Paris 2011

September 25, 2011

It's been almost 10 days since our return from Paris. Valerie and Wayne welcome all visitors to our blog site because we think it depicts what Someday Travel trips are all about: Fun, flexibility, friendships, in addition to great trip excursions, yet  also allowing individual travelers the freedom to strike out on their own if they choose. Here are three quotes from Paris travelers:

"We continue to remember our wonderful trip to Paris. You guys are the best!" (Alan & Jeanne Nordstrom)
"What a wonderful trip. I can't believe I am not tired as everyone said I would be. Thank you both for 9 exciting days. It was a trip of a lifetime for me." (Betty Beardsley)
"The trip was well organized. You (Wayne) and Valerie are top notch travel guides. I don't think I'd go on any other tour unless you were the leaders. The group was great. I enjoyed meeting the people in the group. Thanks again for a wonderful time." (Susan Weimer)

We think the blog is more special if the reader scrolls to the bottom and begins to read on September 7, but top to bottom or bottom to top, I think you will begin to feel that you "were there too", and Someday you can with Valerie and Wayne. We have our Best of Italy Tour set for April 19-28, 2012, our Alaska Cruise & Land Advernture set for June 8-19, 2012 with another yet to be announced trip to Tuscany in the fall of 2012. Planning ahead we also have a trip planned for Greece in April 2013 and an exciting Ireland excursion which will not only include our usual visits to historic and popular sites, but will offer an exciting option for golfing 2-4 fine Ireland courses (while others are visiting the sites). It will be exciting so watch for it in 2013.

Valerie and Wayne

 Valerie &Wayne Graczyk

September 16, 2011:
Already? Wow - times does fly when you're having fun!
We all got up and were on a bus headed for Charles de Gaulle Airport by 8:30 a.m. We boarded American Airlines flight 41 and are scheduled to depart early (before noon when scheduled time was 12:15 p.m.).  We should arrive at the Chicago O'Hare Airport around 2:30 p.m. Chicago time.

September 15, 2011:

What a glorious day to be alive, and to be in our final day in France. Today was a free day with an optional excursion to the Loire Valley Castle tour (pronounced Lou-R, with emphasis on the R sound). Fifteen travelers took advantage of this fantastic opportunity to visit & re-live a part of France's history, and were not disappointed from comments expressed. While we are accustomed to calling them castles, they are called Chateau's in France. There are around 40-50 Chateau's in the Loire Valley region. Most were built and lived in by the affluent, but some like the one we visited today, were lived in by various Kings of France. The first Chateau we visited was Chateau d'Amboise and was occupied by such Kings as Charles VII, Charles VIII, Louis XI and Francois I. It was Francois I who brought Leonardo da Vinci from Italy. He was given his own residence in the village with a connecting tunnel extending to the Chateau. When Leonardo died, his will determined that he be laid to rest in Amboise. Many of us went to visit this house but all visited the chapel housing his body. While he was Italian, da Vinci requested that it was in Amboise that his body be laid to rest.

We had time to walk around the unique town of Amboise, to shop, buy chocolate or other items. Amboise was dedicated to the hunter and the da Vinci chapel is where hunters would come to pray for successful hunts.

The second Chateau we visited on a bright, sunny day was Chateau de Chenonceau, about a 20 minute drive from Amboise. What beautiful and original paintings were displayed in this magnificent Chateau! It will especially be remembered by Chuck in our group because a someday dream came true. He shared that as a boy of about 7 or 8, he saw a picture of the Chateau de Chenonceau and said that someday he would visit in person. Well, his someday dream came true Thursday!

Burial place for Leonardo da Vinci- Amboise

Chateau D'Amoise

Chateau De Chenonceau

It was only one of the magical moments we had in our 8 day tour of Paris & France and each of our 23 travelers would have stories of their own to share. Upon our return to Paris and our hotel, some took their last opportunity to see or revisit favorite parts of Paris, some ate their final meal in Paris but in the end, we all packed for Friday's return to the U.S
September 14, 2011:

Today we toured the Versailles Palace and Gardens, past residence of the Kings of the 17th & 18th centuries. It ended with the French Revolution of 1789. We toured many special rooms including "The Hall of Mirrors". Mirrors were a luxury at the time so the number and size of these monsters was astounding for the time. The hall is over 250 feet long!  The gardens, actually, lavish grounds is more accurate, were a beautiful place to walk around.

After lunch we traveled back to Paris and most of the travelers opted to make an unscheduled tour of the famous Opera Garnier (or Paris Opera). Built for Napoleon III and finished in 1875 it was one of Paris' most fashionable haunts. To most in the group it was definitely on an equal par with Versailles.

Travelers were then free to tour on their own. One interesting adventure was taken by Betty & Betsy. They visited the Galleries Lafayette and Printemps stores. They said they made "some" purchases. They actually made the purchase of the trip when they found a tea bag holder, with the Eiffel Tower on it no less!  Betsy's mother in law hasn't been able to find a tea bag holder in Milwaukee so now she'll have one from Paris. They finished in a luxury store call Sexy is Sexy but we will stop here! They were so tired and after locating Metro #14, the first subway arrived "packed". But they were amazed when the next came in empty! They thought it was amazing but never ones to look a gift horse in the mouth, gladly got on, sat down and made it safely to the hotel.

September 13, 2011:

Paris - we are still here & loving it....what a beautiful place! 

Our morning was spent in Giverny to see Claude Monet's gardens and home/studio. It would suffice to say we were stunned and in awe with all of it, especially his gardens and in particular his Japanese water  garden. Monet's gardens are like his pictures, and you see why when you peer from his upper window overlooking them. While the brightly colored flowers appear "messy", they are balanced to the eye. We learned Monet spent his last year years cultivating his gardens and his art at Giverny. If you have spent any time at all creating & developing a garden it was mind boggling what Monet achieved and also can see his passion through his art work.

Upon our return to Paris around 3:00 p.m. travelers had the option of being dropped off near the Louvre or the Eiffel Tower to continue their exploring and enjoyment of seeing the best the "City of Lights" has to offer them, at their leisure. Of course that included choosing an open air restaurant watching people, boats on the Seine or just shop. 

Betsy went to get her hair done, cut & colored (French style) and it looked great! Following the appointment the owner of the salon actually drove her and her mother Bercy Village! We had dinner, bought chocolates with Wayne & Valerie and walked to the hotel with them.

After Giverny, Mary, Pat & Lisa went to the Eiffel Tower and went up two floors. They became the first and maybe the only of our travelers to take the RER train. They also went to St. Michel in the Latin Quarter, a charming section of Paris. They ate dinner there with their "personal waiter".  Lisa shared that the waiter called her "baby" and kissed her on her head!  She said he was very kind and wouldn't let any other waiter help them. They again asserted they were now pros at the metro, and now the RER, and were helping other tourists get around.  They were in awe when they lit up the lights on the Eiffel Tower.  Pat & Mary are not sure if Lisa will ever forget "her" French waiter. They wanted everyone to know this has been an extremely enjoyable trip!

Gail & Sue F. were happy when they took the Metro on their own. They said that Giverny & Versailles were beautiful.
Tom & Karen went to Père Lachaise Cemetery (the largest cemetery in the city of Paris) and viewed several prominent grave sites, i.e., Oscar Wilde, Moliere, Jim Morrison, etc. They took the Metro to Champs-Élysées, walked and took pictures. They had mussel dinner at Leon's and then went to the Notre Dame area and hired a taxi for a night time viewing of Paris. They saw many major attractions on a 1 hour ride at a cost of only 38 Euros – a great evening!

Susan L and Susan W went to the Louvre and took pictures. They then took the Metro and walked a long time because they got "lost" a little bit but all worked out well. They made a second trip to Notre Dame because they wanted to climb to the top of one tower but it was closed for the day. With a full day under their belts they made it back to the hotel via the Metro.
We have had difficulty downloading pictures so plan on having a sort of photo gallery upon our return.

On Wednesday it's off to Versailles, the ultimate royal palace (Chateau). 
September 12, 2011:

Today we visited the Musée du Louvre (commonly referred to simply as "The Louvre").  Of course some travelers were reminded of the movie The Davinici Code with its famous glass pyramid standing so prominently at its entrance.  The Louvre is Europe's oldest, biggest, greatest and second most crowded museum, after the Vatican!

Congratulations to our group of 24 for sticking together in the crowds which were large, but manageable.  Christine DuBois, our guide, once again amazed us with her wealth of knowledge and expertise.  She made the Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo, the halls and statues/pictures of Greek & Roman masterpieces, medieval jewels, Michelangelo statues, and paintings by the greatest artists from the Renaissance to the Romantics of mid-1800s all come alive and take on more meaning to us.

After our 3-hour tour, we had the option of remaining in the museum to tour further on our own, or go into Paris and tour on our own.  Some remained while others went exploring.  Snippets of their adventures follow… 

Mary, Pat & Lisa explored the famous Montmartre area topped by the white domes of Sacré-Cœur Basilica (Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Paris) and offered spectacular views of the city of Paris. They are becoming experts on using the Metro to get from one spot to another, as well. 
Betty & Betsy formed a mighty team for sightseeing AND shopping. 
Sue F & Gail strolled along the Seine River to Notre Dame and then to Ile Saint Louis to find the hotel Sue had stayed at many years ago.  They ate at Auberge de la Reine Blanche, a restaurant Sue also ate at during her previous visit.  It was very quaint.

Wayne and Valerie took a "half taxi" - a sort of bike-coach up the Champs-Elysees to the famous Arc de Triumph where all 294 steps were climbed to reach the top (277 steps down since Wayne counted them!).  Then it was off to a red tour bus which took them to a late lunch at a cafe with a view of the Eiffel Tower and then the ultimate - going to the very top of the tower.  What a breathtaking view!  Others in our group told us how great it was and seeing, truly is believing.

View from on top of the Eiffel Tower

Gary, Joni, Alan & Jeanne toured the modern art museum at the Pompidou Center.  Gary couldn’t stop admiring the Kandinsky with the monkeys!
Tom & Karen finally located the Dhelleen cookware store where the chefs shop.  It was old and dusty and very interesting.  There were pots big enough to climb into!  They also visited the Cluny Museum (Musée de Cluny) to see Lady & the Unicorn tapestries, one with the smiling lion, heads of statues of Kinds of Judah from Notre Dame and statues which were “beheaded” by revolutionaries found buried in the backyard around 1977.
Sue W finally got to see the Notre Dame Cathedral!  She thought it was an interesting comparison to the Reims Cathedral which is much more ornate.
So, all in all, everyone is doing well and they have all mastered the famous Paris Metro Rail System (i.e. subway) which has allowed them to traverse Paris with little difficulty seeing the sights they each wanted to see!
Tomorrow, like many visitors before us, we will travel to Giverny to visit Monet's garden & home.  We, especially the garden lovers, get to admire the earthmoving landscaping and layouts, botanists will find new plants and art lovers can see paintings they've long admired.  More to come!

September 11, 2011:
Today two travelers (Chuck & Sue) used the optional free day/wine tour to strike out on their own!  They took a train to see the sites of Normandy.  The remaining 16 travelers went to visit two outstanding champagne makers.  We visted the Reims Cathedral (also named Notre-Dame de Reims and Our Lady of Rheims) and heard a heart wrenching story about 9/11.  The two champagne sites were Moët et Chandon cellars in Épernay and the Mumm Champagne cellars located in Reims.  We were able to taste their product and all agreed it "was great!" - both sweet and dry.  In between visits our tour guide shared a personal story of being in New York on 9/11/2001.  There were tears in many eyes as she shared that every year she returned to NY for the anniversary of 9/11.  This year, however, she stayed behind because Someday Travel asked for "the best guide" and we sure were fortunate to have her!  After Mumm we toured the Reims Cathedral which has held the Coronation of every king (27) with one exception, King Henry IV.  Tomorrow, the Louvre!

Cathedral of Reims where Kings of France Coronations took place

The fearless leader: Valerie Graczyk

September 10, 2011:

What a fantastic time we had today!  We visited Notre Dame, Musée d'Orsay and La Sainte-Chapelle.  The travelers split for a free afternoon/evening.  Wayne and Valerie, joined by four others, enjoyed an open air bus tour of Paris.  Friends and former exchange student of Valerie and Wayne's, James & Lucy Boucher of Dunkerque, France, joined the group for the afternoon of site seeing.  The day ended with a dinner the Latin Quarter at Bouillon Racine.  There we enjoyed Suckling Stuffed Pig, Poultry with Ratatouille, Tarter Steak (raw), Duck Confit and Shrimp Salad!  Delicious!!

Four Paris travelers under the Eiffel Tower:
Mary, Sue, Pat & Lisa

September 9, 2011:

We have arrived! The travelers arrived safe and well at 9:20 a.m. Paris time.  We have a "free" day today so the majority of us went sight seeing - the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triumph and a cruise along the Siene River.  The weather is glorious and we are thrilled to be starting our adventure!

Here are two photos for you to enjoy:

September 6, 2011:

Packed & Ready to Go!

Valerie and I are excited for Thursday to arrive!  We are busy finishing last minute details and finalizing the itinerary.  We hope all of you are excited for this great adventure, as well and we look forward to making your Someday Travel Dreams come true!