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6 Aussies escape to France - Paris, Provence & Dordogne

6 Aussies escape to France - Paris, Provence & Dordogne

Old Jan 22nd, 2010, 11:08 PM
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6 Aussies escape to France - Paris, Provence & Dordogne

Lets introduce ourselves - 3, 50ish couples on our much anticipated and longed for sojourn to France.
Most of our friends could not believe that we were "only going to France?"and for 4 weeks!. As Australia is so long away from Europe most Aussies like to see as many countries in Europe as possible. But oh no not this time we wanted to soak up the atmosphere, eat some food, drink that wine and live that French dream even if it was only for 4 weeks

Planes, trains and automobiles! And so our journey began.

I might add at this stage that prior to our trip I had spent many many hours reading Fodors, asking questions and scanning trip reports – my husband nicknamed me ‘Mrs Fodors’! I have received such invaluable hints, ideas and information from this site that all contributed to our wonderful trip to France.
Whats better than spending 30 hours to arrive at our destination of Paris. We live about 80k south of Sydney, Australia so drove to Sydney airport for the first leg of our much anticipated trip to France. Booked on British Airways to London via Singapore – due to online check in I was able to snavel exit row seats, I was very proud of myself. Having not flown BA before we were pleasantly surprised, service was excellent our FA was French and after DH practiced some of his recently learnt French language on him he became very attentive and always gave him extra of everything, especially alcohol . Sadly after 8 ½ hours flying we changed planes in Singapore for our next BA leg of 13 ½ hours to London, this leg we sat in the rear where there are just 2 seats on the side.
Arrived at T4 Heathrow at 5am, it was a lovely morning sun was rising and the airport and surrounds were just waking and coming to life. An 18min bus trip to the glass encased T5. DH was happily sampling the best Scotch he could find encouraged by a ruddy faced older gent salesman who looked like he too like a scotch or two. Next BA flight was a 7.30am flight delayed an hour by fog which seemed to be full of business people, this flight service was considerably less appealing but who cares we were almost in Paris!

On yet another bus to the terminal we then collected our bags (thumbs up for baggage handlers) and started the long walk to the RER. We stopped at a tourist info centre along the way and were able to purchase tickets which saved us a huge queue done below, now that was clever or lucky. After lugging our bags down steps onto a hot crowded train - a little overcrowding is not going to wipe my happy smile off my face, we got off at Luxemborg, had a little trouble finding our bus stop for the crowded number 27 bus with heavy bags. Reached our apartment ( I soo wanted to stay in an apartment but was a little nervous with the process but was so encouraged by all the expert opinions from Fodorites).

We LOVED our apartment. We shared it with our friends, another Aussie couple who arrived the day earlier. I had booked this myself after much searching and we just loved it. It was on the 6th floor in the 5th, there was a cute little elevator. This apartment was the owner’s home for 20 years and it felt like a home with personal little touches and sun streaming in the windows. It had 2 bedrooms, a lovely bathroom, great kitchen and a spacious lounge dining room with all the comforts of home. But best of all there were little balconies off each room to step out onto to savour the sights and sounds of Paris.

We had a delicious “power shower” after 30 hours of travelling, purchased a baguette and slice of yummy tart from our Boulangerie literally outside our door, yahoo our French adventure had begun. Feeling refreshed we headed along the cobbled street of Rue Mouffetard. We walked and walked all the way to the Seine, everything so old, so different, gets your senses going. Crossed the river to Notre Dame, looked so grand on a beautiful sunny day, We hadn’t planned to go in today but her powers were irresistible, sun streaming in through the stained glass windows. We then walked along the bank sat on the Pont Neuf looking at the Eiffel Tower and soaked up the atmosphere, we had to pinch ourselves, we were in Paris! Or maybe we were pinching ourselves to keep awake, because we had been travelling 30 hours with little or no sleep. But let me tell you we were so buzzed to be in Paris we could have walked another 3 hours.

Tomorrow Montmartre and our Paris Greeter tour
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Old Jan 22nd, 2010, 11:25 PM
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Great start - looking forward to more!
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Old Jan 22nd, 2010, 11:42 PM
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Great to see an Aussie trip report at last. Fair dinkum!
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Old Jan 23rd, 2010, 01:58 AM
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Thanks for your encouragement - I will work on the next instalment and try to upload some photos. Now that will be an interesting task for me!
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Old Jan 23rd, 2010, 03:47 AM
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A word about our apartment. I so wanted to stay in an apartment whilst in Paris but having never done so before I was a little apprehensive and spent many late nights trawling the internet and reading reviews of apartments. Let me say that we stayed in a wonderful apartment in the 5th. The owner was a so easy to deal with and we emailed back and forward with her answering all my questions and giving lots of advise, with such friendliness. The apartment was her home for 20 years and we felt so comfortable staying there with a great equipped kitchen , excellent appliances and lots of room. We would listen to Paris Jazz on FM gazing out over our little balconies into the warm Paris night listening to her sounds and sipping on a delicious wine. Mmm I’m in heaven.

Next day we headed off for Montmartre, stopped off at a ‘dodgy’ sports cafe for coffee and .5e loo stop. Met our ‘Paris Greeter” guide Sophie – an Aussie living in Paris 3 years. I booked ‘Paris Greeter’ through information supplied on Fodors and I highly recommended it. We started our tour walking through the colourful North African area, past lots of wig shops, sewing shops specialising in wedding dresses and some wonderful smelling food tantalising our taste buds. After many stairs we were staring at the magnificent and grand Sacre Coeur.
We spent 3 hours walking the area from little backstreets to the decadent patisserie shops, whilst Sophie told us the history and tales of the area finishing with a coffee in the ‘Amelie’ cafe. This personal tour was special and the only payment Sophie would accept was a friendly coffee.

We ate at a cute little restaurant La Midinette and whilst trying to decide (using our basic French) what to eat, a handsome young Frenchman eating at the next table helped us with our choices. He was very friendly and full of lots of interesting conversation about Paris, the people, the world. DH had poullet, me steak and dessert was the biggest raspberries I had ever seen (my mission in France was to eat as many red berries that I could). We chatted with the handsome Frenchman with blue eyes from Marseille, now living in Paris and as he left he said Bonjour and enjoy. Much to our surprise the waitress brought over 2 servings of coffee, chocolate ganche and chantilly cream and said “with compliments from the young man” she seemed very impressed and so were we – how nice! I am not a coffee drinker but I made sure I drank that one! How special was that encounter.

That afternoon we went home via the Luxembourg Gardens and spent our first of many interludes at the gardens, we considered it our local park and loved walking or sitting on the green seats soaking up the Parisian atmosphere.
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Old Jan 23rd, 2010, 03:55 AM
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I'm totally gripped by your story aussie_10 and can't wait until you get to Provence - the subject of my trip planning. Thanks for your great report.
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Old Jan 23rd, 2010, 05:06 AM
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I love trip reports and yours is off to a grand start..I am anxiously awaiting my trip in May and reading your beginning has me rushing out to get my "french phrase book" TODAY!

Time flies...

tx for sharing
FP
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Old Jan 23rd, 2010, 05:09 AM
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Oooh, this sounds like a good one.

Would you mind sharing a link to the apartment?
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Old Jan 23rd, 2010, 06:15 AM
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Ooh la la! Fab report! Keep it coming. More bits about the handsome Frenchmen would be good too ;-).
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Old Jan 23rd, 2010, 06:27 AM
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Great report and I too would love to see the link to your apartment.

Please post a link to "your" apartmnet on the Paris apartment threat so future travelers can consider it as well.
http://www.fodors.com/community/euro...ent-thread.cfm
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Old Jan 23rd, 2010, 01:14 PM
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Thank you for your comments. I wasn't sure whether it is too long winded, I have left lots out also. But I have enjoyed reading OP trips reports and I felt I owed it to everyone that had given me help and advice along the way. We went last week in Sept til 3 weeks in Oct and the weather could not have been any more perfect.

uklisa - Provence is coming
flowerpower - my DH & I took French lessons for a semester at our local Uni, which really helped. My DH was much better than me because he always practised and did his homework straight away while fresh in his mind. I on the other hand always seemed to be doing my homework the night before lessons ugh! Knowing some language did help and I think people were much more obliging because we tried especially DH.

Judyrem - if I had only been 20 years younger, my DH says I swooned anyway. Wish I had a daughter. we talked to him throughout the meal for over and hour. He not only was gorgeous to look at, he was charming and intelligent. Did I mention swooning!

Nikki - we loved our apartment. On a recent thread a poster had a bad experience with an apartment and I know it is risk. Our Parisian adventure hinged on a great apartment especially as I was booking for friends too.Throughout all dealings I had a good feeling and the owner was always so friendly and helpful. I am almost hesitant to recommend because I would like to keep it to myself but that would be unfair. All amenities are in excellent condition rooms were spacious, comfortable, it felt like a home and we loved "coming home" each day to our apartment.

Here is the link
http://www.vrbo.com/196919
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Old Jan 23rd, 2010, 03:59 PM
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OOh la la.....ah Paris....and her gorgeous men.
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Old Jan 23rd, 2010, 04:38 PM
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Each morning I wake at 3.30am (must be the jet lag) and whilst the rest of our apartment sleeps I make a hot cup of tea and step out onto the balcony and take in the sights and sounds of Paris waking up in the mornings, it is a truly special experience for me.

We head off to Trocadero for the grand view to the Eiffel Tower (avoiding the ‘lookie lookie men with their trinkets). Walked Rue Klebber to Arc de Triumph up the 256 stairs, as the lifts weren’t working today, for the panoramic view of the 12 avenues and what a view. Walked down the Champs Elyssee to Place de la Concorde through the 1st & 2nd towards the 3rd & 4th arr., discovered rue Montorgueil – lots of food shops, boulangeries, patisseries and fromage shops, we were in food heaven! After satisfying our hunger we walked on to the Pompidou centre and enjoyed the view and ambiance.

We continued on through the Jewish area, intrigued by the stalls with lemons and sugar cane(?) as far as the Bastille. I have read Fodorites talking about Bofinger and found the restaurant and checked out the menu, but as we were looking at it in the window a nice older couple chatted with us and recommended Petite Bofinger across the road. We decided to eat there and thoroughly enjoyed our 3 course 25e meal of mussels, fois gras, carnard, a crème brulee to die for (I had to resist scraping my finger around the inside of the bowl!) and a half bottle of wine each, wonderful.

My DH & I have been to Paris before, 25 years ago when we were too young to fully appreciate her magical charms, on a camping tour, and I always wanted to go back and just wander the streets and little laneways to soak up the atmosphere, so this was the mission of this trip – to feel the city.

Next day off to Opera House and then on to Galleries La Fayette. What a beautiful department store, we caught the lift to the top floors and viewed the magnificence of the dome, not to mention the amazing array of beautiful items for sale. I saw shoes in styles that go way beyond anything I have ever seen before; I dare not try them on for lusting after them for the rest of my stay.

Metro to Eiffle Tower, on my list of things to do whilst in Paris was to have a picnic in the park underneath the Eiffel Tower. A scrumptious lunch of crusty baguettes and the obligatory patisserie, lying on a bed of lush grass, whilst gazing up at the magnificent tower. We had not planned to go up the tower again but hey no queues! So of course the lure was too strong. We were blessed with warm sunny weather for all of our stay in Paris so the views were outstanding.

Stopped at a Franco prix on the way home and purchased cheap Province Rose & beer, France has outstanding wines but awful beer. Ugh! A Rotisserie chicken for dinner and pommes – they can’t be good for the waist line.
A delicious meal at our apartment and then out for our Night cruise on the Seine – Bateaux les Vedettes - (I had read on Fodors if you booked this online you could get a 8euro discount, so we did and printed the pass up on our computer in our apartment).

Paris illuminated at night is quite spectacular, the buildings take on an ethereal quality in their yellow glow. The night breeze whispered around our ears and of course the Eiffel Tower stole the show.
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Old Jan 24th, 2010, 12:44 PM
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What a treat to read your trip report on a cold January day! I can't wait for more. I am especially interested in the logistics of your traveling with a group of 6 adults in Provence and the Dordogne.
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Old Jan 24th, 2010, 01:20 PM
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How fantastic to stay in a country for a month! Great report so far and bought back memories of Galleries La Fayette department store which reminded me more of a cathedral or similar. Last time I was in Paris, it was just for three days and there was a transport strike. I only got in one day sightseeing where we were ripped off and stranded by the driver our hotel had arranged. I was a bit cheesed off with Paris that trip but you make me want to try again to get back there!
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Old Jan 24th, 2010, 01:44 PM
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Hi Kansas & Kerryajs1

We originally thought to have one car/van to fit all six, but soon realised it would have to be a big one, especially to fit all our luggage. I did ask Fodorites the question and after some deliberation we decided on 2 cars. It did not cost much more than the one van.
Main reason was: we in Australia drive on the other side of the road, that combined with unfamiliar roads and especially narrow little roads which we used most of the times.
Also the factor that if we all didn't want to do the same thing each day we had the freedom of 2 cars. We were very happy with our decision especially on some of those windy tiny roads meeting trucks, buses etc.
We leased Renaults, a Kangoo which amply fit 4 adults/luggage and a sporty little Megane. Sometimes at night if only going a little distance we would all squeeze in to the Kangoo.

Kerryajs1 I'm sorry your last stay in Paris was a little disappointing. As it is such a long way for us to travel to Paris I was glad that we had no hiccups. Everything was just wonderful and just reliving these moments make me long to go back.
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Old Jan 24th, 2010, 07:03 PM
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Each morning the guys would do the warm croissant run and on this particular morning we needed more fruit so we sent them to Rue Mouffetard. My hubby had diligently been learning to speak French for the past 6 months, and was very proud of his efforts in conversing with the local shop keepers etc. but our friend struggled with the language. He wanted to buy some bananas from a local vender and indicated to the vender that he wanted 3. The vender indicated a big NO and our friend could not understand why, hubby came along and tried to help out to no avail, the vendor was not going to sell the bananas. DH finally realised that the store did not open until later. They asked what time did he open and he replied never! Never! says our friend, Frenchman says loudly never!!, never!? repeats friend. Meanwhile Frenchman is almost red with rage. By this time my DH realised that he was quite angrily saying ‘neuf heure’, meaning 9am (it was only 8am) Needless to say we had no bananas that morning and never assumed normal opening hours again. We actually found the French very friendly, kind and patient with our limited grasp of the language.

Our last day in Paris was spent meandering through the streets, soaking up the atmosphere, people watching, sampling the local fare and gazing one last time along the Seine. sigh A stop at the Bertillon ice cream shop, some more fresh raspberries, a stop at a beautiful chocolatier and one more walk through the Luxembourg gardens. Parisians dress very stylishly, even the little preschoolers were so cute in their little jackets. The teenagers seemed to have a uniform of black clothes consisting of skinny jeans, jackets and ballet flats. Dinner tonight around St Michel more delicious food, good wine and crème brulee! Or was it panna cotta this time. I am so not ready to say goodbye to Paris and our beautiful Paris apartment.

Just a small sample of some of our Paris photos, we did take a lot.

http://www.kodakgallery.com/gallery/...12%3A871039070

Up early to say goodbye to our lovely apartment ordered a large taxi to go to Gare de Lyon, but a small one arrived with his boot half full of junk. There was no way it would fit 4 of us and our luggage so we sent our friends off ahead and we wandered down the road and managed to flag one down. Had a little language barrier moment when DH said we were going to Avignon in his best aussie accent, our driver thought he said Avion meaning the airport, so once that was sorted we had a quick ride to the train station to meet up with our other Aussie couple and catch our TGV train to Avignon. Our taxi trip cost 8.5euros our friends cost 20euros from the same place, go figure.

Again through assistance on Fodors I was able to purchase us 6 first class PREM tickets on the TGV for 40euro each. So much cheaper than any Australian travel agent. Thank you Fodors. We had arranged to meet our friends and the 3rd Aussie couple under the big train screen, not realising that there were 2 large screens at Gare de Lyon. One in the yellow area and one in the blue, I had seen Kerouac's photos. That caused a little hiccup but once sorted we sat down for a cuppa at Le Train Blue cafe.

What a wonderful train system, great seats smooth trip and so quick. We were a little taken aback when we saw many passengers walking their little dogs through the carriage. We have since heard that some passengers purchase a seat for their dog.

Will continue on to Provence.....
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Old Jan 24th, 2010, 07:21 PM
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oops sorry the link to the photos was wrong here is the correct one.

http://www.kodakgallery.com/gallery/...d=415354339112
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Old Jan 25th, 2010, 01:31 AM
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Great report! The Paris you visited sounds much nicer than the Paris I am living in during this dreary January.
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Old Jan 25th, 2010, 02:35 AM
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Kerouac - We are having a sweltering summer here in Australia. I have seen the extreme weather you are experiencing on the news.

But I have also seen the beautiful photos taken by you of Paris in all seasons. I love them and wont hear a bad word about her.
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