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trip to paris in june-where to go?

updated tue 4 may 04


Bonnie/Jeremy Hellman on fri 30 apr 04

Hi Clay People,

I'm looking for advice here. I will be traveling to Paris at the very end of
May, and returning home on June 24th. In the middle, which is the main point
of the trip, I'll be attending my niece's wedding outside Paris, and
sightseeing in Paris for a week with my husband. The rest of the time, the
beginning week and the ending week, I'm trying to decide where to go. It's
an ideal time for me to do ceramics related things, because I will not have
a non-ceramics husband along.

The biggest problem is figuring out where I can get to and where I can stay
that won't break the bank.

I'm also interested in areas of natural beauty, hiking, great architecture,
good art of all sorts, high quality classical music, and probably a bunch of
other things I'm not thinking to list. In previous trips to Europe I've
spent time in Paris, Amsterdam, England including London and environs. I
don't want to spend all my time traveling.

I am planning to include Brussels in my trip. There's no way I could get so
close to Russel's home town and not visit!

Any ideas?


Bonnie Hellman

David Martin Hershey on mon 3 may 04

Hi Bonnie,

What a lucky pup you are to be visiting Paris in the spring time!

I've got lots of suggestions. Like you, when I go to France, I go to see the
art, architecture, and history. On my last trip, we set out to follow the
history of Paris- in 14 days from the Roman's laying out of the city and
surroundings, all the way to the modern age. We almost made it- the typical
moronic strikes caused us to end up about 1925 or so... sigh...

You'll be getting there before the bulk of the great tourist hoards, but
just barely.

So, in no particular order:

Musee Cluny: Roman & Medieval, also see Roman amphitheater in same area

Louvre: what can you say about this place! It will be mobbed, but well worth
visiting. Have a plan before you go there- it's like the Met-way way too big
to see in one day, or one week. The Egyptian collection is unbelievable, and
the 17th & 18th century paintings are some of the best in the world.

While there also see the Tuilerie gardens and L'Orangerie. Monet's
waterlilly paintings as a tribute to the dead of WW1, brought tears to my

Musee Rodin: All the sculpture, and many interesting models, etc. Set in a
beautiful mansion & gardens- nice place to lunch if the weather is good.

Musee Picasso: Great building, best Picasso collection of work from all

Musee d'Orsay: Perhaps the most beautiful museum building in the world.
Great impressionist collection, with a number of masterpieces. Eat lunch or
snack/rest on the roof top. Be sure to see the model of the opera house on
the far lower level, and then go to L'opera if you can get a ticket.

Musee Pompidou: will someday be the only surviving 70's "high-tech" style
large building in the world. Could have a good contemporary or 20th century
show- I saw a major Joseph Beuys show there. Great street theater outside.
(keep in mind they demolished the red light district to build this museum)


Of course, Notre-Dame. The first time I visited there, they were having a
service. I walked into the dim light, to the echoing sounds of an
incredible woman's voice singing acapella in French- I still think it's the
most beautiful sound I have ever heard. Trivia: when you are standing inside
immensity of Notre Dame, remember that the whole church could be stood up on
end INSIDE the dome of St. Peters in Rome...

St. Chapelle: Incredible intimate high gothic, with the best surviving
period stain glass anywhere. You can examine up close. We went to see a
string quartet perform there one night- outstanding.

St. Denis: short RER ride to suburbs- much more light than Notre Dame. I
don't know if St. Denis could really have walked that far from Montmartre
without his head...

Chartres: short day trip by car or train- many people think it's the best of
the high gothic. In the town of Chartres, there's this cool mini Watts
Towers type structure called La Maison Picassiette. A house and gardens
completely covered in incredible designs with broken pottery.

Be sure to spend time in the Jardin du Luxembourg- the first great French
garden to be influenced by the Italian Baroque. This is the quintessential
Parisian space- great for people watching. Le Bois de Boulogne is a huge
park designed in the 1850's that is fun for walking, jogging, bicycle,
picnic, etc. I also really like the Park at the Eiffel Tower- to jog or
people watch, or just lounge if the weather is nice.

Weird stuff:
I enjoy visiting the two large surviving cemeteries in the city. Great art &
history lessons. If you want to see Jim Morison's grave (?) just go to Père
Lachaise, and follow the Dutch hippies and the smell of pot ;-)

Even stranger are the catacombs. They are old Roman mines that were filled
the bones of 5 million people in the 1800's, as the cemeteries overflowed,
and the land became too valuable. You walk about 2 miles underground- with
bones respectfully stacked floor to almost ceiling most of the way. It
certainly makes you contemplate your mortality. And bring a map book,
because you will be totally disoriented when you emerge...

Evening trip:
Vaux le Vicomte: This was the highlight of my last trip. It's a chateau that
was a sort of a trial run for Versailles. They do this great thing on Sat
nights in spring/summer where they light the whole chateau and grounds with
thousands of candles, like for the king in the 17th century. (one candle
cost an average mans day wage then) We went for a light dinner at the
restaurant on the grounds about 7ish, and then watched the chateau rise out
of the falling gloom in glowing candle light. We stayed until almost
midnight- magical. Go with your husband- romantic. RER train and taxi ride-
or about 55km by car.

Day or days trip
It's easy to get around France by TGV bullet train, and (used to be) fairly
cheap. Just take the metro to the train station, get on the train,(reserved
seat) and in 2 or 3 hours you are on the other side of the country. If you
go south west from Paris to Tours, you can see the beautiful Loire Valley
area. You can choose from many Chateau/wine bus tours right outside the
train station in Tours, or there are bicycle tours, etc depending on how
adventurous you feel.

You can continue south on the same line to Bordeaux. From there the famous
Lascaux cave art, wine co-ops, chateaux, medieval walled villages, etc are
within easy driving distance. We also drove south from Bordeaux to Biarritz,
which is a great beach town on the southern Atlantic coast near Spain. Kinda
like La Jolla CA, but with French food & style. The food, language & customs
there are a little bit different from Paris or Bordeaux- a bit of a Basque

As far as accommodations go, for economy I like to try to stay in the 2 star
tourist/businessman's hotels. These hotels primarily cater to Europeans. All
the rooms are small, but very clean & comfortable, and you only use them for
sleeping anyhow. They all have private bathrooms, no porters, the elevators
hold two people or 1 with bags, and the hall lights have timers on them!
They have TV, and a light breakfast is included daily.

Ask to see the room first before you buy. If you don't like the one you get
for some reason, ask to change.

In Paris, two that I like are Hotel Carina, and Hotel Ideal. These are
family run hotels with about 20 rooms. They are located in the 15th Arr., in
an upper middle class neighborhood near the Eiffel Tower area. The metro
stop Charles Michels is 2 short blocks away, and the RER to Versailles is
close too. You can catch the No. 42 bus nearby, that goes down the Seine,
directly to the center of Paris.

There are good reasonably priced restaurants in this neighborhood, and the
Mono-Prix supermarket is over a couple of blocks for cheap meals and snacks.

Finally, get some good current guide books. They will be invaluable both in
Paris, and especially outside of Paris. Get one that fits in your pocket or
purse. A great book on understanding the French character is "French or Foe"
by Polly Platt. No American should go to France without reading this book.
It includes the magic phrase that will save you in many distressing

If you don't speak good French, bring a pocket English/French dictionary.
Don't worry- they are getting better and better about speaking English- at
least in Paris. I also find the Paris Pratique pocket map book
indispensable. You can buy it in any big metro station, or at the American
bookstore Brentano's (37, avenue de l'Opera, 400m from the Opera)

If you are going to buy a weekly metro/bus pass for Paris, bring two
passport size photos with you. It's much easier than trying to figure out
the photo machines. And you don't want to get busted by the metro police at
midnight in some metro tunnel, because you don't have your photo on your
carte orange...

Hope some of this is useful. Email me if you like.

Bon Voyage!

Beautiful Hermosa Beach CA USA
Where it's hotter than summer, and Palos Verdes and Catalina Island
blocked out the best New Zealand swell in 20 years...