France Archives

October 14, 2010

10-11-10 Paris

On 11/11/10, we left Italy and flew to Paris. We had no problems at the airport. We have business class seats, and went through the security line for business/first class. There was not one person in line. I kept thinking we would have to go through another security line, but no, that was it. We got to the airport too early, so we walked around a little then went the lounge for a while. Our flight was very nice. It's funny I've read a lot of people who really dislike Air France. We've never had anything but very positive experiences with them.

We arrived in Paris, and had hired a car service through A.L.C.S. to pick us up. We got our luggage, gave them a quick call, and our driver was there in less than 10 minutes. How easy that was. We got to our apartment, and the owner showed us around. On first inspection, what you really notice is how small it is. I'll write more about it later, but we've really enjoyed staying here. It has everything we could want, and for how small it is, has tons of storage. And a very large shower. And it's something like 65 euro/night.

We walked around the neighborhood a little, and were very hungry for dinner. At most of the brasseries, trattories, bars, etc., not one person was eating at 7:30pm. We spotted an Indian restaurant where someone was there eating, so we decided to go there for our first night in Paris. Not Parisian food, but it was actually very good. Then it was back to the apartment for a good night's sleep.

10-12-10 Paris


10-12-10 was our first full day in Paris. We slept in a little, and then slowly got around and ready to go out for the day. We didn't take the Metro the first day-I don't remember why. We walked quite a ways to the Louvre, and spent the morning walking around that area. The Louvre was closed, so no visits there (yet). We spent a little time in Jardin Des Tuileries. It was a cool, but very pretty day and it was nice to sit in the sunhine.



We also wandered around the banks of the Seine River.


I had won through Menu for Hope a Wine Tasting/Cheese lunch at O Chateau. When we arrived, we found out there were supposed to be at least 12 people, but there was only us and one other couple. There are some protests going on here, and many people can get caught up in the transportion problems. Our class was led by a very nice gentleman whose name I don't remember. He has a varied background-wine merchant, wine maker, and I don't remember what else. He was very knowledgeable, and as we tasted, discussed the wines from various regions. I didn't know much about French wine, but I feel very comfortable now being able to go into a wine shop and pick out a French wine. If you are looking for a good wine class in Paris, I would recommend this one.

We walked around a little more, then it was a walk back to our apartment. We were too tired to think about going out to dinner, so we went to the small store across the street from us, and got some provisions. I cooked a stir-fry of potatoes, onion, red pepper, and zucchini and poached eggs on top. We also got a baguette from the neighborhood bakery, and enjoyed it with a bottle of Alsace Reissling.

10-13-10 Paris - Arc de Triomphe and Eiffel Tower

On the 13th, we had one reservation. That was for the Eiffel Tower. Our reservations were scheduled for 6pm. We started out the day going to the Arc de Triomphe. It was much largert than I anticipated. We were planning on going up to the top, which meant walking 284 steps to the top. I have to say I wasn't looking forward to that, but it didn't matter-the inside was closed. There have been strikes this week. The people of Paris have been demonstrating against the government trying to raise the age for retirement. They're trying to raise it to 62, I believe from the current age of 60. During the strikes, certain rail lines, flights, etc. and some sites have been closed. On this day or the previous day, we never saw the demonstrations even though we heard they wrecked havoc on certain parts of town. So anyway, we enjoyed our views from the bottom, and then headed for a stroll down Champs-Elysees.


The Champs-Elysee, which is still very nice, evidently isn't quite what it used to be. A lot of chain stores of lesser quality (or price, really) have come in. There's a McDonalds, a Swatch Watch sore, and I can't remember what other stores that suprised me. We stopped for lunch at a little bar on a side street off Champs-Elysee. Scott had a Croque Monsier (basically, a really good grilled ham and cheese sandwich), I had a Croque Madame (like a Croque Monsier with an egg on top), and we each had a glass of Sancerre white wine. The wine tasting class the day before came in handy, as I now recognized the wine list easier. Sorry, but you're not going to get too many photos of our food in Paris. For some reason, I feel uncomfortable here pulling out my camera to take photos of the food.

Next, we decided to head over to the Eiffel Tower. We knew our reservations weren't until 6pm, but we really were expecting the tower to be closed due to the strike. It was closed the day before, and with the Arc de Trimphe being closed, ...but when we got there we saw the lines of people and the elevators going to the top. So we took some photos, then walked around the neighborhood. We were quite tired, as we had been walking a lot this day, so we sat down at a corner bar for a glass of wine and to rest our feet. The waiter as a little short at the first, but then ended up being nice. We didn't have our camera out, but he came over and asked if we wanted our picutre taken. No escaping looking like tourists. We handed the camera over, and here's the photo we got:


He had turned the camera the wrong way and had it pointed at himself! So he took another. Here it is-it isn't a good photo of me at all, as it looks as if my eyes are closed.


We managed wasting away the time until our 6pm entry. If you visit the Eiffel Tower, be sure and make reservations in advance online. We had to wait in line for only about 5 minutes before going inside. The reservations are made in 30 minute increments, so for the 6:00 you can enter anytime between 6:00 and 6:30. We rode the elevator to the 2nd level, and were amazed at how enormous the tower is. The views from here were unending. You realize from this vantage point how large Paris really is. I made a mistake when I purchased the tickets online of only buying to the 2nd level, and not all of the way to the top. I sent an e-mail to them immediately after I purchased, and they said no worries, we could buy a supplement ticket to get to the next level. Well, that didn't happen. I don't know if it was because of the strike and fewer workers, but the ticket booth on the 2nd level was closed, and the area where the self-service ticket machines were was locked. Scott was very disappointed he wasn't able to go to the very top, but I didn't care. The views are better from the 2nd level because you're a little closer and can identify buildings and areas from here, but more than that, it was freezing up there! I can't imagine how cold it would have felt at the top. I was very happy to have my gloves with me. But with was still so cold, we decided not to wait around until it got dark. Our plans had been to book for 6:00, enjoy the views on the 1st and 2nd level, visit the top, and by that time it would begin getting dark and we could enjoy the views of the city in the dark. But comfort won out, and we had a cold walk back to the Metro station instead.





For dinner that night, we went to a small neighborhood bar right across from where we're staying, called Le Bistro. I had Bavette a l"echaolte, frites maison, salade. This was a thin beef steak with an onion sauce, french fries, and a salad. Although the meat wasn't very tender, it wasn't too tough and the flavor was really good, so I enjoyed mine. Scott had Faux filet, sauce au bleu d'Auvergne, pommes de terre sautees, poelee de legumes. His was a different cut of beef than mine, and was very tough. He didn't enjoy it. His came with a nice sauce, wonderful sauteed potatoes, and some vegetables.I don't remember the price, but it was in the range of 38 euros with 2 glasses of wine. And no food photos today.

October 19, 2010

10-14-10 Paris - Marche de la Bastille Market, Pastry/Chocolate Tour, and Notre Dame

I'm back home in Alaska now, and trying to finish posting about our last days in Paris. I've learned that if you get behind, it's hard to remember the specifics, so hopefully I can remember enough to make this post interesting.

I wanted to go to an outdoor market while in Paris. I found a listing of some markets, and there was one being held on Thursday-Marche de la Bastille. It was a large, fun market to go to. There was a large variety of things being sold. You had your typical market stalls selling clothing, household goods, etc. There were also wonderful fruit & vegetable stands, meat stands, fish markets, cheese, etc.


One thing that I was so amazed by was the care in the way the vendors set up their produce. The visual appeal of the display really makes you want to buy their goods.



There was also a crepe stand set up at the market. Scott had a crepe filled with a caramel, and I had a savory filled with goat cheese, tomatoes, and a few other things I can't remember.


That afternoon, we had made reservations to do a Chocolate/Pastry Tour through Meet the Parisians. The tour was 3 hours long, and only ended up being me and Scott. We were led through a variety of stores, almost all high-end. Some of these I might have been a little intimidated at going into on my own, so this was a perfect introduction to them. The tour is in the St. Germain-des-Pres district. We started at La Maison de Chocolate, where we each got to choose 2 chocolates and split a chocolate eclair. Great way to start off the tour. We next went to Poilane Boulangerie.



Beautiful breads, but a very small store. Actually, that was the case with many of these. I was also hoping to see some of the chocolates or breads being made, but I think all of the locations we went to were just store fronts, and the products were made elsewhere. After Poilane, we visited Patrick Roger Boutique. He is described as a sculptor of flavours, and had some wonderful chocolates. We purchased a box of these to bring home. Also some of his wonderful caramels, some of the flavors of which are chocolate, lime, cassis, and salted butter. This photo doesn't do the shop justice, but it was a very streamlined shop.


We next visited Gerard Mulot.This was a store that carried a huge selection of things. We were too full to taste anything, but I did bring home some delicious fruit gelees. Not only did they carry beautiful pastries, but also savories that looked like they were too good to eat.



The list of stores we visited continues to grow. We next went to Pierre Marcolini. This is a Belgium chocolate maker. Again, wonderful chocolates, and we had to bring home a box of these also. We stopped in a store that had just opened in Paris next- Weiss. I thought their store was beautiful-done in a light lavender and I think a brown. Last, we went to Pierre Herme. Here we got to choose a macaroon to try. I had the cassis chocolate and Scott had the creme brulee, and we now know why many think his macaroons are the best in Paris.

In between our visits to the shops, our guide also told us about the neighborhood and also took us through a beautiful cathedral. It was a tour I would recommend to anyone.

After our tour, we decided to visit Notre Dame. I really didn't know what to expect, and was overwhelmed. I had no idea this church was so large. And the stained glass windows were exquisite.



That evening, we ate at a neighborhood brassiere. I forgot the name, but the food was excellent. My photos didn't turn out well, so I'm going to bother to show them. I started out with escargot with a pesto sauce, and Scott started with fried calamari. My main was scallops served with some type of a cream sauce and rice. I wanted to lick the plate clean. Scott had duck breast, a nice sauce, and frites.

One other thing I forgot to mention we saw today-demonstrations. You've probably seen it on the news by now, but France is trying to raise the retirement age from 60 to 62, and people are demonstrating and striking. The day we passed one of the demonstrations, it was a much smaller group of students. I'm glad we left when we did though-the demonstrations are turning more violent and the stikes are beginning to affect flights more.


October 20, 2010

10-15-10 Paris - Rue Montorgueil and the Louvre


I'm finishing my blogging about our trip by writing today about our last day in Paris. I have followed the blog of David Lebovitz for quite some time, and enjoy his humor and knowledge. He did a writeup on an area called Rue Montorgueil that sounded very intriguing to me, so that's what we went last Friday.

This street is mainly closed to vehicles(delivery vehicles are allowed), so it's a pleasant place to walk. This street and surrounding streets are filled with great food shops, kitchenware stores, bakeries, cheese shops, etc.




I first visited G Detou, a baking supply store. Not only do they have a huge supply of baking items, but they also carry a lot of other French specialty foods. I visited the shop twice that day, and my poor husband decided he best wait for me outside. I came away with a huge haul from this store - two different types of Dijon mustards, Cassis gelee, Candied Rose Petal Confit, Eggplant confiture, Fois Gras, Mousse as Foie de Canard, Vanilla Beans, wonderul boules for decorating cakes/cookies-silver, rose, and violette, candied violets, colored sugars in red, green, silver, and while, a 1000g box of candied orange peel, and a 6 lb bag of Valhrona 61% extra-bitter chocolate. Can you see why I brought empty suitcases with me? I also visited MOra, a pastry supply store, but didn't buy anything there. I bought some treats for a friend at A la Mere de Famille, which is the oldest confectionery shop in Paris (by the way, their packaging was all in orange for Halloween, the only place I saw this). We purchased a variety of cheese for dinner that evening, and some financiers at Kayser bakery.

Then it was time for lunch. After reading David's description of the fried potatoes and duck confit at Bistrot des Petits Carreaux, I just had to eat there. The people there were very nice, the servings huge, and the prices very fair. On top of this, the food was fabulous. Scott had Beef Bourginon, and he thought it was one of the best things he ate on our entire vacation.


I had the Duck Confit with those fabulous fried potatoes. I came close to finishing my entire plate of food, and felt I could hardly move to leave the restaurant.


Because of all of the purchases I made, we had to return to our apartment to drop off the goods.


Then back to the Metro to head to the Louvre.


One suggestion I would make-visit the Louvre in the morning when you're not tired. It is huge, and no way will you see it all, but even choosing only certain areas to see, it's still very tiring.
We started off by seeing the Mona LIsa.


Then it was the Winged Victory of Samothrace.


Next was the Venus de Milo.


After looking at other areas we were interested in, we finished in the Egyptian area. I wish I hadn't been so tired, because this area was fascinating.


We had a wonderful time in Paris, and I think we'll most likely be visiting again. Hopefully this time for at least 2 weeks so we can enjoy more the city has to offer.

April 10, 2012

Paris 4-10-12

Scott and I arrived in Paris yesterday morning. We were both very jet-lagged. Scott slept just a little on the plane, and I didn't sleep any. We met the owner of the apartment where we're staying, then walked around for a couple of hours. Then we were back at the apartment, napping off and on (against my better judgement, but just couldn't help it.)

Last night, I slept well, but only for about 3 1/2 hours. I felt good most of the day, but late afternoon and it was time for a long nap. I hope I sleep longer tonight.

We walked around the 10th district quite some time today. This is where we're staying. It's not a touristy area. But I like that about it. We started off the day by going to a bakery that is listed on David Lebovitz's ParisPastry App. The name of the bakery is Du Pain et des Idees, and it happens to be very close to our apartment. I think we will be visiting every day. I had a croissant, which I think is the best one I've ever had. Scott had a pain du chocolat, with the addition of bananas. We also bought a 1/4 of a sourdough bread.


After breakfast we walked for quite a while around the neighborhood, looking at all of the restaurants around. French, and every ethnicity you could want. We then went to the Saint Quentin Market. This is a nice indoor market with lots of vendors - cheese, vegetable/fruit, meat, fish, roasted chickens, etc. We bought from 3. The first, which I didn't take photos of, was the cheese vendor. We bought 3 cheeses-a 3 year aged Comte, a fresh chevre, and something that was soft and oozing and looked really good, but we both hated. Too stinky for us! At one of the vegetable/fruit vendors, we bought things for lunch and dinner - lettuce and tomatoes for a salad for lunch and vegetables to cook for dinner. And a beautiful basket of strawberries grown here in France (they look better than they taste unfortunately). The we went to the fish monger, where we bought a trout for me to cook for dinner.

We stopped by the bakery for a baguette, and lunch was cheese, bread and fruit. Suprisingly, we skipped the wine at this meal.

After lunch, we were planning on taking the metro someplace, but that's when the jet-lag hit us again and we napped off and on the rest of the afternoon.

For dinner, I decided to use our tiny kitchen. I'll post photos of it later, but let me tell you, it is small. Only one person at a time can fit in there, and there's almost no counter space to work on. But it is very well stocked. At the market, I bought a trout I thought I would roast for dinner. Only later did I discover we have a 4 burner stove, a microwave, and even a dishwasher, but no oven. So I had to cook it in a skillet, which worked just fine.

Here's a photo of our dinner.

I fixed fried potatoes with fennel and leeks.

And a pan-fried trout with caper-butter sauce.

And then we had a salad. It's easy to make a nice balsamic vinegar dressing with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and Dijon mustard. And I used leftover bread to make some croutonss.

We finished off the evening with a couple of delicious very large butter cookies that Scott bought at the bakery across the street. (We discovered if you wait until 7:30pm, most of the pastries are gone.)

Tomorrow we'll start off our day with a pastry from the same bakery as this morning, then i think we might visit the Louvre. I should be posting on my blog almost daily, so follow along if you'd like.

April 11, 2012

Paris 4-11-12

Today was a beautiful day! There was supposed to be a 90% chance of rain, and shortly after we got up the skies turned blue. It was very chilly though. I'm very glad I brought all of the sweaters I did, although I'm not sure it was enough.

We were planning on going to the Louvre today, but when the weather turned out nice we decided to spend it outside instead. We didn't take the metro any today, which meant a lot of walking. My legs and feet are feeling it tonight.

We started off with a breakfast of yogurt and granola in our apartment. We knew we'd be having pastries today, so we decided to skip them this morning. I forgot to mention yesterday the fantastic butter I bought at the market yesterday. I thought I'd never use that much while here, and I think it's already about half gone, after the dinner I cooked last night.

We walked to the island where Notre Dame is. We approached from the backside and were rewarded by beautiful flowering trees. Just gorgeous!


We went inside and listened to a choir sing a few songs. The stained glass windows and architecture are amazing.

The rest of the day was spent just wondering around. We walked up and down the narrow streets on Ile St Louis and around Ile De Le Cite. We stopped for lunch at a bistro on Boulevard St Martin, whose name I don't remember. We got there about 12:15 or 12:30, and it was pretty empty. But by 12:45, the place was packed, with lots of locals you could tell. I didn't hear anyone else speaking English. Luckily our server could speak English, so she could translate the menu. We had the Plat du Jour. When you first sit down, they bring you a complimentary glass of rose wine. I had a starter of sardines with a little salad. I hadn't had sardines in years, and they were really good. Spread the butter that sat alongside on the good bread and top with some sardine. Scott started with quiche. My main dish was some type of fish served with beans (like thin green beans, but yellow). The fish was a very mild white fish, the beans were way too salty. Scott had the beef that had a cream sauce of some sort and was served with fried potatoes. His beef was chewy, which in our limited experience is pretty normal here. We're not sure if we paid for dessert, as I think it was part of our courses, but we were too full to even see. It was interesting to see this place so packed with what appeared to be regulars, as we didn't think the food was very good. Okay, but not very good. I didn't take any photos.

We made it back to the apartment in the afternoon, and again, succumbed to a nap. We haven't had dinner yet, but as we're tired and don't want to go out, I'm just going to make a salad and serve that along with a fougasse bread we bought and some cheese we have left from yesterday. And for dessert, strawberries, and Pistachio/Chocoate and Citron Escargot.

April 12, 2012

Paris 4-12-2012

Today was another beautiful day in Paris. The forecast was calling for rain after 4pm, but luckily, we never saw that happen.

We decided to visit the Eiffel Tower.

On our last visit, we went up to the 2nd level. Scott would still like to go to the very top. We didn't have reservations today, and as we were afraid, the lines were really long. We decided to just enjoy the view from the bottom rather than waste hours standing in line. It was nice to have more time to spend walking around the tower, looking at it from different angles.


After viewing the tower for a while, we decided to walk to a cafe and have a glass of wine.


The sun was shining most of the time. When behind a cloud, it was very chilly. We enjoyed a bottle of Sancerre, then decided to stay for lunch. Scott had a roasted chicken with french fries, and I had a salad with fois gras and roasted duck breast. Both were very good. I feel like when I'm in Paris, I can splurge on fois gras.


After a long lunch, we walked over to rue cler. This is a road that is closed to traffic, which makes for pleasant wandering. We stopped in at La Mere de Famille. This is a sweets shop that's been in the neighborhood for 30 years. We sampled chocolate and purchased a little nougat to share. Before leaving the area, we stopped in at Fromagerie and bought 3 new cheeses to try. On the metro ride back to our apartment, we were sitting across from a man who looked like he hadn't bathed in weeks. A kept getting a whiff of an unsavory smell, and I wondered if it was him or the cheeses we bought. Upon taking the cheeses out of the sack when we got back to our apartment, I discovered it was the cheeses. I can't get used to all of the stinky cheeses here. Hopefully we'll like these more than one of the previous ones we bought, which all it took was one bite each before going in the trash.

For dinner, we had made reservations at Paul Bert. This is a bistro that I had read a lot of good things about. There were 4 of us for dinner. Two of our good friends, who have lived in Anchorage until they moved to Oslo, Norway a year ago, were in town also. We decided to have the menu for 35 euros each. That allowed you to choose one entree(starter), one plat(main) and either cheese or dessert. I didn't write down the French names of anything we had, but most I can describe. I started off with a cuttlefish salad. It was delicious.


My friend had the asparagus salad. The asparagus is hard to see in this photo because it is white. I've seen it in the market here, and it is the fattest white asparagus I've ever seen. I tasted her salad and really enjoyed it, so I might have to purchase some to cook after all. The salad had a light vinegrette, shaved parmesan cheese, and minced hard boiled egg.


The two husbands had a salad that I don't remember what is was called. It had lettuce, thinly sliced beets, and a poached egg. The colors were very pretty.


I forgot to take photos of our main courses. I had sole. A whole thin fish that was served with a simple butter sauce. And potatoes on the side. My friend and Scott had a beef dish that was topped with sauteed onions. They thought this dish was just okay. The beef wasn't very flavorful except for the onions on top. The other husband had steak tartare, which I had read is one of Paul Bert's specialties. I had a bite and it was delicious. It was served with frites. We were full at this point, but had to have dessert. My friend ordered the chocolate macaroon. It was large, and very deep chocolate. Almost too much. That rich of chocolate should only be eaten in small quantities.


Her husband had the Gran Marnier souffle. It was very tasty, with a very strong Gran Marnier flavor.


Scott and I each had what I had read about as one of their best desserts. It's called Paris Brest. It's a choux pastry ring that is filled iwth a hazlenut praline cream. It was delicious. The cream was so smooth, rich and decadent.

Dinner was enjoyable, but I'm deciding that French food is just too rich for me. I was miserable after we left the restaurant. I thought I made healthier choices with the fish I chose, but when there's a stick of butter on top any of the healthiness is negated. I think I'll have to be even more careful about what I order in the future. I am finding I'm liking the starters much more than the main dishes here, so I think I'll have to find out if it's acceptable to order 2 starters instead of a starter and a main. And I think sharing dessert will have to happen more often.

April 13, 2012

Paris 4-13-2012

This is how I started my day today. A wonderful Chausson Pommes from my favorite neighborhood bakery, Du Pain et des Idees.


Today was a busy day. We left the apartment in the morning and didn't return until after 11pm. That's the first day we haven't returned to the apartment for a break sometime during the day. And my legs definately felt all of the walking I did.

We had a wine/cheese tasting scheduled for 12:30. We headed out early to find the location, and then just walked around the Seine river for a while. It was another beautiful day.


Along the way, we passed one of the bridges that is covered in love padlocks. There are many places around the world where these exist, and multiple stories about how they got started and what they mean. But here, mostly couples have a padlock engraved with their names, sayings, etc. They attach the padlock to the fence then throw the key into the water below.


We did our wine tasting at O Chateau. This was a wine and cheese lunch tasting. Scott and I did the same tasting here in 2010, and enjoyed it so much that we suggested to some friends of ours that are here in Paris to join us again. I enjoyed it even more this time than last. We tasted 5 different wines, and had 5 different cheeses, along with some meats and bread. The sommier that led this comes from a 8 generation family of Champagne makers. He was very informative and I learned a lot that will help me in choosing French wines. We tasted a Champagne, a Sancerre from Loire, a Cote Chalonnaise from Bourgogne, a St Emillion Grand Cru from Bordeaux, and a Cotes du Rhone from Rhone. The cheeses were tried were a Cantal, Comte, Sainte Maure de Touraine, Camembert de Normandie, and a Saint Felicien. They were all very good and none too stong for my taste.


This is me and my friend Markayla. She's from Alaska but she and her family moved to Oslo, Norway a year ago. It was great to spend a couple of days with her and her family.


These are the cheeses we ate.

After the wine tasting, we went back to the apartment where our friends were staying, along with my friend's mother in law. The men rested up a while and we women went to a gallery to view an art exhibit. Afterwards we walked to Galeries Lafayette so they could show me the beautiful domed ceiling. I think I might have to make a return trip here and do a little shopping.


We went to dinner with our friends, along with our friend Jean's brother and his wife. They've lived in Paris the last 5 years, but will be soon moving back to Canada. They made reservations at Restaurant Le J'Go. We had a great evening with lots of good food and wine. I got to taste several new foods that I'd not had before. We all started with a first course. I had Poelees d'asperges vertes. It was green asparagus with pan-fried bacon. The lighting was very yellow in the restaurant, and my photos turned out terrible, so unfortunately, you won't be seeing photos of much. Jean had the Boudin de porc noir with sauce moutarde. He gave me a taste, and this was the first time I had tasted Boudin sausage, a sausage made of pork blood and pieces of fat. I was amazed that I liked it. Scott had a gaspacho of asparagus. I didn't take photos of the main dishes. Scott had roasted duck breast in orange sauce. Very tasty. I ordered a second starter instead of an entree. I had the Croustillants de pied de porc. I didn't know what this was other than pork feet. It was a fried patty of the feet along with a salad of lettuce, with chopped eggs and capers. Very different texture. Very gelatinous. But it tasted very good.


We all had dessert. I had a granita of strawberries. Very light and refreshing. The others had orange soup, a compote of apples and pears, or a Moelleux au chocolate. I won't show photos here, because they just are not good photos.

It was a very enjoyable day in Paris, with good friends, good weather, and good food & wine.

April 15, 2012

Paris 4-15-2012

As you may have noticed, I didn't blog yesterday. I was feeling a little under the weather. I think I might have just been overly tired, but I napped some during the day. Finally I thought we better get out to see a little, and we walked to Canal St. Martin. This area isn't far from us, and is supposed to be an up and coming area. We also went to the market down the street again to stock up on vegetables and stopped for a baguette. Lunch and dinner were both at our apartment. Lunch was cheese, bread, and fruit. For dinner, we had a large green salad, and a mixture of sausage, potatoes, peppers, leek, and fennel that I cooked in a big skillet on the stovetop.

I'm stuggling this trip with my feet really hurting me. I'm hoping that I won't end up needing foot surgery again. It worries me a little that at my age I'm having trouble with my feet, ankles, knees and hips. I know a lot of it is that I'm not used to walking on hard surfaces, but stil....

Today had a lower percentage chance of rain. It never rained on us, but boy, it was cold. And windy. We decided to walk on the Left Bank. We started out on the Pont des Arts bridge. As we were walking, there was a pretty park with flowers in bloom.


We next came to the Institut de France. We walked around this, and ended up on rue de Seine. This area is filled with lots of galleries, and we enjoyed the slower pace, stopping to look in windows at the various pieces of art.


We walked for a while down Bvd St. Germain.


We passed several bath and kitchen stores. In one, I fell in love with the bathtub in this photo below.


I wanted to go to Patrick Roger chocolates. We had visited their 2 years ago and I really enjoyed their chocolate. I wanted to buy another box to bring home.


He always does unique windows, and I loved this one.


Next we visited Luxembourg Gardens. It was beautiful here, and it would have been so enjoyable to sit in a chair and relax, were it not for the extremely cold wind.





I was really happy to see the flowers in bloom.

As we were walking back, we passed this parasol shop. I doubt there are too many of these shops in existance any longer.



I'm so sleepy now I can hardly keep my eyes open. I'm not sure what we're doing tomorrow, so tune in for a blog tomorrow night.

April 16, 2012

Paris 4-16-2012

Today we went to the Montmartre area of Paris. We chose to burn a few more calories and walk up the hill to Sacre-Coeur Basilica rather than take the funicular. At the base, here is the view of Sacre-Coeur.


When you're at the top, you are at Paris's highest point at 420 feet. Here is a photo of the city below.


The church looks very old, but it isn't. It was built between 1875 and 1919. There are 5 domes on the basilica, and because the exterior is laced with gypsum, it whitens with age. We went inside. The interior is full of very colorful mosaics. I can't show you photos, as you are prohibited to take any.

We next went to the Church of St. Pierre-de-Montmartre. This is one of Paris's oldest churches, dating from 1147. The photos below show the outside of the church, then the interior.



I had read that Montmartre area is very crowded, but I wasn't prepared for the crowds in the main part of town. Too touristy for me. We walked around and enjoyed some of the more residential streets which were very quiet.


We decided to have lunch at a restaurant that was just off the busy square, but on a quiet street. The name of the restaurant was Butte en Vigne. We didn't eat until 1:00, but we were the only ones there until almost 2pm, when 2 more groups came in. It appeared that most visitors were sitting at the cafes just having drinks and eating crepes or sandwiches on the street. We welcomed the idea of sitting down to a quiet relaxing lunch. I started off with a country terrine and Scott started with the salade de chevre chaud. We were both very pleased with our choices.



We both had the boeuf bourguignon for our plat. Although not the best I've had, it was good.


We shared a pichet of Cotes du Rhone wine. For dessert, I had a type of apple cake and Scott had a chocolate cake. Again, not the best I've ever had, but it did taste good. It was a nice relaxing lunch and we were able to rest and warm up a little. It's been cold today with a very brisk wind.

As we were walking downhill, I stopped at an adorable store called Sabre. They carried bright fun plates, cups, and utensils. I bought 2 espresso cups and small spoons. I'll have to wait until I unwrap them to show you photos.

At the bottom of the hill, we viewed the Moulin Rouge.


After this, we walked to a candy store that I had read about (and watched a video of) on David Lebovitz's blog. It's called A l'Etoile d'Or. It's owned by Denise Acabo, who told us she's had it for 40 years. She carries candies from all over France. I bought some Bernachon chocolates, which come from outside of Lyon. Bars filled with salted caramel and a type of orange filling. Also some caramels from Henri LeRoux, some prune-stuffed prunes, flavored marshmallows (chocolate, citron, and bergamot), as well as assorted other treats. Below are photos of the storefront, inside the store, and a photo of me and Denise.




We came back to the apartment (after making a stop at our favorite bakery for more bread) and are doing some laundry before our trip to Brugge, Belgium tomorrow. We're planning on going to the Eiffel Tower tonight to see the lights. I'll post those photos later. I'm not taking my laptop to Brugge with us, so I'll post about that trip when we get back (we're only gone for 2 days). Au revoir!

April 19, 2012

Paris 4-19-2012

Today, we really wanted to sleep in a little, but unfortunately, that didn't happen. Although our bed is comfortable in our apartment and it's quiet enough at night, neither one of us is sleeping well. Besides waking up a lot throughout the night, by 5 or 6am, we can no longer lay in bed. You'd think that would mean we would get an early start, but that's not been the case. It is nice to be able to lounge around in the mornings. Today I caught up on my blogging from Belgium. I'm surprised that I'm caught up with blogging, because it takes me a long time to sort through my photos, name, resize, and write up the posts and I'm really having to push myself to keep up with it.

Today we decided to go to Marche de la Bastille. This is a market that we went to last time we were here, and we really enjoyed it. We hadn't planned on going, and when we were deciding what to do today, I was surprised to see the market was being held today. We took the metro over and wondered around for a while. I bought a sweater for 10 euros, which I'm looking forward to wearing as I'm getting tired of wearing my same black sweaters (I thought I brought enough warm clothing, but that wasn't the case.) We shared some type of meditteranian flatbread thing, and each had a caramel crepe (Scott's had bananas also). I would have liked to have a marathon cooking day and really had to hold myself back from purchasing a large variety of fish, vegetables, and fruits. It all looked so good. Here's some photos from the market.






After the market, we took the metro over to Rue Montorgueil. This is a street that is pedestrian only, and has really good shops and restaurants. We decided to eat at Bistrot des Petits Carreaux. I had read about this place on David Lebovitz's blog, and during our last visit here I had to try their duck confit. Today, that's what Scott ordered. He really enjoyed it along with a bottle of red wine. I couldn't believe he didn't finish all of those delicous potatoes.


I had the Beef Tartare. I couldn't even get Scott to taste this. He thought the raw beef was too much, but the raw egg on top about sent him over the edge. I thought it was very good. But it would have been more appealing in the beef were chopped by hand instead of looking like it had just come out of the meat grinder. I think I've only had steak tartare one other time in my life. I remember being on a business trip in Chicago, and a vendor taking me out to this fancy restaurant in a very old hotel. I was in my early twenties, so it made quite the impression on me.


Scott had creme brulee for dessert and I had a cafe with 3 small desserts-apple tatin, a gooey chocolate cake, and a macaroon (thank goodness each was just a few bites).

Doesn't Scott look happy after this meal?


And me.


Right around the corner is one of my favorite stores, G Detou. This store carries lots of different food items, including 6 lb bags of Valhrona chocolate. I walked out of the store purchasing a lot less than I thought I would. Here's my purchases.


I bought another of the 6 lb bags of chocolate (I bought one last time we were here), candied orange peel and citron peel (great for coating in chocolate or using in pannetone), and several types of mustards and jams.

I took a photo of all of my purchases I've made so far. I decided to get an early start on things and go ahead and wrap them up (I always bring bubble wrap and packing tape with me, along with large zip lock bags).


Let's see what I've purchased so far. I just listed what I bought today, then there's all of that chocolate from Brugge (LOTS!), from a Provence store I bought an olive-wood spoon, some raspberry vinegar, mandarine olive oil and orange/olive chutney, my purchases from Denise Acabo's candy shop, which included marshmallows, chocolate, prune stuffed prunes, Sauternes-soaked chocolate covered raisins, caramels, and several hard candies, a nice box of chocolates and caramels from Patrick Roger, and 2 espresso cups and little spoons. And while I wasn't planning on bringing any wine home, I do have 2 bottles of champagne packed up to bring home. Well, my purchases aren't so much, maybe I should do some more shopping! (But no more chocolate, as I think I've got enough to last years.)

We were planning on going to the Eiffel Tower tonight to see it lit up. But we were too tired to go. I think on the night we're planning on going, we shouldn't open a bottle of wine until after we get back. After some bread, cheese, and wine, we feel a little sluggish and we just can't seem to push ourselves out the door. We've got 5 more nights left to see it though.

We haven't been to any museums yet, and I think we'll start that beginning tomorrow. I've got to look and decide what days will be best to use the Museum Pass on, and how many days we want to buy. Then tomorrow night we're meeting another couple for dinner. The female is someone that grew up in Scott's hometown of Henryetta, Oklahoma. He hasn't seen her since around 3rd grade. She and her husband have been in France on a vacation, and we're having dinner before they fly out the next day.

April 23, 2012

Paris 4-20-2012

Today we started our day by going to Sainte-Chapelle. If you're not familiar with Sainte-Chapelle, it's a beautiful cathedral with amazing stained glass windows. It was built in 1248 for King Louis IX. There are 15 panels of stained glass, each who's scene tells a different story. The lines are long to get into this cathedral, even if you have a museum pass. It doesn't take very long to go through the cathedral either, but it is well worth the wait you may have.




After leaving Sainte Chapelle, we went to the Conciergerie next door. This was a prison where 2780 victims were guillontined, including Marie-Antoinette. When you first walk into the building, you are in the massive Hall of Men-at Arms. I thought the architecture was amazing.


Inside this reoom are 4 huge fireplaces. I stood inside one of them so you could see how large they are.


After this, we went to Les Invalides church. Here, we toured the military museums and saw the tomb of Napleon.


I don't particularly care for military museums, but this one was very interesting. My favorite parts were the displays of armour. It was amazing. I have no idea where they could have found that much armour.





Napoleon's Tomb was quite elaborate. His tomb lies under a golden dome.




I tend to get very tired in museums, as all of the standing is very difficult on my back. And even though that was the case today, we saw some wonderful places that I really enjoyed.

April 29, 2012

Paris 4-21-2-12

I'm back home now and trying to catch up on my blog. When you're on vacation for almost 3 weeks, seeing lots of new sights, you tend to forget a lot of what you did and saw. That's why it's important for me to finish blogging about our trip, to help me remember. But since I didn't do this part while I was there, I've already forgotten a lot. So I'll do my best to remember what we saw and did, but you might find some of the upcoming blog posts a little less informative than in the past.

Today, we went to the Musee d'Orsay in the morning. This museum is housed in an old railway station. It's a beautiful building and it adds a lot to the experience of this museum. Photos are not allowed to be taken in this museum, so unfortunately, I'll not be able to show you any of what we saw. This museum has great collections of Impressionist works. Let's just say I got to see some really special works from Manet, Monet, Renoir, Degas, Van Gough, and Cezanne.

After we left this museum, we walked through the Tuileries Garden on our way to the Orangerie museum. Here's a photo of the carousel that's in the garden.


We then went through the Orangerie Museum, where I was extremely moved by the sight of Monet's Water Lilies. The paintings are stunning in the setting where they're located. I feel very blessed to have seen them.

After here, we decided we'd go walk up the Champs-Elysees. It was very crowded. We continued walking until we got to the Arc de Triomphe. Scott really wanted to walk the stairs to the top so we could look out onto the city. I was tired and really not feeling like it, but I did it anyway and it wasn't such a bad climb (234 steps), and the views were outstanding. You can see that the threat of rain was very much on our minds that day.







And here is all of those stairs.


Paris 4-22-2012

Today was a busy day. We took the train to Versailles. We got a later start than we planned, and it was sure crowded when we got there. We had our museum passes, which allow us not to have to stand in line to purchase tickets. There was a huge line out front, and unfortunately, that was the line you had to wait in to go inside, even those with The Museum Pass. Luckily, the line moved rather quickly.

Here is a picture of Scott and me in front of the Chateau.


We visited the main palace first. It was so crowded, and while beautiful, I didn't enjoy it as much as I thought I would. I've seen a lot of beautiful palaces in Italy, but I think the main thing for me is that at this point in our trip, I was just tired of crowds. Pushy, unkind people trying to get a better view and not caring if they pushed you out of the way to get it. So we went through the Chateau rather quickly. Here's a couple of photos. It was posted that photos were not allowed, but there were guards all around and they never kept one person from taking them, so I decided it was okay.




We were tired after viewing the Chateau, and we were hungry, as it was now lunch time. We decided to have lunch at Angelina, a restaurant right in the Versailles Chateau.


I had a salad with Fois Gras. It was good. Scott had the quiche, which was over-cooked and way too expensive for the quantity he got, but oh well. We each had a nice glass of wine, we were sitting down, and we were away from the mobs of people for a while.


We had to splurge on dessert, and I'm very glad we did as they were excellent. Scott's was a coffe and milk chocolate tart which was luscious!


MIne was a chocolate and raspberry tart which was also very good, but very rich.


After lunch, we decided to visit the gardens. You have to pay an additional 8 euros to get in, as the museum pass doesn't include them. It was very well worth it. The gardens are so vast. I'm not sure how many acres they were, but they seemed to go on and on. I never saw one gardener, and I'm not sure how they can keep everything so groomed. There were some beautiful flowers in bloom, and the fountains and music were playing while we were there.






We next walked to the Domaine de Marie-Antoinette. Here's a few photos of where she spent her time and the gardens there.




Some sheep from the farm. I love sheep and goats!



That evening, even though we were tired and it was threatening to rain, we finally got around to going to see the Eiffel Tower lite up at night. It was the highlight of my trip, even though it absolutely poured down on us while we were waiting for the flashing lights to start.




The flashing lights go off for 5 minutes on the top of the hour after it gets dark out. Here's a link to the video Scott took of them.!/photo.php?v=3753859402684&set=vb.1162403786&type=2&theater

May 6, 2012

Paris 4-23-2012

Michelangelo's Dying Slave

Today was our second to last day in Paris. We decided to go to the Louvre in the morning. We came across an entrance to the Louvre where our Museum Pass got us right in the door without waiting in any lines. I was so glad to have that Museum Pass, because when you got past that entrance, throughout the day we saw huge lines of people waiting to get inside. I don't know if April is always a lot busier than October, but last time we were here, although it was crowded, it wasn't nearly as crowded as it was this visit. And unfortunately, we were both at a point in our trip where we were really tired of crowds. So we didn't stay but a couple of hours at the Louvre this trip. I love sculpture, and that was the area where we spent our time this visit.

Michelangelo's Rebellious Slave



After we left the Louvre, Scott really wanted to go to the National Maritime Museum. So we took the Metro over and had a quick visit. If you're interested in maritime, ship models, etc. you would enjoy this museum. That's not my thing, but I did enjoy looking around for a bit. That's an advantage of having the Museum Pass, because you can get into the museums without paying, and you don't feel guilty if you just stop in for a quick look.

Below is a photo of a boat that was built for Napoleon.


This last photo is from the front of a boat, but I don't remember which one. You can see the incredible beauty that these boats had and the detail that went into them.


That evening, I had made reservations for us at Le Verre Vole. This is a wine bar that was just a 5 or 10 minute walk from our apartment. It is in the Canal Saint Martin area, an area that is supposed to be an upcoming and hip neighborhood. I had read that they spoke English there, but only one of the staff that night did, and not very well. You've got to make reservations here. It's a tiny place, and is very busy. I tried to make reservations for 8:30, and was told I could have 8:00 and we had to leave by 10:00. I hadn't heard of anywhere else giving you a time frame like that. (Or at least that's what I thought he said during our phone conversation that was hard to understand. Who knows, maybe he told me I could have a table at 8:00 or 10:00.)

They are a wine shop also, so you could choose a wine from their shelves and pay a 7 euro corkage fee, or they had 6 or 7 choices of wines by the glass. We chose to just order by the glass. I started off with a fish soup, which was a thin flavorful tomato broth with little clams. (Sorry, no photos. For some reason I didn't take any). I had a glass of white wine to accompany my starter. It was a strange color-very golden, but tasted very good. I'm not sure if it was that dark color because it was unfiltered and they only sell natural wines there or what. Scott had some type of a veal dish with a vinegar sauce that was served cold and was very flavorful. For my main, I had a sausage that contained some type of ground meat and swiss chard. They brought you Dijon mustard to put on it. It was good, and there was a huge portion, 2 large meatballs and some delicious potatoes. Scott had a pork dish, but I don't remember what it was. This is why I take the time to blog daily (okay, most days) while on vacation, because otherwise there is just too much forgotten. For dessert I had a very good rice pudding that had a layer of something very tart, which I think was passion fruit. I wish I could remember the name of Scott's. It was a large plate that had unsweetened yogurt on it, then crumbled on top was a chocolate cake. Strange. He did not like it. He scooped the cake part up and ate it, but didn't like the unsweetened tart yogurt. It was a fun evening, and I would like to go back and try other things from their small menu.

Paris 4-24-2012

This was our last day in Paris. I wanted to spend the day just wandering around, enjoying a last view of the sights. One thing I had not done was eaten as many pastries that were listed on the blog Paris Patisseriesas I had wanted. So after starting the day doing a little advance packing, we began on our journey to find Jacques Genin where I planned on having a chocolate eclair. We had trouble finding it. I think we'd be a lot better off sometimes if we used a map and our instinct and skipped the Mapquest directions. By the time we found this chocolate shop and tea salon, it was pouring down rain. It was about lunch time, and we hadn't eaten, but we decided instead of lunch we'd sit down in their beautiful salon, dry out, and enjoy a relaxing afternoon. I ordered a chocolate eclair and Scott ordered a caramel eclair. They were both great, but I enjoyed those couple of bites of Scott's that I managed to get him to give up more than I enjoyed mine.


I also had Scott order a hot chocolate. I couldn't look like a pig, could I? I didn't order an extra cup at first, but can you see how thick this was? It was like melted chocolate with no milk or cream added. And it was very bittersweet, even though it looks quite sweet in the photo. Although we didn't use it, they even bring cubes of sugar to add if you'd like. There was no way he was going to be able to drink it all himself, so luckily I was able to share.


Here are some photos of the beautiful interior of this salon.



We didn't buy any chocolate here to take with us, but we bought some of their delicous caramels. The best were the mango passion fruit. They tasted like pure butter with the burst of fruit. I also had to have a little tin of pate de fruits. The flavors were all amazing, but the pineapple was the best.

After we had our fill of chocolate and the rain almost stopped, we decided to skip the Metro and walk over towards the Seine. It wasn't the best day for walking - very windy and raining off and on, sometimes downpours. But I wasn't going to sit in our apartment on our last day. Scott loves to look at boats, and he saw a spot where he could walk close to the houseboats that were docked along the Seine. I followed his wishes, and we walked along in the cold rain. The wide path we were on gave way to a very narrow path as we rounded a corner. I never saw any signs that said we shouldn't be there, but it did not look like any place we should (or would want) to be. Scott was convinced that if we kept walking, we would be just fine. I really expected to see the French police, not able to speak English, pull up alongside of us on the river with their guns pulled demanding what we were doing. Luckily, that never happened. My other fear was that we would come upon someone whom we didn't want to be close to when we were in such a vulnerable place. Luckily, we only saw the remnants of where people had been, but no actual humans were seen. As you can see in the photos I took later of the ledge we had been walking on, you have a steep wall on your left and a drop-off then the Seine river on your right.

Can you even see that small ledge we were on? It looks quite small, doesn't it?


As I was taking a photo after were were well away from there, I actually saw someone else walking along the ledge. It is a little wider here than in other parts, but maybe we weren't in an area that was as bad as I thought.

After deciding to keep walking, rather than turn around and go back the way we came, we eventually came to an area where we could walk up away from the river. I wasn't sure we could walk there at first since all I was able to see was a busy highway. But there was a path, and we walked up the path then across a bridge to the other side of the Seine. At that point, when I was still feeling a little wobbly-legged from the stress of thinking I was going to be thrown in jail, the weather decided to give us a powerful downpour. Wasn't that a nice way to say welcome back to civilization. We didn't know where we were at, but thought we knew what direction to walk, so we continued along and eventually came to a Metro station where we hopped on a train back to our apartment. An adventurous way to end our trip in Paris.

For dinner, I had made reservations at Les Bougresses, a bistro where we had eaten the previous week and really enjoyed. You can feel very comfortable here when you don't speak French, as at least one of the servers speaks English.

Here's a photo of Scott as he was ready to start his meal.


Scott started with escargot and I started with a salad of melon and cured ham. Delicious.



For his main, Scott had duck in a fig sauce. I had that the first time we were there, and it was very good. I decided to have stuffed vegetables. There was a potato, a red pepper, and zuchinni stuffed with a ground meat and rice mixture. All placed on a delicious meat "gravy". Very very good. I skipped dessert, but Scott had the profiteroles. It was a very nice way to spend our last evening in Paris.



We decided that we wanted to go to the Eiffel Tower for one last view of the sparking tower before we left the next day. As I mentioned in an earlier post, it's just magical.



That's our 2012 trip to Paris. I hope you enjoyed following along. I'm going to write up a blog entry about the apartment we rented, the transportation company we used to and from the airport, and other things like the benefits of a Museum Pass.

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