Monday, June 24, 2024

France 2024 - Paris

Tuesday morning, we returned to the Nice airport and flew Air France to Paris' Orly airport. BT Transfer picked up the 6 of us and took us to Hotel Pont Royal in the Saint-Germain-des-Prés district in a spacious Volkswagen van. 

Hotel Pont Royal's service easily matched the Fairmont Monte Carlo's with doorman Daniel providing exceptional service. There were 2 elevators (spacious for Paris) and there was never a long wait on them. A full breakfast was served downstairs. I usually asked for a tray and carried it back up to the room.

And we had nice views from our rooms on the 7th floor.

I had spent many hours trying to book a visit to the Eiffel Tower. I had tried all the tricks to no avail. Finally, I reached out to the concierge at Hotel Pont Royal and they booked it at our convenience with Mon Petit Paris for Tuesday evening after we arrived. We met our tour guide Paul at a souvenir shop just across from the Tower. Nearby were lots of restaurants and even a Franprix that we visited later. 

Paul whisked us through the security lines and gave us thorough explanations of the Paris scenery. We rode the elevator on to the summit for more views.

We had some refreshments on the summit.

We were famished after the Tower. We had seen several sidewalk restaurants while waiting for the tour to begin so we returned to our starting point.

We ate at Bistro de la Tour Eiffel and couldn't have been happier. The kids (and parents) enjoyed the food and the waiter entertained us throughout.

As we finished eating, the Eiffel Tower began its on the hour sparkling.

Wednesday we started with Finding France taking us on a 3 hour driving tour of the sites in Paris guided by Lucia. They picked us up at Hotel Pont Royal and drove the 6 of us to each location in a spacious van. Then we hopped out and the van disappeared into the traffic. Lucia provided detail information and then the van reappeared and we were off to the next stop.

While we couldn't visit the inside of Notre Dame, the front was visible and it was interesting to watch all the ongoing reconstruction.

This is the oldest clock in Paris at the Palais de la Cité on the Île de la Cité,

This is the Pont de l'Alma bridge where Princess Diana died.

This is Zouave, a stone statue set beneath the Pont de l'Alma that has been used for decades to measure the level of the Seine. In 1910, the water was up to his shoulders!

We had lunch at Cafe Suzanne in Montemarte. I had booked lunch in advance and was greeted by Loo when we arrived. A quick provision of French fries satisfied us and we enjoyed a leisurely French lunch while it rained outside. Then we headed back to the hotel for a well deserved rest.

Wednesday afternoon, the younger crowd visited the Catacombs.

Thursday norming, the younger crowd climbed the Arc de Triomphe (we would visit it later in a rental car!).

The rest of us took a leisurely ride on Bateaux Parisiens. Like the Eiffel Tower tour, this was booked by the concierge at Hotel Pont Royal.

After the river cruise, we stopped in Brasserie de la Tour Eiffel for lunch. They had free toilets using these tokens!

I stopped by Maison AS just around the corner from the hotel to visit with a friend of a friend, Alexandra Sojfer. Alexandra has a very high end boutique of original fashion accessories.

The afternoon was a group visit to the incredible Saint-Chappele.

After inquiring of a gendarme with a machine gun of a recommendation for dinner, we ended up at Brasserie Les Deux Palais where Sandrine introduced us to Kir.

While the weather wasn't always perfect for walking, it certainly yielded some beautiful sights.

Since there were 3 families involved in our visit to Paris, we had over-booked and under booked. Some of us went to some attractions, some went to others, and all of us went to most of them.

We pretty much used G7 for transportation throughout our time in Paris. They came quickly and had either black Lexus or Camrys. Fares were usually between 20-30€.

Friday morning we all went our separate ways - Vincent and Sandrine back to Bassin d'Arcachon, the Toohigs to Barcelona, and us to Normandy.

Zoom in and you can really see some details.

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Monday, June 17, 2024

France 2024 - Monaco

One of my unrealized bucket list trips has been to attend the Formula 1 Grand Prix in Monaco. I began planning this in January 2023 using Grand Prix Grand Tours.

Delta had recently added a non-stop from Atlanta to Nice so that really simplified our travel.

Grand Prix Grand Tours arranged for BLADE helicopters to fly us from Nice to the Monaco heliport. This was the girls' first helicopter flight! They had to put some of our luggage on a second helicopter.

We stayed at the Fairmont Monte Carlo which was actually INSIDE the race track and overlooking the iconic Fairmont Hairpin. As a result, we couldn't be dropped off at the Fairmont, The Fairmont had a reception area outside the track.

They collected our bags there and walked us over the track to the actual hotel.

To get access to the hotel, we had to wear badges all weekend.

Grand Prix Grand Tours had facilitated getting us grandstand tickets at Casino Square. We watched Free Practice 2 from there. Afterwards, we discovered that Nikki Beach on the 7th floor of the Fairmont had a balcony that was available to guests that overlooked the hairpin. We watched most of the rest of the race activity from there taking advantage of the shade and drinks and snacks.

We stumbled upon the Formula 3 cars while trying to cross the street while shopping! Only in Monaco!

While several of us focused on the action on the track, Nathalie and her family entertained the rest of us with excursions to Menton and Nice. She even included Italy just to check off an additional country for the girls!

Saturday evening, we relaxed and dined at Nathalie's house with a gourmet meal prepared by her husband, Bruno. Her mother Francoise also attended.

The race was on Sunday. Again, we watched from Nikki Beach at the Fairmont.

The non-race crowd visited Villa et Jardins Ephrussi de Rothschild between Nice and Monaco.

After the race on Sunday, the plan was to meet at Bella Vita near the Formia 1 paddocks.

There was quite a line for a table.

It turned out that due to the street closures, half of us couldn't make it there. In the end, we gathered at Trinity Bar in Monte Carlo.

Back at the Fairmont, we ran into some Rebels on a graduation trip. We helped them get into Nikki Bar much to the chagrin of their parents.

Monaco was quieter on Monday so we rented a car and drove to Eze. We had visited Eze years ago and couldn't wait to return. Eze is a medieval village carved into the side of a mountain overlooking the Cote d'Azur. What more could you ask?

After wandering around for a while looking for a parking lot, we found Fragonard, a perfumery at the foot of the village. They had a convenient parking place and we made purchases.

Near the toilets was a fountain with perfumed bubbles.

Eze is just a maze of beautifully flowered alleys and steps.

We had lunch at Le Nid D'Aigle right next to the entrance of the Le Jardin Exotique.

Look closely at the alcove in the upper left.

Here's a close-up.

In 1991, we had visited Eze and came across this scene.

I had always said that I wanted to retire and run the donkey concession at the Chateau Eze.

Unfortunately the donkey has been retired! Here is the same location now.

I guess I missed my chance.

After the Eze, we headed to the beach at Saint Jean Cap Ferrat to let the girls put their feet in the Mediterranean.

On to Paris!

Zoom in and you can really see some details.

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