John and Marilyn Baker won the 'Lucky Owner's" trip at the 2015 NSW Standardbred Owners Association annual awards night - the destination was Paris.


"The last thing on our mind during the drive to Menangle on Saturday 10 October, 2015, was a trip to Paris. It had been quite some time since we had been able to get to Menangle as Marilyn had endured 12 months of surgery, chemo and radiation, and now also needed to have a hip replacement. We were looking forward to catching up with many of our harness racing friends and perhaps backing a winner or two – always a challenge at Menangle.


The drive home was very different following the surprise, excitement and emotion of winning the trip to Paris at the Owners Association Awards Night.


The trip had to be taken by March so we started planning an itinerary, ultimately making arrangements to travel in the second half of March, returning home on 31st March, to allow Marilyn the maximum time to recover from her surgery and other treatment. We had been to Paris a couple of times before, which we thoroughly enjoyed, and so we set about making plans to include revisiting some of our favourite places as well as going to some we hadn’t seen before.


Our accommodation at the “Mercure Paris Centre Tour Eiffel” was ideally located, very close to the Eiffel Tower (we even had “glimpses” from our room) and within a short walk to Metro and RER stations, as well as the Seine River and numerous cafes and restaurants. The weather was quite cold – about 10C maximum – but we expected that and packed accordingly. Some days were dull and overcast while a couple of days were sunny and clear blue skies, resulting in much better photos.

The highlights of our time in Paris included:


This was the only tour we had booked in advance and we were very fortunate that it turned out to be a clear sunny day. It was a very long day with a 7.00am start and returning to Paris around 8.00pm, but very enjoyable with visits to three of the famous Chateaux – Chambord, Cheverny and Chenonceau – as well as traveling through the rich agricultural countryside south west of Paris, including vineyards.



We had been to the Louvre and D’Orsay on previous visits so we decided to visit the Marmatton (on the recommendation of Lynette Philpott), and we were very pleased that we did. It has an amazing collection of Monet’s works and there was also a special exhibition – “L’Art et L’Enfant” – which included works by Cezanne, Renoir, Picasso and others.



Prior to our trip I made contact with our good friend Tatiana Kozlova – the interpreter for the Russian Trotting Federation – and she and her husband Jacques Verdier very kindly invited us to their home at Saintry-sur-Seine, a village on the river about 30km out of Paris. We had a very enjoyable lunch, including of course some nice French wine, and an interesting afternoon in their home. On the drive back into Paris we detoured for an early evening visit to Montmartre and the Sacre Coeur.



Despite it being winter and therefore not the peak tourist season, the queues for the Eiffel Tower are still quite long, so we decided to go early one morning to buy tickets to the “Sommet” – the very top observation platform at 276m. Unfortunately the weather wasn’t ideal so our photos don’t do justice to the experience. However it is certainly a “bucket list” item that we have completed.


After taking numerous photos and taking in the views we then descended back to “Stage 2” (115m) by which time the weather had cleared a little so the views (and more photos) were better. A hot chocolate was a very welcome relief from the cold outside before descending back to ground level.


We packed many things into our 6 days in Paris, and in addition to the above highlights we also visited:

  • Chateau de Versailles

  • Seine River cruise, including the Louvre, D’Orsay and many other landmarks

  • Champs Elysees and Arc de Triomphe

  • Boulevard Haussmann and the Galeries Lafayette

  • Opera Garnier

  • Notre Dame

We also sampled the local food and wines, eating in a number of typical French cafes and bistros. It was an extremely enjoyable trip without any problems. The very visible increased security, with police and soldiers carrying machine guns at the ready, was somewhat disconcerting but at the same time reassuring.


We are very grateful to the NSW Standardbred Owners Association for the opportunity to take the trip, and in particular we would like to sincerely thank Peter and Marie Neil for their very generous sponsorship and their support in making our travel arrangements.



April 2016

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