JFK-CDG on AA Y 100+ pics (Versailles, Louvre, Champs Elysees, Arc de Triomphe, etc.)

Discussion in 'Trip Reports' started by JohnDeere19, Mar 1, 2011.  |  Print Topic

  1. JohnDeere19
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    JohnDeere19 Gold Member

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    Some of you may remember the AA fare sale not too long ago in which they forgot to add certain taxes/fees allowing trips to Europe to be booked directly on AA.com for <$300. I booked one trip…then another…and was just about to book my first ever trip to Paris when the fare was adjusted to be 2x what I was planning on spending. There was a brief moment of “just do it” that rushed over me, but was immediately followed by the much more logical “don’t be stupid.” Paris will have to wait another day.

    Then, as if to say “here, just for you, I’ll give you another shot,” IB had a <$300 fare JFK-CDG direct flight on AA metal on the days I was looking for and (with slightest hesitation due to the 30% mileage accrual, thanks for ruining me FT) I clicked Submit and had booked a trip in late Dec for a mid January long weekend to the city of light.

    My itinerary was as follows:
    1/13:
    Depart

    1/14:
    Arrive
    Drop bags off at IC Paris Avenue Marceau
    Versailles
    Check-In
    Dinner at Les Papilles

    1/15:
    Cityfreetour.com Montmartre tour with Chris
    Louvre
    Eiffel Tower at night
    Dinner at L’Atelier du Parc

    1/16:
    Cityfreetour.com Latin Quarter with Tamara
    Walk the Champs Elysees
    Place de la Concorde
    Musee d’Orsay
    Amorino Gelato
    Dinner at Au Bougnat

    1/17:
    Return
     
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  2. JohnDeere19
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    Check in went incredibly smooth. Being a Platinum member on AA, I was able to go to the priority check in at Terminal 8 in JFK and was directed to the business class line. Being the next person in line, with no one in the first class line, the business class agents all busy, and an open first class agent, I was waived over to the first class check in desk. These little things really stand out to me and I don’t believe she actually had to accommodate me, but the gesture was appreciated.

    I made my way over to the lounge where the serious lack of food was no longer a surprise after my last visit. 2 drink chits and I’m on my way to relaxing and downing a preparatory glass of red wine (I’m not a wine drinker in general, but come on…France and wine). A few minutes before boarding I decide to head to the gate where they just started boarding Business class, but all of a sudden, they stop. Then over the intercom, I hear the dreaded plane going mechanical, hydraulics issue, blah, blah, blah…back to the lounge.

    Lounge agent confirms that they’re just going to wait for the inbound 763 so no need for me to worry about seat shuffling. 1 hour delay, 2 hour delay, I walk back over to the lounge agent to confirm that everything still holds true and am told they just switched equipment to a 757 because the inbound CDG-JFK equipment ALSO has a hydraulic issue...fantastic! PS, AA, this was a bit disappointing and hopefully not a reflection of how your equipment is doing in general. I’m beginning to regret having booked the wide body JFK-CDG.

    Me: “Please tell me the computer hasn’t reshuffled me to some middle seat?”

    Agent: “Actually, you’re in luck, we were just notified of the equipment change so I can give you an exit aisle”

    Me: “YES PLEASE!”

    I tried to get a VDB and booked on the later flight (now being the same time and equipment, it was basically the same flight), but it didn’t happen. Too bad. Boarding was incredibly slow and the gate agent had the nerve to say something along the lines of “let’s please expedite the boarding process so we can get the doors closed by 8:30”…seriously…a 3.5 hour delay because not one, but TWO planes were mechanical and you want us to pick up the pace. 8:30 ticks over, the doors close, and we’re finally off.


    I was so tired and pissed off by this point that I didn’t get any pictures on the plane.

    Dinner ended up being chicken with rice or cheese tortellini and I opted for the tortellini. After the meal, I saw a 5 person deep line at the bathroom up front and both vacant in the back…back it is. Of course, upon exiting the bathroom, I see the flight attendants picking up the meal garbage so I’m stuck. I end up chatting with one of the FAs for a bit re: what happened and how they were involved. We talk about row 17 on the 763 and how I was pushing really hard to get it because the flight was under 8 hours I know it isn’t actually in their contract even though the seats are blocked and she has a “who-the-f&$*-are-you” look on her face…just your average FTer! She mentions the reason for an even further delay on the 757 was a catering issue and to “wait until you see what you get for breakfast…it’s not right.”

    The flight attendants finish picking up the garbage and no more than 10 minutes later I’m out cold. I awake with about 1-1.5 hours to go and they’ve already tucked a snack box into the seat-pocket in front of me. It’s a snack box…2 sets of 2 crackers, cheese, a “deluxe” (debatable) nut blend, and a box of raisins. Hardly the breakfast that should’ve been catered and the worst part is, it seemed like people’s expectations were so low with regards to food that they didn’t even notice.

    Now I don’t usually complain to the airlines (I’ve only complained 2x in the past for extremely rude behavior by employees), but a 3.5 hour delay because of 2 mechanical planes and then a miscatered flight and I just have to.
     
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  3. JohnDeere19
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    We ended up a bit quicker than we were anticipated so 30 minutes earlier than the 3.5 hour delay should’ve suggest and we’re finally in Paris, I’m ready to make the most of this trip.

    I tried to checkin early, but was told that my room wouldn’t be available until 2-3pm. It was 11am and I was planning on heading to Versailles today anyway, so not a problem. I leave my bags with the concierge and off I got.

    Versailles makes all the delay/not checked in worries disappear and is just absolutely incredible.

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  4. JohnDeere19
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    When I returned at 330pm, my room still wasn’t ready. Between the 3.5 hour flight delay and this, I’m getting pretty agitated and just want to relax for a bit before my dinner at Les Papilles. Finally, at 415pm, my room is ready and I’ve been upgrade to the Executive Room!

    I settle down for a bit, unpack, grab a few photos, and sign on to the incredibly weak wireless connection in my room (something I assume is partially due to the fact that I was at the very end of the hallway). My room has a large bathroom, queen size bed, two tall dressers, a desk, an espresso machine (which would get a whole lot of use to ward off any jet lag), and a small terrace with a view of the Arc de Triomphe.

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  5. JohnDeere19
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    Before I knew it, I had to leave for my 7:30 reservation at Les Papilles. This restaurant has one set menu per night so don’t go here if you are particularly picky or not adventurous. The restaurant is very small and they had to turn away walk-ins so I highly suggest reservations in advance. Tonight’s menu consisted of a pumpkin chestnut soup, a slow cooked pork with beans and vegetables, blue cheese and a prune, and finally an apple custard-like dessert (I don’t quite remember exactly what it was). At 33 Euros, it’s not a bad deal at all, but I asked for a recommendation on wine and trusted the waiter to stay reasonable, but ended up unknowingly accepting a 45 Euro bottle (Roucas Toumba) which was towards the high end of what they were offering…pretty upset how they suggested a full bottle, but I will admit the wine was amazing. After only half the bottle and about 8 hours of sleep over the past 48 hours, I needed a bed ASAP, but was disappointed that I’d be leaving such a great wine unfinished. But wait…they recorked the wine for me, put it in a bag, and I could take it home. Gotta love Paris laws.

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  6. JohnDeere19
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    The continental breakfast at the hotel was expensive, but quick and convenient so I decided to give it a shot. It was lacking in the protein department unless you wanted to spend more money for eggs, but had a fair variety with potatoes, bacon, sausage, many breads, goat, brie, and one other cheese, fresh fruit, fresh fruit salad, and a selection of yogurts. I think they could’ve added a few more cereal options and a ham spread and it would’ve made a huge difference.

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  7. JohnDeere19
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    JohnDeere19 Gold Member

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    I signed up for the Montmartre tour on cityfreetour.com with Chris and was blown away…a perfect way to start the day.

    From their website:

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  8. JohnDeere19
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    I then continued on to the Louvre and could’ve easily spent the entire day there, but had too much to do and not enough time. The Napoleon exhibit was absolutely incredible…the attention to detail in each and every piece of furniture is something that you just don’t see anymore.

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  9. JohnDeere19
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    Before my dinner, I swung by the Eiffel Tower at night and even though the summit was closed, I still got a great view of the city from the 2nd floor.

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  10. JohnDeere19
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    Then it was on to L’Atelier du Parc for dinner. This restaurant received rave reviews on tripadvisor and it was easy to see why. I don't know if it was the fact that I was eating alone, that I was a tourist that would write a review, or that's just how they function every day, but even after being there for over 2 hours, I didn't want to leave. I think I ended up with something like 7 courses. I had some sort of parmesan cracker/biscuits (was originally given 2, but I ate them so quickly, was brought 4 more), followed by a mousse of codfish with tomato and basil (I’m not a huge fish fan and loved this), starter of Flaky pie with veal and foie gras, sorbet pickle, mixed salad, main course of Sliced shoulder of lamb, 36 hours cooking, eggplant caviar, mashed potatoes, dessert of Blinis with chestnut, quince compote, maple syrup ice-cream, a cold spicy chocolate drink, two macaroons and a small pistachio sponge cake to finish off. The food, the service, the atmosphere…everything was absolutely perfect. This meal was also reasonable at 35 Euros plus 2 glasses of 9 Euro 2005 Beaune les Epenottes (the first was the end of the bottle and only came out to about 2/3 of a glass, so without any prompting, I was given that glass on the house!).

    One thing the owner and waiter both mentioned was that without tourists going out of their way to go to this restaurant, they’d have to shut down and that tripadvisor has helped them out a lot. I told them that they had absolutely nothing to worry about and that they’d be getting a perfect review from me. If you’re in Paris looking for a top tier restaurant at reasonable prices, go here. It’s not far and absolutely worth it.

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  11. JohnDeere19
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    The next morning I swung by the hotel restaurant again to do the continental breakfast which consisted of all the same items from the previous day.

    I booked another cityfreetour.com tour, this time the Latin Quarter with Tamara and again, could not have been happier.

    From their website:

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  12. JohnDeere19
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    On my way back to the hotel, I decided to walk the Champs Elysees and snap a few shots along the way. Of course, I passed by a crepe stand and just had to get one with nutella on it.

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  13. JohnDeere19
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    JohnDeere19 Gold Member

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    I stopped at Place de la Concorde and decided to walk from there to the Musee d’Orsay (having dual citizenship paid off as 18-25 year old EU citizens get in for free!)

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    definitely was not supposed to take this picture
     
  14. JohnDeere19
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    Walked to Amorino Gelato to grab some ice cream…overpriced, area appeared very touristy, but delicious. I went with chocolate and coffee and couldn't have been happier.

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  15. JohnDeere19
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    Tonight’s dinner reservation was for Au Bougnat and I was excited to try this hidden gem on the ile de la cite. A couple was waiting to be seated as they didn’t have reservations, but because of my planning ahead, I was sat immediately upon arrival. I asked the waitress for some recommendations for the appetizer and she literally went through one at a time telling me why each one was great so I asked her to choose between two meals and she had a much more definitive answer, which coincidentally made my appetizer selection much easier. With that, the meal tonight would be a pumpkin soup with bacon, followed by roast duck with foie gras, and finished up with a chocolate soup with caramelized pears. I asked for recommendations on wine and ended up going with a 2007 Cuvee Margot Olivier Leflaive Freres (A.O.C. Bourgogne) Pinot Noir to start and a 2009 Terre de Galets, Domaine M. Richaud (A.O.C. Cotes du Rhone) Grenache, Carignan, Cinsault, Syrah blend. The pumpkin soup was served lukewarm which I believe was a mistake that, if intentional, should be fixed. Additionally, the bacon came as one big piece that was rather difficult to eat and I ended up having to cut it up while still in the soup. After this disappointing start, however, the meal just got better. The duck was fantastic and just fell right off the bone. The chocolate soup was thick and rich and the pears were the perfect compliment. I ended up sitting next to another single diner who was willing to strike up a conversation and it turns out that he’s the CEO of a company that I could see as being a potential excellent partner for a new product I’m project managing in my company…maybe I can expense this as a business trip after all ! Two peche mignons (a drink described as “prunes fruits a la liqueur de Souillac” on their menu) courtesy of my new friend and 2.5 hours later, it’s time to finish up and head back to the hotel.


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    I didn’t want this to end so I decide to again walk the long way up the Champs Elysees one last time and extend my time in this beautiful city for as long as I can.
     
  16. JohnDeere19
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    Hotel check out was smooth and seamless with no surprises on the bill.

    I get to the airport, though, and see that my departure is already delayed 2 hours…fml…again. Check in was smooth and the agent apologizes profusely for the delay, especially since it happened on the outbound as well. At security, I was surprised with an escort through the line, essentially pushing people out of the way to get me through (I’m being ruined here) and me trying not to come off as a DYKWIA. The lounge had much better offerings than JFK’s Admiral’s Club, but still a serious lack of food…luckily, sandwiches came out a bit later for the lunch crowd.

    The proper boarding process was not enforced with Business class going first followed by all Executive Platinum, Platinum, Gold, OneWorld Emerald, Sapphire, and Ruby members next. This, in addition to the already crowded boarding area made boarding a bit of a hassle, but we were finally boarding and on a wide body 763 nonetheless. I got these seats yesterday as they opened up last minute and I offered to switch seats with the guy next to me, which he gladly accepted to be sitting next to his family. Turns out, the guy I switched seats with was an Executive Platinum that originally had both exit row seats and had an eVip accidentally attached to this itinerary. Unfortunately, I ended up in a seat with inoperable recline stuck at around 50% recline for the duration of the flight. I haven’t decided if this is yet another thing worth complaining about...again, I’m not really normally a complainer, but these have all been pretty serious issues that AA needs to know about (and, of course, I wouldn’t never say no to any sort of compensation as long as it’s reasonable).

    The meal on this flight was a choice of either three cheese tortellini or beef with rice. I’m always worried that meats will be overcooked on the flight, so I again went for the tortellini which was actually quite good.

    On this flight, there was one incredibly rude flight attendant and one incredibly pleasant one. The pleasant one went out of her way to grab me an extra blanket without me even asking when she saw that I was a bit cold in the window seat of the exit row…it really is amazing how even after hundreds of thousands of miles flying, it’s the little things that stand out. For that same reason, there was an incredibly rude flight attendant. Having forgotten a pen for the trip, I wasn’t going to ask any of the FAs in the main cabin for one as it usually starts a chain reaction of everyone asking for one. Instead, I discretely went back to the galley where I was told that he’d bring me one to my seat, but it “wouldn’t be for a really long time.” When he gave me the pen, I could tell he was irritated and it was confirmed when he said “you know, the company doesn’t provide us with pens.” Just trying to calm the situation down, I said “don’t worry, I’ll bring it back to you” to which his response was a flustered “I don’t want it back.” To be blunt, if you don’t want to service people, then don’t work in a service industry…he chose this job knowing the responsibilities and then gets set off by a simple question from someone who was acting nothing but polite. I don’t take kindly to outright rudeness, so to really drive home the point, I brought the pen back anyway, and he muttered something under his breath. I was really hoping both FAs mentioned would be sitting next to eachother so I could’ve mentioned to the pleasant FA how great it is to have someone go out of their way and how it really is the little things that people remember from their life and I’ll be writing a letter of praise for her as soon as I arrive. Sadly, they weren’t sitting next to eachother, but I still mentioned it to her and plan on following through.

    A quick nap, Green Zone, Iron Man 2, writing the TR up, browsing through my ~450 pictures (that’s after at least 50 deletions), and reminiscing about the amazing time I just had and how grateful I am for the FT community for making this all possible, and reality smacks me in the face at about 30 degrees Fahrenheit when I land at JFK.

    This was a trip that I’ll never forget and I look forward to leveraging the knowledge I have from this amazing group to continue going on similar journeys in the future.



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    seat 17AB...very nice!

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  17. JohnDeere19
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    Due to a limit of 5 pics per post, I had to eliminate a bunch of pictures. For more pictures, please check out my FT thread here. If you liked my trip report, please click the 'Like' link on one of the posts!
     
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  18. TrueBlueFlyer
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    fantastic pix thanks so much for sharing!
     
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  19. JasonH
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    Bugger. Now you've got me looking for flights back to Paris. Thanks a lot [​IMG] [​IMG].
     
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  20. JohnDeere19
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    I'd love to see another mistake, I mean SALE [​IMG], fare like this one. I might have to book a repeat trip if that happened and utilize some HYATT free nights to stay at the Park Hyatt Paris-Vendôme!
     
  21. kiwi
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    Thanks for the report.
     
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  22. JohnDeere19
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    Glad you enjoyed it!
     
  23. mrpickles
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    Thank you very much, off to Paris in two weeks and will take your advise on the walking tours.
     
  24. JohnDeere19
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    the Clarity with which the tour guides speak english is fantastic. you're going to love all the Color that the buildings have and I highly recommend versailles where the ornate buildings are decorated with the highest Carat of gold. while I never experienced this, be warned that parisians can sometimes be rude and Cut you off or completely ignore you. there's a lot of History in the city so just use Discretion and you and those around you will All have a great time.
     
  25. HNL
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    Nice report and good tips on Paris sight seeing. A couple of points with respect to the AA service.

    1. On TATL (or other long hauls) the GAs will never give you a seat assignment in row 17 on the 763 - even if the flight is less than 8 hours. If the seats are unblocked at all it will only be because the flight is over booked and they really need the seats.

    2. It kinda sounds like you gave off just as much of an attitude over the pen as you received.

    3. For a 3.5 hour mechanical delay, AA is usually proactive about depositing miles into your account. Did they provide you any?
     

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