Our oldest son and wife, David and Corrina, spoiled us with a fantastic trip to Europe for Christmas in 2017! We saw beautiful Paris at Christmas time, the wonderful Medieval village of Carcassonne in S. France, and then spent New Years in the Vibrant city of Barcelona. We left Dec. 20 and returned Jan. 6, 2018. There were 9 of us, including our three oldest Granddaughters, and Delanie’s mother and other Grandmother. What a Great Trip we all had!!!
“Lyft” came to pick up Don and I at 1:50 am (Ugly o’clock), for a 6:30 am flight from Lax to Paris, nonstop. It gave us plenty of time to get there early and have a “breather”. We were to meet the rest of our party at airport. Even at that early hour, it took us 45 minutes to get through the security! Lax had recently re-vamped their method of security lines, and it was not good! Later, it took Dave, Corrina, and the 5 girls an hour and 30 minutes! They were afraid they would miss the flight!
It was good to see one another as we looked forward to this “Family time”! We finally boarded our Norwegian Airlines flight 30 minutes late, only to wait another 2.5 hours longer on the tarmac! The plane was packed, and what can one do? Only to sit there safety belted in and not move! The lights were dimmed the whole time, so I could not read. Next time, I will take my electronic devices! The airline was very economical, so much so that we even had to pay for water! Had to pay for small pillows, and anything else we wanted! This was our first and last trip with Norwegian airlines! The service was also very slow with very mediocre food, but the fares are cheap!
We arrived around 4pm in rainy Paris on Dec. 21, where we hired 2 extra-large taxis (van size) to haul the 9 of us plus all our luggage to our “Air B&B” in Paris. The drive was close to an hour, and the fare just for our van was 140 Euros, which we paid. We were to stay in the “St. Paul” district, very close to Notre Dame, and close to the “Sally” Metro Stop. The home was very unique and large and was called “the Bohemian Quarters”. It kind of looked funky like a giant hippie pad. When we all got settled there for the next6 days, we headed out for some dinner. We walked through the drizzle about 2 blocks to a fun, French café with good food and service. The longer we stayed, the louder it got as there was a big party close by, and as the vino was consumed, of course the noise level went up. We walked back to our home and all slept like babies!
Dec. 22 Paris
We awakened around 8:30 and saw that the gang was stirring! This was a miracle, as the rest of the group were all late sleepers! In fact, Dave and Corrina left by 6:30 am to take a walk and find the local market for some groceries! They found a good market and a Boulangerie for some tasty pastries! They had fresh fruit (very expensive in Paris), pastries, juice, good breads, and cereals, and yogurts for us. Also, some good cheese and crackers. After having some breakfast, we got ready and by the time the “Herd” was ready, it was 11am! We walked in the drizzle and Cold weather, all bundled up and carrying our raincoats and umbrellas. We headed for nearby Metro to see the Eiffel Tower and later, the “Arche de triomphe”, and the “Champs de Elyse”.
Eiffel Tower in the fog
Arch de Triumph
Arch de Triumph (Inside stairwell)
We only went to the second level of the Eiffel Tower as the weather was pretty socked in and foggy. Then we stopped for a late lunch at “Tartives (Croquet Club). Cute place with good food! Don and I shared a Cobb Salad and Yummy French Onion Soup and bread. It really hit the spot with such cold weather! I wanted to save some space for dinner that night in “Montmartre”, where we eager to try our favorite restaurant there, “Le Durer”. We ate there twice two years ago when Don and I spent 2 weeks in Paris on our own. Then we all walked to the “Arch de Triumph” for pictures. Don, Davy, and Corrina walked up the 40 some steps to take the elevator to the top for some great photos. I wanted to walk the lovely Blvd. to see some of the fanciest shops in all of Paris. Only Granddaughter Natalie joined me, as the rest wanted to rest and “people watch”.
Champs de Elyse taken from top of the Arch de Triumph
We all met around 7pm there at the Metro, for our ride to Montmartre. Davy and Albezia were tired by then, so they opted out for the ride to Montmartre, and rode back on a different Metro to the home. SO the 7 of us rode to Montmartre where we did some shopping and sightseeing. The girls found some good buys there. Don and I looked for our restaurant to make a reservation, but it was gone! We asked some shopkeepers what happened, and they told us it had closed 6 months earlier. We were so disappointed! We took photos of the White church up at the top of Montmartre (the highest point of Paris)
White Church – The Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Paris
We later found a little pizza café and enjoyed pizza and salad. Then we hopped 2 different metros to get back to our digs. During our switch to a different Metro, Stephanie and I got locked out of the Metro doors (the rest of the family was onboard), and that was scary, as Don had my ticket! The Engineer called us to the front of the car where we rode with him to the next station. It ended up being quite Exciting! Arrived back around 10:30 and tried to journal some, but I kept bobbing, so finally turned off the lights around midnight. However, I could not sleep as Dianne and the girls were drinking, taking, and mostly giggling in the next room! So I found my earplugs so I could sleep.
Dec. 23 Paris
Don and I really slept in (for us usual early risers) There were no windows in our bedroom, so it stayed really dark without the lights on. It was 10am and most everyone else was ready for the day! We quickly got ready for the day, though we were not joining the rest of the group to see The Fabulous” Palace of Versailles.” We had seen it 2 years earlier, so we decided to do something different. The gang took off at their usual snail’s pace by 11am. Not Early enough for the long trip to Versailles by several metro changes and train. Don and I headed out about the same time for the Metro, as I wanted to see the Fabulous “Gallerie Lafayette”! I had heard it was spectacular, especially with all the Christmas decorations! We were not prepared for what we would walk into right from the Metro! The most Fabulous high end 7 level department store we had seen! I even liked it better than Harrod’s in London. The center was all “Open space” between the floors with the most Fabulous Christmas decorations suspended from the ceiling, so you could view it from all floors. A multi colored “Balloon Tree” was the central focal point.
Gallerie Lafayette -central atrium
Talk about a Dazzling display! The whole first floor where we stepped off the metro onto was nothing but shoes, wonderful shoes of all kinds and colors and styles! (photos) Such a vast space with so many individual cubbies for every high-end shoe you could think of! Gorgeous shoes and boots from Valentino to Jimmy Choo and hundreds of others! I was like a kid in candy shop! I fell in love with several unique pairs of shoes, but Don told me I could get one pair. So, I settled on some beautifully wild, fancy, and colorful tennis shoes. A gold metallic color with a red floral pattern. They were made by “Mellow Yellow” of Paris. I will wear them with some wild work out outfits to the club. Then we walked all around the other levels” oohing and awing” at all the wonderful merchandise!
Fancy workout shoes
One whole level was the most beautiful gourmet food section and restaurant, and we wished we had not already eaten. Whole store levels were devoted to just jewelry, or handbags, and cosmetics. What a treasure trove! One gorgeous handbag I liked had a price tag of $5,000 Euros!
There were so many people Christmas shopping and the mood was very festive! Don also bought a Landcombe Perfume set for me on sale. It was a lovely fragrance called “Ciest La Belle”. It was marked down 30% for Christmas. We then took the Metro with 2 changes to get to “La Defence” station for a stop at a favorite market of ours there. “Spencer and Marks” (based in London). We remembered the Best Apple Turnovers there that we had ever tasted! We were saddened once again at not finding what we came for! They no longer carried the wonderful turnovers! There were some lovely Christmas displays outside on top of the department store rooves, so we bundled up and braved the freezing cold weather! We also enjoyed the “Christmas Markets”, though we found them to be no bargain prices, but quite the contrary.
We had fun browsing and looking around before ducking out of the cold to get a cup of hot chocolate to warm us up. We bought some fancy “Nougat” candy, a specialty there in Paris. It was very $, so we asked for just two small, thin slices. We wanted to share it with everyone. Well, it weighed nearly a pound which cost 30 Euros (about 35.00 U.S. dollars) We gulped and learned our lesson. It was like buying fresh fruit there, where they weigh everything! So, Beware!
We were hungry and started looking for a restaurant for some dinner. We found a cute Italian place where we enjoyed a good dinner. I had veggie Lasagna and Don had Beef Stew. They were small portions, so that was good. We shared a salad. Later we walked along the Seine River past the beautiful prison where Marie Antoinette was imprisoned, and past lovely “San Chapelle” where we will go inside tomorrow.
We saw some street dancers on a corner who were very good, and they drew quite a crowd! We passed a neat looking restaurant called “Le Depart” on Saint Michelle where we made reservations for the following evening (Christmas Eve) following the midnight services at Notre Dame. We had a nice visit with the rest of the gang back at the house until around 12:30 am
Dec. 24 PARIS
Awoke early, showered and dressed by 8am. Had a petite breakfast before walking to the nearby little local market. We wanted to purchase some goodies for Christmas Day and a Yule Log (Buche de Noel), the traditional Christmas dessert of the French.
Yule Log (Buche de Noel), the traditional Christmas dessert of the French.
We also purchased some wonderful Benoits and more fruit. It was interesting watching the locals scurrying around picking up their Christmas treats. Back at the house, everyone else was still sleeping. We were anxious for everyone to see the beautiful mosaic windows of Saint Chapelle, from the inside tour. Finally, by 10:30 the gang was ready for the walk to the church and the tour.
Saint Chapelle – second floor
Don and I later took the prison tour while the others toured the fabulous Louvre Museum (which we had enjoyed 2 years ago) Don and I later walked through the Orangeries Museum. It was mostly the paintings of Monet, and it was not our favorite, after seeing the other wonderful museums of Paris. We later walked back to the Eiffel Tower for some photos of us in our Berets. We found a nice couple from Romania to take a of us. I was so cold as it was freezing, and my feet were sore from all the walking in my boots! In fact, I was feeling kind of “Achy”, which as unusual for me. We found a cute café for a bite. We had French Onion soup again and shared a club sandwich. The soup was so filling, we could not finish the lovely sandwich. We still had quite a walk back to the Metro, and I was really feeling punk by then! I could not wait to get back to our “Air B&B”! It was around 4pm when I crawled into my bed with chills and fever. I later threw up everything I had eaten. I wondered if I had gotten food poisoning? Later, the rest of the family went to the Christmas Eve Candle Light Service at Notre Dame, and then on to dinner. I just stayed home in bed, feeling pretty punk. After 1:30 am, they all returned, and Don brought me some cold 7-up. I was so dehydrated, it really hit the spot! This was Not my idea of the Christmas Eve we had planned! I later heard how beautiful the music and the service were.
Sharon and Don Notre Dame Christmas Eve
Notre Dame Christmas Eve
Christmas Day, Dec. 25, Paris
I could not sleep in any longer! It was 10am and very unusual for me to sleep in so long! I felt good, thank God. The rest of the family was still asleep after being up so late the night before. I didn’t want to just sleep off Christmas Day! The girls were all snoring loudly in the living room. Finally at 1pm, Don and I left for a nice walk. We ended up in the little village where we ate a good breakfast (Brunch) at the little St. Paul café. It was just packed! We enjoyed watching the locals having their holiday brunch and just “people watching”. I had a cheese Omelet and some salad, while Don had a burger. I could only eat half my meal, as my tummy was still kind of queasy and rumbling. I only wish my appetite was always this poor! Then we walked to Notre Dame Cathedral where there were long lines and heavy security to get inside. (It was bitterly cold!BRRR) The lines moved pretty fast, and it was worth the wait when we saw the beautiful lights and Christmas Creches, and heard the lovely music inside this Magnificent Cathedral! We loved hearing the bells and the choir. Around 3:30, we ducked into a Starbucks for a bone warming coffee. About that time, our son Dave called on our cell, saying “Merry Christmas”, we are all up and ready to celebrate”! Guess the girls had been up all night again partying. We arrived back at the Air B&B around 4pm for our little Christmas Celebration together. We passed out the few gifts we had taken to share (the trip was our main gift!) Then Dave passed out lovely cards containing Euros for each of us. We passed the Yule Log and some other goodies around, and I read a Christmas story for all. Then we all packed up for our Early departure tomorrow am for our trip to the train station. We would be leaving at 4am(yawn) for the “Bullet Train” ride to “Carcassonne, France”. Around 7:30 we walked to a cute Italian restaurant for our Christmas Dinner. We were getting tired of the same, limited French menus with Escargot and French Onion Soup! The Italian dinner really hit the spot! We all wore our French black Berets that night, so on the way home, we had some taken of our group in our Berets for our Christmas Photo. Paris at night is so gorgeous with all the lights (especially at Christmas) We enjoyed walking some more before going home and hitting the sac.
Christmas night – family with our berets
Dec. 26 Paris
Alarm went off at 3:15 (ugly 0’clock), so we could all be ready for the 2 large taxis to arrive at 4am. It was a short drive to the train station. Neither Don nor I had a good night’s rest as we were worried about the alarm going off. It was drizzling when we walked out front on the street with all our luggage. We all about Froze in the train station while we waited the 90 minutes for our train! We found a little Boulangerie inside where we purchased some wonderful French pastries and coffee and hot chocolate for me. As the time got close for us to find our train, we about had heart attacks trying to find the correct train and with all our luggage! There were people everywhere and it was absolute mayhem! When we finally did find our train, there was no room for all our luggage! Talk about a very stressful situation! The station does not pick the track until the last minute (maybe 15 minutes prior to boarding) The bullet train was so quiet and fast (Around 200mph), and very efficient! The ride took about an hour before we stopped and departed while waiting for our second train. The second train was older and not nearly so efficient. It took around 30 minutes to arrive in Carcassonne. We called for 2 large taxis at the cute train station, but they only had regular size taxis, so they sent 3 to gather us all plus all our stuff! Just a short drive to nearby “L’Aragon hotel”. It was a nice, clean hotel, literally across the street and down from the Fabulous, Medieval walled city of Carcassonne! What a great location and we were so glad we booked this hotel! The city really looked great at night with all the lights! After we got settled, Don and I took a hike up the hill and walked all around the walled city. There were some steep hills all around it.