March 5, 2012 2 Comments
It’s finally here–my Paris recap post. I apologize for the delay, but sorting through hundreds of pictures, readjusting to the time zone, growing a baby in my belly, and embarking on some recent house projects (more to come on those later this week) has left me little time to do the proper tribute to the City of Light. So to do it right, and to maintain some level of order in my mommy-to-be brain, I’m going to break this post up into categories: Sights, Eats, School, and Exports. Fair warning–it’s a long one. Here goes.
First up, some sights. Needless to say Paris has a TON of them, and my overly capable tour guide Dana (of previous BofJ Adirondacks fame) managed to show me most of them.
BTW–I kind of loved the fact that many of my pictures had the Eiffel Tower poking up in the background. Sigh.
Dana managed to usher me through 15 of Paris’ 20 arrondissements (districts) in less than 72 hours. Let’s just say that’s no small feat considering Paris covers an area of 41 square miles and we did much of our traveling on foot . . .
With so much to see in so little time, I was lucky to just catch my breath, let alone be able to snag pictures of it all. But here’s some of the highlights:
The Louvre. One word: MASSIVE. Okay, some more words: way beyond anything I could have ever pictured in my mind. It’s enormous! And we didn’t even attempt to go in it (except to see the bottom of I.M. Pei’s masterpiece in the shopping mall underneath; sidenote: if you’re itching for a Starbucks, there’s one underneath the Louvre–those things are everywhere!).
It’s so large that there was no way I could even attempt to capture the whole of it in one picture. So I’ll spare you my 20+ pictures of all the different pieces of it.
The Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel. At the western end of the Louvre, this smaller Arc is perfectly aligned with the Carrousel and the larger Arc de Triomphe–can you see them?
We then ventured over to the Washington Monument and an empty fountain of mermen and merwomen hugging fish (er, at least, that’s the Mrs. Bunches version of what we saw, although I’m guessing the Paris guidebook would offer a different interpretation) . . .
Okay, so maybe that’s actually the Luxor Obelisk. Moving right along . . .
Up next, the Ferris Wheel. I don’t know what it is about them, but I love taking pictures of ferris wheels. Riding in them? Not so much.
We then ventured down a side street from the Avenue des Champs-Elysees and found ourselves outside of the Eglise de la Madeleine, one of Paris’ famous churches. It was absolutely breathtaking . . .
They just don’t build ‘em like they used to, huh?
We then headed back up the Avenue des Champs-Elysees and got our fill of every store you’ve ever seen in an American mall. No joke–the stores on this street were so Americanized it was crazy . . . I couldn’t believe the line outside of Abercrombie & Fitch. Gross.
Although, there were some French gems on the street as well, like the Public Drug Store, which might have been the most deceptive shop name ever. This store was anything BUT your local drug store:
Nope–it was a super chic store/restaurant/boutique/all things good from Paris.
I have to say that I feel much obliged to Dana for taking me on the long, touristy walk up the Champs Elysees, and I can feel quite comfortable saying that, should I find myself in Paris again, I think I’ll skip that street. For me, it was kind of one and done. But, we were well rewarded when we arrived at the top of the street to this site . . .
That’s right–the Arc de Triomphe! It’s pretty dang impressive. And well worth the walk. Good job us. Of course, that walk pretty much wiped out baby and me, so I
pleaded with convinced Dana to take the metro home. And I have to say I was blown away by the cleanliness of it–well done Paris. Well done.
After our relaxing ride back, we crossed back over the Seine . . .
. . . and that was only half of one day. Crazy, huh? But besides some of the major sites, Dana also showed me some of the regular character of Paris . . .
A typical street (that woman better hurry up because there is no way that car will brake for her. Absolutely. No. Chance.)
A typical Parisian man (they really do wear berets!):
Another famous historic site? Nope–just a Paris hotel. Ridiculous, right?
Complete with a public ice-skating rink out front and an adorable carrousel:
There was also some vandalism, although it was decidedly more tasteful than much of the vandalism I’ve seen in the US . . .
Another random monument (there was stuff like this around every corner–it was seriously crazy):
We also came across the Place des Vosges, the oldest planned square in Paris (again–thanks to Dana for her outstanding French translation skills):
The Place des Vosges is a true square–140 m by 140 m (this was also quite large and made capturing it via camera a bit difficult, so forgive the crappy pics):
There was a beautiful garden in the center (admittedly it’s likely much more beautiful in the spring/summer, but I could see the potential):
The square also housed the former residence of Victor Hugo. Ten points to anyone who can identify Hugo . . . anyone?
That’s right–Hugo wrote Les Miserables and the Hunchback of Notre-Dame. Consider yourself learned.
Continuing our meandering, here’s just a random little sculpture that someone decided was a good place to dispose of his water bottle. Seriously?
I guess when there’s beautiful stuff around every corner, then you just start taking it for granted? Who knows.
During our walkabouts, we also managed to come across a rare sight in Paris . . .
Yep–that’s a picture of someone in Paris running! Actually working out! I’m not sure what’s going on in Paris, but everyone’s thin and no one works out. Seriously–we walked around 15 districts and we only came across one gym the entire time. One! For that reason alone I think I might need to move there–staying thin by osmosis? Yes please.
Well, not only did we catch a glimpse of the rare Parisian runner, but we also got to walk through the Jardin du Luxembourg, Paris’ second largest public park.
I was really tired at this point and didn’t feel like backing up the two steps necessary to get a picture of the entire sign. Blame the baby if you must.
I kind of loved that the park had public table tennis. How rad is that?!
Dana pretty much fits into Paris perfectly, don’t you think?
So there you have it–the sights of Paris. I have to say, everything was just spectacularly amazing–especially all the little streets with shops, restaurants, and apartments up above. I mean, c’mon–could it really be any quainter?
As my resident partner-in-food-crime from Boston, Dana knew that one of my top priorities for my first visit to Paris was to sample the best of Parisian cuisine. And let’s just say, Dana fulfilled that expectation ten-fold. The food was so good, in fact, that I often found myself devouring the meal before I had a chance to properly snap a picture. So this section, unfortunately, will be somewhat abbreviated.
My first meal in Paris was at the “best” falafel place in town–L’as du Fallafel.
We split a falafel pita and a chicken pita. Oh, and since we were in France, a plate of frites (duh). The food was amazing, and we were so hungry that there was no time for pictures (plus, the place was closing in 30 minutes, so we were mad-dashing it). Two thumbs WAY UP. So far, Dana was 1 for 1.
Our dinner that night was at L’Aoc, a quaint bistro serving only the top quality agricultural products of the area (does Dana know me or what?). We ordered a foie gras terrine for an appetizer, which I didn’t manage to snag a picture of (it doesn’t look that appetizing anyways), but I did snap a pic of how sweetly they wrapped up the leftovers . . .
Oh, and that burlap sack–that was how our bread came to the table. I loved that! Up next, our main course of roasted pork loin and potatoes. They kindly agreed to split the entree for us since neither one of us was all that hungry after filling up on foie gras and bread.
Even though we left L’Aoc completely stuffed, our walk home led us directly past this gentleman . . .
. . . and that GIANT jar of Nutella in the window. Are you kidding me?! There was no way we were skipping this.
Ahhh . . . my first Nutella crepe in Paris. Can’t you just read the joy on my face?
Our next day of adventure led us first to a croissant from Gerard Mulot (we were hoping for fresh-from-the-oven ones since it was 7 AM, but somehow that didn’t happen :( ). Oh well, I still thought it tasted great. We then went to a half day of class (more on that in my next section), and grabbed ourselves a Parisian lunch of fresh cheese, butter, and bread.
You could smell the cheese shop from 1/4 mile away–I’m not joking. It was crazy. Crazy good, that is. And the butter!!
Don’t even get me started. I literally could’ve eaten it with a spoon. With a nice baguette, we made ourselves quite the good lunch . . .
French bread really is better in France. Sigh.
Up next? Dinner at La Fontaine de Mars–ya’ know, where Barack Obama took Michelle back in 2009. ‘Cuz that’s how we roll. Of course, while the restaurant was always popular, since the Obamas’ visit, it’s become even more so. Which would explain our 9:30 PM reservation. Well, that, and everyone in Paris dines late, so we were just trying to fit in with the locals ;). The food was fantastic–I had the special–a white fish over a bed of leeks with some sort of butter sauce:
Dana got one of their famous cassoulets, and we got an order of the best-ever potatoes gratin for the table. Seriously, I could live on nothing but that gratin for the rest of my life . . .
We also partook of some desserts, but those were devoured way too swiftly for the camera. Sorry.
La Fontaine de Mars is also very near to the Eiffel Tower, so I did manage to see it all lit up. However, it was raining pretty hard, so I also don’t have any pictures of it. Wah-wah. Next time maybe?
Okay, with only one day of
eating seeing Paris left, Dana pulled out all the stops . . . this time she took me to Angelina (and no, I don’t mean the Brad variety):
Angelina’s famous Salon de The has the most sinfully delicious hot chocolate ever created. In the world. I’m serious. And it comes with a mini pot of whipped cream on the side. Seriously?! I could’ve stayed there all day . . .
But it was a good thing we got there early since the line forms quickly for a seat in the restaurant. We only had to wait ~20 minutes, which was totally worth it once that little carafe of steaming chocolatey goodness landed on our table. Oh, and they also have some pretty outstanding desserts, which we of course had to sample. I completely forget what this was called, but it’s one of their signature items so if you go there, you won’t be able to miss it . . .
Okay, so then it was on to our last dinner together in Paris, and this one was by my request. See, Dana has her own blog where she’s chronicling her life abroad, with the dual purpose of making us all regret certain choices in our own life and secretly yearning to follow in her footsteps. Oops–did I say that aloud? Moving on . . .
So a few weeks before I visited Dana, she wrote a post about her dinner at Relais de l’Entrecote where there is no menu (except for desserts and wine) because the only thing you get there is a salad starter with the most amazing Dijon mustard dressing, and then two (yes–TWO) servings of steak with french fries. Which look like this (keep in mind you get TWO plates of this):
And that sauce on the steak? Oh, let’s just call it a little bit of heaven. But don’t even bother asking what’s in it because they won’t tell you. Needless to say, that did not stop me from eating both of my servings. Yes sir, I was most definitely a member of the clean plate club that night. So much so that we had to skip dessert. Er, well, at least at Relais de l’Entrecote; of course, we did manage to get another Nutella crepe on our walk home.
Oh, and apparently the popularity of this Parisian staple (with four restaurants in Paris alone) has made its way to Manhattan: Le Relais de Venise. I seriously doubt it’s as good as the Parisian original, but it’s a heck of a lot cheaper than flying to Paris for some steak frites.
Okay, so that rounds out what I ate in Paris. Is it sad that this section was longer than the sight-seeing section of this post? I guess now you know where my true passions lie.
Most of you are probably wondering what school has to do with my trip to Paris. Well, the reason Dana is living abroad is because she’s attending the original Le Cordon Bleu, the famed culinary school. And that means that I got to go to class with her one day; and for any of you that know me, you know that combining food with school is basically my dream come true (yeah, I’m pretty much a nerd, so I get kind of geeked up about taking tests and going to classes). And Le Cordon Bleu certainly did not disappoint.
Now, I’d like to say that I have a ton of pictures to share with you, but since taking pictures in the classroom is against the rules, I basically don’t. The only thing you’re allowed to take pictures of are the prepared dishes. So during this class, the chef prepared three items:
- An appetizer of Huitres Chaudes au Muscadet (Warm Oysters with Muscadet Wine)
- An entree of Canette Rotie Aux Navets (Roast Duckling with Turnips)
- A dessert of Souffle Chaud au Couintreau (Warm Orange and Cointreau Souffle)
Sounds fantastic, right? Well, it was (they make a LOT so that everyone in the class gets to taste a sample of each).