Author Topic: Yehoshua's Spain, Gibraltar, Paris & London TR  (Read 26487 times)

Offline Yehoshua

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Yehoshua's Spain, Gibraltar, Paris & London TR
« on: July 16, 2015, 04:37:13 PM »
Planning and flights
The flights to and from Europe on this trip were actually purchased in J (revenue!) for $1459/person round-trip.  The flights landed and left from Madrid, with a stop in each direction. We flew Alitalia (stopping in Rome) to Madrid, and KLM (stopping in Amsterdam) back home.
The cities we visited:
Madrid (1 day)
Barcelona (1 day)
Seville (½ day)
Gibraltar (2 days)
Paris (4 days)
London (4 days)
 
Our inter-Europe travel was booked as follows:
MAD-BCN on IB cash for $71.90/person (booked on Orbitz as to avoid the CC fee if booked directly with IB)
BCN-SVQ on Ryanair (FR) for $62/person, including one 15kg checked bag (booked direct and paid a small CC fee)
SVQ-Gibraltar-AGP rented a manual car from Hertz for €61.70 for 3 days, one way rental
AGP-ORY on Vueling (VY) for $100.32/person (Optima fare), including a 23kg checked bag, and assigned seats (booked on IB to earn 1000 avios as a promotion)
Paris (Gare du Nord)-London (St. Pancreas Int’l) on Eurostar for €43/person (booked direct)
LCY-MAD on BA for $143.80/person (cheapest revenue available, booked directly on BA)


 
All inter-Europe travel was nearly all offset with Barclays Arrival+ points so total cost for inter-Europe travel was $19.31/person.
 
Sunday, June 28, 2015 flying to Rome
Our Alitalia flight to Rome was leaving LAX at 4:15pm, so we arrived at the airport at 2:30. Like last summer, we were only travelling with carry on bags, but unlike last summer we were not reprimanded for bringing more than the official business class allowance.
 
We stopped for a few minutes in the KAL lounge in the TBIT just to refill our water bottles and take some tea for the trip. For the record, there is no pre-packaged kosher food in this lounge, though it does offer a nice indoor balcony overlooking the terminal.
 

View of TBIT from KAL balcony

We headed to the gate, only to find ourselves in a huge mess of people all trying to get on the plane at the same time; welcome to Italy.
 

Our ride to FCO

We were booked in seats 1A and 2C on a 777, so as to each have a window and aisle access. Since we’d be sleeping a majority of the flight I didn’t see a reasons to book the honeymoon seats, which seemed a bit more cramped as they literally touch.




Seat 1A
 
Our kosher meal was quite decent, being catered by Emuna catering from the valley.  After dinner I promptly changed into pajamas I brought from home and went to sleep. I found it odd that the eye mask in the Salvatore Ferragamo amenity kit was white, so it didn’t do a very good job blocking out the light. Besides for being really hot in the cabin (which is normal for non-American airlines) the beds were quite comfortable. There was quite a lot of room in the foot well, and I slept for about 7 hours, although I kept waking up due to the heat. When I woke up there was still a few hours remaining, so I davened, had breakfast, and after 11 hours landed in Rome.




Kosher dinner
 
Monday, June 29, 2015 Rome and getting to Madrid
Our stop in Rome was scheduled for 5:45 minutes. We did this intentionally so we could go back to BaGhetto Milky for lunch. After a super long taxi to our stand, another long bus ride to the terminal, and an enormous immigration queue (no business lane), we opted to just take Uber for a flat rate of €50 to the city. I got a car quickly, and within 40 minutes we were at BaGhetto.
 
The one thing that I kind of anticipated was that we were not too hungry for lunch, despite it being 3pm. We ordered a caprese salad (we’d loved it last summer) and a mixed bruschetta plate for a light lunch. We also ordered pesto-salmon gnocchi and a mushroom calzone to go for lunch and dinner in Madrid the next day.  We ended up also taking most of the bruschetta and salad to go as well as we really weren’t too hungry. We passed on dessert both from the restaurant and the gelato place. We then went looking for our Parmesan cheese (well, not quite Parmesan, but close), but the grocery store that sold it last year seems to have closed down.


Bruschetta at BaGhetto Milky
 
We weren’t much in the mood of touring at this point, so we decided to just head back to the airport via public transport, which involved a bus and a train.  It was pretty easy, just a couple blocks to the bus from BaGhetto, but our bags were heavy, so it was a bit of a schlep. It took about 1 hour before we arrived back at the airport and, having already gotten our boarding passes in LA the day before) went through security to our gate.
 
The flight from FCO-MAD was actually operated by an AirEuropa  (UX) A330-200, which was a pleasant surprise for a short 2 hours, inter-European trip.  The business seats themselves were just fine for a 2-hour flight, or even for a longer flight if you didn’t intend to sleep. They’re angled flat seats, but really old and worn out. There is no kosher food option on European UX flights, but we didn’t care as we had our BaGhetto leftovers from lunch, which was more than enough. We landed in MAD at 9:30pm and took a taxi for a flat €30 to our hotel.




UX J on A330-200
 
We decided to stay at the AC Santo Mauro (an Autograph Collection hotel) using 35k Marriott points. This hotel ended up being our second favorite hotel (after the PHP)! We were upgraded to a suite, which consisted of 2 full bathrooms, 2 living rooms (one downstairs and one upstairs) and a bedroom. It was huge, spacious, and freezing cold when we arrived. We arrived in Spain during a heat wave, so it was 95ºF+ every day and 75ºF every night. Coming into a cold hotel room was really nice!


AC Santo Mauro Lobby


AC Santo Mauro, outside courtyard


AC Santo Mauro, Suite 30


AC Santo Mauro, entrance downstairs


AC Santo Mauro, downstairs living room


AC Santo Mauro, downstairs looking at entrance


AC Santo Mauro, upstairs and downstairs bathrooms were identical


AC Santo Mauro, upstairs and downstairs bathrooms were identical


AC Santo Mauro, upstairs living room taken from stairwell


AC Santo Mauro, upstairs hallway to bedroom


AC Santo Mauro, bedroom

more to come soon...
« Last Edit: July 16, 2015, 05:27:14 PM by Yehoshua »

Offline Yaalili

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Re: Yehoshua's Spain, Gibraltar, Paris & London TR
« Reply #1 on: July 16, 2015, 04:52:30 PM »
Nice, how did you enjoy Ryanair, do they still have all the yellow and the announcements inside?

Offline Yehoshua

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Re: Yehoshua's Spain, Gibraltar, Paris & London TR
« Reply #2 on: July 16, 2015, 04:55:23 PM »
Nice, how did you enjoy Ryanair, do they still have all the yellow and the announcements inside?
We had a pleasant time on Ryanair. Yes, it's still all yellow inside with the safety "card" posted to the back of the seat and the life-jackets in the compartment above your head near the oxygen masks. We followed their rules to a T and weren't given any issues.

Offline Yehoshua

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Re: Yehoshua's Spain, Gibraltar, Paris & London TR
« Reply #3 on: July 16, 2015, 05:06:50 PM »
Tuesday, June 30, 2015 Madrid; flying to Barcelona
Tuesday was our only full day in Madrid. Since we’re not really museum/art loving people, we decided to skip some of the famous museums in favor of other activities. Our hotel happened to be really centrally located, only a couple minutes walk from Retiro Park. We’d initially planned on visiting the park in the afternoon, but due to the heat wave we decided to go in the morning when it was cooler outside.  The park itself was really nice. There’s a (obviously) man-made lake where you can rent boats, but since there’s almost no shade on the lake, we decided to skip that (it was already 85°!). Instead we walked around stopping in various shady spots along the way. The park has tons of grass and lots of trees and shady spots, as well as benches everywhere.


Bike lane on the sidewalk in Madrid








Retiro Park

After spending around 1.5 hours in the park we made our way over to the Plaza Mayor. Initially we weren’t going to walk, but after realizing that it really wasn’t that far and that there was lots of shade along the way we decided to walk. It was a very nice walk, and we found the Plaza without much difficulty.  We brought along our calzones from Rome for Lunch and found a nice breezy, cool, covered staircase to sit down and eat. There are lots of places to sit at a table in the plaza, but they’re all restaurants and pretty much all in the sun (well, under umbrellas, but still hotter than where we sat).


Dunkin' What?
 

Plaza Mayor


Our lunch spot, Plaza Mayor


Luch from BaGhetto Milky: Mushroom calzones

From Plaza Mayor to the Royal Palace it’s less than a 10-minute walk. After eating we walked there and bought tickets without so much as 1 person in line.  The palace was very nice. There’s a set route that you follow, and photography is not allowed in most of the rooms.  Although many of the rooms are not air conditioned, they still felt very cool in comparison to the 100° heat outside.




Royal Palace

By the time we finished seeing the Royal Palace we still had some time left before we’d need to leave to the airport, and with nothing else we wanted to do in Madrid we decided to go to the airport a bit early, via train. We took the subway from the palace back to our hotel, collected our bags (we’d checked out before we left for the day, as their latest checkout was 12 noon), and walked to the C-1 train to Terminal 4.
 
One thing I’ll say about the trains in Madrid is that they don’t really have signs on them. After asking a few people if it was the correct train, we ended up on the wrong train, which I realized 1 stop too late. We ended up having to get off, go back one stop, and then continue on our way to the airport. Unfortunately this ate up about 20 minutes of time, so we arrived at the airport on time, not early as we’d planned.


See the digital sign where the train info should be displayed? It was off  >:(
 
Just a quick word about T4: It’s huge! Like really, really huge. There are gate areas all the way through W! Not only that, but they don’t post which gate your flight is leaving from until 30 minutes before, so we literally had to stand by the monitors in a duty free shop after security until our gate was announced. We couldn’t go to a more comfortable area, as we were leaving from the J gates, and the duty free shot was the split: half the J gates to the left and half to the right.  Our flight ended up being delayed by around 30 minutes, but besides that it was uneventful.



We arrived in BCN T1 and headed straight for the Aerobus, which I’d pre-booked. We were staying at an Airbnb place in the middle of Las Ramblas (I’m just going to use the Spanish names in Barcelona, not the Catalan ones). It was a 7-minute walk from Plaza Catalunya, and 5 minutes from Maccabi restaurant. It was a great place, although it was on the 4th floor with no elevator. We had eaten our pesto and salmon gnocchi on the flight to Barcelona, so after arriving we just turned in for the night.


Salmon gnocchi from BaGhetto Milky




Airbnb Place in Barcelona

Offline Yehoshua

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Re: Yehoshua's Spain, Gibraltar, Paris & London TR
« Reply #4 on: July 16, 2015, 05:26:04 PM »
Wednesday, July 1, 2015 Barcelona
Like the rest of Spain, Barcelona was also experiencing a heat wave. While it was only in the high 80s here, it was extremely humid, especially compared to dry Madrid.  We spent the morning just walking around Las Ramblas. It didn’t take as long as we thought it would, so we headed to the end for views of the W hotel (although we didn’t go all the way out to the hotel itself).  At 11am we took a free walking tour that leaves from Travel Bar in Las Ramblas. It’s a 2.5-hour tour that doesn’t enter any churches, which was great. The tour was really informative and I think well worth it, so I ended up tipping our guide €20 (for lack of a smaller bill).
 
We were quite hungry by 1:30 (we even left the tour a bit early), so we headed to Maccabi for lunch, just ahead of the lunch rush.  The food there was good, although nothing truly stood out as exceptional.




Mmmm, hot food from Maccabi

After lunch we headed via Metro to Park Güell.  The difference between Park Güell and Retiro Park couldn’t have been more different. While Retiro Park was lush, green, flat and shady, Park Güell was hillier, less shady, and had a lot more of a hike-feel than a park feel. We made it to the park in the heat of the day, making it a bit uncomfortable. We did walk around the free section of the park and found some shady areas to sit in with views of Gaudi’s structures below.  I’d have kept hiking up, but DW wasn’t in the mood and we had great city views from where we were.


Some streets had escalators to get to the park...


...Others did not


Some Gaudi structures in the park


Random dude floating near the park

We spent about 1.5 hours at the park before heading back to the city to the oldest shul in Europe.  Our tour guide had mentioned the shul on the tour, but we didn’t get a chance to stop in. We arrived just as a tour was starting, so we joined the tour (really a presentation and you don’t walk anywhere). We both found the presentation interesting, and although short, we enjoyed it very much.
 



Oldest shul in Europe

With some time to go until dinner (we weren’t hungry yet), we walked back to our apartment and cooled off a bit before heading back to Maccabi for dinner. As with BaGhetto in Rome, we planned on ordering food to go from Maccabi for Seville. We did order food just fine, but forgot that chumus is a liquid and as such wouldn’t be allowed in our carry on bags. Whoops! Not to worry, I took a tip from my MIL and froze the chumus overnight so it was a solid block. We ended up checking it in with our bag (Ryanair remember), but we might have gotten away with bringing it on the plane in the frozen state (it was a solid, not a liquid at that point). We turned in early for the night once again having had an enjoyable day and looking forward to an early start the next day for our flight to Seville.




Fish Paella (top) and Chicken Paella (bottom) from Maccabi

Offline sruly101

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Re: Yehoshua's Spain, Gibraltar, Paris & London TR
« Reply #5 on: July 16, 2015, 05:44:14 PM »
Great Report!! keep it coming.

Offline Yehoshua

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Re: Yehoshua's Spain, Gibraltar, Paris & London TR
« Reply #6 on: July 16, 2015, 05:54:28 PM »
Great Report!! keep it coming.
Thanks!

Offline Hershelsdeals

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Re: Yehoshua's Spain, Gibraltar, Paris & London TR
« Reply #7 on: July 16, 2015, 06:11:13 PM »

Offline Yehoshua

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Re: Yehoshua's Spain, Gibraltar, Paris & London TR
« Reply #8 on: July 16, 2015, 06:18:05 PM »
Thursday, July 2, 2015 flying to and spending time in Seville
Our Ryanair flight to Seville left at 9:15am. We decided to take FR as it was a nonstop flight and at the time we wanted. We arrived on time at 11:05. After going back and forth on how to get to our hotel (taxi for €30 or hotel shuttle for €40) I chose the hotel shuttle. Our hotel, the AC Fontecruz, is located in the historic center of the city, where the streets are so narrow a Smartcar takes up the entire road. Because of this many taxis cannot find the hotel and end of driving around for a while, getting frustrated and dropping you off a few minutes walk away at the cathedral. Plus the hotel shuttle could be billed to the room, which could in turn be paid for with Arrival+ points, making it “free” (or at least no money our of pocket).
 
We got to the hotel and got an upgraded room, which was a bit larger than the standard room, complete with a lounge area. After spending no more than 10 minutes in the room we turned on a lamp and promptly shorted the electrical work for half of our room, including the AC. The hotel tried to fix it for bit, but decided to move us to another room one floor up. This room was a standard room with 1 bed (we’d requested and gotten 2 beds), but it was better than not having AC. We moved all our stuff upstairs, and after about 10 minutes there, the hotel informed us that our original room had indeed been fixed and offered us the opportunity of moving back down there. As much as we didn’t want to schlep our stuff from room to room all day, the original room was a lot nicer and bigger, so we did. As a gesture of apology, the hotel had a fruit plate waiting for us and offered us free breakfast for the next day.




Fontecruz Sevilla Hotel






Fotecruz Sevilla, first (larger) room

With that fiasco out of the way, we headed off to the Royal Alcazar. Unlike the Royal Palace in Madrid, the Alcazar doesn’t have a set way to walk or tour, and photos are allowed (nearly) everywhere.  We really did enjoy the Alcazar. The architecture was a mix of Spanish, Moorish, and Arabic, making it very interesting indeed. We just wandered around, exploring the different floors before finally ending up in the massive gardens for a while.


















Royal Alcazar (including intricate tile work Seville is know for)
 
From the Alcazar we headed for Plaza España, a 15-minute walk away. This place was just gorgeous. Even though we didn’t go inside the buildings (they’re offices), the outside is simply amazing! There’s a little canal where you can rent boats and a huge fountain the middle. We spent some time here before continuing our made up walking tour.






Plaza España

We next walked to a few different sites the hotel suggested. Everything was about 10-15 minutes away from one another, and none of them stood out much as being that exciting.  We walked along the river, saw some of the shopping streets that have shade covers, and ended up in a SuperSol to by some fruit and veggies to accompany our dinner before finally walking back to our hotel for the night.


Torre del Oro, Seville


Shaded shopping streets, Seville


Plaza Mayor, Seville

Offline moish

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Re: Yehoshua's Spain, Gibraltar, Paris & London TR
« Reply #9 on: July 16, 2015, 06:20:01 PM »
nice report

if i may ask, the info that it's the oldest shul in europe, where did that come from? i think i may have a different candidate

Offline Yehoshua

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Re: Yehoshua's Spain, Gibraltar, Paris & London TR
« Reply #10 on: July 16, 2015, 06:29:06 PM »
nice report

if i may ask, the info that it's the oldest shul in europe, where did that come from? i think i may have a different candidate
Their site, plus a carving in the original cornerstone with the date.

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Re: Yehoshua's Spain, Gibraltar, Paris & London TR
« Reply #11 on: July 16, 2015, 07:16:07 PM »
Friday, July 3, 2015 driving to and spending time in Gibraltar
Friday morning we were up nice and early to rent our car from the train station in Seville. Not only was it closer, but we also avoided the airport pickup surcharge.  I again took a hotel taxi and billed it to the room.  This was also the first time I rented a manual car, having just completed a course on driving manual.  I had reserved and gotten a Mini, which I wanted and enjoyed. Manual was really fun to drive, and I didn’t go much damage to the clutch or engine. The car had a sort of hybrid “automatic” manual mode as well as a true manual mode. The only difference between the two is that the automatic mode showed you which gear you should switch to, and also if you stalled the engine automatically restarted, making restarting a lot quicker.


Our ride to Gibraltar


The Rock

The drive to Gibraltar was uneventful. The weather went from dry and sunny to humid and cloudy, but besides that the landscape looked the same.  We had to wait for about 30 minutes at the border (which was the most annoying part being in a manual), but once we were in found our hotel (the Eliott) without an issue. Like the center of Seville, the streets in Gibraltar are tiny, and I was constantly making sure I didn’t bump into things or people.  Parking at the hotel is in a lot outside or behind the hotel for £14/day. I didn’t even attempt to find free parking.


Driving across the runway in GIB


This was a wide street in Gibraltar




Our room at the Eliott

After checking in and dropping our things in our room we headed to Café Amar for lunch, arriving there about 1:30p. The food here also was just ok, not great, but I was able to order fish and chips from a British colony! Lunch took a while (service was slow), but we weren't in a rush. Having settle the bill in Euros (their credit card machine was down) and getting a good exchange rate, we headed off towards the cable car to go up the Rock.






Food from Cafe Amar (Fish and Chips and Omelette)
 
Initially I was planning on just taking the cable car up and walking down, but due to the fact that it was really hot and sticky (and DW didn’t want to walk all the way down), we bought a return ticket. The ride up was nice, probably the best views of Gibraltar you can get, but by no means was it as nice as cables cars in places like Switzerland. Once at the top of the Rock we explored a bit. We walked down a path for a bit before coming back up. There were lots of monkeys everywhere, and we even saw a monkey grab a plastic bag from a visitor and try to eat her sunscreen.


View from cable car going up the Rock


Video of monkey incident (no sound)








Views from Top of the Rock


10 day old baby monkey trying to eat a bolt


The "other"/Eastern side of the Rock


The entire Gibraltar, panorama

We spent about 1½ hours at the top before heading back down, returning to our hotel and getting ready for Shabbos (mincha was 8:20 for early Shabbos).

Shabbos, July 4, 2015 Shabbos in Gibraltar
I’d heard so much about Shabbos in Gibraltar that I had high expectation going in. Needless to say I was not disappointed. We had a wonderful experience! We ate our meals with a wonderful family, spending Shabbos day meal with them at his mom’s house. I davened the two main shuls: Nefutzot Yehuda and Sha’arei Shamayim. I enjoyed both of them, but ultimately the later won out as it has AC while the former does not.
 
We took a walk up Main Street on Shabbos afternoon, but besides that spend the day relaxing in our nicely chilled hotel room. Shabbos ended late (10:20), and we heard havdala in shul.  People were super friendly and made me feel welcome. I got a few meal invites over mincha on Friday and Shachris on Shabbos though we had to decline due to our pre-arrangements. Motzei Shabbos we didn’t do anything besides go to bed.

Offline Hershelsdeals

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Re: Yehoshua's Spain, Gibraltar, Paris & London TR
« Reply #12 on: July 16, 2015, 07:26:49 PM »
Are there any good takeout or restaurants that offer Shabbos meals?

The only thing holding me back from spending Shabbos in GIB is the AFAIK lack of Kosher Shabbos takeout food, my wife would never agree to eat by some random guy.

And if i go to GIB, I'd only go for Shabbos, given that there is not much to do in GIB.
« Last Edit: July 16, 2015, 07:31:12 PM by Hershelsdeals »

Offline shoobi

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Re: Yehoshua's Spain, Gibraltar, Paris & London TR
« Reply #13 on: July 16, 2015, 07:29:40 PM »
Great TR... feels funny to me to read a DDF TR that was almost completely booked with real money (except the Barclays points part)

Offline Hershelsdeals

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Re: Yehoshua's Spain, Gibraltar, Paris & London TR
« Reply #14 on: July 16, 2015, 07:33:32 PM »


Great TR... feels funny to me to read a DDF TR that was almost completely booked with real money (except the Barclays points part)

Why? A business revenue ticket under $1500, which Award ticket can beat that?

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Re: Yehoshua's Spain, Gibraltar, Paris & London TR
« Reply #15 on: July 16, 2015, 07:55:41 PM »
Sunday, July 5, 2015 fast day: 17th Tamuz Observed, flying to Paris; Le Marais
Sunday was a fast day, but it didn’t start particularly early in Gibralter: 5:42a! I went to shul (1.5 hour eidut hamizrach fast day) and packed up and left. The drive out at 10:15 on a Sunday morning was a lot better in terms of traffic both in Gibraltar itself and at the border.  Since we had time until our 2:20pm flight from Malaga, we decided to take the toll-free A-7 as opposed to the AP-7 toll road. It was a great drive, passing though small coastal towns and skipping the bigger ones. We arrived at the airport at 12:30ish which was just perfect. Hertz is located in the terminal parking garage, so returning the car was super easy and just a quick walk to the terminal.
 
Our flight on Vueling was uneventful. We landed in Paris Orly at 4:45 and proceeded to hire another Uber to get to our hotel. Trains from Orly take a long time, and though we didn’t have a busy schedule the rest of the day, we didn’t want to exert ourselves as we were fasting. There was a bit of traffic on the way to our hotel, the Park Hyatt Paris, but we made it there for €36 after selecting UberPool instead of UberX. If you do this you’re guaranteed a 10% savings. The unfortunate thing about Uber in Paris is the disappearance of UberPop, the cheapest option by far. As of July 3, 2015 (just 2 days before we arrived), UberPop was banned due to a taxi driver riot on June 26, 2015.
 
We arrived at the hotel at about 6:00pm and were given a standard room. I tried to upgrade with my Platinum status, but it was fashion week in Paris and the hotel was fully booked.  While the room was on the small side with a courtyard view, it had a great shower (with a sink and mirror in the shower!) and a Japanese style toilet.












Our Room (221) at the PHP

After getting settled we decided to take the Metro to Le Marais. We bought 2 books of tickets (which we used up without needing more) and got the charge refunded with Arrival+ points.  In Le Marais we stopped at Korcarz bakery to buy breakfast food for the next day. We bought a couple of cheese and spinach bourekas, a mushroom and leek quiche, a chocolate croissant, some olive bread and some rye bread (they were out of baguettes since it was so late in the day).  We also stopped at Damyel’s for some macarons and chocolate.  However the main reason we went was to pick up food for after the fast. We waited in a huge line to get a falafel from L’As du Fallafel, but it was well worth the wait. Next I tried to find a minyan for mincha (it was a fast day and all), and I ended up finding one a bit late (they’d finished leining already) at the large shul next to Pitzman. After mincha/maariv (they daven maariv after plag), we stopped by Pitzman to pick up a mini pizza for break fast as well.  With all our food in hand, we headed back to the hotel to wait for the fast to end at 11:01.






Bakery and Restaurants




Shul for mincha




Pizza from Pizmans and macarons from Damyel

It was really weird how easy the fast was for us. While we were both hungry, we were both going well, considering the hour. It was also unusual getting ready for bed while still fasting. Once we were all ready for bed, it was finally time to break the fast. Much to out delight the falafels were still warm, though the pizza was cold. That being said, that was one amazing pizza. I believe it all had to do with the dough/crust. It was slightly sweet and had char marks from the oven making it was simply amazing. We also really enjoyed the falafels. I got mine with picante (charif) and DW got it plain, but both were also one of the best (if not the best) falafels we’ve ever tasted. The 15-minute wait to order one was well worth it (especially since we weren’t doing anything). As soon as we were done eating, we just rolled right into bed, tired but full.
 
Monday, July 6, 2015 the Tuileries gardens, Louvre, Luxembourg gardens and a Segway tour
I davened Shachris at Beth-El, a kind of minyan factory about 18 minutes away from the hotel. Actually, I didn’t daven in Beth-El, but rather a shul across the street. I showed up for the 8:00am shachris which their website says was happening, but they didn’t seem to be having one and recommended I go across the street for the 8:00am shachris there. The walk both ways was simple and pretty.
 
After breakfast in our hotel room we headed out to the Tuileries gardens. We spent some time walking around and looking at the various statues and fountains before waiting in line at the Louvre to go in. I would have bought tickets in advance to skip the lines, but decided against it as they were more expensive than the student rates we got in the museum itself. However looking back at the 1-hour line we waited in I probably would have just bought the tickets online to skip all that.




Tuileries Gardens




The Louvre

In the museum itself we used the Rick Steves (free) audio guide via the app.  The tour lasts 45 minutes, but took us closer to 1¼ hours to complete.  We enjoyed the tour a lot and did not feel the need to stay longer. We’d had enough art for the day. Next it was off to Thaï One for lunch.
 
We walked to Thaï One which was only about a 20-minute walk from the Louvre. It has a very tiny dining area, and we got seats at a table in between 2 other (unrelated) customers. The restaurant is under Rav Rottenberg so the meat is not a problem here.  Since we have 2 Thai restaurants in LA, we had a good base to compare to, and this place didn’t disappoint. The flavors were spot on, the portion sizes were generous, and the service was quick and efficient.






Food from Thaï One

Next it was time to head to the Luxembourg garden via City Island and the Notre Dame Cathedral. I figured that if we’re walking to the gardens we might as well stop to see the outside of the cathedral, which was very nice. We didn't spend too long there (since we couldn’t go in), so we continued to the Luxembourg gardens, a 15-minute walk away.


Notre Dame

By now I’ve come to realize that what most cities call parks Paris calls gardens. Both the Tuileries and Luxembourg gardens were really just free parks you can walk around. The Luxembourg gardens were very pretty indeed, with a large a capella performance happening near where we sat down. I wouldn’t put it on a must see list, but they were nice if you have time.


Luxembourg Gardens
 
Before heading to our Segway tour near the Eiffel tower, we decided to walk around a bit in the Saint-Germain-des-Pres neighborhood. It was very nice, but I found it hard to differentiate it from many of the other neighborhoods we saw in Paris.
 
From there we took a metro to our evening Segway tour.  The tour lasted 2.5 hours and was really fun. While not as comprehensive as a city hop-on/hop-off bus tour, it was definitely a lot more entertaining riding a Segway than sitting on a bus in traffic.
 
For dinner we went to L’Inte Caffe. We got there quite late, around 9:45pm, when they officially close at 10:15pm, and the place was packed. We got a seat, but service was really slow. We ordered a mushroom cream sauce pasta and a pasta with tomato sauce and eggplant, both great, and an excellent pana cotta for dessert. Dinner took about 1 hour (not too bad, but it did involve a lot of waiting), and when we finally walked back to the hotel it was quite late.








Food from L'Inte Caffe

Tuesday, July 7, 2015 the Arc du Triomphe and the Eiffel Tower
Once again I davened at the 8:00am shachris at the shul across from Beth-El.  After returning to the hotel, we had breakfast (that we’d picked up 2 days before) and headed out to walk down the Champs Élysée to the famed Arc. On the way we stopped off at the Élysée Palace (home of the President) and the historic George V (Four Seasons) hotel. While the Palace was kind of blocked due to July 14 celebration exercises, the George V hotel was magnificent. We were only there for a shot time, but it was really grand and worth seeing.


Lobby at George V

Once we arrived at the Arc we waited a few minutes to buy tickets, and were headed up the stairs in no time. There really are amazing panorama views of all of Paris from there. From the Eiffel Tower to Montmartre, it really is a great thing to do.
 

Champs Élysée as seen from the Arc






Other views from the Arc

Since we were in the area anyway, we headed to Charles Traiteur (a bakery) to buy breakfast food for the next day. We bough a baguette, a chocolate éclair, and a croissant, all three were amazing. Just down the block is Il Conte, where we went for lunch.
 
Il Conte was also really crowded, but we got a table here too. We ordered a pizza and a salad niçoise with a chocolate and banana filled crepe for dessert.  The interesting thing about the pizza was that they served it whole with a knife for you to cut it yourself, and they weren’t the only place in Paris to do that. The pizza had a super thin crust and was really good, just not as good as Pitzman.






Food from Il Conte

After refueling at Il Conte, we walked a short 15 minutes to the Eiffel tower. People had mentioned that the line to walk up is shorter than the line for the elevator, which was probably the case when we were there. However, what people didn’t say was that the line for the stairs could be really long, too, like 1 hour long! After waiting what seemed like a lot longer than 1 hour we climbed the tower to the first floor.
 
The cool thing about this climb as opposed to the Arc is that the stairs are outside which I rather enjoyed. It’s a lot cooler and breezier when you’re not surrounded by stone walls. We spent some time at the first floor looking around and taking pictures before climbing the rest of the way to the second floor.
 
The views from the second floor are better than the ones on the first floor, and supposedly nicer than the views from the hop floor. We didn’t go to the top, but after exploring the 2nd floor for a bit we just climbed down.


View of Champs de Mar as seen from the Eiffel Tower




Views from the Eiffel Tower

The plan was to spend some time in the Champs de Mars, but due to some rain showers, those plans got changed, and we ended up spending time near a bench under a shelter there waiting for the rain to stop. After it did stop, we headed back (via subway) to the PHP to get ready for dinner.
 
Il Palazzo was next on the itinerary for dinner. We got there on the early side (6:45ish) and only found 2 other tables of people, though many more filled up by the time we left. We got a pasta and an eggplant gratin here. Both good, but our least favorite of the places we tried. We ordered a tiramisu for dessert that as really disappointing. It was 90% cream and only 10% cookies.








Food from Il Palazzo

After dinner we walked around the block to see the (outside of the) Great Synagogue of Paris. It was grand and old, and probably looked really great inside. We walked back to our hotel for an early evening in preparation for our early morning the next day.
 
Wednesday, July 7, 2015 Versailles, Palais Garnier, Montmartre and the 19th
This was our last full day in Paris. We started it early with an 8:00am half-day tour to Versailles with City Vision (booked via Musement for 50% off). There was an unusual amount of traffic leaving Paris (also due to July 14) that by the time we got to Versailles we only had 1:20 minutes before we needed to be back on the bus.  While 90% of those who came to Versailles with us decided to come back on their own via the train, we had a tour booked at 2:30pm that I didn’t want to miss, so 1:20 it was for us.  We were given audio guides as part of the tour, but we didn’t really use them. We rushed through the rooms, reading what we could, and listening to the audio guides here and there.  We really wanted to get outside to the gardens.
 
While I was under the impression that the gardens were not included in our tour and cost extra, we were pleasantly surprised to find them just open and free. We spent a good 40 minutes in the gardens walking mainly down the middle until the main + shaped water feature in the middle.  At the end of the day, despite it being a bit rushed, we enjoyed our time at Versailles and didn’t feel like we missed out on that much. True, it would have been nicer to go slow and listen to the whole guide, but c’est la vie.







Bush-trimming stencils
Versailles

Since the traffic on the way back was also pretty bad once we got to the Arc de Triomphe, we asked the bus driver to just let us off there. We took the metro to Izaaki, a Japanese restaurant 2 blocks away from Il Palazzo. We chose this place for its location and the fact that it wasn’t an Italian place. While not Glatt, we didn’t order meat anyway so we were fine.
 
We ordered two of the lunch specials (careful, no English menu here, but there is one with lots of pictures). While they are an okay deal at ~€21 each, the portions are on the small side, making us want to order more food. The food itself was very tasty though.








Food from Izaaki

Next we were off to Palais Garnier for a theater tour. This theater is the one that Phantom of the Opera took place in and as such was something we wanted to see. We’ve visited theaters in Buenos Aires and Rio, so we kind of have a thing going.  This tour didn’t disappoint. It was really informative, and we were even lucky enough to get to sit inside the actual theater, something not everyone gets to do since they have rehearsals during the day.



The Phantom's box


Palais Garnier

When the tour was over, we went took the train to Montrartre. We found the funicular, and DW took it up while I walked (I prefer to walk). The views from the top are just amazing, although there is no Eiffel Tower view from there.  We spent some time there before walking though the town on our way via metro to the 19th arrondissement for more kosher food shopping.
 

View from Montmartre

Once we arrived we did our shopping: Charles Traiteur (Italian bread for breakfast and premade sandwiches for lunch the next day), Ardleys (milk chocolate as a gift), Damyels (pareve chocolate for gifts), and Hypercacher (cheese and biscuits for us to take home as well as cheese and a yogurt-like thing for breakfast).  After our shopping was complete we went to Tib’s for dinner.
 
While I’ve heard mixed reviews about Tib’s we both found the food we ordered great. We ordered another Pizza and a mushroom and onion crepe in a cheese sauce. It might not sound that good, but boy was it delicious. We skipped dessert here as well, and headed back to the PHP. One the way to the Metro I made sure to pass by the Music Center (the concert hall) which as a really unique shape and outside. Too bad tours of the inside are only starting in September!  We made it back to the PHP for our last night in Paris.






Food from Tib's for Dinner


Paris Philharmonic
« Last Edit: July 16, 2015, 10:33:39 PM by Yehoshua »

Offline Yehoshua

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Re: Yehoshua's Spain, Gibraltar, Paris & London TR
« Reply #16 on: July 16, 2015, 07:56:37 PM »

Why? A business revenue ticket under $1500, which Award ticket can beat that?
Exactly! Plus I got nearly 20k Skypesos out of it.

Offline EJB

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Re: Yehoshua's Spain, Gibraltar, Paris & London TR
« Reply #17 on: July 16, 2015, 08:02:17 PM »
Exactly! Plus I got nearly 20k Skypesos out of it.

So it ending up costing you net apprx $1499.9999

Offline Yehoshua

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Re: Yehoshua's Spain, Gibraltar, Paris & London TR
« Reply #18 on: July 16, 2015, 08:12:57 PM »
So it ending up costing you net apprx $1499.9999
Close.

Offline Chapshnell

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Re: Yehoshua's Spain, Gibraltar, Paris & London TR
« Reply #19 on: July 16, 2015, 09:20:07 PM »
Yehoshua, who wouldve thought you would be a bigger foodie than Dan..... Loved the TR. Absolutely loved it. DDMS material IMO