| Part 2: Paris, Disneyland
Hotel Etap. Today I discover that the 4
Euro card of the hotel Etap is valid only for 15 minutes of Internet,
while the card for one hour costs 12 Euro. That is very expensive for
one hour of Internet access!
Weather: warm, sunny, blue sky mixed
with clouds and thin clouds layers. It gets quite hot in the metro
(which has no A/C) and overall it's hot, almost too hot to walk around.
It's almost 10am when we get up and we only manage to leave the hotel
at 12pm. For some reason or another with two small children it is
impossible to start the day early, especially not if the day before
finished late. In the evening I agree with Shirley that tomorrow I'll
leave the hotel early in the morning alone for some sightseeing while
Shirley will take it easy with the children and do some shopping in the
nearby shopping complex (Carrefour). We'll meet again at 2pm in the
hotel and then will go together to Paris for some sightseeing. This way
I'll be able to quickly visit a few places without dragging around the
In any case, we walk towards the metro station. Along the way, we
briefly stop at a grocery store where we buy some food and drinks. We
catch the 12:20pm M1 train to La Defense, arriving there at
1pm. Quite a long trip, because La Defense is at the other end of
La Defense is an area of modern buildings, interesting for its
architecture. There is
the huge arch and the office complexes around it. Personally I find the
entire area very photogenic. Nothing
wrong with old buildings, but modern buildings can be very refreshing.
After spending some time exploring the area and taking some photos, at
12:40pm we enter the shopping complex area. This is a huge
interconnected, air-conditioned shopping mall, where it is easily
possible to spend hours. In fact we spend almost three hours walking
around the mall and shopping and only leave because I get tired of so
At 2 something pm we have a lunch in a Chinese restaurant where you can
different dishes and pay each dish by the weight. Very good value for
Paris and good and tasty food.
In the mall I go to several mobile phone outlets and ask about a
prepaid GSM telephone card which allows Internet access. Should exist
based on what I read in the Internet. But according to all people I
speak to no such thing is available. Only post-paid, i.e. I would have
to set up a contract with a monthly fee. There is also no Internet cafe
in the entire mall, although I'm told that in the McDonald restaurant
there is free WLAN access.
At 4:30pm we finally leave the mall and take the metro to Montmartre.
At 5:25pm we
arrive in the Abbesses station and start walking towards the cable
train to the
Sacre Coeur church. We make a couple of stops along the way in some
souvenir shops before taking the cable train (funicolaire).
All of us
are actually quite tired, as it's hot and we are not used to walking so
much. I'm especially tired as I have been carrying the whole
day the heavy baby stroller with the baby and all the other
stuff inside up and down the
staircases (very, very few metro station in Paris
have elevators or escalators - in fact the public transportation system
in Paris is old and decrepit).
It's 6pm when we finally are at the Sacre Coeur church (we lost some
time queueing up at the funicolaire). Very, very scenic and photogenic
church. We spend one hour at the church, then start walking down the
hill (Sacre Coeur is on top of a hill overlooking Paris - nice
panoramic views of Paris). The area around Sacre Coeur is full of
By the way, everywhere in Paris there are fun fairs/amusement parks for
children. Alissia constantly insists that she wants to go here and
there and tickets are not exactly cheap.
At 7pm we start walking back to the hotel. We fetch the metro at the
Anverse station and arrive in St Blande station near the hotel around
8pm. Then we
have a dinner in (just for a change) a Chinese restaurant. I think
I'll avoid Chinese restaurants for a couple of days - today I had lunch
and dinner in Chinese restaurants.
Once in the hotel, I briefly use my mobile phone to
connect the computer to the Internet. I need to check my emails because
I have been offline for already two days now. You shouldn't do that
with a mobile phone roaming in another country, because it is very
expensive, but I have no choice.
Hotel Etap. It turns out that not all
rooms in the hotel Etap are of the same size. Some rooms are bigger,
while others (as ours) are smaller. All for the same price. The hotel
room in the evening is hot like a sauna. The A/C is by
far too weak.
Weather: overcast in the morning, the
sky opens up around noon until the early afternoon, then closes up
again around 5pm. Very hot. It rains a little bit in the evening.
I wake up shortly after 8am, get ready and leave the hotel at 9:30am.
Shirley is relaxing this morning and will later go out and walk to the
shopping complex near the hotel. We'll meet at 2pm in the hotel.
first place I'll visit this morning is the St Alexandre Nevski Russian
orthodox church. While on the way there I make a stop at Place de
and take some photos of the Arc de Triomphe at 10:20am. Then I take the
metro to Courcelles. Actually as I later find out I could have walked
from Place de l'Etoile, as the distance is very short.
In any case I'm at the Russian orthodox church at 10:48am. What a
disappointment. I was expecting something colourful and beautiful like
Mary Magdalene Russian Orthodox church in Warsaw
but what they built in Paris is small and unimpressive. Inside a
funeral is taking place, so it is not even possible to visit the
After a couple of minutes at this church, I walk back to Place de
l'Etoile where I take the metro to Clemenceau. The idea is to visit the
Alexandre III bridge by daytime and cross over to the Invalides. I
arrive there at 11:15am. Unfortunately the sky is still overcast making
it impossible to take nice photos. I decide to wait some time
(as the sky could open up) and sit down on a bench.
While there I ponder how to continue the trip across France. The
weather is actually good enough to visit
Normandie and Bretagne. I would have skipped these if the weather was
bad, but considering that the summer seems to have arrived it makes
sense to go
there, since the south of France will likely be too hot. We don't have
a hotel booking for Normandie, but I'm guessing that it should not be
a problem to find accomodation since we are flexible for what
concerns the location. I guess it will suffice to look for a room early
in the day. We
could also book some rooms through the Internet, but I haven't found an
Internet cafe so far. If there are Internet cafes in Paris, they are
few and well hidden.
At 11:50am the sky is still overcast and I decide to simply go back to
the hotel. On the way back I stop briefly at Bastille to take a photo
of the new opera. At 12:45pm I'm back in the hotel room. I take the
second shower of the day, as I'm completely covered with sweat. In the
meantime it is very hot outside. Shortly after 1pm I walk out again and
look for the laundry which the hotel desk mentioned yesterday. Despite
walking around for 20 minutes in the indicated area, I can't find it.
I get back to the hotel at 1:25pm and there meet Shirley. She has just
returned from the shopping mall and is tired. I spend some time in the
room and then, at 2:15pm walk out of the hotel with Alissia. We head
towards the shopping mall, because the hotel desk told me there is a
laundry near the mall. Despite walking and looking around for a while I
can't find any laundry in the area around the mall. But I manage to
find an Internet cafe, where I stop for half an hour to process my
Then Alissia and I go to the mall. There I buy something for Alissia
and two T-shirts for me. I'm running out of fresh T-shirts at the rate
of almost one per day. Shirley by the way has the same problem - she is
running out of fresh stuff to wear. We didn't expect to consume fresh
shirts at such a rate. Ít's inconvenient that there are no
laundries in the area. The Etap hotel should provide coin-operated
washing machines and affordable Internet access.
I eat something in the Chinese fast food restaurant in the mall, then
head back to the hotel. I's now 4:30pm. Very hot on the streets. At 5pm
Shirley, the kids and I take the metro to down town Paris, arriving in
Ville at 5:35pm. Until 7:30pm we walk around the area of Ile de la
Cite, Notre Dame cathedral, and finally Les Halles. There we have
dinner in an Italian restaurant. We are back in the hotel around 9pm.
Tomorrow we'll visit Eurodisney.
1.8: Paris ->
Disneyland -> Paris
Hotel Etap, Paris.
Weather: a mix of overcast and cloudy
skies, with the sun appearing every now and then. Surprisingly cold,
i.e. substantially colder than yesterday. Too cold to walk around in
shorts and T-shirt (when the sun is not shining). No rain.
We wake up at 8:45am but only manage to leave the hotel after 10am. On
the way to the Saint Mande metro station we briefly stop in a
supermarket where we buy some food and drinks. We then take the M1 to
the Nation station where we change and take RER A to Eurodisney (Marne
La Vallée). Quite a long trip, as we only arrive at 11:30am.
In the RER station I get another sandwich, then we proceed towards
Eurodisney. Impossible to miss it. Nearby are the Disney studios and
other attractions. After a security check (they inspect our bags) we
proceed to the ticket counters. There is no queue as it is quite late.
The tickets cost 2 x 49 Euro (two adults) + 1 x 41 Euro (Alissia) for a
total of 139 Euro. The summer promotion, i.e. you can enter another day
with the same ticket, it not valid for tomorrow, only after 8 days.
This essentially means that tourists cannot use it, as very few
tourists spend more than one week in Paris.
So we enter Disneyland. Very heavily choreographed stuff, fake and
phoney to the extreme. Everything extremely photogenic, every now and
then an American flag. Before you reach the attractions area you have
to pass through an avenue full of shops. This is something which we'll
notice again and again today: the entire Eurodisney site is heavily
commercialised. Everywhere there are shops, kiosks and retail outlets.
Eurodisney do their best to separate you from your money. Even late in
the evening, a few minutes before the final parade Eurodisney staff
walk around in the darkness with carriages full of stuff to sell.
The first place we stop at is the rotating pumpkin with the flying
Dumbo elephant cups. Shirley queues up there with Alissia at
12:15pm. One hour and five minutes later it is finally her turn: at
13:20 she does a few rounds on a flying elephant, perhaps for a minute
so, then it's over. I'm a bit shocked - such a huge waiting time for
short ride. I start to wonder why we spent so much money to enter this
Until late in the evening we visit different attractions. Everything is
heavily choreographed, but is actually quite boring. The Pirates of the
Caribbean attraction, to make an example, consists of a boat ride
through a building where you see scenes of pirates and ghosts (puppets
moving mechanically in a preprogrammed manner) with sound effects. All
quite unexciting, although Alissia is a bit scared when we go through
the ghost house. Some attractions are cute and nice, but most of the
stuff is quite boring. There is a children playground simulating a
pirate ship which is not bad, but these types of playgrounds are
everywhere these days.
I was actually expecting Disney characters such as Mickey Mouse or
Donald Duck to walk around and greet you. No such thing. In the whole
park there are very, very few characters
and these are quite
inaccessible, as everybody is trying to get their own kid photographed
Late in the afternoon we buy T-shirts to wear above our T-shirts, as we
are freezing. When we left the hotel in the morning, we were expecting
the temperates to rise but this hasn't happened.
The whole Disneyland complex is essentially a big fun fair, only that
the attractions are relatively low key. The site area is not as big as
I had imagined it. The whole place is in fact a bit cramped. Perhaps
the cost of the land is high here in France.
The best part of the show is the parade late in the evening at 10:30pm.
Very nice light effects and costumes. The fireworks show after the
parade, around 11pm, is not that impressive, meaning that I have seen
better firework shows.
At 11:20pm it is finally time to get back. It appears that lots of
people are spending the night close to Disneyland, because only a few
train back to Paris.
We are back in the hotel after midnight (around
00:30), very late for the kids. Never mind about the baby which is
sleeping in the baby stroller, but I have to carry Alissia in my arms
all the way back to the hotel.