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April 23, 2008

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WHERE'S JOHNNY JET?                                 Paris, France

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Before we get started, I want to run something by you. Over the last few years, I’ve received lots of emails asking …”Johnny Jet, are you ever going to offer trips for us to travel with you?” And now, I’m ready if anyone is interested. But before I spend a lot of time and money planning it, let me first find out if people are still interested. And if so – where would you like to go? My schedule is open for next February (2009) so I’m thinking somewhere warm like Australia, Malaysia, Tahiti/Cook Islands or India. How about you? Please let me know where in the world you would like to travel in a small group. Hopefully, by next week we will have some answers. Email me at

Cheers from London! Well actually, I'm back in the States but this sounds so much cooler than "Greetings from Los Angeles." We left off last weekend after landing in Europe for a three-night trip (one night in Paris and two nights in London). I know ... a long weekend trip from the west coast to Europe is pretty ridiculous but the point is, it's doable. One more night would have been perfect but who's complaining? Not me! If it weren't for the fact that I was partaking in such a momentous occasion (the inaugural Open Skies flight), I would have stayed longer. Want to come along for the ride? Grab your passport and your weekend bag! Looking for a different kind of adventure? This week, both of my sisters are on the road for Talk about momentous occasions! Veteran travel writer Georgie-Jet takes us to Maine while newcomer Carol and the kids whoop it up at a dude ranch in Montana.

After an easy nine-hour, 42-minute flight on Air France (I wrote about it last week), we arrived at the snazzy and modern terminal 2E of Charles De Gaulle airport (CDG). It was a bit of a walk to get to immigration and there wasn't a lot of signage along the way, but I just followed the crowd and hopped on the tram. The French sure do make visitors feel welcome. There are no forms to fill out and there were no long lines. The stoic officer just quickly scanned my passport, stamped it and that was it! TIP: If you collect passport stamps, make sure they actually stamp it because the agent next to me wasn't even bothering.

There are a few ways to get to the city center: metro, bus, taxi ... the easiest is by taxi. Just walk out the door and jump in one. There are plenty ready to go and the ride to my hotel (near the Garnier Opera House) took 40 minutes in light rain and mid-Friday traffic. Price on the meter: €41.90. Ouch! The weak US dollar means that converted to $64! FYI: 1 = $1.58USD.

I checked into a newly renovated, four-star boutique hotel, The Edouard VII. It's named after the Prince of Wales who later became King of England. He loved Paris and used to stay here during his holidays. It's built in the same "Haussmannien" style as its neighbors and opened its doors in 1877. There are 70 rooms on seven floors with a small elevator that moves quickly by French standards. The lobby is small but grand with shiny marble floors, Murano glass chandeliers and lights, though the rooms aren't quite as chic. I was on the top floor and it felt like the elevator had just whisked me into a time warp. The narrow, carpeted hallway had a ‘70s B&B feel. My room was much larger with parquet floors, Napoleon III furniture and a desk. It sort of felt like a grandmother's house but with a flat screen TV and an outrageously priced mini bar. It was €7 for a bottle of water or €5 for a can of Lipton iced tea! Are you kidding me?! Who prices these things? Because you know the scrawny little man with the alligator arms isn't reaching into his own wallet to shell out at these prices when he's traveling on his own dime. I'm just saying.

On the flip side, I gave the hotel props for at least having free WiFi – but then, while I was surfing their website to research this story, I realized I was using their neighbor's free signal, as the hotel charges €14 a day. What's sad is that, Internet junkie that I am I would have paid it. The bathroom was large, oddly shaped and had an outdated pink tile floor and walls to boot. But it was clean. One wall had a floor-to-ceiling mirror and I think it's safe to say that it was the first time I'd ever watched myself take a shower up close. Not a pretty sight. I take it Edouard VII was a kinky bastard. Oh, and the water pressure up there was definitely not to a king's liking. And, like most French hotels, there were no washcloths.

The high temperature during the day was 11.5°Celsius (52°F) and the low was 5°C (41°F), which is a bit nippy for a southern Californian. That's why the heat from the radiator was a welcome treat. Welcome, that is, until I woke up in middle night, sweating bullets, with cottonmouth, wishing I had stopped by a store to get some agua. In my jetlagged stupor, I couldn't find the temperature control so I just opened the window to let the fresh air in. Ahhh! Much better, even with the loud traffic noise. TIP: Always bring earplugs. Before falling back into REM sleep, I couldn't help but notice that the bed was two twins pushed together to look like a king, but there was nothing royal about it. When tossing and turning, trying to fend off the jetlag, you can't help but notice the soft but loud mattress that slides with each move. My neighbors must have thought I was having a ménage a trois.

The best part about the hotel was the location and the view from my room. It's on Avenue de l'Opéra, four blocks from the Garnier Opera House, of which I had a perfect view from my balcony. I could also see Sacré-Coeur. The service at the hotel was good and the concierge was always there to hand back your room key – it's too big to take with you. The breakfast buffet was small but consisted of the basics: juice, eggs, bread, fruit … It was included in my rate otherwise I would not have paid the €23 they were asking for it. But the worst part of my experience was when an American guy made a non-English-speaking French couple turn their three-year-old's laptop off because he said the sound was too loud and was bothering him. I couldn't even hear it and I was only two tables over, while the American was across the room. It was an uncomfortable scene – and I thought there was going to be a throw down (and I was hoping the French guy would kick the American's punk ass!) Man, I'm feisty today! Rack rates begin at €235 and animals are accepted, hence, the American guy at breakfast. Edouard VII, 39, Ave. de l'Opéra - 75002 Paris, Tel: +33 (0)1 42 61 56 90, e-mail:

Three blocks from the hotel, on the corner of Place de l'Opéra, is one of Paris' most historic hotels and one that will always hold a special place in my heart. The InterContinental Le Grand is where I stayed with my mom on our first visit to Paris together back in 1998. The only part of the multi-million dollar renovation that I got to see during this trip was inside the famous Café De La Paix. I've sat out on their sidewalk many times before, sipping drinks, indulging in ice cream sundaes and taking part in the world-renowned French café culture.

For the first time, I ate inside. Wow, is this place special! It turned out to be one of my top 50 meals and it all started with those evil, fresh mini-baguettes. (I had quatre.) Why do the bread and butter in France have to taste so darned good? It's making my pants tight. For starters, I had the best white and green asparagus salad ever (€26). The stems were as thick as my index finger but delicate as can be. Then came my grilled brisket of beef (€41) with bone marrow and sautéed gnocchi – yum, except for the bone marrow. Who actually eats bone marrow besides in Jell-o?! Dessert (€15) was as divine as you can imagine. Every quarter, they have a famous designer design a dessert and the master chef (Laurent Delarbre) creates it. I got a preview of Elie Saab's, which will be offered between May and September. I don't know about the Lebanese fashion designer's clothes but I know that his palate has it going on. Le Café de la Paix, 5, Place de l'Opera, 75009 Paris, Tel: +33 (0)1 40 07 36 36, e-mail:


  • Paris spring sale fares on American from $808 R/T*
  • Business-class Europe fares on Continental from $1,598 R/T*
  • London on Virgin Atlantic from $410 R/T*
  • Delta sale to Europe from $398 R/T*
  • Paris City Sightseeing Tours

    The next morning, I headed out to walk off the rich (in more ways than one) dinner. The early spring weather was like San Francisco in September -- cool in the shade, warm in the sun. My first stop was at the French bank BNP Paribas ATM next door. It's a Bank of America partner, so you don't get hit with the usual $5 international ATM fee. I walked thru Place Vendome, which brought back memories of The Da Vinci Code pilot TV show we filmed at the Ritz almost two years ago ... wow, time flies. Just like in our show, I walked through Tuileries Gardens and admired the flowers and statues. I'm not sure if I like Louise Bourgeois' contemporary piece. It's a gigantic spider the size of a small tree and has an exhibit at the Centre Pompidou. I didn't like it staring down at me but it is what it is, I suppose. I didn't have time to see his exhibit in the Louvre but of course, I walked by to appreciate the architecture, which I could never tire of admiring.

    WARNING! Be very careful crossing the street. It’s confusing because the streets have two cross walk signals but they are not on sync with one another. So the far one will be green but the closer one is red. See this picture for a better understanding.

    I crossed the Seine and walked along the Left Bank, past the Musee D'Orsay and headed towards the Eiffel Tower. Most of the lunch and dinner cruises depart at the foot of the iron masterpiece, at Port de la Bourdonnais. I met some friends for the Bateaux Parisien lunch cruise, which departs at 12:45pm and lasts two hours. Lunch prices start at €52 and dinner rates begin at €95. The price includes a three-course meal, a bottle of wine, water and coffee. But people aren't there for the food – it's all about the ambiance. I've done a couple of dinner cruises in the past and in my humble opinion, they are much better than the day cruises. There's something about cruising the Seine at night, with all the famous sites lit up that makes it magical. My fondest memory was when I went with my mom, brother, sister and a bunch of friends. I will never forget that trip ... especially when we were told it's tradition to kiss under every bridge ... ooh la la!

    Unfortunately, the water level was too high due to all the rain, so our oversized boat had to take an alternate route. That meant no amazing sights except the Eiffel Tower and the Statue of Liberty. Did you know that Paris has a sister Statue of Liberty? She's near the Grenelle Bridge on the Île des Cygnes and she faces west, towards her American sibling. This one should be called Mini-Me as she's just 37 feet, 9 inches tall but with the Eiffel Tower in the background and the willow trees swirling around her, it's almost surreal. To help capture the moment, the on-deck pianist and violinist play New York, New York.

    Because we didn't get to take our intended route, the operators gave everyone a free sightseeing pass to use on one of their lower boats that fit under the bridges. That was a nice gesture but next time (unless I'm on a hot date), I will find out in advance which way the boat is going. If it's heading in the opposite direction, I'll skip it because this route really is the pits ... lots of graffiti and ugly buildings. The best table in the house is in the very front and it's round but it costs extra and needs to be reserved well in advance. The bread and butter weren't too good (thank God), and the rest of the food was fair. I had a hard-boiled egg with bacon and some gnarly sauce for a starter and realized from my friend's reaction that I had made a mistake not ordering the chestnut soup. They offer multiple options for each course so most diets can be accommodated. Bateaux Parisiens, 75007, Paris, Tel: +33 (0)1 46 99 43 13.

    At lunch I downed two large bottles of Evian and a double espresso. Walking back to my hotel (I strolled along the Champs-Élysées), I was all jacked up and kept buying bottles of water like it was crack. I bought a bottle from the official street vendors for €2 and another (the same bottle of water) from an "unofficial" Indian guy for half the price. I handed him €10 but he said ‘hold on' while he ran to go get change. He darted from vendor to vendor and I lost sight of him when he was a good three blocks away. So there I was, thinking I was on a French version of Candid Camera, as he left me with his bucket of bottled waters and roasting chestnuts, while tourists began approaching me to buy some. If I had understood what the heck they were saying, I would have just served them but fortunately, one of his buddies showed up and asked how much change I was waiting for. How did he know I spoke English? Ah, the sneakers are a dead give-away. When I told him how much, he gave me €9 and that was it. I like how trusting they are. In New York City, I would still be waiting for my change.

    The only problem with drinking so much water is that when nature calls in Paris, it's not so easy to find a public toilet or W/C as they call them. By the time I found one, I was way past the Champs Élysées and my legs were crossed. I barely had enough time to pay the 50c fee for the urinal or the €1 fee for the toilet but at that point, I was just about to throw down some bills.

    Before I get some nasty emails about why I was wearing sneakers instead of proper shoes in France, let me explain: It's because I have bad feet. I know it's embarrassing to walk around this beautiful city with them on but if I didn't, I would honestly be laid up for months. Even with my tennis shoes and my $1,000 orthotics, my dawgs were barking like crazy. I walked a total of about four hours and covered at least six miles but even with my sore feet, it was still worth it.

    Next time, I will wear shoes and try out Paris' new bike stations that can be found every 300 meters (328 yards). Velib has set up a rental system similar to those found in other European cities. I've used it in Vienna and it's a great way to get around for cheap. Each rider needs a credit card and signing up with the automated machine is easy and self-explanatory (in most languages).

    On January 1, 2008, France's smoking ban went into full effect. Smoking is now banned at restaurants, bars, hotels, casinos, discos and cafes. I'm totally for it since I don't smoke. However, I think it should be up to the owner of the establishment whether or not they want to offer their place to smokers or not. I wouldn't personally give them my business but I'm sure plenty of others would ... especially in Paris. It's their life. Let them do what they want as long as they don't kill us with the secondhand smoke.

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    Copyright 2008 JohnnyJet, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

    Pictures From

    The Trip


    Air France




    Charles De Gaulle Airport


    Taxi to the City


    Taxi Meter


    Edouard VII


    Hotel Lobby


    My Room




    View From Room


    View From Balcony


    Garnier Opera House


    Cafe De La Paix


    The Evil Bread


    Asparagus Salad




    Place Vendome


    Spider In The Gardens


    The Louvre


    Eiffel Tower


    Lunch Cruise


    Dinner Cruise In 1998


    Our 1998 Group


    Statue of Liberty






    Arc de Triomphe


    2 euros for Water


    Water Closet


    Rent A Bike


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