Thursday, August 1, 2019

Paris!

So back in February, I was (happily) unemployed, we had resigned ourselves to the fact that we weren't having kids, and we were sick as hell of the snow. So, in very un-Valerie fashion, we impulse bought tickets to Paris for April.

Here we are celebrating our ticket purchase! Goobers!

Paris was somewhere I, like most people on the planet who aren't from there, have always wanted to visit, so I was super excited to go.

We stayed at this hotel because it wasn't super expensive or fancy and it was in our preferred neighborhood. I would recommend it because we don't really give a crap about hotels except if they are clean and safe. This one was really quiet and the people were nice and it was within walking distance to a ton of things. Here is the cute view from our room:


The first day, we landed in Paris, got super lost in the damn airport, picked up our travel wifi rental (such a handy thing to do when in foreign countries), walked in like fifteen circles trying to find where ubers can pick you up, gave up and took a taxi, and got to our hotel. After showering and rallying, we headed out for our half day in Paris.

Now, I'm gonna be real here. I'm really glad we did this trip and I overall had a great time, but Paris is not what I had envisioned. As an American, you are surrounded with images and platitudes about how romantic and dreamy Paris is. You see photos of flower covered cafes and baguettes, and the Eiffel tower. Which, for sure, are there, but also it's a mother effing city. It's filled with graffiti and traffic and vagrants and crime and garbage and it's A LOT. I may be a total idiot, but this didn't dawn on me until we set out that first day and I was like ohhhhh yeah this isn't the most comfortable place I've ever been. So that first day, I was a little overwhelmed, nervous about the language barrier, and pretty jet lagged. I didn't take a ton of photos, but we did walk around quite a bit, saw some sights, and had a great dinner.

First, we got some much needed caffeine at Neighbors, a super cute place near our hotel, then headed off to the Basilica of the Sacre Cur. I had read warnings about scams people will run to get you distracted so they can pickpocket you near this area and really about pick pocketing all over Paris. This was the only time we had to deal with it at all. This group of people were accosting tourists trying to give them bracelets and being really charming, trying to stop you to distract you. We told them no and kept walking, but one even grabbed onto Mike at one point to stop him. It was the only time I felt really nervous, but we just kept walking and telling them to leave us alone and that is why we have crossbody bags, amen. Here are some photos Mike took at the Basilica and the walk from there to dinner, such a gorgeous view!






We ended the night with dinner at Buvette for a super delicious meal and great service. Honestly, this meal helped calm my nerves; food can do that, can't it? I also felt pretty great about our ordering, even though we did have to google some things. We went flexitarian on our trip because we wanted to experience everything in Paris, so at Buvette we had the traditional carrot salad, some tartines, dessert, wine, blood sausage, asparagus, and I can't even remember what else. It was delicious.
The next day, we started with breakfast and hot chocolate at Angelina. We had heard about this place on the Paris episode of Somebody Feed Phil. Do you guys watch this show? You should. He's so charming and happy and it's great food porn. Moving on. Angelina is known for it's hot chocolate and that definitely did not disappoint. The omelet was garbage though, not gonna lie. Oof.


After breakfast, we headed out for a long walk around the city and stopped at the Musée de l'Orangerie




So pleased with how Mike's photo of a light installation turned out.

While walking around, we also happened into the Petit Palais which, like most things in Paris, was breathtaking.



While wandering around and, let's be honest, getting lost as hell, we happened upon a restaurant named Le Basilic for lunch. We didn't take any pictures there, but look at how dreamy this bitch is:

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Mike had snails which he loved and I chose not to try because hashtag texture. I had a seafood tartine that was one of the best things I ate that trip and we both enjoyed glasses of sancerre. We had so much sancerre this trip and oh man was it a great idea.

We had a light lunch that day because we had cheese tasting planned later in the day. Cheese tasting was Mike's (obviously genius) idea because, HAVE YOU MET ME?! We did it at Le Cheese Geek and our host was adorable and kind and knowledgeable and we ate SO MUCH cheese and wine and beer and actually learnt quite a bit about cheese. 

That is my happy cheese face.

After that, we were full, but you know...not too full that we didn't stop and get ice cream at a place recommended by both Phil and Anthony Bourdain on their shows, Berthillon



Then, (seriously I cannot believe we did all this day two), we were off to Notre Dame. Of all the things we did this trip, I am eternally grateful that we got to see Notre Dame before the fire. Not only was it breathtaking to look at, but we were lucky enough to visit while they were having mass. It was quiet and serious in there filled with whispers, smoke from the candles, and prayers. We stood to the side and listened to the priest, and I felt myself well up a little bit because I knew this was a special moment that I would never forget.













We ended the night having wine and snacks at La Relais Odeon, a place we happened upon at the end of a cobble stone street, with lights strung above it. It was so Paris, I could barely handle it.

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And then here are a million photos we took as we walked our asses off around Paris that day:




















Day three we started with coffee at Fragments and then headed off for some dreamy carbs at Du Pain et des Idees. David Lebovitz said this place had the best croissants in Paris and we don't know from much, but they were GOOD.


Then we went to Lafayette Gourmet which is basically a fancy mall that Mike wanted to walk around. Truth time: I did not enjoy this. My feet HURT by this point. We had made the smartish decision to wear shoes that we knew would not give us blisters, but we sorely underestimated how many miles we were going to walk each day and the bones of my feet hurt so badly by day three, I was not in a great mood. Also, I hate shopping. So I was a little bit of a fusspug during this part of the day...but Mike had fun, we bought some mustard and chocolate (not to be eaten together) and Mike took this pretty photo of spices:


Then, we bickered a bit about what to do the rest of the day until we realized we were down the street from Palais Garnier and you can tour it and it's beautiful. Mood saved.








Then we stopped at another place recommended by Anthony Bourdain, Harry's Bar. It's basically a New York bar plopped in the middle of Paris and it's got delicious cocktails. It was the perfect place to enjoy a cocktail (or two) and rest our aching feet.

After a  rest at the bar, we headed off to check something off our Paris bucket list - a jambon in a gorgeous park. Honestly, this is one of the reasons we allowed ourselves meat...I'm not going to Paris and skipping a jambon! We got ours at Le Petit Vendome, a teeny tiny, bustling place known for its jambon and it did not disappoint. We took our sandwich to a park and felt very Parisian and happy.


(The rest of this day is food and foot whining)

Then we headed off to walk some more (shocker!) and stopped at Pierre Herme to get some fancy treats for Mike and then to lunch at L'avant Comptoir. This was somewhere we were super excited to try, because this chef is crushing it right now in Paris and his food is supposed to be amazing. L'avant Comptoir is his more casual place, where he is doing counter service, but with fancy food. The menu is photos hanging from the ceiling and everyone shares a giant mountain of butter. It was weird and great.



Then we walked to Jardin de Luxemberg, a beautiful park that my step mom said we had to see. If I were to go back, I would spend more time here with some wine and jambons for sure. 




Then we stopped for more treats at Maison Eric Kayser (seriously, how are we not obese?) and headed to the Montpamasse Tower for the view. Okay, we were pretty tired at this point and nothing was in English and we couldn't figure out how the hell to get to the observation deck, so we went to the restaurant at the top and paid for expensive and shitty cocktails, but the view was great and we got to rest our feet, so...



We also went to the Church of Saint-Sulpice that day, but I don't have any pictures of it for some reason. It's beautiful inside though if you feel like googling and there was a drawing class there spread throughout the church working on various pieces, which was cool to see.

Then, we stopped at Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels for some natural wine and (of course) a cheese plate. We saw this American couple meeting up for drinks after the husband got off work and I was so intrigued with their situation and what does the wife do all day, she's so lucky, but also they must be so overwhelmed and do they speak French? So many questions...

We finished the night by grabbing dinner at L'as du Fallafel. This is one of the most recommended restaurants in Paris and it's a walk up window serving fallafel. Click on the marais hashtag in instagram and half the photos are like ours:


It was pretty good, but (my fault) we took it to go and it was a little cold by the time we got back to our hotel. Definitely worth a visit though. 

And here are other photos Mike took while we walked around that day:








Did we go into the Louvre? Nope. We aren't "spend a whole day in a museum" kinda folks. Not enough cheese in there...



Portrait of a woman whose feet hurt.



Day four MY FEET HURT, have I mentioned that? No? Well, they did.

We started with coffee at Wild & The Moon which is one of those hipster places that makes you feel really uncool, but they are also super nice and their coffee was amazing.

Then we grabbed breakfast from a bakery named Chez Manon where I accidentally ordered a tuna and olive quiche because, language barrier, and it was DELICIOUS.

Then, we headed out to the Picasso Museum which was cool because it was in this old beautiful building, with the modern art spread throughout it. The juxtaposition made it extra special.



After that, we stopped in Au Petit fer a Cheval which I think was another one recommended by Anthony Bourdain, for lunch and beer. I had a delicious cheese sandwich and Mike had pa and we both enjoyed local beers. It's a cool spot that feels very local, where you sidle up to the counter and the bartender makes everything, from your sandwich to your espresso. We hung out there for a long time, resting our feet, drinking our beers, and checking out the regulars. 



Then we walked around a bunch more and happened upon a brewery called BrewDog. Okay, I have since read really shitty things about the company that owns this brewery, but we didn't know that day and yeah, the service kind of sucked, but we got to sit outside on a gorgeous old street and drink beer, which is kind of our favorite thing to do.


Part of the view from our table. These post it looking cartoons were all over Paris and we had a fun time pointing them out and photographing them. Like the basic bitches we are.

We stopped by Le Enfants Rouges which is a market we really wanted to visit, wandered around looking at all the food, waited in line for Mike to order, and found out they had a really high minimum for cards so we bailed. Good story?

Then we wandered around Place des Vosges because it's pretty.



We stopped into Le Garde Robe for some wine and cheese because our feet hurt and who needs an excuse for wine and cheese when in Paris?


We couldn't figure out what we wanted to do for dinner and I was honestly on my last legs, so we stopped back at the cheese shop that Le Cheese Geek worked out of and loaded up on cheese, sides, and wine. We walked back to the hotel and had a picnic in bed while we watched tv and read our books. It was pretty great.

Here are some other photos we took walking around on day four:






This is how we knew where to turn to get to our hotel. Very handy little zombie man.














Day five was the day we were headed home, but of course we found some time to eat! We had crepes at Breizh Cafe which is actually the place we were supposed to have dinner the night before. They were SO GOOD. We ordered really well, both savory and sweet, and we got to share our wifi with some clueless American sisters who spent the whole time afterwards frantically checking their social media, bless 'em.

Also, we saw a pug!


We stopped to quickly buy some chocolate gifts for the moms and then headed to the airport. Even with delays, we made it home and ended up being the last flight allowed in due to the snow. The train ride and drive home sucked, but we were so happy to see our pups and unload our smuggled in French cheeses. I was nervous about the cheese, but the immigration dudes at the airport were way more concerned with the buckwheat flower Mike bought. They thought that was really weird and asked if we got it from Russia? Nope, but it sure has made some tasty crepes since we've been home.

All in all, I'm so glad we visited Paris, even if it's a never repeated trip for us. The food was amazing, the people were mostly nice, and we saw so many beautiful things. I would just suggest you wear ugly shoes that protect your foot bones, even though wine and cheese does help.



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