The next morning, the cloudy weather persisted over the Loire Valley and we had fruits and coffee for breakfast in our room, whilst admiring the views of the Loire river and the Château d’Amboise. After packing our luggage, we went to check out with the reception and loaded the suitcases into our rental car. We drove out from Amboise towards Chenonceaux which took around 30 minutes under cloudy weather which bypassed some beautiful tree-lined country roads.
When we arrived at the parking lot of the chateau, the overnight rain had turned the grounds wet and muddy. Chenonceaux seems to be one of the most frequently visited chateaus in the Loire as it had a very good visitor information centre and gift store. However the chateau is not visible from the parking lot and there was a relatively long tree-lined path which was unpaved after buying the admission ticket. This was the reason why we decided to skip on Chenonceaux and left to head back towards Paris, opting for a detour to Paris La Vallée, where outlet shopping awaits. Given that one of the objective of this trip was to allow ample time for my Mum to shop, I have arranged for half a day to do our shopping in an outlet since from past experience, we had a nice family shopping trip on our drive towards Seattle.
The drive back towards Paris was uneventful though a traffic jam in the outer ring road of Paris delayed our drive, and we reached the Paris La Vallée by lunchtime. For those interested to know, the outlet stores in Paris is located close to the Disneyland which was situated in the suburbs of Paris and is around a 45 minute drive under normal traffic conditions. Initially we wanted to have Korean BBQ for lunch since we knew there was a such a restaurant there. However, due to the late arrival in the area and deciding to head for some shops first, the restaurant was already closed for lunchtime, which was why we settled for McDonald’s in the adjoining shopping mall. Shopping in the outlet malls of Europe is an interesting experience and different cities would tend to have different brands on sale. Selection of brands was great and all of us got something here, which ensured that we actually spent the day in the outlet till the shops close before heading towards the Korean BBQ joint for dinner. The owner of the restaurant came out and introduced himself. Turns out he was an immigrant from Cambodia and had settled down nicely in France with his family. For Korean BBQ, there’s always Galbi to count upon on top of Tofu and Kimchi soup which always satisfies our appetite.
After dinner, it was a short drive back to Paris and I set our route to our lodging in Paris at Prince de Galles Hotel. The drive into Paris was amazing as we reached Paris close to sunset with the lights starting to twinkle against the skies turning a dark blue hue. One of the most memorable sights of being in Paris is perhaps the time when the street lights appear against a sunset skies as the landmarks of this beautiful city appears into view one by one starting from the Notre Dame, Hôtel des Invalides, the Louvre, Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe.
Our hotel location was along Avenue George V leading into Champs-Élysées, which meant it wasn’t cheap but there was a 3-for-2 nights promotion and as a Starwood Preferred Guest Member, I chose the hotel since it was close to all the boutiques in Paris. Let’s just say this was a bad decision since the hotel is pretty run-down and doesn’t have the service that befits the price paid for a Luxury Collection hotel. Upon checking in, there wasn’t the warm welcome of a much cheaper lodging in Sheraton Prague, no seats for guests checking in, and definitely no mention of any upgrades. All we got was standard service and no suprises. The room wasn’t even fitted with the extra bed which I had indicated was for 3 persons upon reservations. For an old hotel, there doesn’t seem to be any renovations made, and this made the hotel seems slightly dusty and worn out giving the impression it was quite dirty. As such, it was a disappointment and once again TripAdvisor seems quite true in ranking such a hotel way down in its ranking list. Oh and not to mention there wasn’t any breakfast included.
Since I had no intention of driving whilst staying in Paris, I made plans to return the car at night rather than parking it with the hotel which would be around EUR 30 overnight. Having checked that the rental car agency closes late, I took the chance to drive around Paris, going round Arc de Triomphe, driving down Champs-Élysées, along the Seine River before heading into Bercy where we returned the car safely. It was a return trip to the hotel by taxi at night and the area seems awfully quiet and doesn’t seem that safe at sunset. Upon returning to the hotel, we took a short stroll towards Champs-Élysées to experience this city of lights. We could also observe the well-lit Arc de Triomphe which was formed a monumental backdrop over the whizzing traffic along. At night, the twinkle of lights along this grand-avenue truly draws the crowds to its cafes and restaurants and shows the vibrancy of this city, giving it a life of its own!