Quick Jaunt to Paris!
It’s hard to believe it’s been over a year since my husband and I were married in Jamaica. The year has flown by and I have loved every minute of being married. To celebrate our year of wedded bliss we decided to take a trip. We would like to do this every year and alternate who plans the trip. The trip is supposed to be a surprise. Well, I am not good with surprises and neither is Chris. Not because we do not like them, but because we get so excited about them we just cannot wait. So when I started noticing it was cheaper to fly to Paris than Mexico or even San Francisco I was so elated. Airfare to Europe is very budget friendly in the winter months. So if you really want to go, but don’t have tons of cash, wait for cooler weather. I used to live in Paris and really wanted to share my experiences with the city and the language with my husband. I wanted to actually go to nice restaurants – not just eat at Quick or a gyro stand (both are still excellent choices). Perhaps experience the city as an adult instead of a 21-year old, broke au pair.
Anyway, so I booked our tickets for a quick four-night stay. We both started new jobs and could not take too much time off. Plus, we recently went to Rome and spent three nights there and felt like it was an ok amount of time to explore a city. So we thought four nights in Paris would be a good amount of time. Well, instead I learned a lesson. We will get to this later. I also booked an apartment in the Marais that was fantastic. I highly recommend renting apartments when traveling to expensive cities such as Paris. They are usually are very clean, in good areas and are much cheaper. The website we used was homeaway.com.
So we were ready to go! Cheap airfare – check, cool apartment in good area – check, tickets to the opera – check, list of excellent restaurant – check and even pre-bought tickets to the Louvre to avoid the lines – check. Oh, how I wish that was the case.
Jet Lag and Cool Night Life, Oh My!
So, as is widely known, I love food. So I did more research on restaurants and dining than on any other part of our trip. Unfortunately, many of the great places need reservations. I did not want to do that long distance, so I decided to wait until arrival to make reservations – big mistake. Find a way. Ask the person you are renting from or suck it up and take the phone charge. I did make reservations for the first night and it was by far our best meal. I read about Les Cotelettes in Budget Travel magazine. And oh my, what a great meal. We started off with the Salad Lyonnais, a little different from any Salad Lyonnais I’d eaten before. It was yummy greens, with boiled potatoes and a homemade sausage patty. I know it sounds weird. But it was not, it was divine. They also provide big jars of locally made mustard that are unbelievable. For our entrees Chris ordered a beautifully cooked duck served atop poached pears in a wine sauce and I ordered the chicken in a cream sauce with the most divine Morel mushrooms. What I loved about this restaurant was that all the ingredients are fresh, regional ingredients. The meal was not too heavy and not salty at all. Probably on my list of top five meals of all time (at a restaurant that is). We skipped dessert and instead searched for an old bar I used to go to a lot back in 1995 called Cafe Oz. It’s an Australian bar that served cheap bar and they had a location on Rue St. Jacques. Well, we wandered and wandered and were delirious by this point because of lack of sleep (we had been awake close to 30 hours). But we were in Paris! So instead of sleeping we went to a pub. But after one drink we called it a night and wandered back to our apartment and crashed out by midnight.
But imagine my surprise, when I woke up the next day refreshed and at one p.m. That was definitely not in my plans. We were supposed to get up early get breakfast and go to the Louvre. Well, since we woke up so late, I decided to postpone the Louvre until the next day and instead we decided to just walk the city. But before we left I decided it was a good idea to look for the Louvre tickets at least. Well, they were not there. Turns out I left them at home. Needless to say at this point I was a wreck. There was only one thing that could save my mood – a great eating experience.
Fortunately, that did occur. I had read about Cafe Breizh in a few different places. All glowingly recommended the Breton crepe restaurant. Crepes from Bretagne, a region of France bordering Normandy, normally contain buckwheat. Another Breton treat is super refreshing cider. But it’s usually the cider with alcohol – so be aware.
I ordered the artichoke crepe with eggs and cheese. Chris ordered the mushroom crepe with eggs and cheese as well. Both were perfect! We also got a small pichet of cider and cafe au laits. I felt a little less mad at myself for the Louvre ticket fiasco.
People Working at Symphonies Are Mean!
So after our crepes, we just walked around, kind of shaking the cob webs off our brains and getting our bearings. We walked along the Champs Elysees, saw the Eiffel Tour in the distance, walked near the Arc de Triomphe. Notice a trend here. I learned while in Paris, that it’s a big city. It’s not Rome. You can see a lot in Rome in three days, because it’s compact. And the nightlife is so-so, so-so you go to bed early. Paris is a double threat. There is nightlife and it’s a BIG city. We never quite got to see anything that afternoon. But we did get to see where the symphony was that we were going to that evening. So around 4 p.m., we walked back to our apartment, got ready and headed to the symphony. That night we attended the Theatre Des Champs-Elysees. It was the St. Petersburg Symphony Orchestra and they played “The Rites of Spring.” It was a phenomenal performance. But it was what happened before that ruined the experience. We could not get a single person to tell us where our seats were. Finally, someone showed us our seats and then asked us for money. When we told her we did not have any cash she got filled with rage and kicked me out because I had champagne in my hand. If we had paid her she would have let me keep the champagne. Can anyone out there explain this to me? Is it customary to pay someone to show you to your seats in Paris. I used to live there and that never happened to me in the past. I was so bummed out after that event. I was just happy it was over and then we headed out to get some dinner.
A Nice Dinner Makes it All Better
Since it was a little later, our dining choices were limited. I had read of a great restaurant called Lippo. But when we got there it was closed. They recommended a place close by called L’Ecurie. And it was magical. The food was average, but the ambiance was unbelievable. It was tiny and all the wood was just a little warped. Turns out the restaurant is more than 300 years old. And the only thing standing in the way of it being used as a 17th century inn for a movie scene was the electrical lighting. For dinner we got steaks with shallot sauce and a Roquefort cheese sauce and fries. The prices were pretty outstanding too. Our dinner the night before was around 79 euros. This was 60 euros. I definitely recommend L’Ecurie. The food was not out of this world, but it was solid, good French fare at a cheap price and a cool atmosphere. Not really vegetarian friendly, though.
That night we tried again to find Cafe Oz. But to no avail. It was at this point that I realized my dependence on my iphone. At home I use my iphone for everything. Going to a doctor’s appointment- let me just use my Maps app. Looking for the reviews of a bar-let me just use my Yelp app. Well it costs an arm and a leg to use your iphone overseas. And for long trips it might be worth it. But for four days I was not going to spend hundreds of dollars to just use our phones for four days. After our needless wandering though, it almost seemed like a good idea. After getting a drink in a tourist trap we wandered home and went to bed.
Oh, the Louvre!
The next morning we got up a little earlier and I went to this awesome market around the corner – Marche Des Enfants Rouge. This market is legendary. Please go, if you visit. They have everything – cider, wine, cheese, butter, bread even sushi! So I stocked up on some basics to avoid spending more money on restaurants. After I got back Chris and I headed to the Louvre. It was a dreary day and since I left the tickets back home had to sit in both lines – the one to get through security and then the one to buy the tickets. But once we got the tickets we were on a roll. And that’s precisely why Chris and I are awful museum goers. I need to be provided interesting information about a specific piece of art, or my eyes glaze over and I get what I call “museum head.” Museum head is characterized by wandering thoughts, sleepiness, making random comments just so people think I am paying attention and more. The weird thing is I love art. But museums bore me, unless they engage. The Louvre does not have to engage – it’s the Louvre. Plus I have been a few times before. But I was excited for Chris. I should not have been. Halfway through he asks me where the Impressionist painting are. I explain to him that they are at the Musee D’Orsay – a completely different museum across the river. Turns out my husband does not really care for classical paintings. He likes Impressionism. Which is fine except I double-paid and I am kind of tired of museums. So we decide to wait and see if we want to do that tomorrow. We cut our trip short at the Louvre and head home to relax, take showers and get ready for our anniversary dinner.
Hagrid and the Rugby Match
So, when we arrived in Paris I called and made reservations for Les Dingues for our actually anniversary dinner. I had read a great review on them that had key words such as “home-made ravioli in a brie sauce.” How can you go wrong?? Well, somehow it did. When I called the owner mentioned that there was going to be a rugby match that night on the television and did I mind this. I said no. If there is good food I do not care about the surroundings. I was in Paris! Who cares. What the owner, who eerily resembled Hagrid from The Harry Potter movie series, did not tell me was that he was not really cooking that night. He had some pate he was serving up, he’d made some beef cheeks in the crock pot and of course, fries. A few of his close friends were there and he was ready to watch France play in a rugby match. Once he found out it was out anniversary dinner, he felt pretty bad. And while the meal was not awful, it was the saltiest meal I had ever tasted. All in all, it was not the best meal. But it was ok. There are much worse things that could happen. I wish I could recommend Les Dingues. A part of me does want to give it a second chance. The owner was nice and the price was right – approximately 30 euros. But the saltiness was a lot to deal with and I wish I had know about the limited menu.
After dinner Chris and I ended up at a couple of bars we both liked and would recommend – Hop-in and Le Perle. Both are in the Marais area, where we were staying.
Our Last Day
I had been dying to try the famous falafel at As Du Falafel on Rue Des Rosiers in the Marais. Well, so was everyone else. So instead I tried their competitor across the street. I cannot remember the name. But it’s famous too. So you will have no problem finding it. I LOVED it! Whether you go to As or this place- just do it. If you love falafels, you will be very happy. It had eggplant and yummy chunks of falafels. You can actually see them make the falafel.
After the falafel we walked around the city and went to the Jardin du Luxembourg and then headed over to the Musee D’Orsay. We both loved it. Even though I did suffer from a small case of museum head, it was still unbelievable. I had never been before and I was blown away. If you enjoy more contemporary art – go there. Not only is the art just breathtaking, but the actual building is inspiring – it’s in an old train station right on the Seine.
After the museum we headed back to our apartment, changed and headed to one of my favorite parts of Paris – Montmartre, to visit Sacre Coeur. The Basilica, a Roman Catholic church, is located on the highest part of the city, the butte de Montmartre. I love it because it is so out of place in Paris. Just the look of it anyway. Plus I love being so high up and seeing the entire city. What a view!
Dolce Vita in Paris!
As much as I love French food, I was ready to not eat steaks and fries for the third night in a row. So Chris and I opted for Italian food our last night. And it was, well, Italian. You just can’t go wrong. But it’s really hard to be spectacular. We went to Il Duca, near Sacre Coeur. We started with bruschetta. Which was fresh, tasty and full of garlic. Chris ordered their purse style pasta filled with parma ham in a cream sauce. It was lovely. Mine was a spinach ravioli with mushrooms and truffle oil. Both were topped with amazing arugula. I do recommend this place, but only if you are done with french and want something a bit different.
Il Duca was also affordable, approximately 50 euros.
After dinner we grabbed a crepe at one of the many crepe stand in the city. And then a funny thing happened on our way home. I found Cafe Oz. Turns out it moved – a few streets away from where we were staying. We had been looking in the Latin Quarter, where a lot of the cool English, Irish, Australian bars are – a wonderful thing if you are an English-speaker living in a non-English speaking land. I had spent my 21st birthday at Oz. I even got sick out front after someone fed me a flaming B-52 shot (I have never done one since). But the bar had expanded, become more of a chain and had a few more locations. So we stopped by the one near us on St. Denis. The bar, I used to love that had been tiny, with cheap prices had become an uber-expensive brand. The beers were about $10 a pint, the room was bigger, there was even live music.
I learned, this time in Paris, it’s really hard to go back. Things change – even ancient cities like Paris. But I also learned something else – I have the best husband in the world. And I am so glad I get to experience all of this with him.
I love you baby.