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A Little Bit About a Lot of Things

A lifestyle blog with a focus on my food adventures

A side-note, I forgot to throw in that we went to Notre Dame on Monday. (10am-5:30pm from 10.1 to 03.31 ; 10am-6:30pm from 04.1 to 09.30 ; late opening until 11pm on Saturdays and Sundays of June, July, August and September. Last entry 45 min prior to closing. Closed on 01.1, on 05.1 and on 12.25.) You can use your museum pass. There are always tons of people in the courtyard out front, so it always looks like it is crowded. We made it in through the line in under 5 minutes. The rose window is best seen at sunset (as they quote in all the guidebooks-but note that that it will also be most crowded then). Fordors says that early morning is best for the cathedral, when the light is the brightest.

They ask for a donation if you wish to light a candle. The windows are beautiful with all the stained glass (note that you are not supposed to use flash photography) but the architecture is really amazing.

The Square Jean XXIII behind Notre Dame.

I read about Berthillon in the Fordors guide book, located at 31 Rue St Louis en I’lle. They have more than 30 flavors of gourmet ice cream-you can find their ice cream being served at many of the cafe’s around Paris, but it’s more fun to go to the headquarters. There’s a little take out window and the girl scooping ice cream is very patient while we decide which kind we want. (note that cones are an extra cost)

On the left is pistachio and on the right, I can’t remember what kind it was, chocolate and nougat or something along those lines. Looks like a tiny scoop right? But the ice cream goes all they way down into the bottom of the cone. Excellent ice cream, better than the gelato we had in Italy-it had a really creamy, rich texture-and the cones were pretty tasty too!

Totally ruining our lunch, because we had dessert first, we stop at a local cart on the side of the road adjacent to Notre Dame and pick up a tomato and mozzarella panini- sandwiches are pre-made in the case but they warm them up in a panini press so the cheese is melted when you eat it!

YUM!

While we were snacking on our lunch we were looking at the line waiting to go in for the tour of Notre Dame. Apparently the guy in the white shirt is famous-groups of giggling girls were coming up and asking to take pictures with him-we have/had no idea who he is. He was there with his wife and two kids (not shown).

We checked into the Hotel Regina on Tuesday the 6th and checked out on Thursday the 8th. We booked through hotels.com and got a rate of about $350 per night with a city tax of 3 euro per night (not included in the pre-paid price). We stayed here at the suggestion of my sister in law. After staying there, I am convinced they must have stayed in a suite. The location was excellent, right around the corner from the Louvre-and it’s true what they say, location, location, location. The room wasn’t ready when we got there mid afternoon, so they took our bags and we went out to see some sights.

When we arrive in the lobby, I remember how my sister in law and I have VERY different tastes-I’m more of a modern design kind of girl. The word that comes to mind when we saw the lobby, was “charming”, even though that might not have been the case in reality.

Room 433.

Double door to help reduce noise. Although…it doesn’t really help. The room was next to the house keeping closet and we were woken up at 6am every morning to bumping carts and the sounds of things hitting the wall. Not so charming now is it?

First time that we have had to put the key in a holder to keep the lights on. I guess this way, you can’t forget where you put your key.

Not really what we thought at 4 star room interior would look like. It didn’t really look like this one the website either…see for yourself.

The view. You could open the window but they were hard to prop open and the paint was severely peeling.

The bathroom shower only had half a pane of glass, which is apparently standard in Europe.

It was on the smaller side.

But the good news was that there were robes for sale….

We decide to go to the Musee d’Orsay with our museum pass. They are CLOSED on Mondays. We walk from the hotel-it’s just across the river. The museum is located in an old railroad station, the museum picks up where the Louvre ends-showcasing works from 1848 to 1914. You can see famous recognizable works of art such as the young dancer by Degas, and various works by Manet and Monet. I have to say that at this point, I have museum A.D.D. We have been doing so much sight seeing that I am bored silly in about 5 minutes-not because the paintings are boring, but the situation that we are in. At this point, all the museums are looking the same to me.  We skip out of there in record time, just to say we saw the major selling points, and head out to lunch.

Only in France, do we head out searching for an Asian restaurant. Higuma was recommended in one of my tour books. Located at 32 Bis Rue St Anne, this is a cafeteria style casual restaurant. We later see that there is another location at Rue St. Honore, if you remember that is where Goyard is.

We grab a seat at the counter, but there are tables as well.

We get to watch everything being made fresh.

The gyoza are pre made but they are steamed to order and pan fried.

I’ve decided I need a commercial gyoza cooker when I get a larger kitchen 🙂

We order this awesome soup made with chicken and home made noodles-salty deliciousness.

Shrimp, eggplant and squash tempura over rice served with a side of pickles. SO crunchy-a really good dish. Lunch for 2 costs us 25 euro.

We head out to do some shopping on the Champs Elysees-First up, Laduree. We saw one in London, but wanted to original thing from Paris. (75 Champs Elysees) Don’t worry if you miss this shop-they have a location in the airport for last minute gifts.

I love how they decorated their windows. See the top right rectangle, those cylinders are the boxes that they put their macaroons in, SO cute!

You can choose your own, or they will choose for you. They have an amazing selection of flavors. They have a ton of staff behind the counter, so the line, though it might seem daunting, moves quickly-it’s a well oiled machine.

They also have a variety of other desserts, and if you want, you can sit and eat in the cafe in the back.

Vanilla, pistachio, chocolate, raspberry and some other flavor I can’t remember (I think it was red fruits).

The Arc de Triomphe-at the top of the hill on the Champs Elysees. The bus tour has three stops on the Champs Elysees-best to get dropped off at the top and walk down. We chose not to go up to the top, because after being as high up when we were in the Eiffel tower, it would seem like a let down (right?). The best time to go is at dusk when the lights light up the tree lined Champs Elysees. This is included in your Museum Pass.

We went back to the hotel early to get ready for our big dinner out at the Eiffel Tower’s Le Jules Verne restaurant on the 2nd floor. Make sure to make your reservations well in advance and note that you can’t request a table by the window. Try to go at sunset, as that is when you will get the best view. This time of year, that’s around 8:30pm.

(Just in case you wanted to see who Gustave Eiffel was, there is bust at the base of the tower.) We arrive early and use the restaurants private elevator. Note that when you make the reservation, they pre-authorize your credit card 400 euro, just to make sure you can afford dinner here.

The restaurant is crowded-and filled with mostly Americans. Every tour book that I read said that the food here is so so, what you are paying for is the view and the experience of eating in the Eiffel Tower.

The service is outstanding, there are multiple servers for each table. We sit in between a couple from Missouri who seem quite normal, and an Italian couple that can’t pull their tongues out of each other’s mouths for long enough to eat dinner. Trust me, it was uncomfortable.

We start with a choice of bread and complimentary cheese puffs.

The next amuse bouche is a smoked salmon dish with cucmber puree and mint foam.

I order the Blanc de Bar cuit a plat, legumes et condiment d’ete-roasted sea bass with summer vegetables and condiment (80 euro). At this point we figure out that the table on the opposite side of the Italians are from Texas-they are a group of 6 and making some really off hand, inappropriate comments about controversial topics. I can see why people stereotype Americans and why the French  hate us.

My husband gets the Grenadin de Veau au sautior-sauteed thick medallion of veal, blanquette style seasonal vegetables (72 euro). It puzzles me that the veal is less expensive than the fish, but whatever, this is a special occasion. While we are finishing our main course we see that a table behind us has an older couple that has their camcorder out and is filing people in the restaurant. The woman shoves the camera in the couple next to theirs faces and they strike up a conversation. It starts innocently enough, the older woman commenting on how beautiful the younger woman is, she asks where they are from (Chile) and how they are enjoying their vacation. Then, we find out that they are from (where else?) Texas and the older woman proceeds to tell this couple, who are clearly on a romantic date, their whole life story. She’s talking in a voice loud enough for the whole restaurant when she asks the younger woman how old she thinks she is. The younger woman, looks puzzled, and the older woman proceeds to just raise her voice and speak slower, adding on a comprendo? at the end for good measure. We, and the couple from Missouri next to us, are horrified and exchange appropriate faces of horror. The conversation gets worse as she proceeds to ask the younger woman if she thinks  she (the older woman) has had plastic surgery. The dinner has suddenly become less than romantic and we are ready to leave. Unfortunately we have pre ordered our dessert. As I am taking the last few bites of fish….I notice a HAIR on the bottom of my fish. If I’m paying 72 euro for a meal, I want to be darn sure that there is no hair in it-or at least get free dinner. No dice. They comped my dessert and gave the husband a free dessert.

L’Ecrous au chocolate et praline crousillant, glace noisette (26 euros) which you must order when you are placing your dinner order. It’s a tower bolt, dark chocolate praline with hazelnut ice cream. Very delicate and light, and you could eat it in about two bites and wonder where it all went. This may have been my highlight of the meal, that,or the guy two tables over, ordering a 1500 euro bottle of wine.

A side of hazelnut ice cream with “crunchy cereal” as the waiter called it.

The also brought every table a plate of cookies-a basil macaroon, a chocolate chip coconut cookie and a cream puff that tasted a bit like burnt caramel.

They also brought over to every table handmade chocolate truffles.

And finally, they brought every table home made marshmallows, that tasted like rose. With this many complimentary desserts, you could skip ordering one off the menu. The dinner was set at a leisurely pace-we arrived at 8:30 and left at around 11. As we were leaving they sent us home with a package of home made madeleines.

After the breakfast we had in Versailles, this one looked like the McDonald’s of places. The room was very generic “hotel” looking. To be fair, they had an outside patio garden area you could eat in that looked nice, but it was far too cold in the morning to do so. So again, breakfast was not included-and I had turned my nose up at the expensive buffet choice and decided to just have eggs. I think that we were a little shocked at how poor the service was, again, we were ignored at our table for much of the time (and I swear I was on my best behavior).

I had the 8 euro eggs, scrambled, which you can’t tell in the picture, but they may have still been alive…they were very runny.

I think the husband choked and got nervous, thus his choice to order the “poridge” (5 euro). I’m pretty sure I was dry heaving in my mouth for the entire time I had to look at him eating it. Ick. The 5 euros for a cup of coffee and 8 euros for a shot glass of “fresh squeezed juice”. I decide right then and there that tomorrows breakfast will be Starbucks!

Since we were right around the corner from the Louvre, we rolled out of the hotel an were there at 9am when they opened. Note that they are CLOSED on TUESDAYS.

The museum pass does allow you to skip the line but you still have to wait in a smaller line because of the security check point that they have. Make sure to stop for a color coded map in the lobby.

You could easily spend hours at the Louvre, but as I had mentioned before, I was museumed-out. We wanted to make sure that we hit the major things, and wanted to get in and out before the huge groups started to pour in. In the Fordor’s Paris 2010 book they say that you can do the major three in under an hour, the Winged Victory, the Mona Lisa and the Venus de Milo. Here’s what they say: Start in the Denon wing and head upstairs to through the Etruscan and Greek antiquities, walking down the long hall of sculptures until you see the Winged Victory ahead of you. Take a right and head up the staircase through French painting to the Mona Lisa, then go back down under the Pyramide to Reichelieu to see the Venus de Milo. There are tons of people trying to take pictures, some pushing, other putting their camera above their head right into your shot, it’s crowded-let’s leave it at that. The Winged Victory, or Nike to the Greeks, was carved to commemorate the naval victory of Demetrius Poliorcetes against the Turks.

The Mona. (Dennon wing, salle 7) She was stolen in 1911, and survived an acid attack in 1956-needless to say, she is one tough gal. Trying to take a picture of the Mona Lisa reminds me of when were in London at the Changing of the Guard. If you want to be up front, wait your turn or get there early. People from the back are pushy and at that point I had my hands on my hips and using my elbows to gain some much needed personal space. People from behind you extend their arms and put their cameras right next to your face trying to get a good view-seriously people, I’m not going to stand here all day, wait 3 seconds while I take my photo and I will be out of your way!

The Venus de Milo (Salle 12). Again, you are pushing your way through tour groups and private tours to see this amazing sculpture. You think you’ll be smart and you will just be patient and wait your turn to get close without being ‘pushy’. Newsflash….you’ll be waiting forever. Patience and politeness don’t get you very far here.

So we walk around a little bit and see some of the other art and then we head down to the cafeteria. When I came when I was in high school, we spent days here. My dad would get a brownie and I would get this wonderful strawberry tart….notice that that is what I have fond memories about….

I have to say that I don’t even remember what it was like, the cafeteria, all those years ago. Today, it’s quite spacious and pretty empty at this odd hour of the morning.

We get a snack to supplement the minimal breakfast we had at the hotel.  A 3 euro lemon cake (above) and the 4 euro lemon tarte (below)-throw in a soda for  3.30 and a coffee for 3.20.

Service here is friendly and efficient. Wish we had more meals like this.

We track down the infamous Christian Louboutin store-the location surprises me, it’s sort of in a non obvious location-we had to do a little backtracking to find it. No purchases made 😦 I want to add here that sometimes it is hard to find places in Paris. Not all stores or houses are numbered. On the tour, our guide told us that the wealthy didn’t want to number their doors like the common people-thus, no numbers….He said that sometimes you can look at the street lights and they will tell approximately  you where you are, although I don’t think I ever looked to confirm this.

If you can’t buy shoes, go with the next best thing. Chocolate. Jean Paul Hevin, located at 231, rue Saint-Honoré, this place also has a chocolate bar.

  • Lunch from 12 to 2.30 pm
  • Opening hours of the shop : from Monday to Saturday from 10 am to 7.30 pm
  • Closed : Sunday
  • Opening hours of the chocolate bar : from Monday to Saturday from 12 to 7 pm
  • Closed : Sunday

A very high end, sleek ad modern looking store. We decided to  go to this store because when we were staying at the Trianon Palace, the chocolate on the pillow when they turned down the beds was made by Jean Paul Hevin-and we wanted to see what else they had to offer.

These pieces are larger than they appear. I can’t tell you what they are called, but I can tell you that they were delicious. 3 pieces cost 10.30 euro. This one (above) had a light hazelnut mousse like consistency inside with a light crunch.

Pistache. Dark chocolate over a really smooth nutty almost cake like center-although it was a little bit gritty.

The Florentine with a dark chocolate bottom. Usually I ADORE these, but this one had dried fruits mixed in, which made it a no go for me.

Moving on, we head to La Maison du Chocolat. We had been to this store in New York when we went on our chocolate tour. The location in Paris has an outside ice cream stand and a patio area on the street where you can sit and enjoy an afternoon of chocolate, coffee, and people watching. Stop over and see them at 8 boulevard de la Madeleine. We end up picking up a few chocolate bars for friends back home.

We have yet to have a real “Parisian” cafe experience-sitting out on the sidewalk, watching all the people. Honestly, it’s been either too cold or raining-remember that you are allowed to smoke outside at the tables, which is another reason why we haven’t done it. We grab lunch a block away from our hotel, La Rotonde des Tuileries (10 Rue des Pyramides)

It begins to rain so we head inside for a table, but get one by the window so we can sort of have that Parisian cafe experience.

Service is good-there aren’t a lot of people hanging around because it’s a late time to be having a bite to eat. I order the French Onion soup (9.50 euro). Excellent, just what I need on this damp and cold day. The broth is flavorful, and inside is full of bread and warm melted cheese-YUM!!

My husband doesn’t know what to get, I suggest that he would like the  croque monsieur-a sandwich with ham inside and melted cheese on top. The madame has a fried egg on top, but that’s too crazy for him. So basically, a toasted ham and cheese sandwich-how can you go wrong. Delicious.

And just for good measure, we throw in a berry sundae.

For dinner we go casual to this place across the street Domenico 3 place de pyramides. It’s an Italian pasta a pizza joint, great for large parties of families. There is an outside seating area, but we choose to sit inside. Do you remember when you were a kid and you would go to Friendly’s for a birthday party-if you had two tables worth of people they would take out the divider between the booths and you could talk through the space instead of over it? That’s kind of the set up here. They were scrambling but it wasn’t super busy. We were sat in a large booth and there was a couple on the other side of the partition in a 2 seater booth. While we are waiting for our waiter, I have ample time to size up the couple next to us because they are basically sitting at our table. The guys has his arm all the way over on to our table-they have a pizza and he is smacking his food so loudly that I can hear it from where I am, and that’s over the noise of the TV. It’s a combination between chomping the food a saliva smacking around in his mouth, which by the way is open. Horrifying. I try not to look. The he takes his hand, puts it through the neck part of his polo shirt and scratches his armpit-proceeds to look at what came out under his nails, smell it, and flick it on the floor. (Thank goodness it wasn’t on our table right?) And he goes back to chomping his food. Ill.

I order the gnocchi bolognese. A poor showing. The gnocchi tastes like the kind that you can find on the shelf at the super market and it is over cooked. The sauce is heavy on the tomato and not on the meat, not a true bolognese sauce. I can see why you would go to this place if you were looking for a quick pizza, or if you had kids that weren’t fussy, but fine food this is not. The service as I said was scattered, and we had issues trying to pay-I’m trying to black out the entire experience.

We check out the following day, the 8th and head to the airport. They say that you should be there 2 hours ahead of time and that it takes about an hour to get there. Cab ride will run you about 50 euro-they charge you a fee when you get into the taxi as well as a fee for your bags. We buy our tickets through AAA, which looking back, wasn’t worth the $50 fee they charged us-we could have done it ourselves on the internet. Oh well. The flight to Nice is about an hour and a half, tickets are about $88 each. The Paris airport has all kinds of wonderful shops if you forgot gifts for your friends at home. We spend about an hour in line, because if you check in on line for your flight you have to have the credit card that you bought the tickets with at the airport, we did not. Meanwhile people had to wait in line because the kiosks were malfunctioning and if you wanted to check bags or use the bag drop you also had to wait in line. Once we get through the security check point, we try and see if we can get something to eat, but the lines are so long that we just won’t have enough time. The waiting area is small-and they make you board the plane on shifts because you have to take a bus from the main terminal to the plane. This would have been fine if it hadn’t been raining. The bus drops you off at a staircase, two flights, that is uncovered, metal and slippery. If you have a heavy bag (yes I did) and you have to huff it up two flights of stairs in the rain while trying not to trip because you decided it would be cute to wear your wedge espadrilles….it’s a pain. Meanwhile it takes 3 bus loads to have the plane filled and ready to go, so there is lots of waiting. Meanwhile we have looked at the weather and it’s going to be warm and sunny in Nice-we can’t wait!! Stayed tuned for the next leg of our 2 week adventure in NICE!

 

Travel Books of choice for Paris- Eyewitness Travel Paris and Fordor’s Paris

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