts lived next to the cemetery still where I once lived with them, but we were actually staying at their daughter’s home since she had a much larger place to accommodate the 5 of us. As we arrived early in the morning, the fields were close by and the smells were very nostalgic of a time long ago. It was August 19th, but already there was autumn in the air and it was a crisp cool morning and we’d be buying hot cocoa and croissants within the hour before hitting the freeway to head far North on to Belgium. There is something remarkable about the way smells can quickly evoke powerful memories and that morning brought me way back to my 15th year of life with the scent. Anyway, I used to walk over to the cemetery while I lived there. Nobody living was ever in the cemetery, yet it was fascinating. It was definitely not the well manicured lawn filled cemetery of my Utah town, but a place of fascinating mausoleums. We walked the rows and rows of cross covered tombs and then said goodbye. I wasn’t looking forward to the goodbye part of the trek cause I wouldn’t be seeing them again, since my hosts were elderly people, it was especially poignant and heavy.

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The coolest place you’ve probably not been to….

Fort Boyard in France

                     Fort Boyard in France

One of the highlights of our 2015 tour of Western France and Belgium was a boat ride to the coolest place. It is called Fort Boyard. From wikipedia: Fort Boyard (pronounced: [fɔʁ bɔjaʀ]) is a fort located between the Île-d’Aix and the Île d’Oléron in the Pertuis d’Antioche straits, on the west coast of France and is the filming location for the TV gameshow of the same name. Though a fort on Boyard bank was suggested as early as the 17th century, it was not until the 1800s under Napoleon Bonaparte that work began. Building started in 1801 and was completed in 1857. In 1967, the final scene of the French film Les aventuriers was filmed at the remains of the fort.

Since I had been before on a boat tour to Île-d’Aix when I lived there in 1990-1991 and I’d seen Fort Boyard, I really wanted to take my family there. However, we were staying with friends about 40 minutes away from the boat departure and I didn’t want to book something and have to be there at a certain time potentially sweaty and stressed trying to make it. So… When we arrived at the beautiful port city of La Rochelle, we then saw all of the boat ticket kiosks and bought some tickets for a 2 hour tour for an hour later. I think boats are really cool, but I can get quite seasick so it is a good way to never actually buy a boat. However, I knew this boat ride wouldn’t be away from actual land too long and I tend to get seasick when land is not visible. It was cool to again see Fort Boyard and show my family this unique and fascinating place. 

Biking… We still bike….

This summer has been crazier than most. We knew it would be crazy, we just didn’t know there would be a move thrown in the mix to make it crazy squared. We aren’t sure when the move will go down as the “crazy” real estate market never seems to work in my favor so I get to sweat and sweat and sweat and possibly send off my husband without us. Anyway, we went to an island the other day and I had already given up going to another island (the one I wanted to…) because the only thing to do there is ride a bike and I wasn’t sure my youngest could handle a day long bike ride. So….we went to L’île de Ré. A few years ago I read in a chic US travel magazine about this unknown (to Americans) place and it was a place that I knew as a place for biking and being chased around by my younger host brother. He thought he was Bilboa Baggins and I was the enemy…….so he chased me around the island with his wooden sword and we didn’t really see many other people back in 1991. Now, it is on the radar of the Hamptons crowd I guess. When I saw that they were renting bikes, I couldn’t resist. I went and rented 5 bikes and then my youngest threw a fit. She didn’t want to get on a bike. She couldn’t remember how to ride a bike. BLAH BLAH BLAH… I was not really in the mood after paying 50 Euros and wanting to bike super bad so we had to relearn to ride a bike. You know what? It was just like riding a bike and after she got over her bad attitude we had a great time. We had so much fun, but didn’t want to overexert her so we turned around before doing half of what we wanted, plus we were on dinner duty at the home of our friends we were visiting so we definitely didn’t want to flake out even though the biking was SUPER FUN!!


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Traveling with kids is awesome…

Of course it is not awesome to hear: Are we there yet for the billionth time or the constant fighting because someone got touched in the 5 passenger car with 5 people in it…… But how about finding a playground tucked in a courtyard surrounded by a castle and high on a hill. This is the heart to the city of Caen, France. Pretty sweet! image

Mont St. Michel

Yesterday, we visited Mont St. Michel. Once upon a time in 1990, I came here with other exchange students studying in France and I always wanted to return. Although I came previously in the dark ages and also off season, it was clear that this place is quite the destination; what now with parking lots that could rival the Disney parks and all. It was too crowded, but it’s a remarkable place so you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do. We ended up walking there instead of taking the shuttle bus due to my lack of desire to wait in any line. Also, OF COURSE I enjoy walking so it was okay, but we were quite hot and sweaty before we even got there. I can only tolerate sweaty if there is a guaranteed shower on the horizon. The photo does NOT accurately represent just how many people were heading towards the Mont AND when when we left there were even more going there.montst.michel

Utah beach sounds like a good place to start…

We are in France. I love it here. We had an uneventful flight which was awesome cause I freak out during any turbulence. I pray and remind myself of statistics anytime things get unpleasant on flights. The drive after the flight was actually quite unsafe cause of the jet lag, but we made it. We were coming to Normandy on our route so we decided to make a trip to the WWII monuments. We started with

Bar at Utah beach.

Bar at Utah beach.

Utah beach. The beach itself was quite unremarkable with very low wave activity which is what made it such a miraculous place. The Dday invasion was a lot bigger event than I realized and was quite amazing to learn about and a solemn hollowed location.  When you travel with a family the costs add up fast so we enjoy going to the grocery store to get a baguette to eat with ham a cheese. Total cost today = <6 euros with a drink for 5 people. You then find a nice park and have a picnic.