I have always enjoyed traveling, even if it meant sleeping in a tent when I was younger. I prefer hotels and cruise cabins now, but the motivation is the same...an adventure waiting to happen. Sometimes you will find me traveling with my husband and/or family. Sometimes I will travel alone, and sometimes I will travel with friends. I hope you find it entertaining to keep up to date with me as I explore the world around me. Warning...I like to take pictures of food so don't read if you're hungry. More adventures await...see ya soon...Amy.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Last Day in Paris

the Vanves flea market and boy was it cold outside!

groovy little smart car

we only saw a fraction of this flea market because we were soooo cold

Hallie's favorite bridge...Point Alexandre III

Les Invalides where Napolean is buried

mulled wine

Croque Monsieur...this one is open faced

club sandwich

Croque Madame...open faced

French onion soup

Poilane...home of Punition cookies

last visit to Pierre Herme

sneaking pics inside of Pierre Herme

Wall grafiti

Ashley wanted to find some purple toilet paper like TaTa Francoise had...found it!
starbucks and shopping

funniest name for a store

ready to go see family...wearing the new pin I got at the flea market

the metro stop across the street from the hotel

riding the metro
walking toward Katy and Jean Pierre's home

a little graffiti on the wall

another amazing cheese platter

yummy nut bread

Katy had beautiful flowers on the table

our salad..we loved these little curved bowls.

fruit for dessert...we loved our meal so much i forgot to take pictures of it!

Katy found a new chocolatier to tease me with. I guess I will be locating the store on my next visit

the cousins!!
I always hate to write "last day in Paris"! Alas, it IS the last day and we have to go home tomorrow. Today we ate breakfast about 9:00 a.m. and then rode the metro to the Vanves Flea Market. There were rows and rows and rows of tables set up with vendors selling everything from china, watch faces, clothing, jewelry, decorative items, furniture, etc. and just plain junk. It was like a giant garage sale that seemed to go on forever! Weather.com said the temperature outside was 30 degrees and that it felt like 20 degrees. There were snow flurries and we were absolutely freezing. We stayed for about 1.5 to 2 hours, weaving between the people from booth to booth until we just couldn't feel our feet or fingers anymore. We left the area and rode the metro (and warmed up) to the area surrounding Invalides for lunch. Danny and Ben separated from us after lunch and toured Musee de l'Armee at Les Invalides which is the museum of the French Army. It includes the burial place of Napolean Bonaparte. Danny said it was quite obvious that most of the armor and weapons they saw were functional as well as beautiful works of art. Ashley and I walked from Invalides to the area surrounding St. Sulpice still in snow flurries. We were pretty cold and got a fabulous hot chocolate at Maison du Chocolat which was thick like drinking a melted candy bar....yum! I think it wasn't quite sweet enough for Ashley, but she said she was glad to be drinking something warm. We stopped into Pierre Herme and picked out a couple of our favorite macarons as this was our last day to enjoy them and we had skipped desert at lunch. Ashley likes the Caramel de Sel and the Creme Brulee and I like the Passion Fruit with Chocolat and the Chocolat. We walked down Rue du Cherche-Midi and found Poilane and bought some of the Punition butter cookies for later. They are simple butter cookies, but they have quite a following among those who buy their bread from Poilane. We caught the metro at that point to go across Saint Germain and shop back behind the Saint Germain church around Rue Jacob and Rue de Buci. This is a favorite area of mine and we enjoyed walking in and out of stores among the snow flurries. We found a really nice Starbucks there with a good bathroom. It doesn't require a token (or a purchase) and it was clean. Public restrooms are hard to come by in Paris. We have a theory that it's because Parisians do not drink the amount of water that we Americans do. At a meal in a Brasserie/Bistro, you are served water in juice size glasses, unlike the large water glasses we have in the United States. I had always heard that stopping at a Starbucks in a city would provide you with a clean bathroom. Not so with all the Starbucks in Paris. The one on Saint Germain we stopped at the other day required a purchase to receive a code and the bathroom was very very nasty. So nasty, it couldn't be used! So, this Starbucks was nice and clean and I marked it to remember it for another trip. Ashley and I enjoyed spending some time without the men even though it was really really cold outside. We took the metro back to the hotel in time to leave at 5 p.m. to go to our cousin's Jean Pierre and Katy's home for dinner. We had to take the metro and then the RER, but it was easy to do and we found their home without any problem. Katy had talked to her fromagier (the person who sells the cheese) to help her select cheeses for us that our palate might enjoy. Oh my we had some wonderful ones to choose from. In addition to the cheeses, there was also a Pate of Quince, which is a fruit pate to eat with the cheese, and a pear and Sauterne jam that Ashley and Ben really enjoyed with the goat cheese. My favorite cheese on this platter was a creamy cheese with herbs and sun dried tomatoes (not goat cheese) and a hard cheese that was from Italy. The hard cheese was especially good with the Quince Pate. She also served a nut bread which was delicious with the cheese. We give the fromagier a "thumbs up" for all of his selections. We also had a Chablis wine from the Bourgogne region that I actually really liked and wouldn't mind finding a bottle of. It was very light and well suited for the cheese and wonderful fish that we had for our meal. The Turbot fish that Katy prepared was wrapped around a shrimp and served with a Passionfruit cream sauce that was absolutely divine. Turbot fish is similar to Sole and is a thin, flat fish. She also made Creamed Potatoes and added some lemon juice to them. It was all delicious. We started our meal with a simple green salad in the cutest oval bowls and ended it with a wonderful fruit salad of strawberries (teeny tiny ones), raspberries, mango, kiwi, pear and banana. I think I remembered all of the fruit! It was wonderful and juicy and a delicious way to end a light but filling meal. Katy enjoys dark chocolate as much as or even more than me and has found a new Chocolatier for me to add to my list....Pierre Marcolini. He is from Brussels in Belgium, but he is unique in the way he makes his chocolate and they taste more like Parisian chocolate than Belgian. He purchases his own cocoa beans from different areas around the world and roasts them himself to make his own chocolate. By doing this, he has complete control over the product. Katy had a box of ganache chocolates that were single source chocolates from all over the world. We tasted the different ones and they were delicious! Danny said to add it to the list to get for him the next time I am in Paris. I promised him I wouldn't forget! We said goodbye to our cousins with encouragement to come and visit us in the U.S. or at least tell us where they are and we will come to them. We are back in the hotel now and pretty much packed up to leave tomorrow. We have some time in the morning to walk around some more, but most of the stores will be closed because it's Sunday. We are hoping to find a Monoprix or Carrefour open for some last minute purchases. Until our next trip....

Friday, February 22, 2013

Third Day in Paris

Sacre Coeur...note the "string man" in the lower right hand corner waiting to dupe unsuspecting tourists!

looking out over the city from the steps of Sacre Coeur

getting rid of some change and posing with the mime

view of Sacre Coeur from Montmartre

stopping for a crepe

the artist of my latest watercolor

the hills of Montmartre

eyeballs are watching...there is art everywhere
street art

Moulin Rouge

very cool chocolate shop with chocolate available from other parts of France

This chocolate is only sold in this shop and it's delicious

Saint Sulpice

the thickest yummiest hot chocolate ever!

street shot

the menu at La Grille Saint Germain

this building is under reconstruction, but there is a tromp l'oil covering over the construction

Notre Dame

Notre Dame celebrating 850 years

beautiful doors

new bells for the Cathedral

Point Zero...the official city center of Paris...where all mileage to and from Paris is measured from

family portrait in back of the Cathedral...we were FREEZING!

love locks on the bridge

our lock and the Brister's lock. ours is to the left with the blue ribbon

Ben painted this lock for Ashley

Ben and Ashley

locking their locks

Ben and Ashley locked their lock to ours

walking down Île Saint-Louis

how many kinds of goat cheese do you need?

Berthillon...my favorite french ice cream

Ashley...chocolate and salted caramel

amy...chocolate all the way

La Bastide d'Opio...very cool little restaurant

when they said "hanging", they meant hanging!

We found Jura whiskey from the Isle of Jura where Meme's family line comes from

Amorino scoops their ice cream into flower petals on the cone

Ashley had planned to start the day with a swim at a local pool but something happened with the alarm clock and she didn't wake up early enough. It was a very disappointing start to the day. We decided to go ahead and begin our day with a trip to Sacre Couer and Montmartre with the intention of getting her back to the Saint Germain area in time to swim before they closed at 1:30. We had a great morning marching the millions of steps up to Sacre Couer, the Basilica located at the highest point of the city. I know I say this every time I blog a visit that it is so disappointing that people are no longer able to take photos inside this church. The church wants people to purchase photos in the gift shops located inside the church instead. I refuse to do that, so if you want to see pictures of the interior you will have to check the internet (or the contraband photo I took last year in April 2012). We walked out of the church and around to Place du Tertre, where the artists come to sell their wares to tourists. I am one of those gullible tourists who delight in taking home a piece of original art and taking a picture with the artist. I forgot to communicate with Danny that we might need a little cash with us so he didn't have much. He had just enough to bargain someone down quite a bit to get what I wanted because he literally didn't have what they were asking. It was either make the sale or we would walk away and apparently the guy wanted the sale. I am coming home with another piece of art that reminds me of walking the streets of Bayeux with TaTa Renee years ago. It melted my heart! We really wanted to find a chocolate shop that I had read about that was in Montmartre and down the streets we went. It was much easier to walk downhill than down all those millions of steps and we found it! This shop (A L’Etoile D’Or) is a very small store that is PACKED with chocolate from all over France. They carry a line of chocolate bars from Bernachon that is only available outside of Lyon at this shop. We missed meeting the owner, Denise Acabo, by seconds as she arrived just as we were leaving. This was disappointing as she has become rather "famous" because of her knowledge of chocolate and willingness to visit with her customers. Oh well, maybe I can meet her on another trip. I'm sure I will be back there! We left the store and hurried to the metro to get Ashley to the pool so she could swim before we ate lunch. Danny and I left Ben with Ashley at the Piscine and toured the Saint Sulpice church. It is huge and just beautiful inside. There was also a large fountain outside with water that was actually flowing. All of the other fountains we have seen have been drained for the winter. We went back to the hotel to pick up Ben and Ashley for lunch. We ate at La Grille Saint Germain and had a great lunch. Ashley had sausage and lentils, Ben and I had a faux filet (sirloin) steak, and Danny had escargot and a salad. We had a terrible wait staff who we think was upset because we didn't order a bottle of water and instead we asked for a carafe of tap water, which is our custom. If you ask for water in a restaurant, they will generally ask you if you want it "with gas" (bubbles) or without. If you say without, they will bring you a very expensive bottle of bottled water and of course you will have to order another, because one is never enough. We have learned to just ask for a carafe of tap water which is free and the water in Paris is great. Apparently some waitstaff do not like this. Anyway, his attitude did not affect our meal and we enjoyed our food. The people sitting next to us were french and asked where we were from. The young man had spent time in Idaho building a ski resort, Tamarac, that has now closed down. His sister lives in the area and goes to this restaurant all the time. She said the food is very consistent and also close to two of her favorite bakeries, Gerard Mulot and Pierre Herme. We took Ben and Ashley to see Saint Sulpice after lunch and then we went to see the Notre Dame Cathedral. There is a huge set of stands outside of Notre Dame in the courtyard in preparation for the 850th anniversary celebration. There was the longest line I have ever stood in to go into the Cathedral. Once inside, we understood why. The new bells that are being added are on display right down the center of the church. The church was full of people walking by the bells, photographing them (guilty) and even touching them (also guilty). The lighting has been improved in the Cathedral and you are still able to take photos, only not with a flash. We exited the Cathedral into the bracing winter cold (29 degrees that felt like 19) and walked down the street toward the back of the Cathedral. It appears that most of the Cathedral has finally been cleaned and the scaffolding that we have seen over the past several years removed. Ashley stopped to try some mulled wine that she had been thinking about since seeing some yesterday. We went to the back of the Cathedral and a young couple asked me in french to take their picture with their camera. I counted to three in french, took their picture and they thanked me in french. When the young man looked at the picture, he said "that's awesome!". I told them that I thought they were french and he told me he thought I was french. What a compliment that at least the way I am dressing in France does not mark me as a tourist and ripe for pickpocketing!! We walked onto the Pont de l'Archevêché, a bridge that is behind Notre Dame to look for the "love locks" that the Bristers and Danny and I locked onto the bridge last year. They were still there, affected a good bit by the weather. Ben and Ashley brought a lock to put on the bridge and locked their lock to ours. We are on the 11th post on the bottom to the right if you count the beginning post. We were absolutely freezing, but we wanted to have some Berthillon ice cream and walked across to the Île Saint-Louis and sat inside the location our cousin, Cathy Saulnier, had taken me too on an earlier trip. I ate chocolate and chocolate (of course, Ben had nougat and chocolate, Ashley had salted caramel and chocolate and Danny had chocolate and coconut. We all thought we were absolutely nuts for eating ice cream with snow flurries outside, but oh well because we are in Paris!!! Did I mention that there have been snow flurries ALL day, it's just so cool. Anyway, we went back to the hotel after ice cream to warm up a bit and ate supper in Saint Germain at La Bastide d'Opio, another winner. I think my favorite part of the meal were the ravioli in basil cream sauce and the zucchini, orange, and carrot salad that we had to start with. I am a new fan of zucchini salad thanks to Sophie's introduction. I have a suspicion though that if I give it a try, it won't be near as good as what we have eaten here. The vegetables here are just so fresh and delicious! Ashley ate duck breast, I had chicken with a morel mushroom cream sauce, and Danny and Ben had steak on a skewer "on the gallows" which meant they were literally hanging from a pole above the plate. It was delicious although Ben and Danny's steak was a little overcooked. Danny and I ate the Valhrona hot chocolate cake for dessert and Ben and Ashley saved room for Amorino gelato which is located right across the street. It was a perfect ending to a day that started off a little disappointing. Tomorrow we will check out a flea market. Until then....