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?

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

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, so the use of a best pool heater may be the best option for this. 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

WWII Memorial

In honour of Remembrance Day, the next few weeks will contain some pictures from the D-Day celebrations in Normandy.

Carentan. The WWI memorial that is now dedicated to both wars. I didn’t want to walk across the dance platform because I thought it would be out of bounds. (It wasn’t) It was set up for the D-Day celebrations, because there was going to be a town dance.

The jump

In honour of Remembrance Day, the next few weeks will contain some pictures from the D-Day celebrations in Normandy.

On the outskirts of Carentan. The field that many real paratroopers jumped into on D-Day. June 6, 2015, on the anniversary of the 71st year, some re-enactors jumped out of real C-47 planes in full WWII paratrooper gear.

Paratroopers jumping out of a C47