Le Weekend

Mega blog coming up as I need to review our weekend in Paris.

We have been going to Paris for the first weekend in October for over 10 years now to go to watch the Prix de l’arc de triomphe http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prix_de_l’Arc_de_Triomphe

Over the years many of our friends have tagged along with us, the largest group being11 of us, however this year there was only 6 of us.

In previous years we have travelled in conjunction with a company called Bowood Leisure but they have been scaling down over the last few years so we organised ourselves this time.

We flew from Exeter airport which is a tremendous airport to travel to and from as it is so easy.

It’s only 30 minutes down the road, you can park close by and check-in and passing through customs and boarding are a doddle.

It was not an ideal start as the flight was 45 minutes late but never mind as that is only one round of drinks in Paris less!

A good flight over, however Charles De Gaulle airport is a tad bigger than Exeter.

When we landed we taxied for over 10 minutes to the terminal then walked for ages to get to baggage reclaim and passport control.

About halfway through this walk one of our group went to put on his glasses.

He reached for his glasses case, opened it up and it was empty.

“I’ve left my specs on the plane “he groaned.

“No you haven’t, you are wearing them you silly arse” said his other half.

Panic over, we proceeded to passport control.

I thought we had landed in Mexico by mistake.

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Having been allowed into France we headed towards the queue for Taxis.

Last year we organised a shuttle bus for the six of us but it was a bit of a palaver trying to find the vehicle then having to drive to a different terminal to pick up a couple of other passengers.

As we were going out to the taxi queue there were a couple of chaps trying to intercept us.

They offered a 6 seater taxi for 120 euros but as seasoned travellers we knew that was over the top. So beware if you go.

It is good to make the correct decision as two taxis at only 45 euros each proved.

We checked in at our regular hotel in Montmartre, Hotel Flore    (their website not the best advert as under construction) http://www.hotelflore.fr/ .

The weekend really started here…..time for a drink.

I thought it was good idea to wander to one of our regular haunts Le Relais De La Butte.

We sat outside, taking in the view down to the city and watching the world go by.

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And to think that Picasso used to do his painting only a few yards away at Le Bateau Lavoir http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Le_Bateau-Lavoir

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The only downside of the wonderful view and the historic location is the size of the bar bill.

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We only had a couple of rounds of drinks and a plate of cheese to share.

It was time to head back to the hotel for a pit stop before we headed out for a meal.

Montmartre is a wonderful area with lots to see and admire.

This photo is a typical smart building mixed in with many old tired places.

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But before we went to the restaurant it was time for a pre-dinner drink at an even more regular haunt, La Refuge, which is opposite a metro station so there is plenty of opportunity to people watch.

They also sell one of my favourite beers.

A large one please!

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Even the view from the toilet window is a typical Parisian sight.

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The restaurant we go to is brilliant.

We have been going to it every year and we now go 2 out of the three nights we stay (we cannot go 3 times as they close on Sunday nights).

La Sagittaire http://www.restaurantlesagittaire.com/   delivers great food and we are fans of their Cauliflower Soup but we had a shock a couple of years ago when it was replaced on the menu by Split Pea Soup.

I have to email them a few days before we visit to request they can make some cauliflower soup and they always come up trumps.

The menu is tremendous value – for 34 euros, you start with a Kir-Royale as an aperitif, then a four course meal (cheese appearing at number 3). A half bottle of wine and coffee is also included in the price.

Day 2.

A couple of us were going racing at Longchamp, a couple of the ladies were taking in a cookery course and the others were just going for a wander.

The plan to get to the races was to take the tube then take the 10 minute walk to the racecourse.

As we set off up the road, we spied a delivery van, that was expecting to be blocking the road for a while so the driver organised his own diversion signs.

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The first task of the day was to work out how to buy tickets for the Metro which proved reasonably simple. It was only about £1.50 for a single ticket.

Compared against the London tube it is extremely cheap. 

As long as you take the metro for each beer consumed then the cost of living then works about the same!

We purchased return tickets but you actually get dispensed two singles and this was where we nearly made the first mistake.

Having used a ticket to get into the station a simple schoolboy error of not remembering which of the two tickets in your hand was used started a minor panic.

Both of us had made the same error but after 10 minutes my friend spotted that the back of the ticket was marked by the machine on entry.

We disembarked at Port D’Auteuil as per the instruction and once we had spotted the correct direction (as we came out of the wrong Metro exit) we set off on our 10 minute walk.

I thought I would double check that we were heading the right way by asking a lady in the bus station.

When I mentioned the racecourse she suddenly darted off to attempt to stop a bus that was just leaving.

I said don’t worry as it is a nice day and we want to walk,

She pointed us in the direction of Longchamp and we strode out on our ten minute journey.

A few minutes into our wander I spied this road.

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After about 30 minutes and no sign of the racecourse we had a little concern of whether we would get there but we continued on.

We then came to a roundabout and although we thought we should go straight on it looked the wrong way to go so we did a 260 degree turn and went off down that road.

Another 10 minutes down this road, still no sign of Lonchamp.

I switched on my data roaming on my phone to get a map of the area.

We needed to go left a bit through the wood so we took the next road in that direction.

As we were going down the road an elderly lady was coming towards us so I approached her and in my best French asked if she knew which direction the racecourse was.

Her response was a bit disappointing as she said she didn’t know and sped off.

My friend reckoned I scared her and she maybe thought I was going to rob her.

After another 10 minutes the racecourse came into sight.

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Our 10 minute walk only took us an hour!

And guess what?  The bus the lady at the bus station was trying to put us on was a FREE shuttle to the racecourse!

We now know better.

We had a good afternoon at the races, not profitable for me, but we saw this chap (a bit bonkers) who is there every year http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=52xbSb4YyT8&feature=plcp

He normally runs up and down in front of the stands shouting and waving his paper when he backs a winner.

Our key task for the day was to purchase the tickets for Sunday in order to speed up the entrance process when many thousands of people were expected.

I was told a possible place to buy the tickets but this proved fruitless but I asked at the information booth and they had them there.

Can you believe it is only 8 euros to watch the richest race in Europe?

You also get a FREE glossy race card.

In the UK the cost of the race card is nearly as much as the ‘Arc’ entry fee.

We caught the FREE shuttle bus back to the Metro, it took about ten minutes!

It was then back to the hotel, via the local superb Beer shop where I purchased a couple of bottles of Belgian beer for consumption at some future date.

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A quick Affligem (large one) before it was back to the restaurant, Split Pea Soup for me this time.

Day 3

Prix de l’arc de triomphe day.

I had organised transport for us, a nice 6 seater to take us all together.

It picked us up ahead of time so we got to the racecourse 20 minutes before the gates opened.

There were still plenty of others waiting to go in, especially the Japanese who were there in droves to cheer on their countries horse which was favourite.

When the gates opened we moved swiftly in to collect our free race cards (the Japanese take loads!) then quickly onto the stands where we take our vantage point.

We have kept the same viewing point every year and this year a lady came up to us and said “Are you the people that were here last year and have been in the same spot for years as I liked being with you?”

“Yes, we said, come and join us”.

She left her rug and went off to find her husband.

She returned to us disappointed as her husband insisted they went up to the next tier in the stand where there were seats.

We all had a good afternoon, enjoying our picnic of rotisserie chicken, jambon, French bread and other nibbly bits all washed down with several bottles of wine.

You should have seen the queue for the Häagen-Dazs.

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Due to the large attendance and new method of transport to get us home we left at 5:30, missing a couple of races to beat the crowds.

After a traumatic 100 minutes we found our driver! 

Another lesson learnt!!

It was, at least a reasonably quick trip back to the hotel before a quick change then up to La Refuge for something to eat (& drink, of course).

Day 4

Back home today, but first a quick run up the steps to the boulangerie & patisserie for some sandwiches and macaroons (not as good as mine).

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It was chucking down in Paris all day so we didn’t venture far before getting our taxis back to the airport.

The flight was on time and 20 minutes after landing we were in the car on the way home

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