Paris

All Roads Lead to Rome

Our daughter’s school does an annual pilgrimage to Rome to round out their Latin program. We had for years talked about meeting her in Rome after her school trip and taking her to see some other European sites.

I had been in Rome with I was 19 with a friend from high school. It was a short side trip away from my parents and their vacation in Italy one summer in the early 90s. Although I had been here, my wife had not. She had spent her time in Italy backpacking around Italy and Spain to other points of interest such as Venice, and Barcelona in the late 80s.

We had each been to Venice before but figured that was a good place to take our daughter before it becomes the next Atlantis. And as I had never been to Spain or Barcelona my wife insisted we make that part of our trip and thus our itinerary was born.

Months ago we booked our flight with many a saved frequent flier mile and took a convoluted (but business class) road to Rome. Seattle>Detroit>Paris>Rome. With the layovers included it was 26 hours from door to door.

Along the way we noticed somebody and their entourage getting their pictures taken with the flight crew on the tarmac before we boarded our plane.

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It turned out to be Jean Dujardin (from The Artist and The Wolf of Wall Street fame).

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Jean Dujardin (left) and his father (right)

We eventually reached Rome. And after being ripped off by our taxi driver over charging us for our ride from the airport we found ourselves in a spacious room with an unfortunate view of a brick wall.

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View from room 301 Marriott Grand Flora Hotel

We then ventured out into the streets of Rome to discover a quaint little Italian restaurant named Il Giardino di Albino where we tried our first Sardinian wine, a rigatoni in gorgonzola, a generous serving of prosciutto and melon, and a tonnarelli funghi (with porchini, bacon and peccorino cheese). Fabulous dinner before total collapse and 12 hours of sleep.

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Categories: Italy, Paris, Rome | 3 Comments

Gargoyles of Notre Dame

When I was around 13 years old my mother and her friend Ingrid took me to France and Paris to visit our exchange student Eric. My most memorable experience was walking amongst the gargoyles of the towers of Notre Dame.

We tried 3 times to visit the towers but the lines were so long during the day we didn’t want to wait in them. However, on our last day in Paris I woke my family up early and eased the early rise with an offering of a cafe au lait for Tawny, a chocolat chaud for Clara, and croissants for us all. We headed down through the Left Bank to queue up, thinking we were late. Although, when were arrived there were only a few people there. We were a bit confused. Apparently the towers opened at 10am. It was 9. 😩 We waited in line, only 4-5 people back from the front. Great position! However, it was cold and we had only packed for Greece, so we were cold too. Then the wind started to blow. And then it rained. We were drenched by the time the doors opened at 10 and we made our way up the towers. The only condolence seeing how the gargoyles work as rain spouts they were designed for.

The towers of Notre Dame (celebrating its 850 year anniversary) have always held fascination for me. From that first experience I was entranced by the gothic architecture, the tormented gargoyles adorning the turrets, the ornate embellishments with their symbolism and hidden meanings.

And the view of Paris…spectacular. As we walked out on the towers the skies parted and the sun shone through. A glimmer of hope for the tortured souls eternally trapped in a gothic purgatory spewing water from the ramparts of Notre Dame.

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Categories: Europe, Paris | 1 Comment

Joyeux Anniversaire de Mariage – 14 years

While in Paris last week we accidently stumbled upon the love locks of Pont de l’ArchevĂȘchĂ©. 

Love locks on Pont de l'ArchevĂȘchĂ© bridge

Love locks on Pont de l’ArchevĂȘchĂ© bridge

With our anniversary coming up (July 3rd, 1999) we were inspired to add our own love lock to the bridge over the Seine on the Pont de l’ArchevĂȘchĂ© bridge.

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The locks you buy have 3 keys. One for each of the lovers. And one that is thrown into the Seine. The idea is that to undo the love you’d have to use your key or you’d have to swim to the bottom of the Seine (shudder) and find the key for your lock from the thousands of others that site upon the riverbed.

Kissing the key

Kissing the key

Tossing key into Seine

Tossing key into Seine

Joyeux Anniversaire mon ami! Je t’aime!

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Love Locks on Pont de l’ArchevĂȘchĂ©

Categories: Paris | Tags: , | 1 Comment

Parisian Cuisine

After our trip to Greece we had a several day layover in Paris before flying back to Seattle. We used it as an opportunity to site see and further our culinary adventure. While the food in Greece was simple, fresh, and delicious, the food in Paris is at another gastronomic level. We had several exceptional meals. I’ve highlighted a few of the plates and restaurants below.

Our first culinary experience in Paris was Monday night when we arrived in the late afternoon from Athens. We walked from our hotel (Hotel Minerve) to the Pantheon, but arrived 5 minutes after the last group is allowed in. So we went to a local bar call Bar Le Village and bought Clara her first croque-monsieur, perhaps the best one I’ve ever had. Its was a cheesy emmentaler bliss and a couple of delicious Belgium beers (although shocked at the Euro to Dollar conversion that made each of these beers $10 each).

Croque-Monsieur

Croque-Monsieur

Croque-Monsieur

Croque-Monsieur

Our first full meal in Paris was also Monday night. The hotel recommended we eat nearby (in the Left Bank) at Le Petit Pontoise, a brasserie featured in the Top 100 Parisian Restaurants Guide. While the prices shocked us (having just come from eating in Greece seeing 26 Euro entrees was unexpected) the meal was delicious. After eating here we decided to splurge all week and eat well while in Paris.

Salade de haricots verts aux Ă©crevisses

Salade de haricots verts aux Ă©crevisses

Foie gras aux figues

Foie gras aux figues

Range chicken and mashed potatoes topped with foie gras

Range chicken and mashed potatoes topped with foie gras (we think)

Crusted rack of lamb with wild garlic

Crusted rack of lamb with wild garlic

Delicious beef that I forgot to note what it was called

Delicious beef that I forgot to note what it was called

Creme Brûlée

Creme Brûlée

Given the high cost of the meal the night before we stuck to amazing French croissants and cafe au laits the next morning. But after walking the Pantheon we stopped for lunch at a little sidewalk cafe when we size an American football-sized meringue in the window. We HAD to have it. As it turned out we also had to have another croque-monsieur (not as good as last night’s, but still delicious) and a ham quiche.

Giant Meringue!

Giant Meringue!

Ham Quiche with (apparently) extra ham

Ham Quiche with (apparently) extra ham

Croque-monsieur

Croque-monsieur

Its a good thing we did lots of walking. We toured Notre-Dame, then went to the Louve (not knowing it was closed on Tuesdays) and then walked all the way back to our hotel. Tawny had spotted a little bistro earlier in the day near the Seine on a cute little side street and we decided to check it out. It was a French restaurant, but the owners we from Corsica so it had an interesting flair – Bistro de la B

Bistro de la B

Bistro de la B

Their pre fixe menu was very reasonable (20 Euro a person for 3 courses) and the wine reasonable too (24 Euro a bottle – and great!). Since the pre fixe only had 3 choices for each course and there were 3 of us we decided to order the whole menu. It was one of the best meals we had, but the I have to admit (and hopefully the owners never read this blog) the sausage was difficult for us to eat. I’ve eaten a lot of challenging food in my travels around the world and will eat most everything, but the “rustic” texture and periodic “crunch” of the sausage was more than our American palate could take. Not wanting to insult the chef we wrapped the sausage in a napkin and later on during our walk in Luxembourg Gardens we slipped it to a very appreciative dog.

Menu @ Bistro de la B

Menu @ Bistro de la B

Great wine suggestion by the owner

Great wine suggestion by the owner

Gaspacho Maison

Gaspacho Maison

Wraps au fromage

Wraps au fromage

OMG! Salade de Champignons de Paris, with parmesan

OMG! Salade de Champignons de Paris, with parmesan

Onglet de Boeuf, sauce Ă„ l'oignon

Onglet de Boeuf, sauce Ă„ l’oignon

Andouillette (sausage) de Troyes Ă„ la moutarde

Andouillette (sausage) de Troyes Ă„ la moutarde

Dos de Cabillavel aux petits légumes (fish)

Dos de Cabillavel aux petits légumes (fish)

Prunes and ice cream

Prunes and ice cream

Créme Caramel

Créme Caramel

Mousse au Chocolat

Mousse au Chocolat

Wednesday we went to Versailles and had an absolutely disappointing meal in the gardens. I won’t bother discussing it. But that night we met up with colleagues from my work and ate at another restaurant from the Top 100 Parisian Restaurants Guide called Restaurant Victor. Another fantastic meal. My cod was to simply die for. I must try and recreate this.

Salmon and avocado

Salmon and avocado

Heirloom tomatoes and a special kind of mozzarella flown in from Italy that day.

Heirloom tomatoes and a special kind of mozzarella flown in from Italy that day.

Aritichoke

Aritichoke

Risotto Ă  la crĂšme de Homard et Petits Pois

Risotto Ă  la crĂšme de Homard et Petits Pois

Cod in a ginger and lemongrass broth

Cod in a ginger and lemongrass broth

Thursday was our last day in Paris and we did a lot of walking. Seeing the Towers of Notre-Dame, Saint Chapelle, and Musee d’Orsay. We stopped for lunch behind the d’Orsay and found a packed out restaurant called CafĂ© de l’Empire. We had to wait nearly 45 minutes to get a table and almost gave up, but it smelled and looked so good we stuck it out. This may have been my favorite restaurant and meal in Paris. It was SO good. We had a simple meal of roast chicken. some open face cheese sandwiches, and a great little dessert plate. Everything about it – every bite – was perfection. Would love to return and eat dinner here.

Roasted chicken and mashed potatoes

Roasted chicken and mashed potatoes

Incredible cheese melted on incredible bread.

Incredible cheese melted on incredible bread.

Incredible cheese melted on incredible bread with bacon and potato. OMG!

Incredible cheese melted on incredible bread with bacon and potato. OMG!

Cutest dessert tray - ever. Toujours!

Cutest dessert tray – ever. Toujours!

Our last meal in Paris was at Le Buisson Ardent. It was exquisite. We had two pre fixe menus and they were so nice to split the one pre fixe for Tawny and Clara to share, lovingly plating each half plate of food split as if it was a full order. Very classy. It made the meal. Highly recommend.

Sesame Crispy goat cheese, aubergine and sundried tomatoes, pesto and grilled coppa

Sesame Crispy goat cheese, aubergine and sundried tomatoes, pesto and grilled coppa

Nice candied vegetables with sherry and roasted almonds, burrata with argan oil and smoked duck breast

Nice candied vegetables with sherry and roasted almonds, burrata with argan oil and smoked duck breast

Supreme chicken breast "roast & lacquered"with satay, smoked bacon emulsion, creamy polenta, shiitake & onions

Supreme chicken breast “roast & lacquered”with satay, smoked bacon emulsion, creamy polenta, shiitake & onions

Supreme chicken breast "roast & lacquered"with satay, smoked bacon emulsion, creamy polenta, shiitake & onions

Supreme chicken breast “roast & lacquered”with satay, smoked bacon emulsion, creamy polenta, shiitake & onions

 Cod a la plancha, melted fennel and turmeric, pĂ©quillos & chorizo ​​Bellota, aioli sauce

Cod a la plancha, melted fennel and turmeric, pĂ©quillos & chorizo ​​Bellota, aioli sauce

Shortbread with strawberries, mascarpone cream with vanilla and spicy wine

Shortbread with strawberries, mascarpone cream with vanilla and spicy wine

Millefeuille "minute" praline and caramelised hazelnuts

Millefeuille “minute” praline and caramelised hazelnuts

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