We started our month-long trip to France with a few days in Paris. While our flight to Paris was uneventful, I cannot say the same thing about our arrival in and departure from this great city.
Upon arrival we naturally went through customs which basically involved providing our passports, having them stamped, and we were on our way. Unfortunately at that point we followed the crowd out the exit before realizing “hey we don’t have our luggage”. We had completely missed the luggage return area off to the right as we left the customs counter. The throng of passengers we followed all, obviously, had carry on luggage only. So we “snuck” back in the “no re-entry” doors where, of course we were stopped by a customs official. Fortunately, at that point a very nice French-speaking lady asked us what happened. She said the same thing had happened to her once and explained the situation to the customs official. He very kindly allowed us to go back to get our luggage. Whew! Five minutes in Paris and we had already dodged going to jail!
So then it was off to the hotel by taxi. The ride totally convinced me that I had made the right decision to not drive in Paris but to pick up our rental car outside the city. It seems lane markings are only a suggestion. It was quite an experience but we made it safely to our hotel. We were too early to get in to our room so we left our luggage and went for a stroll.
The Artus Hotel is a very nice little boutique hotel located in a great location on the Left Bank. It is within very easy walking distance to lots of attractions such as the Louvre, Pont Neuf, Notre-Dame Cathedral, Musée Sorsay, and many others. It is on Rue de Buci which is lined with countless cafés. A half block from the hotel we had our first experience sipping a latte at a sidewalk café. We felt like we had truly arrived in France.
Our next stop was a different café for lunch, then back to the hotel where we relaxed in the lobby until our room was ready.
After getting settled in our room I grabbed my camera to go explore the neighbourhood a bit. It was on this stroll that I fully realized how close we actually were to so many iconic locations.
I also had booked a 3-hour guided tour of the Louvre for the second morning. This was well worth the price. Not only did you avoid any lineups at the ticket booth but, with limited time you got a good overview of the museum along with a bit of history.
Rather than giving a long commentary on the tours, I will let a selection of photos speak for themselves.
Our last morning in Paris started off with breakfast of croissants, coffee and orange juice. Then it was back to the hotel to finish packing and check out. We had planned to get a taxi and get to Gare St. Lazare early enough to make sure we knew the lay of the land when it came to catching a train to Rouen. What we hadn’t counted on was our taxi driver dropping us off at the wrong train station! This was after he repeated the name St. Lazare back to us at least a couple times! When we walked into the station and checked the departure screens, our train wasn’t on it. When we stopped a passing conductor to help us, he checked our ticket and advised us we were at the wrong station. We were at Gare Montparnasse. When we asked if we had time to get to St. Lazare by taxi he shrugged his shoulders and said “maybe” – but he didn’t look hopeful.
So off we raced to find a taxi to get us to Gare St. Lazare. Rushing in the door we checked at an information booth for the correct track number – of course it was the farthest away track from us in the station! We made it to the train literally with minutes to spare. Ah well, it’s all part of the adventure!
A little over an hour later we arrived in Rouen, picked up our rental car, and began the second chapter of our trip. Stay tuned.