We’re continuing on our journey through Europe and we are in Paris (part 2). Just as a little reminder, we started in Amsterdam, stopped in Brussels, and shared the first half of our trip in Paris. I mentioned before that our trip only gets better. Since we were in Paris for 6 days, we got to experience a lot more of the city and I can’t wait to share the rest of our trip.
We left the apartment on a dreary morning threatening rain for a 15 minute walk to the 10th Arrondissement. It’s an up and coming area along the Canal Saint-Martin and our eyes were set on pastries and coffee. Surprise! We stopped first at Du Pain et Des Idees and I got one of their escargot (snail pastries). No it was not filled with actual snails because that would be disgusting; it is called a snail because of the shape. The filling was a delicious combination of raspberries and cream cheese. If you want to see more of their baked goodies, they have a pretty good website since they also don’t allow photos inside. From there we headed to Ten Belles for cappuccino. The baristas were friendly and we settled in for a while to read before we headed on our next adventure.
We walked along the Promenade Plantee which is a pathway on an abandoned elevated rail in the 12th. It’s a less developed version of the High Line in New York and it seemed to be a place where more people exercised than lounged around. It was still a very nice way to view new parts of the city, especially since it wasn’t raining. Our walk ended at the far end of the city, so we took a bus to Mama Shelter in the 20th Arrondissement. Why did we go all the way there? Because we are designers and thought it would be fun to see a Philippe Starck design in person. We shared a pizza and cocktails for a late lunch in the restaurant. The resturant and hotel is located next to the abandoned Paris underground railway. If it were a warmer day we would have sat on the covered patio overlooking the overgrown tracks below. The atmosphere is super quirky with chalkboard writing and drawings on the ceiling, a random assortment of vintage accessories (like bird cages) and a Chinese dragon light fixture above the bar.
That night we met friends in the 7th for dinner. We knew a lot of people traveling in Europe in September but few overlapped with our itinerary. Through the power of facebook, we found out our wedding photographer and fellow K-State Architecture grad and his wife would be in Paris the same time as us. In order to extend our social lives beyond ordering food and talking to each other, we made sure to meet them for dinner. When Eric and Laura were in Italy the two weeks before they came to Paris, someone staying in their villa highly recommended they go the restaurant Reed when they came to Paris. I guess he travels there for business often and couldn’t speak more highly of it. It was also close to Eric and Laura’s hotel and an easy train ride for us. Dinner was intimate because chef Catherine Reed only seats up to 10 guests each night. She is a woman of many coats, acting as hostess, waitress, chef, pastry chef and dishwasher all while delivering a very personal dining experience. The menu was limited but offered meat and veggie alternatives, a specialty soup or salad, and a few options for dessert. Overall we had a very nice dinner recounting each of our travels prior to Paris. Dinner is slow, so if you have plans after make sure they are flexible. I think we spent around 2.5 hours eating which was perfect timing for walking to the Eiffel Tower to see it sparkle. It was so cheesy but also pretty spectacular.
The next day, we had coffee and I wrote post cards in an airy coffee shop connected to a high end retail shop called The Broken Arm. Coffee was great and they served wonderful pastries, and a full lunch menu. If you’ve got money burning a hole in your pocket be sure to check out the retail space next door. I had a great time writing post cards from each city we visited. It was really nice to spend time recounting some of our favorite travel moments to send to family and friends.
We spent the rest of the day ducking in and out of the rain. We stopped in E. Dehillerin, a fabulous old cooking supply shop, we found some shops in a covered gallery with tons of antiques I was drooling over. Sometimes I look back and regret our decision to backpack, and then I think of all the money I saved since I couldn’t be tempted to buy random things I liked. But those copper pots, swoon! Notre Dame is gorgeous, you should definitely go. It’s also full of tourists so be patient. Go in and sit, meditate, pray, enjoy the feeling of being in a space built by men starting in 1163! I can’t even imagine what their world was like, but I’m guessing it was really simple and instead of reading my blog post, I’d have you over for dinner to share all about my travels to foreign worlds.
Tucked away in a residential neighborhood in the 5th is Sugarplum Cake Shop. We heard rumors of this bakery serving bottomless cups of coffee like you might see in a diner in the states, but it was only rumors. So, what do you eat on a dreary afternoon in Paris? A big slice of American style cake of course. Michael ordered carrot, I had chocolate-ginger. They were both very tasty and the shop was comfortable to hang out in for a while to wait out the rain.
Another site to see is the Arc Di Triomphe. Oh, and just in case you find yourself in dire need of a restroom when you get close, there is a free one in the drugstore off the Av de Champs Elysees (find the stair to the second floor and you’re golden). Because I had to use the restroom so badly, we missed most of a performance by the military band, but timed our visit well with the sunset. We hear the view from the top is great, it just wasn’t on our list. Instead we did triumphant poses below the memorial. Michael stood triumphantly in his Triceratops t-shirt (I thought it was hilarious he chose this as one of his shirts to bring since I made it for his birthday years ago in honor of an awesome t-shirt he had as a kid). Hey! We did something without eating! Our dinner destination wasn’t even close to here!
That night we traveled back to the 2nd for dinner at Frenchie. Since we didn’t have a reservation in the actual restaurant, we planned to eat at the wine bar just across the alley. Frenchie became so popular when it first opened that they opened up a wine bar to accommodate more guests. Tables in the wine bar are on a first come first serve basis and you can add your name to the list and drink wine while you wait. The menu is similar in style to what is served in the restaurant but offers a wider variety of options. Two glasses of wine and around an hour and a half later one of the waiters approached us to ask if we wanted to sit at the restaurant since a table had opened up. Yes! Of course we would! We sat down in a cozy nook with two other tables. I am sure that the reason it took so long to get a table is because the french have this really bad habit called smoking. I really don’t understand it and I’ve never smoked anything in my life, but after each course most of the french people would leave their table and stand outside and smoke one or two cigarettes. Then they’d come back in and start the next course. Has no one ever told them smoking is killing their palette? I guess not. Well, smoking breaks definitely extend dinner to extraordinarily long proportions.
The Frenchie restaurant menu has a three course prix fixe. Our food was absolutely divine. Michael ordered duck breast and I had fish for my main. His duck had six pieces of shot in it (pieces of the bullet that spray out to kill a duck in flight) which was shocking to us and every one around us. Michael grew up in a bird hunting family so he knew pieces of shot can get in the meat every now and then, but six pieces may have been a new record! Michael asked our waitress whether it was normal and she decided to alert the chef. Chef Gregory Marchand is the mastermind behind this wildly successful restaurant. He got the nickname Frenchie while working at Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen in London. Nickname or not, this man is an amazing chef and he’s also super friendly! He came out to apologize about the amount of shot in Michael’s duck breast and told us that his friend had actually hunted for them the day before. Whether or not this is legal, it was a great meal of wild game, a great dinner story, and his hunting friend has really good aim. Chef Marchand sent over an apertif with our dessert and our whole experience was that much nicer.
On our last full day in Paris we traveled to Versailles. After a 40 minute train ride from the city center, we arrived in the wealthy suburb surrounding Chateau de Versailles. The grounds are magnificent spanning 2014 acres, 230 of those are solely gardens. You can enter the gardens for free but the museum costs money. We walked around various gardens for a few hours, picnicked in a flower garden, took some silly photos, and read our books in the sun to rest our tired feet. I think we missed the fountains by two weeks. Each winter they close or shut off the fountains scattered throughout the garden which would have been beautiful to see. Surprisingly the garden was still great without them.
We had a great time in Paris even in spite of the rain and we should have gained 20 pounds each from the amount of food we consumed. Thankfully we burned a plethora of calories walking around each day. Remember to always travel with respect for other cultures (mind your manners and try your best to speak some of the language), explore, eat and drink things you wouldn’t normally consider, keep an open mind and itinerary, and try to eliminate those stereotypes you have about “french people”. You never know when it’s going to pour rain so carry an umbrella and take advantage by stepping into coffee shops and pastry shops. Don’t be stressed out by immaculately dressed people, just know the city lives up to its fashionable reputation. Traipsing the city in stilettos is not for everyone.
Jusqu’à la prochaine fois… when we travel to Budapest.
(Until next time…)