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Tails From the Vienna Woods

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Joyeux Noël! Christmas in Paris. La carte postale

“Open every Sunday.” Just one of the many reasons to love Paris.

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Joyeux Noël! Christmas in Paris. Quatre

I woke early enough to spot Jupiter or perhaps Mars outside the window, a little before dawn. Tony cautiously asked, “How are you feeling?” My head felt like the size of the Hindenburg, but the rest of me felt human. Four cups of tea and some remaining Bûche de Noël later (Hey, feed a cold and starve a fever, right?) and we were all cheerily bundled and heading to the Festival du Merveilluex.

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Joyeux Noël! Christmas in Paris. Trois

Just as they have done for the past 16 years, the “children” woke at 0500 to see what Santa had brought.

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Joyeux Noël! Christmas in Paris. Deux

Christmas Eve. There is always something to do in Paris that has not been done before.

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Joyeux Noël! Christmas in Paris. Un

While chatting with a friend in late autumn we mutually discovered that her visiting family was looking for a place to stay over Christmas, while we were looking for someplace to travel for the holiday. The plan was born.

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Paris is always a good idea. Especially if you like to eat.

And eat we did. Sucre crepes from the street vendors?  Check. The simple perfection of a ham and salted butter baguette sandwich while on the go? Probably one too many to count. Our sit-down meals were no less pleasurable. The beauty of Paris, as with Vienna, is that between the walking and the second hand smoke, I likely lost weight while on my short holiday. 
As with most casual French restaurants we dropped into, the plat du jour at a bistro in Saint Germain was inexpensive.  €10 bought a plate of pate de campagne (with my favorite tiny French cornichon), chicken paillard in a Norman-style mushroom creme sauce, and just the right sized wedge of apple tartin for me. For Tony, the French onion soup, Boeuf Bourguignon, and a chocolate pot de créme.  With a small carafe vin rouge, lunch was but €28. 
I have already spoken about the steak at our Sunday evening brasserie supper, unadorned so as to allow the dinner guest not to be distracted with sauces or condiments. Just as steak should be. But the dessert cheese!  This is the oozy, ripe, round of creamy and just a wee bit tart Saint Marcellin, expertly paired with a warm cherry sauce and simple salad. The waiter who brought the cheese was as excited as I that I loved it so. Our cost for the plat du jour supper? With carafe vin rouge, of course, a mere €42.
On our last evening we snagged a table at a brasserie that had been rather busy the previous night, and with two couples milling about outside waiting for an open table. We took that as a sign that we should eat at this most unpretentious restaurant, tucked down a side lane and having only ten tables.
From the warm and welcoming maître d’hotel to the chefs who obviously delighted in the culinary works of art served to their guests, to the new friends we made (the tables were very close!), our evening ranks among the top ten dinners we have experienced.  
To start I was immediately drawn to the novelty of angel hair wrapped prawns with homemade guacamole. An unusual combination I am now anxious to recreate at home. 
Tony selected the sautéed gizzards with bacon. I suspect it was the bacon that captured his attention. This poultry food-grinding organ, gently tossed with crisp bacon, was so heavenly that I have added this, as well, to my list of dishes I am anxious to recreate at home. 
Then came the main entrée. Do you see that impeccably roasted duck on my plate? Each morsel, paired with a small bite of the cabbage mousse (Oh, yes! The chef went there!) was its own experience, for which Tony gave me my culinary privacy.  (For the record, I did not lift the plate and lick the remaining sauce.) 
Once again, my darling husband honed in on the Alsatian beef roll with bacon. The chef, as we learned, is from the Alsace region and likes to influence Parisian cooking with recipes from his mother. 
Our long evening, including lovely conversation with the group seated next to us and not one, but two small carafe vin rouge, lightened the pocketbook by only €65. 
I am not of the habit to discuss the cost of my culinary outings; however, while taking the long walk back to the apartment that evening, Tony and I commented together that on the previous weekend the four of us had enjoyed an ordinary Austrian lunch, with neither starter nor dessert and but one glass of wine each, that was not much less than the sum of the three extraordinary meals we experienced in Paris, and we wondered why that was the case.
Once back in the apartment, I just happened to search the restaurant on the Internet to see if it was known in Paris. Imagine our surprise to learn that we had just left a restaurant ranked by several travel sites as a “Top Ten Dining Experience in Paris!”

Because photos of the Eiffel Tower are too obvious.

Galeries Lafayette has a map for their shoe department. Any further questions about why I love Paris?

They also have a pretty Christmas tree is their stained glass-domed atrium. (And strategically placed coffee bars for the husbands to relax in while their wives shop.) Reminds me of the old Marshall Field’s in Chicago.

Paris Metro seating is chic, be it the purple plastic at Opera (I think?) or minimalist acrylic at Louvre-Rivoli.

Paris is the perfect place to make new friends…

 …and keep the old, even if the friend is on an extended midday pause.  Whenever I am in Paris I seek the tonic that is the hallowed, creaky, wooden floors of Julia Child’s favorite kitchen store. But not this time.

 Paris without an agenda means there is time to appreciate beautiful scenes.

 Place des Vosges

Saint Germain

No introduction necessary for this cathedral celebrating its 850th year

 A modest man in the Musee Cluny

 Along Boulevard Saint Germain

 Time spent making a decision is time well spent in Paris, be it for wine or tea.

 Eventually, though, one has to make their way home each evening…

Sheep on the Tarmac, Beer Halls and Ad Hoc Massage Parlors. We’re in Paris!

This is my fifth visit to my favorite city in the world, and with each visit I never cease to be amazed at what the City of Lights has in store for me. (Yes, poor spoiled me, tagging along on Darling Husband’s work trip again.) 
Walking through the Habitrail that is Charles de Gaulle airport I commented to Tony, “That looks like an animal shed.” 
And it was. Just outside Terminal 2F the sheep may safely graze?
For this visit we’re in Le Marais, Paris’ 4eme on Rive Droit (Right Bank). (I strategically positioned us myself to be near to the list of stores on my Christmas shopping list. Smart, no?)

 Classic restored 18th century building, steps from the Pompidou Center. Literally.

After settling in, checking with the children, and a most amazing Italian lunch at a place nearby, we wasted two hours on my least favorite Parisian sport: grocery shopping on a Sunday. Though I am loathe to criticize my favorite city in any way, c’mon Paris!  Even Vienna doesn’t shut travelers out of milk, coffee, and bath tissue on Sunday!

The afternoon light fading, what better way to spend a December evening in Paris than with the half-million other visitors at the Paris Village de Nöel, along the famed L’avenue des Champs- Élysées.

Oh. My. Goodness. If ever Munich’s Oktoberfest, America’s Infomercial Channel, and the Wiener Kristkindlmarkt were to have a love child, it would be the Paris Village de Nöel.

Our walk through the lighted and loud 200+ stalls began pleasantly enough…

We rather enjoyed some of the international offerings, too. Canadian sweets and treats?
 
Norwegian salmon or Catalunyan sausage?
Or how about a Santa Claus Matruschka? Ponder that, if you will.
In the mood for some bratwurst or German beer (we weren’t), the Paris Village de Nöel has you covered.
Rockin’ around the Ice Rink and Psychedelic jumbo slide with pop music on the Jumbotron!
A “zoo” along the boulevard was big with the villagegoers. Because animated mountain lions and coyotes in a desert scene oozes holiday cheer. 
The Jolly Old Elf himself could be found with a little effort, mixed in with Infomercial booths for “Scarves that double as hats!”, “Singing Bowls–Amaze your Friends”! and other useless tchotchke.
Tucked high up in the corner of a furry hat stall was a Nativity, the only one we found.
Tired from all that walking?  These ad hoc masseuse were at the ready to sooth those aching muscles. 
Sadly, all of the pretty photos of Le Tour Eiffel that we took from Pont des Invalides were a little blurry. I can not be certain, but perhaps our glasses of holiday cheer had something to do with that. 
We escaped the Village safely and made our way back to Le Marais and a cozy brasserie window seat by which to enjoy the plat du jour, perfectly grilled steak with peppercorn sauce.

 As well as a dessert cheese (Saint Marcellin) so luscious I brought one home for breakfast in the morning.

I love Paris.

A bientôt, Paris

Beautiful Blue Boulangerie.
Somehow “Faux Filet” doesn’t do sirloin steak with pepper sauce justice.
Furry.

 Furry with Flip-Flops.

 For a moment I thought Macy’s had opened a store in Montmartre.

 Could easily be mistaken for an El station in The Loop.

 Hotel de Ville

View from Petit Pont

Fair-weather French Street Vendors.
Introductions not necessary.
Can you smell the butter and sugar?

 Charcuterie.

 Chocolates displayed like fine jewelry.  As they should be.

Paris is always a good idea. (Audrey Hepburn, Sabrina)

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