Friday, July 27, 2012

Paris - Day 7

My last post !! Trip is almost over. It was so great. I'm so glad I blogged as I went because honestly, I don't remember what I did was so much and yet there was a lot of downtime mixed in.    Au revoir Paris -- until next time !!!

What I Did
-Giverny by train from St. Lazare to Vernon; then by bike to Giverny
-Gardens of Claude Monet; after seeing his paintings all was a delight to see his home and gardens. I went around the water lily pond three times.
-stopped at church in Giverny 
-shopping and browsing in Vernon
-stopped at church in Vernon -- I think this was my favourite church in France; it was small but grand; it had paintings and reminded me of the Louvre; it was just so peaceful and beautiful
-picnic lunch by the Seine in Vernon ...swans swimming ...I wonder this is how it must have been even 400 or 1000 years ago; maybe some medieval people picnic'd where I was.
-tonight -- going back to Le Journal St. Michel for big band and maybe ...champagne

What I Ate
-cafe au lait & croissant in Monmartre
-clementine in Monet's garden (not sure I was allowed to eat here...but snuck it in)
-gourmet sandwich (bought at a boulangerie in Vernon) & sparkling water - picnic by the seine in Vernon
-snack on the train home -  pain aux raisins (raisin danish)
-dinner - red wine & quiche provencal (bought at a charcuterie in Vernon)-hotel

Lessons Learned
-5 day metro pass still works on Day 7
-great website for planning a trip from Paris to Giverny:
-get to the train station with at least 40 min to spare; line ups are long and tellers are S-L-O-W.  there were at least 3 people freaking out in the line that they were going to miss their train; I went at 10am Fri morning; if you're going near the weekend or holidays -- plan for even more time -- it was a zoo when I got back around 6pm tonight
-bike ride to Giverny is totally worth it. The ride down Rue Claude Monet is worth it -- so many restaurants and art galleries you would not see from the road.
-bring rain gear (I had my poncho from Polynesian Cultural Center in Oahu) and I used it. It was handy for the bike riding (not sure how you could ride and hold an umbrella); bring plastic bag to wrap camera and electronics in.
-buy picnic provisions in Vernon and eat by the Seine !  There is a marche on the main street with lovely champagnes.    Or there are lots of restaurants in Giverny and Vernon.
-plan time ot shop in Vernon -- during the July sales, the prices are so much cheaper than Paris.
-In Giverny I felt icthy and looked on my skin and hundreds of tiny (as long as this letter "i" in type font) little bugs or caterpillars are crawling all over my arms and probably legs. Ughhhhh.  I could see them on the lady's back in front of me. This was even more gross.  I had to just block out that fact that I was literally crawling with bugs.   Going for a massively long hot shower now.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Paris - Day 6

What I Did:
-Musee D'Orsay --- Van Gogh is stunning; my favourite might be his self portrait.
-"Forbidden" Picnic - Jardins des Luxembourg ( the gendarme came and told me to get off the grass at which point I found a lawn chair.....oops)
-read in said lawn chair for an luxurious in the Luxembourg
-Pantheon -- wow some amazing people are interred here.
-came back to hotel to shower at 4pm - very hot and sweaty - ick;
-5:30pm back downtown - Ice cream at Berthillion
-Shakespeare and Company - bought Jess and Soph Romeo and Juliette. They stamped it with the bookstore awesome...they will have that when they read this play the first time.
-Musee D'Orsay - Part II; I just had to go back for more; it's like food for the soul and I'm on the buffet plan.
-Eiffel Tower at night..... just magical

What I Ate:
 -cafe au lait, croissant
-bought a picnic lunch -- quiche aux champignons & epinard, assorted macaroons and Heineken beer -- something just so wicked about having beer and macaroons.  It's just way too hot here to drink wine.
-dinner -- wine & chips at Eiffel tower; later baguette, cheese, red wine at the hotel

Lessons Learned:

1. The first time you see the Eiffel Tower at night light up, you need to be on the field in front, with a blanket, a bottle of champage and your love. It's a truly magical moment and I wish Tom was here with me !!
So if you go to the Eiffel tower at night: find a spot to camp (either on the field infront or across the river on the quay); bring a blanket, food (sandwiches, sushi, fresh fruit, .....whatever) , and beverage (champagne preferably). And enjoy the show.

2. The "Paris Visite" metro pass unlimited for 5 days works on the 6th day so far!  I hope it keeps working tomorrow. :-)

3. I went back to Musee D'Orsay 2 times today.  The second time I only went to see Van Gogh, Monet and Gaugin and Renoir.  It was such a pleasure to see these works of art a second time , totally unhurried.  They are truly so much more spectacular than the photos would show. 

4. Again I did not rent the audio guide, but I did buy the visitor guide (8 Euro); this helped explain a few things about the major paintings. I also eavesdropped on some of the guided tours to find out more about the painting.

5. If you have gifts to buy for people and can buy classic books, wait until you go to Shakespeare and Company  - they will stamp the book and it will be a truly special gift. The Stamp says " Shakespeare and Company - Zero Kilometer Paris"

6. Do not have picnic on grass at Luxembourg Gardens ! Go find a lawn chair.

7.  I've been told a few times now by guys working at the various venues that I'm so beautiful !! (tonight was the guard outside Musee D'Orsay)   Okay ...maybe the French guys say this to all the ladies, but it's still nice to hear it!!   I hear them say something as I walk by and then stop and say "Pardon?" I have no idea what they've said. Then they have no issues telling me what a beautiful woman I am. Wow, a girl can get used to getting random declarations of beauty!

8. my personal biggest lesson learned is that I think I overthink things. (I don't really want to over think this and so have accepted it as a truth for now). In light of the truth that I overthink things, I'm ceasing and desisting after I think the same thought 2 times. makes things so much easier if I don't churn things around so much.  e.g. I want an ice cream?  yes I do. That's it...end of thought. No thinking that it's crazy to spend that much on an ice cream , or that I will get fat off this ice cream. Nope. I'm just going to buy the damned ice cream and eat it like a 2 year old would.  (by the way it was rum and raisin and by goodness there was a heck of a lot of rum in it-- way more than you get in the "Canandian" version of rum and raisin. And was damned good. So good, I licked the napkin where it had melted because it's like 35 degrees here in the day; the poor guy saw me do this and called me over, took my now empty cone and put another scoop in it for free ! Not sure about the hygenic aspect of touching the scoop to my well -licked hey...not my problem. I got a 2nd scoop !!)

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Paris - Day 5

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

What I did:

OMG. This has to be the best day ever of this trip.  Not because of what I saw but really because of how I've changed.  I can't really explain this but I'll try.   The first thing I did today was sleep in and ignore my schedule which was to be at Musee l'Organgie at 9am.  I ended up there around 9:45am.    Then I walked in there and ..something..shifted. It was slightly mind-blowing. Monet, bigger than I can imagine in 8 giant cavasses.  The museum itself was designed around these paintings.  It was Monet's gift to heal Parisians after the war. And something in my soul connected to something in his soul to something in the bigger Universe through those paintings. It sounds maybe "whoo-hoo" but I can't explain it better than that. In fact if I could put it into words, then it wasn't really a connection I suspect.  The best way I can describe this experience is that it made me think of all the building blocks of life/matter as we know it and how at an elemental level they are just basic building blocks, but when they are combined infinite ways they make something unique and beautiful. The brush strokes of the paintings seem like a random pattern but when you step back you get a sense of the feeling of the thing rather than the look of the thing. It's like Money captured the essence or soul of what he was painting.  When I die I hope I transition through something like this art gallery to whatever is on the other side. The first room is an oval white room totally empty; it's a place to decompress from the business of life and transition into the meditation of the paintings beyond. I'd like to think that death will be this lovely of a transition. 

Okay so...that's just to like 11am. I'm already blown apart inside and have the rest of the day to go.  I head over to Arc de Triomphe. (Musee Decouverte I decided to postpone to Friday as it's going to rain that day and it's not part of my museum pass which expires on Thurs -- see I can be flexible).   So again, I'm slightly clueless of what's going on and then I clue in that there are massive amounts of police in full combat uniform including shields and whatever those plastic bullet things are.  What's going on? Well I have no idea and hope open fire doesn't start before I get into the Arc.   I thought there was an elevator but it was the stairs entrance! Yikes.... 30 m later I'm at the top and much out of wind; feet screaming at me from their soreness the day before descending the Eiffel Tower.  I rest a bit in the museum and then head up to the scorching terrace. The view is magnificent.  I can see the Defense Arc. Wow it's huge - Notre Dame can fit in there they say.   Paris is surely a mix of beautiful things from the classical Arc de Triomphe to the modern Defense Arc.  And both totally inline with each other down the Champs d'Elysees.

After this, I head to Georges Pompidou. Spontaneously I decide to jump out at Hotel de Ville and see what that's about .    I end up in a big mall and well what can I do.  I have to go shopping.  An hour later I walk to the Pompidou.  I don't spend too long here, it's easy to see what I like vs. what seems like utter nonsense art to me. But it is food for the mind and soul in many ways. Art can be have so many's amazing.

Now I'm totally done. I head back to the hotel, stop for beer and pizza, and a macaroon.  At about 4:30pm I eat these in bed , have a bath and fall asleep.

When I wake it's 7pm and about 8pm when I get ready and leave. I can so get use to this doing what I want whenever I want thing.  Actually not really. One thing about being alone in Paris it makes me see that I have such a full life with my family; I do miss them and just knowing I have them to go back to makes me able to enjoy this trip the more.  This trip would not be fun if I didn't know where and to whom I was going back to at the end of the week. Plus Algonquin in next weekend!!! How exciting is that. back to Paris:

 I have some general idea of walking around the Latin Quarter tongiht , maybe taking a Seine sightseeing tour, and checking out this Jazz club I saw in the guide for dinner. I get off at St. Michel metro and walk around; I see Jardins Luxembourg and the Sorbonne!!! I stop for a picture, which a waiter took and before I know it two other waiters jump in and kiss me in the photo (on the cheek). Wow. These are the friendliest waiters in Paris so far. So far they have been rather "abrupt".  Maybe it's the cute shoes.  

I find the Jazz club around 9pm and the dinner and show are all in one price of 50 Euros. I decide to stay. What  a great decision !!  The band was a quintet - tuba, banjo, sax, trumpet and drums. They were joined by other musicians  - trombone and another banjo throughout the night.  It was in a basement and I could just imagine the jazz being played here through the wars and depression over the last 100 years.  Did people back then have more fun than we do? I wonder.  Life was harder, but maybe they lived life more.

I tapped away the whole evening , it was such great fun. If I have an inner child still, well she came out to keep me company tonight.  After the show, they band took a break and asked me to have a drink with them. After that they went back and played more...the best yet. I basically stayed until closing.   I took tons of video ; they did so many solos. The drum solo I want to show Sophia -- she'll like that ; the drummer did some cool things with the cymbals.

So it's 2am now...I am not feeling tired whatsover..but tomorrow will be rough.  So going to bed soon.

What I ate:

croissant, cafe au lait, orange juice
apple for snack
pizza & Kronenberg  beer & macaroon - lunch
quail with fois gras entree, duck leg with potatoes main, creme brulee; wine - sauvigion blanc and champagne at the end.

Lessons Learned

Go with your gut when it comes to making decisions. I was thinking of going to the Louvre again tonight, and maybe a Seine boat tour, but the Latin Quarter seemed like more fun. It was.

I've never bought the audio guide at the museums or galleries and I don't regret it. I want to experience these works quietly and in my own way; not with some person talking in my ear. It's not about educating my self, or understanding the works's really about experiencing them and taking that quiet moment of stillness to feel what the artist is trying to convey. I can't imagine doing this if someone is talking to me. 

Wearing cute shoes is totally worth it, even if you can't walk a lot.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Paris - Day 4

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

What I Did
-Notre Dame at 8:15am; very quiet time -it was mass. Tours don't start until 10am --there were some people lined up by 8:30am for the tours -- must be some queue.
-Eiffel Tower at 10:30am. I arrived at 10am so wandered around took photos and laid on the grass just looking up at the tower for 10 min.   I took the stairs down from the 2nd floor.
-toured through the Rue Cler which has shops and perfect if you  want to pack a picnic or a quick lunch
-Lunch at Cafe Constant at 12pm
-Musee Rodin at 1pm
-Hotels des Invalides at 3pm
-Chateau Vincennes at 4pm
-home with provisions by 7:30pm

Observation:  If you can be on your feet for a good 10-12 hours, then Paris is a great city; if you have bad knees, hips or back ...well you need to build in less walking, less stairs and more resting.  I realized that doing yoga the last three months was fantastic training for Paris.  My legs are stronger, I can stand for 3 or more hours in one spot, my arms are stronger because you're lugging your bags around all day; even the metro -- it can be .5km of walking to get from platform to platform. And the stairs ! wow there are a lot of stairs at the metro. I'm happy we have the Nordic Stair Master at home (and I've used it). 

What I Ate
- cafe au lait and croissant
-celery & shrimp entree , veal and macaroni side for   plat, chardonnay
-white chocolate at Rue Cler
-quick beer after Musee Rodin
-chicken on baguette, white chocolate & cherry tarte, chardonnay

Lessons Learned

Eiffel Tower
-buy Eiffel Tower ticket online! I bet it saved 2-3 hours. I walked right up to the elevator queue --maybe 15 people in front of me. The lineup for non-ticket holders was massive -- it snaked around the square -- must be 2 hours at least!  I would not have stayed and waited.
-take the lift to the summit --totally worth it; if going at night --sneak in your own Champagne? otherwise it's $8-$20 Euros a glass.
 -stay dehydrated ; you don't want to waste times in queues for the bathroom
Notre Dame
-go early -- very quiet; get the view from the back garden

Musee Rodin
-get the museum pass; there is literally a "queue cutting" line that I passed about 100 people.
-plan a half hour to sit in the gardens and just absorb the ambience

-only about a 10-15 subway ride from downtown and worth it; it has ties to St. Chapelle which is across from Notre Dame.

Metro pass totally worth it

Ordering beer at cafe
-if you're thirsty opt for beer instead of water (it's cheaper and better and already has water in it)  :-)   -if you're in a hurry have it at the bar ; it's 1/2 the price or more than if you had it on the patio.

 Take away food"
At the grocery store you have to weigh fresh produce since the cashiers don't have scales and put the sticker on the bag for them to scan.
-bring a wine corkscrew
-bring a few plastic utensils for having cheese and baguette as a picnic

Monday, July 23, 2012

Paris - Day 3

Monday, July 23, 2012

What I did

-Louvre 9am-2pm
-shopping including Printemps; bought more stuff for me; such a me-me-me vacation - saw them at the church Madeleine, free at 4pm - amazing flute solo
-Les Violins de France --also at Madeleine but at 8:30pm and cost 25 Euro;  amazing violin solo

This day I cannot describe; highlight was the Louvre and Ave Maria at the evening concert; so much beauty in one day, plus shopping, plus sitting at cafes reading and eating.

What I ate

Breakfast:   cafe au lait, croissant, egg/mushroom/potato omelet with salad
Snack: Banana and granola bar
Dinner:   Pasta, Heineken followed by red wine.

Lessons Learned

-eat breakfast just in front of the Louvre; wander over 5 min before opening time, go in at side entrance (avoid metro & Pyramid entrance) and get to the Mona Lisa first, while there is room.

-concerts in the church Madeleine are so worth it. The acoustics are amazing and value cannot be beat.

-when shopping , if you spend over $175 Euro same day/same store; get your tax credit form filled out that same day; you'll be reimbursed at the airport.

-walking around the Louvre for 4 hours solid only got me through about 1/2 of it. I did not go to sculptures and other cultures. I was there for the paintings and that's what I focused on.   You cannot see all of it in one day unless you zoom through on a segway.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Paris Day 2

Sunday, July 22, 2012

What I did
-started the day by leisurely taking 1 hour to wake up and emerge from bed
-fulfilled another hour of doing nothing by soaking in the tub
-finally left for breakfast at 9:45am
-wandered up the hill and sat outside at a piano bar/cafe
-went to go to Sacre Coeur and decided not to after seeing the massive amounts of people; Sunday is not a good day to tour a church;   abandoned idea of going to Notre Dame
-all plans for the day are shot to hell so get on the subway with vague idea of going towards the Seine
-impulsively decide to jump off at St.Lazarre because I overheard some people talking about it
-find myself in my first mall and first Starbucks of Paris ! Yeah. Chatted with the barista who is from New York City. He pointed me to good shops underground near Notre Dame.
-decided to go up to street level and wander around
-saw a picture of the advertisement I saw on the metro for La Pincotheque.  Impulsively decide to buy a ticket and go see what Modigliani is all about;   totally stunned by the paintings inside; felt something shift and I'll never see the world the same way again. Modigliani and Utrillo and Valadon are ... well I can't put into words.  The sheer beauty in that one building alone reminded me of Yosemite for some reason. Powerful and impactful. And DNA changing. If your soul has DNA then my DNA altered is the best way I can describe this.   Am so proud that I read most of the signs in the art gallery which were in French.  Jonas Netter -- I've never heard of you -- but you were an amazing guy to support these painters.
-wander by the couture shops; saw a huge building reminiscent of ones in Greece;; What is it? Wander to the end and find out it's a freaking church! Holy mother of god it's big. And it's literally named after her too -- Madeleine. As I wander in I notice signs for a concert tomorrow night of Vivaldi. Might go. Then a free concert tomorrow at 4pm - might go to that too. It's totally unlike anything I can imagine inside. The craftsmanship; the art work, the history...well I'm blown away.
- I leave and go back outside; I start to see police everywhere and streets barracaded off. Why?  Doesn't stop me from continuing on hoping that I'm not in the middle of some political protest.
-hit Rue de Rivioli and see tons of people at the side of the road. Again why?  decide to stop and see what's going on.   Cars come by and honk with party music pumping. Hmmm?  What's going on?  Overhead some guy say this will be another 2 hours and decide to keep walking
- did some shopping -- new trench coat and scarf for me and Italian silk scarf for  the girls. Found a gift for granny. I start looking for a cerveza; it's getting very warm now.  I see a spot on the road that's sort of thinned out with people and step in to find out what's going on. It's the freaking Tour de France!!!   Impulsively (again) I decide to stay there and see what's going on.   1 hour later after baking in the sun and my feet screaming from standing so long, the first of eight laps goes by. It's so exciting! The crowd is cheering, the announcer is going wild. I have no idea what they are saying.  I finally ask the guy next to me in English; he translates the announcer who says they have like 30km left to go. Another guy on the other side of me says in German that it's 8 laps; the other guy translates this German to me in English.  Well thank-you random French-English-German guy for helping me understand that I unknowingly wandered into the Tour de France.  I stayed for all 8 laps.
-after frying in the sun for 2.5 hours and my feet about to fall off, I head away from the disseminating crowds to find a cerveza -- Santo Paulo. Thank-you Santo Paulo for making good beer.
-I recover and wander over to see if I can get the museum pass for the Louvre.  As I enter the courtyard I see the pyramid on my left and Eiffel tower on the right. I'm about to swoon from sheer magnitude of these 2 sites.  Deep breath. This is just normal for Parisians. I'm just hyperventilating because I'm a North American where things are not old and they are not grandly built.  OK. I calm down and enter the pyramid; no lines; it's late in the day, like 7pm.  I pickup map of the Louvre to study tonight. I find a bathroom (.8 Euro) and Swarovski. Oh my. I spent a lot of money there.   Well they were all gifts. That doesn't count , right? I was super-thrilled to find they had Eiffel Tower charms which is what I wanted to find in Paris. And there it was. Who says the law of attraction doesn't work?   I bought one for Jessica who already has a charm bracelet, one for Sophia for her upcoming Communion and what the heck --one for me too. Oh, I need a charm bracelet too then; okay I bought that as well.
-Am thinking of heading back to the hotel but decide to take the long way to the metro via Jardin des Tulieres. It's lovely again. I find a bench by the small pond and watch the ducks while I ease my feet out of my non-sensible shoes to recover a little and I read my guidebook. I feel a sense of panic that I only have 5 days left and not enough time to do all I want. I frantically search for a pen to make a plan but discover I have no pen.  The universe does not want me to plan. I still have to take it day by day.
-I find the metro and head to Pigalle to find food; found a light salad and falafel which I'll take back to the room
-once I get to the room the first thing is not to eat, but to soak my feet in hot water. Standing in one spot for 2 hours plus about 3km of walking...well I hope they make it to for the Louvre tomorrow.

What I ate
-Brunch: Crepe aux jambon et frommage; cafe au lait on outdoor cafe patio in Monmartre
-Snack:  water & Kashi peanut butter granola bar (at sidelines of Tour de France)
-Dinner: small salad, falafel and baklava with 1/2 bottle of red wine in my room

Lessons Learned
-have fully charged camera battery for wandering into unexpected world events such as Tour de France
-have big, I mean big, SD memory card in your camera for video (thank-you Tom!)
-always have bottle of wine in your room ; in case you decide to bring healthy food back (because you pigged out at breakfast on evil fatty food), you at least have good wine.  Good wine makes healthy food better for a minimal amount of calories.
-do not visit famous churches on Sunday; they are busy and noisy as opposed to peaceful and serene.
-do let art galleries , not-so-famous churches and sport races draw you in if you're in the right place at the right time.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Paris - Day 1

Things I did
-arrived at CDG at 9:45am
-Took metro to Monmartre
-Checked in at hotel at 12pm
-Went out walking, saw street performers , found Sacre Coeur from the back entrance and just sat on the lawn in front and absorbed the amazing view of Paris ( I had to turn down guys selling water and Heinken here and then realized...this is a church...why are they selling beer?)
-found the discount fabric district and a shop selling belly dancing outfits; bought the girls Japanese dresses for 7 Euro each
-found grocery store and bakery and took on survial supplies of wine, bread and cheese and water.
-came back at about 4pm ate late lunch, and had a nap
-woke up , took metro down about 6:30pm  to the Seine and proceeded to walk a crazy distance from metro to Eiffel tower and then back toward Notre Dame
-came home at 9:30pm changed shoes and went out for dinner at 10pm across the street.

Paris overloads the senses - the people , the history , the architecture and the beauty. I feel quite safe here and found my bearings with the metro quickly.  It was a gorgeous warm sunny day with tinge of coolness that was refreshing.   The people are very friendly and don't speak as much English as I thought; they happily accepted my tentative French.  The people trying to sell you stuff are all over  (water at Sacre Coeur, toys and fruit in the metro, souvenirs, busking, etc.)  and it I feel a sense of desperation that their life must be so hard to make a living this way. What if they don't sell their stuff -- will they have enough to eat, and so forth? It seems like a very stressful way to live.

What I ate
I bought small gouda, soft and hard cheese packages from the grocery "snack" section, bottle of red wine and a baguette from a bakery on the street; that was lunch.    Is it wrong to eat almost a whole baguette?  The cheeses were so good; I needed a carrier.

Dinner: Mussels (at least 50) , frites, champagne (under 20 Euros)at "La Vrai Paris".

Lessons Learned
-France Customs asks you nothing, there is no customs card; they look at your picture and then stamp your passport without uttering one syllable.   Good thing that contraband fruit I was carrying didn't come into question.

-Street crossings have a man that turns to green meaning you can walk and it turns red when you can't walk; problem is this happens in the middle of your stroll across the street , at which point cars come charging down and you need to run for it. There is no flashing hand , or countdown timer; that must be a Canadian thing.

- Subways:   if no one is coming in, you have to manually flip a lever to open the door if you want to get off the subway. Problem is if you try this while the subway is still moving, the door opens and you'd better not fall out.  I guess we're a little more anal about safety interlocks in Canada.

-Do not take the subway with a 40lb suitcase, 15+ lb knapsack and 5lb purse.  OMG.  My trip to the hotel was a complete workout with all the lifting up and down stairs. The final metro, I missed the elevator sign and carried this 60+lbs up 115stairs! Sheer force of will got me up the last 60 steps.

-Have a light lunch and splurge on dinner. Totally worth it and you're hungry enough.

-Do not ever walk from the Eiffel Tower to Notre Dame after doing the airport gamut and subway stair endurance test. My feet are extremely unhappy considering the 1000+ stairs I must have done today.

-Change shoes multiple times. This is the only thing that saved my feet.

-If going to buy snack cheeses from the local grocery store, buy a knife. Plucking out the cheese with your fingers from the rind is...well...messy and wasteful.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

1 night to go

Tonight has been crazy with getting ready for 3 concurrent trips.  Sophia is safely deposited in Whitby. The RV is mostly ready with th fridge items left for tomorrow.  The only component left to go is packing for Paris.  I have passport, Euros, Map of Paris, Top 10 Paris Guidebook.  I have a couple of tips for restaurants near the Eiffel Tower (Cafe Constant; and near the Arc de Triomphe (Comptoir de l'Arc). The airport taxi is booked.  Electronics (lapop, camera , Kindle and chargers are packed) and a power converter has been purchasd.  All I have left to do is figure out what clothes, shoes and bags I'm taking.  So just the hard stuff now.  :-)