Paris & The French Countryside – Part 1

Bruce & Julie – October 2017
in celebration of our 40th wedding anniversary which was August 20th 2017

Big cities have special problems that other places don’t. Watch out for taxi driver scams in Paris. We knew how much a taxi should cost from the airport to our hotel. It’s 2017. We are heading outside with our luggage. A man grabs my husband’s suitcase – immediately alerting me as he tries to be our helpful taxi driver. Bruce doesn’t say or do anything. I saw how much the fare should be & this guy doesn’t miss a beat – as he keeps walking towards his cab with Bruce’s suitcase, “It’s Sunday. It will be more.”

“NO! and let go of my husband’s suitcase!”


Welcome to Paris – yet that’s not where the scams ended. Out in about on our free time from our tour – not having been warned, Bruce lets a woman stop him as she tells her sad tale, trying to get him to sign a petition. My common sense tells me we need to get away but he tells me to hold on & let’s her continue! We were lucky no one robbed us & while I can’t remember if Bruce signed the paper or not, he knows now to just ignore sad stories – move along.

Yet the scammers are getting smarter too – stay tuned to this year’s encounters. It’s frustrating & really throws darkness on vacation time. But it is what it is – be prepared. By sharing our experiences, I hope we prevent problems for readers going to Paris

Don’t stop for strangers – really – ignore what looks like someone in need – most likely a scam , pickpockets. Before getting in a taxi agree on the price. Make sure they have change. Watch YouTube videos of where you will be traveling to – especially big cities. Go on travel forums to find experienced travelers & listen.

April in Paris! 2024

I have wanted to go back to Paris since our first visit. We did in April 2024! Our trip was called Paris & The Heart of France. This trip we enjoyed the French countryside as well!


The flight from Gunnison to Denver was actually uneventful for a nice change. (This flight is more often than not problematic – not this time!)

I gave away 2 Mountain Mutts – Joy’s Tale in the airport. One copy went to a family going to Paris for 3 months with their nanny in tow – the very young nanny thanked me – I told her about the free accompanying teacher’s guide available on my website, under the book section

Our Air France flight to Paris seats didn’t recline – frustrating & not conducive to dozing much less sleeping – though lovely how Bruce & I were set apart just the two of us in our row – that was cozy & felt safer – though the man behind us, without a mask coughed the entire flight – all 8 hours & 40 minutes. He kicked my seat rather often too. Bruce & I had gotten our Covid vaccines March 1st. We wore mask on the plane, as we have been doing since Covid.

We stayed safe & healthy!

We had read ahead of time that we could buy a museum pass at the airport & did so. This was easy to accomplish at the information desk. We got two passes for four days. This let us avoid lines. Avoiding the long lines on our precious vacation time was priceless to us. Sometimes we knew we were going to the Arc or The Thinker or the Orsay, other times when out walking on our free time, we would see what was close to where we were & discovered a little gem overlooked by most.

As taught, I double checked the fare with the driver at the airport.  All went well.*At this point I don’t know about making sure the driver has change – not a problem – yet.

Bruce got us an especially lovely room in Paris. We would have really been able to enjoy the large balcony if the weather had been pretty. For the most part, it was too cold and windy to sit outside.

The view of Paris from our hotel balcony. The balcony ran the length of our suite. Beyond the table & chairs is a most comfortable black recliner that would have been happily enjoyed in pretty weather.

When we came to Paris in 2017, I was all about the Eiffel Tower. This time I was all about the Arc, The Thinker & getting my books in a bookstore or two. In 2017 I lit a candle and said a prayer in Notre Dame to help get Mountain Mutts – Joy’s Tale out into the world. Slowly, that has indeed been happening.

Arc de Triomphe

After settling into our hotel room, Bruce & I set out for the Arc.  Because of rain & distance we called a cab. As taught, I double checked the fare with the taxi driver. In French I ask if he speaks English. My experience: the honest ones reply yes / oui. The dishonest one: a little bit. They understand plenty.

Here’s a new scam to be aware of – he took our cash and said that he didn’t have change.  We couldn’t think fast enough. I told Bruce next time we ask ahead of time if they have change & if not, we put the ride on our credit card. Bruce agreed. The extra amount was 30 euros

DARN dishonest people!

The weather was off & on cold wind, sometime scattered rain with the sun popping out just to tease us.

This musician was playing her violin beautifully in the hallway we walked on our way to the Arc. Europe is filled with music – wherever people are gathered, there’s likely to be someone playing an instrument – sometimes singing as well. As usual, I put some coins in her opened violin case.

Bruce & Julie at the top of the Arc on a rainy April day.

The view of Paris from the top of the Arc is amazing!

A kind security guard – a very tall black man, not unlike a Harlem Globetrotter basketballer player, I should have gotten his picture, made sure we got to ride the elevator. It was 58 steps after the elevator. When we came down the same guard wanted to know about my impression of the view.

Spectacular view! 324 steps without the elevator

Weather was rather off – but what a view! The crowds were big enough on a cold, rainy spring day. I can’t imagine how awful the summer crowds will be. Parents don’t have much of a choice with when their children are off from school. Thankfully we can avoid the summer crowds & heat. We like to go to Europe in April & October.

A rainy street in Paris, in April.


After 12 hours in bed, we wake up refreshed; ready to find

The Thinker.  First, downstairs for a late breakfast.

Blue sky! The sun is out! There’s blue sky for the background of
The Thinker.

Blue sky & sun is so appreciated!

Roses and all sorts of blooms are around us in the garden! We had snow at home earlier this month; so, the flowers & blooms are extra appreciated by us!

This tree has such pretty, as well as unusual to me,  blooms on it.

Playing in the garden! And such a pretty day to do so!

After going inside the museum, Bruce & I find a sidewalk café for a tasty lunch.  I’ve been watching YouTube videos for months about Paris and I feel comfortable ‘correctly’ ordering.

After resting & eating we are ready to walk to the Musée d’Orsay.

The Musée d’Orsay

Compared to the Louvre, the Musée d’Orsay has a compact selection of 3,000 artworks in its permanent collection. If you’re in the mood to stroll through the sculptures and peer at brushstrokes at your leisure, rather than dash from one artwork to the next, the Musée d’Orsay is your best bet! Interesting building that use to be a train station.

“Starry Night over the Rhone” is a significant work in Vincent van Gogh’s oeuvre as it represents his exploration of the night sky, an aspect he revisited in other works such as “The Starry Night.” It showcases his use of bold colors, swirling forms, and emotional intensity.

Monet’s Bridge and Water Lily painting from 1893

Bruce took this in Oct. 2017 of me with Monet’s Bridge and Water Lily painting. This trip we got to go to the house & gardens where Monet painted in Giverny ! (pictures later) Delightful connection! Bruce & I stood on the bridge over that water lily pond! Sometimes on the tour my brain is overloaded but afterwards, like now – putting it all together…delightful, lovely, fun!

Bruce likes to take me in the picture so it’s evident we were there, but he was looking at something else & he laughed at my selfies – so I’ll post a few of the paintings from April 2024 without me

The crowds were minimal at the Orsay Museum both in 2017 & in 2024

When we went to the Louvre in 2017

it was towards the end of the day & crowds weren’t a problem

2017 the Louvre

A person on our tour took my phone & said here let me take a picture of you with the Mona Lisa.

Before I knew what was happening – this picture became a treasure!! We were there in the evening, not too long before closing. As you can see – no one else is in the picture. That couldn’t happen today.

Our tour guide on this April 2024 trip handed us tickets for the Louvre for mid-day & the crowds were horrible. I can’t help but think the time had to be a factor even if more people are traveling today than in 2017

The Musée d’Orsay is a very special museum you might not have heard about.  Go if you have the opportunity.

Back to The Musée d’Orsay:

Young Girls at the Piano is an oil-on-canvas painting by French artist Pierre-Auguste Renoir, a leading painter in the development of the Impressionist.

I saw this on loan at the Kimbell Museum many years ago – in fact Bruce & I took David & Elizabeth to that Renoir exhibit in Ft. Worth, TX.

It is also so fun to see the genuine masterpiece of paintings I’ve studied in art appreciation class in college and to see famous art in person!

I like this Camille Pissarro painting: Woman Hanging Up The Washing in the Orsay

Camille Pissarro is the only artist to have shown his work at all eight Paris Impressionists exhibitions, from 1874 to 1886. He “acted as a father figure not only to the Impressionists” but to all four of the major Post-Impressionists, Cézanne, Seurat, Gauguin, and van Gogh.

Paris sights on our rainy walk back to the hotel:

The Children’s Carousel

This beautiful carousel is located directly below the Eiffel Tower and next to the Seine River.

Fancy box of macaroons

A macaron or French macaroon is a sweet meringue-based confection made with egg white, icing sugar, granulated sugar, almond meal, and often food coloring. Since the 19th century, a typical Parisian-style macaron is a sandwich cookie filled with a ganache, buttercream or jam.

There are reminders throughout the city that it’s coming – though I do not see where physically more people are expected to be. I do hope though that Paris hosting the Olympics is a huge success.


Cute sidewalk café on a street in Paris

April flowers blooming everywhere

Back to our hotel & meet everyone for the first time on our tour – too much information. Wish we had pictures of each other with our names.

Dinner together was fun – our table was the last to leave.

Bruce & I so seldom socialize. It is somewhat stressful but a fun change too.

We talked some about our canine companions. I tried talking about Joy – still can’t.

The tour counts that meeting & group dinner as day one of the tour –

Our tour has officially begun – this is tomorrow’s schedule & Day 2

Please join me for day 2 in Paris

Any comments so far?

Please post in the bog

“Walks in nature are hugs for my soul.” Julie A R Stephens

Living in the Mountains

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“Walks in nature are hugs for my soul.” Julie A R Stephens

Living in the Mountains

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8 thoughts on “Paris & The French Countryside – Part 1”

  1. How beautiful! A twice n a lifetime vacation! I remember when y’all went before. I lived all the pictures and as usual, you write & describe beautifully!

  2. What a whirlwind! And that was all just day one? Very exciting, I can’t wait to hear about day two!

    1. Well, 1 1 /2 days. We arrived & saw the Arc. Slept & had that day where we went to find The Thinker, etc. but yes – a whirlwind is how this whole amazing tour was! Thanks for reading David – stay tuned – it was an eleven-day tour & we went a day early – so lots to come yet!

  3. Thank you for sharing so much of you trip! My sister and I went to Paris in 1976 and had a great adventure….and we were warned about the pick pockets. We took a military tour from Germany where my husband and I were stationed at that time. I enjoyed your blog!

    1. I’m so glad you enjoyed my post Bambi! Thanks for letting me know. I’m happy that me sharing my experience brought your good memory of going to Paris with your sister to mind. We don’t live in big cities like New York; so it’s a good reminder of how big cities are very different.

  4. Wow! Seven (almost) years flew by, as it seems you were just sharing about Paris for your 40th. 😊♥️ Happy almost 44th anniversary! Love your journaling and photos, as always. Darn dishonest folks & scams, but I agree, can never dampen the charm and adventure of all there is to see and take in…museums, art, sidewalk cafes, balconies, views. We love Paris, too, and would go back again and again. Thank you for sharing. Bless you 💕

    1. Yes, it’s been 6 ½ years since we first went to Paris – the years go faster as we get older –

      If we lived in a big city like NY we’d be more aware of scams but thankfully we do not live in a big city; so we watch YouTube, read travel forums & learn from experience.

      ***Thank you Susie, for your kind words & popping by to enjoy & share your thoughts in a post – one of the may fun things about traveling is bringing to mind the adventures other folks have had in the same place or what they want to see when they go.

      We are going to Greece in October. This will be the first time we go to Europe six months apart. This trip we just took in France & this trip to Greece both involve lots & lots & lots of walking…we do walk a lot but not like this. Feels so good to be able to do it!

      So may adventures to take…time is zooming… I’d like us to go on the RS Belgium & Holland tour in April 2025 – among the many adventures there that time of the year will be the tulips! Art & nature give me the most joy in our travels – so much nature to show in the French countryside on this adventure in April 2024. Stay tuned!

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