Paris Road Trip Report – Nov 09 – Part 1
For some reason, I always procrastinate on doing these trip reports. I am certain what I have to say can't possibly live up to what you are expecting. I put them off, and sometimes I don't ever get back to them, like my Paris trip in May where I did a partial report and then never completed it (although I did use pieces of the trip for individual posts).
So I am forcing myself to sit down and get this out because I have so much going on before I am off on my next trip that if I don't do it today, I know it won't get done!
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Now, I just want you to know that this was the last minutes trip, my husband had something he had to take care of that was more easily accomplished if he was in France. We had discussed earlier in the Fall how much we were missing being in Paris, but with previous trips earlier in the year, our upcoming trip at Christmas time, plus work and conference schedules, the reality of going to Paris again before next summer was a pipe dream.
But the opportunity for this trip came – the timing of the task my husband needed to complete landing during the Thanksgiving holiday, plus I was coming off a big project at work, making work a little slow, so we decided to go for it!
And what we decided was that we just want to be in Paris and eat! We didn't make big plans, we knew it was going to be rainy the whole time (and it was) and we knew the Euro to Dollar conversion still sucked, so we didn't have big shopping plans either.
We just wanted to walk around, sit in cafes, eat and listen to French. And that is exactly what we did. However, when I look back at the photos I took I realize I did a pretty poor job of taking “food photos!” I need to work on my food blogging skills!
Also, we spent eight days there so I am splitting this into three pieces otherwise this post will be ridiculously long. (But don't worry I am writing the second and third parts as soon as I complete this part!)
So with those caveats (and gee I am still procrastinating!), here goes!
We flew out of San Francisco on Sunday. Knowing that we were facing a week plus of French food and knowing how bad the food on the plane was going to be, I made a picnic! It was so nice to have our own food that tasted the way we wanted and which was natural and low-fat, it was a great way to start our trip and I highly recommend it. Seriously, unless you are in business or first class, have you ever had a good airplane meal?
We landed at CDG on Monday at 10:30 in the morning, grabbed our suitcases, and took a taxi to Paris. We usually stay in the Montparnasse district because it has an SPG hotel property (love those points!); has 5 metro stops (Gare-Montparnasse, Montparnasse-Bienvenue, Vanvin, Edgar-Quinet, and Gaite) near our hotel which can take directly to many of our haunts; has a large Fnac (book and DVD store); has a decent amount of great restaurants and it is also in the movie theater district so there are tons of options for movies.
We got our room, freshened up, and headed out to eat our first meal. Traditionally, we always take our first meal at La Coupole. We are usually jet-lagged, it is a short walk from the hotel, and we love the food.
There is a ton of history in this brasserie and it is absolutely gorgeous on the inside. To start we had a glass of champagne to celebrate our arrival and then I had an artichoke heart salad and my husband had cold herring with warm vinegary potatoes, (filet de hareng avec pommes tièdes à l'huile). And then like Julia Child's very first meal she ate when she arrived in France, we ate sole meunière with steamed potatoes.
When the bill arrived we had a heart attack when we realized that the price of sole is crazy these days! And it wasn't that the restaurant was ripping us off, later that week at the market we saw the price for fresh sole was the same as what we were charged – crazy!
After our meal, we walked over to Fnac, which is like a Borders (books, music, DVDs) combined with a Best Buy (electronics like TV, computers, printers, etc). We bought a whole bunch of French movies that had come out on DVD that we missed. We also picked up a few books by our favorite French authors.
The weight of jet lag overtook us and we headed back to the hotel with the intent to rest and watch TV. Wrong. By 5:00 p.m. we were asleep – a total rookie maneuver! We were up at 2:00 a.m.! We watched one of our DVDs (Largo Winch – totally awesome!) and went back to sleep at 4:00 until about 8:00.
We took breakfast at a brasserie near the gare (train station). Breakfasts at local brasseries are really cheap. They consist of a coffee (or tea or hot chocolate), a glass of fresh squeezed orange juice, and then one croissant and one half of a small baguette smeared with (real) butter and jam on the side. Sometimes you are offered an egg. This usually costs between 6-9 Euros. Everything is fresh and it is tasty.
Lunch was a trip to another one of our favorite haunts, Chez Léon, a Belgium restaurant chain that serves moules-frites (mussels and french fries). They have many styles of preparation and their mussels are always fresh, something you have to be careful of. They have a restaurant in the Montparnasse district, just down the street from La Cupole.
This dish is not easy to find in the U.S. There are two restaurants that I know of that do this in San Francisco, but frankly it is not quite the same. For this particular visit, my husband and I both decided to partake of their Moules au Roquefort – steamed mussels with a big glob of Roquefort cheese melting on top – yum! Add a Belgium beer and you are all set!
We went back and took a nap in the afternoon because we had tickets to see La Cage aux Folles in the evening and wanted to make sure we weren't going to fall asleep! After waking up we headed to the neighborhood surrounding the theater to have a little pre-show dinner.
We ended up not being able to find the bistro we had planned to go to, but found a cute bar/bistro on the corner near the theater and had a simple meal of duck confit and sliced potatoes. I adore duck confit! I really like all meats that shred apart usually after many hours of cooking. Duck confit uses a special curing process created by the French. More on duck confit later…
The show was fantastic, I laughed so hard. The housekeeper was especially hilarious, but if you have seen any of the movies you know that is not a surprise! The theater (Théâtre de la Porte Saint-Martin) had recently been re-done, meaning the seats fit real human beings. Many of the theaters in Paris are historical and still maintain the original look and feel of “their time.”
Thus the seats are tiny, back when people were small. I am 5'0″ and I am squashed in them, for my over-6-foot husband they are a nightmare. We really pay attention to which theater the shows we want to see are playing at, it has a huge impact on our decision-making process.
So that's the end of Part 1, hope it was enjoyable! Part 2 will pick back up on Thursday and I will finish with Part 3 next Sunday!
A bientôt !
I am so envious. I haven’t been to France since I was a teen and we stopped there for the night driving from Spain to Germany. Sounds like you had a relaxing, low-key time, just soaking up the delicious cuisine and the ambiance. I’d love to take a trip just like that some day. And I’ve always wanted to have moules-frites, it sounds like such a perfect pairing!
Can’t wait for Parts 2 & 3! You should write a book Andi …
Food looks DIVINE!!!!
okay…I am so hungry now after reading this!
I love the mussels from Leon….there’s nothing like sopping up that wine, butter sauce with all the yummy bread after all the mussels have been devoured!
Can’t wait to read post 2 and 3 on Paris!
I’ve been saving this, waiting to read this when I had more time. It. Just. Makes. Me. Want. To. Go. Let’s make a pact. At some point in the next few years, we will go together… even if just for a few days. To Paris. To eat. Beautiful photos. Beautiful post.