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Report 890: A Rather Lovely Long Weekend in Paris with Laurie & Daniel
By Daniel from New York City, Fall 2004
Trip Description: Four days in the City of Light filled to the brim with good food and good times.
Destinations: Countries - France; Regions/Cities - Paris
Categories: Hotels/B&Bs; Art Trip; Foodie Trip; Sightseeing; Independent Travel; 2 People
Page 1 of 4: Pharaohs and Food
Looking West from the Terrace of Le Ziryab
Day One - October 21, 2004
Even Slow Travelers need a quick break sometimes. Therefore, when work and grad school pressures were taking me to the brink back in October of 2004, I decided to give myself a four-day breather in the City of Light with my wonderful wife.
The flight to Paris was blissfully uneventful, but delayed due to a connecting flight issue back in New York. I had decided that if we weren't too tired upon arrival at CDG, we would try getting into the city via the RER with a connection to the number one Metro line at the dreaded Chatelet station. For years, we'd simply taken a taxi, but I just wanted to see if it was possible to save a buck somewhere in Paris without too much heartache. Also, since we only had one carryon with wheels each, I figured this might work. It did. There was a bus at CDG which took us to the RER station where we picked up the train that got us to Chatelet. While I agree that Chatelet is huge and somewhat confusing, we didn't have any problems locating the #1 which promptly delivered us to the Tuileries stop.
We arrived at the Intercontinental (now the Westin Paris) on rue de Rivoli at around 11:00am instead of 9:30am due to our flight delay. Not the end of the world, but it meant that by the time we got to the hotel and dealt with a bit of check-in drama (they thought I was gonna settle for a room without the BIG VIEW - isn't that funny?) it was too late for Laurie to have her planned shvitz and massage at the Mosquee de Paris AND for us to be on time for our lunch date with our Paris local friend, Christiane.
It was not, however, too late for us to sneak in a visit to a Chaumet exhibit right around the block from our hotel on Place Vendome. The following was the blurb that appeared in the New York Times (October, 2004):
To celebrate the bicentennial of Napoleon's coronation as emperor, the jeweler Chaumet has put together an exhibition of the jewelry of Napoleon and his wives, and other pieces from that era. The show, "Napoleon in Love," also features the work of Marie-╔tienne Nitot, the founder of Chaumet and the emperor's official jeweler. It offers an opportunity to visit Chaumet's gilded private salons; 12, Place Vend˘me in the First; (33-1) 126.96.36.199. It runs through Dec. 2; admission is free.
Like the blurb suggested, half the fun of this exhibit was the opportunity to visit the "noble floor" of Chaumet. Both the jewels and the interiors of the salons were beautiful.
From there, we got back on the subway and headed to the Quartier Latin for our lunch with Christiane. We walked into the restaurant Le Ziryab (located on top of L'Institut du Monde Arabe) and immediately saw Christiane. Lots of chatter ensued over Champagne. Then we enjoyed a mezze trio of yogurt with olive oil drizzled on top, hummus, and caviar de aubergine (a spread made from using only the inside of the eggplant) which came with fresh pita bread. We ordered a delicious Lebanese red wine called Chateau St. Thomas. Very chewy, tannic and bursting with flavor. Laurie and Christiane had the chicken in a sweet red sauce that came with rice and silky smooth mashed potatoes. I had a lamb and beef kabob type thing that came with the same rice and something else that I can't remember. We all opted to skip dessert as the overly sweet sounding offerings didn't grab us. The food was good, but the service seemed just a hair "scattered", but certainly not terrible.
After lunch, we decided to explore the restaurant's large terrace. The views were panoramic, and I imagined that it must be great to have dinner out there on a nice summer evening. After taking some pics, we all went down to see the "Pharaons" exhibit at the institute. What a joy it was to walk right past the long ticket buyers line and go straight to the entrance (Christiane had thoughtfully picked up tickets earlier at FNAC). We all enjoyed the exhibit which was quite comprehensive. It brought back a lot of great memories for me because I was obsessed with ancient Egypt as a little boy. I still need to get myself to that country someday.
At one point, we all got separated in the crowd, our imaginations taken by the beauty of the historical objects no doubt. I managed to find Laurie, but alas, we lost Christiane. We looked and looked, but our friend was not to be found. Finally, we decided that she was a big girl in her own city and that she would probably make it back home alive without us.
We began making our way to rue Mouffetard which I had been looking forward to exploring, but it was about 5:00pm at this point and Laurie informed me that if she did not get a chance to have a quick nap soon, she'd probably fall asleep face down into her plat during dinner. So we took the train back to the hotel where we unpacked and Laurie grabbed a few zzz's. Oh, and like a good dad, I called Christiane to make sure she'd made it home ok.
Before long, it was time for dinner. We took the very pleasant walk through Place Vendome and along rue de Petits Champs which eventually delivered us to Le Grand Colbert (2, rue Vivienne / 01 42 86 87 88). This restaurant came straight from central casting as what we all envision when we think of a classic brasserie. Really tall ceilings, red velvet curtains, copper lighting fixtures, plenty of space, etc. I had only learned earlier in the day from Christiane that this was the restaurant in the film Something's Gotta Give. Anyway, we had a terrific first dinner in Paris there. We were seated in a black leather banquette next to the window, which was great because we could fully take in the atmosphere of the entire restaurant from this vantage point. We ordered a pleasant St. Esteve blanc as our wine. Laurie started with the cold foie gras with Sauternes gelatin, and I began with a salad of small greens topped with sweet roasted beets and a filo dough "letter" filled with warm goat cheese. We then shared the chateaubriand for two which came with a large bowl of small potatoes mixed with sauteed onions. We took yet another pass on dessert because we were simply too full. To sum it up, all the food was perfectly executed and the service could not have been more attentive.
The evening ended quietly as we slowly walked back to the hotel to get an early night's rest. Big, big day tomorrow.
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