Bon Jour!…or, The Search for Ice…

Posted by at Jul 3, 2013 6:00 am

So, I just got home from a two-week trip to Europe.  I’ve been very quiet about it up until now because I don’t like announcing to the universe that I am half a world away from home.  But the house-sitter did great and we’re all home, laundry is nearly done and the jet-lag, which was worst on Tuesday, seems to be lightening up!

We (my daughter and I) had an amazing time…it was the trip of a lifetime.  We did four days in Paris, three days in London and a full week in a small burg called Nuneaton, where my daughter did a week at a video game company (work study) and I spent it at the kitchen table of my good friend, Kathy Garbera, with whom we stayed.

I have fodder for many blogs, so I’m going to start with Paris.

The funniest thing is that I never expected to include Paris on this trip…the only reason we decided to go was because of cookies.  I’m dead serious.  You all know what a foodie I am and my latest obsession is the macaron.  (I know I’ve posted about them before…they’re made with almond flour and have amazing fillings and are pretty much heaven in your mouth.)  Paris is the home of the macaron, so instead of going to Edinburgh as originally planned, we decided to do Paris.

I cannot tell you how happy I am that we did!  I loved Paris so much…I would go back in a heartbeat if someone bought me a first class ticket!  (We did NOT fly first class, hence the need…)

It was amazing.  We stayed in a very small hotel directly beside the University of Paris at La Sorbonne in the Latin Quarter.  What a perfect location!  It was just close enough to the touristy things for walking (Notre Dame was about five blocks away…Musee de Orsay about 20 blocks, give or take) but it was really a university area with cafes and shops that catered to that crowd, not tourists.  Loved it so much!  We walked everywhere we could, but catching a cab was super easy and we even took the underground once to get to Montmartre, the area where we searched in earnest for the best macaron and found them at Hugo and Victor, a fabulous chocolatier.

Our first day, we took a bus tour.  Very fun, but also gave us a view of places we wanted to see, but didn’t necessarily want to take the time/effort to visit.  Like the Eiffel Tower and the Arc d’Triumph.  I wanted to see them, but I didn’t want to walk around.  I’m seriously afraid of heights and my daughter HATES elevators, so I knew they’d be a waste on us.  But she got some glorious shots!




photo 1


photo 2photo 3These were all taken with her phone!

photo 5Beyond the macarons, my favorite thing was the Louvre.  It really was the reason we went and I have to confess, at first, I hated it.  It was SO crowded with people who could have cared less about what they were seeing…but once we got away from the wing that had the Mona Lisa (meh, if you’ve seen a picture of it, you’ve seen it) and the Venus, it was so much better.  There was a sculpture garden with the most amazing marble nudes and we got to see the Code of Hammurabi, which was simply awe-inspiring for its age alone.  Also, there were many pieces I hadn’t known were in the Louvre, so it was a great surprise to see them.

My next favorite was the Musee d’Orsay, which houses one of the most impressive collections of Impressionistic art that I’ve seen.  Manet, Monet, Degas, Cassatt…they were all there.  My daughter is not a huge fan of this movement, but it’s my favorite and I dragged her through the whole collection.  And the building that houses the museum is quite impressive, too.  

We went to Notre Dame, but missed the Rodin museum, which I would have loved to see as it houses one of my favorite sculptures, The Kiss.  Someday, we WILL go back!

The funniest part of the trip was that it was VERY hot in Paris…hotter than anyone there expected.  Now, we’re used to hot because we’re Floridians, but the thing about Floridians is that we know how to deal with hot…and one way is with ICE.  Lots and lots of ice, in our drinks, all day long.  Floridians invented freezing your water bottle before you go to the theme park so that by the time you get there, it’s melted enough to drink, but still has a big hunk of ice inside that can last a good portion of the day.

In Paris…in fact, in all of Europe, ice seems to be a foreign material.  We asked for tap water, with ice, and we’d get two small cubes…if we were lucky.  As I was mostly drinking wine while in France (duh) I didn’t realize that if you ordered a cocktail like a mojito, you’d get more ice than the North Pole.  Otherwise, forget it.  The hotels do not have ice buckets or ice machines and the hotel staff got a huge kick out of us needing large glasses of just ice when we got back from walking around.

What do Europeans have against ice?

Anyway, Paris was magnifique!  I probably know five phrases in French and I have so much fun saying them!  By the way, I think it is worth mentioning that the rumors of Parisians being rude to Americans is quite untrue…except for an unfortunate run-in with a smarmy “gypsy” cab driver in the first ten minutes of our arrival, everyone in Paris was the height of polite and helpful.  The waiters, especially, even though I have to say that the European idea of “good service” in restaurants is WAY different from my idea.  Paris, however, it wasn’t so bad…long waits for the check were somewhat ordinary, but it wasn’t that bad.  Not so in London…more on that next week!

So…have you been to Paris?  What did you think?  Would you like to go?  Have you ever thought you didn’t want to go there and once you did, you loved it?

Au revoir for now, mon ami!



31 thoughts on “Bon Jour!…or, The Search for Ice…

  1. 1
    Retiree says:

    Yes, we’ve been to Paris a couple of times. We did walk up all the stairs of the Eiffel Tower and Arc de Triomphe (couldn’t do it now b/c of knee issues) and enjoyed all of it. We always walk or do the metros- avoiding cabs at all costs. We also had no issues with the natives (we find the Italians much more rude). Glad you had a good time!

    • 1.1
      Retiree says:

      BTW, freezers use too much energy which is why ice is a limited commodity!

    • 1.2
      Julie says:

      You are the third person who said the same thing about Italians. I’m so ashamed! Isn’t it funny that in the States, Italians are the most friendly?

      Your idea that the amount of energy it takes to run a freezer makes a LOT of sense. I did notice that Europeans are MUCH more environmentally conscious than Americans.

  2. 2
    Carol says:

    Ice is also very hard to find in South America. Lived in Rio for 3 years and had to ask for ice every time we went out. But that’s such a minor thing in compare to the other advantages of living in a tropical paradise.

  3. 3
    Liza says:

    I’ve never been to Paris, but it is on my bucket list. I now know to put Musee d’Orsay on my list. I could spend hours looking at Impressionist works. In fact, friend took me to the Art Institute in Chicago several years ago and I spent over an hour in front of one painting.

    • 3.1
      Julie says:

      The Art Institute is a treasure. I’ve been there at least five times, maybe more, and I always spend a great deal of time exploring their Impressionist collection, which is even bigger than the one at the Musee d’Orsay. But there was something about seeing the paintings where they were originally conceived that was awe-inspiring. Also, they had the works of one painter I’d never heard of: Berthe Morisot. I love discovering a “new” artist!

  4. 4
    Silver James says:

    I was in Paris the summer of the student riots, on a study tour with 152 American students. It was a scary time! Even so, I’d like to go back. I was too young (15) to truly appreciate it. Now, I would be all about photography. :D

    Glad you two had a great trip and are home safe and sound!

    • 4.1
      Julie says:

      There were demonstrations while we were there, which I took to understand was a quite ordinary experience, especially because we were so close to the university. One day, walking past the Jardin de Luxomberg, there was something going on…tons of riot police and army men (all very handsome, by the way) standing around, but not engaging with the students, whom we couldn’t even see. But we could hear them!

  5. 5
    katie says:

    The Musee D’Orsay is, perhaps, my favorite museum and their restaurant is fabulous (along with the Louvre’s restaurant). I agree with the tourists at the Louvre. Did you miss the Monet museum? I don’t know the name, but it’s housed in a house near the Rodin museum. I didn’t go to the Rodin Museum, but if there was a Monet that I could find in Paris, I hope I found it. Did you have lots of croissants for me? For some reason, the croissants are better in Paris (plus, you don’t gain weight off of them, as I found out, true!). They say it’s the water that makes them divine. I had one in Epcot France last week and it was fabulous, too (I even got my middle son hooked on them). So happy you had a great time! I want to go back soon (and maybe, take my middle guy). I”d take my oldest son to Disneyland Paris, but I think he’d be bored looking at art all day (I’m an art nerd).

    • 5.1
      Julie says:

      You know, I don’t think I had a croissant! My daughter did. I did have brioche once or twice. Our breakfast at the hotel (was included with our room) was FANTASTIC. The coffee alone was worth another plane trip back. I even drank it black, which I NEVER do. The woman who ran the breakfast spoke no English at all, but man, she put out a gorgeous spread and made sure everyone felt welcome and taken care of. It was a great way to start our day!

  6. 6
    Philomena says:

    Went to Paris a while back and enjoyed it. Everyone was extremely nice. I was on a bus looking at a map trying to figure where to get off and a couple of people offered to help me.

    Same issue with ice in Ireland years ago. I was a teenager with my Mom at a pub for lunch. I asked for a soda with lots of ice. When waiter placed the order to bartender, bartender said Why do they want ice? Waiter replied They are Americans!

    Happy 4th!

    • 6.1
      Julie says:

      I must admit, I used the “crazy American” excuse myself on our ice quest and the waiters usually laughed and then brought it more willingly. They get a kick out of us making fun of ourselves!

  7. 7
    CateS says:

    Never been to Paris – but even when we visited my sister & BIL in England.. we got maybe 3 cubes of ice .. course, they only had the little fridge so no icemaker…

  8. 8
    Donna M says:

    I’ve never been to anywhere in Europe! Both my daughters have been at different times in their lives & not together!! Due to that I was aware of the no ice in Europe also milk is or was difficult to get & not as cold as we like it. The only way I would ever want to go to Paris would be if my friend Chris could be my guide as he is a French native! That said, he does not like Paris as he is from a small town near the Swiss border. He has been in the states for so many years that he is loosing his accent. When his parents visit from France it comes back as they do not speak English. His wife & 3 kids might object to him going to France with me!!! Chance are slim to none. :batlash: All that said I am very happy trying to travel & see as much of the USA as I can while still being able to travel. The biggest hurdle is lack of funds!

    I’m so glad that you & your daughter had a wonderful trip. Look forward to more of your travel stories. You are very smart not to let it be known you are gone for an extended period of time. Security & safety should always be first.

  9. 9
    Michelle says:

    Welcome back, my fellow USF Bull! I had the opportunity of a lifetime to visit Europe when I turned 15 (Quinceaños) and it was life-changing. Your daughter will want to go back, over and over, for the rest of her life.

    We spent three days in Paris, and it was lovely. The history and monuments were great, but it felt very “big city” to me, until we started walking through the parks and neighborhoods. THEN, it felt like “Paris,” to me. Seeing the sidewalk cafes and being able to buy cheese and a baguette from a sidewalk vendor, made standing in lines to see the “attractions,” more palatable.

    It is not, however, my favorite place to visit in Europe. That honor is reserved for Barcelona. I could LIVE in that City, and if Hubby and I win the Powerball, we will definitely buy a flat there.

    I’m so happy you both enjoyed your trip and are back home, safe and sound, just in time for FL RAIN! We’ve missed you on FB.


    • 9.1
      Julie says:

      Our hotel was off the beaten path, so it always had that small neighborhood feel. Loved both the Latin Quarter and Montmarte. Would love to go back and spend more time in both! I never felt that big city feel…in fact, that was the part that threw me off. I don’t know where that section of town is, but we never went there.

  10. 10
    Sue G. says:

    Have never been to Europe but plan to after the kids are done with college. I want to see England, France, and Italy! My mom and sister went about 18 years ago and loved it.

    • 10.1
      Julie says:

      My mom wants to go back to Italy. My nieces wasn’t as impressed. She much preferred Germany. I have mixed emotions about Italy because while I’d love to go, I know it’s packed with tourists and I hate that. I would, however, love to visit Sicily.

  11. 11
    Eileen A-W says:

    Never been to Paris or anyplace in Europe. An extended vacay in Europe is on my bucket list. I decided to fix up our house before we spend the money to travel. Sigh!!! I am jealous – but loved the phone pics & descriptions. Looking forward to hearing more. :-D

    • 11.1
      Julie says:

      Thanks! There’s a lot more to tell. I’m so glad we decided to do this. Some opportunities can’t be passed up.

  12. 12
    Cindy Hamilton says:

    :waves: Great pictures, would love to go to Paris! :hug:

    • 12.1
      Julie says:

      It’s amazing how great the pictures are on an iPhone! Of course, mine didn’t come out as good, so there is some talent needed too, apparently.

  13. 13
    Eileen says:

    Never been to Paris but would like to one day. The Louvre is where I would like to go and see.

  14. 14
    Laurie P says:

    Some day I’ll get there…I have the same lust/love of macaron as you do.

  15. 15
    Gale Sroelov says:

    Wasn’t the trip the best? Back in the 90’s, a friend of mine was doing a teaching Fellowship (from California to London; how cool was that?) in London and I flew over to visit with her. We took the Chunnel over to Paris — and I was hooked! My husband had been to Paris (before we were married, for work) and never even got out of the car to do anything, just sight see. Me? I had to touch the walls of the Cathedrals; go to the top of the Eiffel Tower (and yeah, I’m afraid of heights, too); sat and watched people on the streets of Paris. Everyone was very nice to my friend and I so I have no complaints. London was great as well. While my friend worked with her students (work/study projects), I sat and talked with foreign business owners. Hey, it was exciting for me as I am an HR and Business Consultant. The thing that has stayed with me all this time, though, is that there are ruins/buildings/places that have been around for so very long. I am just a speck in this life. I find that very cool. I’ve done a fair amount of world travel and Paris is one of my favorite places. Glad you both had a great trip!

    • 15.1
      Julie says:

      I cannot wait to go back to Paris. I hope to actually take a class, learn some French and spend a whole two weeks in France someday. It’s an experience I’ll never forget!

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