City of Lights, part deux

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After two nights at the InterContinental Paris Le Grand Hotel, we changed hotels so we could experience some of our Club Carlson points at the Radisson Blu Le Metropolitan Paris Eiffel. Our room was advertised for €295 or 70,000 points/night, but since we’re Club Carlson Visa cardmembers we got our second night free so the stay cost us 70,000 points and nothing out of pocket.

 

 

The room was super tiny but it was in a perfect location on the Plaza de Mexico, just a long block from Trocadéro. Right after we checked in we took the #6 Metro line from Trocadéro to Denfert Rochereau to visit the Catacombs. This is my favorite line in Paris as it goes above ground for the stretch across the Seine, giving you amazing views of the Eiffel.

The line to get into the Catacombs was so short! In summer the line stretches all the way around the block, but the Catacombs are still worth it. There’s a little bakery on Avenue de Général Leclerc between Place Denfert-Rochereau and Rue Daguerre called Le Pain au Naturel where you can stock up on baked goodies to enjoy while you’re standing in line. The toasted goat cheese, brie, tomato baguette is to die for! We went back for a second one as soon as we got out of the Catacombs.

 

 

For those of you who don’t know, the Catacombs, or les Catacombes de Paris, are underground ossuaries (chest, box, building, well, or site made to serve as the final resting place of human skeletal remains) containing the remains of six million Parisians.

There’s a whole other world below the streets of Paris thanks to limestone mining that began in the 12th century. In the 17th century Paris started to lose its foundation to those mines and after a series of cave-ins in the 1770s the city decided to fix them up to make the streets safe again.

Around that same time the cemeteries of Paris were literally overflowing. According to wikipedia, “‘Saints Innocents‘ was neighbour to the principal Parisan Les Halles marketplace, and already filled to overflowing. To make room for more burials, the long-dead were exhumed and their bones packed into the roofs and walls of ‘charnier’ galleries built to the inside of the cemetery walls. By the end of the 19th century, the central burial ground was a two metre high mound of earth filled with centuries of Parisian dead, disease, famine, wars, plus the remains from the Hôtel-Dieu hospital and the Morgue; other Parisian parishes had their own burial grounds, but the conditions in Les Innocents cemetery were by far the worst.”

After a basement wall in a property adjacent to the Cimetière des Innocents collapsed with the weight of the mass grave behind it (can you imagine?), Paris’ Police Lieutenant-General decided to put two and two together and Voila! The Catacombs. We read it took workers two years, working day and night to get all the remains from the cemeteries into the Catacombs.

 

 

More info about Paris’ underground. Visiting Paris is summer is lovely of course, but in winter you get those long nights, when Paris is at her best.

 

 

There was another Christmas market under the Eiffel Tower along Champs de Mars. We went to check it out but they were blaring explicit rap songs from the ice rink which really killed the Christmas spirit for us, so we went up in the tower instead. Going to the top of the Eiffel Tower is a real deal at only €15 per person. The stairs weren’t open to walk part of the way up (thankfully, after Notre-Dame and the Arc), so we took the elevator all the way to the top.

 

 

The view from the top is amazing of course, though a wee bit too windy and cold for Lady Campfire. I bundled up tight, ran around all sides to check out the views and pick out landmarks, then I went back inside to sit with my back against a radiator until Greg got his fill.

 

 

My sweet mother who birthed me gave us cash before we left home to treat ourselves on the trip. We dedicated our last day in Paris to her honor and ate like kings in real restaurants. Thank you Debby!

Don’t let my dour face fool you- that pizza and pasta were delicious.
Hey Debby- your own store!

Greg picked out our last museum- Musée national du Moyen Âge, or Museum of the Middle Ages to the layperson. Greg loves medieval times; fancies himself a knight. The museum is located in the Latin Quarter, not far from the Notre Dame and there was yet another Christmas market around the block surrounding it. It only cost €8 to get in and was pretty awesome.

 

The host asked where we were from and the whole time we were eating all the employees called us ‘Montana’. Everyone in Paris was so friendly and accommodating, contrary to their reputation. The burgers were delicious and I told Greg when we move to Paris for me to write full time and work in a Parisian bakery, we would eat there once a week and try a different burger every time. Thanks for another great meal, Debby!

The Warckens are out of deodorant, guess it’s time to go home.

 

We flew from Paris direct to Detroit, and were luck luck lucky enough to get bumped to ‘Business Elite’ class.

 

Gregory and I would never pay cash for business class, but frequent flyer miles are great for the upper classes. I have a strict policy never to fly domestic airlines over an ocean so part of our racking up all these miles is for the day when Gregory and I don’t fly standby anymore and we can use them to upgrade. Be warned: Fly business or first class over an ocean once and you’ll never want to go back to economy again.

This concludes our latest adventure, and one of our favorite trips ever. Everyone keeps asking what our favorite place was and without a doubt Greg and I both agreed on Finland. If anyone would like to go with us next time and split a cabin in the north, just let us know! It was great traveling without a plan so we could flit around where we wanted and change our minds on a whim. You know we Warckens always spend less to travel more but since we saved so much on airfare we were able to treat ourselves a bit more with food and souvenirs.

Had we paid full price for our 20 days abroad our airfare alone would have cost us over $20,000. Lodging would’ve been just under $3,000. Instead, our grand total for food, lodging, transportation, museums, souvenirs, everything, came out to:

$3220.86 + 150,000 hotel points. 

And that’s not including the points, miles, and cash we’ll earn by using our cards and shopping through portals. We put everything we could on Greg’s Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card, which earns 2x points on airfare, hotels, cruises, rental cars, train tickets, taxis, and tolls, getting us a few thousand Ultimate Rewards points along the way, which we can use to book flights or hotels in the future, or to transfer to hotel and airline programs of our choice.

Now it’s back to work to earn for and dream about our next adventure. Until then, happy travels!

 

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