Thursday, September 1, 2016

Paris: The Wrap-up (Days 3 and 4)

Friday - Day 3
Breakfast with breathtaking views
Before we went to bed on Thursday night, we all planned to grab breakfast in the morning. Nancy and I took the kids to Printemps located near the Opera area and Galeries Lafayette. We were here in April 2015. Printemps from the outside was this huge department store, however, there's a rooftop restaurant that's accessible to all. The restaurant was more of a deli-type where you pick what you want to get, put it on your tray, and then pay for it. We ordered a croissant and Pain Chocolat...brought it outside that gave us views of Paris. It was breathtaking, we ate our very simple croissant and pain chocolat with the views of the Eiffel Tower, Montmartre, Sacre Couer....an impressive 360 degree view of the beautiful city.

Purses, purses
Shortly after, since we were already in a huge shopping area, we took advantage of taking the kids to Galeries Lafayette. Nancy also visited Chanel and Louis Vuitton and had her eyes on a few bags. She didn't have her passport with her (to take advantage of the tax refund credit), so she didn't get to buy anything that time. Oh darn!


More ramen for me
Lunch came and I remember that there was a Higuma ramen restaurant in the area. Aaaahhhh that's where we had lunch. I had the Chashu Ramen, Nancy had the katsudon, while the kids shared a bowl of chicken teriyaki. Again, Higuma is the place to be for no frills Japanese restaurant in the very heart of Paris.



Back at Louis
It was already 2pm, and it was another scorching hot day. So humid....and I just couldn't see us exploring the city in the heat. We went back to our hotel. I stayed in the room with Caitlin and Evee and we got our much needed rest. Meanwhile, Nancy strolled down a couple of blocks to shop around Champs-Elysees  Oh darn for me!

Brasserie Lipp
The much needed rest worked well for me. By the time that Nancy got back, it was dinner time. We headed towards Saint Germain area and I had my eyes on Brasserie Lipp. Our Uber driver mentioned Lipp, it's where the President goes. Not fancy, just good ol' fashioned French food. 

We sat outside. Everything on the menu was in French. But, Fred, our waiter gave us his very best English description on what might work for us. We went with Cod Fish and Mashed Potatoes, green salad, while Nancy went for the steak and fries, and the kids ordered Grilled chicken.

One thing I won't forget about this place was the classic service. It was one of those old memories where the waiters really took care of us. Fred was the one who not only served the food, but actually prepared and cut the chicken for the kids. It was something else!










Oh when life gives you lemons
Funny tidbit. So I have this impression of Europe where serving ice is not a given unless you ask for it. So for a change, I didn't order water, but I ordered Coke, and Fred said they don't have coke but offered different types of juices, one of them being lemon. So even at 7pm, it was still in the 90s and we were seated outside and all I could think of was this tall glass of ice cold lemonade. The drinks were served and while I was given a tall bottle, only half of it was the lemon juice....I tried it, and it was tangy, sour....pure lemon juice. To our right was this French couple and I felt like we were in a totally hidden video segment. I didn't want to make a scene so I casually asked Fred for ice cubes and sugar. We slowly made our own glasses of lemonade from there. It could only happen to me! After dinner, we thanked Fred for his great service and took pictures with him.

That was our Friday, our 3rd night in Paris.

Saturday, Day 4
From Mercado to Marche'
This day would be our last full day and night in Paris. Nancy wanted to check out local markets. So I called the concierge downstairs and he suggested Marche des Batignolles. Upon arrival, it wasn't really the market we had in mind. It was an indoor wet market, and we were looking more for an outdoor market. But since we were already there, we stopped at a bakery stall and I ordered their Kouign Amman, this flaky, crispy French pastry that I remember having in NYC at Dominique Ansel's bakery.


I asked the baker in English (since he spoke to me in English earlier), if he had any outdoor market suggestion for us. The customer he was helping answered and gave us directions to Boulevard des Batignolles...so we thanked her and started our way there. Somehow, she crossed paths with us and offered to walk us. She was headed that direction. Her name was Corinne. She was so sweet. 

Finally, we found an outdoor market. It wasn't that big by any means. But it was what we had imagined. The locals going about their early Saturday by buying fish, meat, flowers, bread, etc. Merci, Corinne!



Le Marais
We decided to grab our lunch in the Le Marais area of the city. We took a train to get there and walked 10 minutes to get to Marches de Enfants Rouges. It wasn't crowded when we got there. What got our interest was this unassuming stall. Chez Alain Miam Miam was a one-man show. He made us Crepe Sucre and this fabulous sandwich (a grilled sandwich) with beef, avocado, salad greens, tomatoes, sauteed mushrooms and onions, and local cheeses....he had no timer, nothing....he just knew what needed to be done. For $8 Euros, it was a hearty, flavorful, righteous, mouthful sandwich.

Notre Dame
Shortly after lunch, we decided to head on over to Notre Dame and the Seine River. It's one of my favorite places to visit whenever we go to Paris. I honestly don't remember ever being inside this cathedral. But Nancy said we've gone inside before. But for me, it was all about the intricate details that was so visible outside. Plus, there was that whole link to a very popular movie/story of the hunchback.






On a Chanel and Louis Vuitton mission
We went back to our hotel to rest for a bit, and then we went with Nancy to Chanel. She had her eyes set on a couple of purses at Chanel, and she decided to go with the one that she saw yesterday while we were in Galeries Lafayette. It's her first Chanel bag, she always wanted one, and there was no better time than getting it then...where else? In Paris. Our sales associate also gave Caitlin her first Chanel bag....for free....it was a Chanel paper bag with Chanel floral stickers  :-)




From Chanel, we headed to Louis Vuitton. This was to finish what she started yesterday. She knew the model and the size that she needed to get. Unlike Chanel where you can easily count the number of customers inside the store, the LV store was crowded like Costco. Okay, so maybe I went overboard but that's the best analogy. It was so crowded that it was difficult to get assistance. We were told to go upstair as there would be fewer customers upstairs. So we did. Since Nancy was on a mission, we got the purses she had in mind, and we were in and out of there within 15 minutes. Louis Vuitton and Chanel missions were both accomplished!

La Fontaine de la Mouffe
Since it was our last night in Paris, we wanted to have one last good dinner and decided on La Fontaine de la Mouffe. It was on Rue Mouffetard. One thing I like about Paris was their set meals. No shock when you get the bill. We ordered prefixe menu items.....French onion soup, Walnut Salad with Roquefort cheese, Lamb chops and Mushrooms, and Beef Bourguignon.....and for dessert, 2 scoops of sorbet (lemon and raspberry) and creme brulee. All of that for $36 Euros! It was delish. They didn't rush us. They took care of us and the kids. They made us comfortable and we truly enjoyed our last dinner.



Pont Alexandre III
After dinner we decided to go to Pont Alexandre III Bridge. Why? It's one of the most iconic and picturesque bridge in Paris. Owen Wilson's movie, Midnight in Paris...the very last scene was shot here. It's just gorgeous beyond words, especially in the evening where the night sky shimmers on the Seine River....and from not too far of a distance is the Eiffel Tower.





So that's it....that was our last tour stop. We headed back to the hotel and got ready. We only had a few hours to pack before our ride in the early morning towards the airport.

Homeward bound
We had a 5 am cab ride to Charles de Gaulle Airport. Just FYI, if you take a cab from the city center of Paris to CDG, it's a flat fee of $50 Euros plus fees of $7 Euros. Knowing that there's 4 of us makes this worth it. We had 3 carry on luggage, plus 1 regular sized luggage, 2 backpacks, and this large Louis Vuitton shopping bag where Nancy placed her Chanel purse. We had a choice to take the train to CDG, but with two little kids and at 5am, not sure it would've been fun to go up and down the Metro.

The Tax Free Refund Process
Once we arrived at CDG, we checked in 2 of our luggage and the other 2 carryons stayed with us. We went directly downstairs and Nancy took care of the filing for the tax free refund. There are items that you buy in Paris that allow you to get a tax free refund (in this case up to 12%). 

About the refund, there are two ways of getting the refund:

1. In cash - you get it on the spot at the airport (but not the full percentage)
2. Via Credit Card - while it could take a few days to a few weeks, you get a better/bigger refund when you opt to get the refund via credit card

This was now our 4th visit to Europe and each tax refund procedure was different. In the past, we had to sign all these different forms and had to go through different rooms at the airport to process the paperwork. You have to remember that we were just in Europe twice in 2015 (April and November), and each process was different. 

This time was far different. The paper work that we received from Chanel and Louis Vuitton came with bar codes. We had to scan the bar code at the kiosk, and voila....done. There was another piece of paper that Nancy had to sign and seal, and place in mail bin...and everything was done. It was that simple.

One more thing we learned from our last trip. Some credit cards give the refunds much quicker. We learned that American Express took the longest in issuing the refund, while our Visa and Mastercard purchases were credited within a few days.

Although our flight was scheduled to leave at 8:50am, another reason why we wanted to be early was because we didn't know how long this refund process would take.....now that it's simpler, we had more time. We went straight to the Star Alliance Lounge, an access we had by using our Priority Pass. We stayed there for a good hour, had breakfast and relaxed. I, on the other hand, slept.






The flight back home

We boarded our Lufthansa flight from Paris to Munich, a one-hour flight. The plane was half empty. It was a quick flight. Upon getting to Munich, we had to pass by the border police to get our passports stamped and off we went to our terminal. Our long flight to LA was waiting, a 12 hour flight. No issues there. It actually went quick. We were able to sleep on and off during the plane ride. They fed us with lunch and dinner and snacks and drinks in between. I've flown Lufthansa before and would fly them again.




Our flight arrived by 3pm at LAX and to get home, we took the Roadrunner Shuttle. We were the only passengers so it felt like a private shuttle just for us. We were home by 5pm.




That was our Europe trip...our 4th trip for me and Nancy and the very first European visit for Caitlin and Evan. We are glad to be home and ready to tackle life as we know it. I have already written a takeaway blog....what I learned from this trip...it will be published shortly in my next blog.

Thanks for joining.


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