Our Trip to Paris Part 3: Paris

My family (minus one) and I recently took a trip to Paris! We had a lot of fun, and I thought I would break down the experience into three parts. (Part 1, Part 2)

Paris

Easy Go Shuttle:

We used Easy Go Shuttle for a Paris City Tour and transfers from CDG to Paris hotel, from Paris hotel to Disney hotels (our party was split into two hotels on the first night due to lack of space at the preferred hotel), and from Disney hotel to CDG.

I can’t imagine trying to navigate the Paris subway system (or streets, for that matter) with luggage and a stroller, as there are no elevators and few escalators down to the subway platforms. Taxis would have been prohibitively expensive. Easy Go was prompt (15 minutes early every time) and efficient. The drivers navigated the confusing and busy streets with ease.

They provided a car seat for free, even though infants are not required to be in a car seat in a professionally driven car in France.

They do require CASH ONLY at time of use, but as long as you know this in advance (they do mention it), it’s easy to budget for it.

They email 24 hours in advance to remind you of the time they will pick you up, which is nice. They ask for a phone number to contact you…we didn’t have a phone, but that didn’t seem to be a problem. You might be able to give your hotel’s number? I’m not sure.

Paris City Tour

Arc de Triomph. I chose this picture because it’s the only one that the driver took that included the car. It was a super comfy car.

The Tour from Easy Go Shuttle (we requested 4 hours) was incredible – the driver stopped directly in front of every major attraction, and took pictures of all of us in front of them. He also gave us little tips of things to notice, like the shop section behind Montmartre that we would never have seen if he hadn’t pointed it out.

I would recommend at least 5-6 hours for the tour, if you want to see some of the lesser known gems of the city, and to start at 9-10 am to avoid rush hour on weekdays.

Things to note: they do not provide entrance to any of the attractions. Since we were only on a 4 hour tour, it would have taken way too long to wait in line to get into any of the places. So we saw the outside of a bunch of places instead, and took a little extra time in Montmartre because it was the end of the tour.

Appart’City Clichy Mairie:

Location: directly across the street from a Casino Brand grocery store (I highly recommend the store brand products!), a half block away from the subway blue line, a cute kid’s French bookstore (La Petite Librairie) just around the corner, great bakeries in any direction. 5/5

Room: we stayed in the 3-room accommodation, as we were 4 adults and one toddler. We were on the 6th floor, and had a humongous balcony (if it had been warmer, we would have pulled the dining room table out onto it to eat dinner) and could see quite the distance. If we leaned over the side, we could see Sacre Coeur!

They brought the crib up within minutes of our arrival and set it up for us, and provided a Strawberry Shortcake balloon (life sized!), which equally fascinated, terrified, and excited the toddler.

The carpets were dingy and didn’t feel clean (and the toddler kept picking up dirt from it, so that was gross), and there were some pretty big stains/burn marks in one spot in the living room. The bathroom had some mould near the bathtub (probably from the shower dripping onto the floor). The furniture was dated, but usable.

the main living space, taken from the kitchen. We were packing up to leave at this point.

It included a tiny stove-top, kitchen sink, fridge (full sized in Europe), a tiny dishwasher, and all the dishes needed.

They provide you with very little dish soap, and you have to pay for more – go to the grocery store across the street to get more, and you’ll pay less for it. We were also given a dish towel.

There was only one garbage can in the entire space, which was odd to us, but we managed by rigging up a diaper bag disposal in our room. You have to bring the garbage bag down to the garbage room yourself (nbd). The hotel staff are not going to enter your room until you leave unless you pay extra for them to come and clean your room. (I mention this because I saw reviews of people being annoyed that they don’t clean the rooms or take away the garbage. It specifically mentions that they don’t in their policies.)

WiFi was inconsistent, but functioned well enough that we were able to watch Netflix at night. It seemed to depend on the device being used – my cell phone lost signal maybe once the entire 4 days we were there, same with my husband’s laptop. But my mother’s laptop was constantly losing signal. I blame the age of the device. 😛

There is laundry in the basement (we didn’t use it) but we did go look at it. There are 2 washers and one dryer. I think the cost was 4.50 EUR/wash, and 2 EUR/dry.

We were given more than enough towels in the bathroom, which was really nice. We had a bit of an issue with the shower spraying onto the floor, but we managed to figure out a method with the shower door that limited the spray. (I think this is a “us” issue, not a “hotel” issue.)

We didn’t partake of the breakfast, but it was 8.50 EUR pp.

We didn’t see any bugs, and we checked, because of the toddler. 4/5 (lost one star because of the carpet grossness)

Beds: possibly more comfortable than my own. 5/5

Staff: very friendly and helpful. A bit of a language barrier with some of them, but it worked out eventually. They suggested an architecture walking tour of Clichy that we enjoyed, but wished there had been more information about the buildings we were looking at included on the map. 5/5

Note: not very accessible for people with mobility issues. Tub was very high to step into, toilet room was not big enough for a rollator, and the main door into the room was very heavy (pushed inwards into apartment, lip at doorway). Plenty of space for a rollator in the main part of the apartment, and the bedrooms were pretty spacious as well.


Are you interested in travelling to Paris? You can contact Jennifer Desmarais through Orleans Travel. jennifer.desmarais@orleanstravel.ca

Our Trip to Paris Part 2: Versailles and the Seine

My family (minus one) and I recently took a trip to Paris! We had a lot of fun, and I thought I would break down the experience into three parts. (Part 1, Part 3)

Part 2: Versailles and the Seine

Artventures Versailles:

We took an Artventures tour to see Versailles, and we were extremely impressed with our guide (Onje? I’m unsure of the spelling of his name. Sorry!). He was very enthusiastic about the history behind Versailles, and had fascinating things to say about each room. We saw a lot of other guided tours happening at the same time (it was VERY crowded), but no one else had the animation or excitement that he had. I highly recommend him (and this company) for your tour guide.

Versailles:

Versailles
Versailles Gardens

That being said, I’m not sure I’d recommend taking a tour of Versailles itself. The Gardens, yes. The Palace, no. It was an opulent monstrosity that had very tiny (other than the Hall of Mirrors) rooms that were extremely crowded. If you really like history, yes, go see it (and a tour guide was excellent to have). Otherwise, I think the Gardens would be much more enjoyable.

Seine River cruise:

Worth it! There was an audio tour on the cruise we chose, in multiple languages, and the cruise itself was beautiful. We got to see multiple major highlights of Paris from the water, including the amazing carvings on the bridges themselves!

We got there around 7:30 pm, and were able to get on the 8 pm cruise. The timing worked well for us because it wasn’t too dark during the cruise, for the most part. We boarded directly in front of the Eiffel Tower, so it was really easy to find.

A couple things to note: no bathrooms in the waiting area before you get on the ship. No seating either. Ships depart every hour on the hour. If you have an Expedia voucher, you need to trade it in to get the ticket before you can enter.

General Paris thoughts

In Spring, even if the weather network indicates 0% chance of rain, it will rain. Dress accordingly.

There are smokers everywhere. They might pay attention to where the smoke blows in relation to their kid, but everyone else is ignored. No 9m law in France.

The sidewalks are not very well paved, and sometimes have posts in the middle of them.

The likelihood of finding an elevator or escalator down to the subway platform is practically 0%, and not 0% like the rain forecast.

Wine and cheese are very cheap and delicious. Milk isn’t necessarily refrigerated. If you can, visit a bakery for baked goods and/or quiche.

Top sheets apparently aren’t used in France – just a duvet. Am I weird that I like a top sheet, or is it a Canadian thing?

I was told in advance that I would have to dress semi-formally in order to get any respect from people in the service industry. I ignored that advice (I’m on vacation! I’m going to be comfortable!) and dressed as I usually would, in my Hufflepuff hoodie with a geek t-shirt, and I had zero problems with any services. Possible reasons for this: I have an adorable daughter who charmed everyone, I was with my parents and husband (husband and mother both dressed as I did, husband and father can look intimidating, mother has a special ability to draw the life story out of everyone she meets), or I was lucky. Who knows?


Are you interested in travelling to Paris? You can contact Jennifer Desmarais through Orleans Travel. jennifer.desmarais@orleanstravel.ca

Aurora Awards Nominations 2018

Hello My Imaginary Friends,

Allow me to be completely shameless again. This year I have a book, a short story, and a few projects that are eligible for the Aurora Awards.

Aurora Awards

aurora

The Aurora Awards are awards, “for excellence in Science Fiction and Fantasy works and activities.” They are administered by the Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Association.

It’s a fan voted award in the vein of the Hugo’s, but with way more awesome people.

You’ll have to join the CSFFA for a pittance of $10 before you can nominate anyone. Once you’ve paid, you can nominate 5 works in each category. You can nominate works from now until May 26th.

The extra bonus of joining the CSFFA is you’ll get a voters package that includes most of the works that make the ballot. That’s 8-10 novels plus a bunch of other awesome stuff.

What do we have that’s eligible

Novel

My second novel Parasomnia is eligible in the the novel category:

Short Fiction

Last year’s serial story is also eligible Database of Ageless Kings.

Fan Writing and Publication

Jen is eligible for Fandom Travel and The Travelling TARDIS in this category.

Recomendations

This year I’m only recommending things I’ve read, participated in, or watched.

Novels

YA Novels

Short Fiction

Fan Writing and Publication

Fan Organizational

Fan Related Work

 

Go Nominate Works and enjoy the amazing science fiction and fantasy that came out last year.

Éric

Our Trip to Paris Part 1: Disneyland Paris

My family (minus one) and I recently took a trip to Paris! We had a lot of fun, and I thought I would break down the experience into three parts. (Part 2, Part 3)

Part 1: Disneyland Paris

Disney Hotel Santa Fe:

Location: was pretty good, if you like to walk. We were placed in the building closest to the rest of the hotels, and it was a beautiful walk along a canal. There is a shuttle to the parks.

Santa Fe hotel

Room: very clean. Beds were very hard. Crib took a long time to arrive (longer than they told us, even after a phone call), so the toddler had quite the meltdown because she couldn’t nap.

Staff: less than helpful. We needed to transfer to Hotel New York after one night in Hotel Santa Fe (because we wanted to be in NY, but there wasn’t any available rooms on the first night we were in Disney, so we stayed in SF) and we asked if there was a luggage transfer service, but we were simply told no, with no suggestions for assistance.

Disney Hotel New York:

Location: perfect location to walk over to visit the parks. If you can walk easily, walk to the park and don’t take the shuttle, because it takes a long way to get there, picking up guests at other resorts before getting to the park.

New York hotel

Room: we ended up with the “show room”, which was perfect for us. It had a queen size bed and a sofa bed, instead of the standard 2 double beds. So we folded up the sofa and had tons of room for the crib. The bathtub had a very wide and tall side, which might be difficult to access if you have any mobility issues.

The bed was really hard, but not quite as grooved as the bed in Santa Fe, possibly because it hadn’t been used very often (see: show room).

Very clean.

We were annoyed that they took our soap that we had brought from home – it was a special soap to help with excema, but it looked very similar to the hotel soap, so I guess they though that it would be nice to give us a fresh one? I feel like that was a waste of their resources, and frustrating to us.

Staff: supremely helpful. When they learned that we had no way of getting our luggage from Santa Fe to New York (other than walking it over), they sent a driver over to pick up our luggage for us. They managed to get us a room in the same wing as my parents, even though there technically wasn’t any space (see comment above about being given the “show room”).

Pool: be warned – the pool is 5 feet deep EVERYWHERE. There is no shallow end. It’s also colder than you would expect. We didn’t go in the hot tub, because of the toddler.

Problems: the main lobby was overpowered by incense. I understand its purpose; to hide the stench of cigarette smoke blowing in from the smokers outside the doors, but it was cloying in the worst way. If there is one law that I would love for France to borrow from Canada, it is the 9m law: no smoking within 9m of any door. Walking through the smokers to get into our building was not a pleasant experience. The hallways were also perfumed with apple smell, although it was less pervasive. No scent got into our room, thankfully.

Walt Disney Studios Park:

Walt Disney Studios park

It’s sad that my first thought when asked to describe a Disney park is “so much smoke”, especially when the parks are advertized as Smoke-Free. And there are definitely signs declaring that. There are clearly marked designated smoking sections on the map. And yet we still saw/smelled/gagged over people lighting up in lines (like in the line for the small children’s ride Slinky Dog Coaster) and while wandering the park in general. YOU HAVE TO ENFORCE YOUR RULES!!!

This park was cute, and we really enjoyed the Backlot tour, and our daughter enjoyed her first roller coaster (Slinky Dog), but there wasn’t much to do in this park. The best part was the Mickey and the Sorcerer show – highly recommend it. My father wanted to see it twice, and he never does that!

Also – why on earth would you close one of only two counter service restaurants BEFORE dinner (5 pm)? Talk about frustrating.

Disneyland Park:

Disneyland park

We had the same problem with smokers in this park as well. There are clearly marked designated smoking sections on the map. And yet we still saw/smelled/gagged over people lighting up in lines (like while waiting for a show, or in a restaurant’s outdoor patio) and while wandering the park in general. YOU HAVE TO ENFORCE YOUR RULES!!! I know I’m repeating myself, but it was seriously disgusting.

One of the attractions we were most looking forward to (Phantom Manor) was closed for renovations, which was incredibly disappointing. There were technical difficulties on a lot of the rides we went on, including Pirates of the Caribbean.

The most frustrating thing about this park was the restaurants for dinner. We were sticking with counter service meals, because the price of food was super expensive, and half the counter service restaurants closed at 5 pm!? It meant that the restaurants that were left open were over-run with people, and it limited our choices. Not only that, but it wasn’t indicated anywhere that the restaurants were going to close, so you didn’t find out until you got there that your dinner choice was not an option.

The best part of this park was the Pirates versus Princesses parade. Definitely worth seeing multiple times, so you can watch both halves.

Overall thoughts on Disneyland Paris:

The food was VERY expensive. I’m not sure whether a food plan would have been come out cheaper, but it is definitely a very strict meal plan; the one we would have gone with (Half Board) includes breakfast and one other meal. In Florida, you are not limited by time with any part of your meal plan, so the comparable plan allowed us to have a lot more wiggle room.

I think our main problem with this experience was that we have been to the Florida parks. The Paris one suffers where the Florida one excels, and it is very noticeable. There were definitely some high points (the shows and parades were excellent! The hotels were comfortable to stay at) but we struggled to find the magic of Disney, after having gone to Florida last year.


Are you interested in travelling to Paris? You can contact Jennifer Desmarais through Orleans Travel. jennifer.desmarais@orleanstravel.ca

Cuba…in Canada?

Do you like the atmosphere of Cuba, but don’t want to leave the country (assuming you’re Canadian)? There’s a new campground in Quebec that brings Cuba to Canada!

Image from the home page of www.clubhavanacamping.com

Camping Havana Resort is a regular campground with Cuban flair. There are activities, dancing, and a resort-sized pool to enjoy, and (according to their website) all the people who work there are from Cuba.

So pack up your tent or rent a cabana and drive on over to this new camp!


Are you interested in travelling to Cuba (in Canada or not)? You can contact Jennifer Desmarais through Orleans Travel. jennifer.desmarais@orleanstravel.ca

Armenia

Recently, Armenia’s historical, cultural, and natural sights were captured in full by 360 degree images. Ucom, an Armenian isp, and 360Stories, a film crew, carried out this massive undertaking. The end result is stunning.

Image from 360armenia.com (site “Sis Fortress 14”)

As I navigated through the images of 360 Great Armenia, I was pleasantly surprised by not only the lack of lag, but by how much I felt like I was playing a video game. (Get on that, developers. We want to find clues or treasure in these VR apps!)

Although I couldn’t find many references to Armenia in popular culture, that is too bad, as this country would be an excellent backdrop for movies. A Bollywood movie was filmed there in summer 2017, and multiple Armenian movies (obviously) have been set in Armenia.

The real reason to visit Armenia is for it’s own sake; it is rich in history, culture, and beautiful scenery. The 360 images only whet the appetite (and you can’t taste the food through a picture!) and you will be begging for more before the end of the VR tour.


Are you interested in travelling to Armenia? You can contact Jennifer Desmarais through Orleans Travel. jennifer.desmarais@orleanstravel.ca

News!

Hello!

I have some bad news and some good news. The bad news is that AJ Travel, the agency I have been with since 2015, has closed. The good news: I have joined Orleans Travel & Cruise Centre!

Image from the home page of Orleans Travel.

If you were a client with me in the past year, keep an eye open for an email from me today from my new email jennifer.desmarais@orleanstravel.ca. If you booked travel with me longer ago than a year, I no longer have your contact information, so feel free to send me an email if you’re hoping to travel.

There will be a couple small changes, mostly to paperwork and how service fees and taxes are collected (separately from the payment for the actual trip), but I’ll explain everything before it happens. I am still working from home, which is the most important part.

Please bear with me as I transfer everything over to the new agency. I’ll be up and running soon!

Are you interested in travelling? You can contact Jennifer Desmarais through Orleans Travel. jennifer.desmarais@orleanstravel.ca

New Disney Updates

I am a big Disney fan. Anyone who knows me can tell you that. So when I heard that the two North American Disney parks were adding Pixar content, I got incredibly (get it?) excited.

Disney World (Florida)

Toy Story Land, in the Hollywood Studios park (possibly soon to be renamed again), is opening on June 30, 2018 in Florida. There will be a roller coaster (Slinky dog), swirling saucers (Aliens), an expanded Toy Story Mania, and Woody’s lunch box fill this new space. I’m sure there will be more coming, as well. There’s lots of room for expansion.

Disneyland (California)

Image from www.travelweekly.com

June 23, 2018, Pixar Pier in the California Adventures park will be officially open! If you don’t want to wait that long, however, there will be a preview of the Pier during Pixar Fest starting April 13. Rides you will find include a roller coaster (Incredibles), Toy Story Mania and neighbourhood, “something” from Inside Out, and a complete re-theme of the pier with images and characters.

You can read more about the changes in Florida here, and California here, here, and here.


Are you interested in travelling to Disney? You can contact Jennifer Desmarais through Orleans Travel. jennifer.desmarais@orleanstravel.ca

Black Panther Experience

If you’re downtown at Winterlude this weekend, be sure to check out The Black Panther Experience in Confederation park! You can get your photo taken with Black Panther, see the inside of a vibranium mine, and check out the Wall of Heroes.

If you’re in Toronto later on this month, the truck will be there as well. Check out the dates:

Image from the Facebook post.

Are you interested in a stay-cation or visiting Toronto? You can contact Jennifer Desmarais through Orleans Travel. jennifer.desmarais@orleanstravel.ca

Nargle 9K

If you’re interested in running a virtual race, and like Harry Potter, the Nargle 9K is for you!

Registration is available NOW until February 11, and you go out and run 9 kilometres on February 13, Luna Lovegood’s birthday.

You can read more about the Hogwarts Running Club, the host of this event, here.

While you might not want to go outside if you live where I live, you can run this race on a treadmill or another day. Or you can dress warmly and brace yourself for the Nargle 9K in the snow!

Image from events.com

Are you interested in travelling to get away from the snow? You can contact Jennifer Desmarais through Orleans Travel. jennifer.desmarais@orleanstravel.ca