April 15, 2014

Postcards from Paris: Part 2

When some people think of Paris, they think of gourmet restaurant meals. We, however, did not. The biggest reason is that we don't eat a lot of restaurant meals here at home in Seattle, gourmet or otherwise. When I'm not busy, I enjoy cooking (and am good at it). When we are busy, it honestly takes less time to prepare a simple meal than it is to go out to eat.

We had a bit of a snafu with getting into our rental apartment on time (we were able to leave our luggage but had to go kill a few hours while it was being cleaned), so we shoved aside our irritation and jetlag (after all, we were in Paris!) and wandered the streets of our Marais neighborhood. It was fate that we stumbled upon the very brasserie (La Chaise au Plafond on Rue du Tresor) that I had intended for our first evening, but had lost the pin on my map app. I chose it for it's location, primarily, on a quiet dead-end street but with adequate people watching possibilities. We ordered a carafe of red wine and two plat du jours: a chicken fricassee with curry sauce and vegetables. It of course came with bread on the side.

We had an amazing boulangerie/patisserie, Chez Manon, right downstairs from us. We can personally vouch for the excellence of those tarts, particularly the rhubarb.

With baguettes at 1 euro each, we ate breakfasts most mornings in our apartment, toasting the bread for tartines with amazing French butter and jam. The little grocery store downstairs provided eggs and yogurt for a little protein, the produce stand a few doors down offered the most gorgeous strawberries ever! 

I confess that we brought coffee with us (Starbucks Gold Coast) to use in the small drip coffeemaker, and bought a supply of pods for the Nespresso machine. We would never do this on a trip to Italy, but according to David Lebovitz, France is not known for its coffee. When we were out and about, we generally had a cafe noisette (espresso with a little steamed milk) standing at a cafe bar. Cheaper than sitting at a table, and fun!

Our lunches often came from a boulangerie, as well, whether we brought a delicious baguette sandwich with us from Chez Manon or picked one up on our foot travels. One of my favorite lunches was our first full day in Paris, sitting on a park bench in Square Suzanne-Buisson, sharing a Chez Manon sandwich while we watched a Parisian dad and his adorable Parisian twin toddlers (one boy, one girl) enjoy the little playground, all under the watchful eye of the statue of Saint Denis, holding his decapitated head.

We did enjoy a few dinners at one of our corner cafes, once a delicious cheese and charcuterie platter (with red wine)...

...the other a so-so croque monsieur and a big salad with some local beer that was nothing to write home about. Generally, with all the walking we did during the day, we just wanted to chill in the evening, picking up wine and the makings for a quick dinner (chicken breasts and haricorts verts) from the grocer, a roasted chicken from the meat market down the block...

...or amazing tagine and couscous dishes from Le Marche des Enfants Rouges, Paris's oldest covered market, also just down the block. We also hit L'As du Fallafel, possibly the best falafel place in Paris, although many people debate that. We opted to purchase from the window and eat standing in the street, rather than pay more to eat our meal at an inside table.

When we went to the Sunday market near the Bastille, I dearly wished that we, A) had a bigger kitchen in our apartment, B) were staying in Paris longer, C) didn't have other plans that day. The sheer gorgeousness of the vegetables, cheeses, meats, fish, breads, desserts and other foodstuffs was a feast for the eyes (and a feast for a lot of bellies, if not ours).

The flowers and the dogs were gorgeous, too!

One thing I loved about Paris was the dearth of big supermarkets. You would be hard pressed to go more than a few blocks without passing, separately, a small grocer, a luscious produce stand, a boulangerie (bakery), a charcuterie (meat and deli items), a fromagerie (cheese shop), a patisserie (pastry shop), a chocolatier and a wine shop.

We had planed to eat a few lunches in proper restaurants (when prices are less), but we generally found that, even with all of our walking, we just weren't hungry enough to eat two courses. We ate more bread in Paris than we usually do, but we ate smaller portions overall and snacked less. Interesting.

We really didn't shop a lot in Paris, and what we did buy was mostly edible! I'm embarrassed about how much Edmond Fallot mustard we brought home, and we found that good French butter, tucked in Ziploc bags with an ice pack and nestled in our checked luggage, travels nicely. We also came home with a few jars of jam, a big bag of grey salt, herbes de Provence and some bouquet garni bundles, Fauchon chocolates and macarons, and Mariage Freres tea. (I'm so glad we splurged on the macarons...I had only had them once at a local foodie event, and didn't think they were anything special. It turns out they are quite special when you get good quality specimens!)

April 14, 2014

Postcards from Paris: Part 1

Bonjour! Well, I'm back from Paris, which clearly means I did not succeed in posting anything while I was gone. I packed my laptop, but I never even took it out of my carry on bag. I think that was a sign that I needed a bit of a break from technology (other than my Paris map app, of course).

To say that Paris was amazing is a massive understatement, of course. We were sad to leave, but glad to be home (jet lag and all), which I think is the hallmark of an excellent vacation. We arrived home Thursday afternoon and I'm still feeling a little jetlagged, but at least I didn't come down with the cold of the century like Jeff did (I keep telling him to look on the bright side...at least he didn't get sick while we were in Paris).

I'll get caught up with a few Paris Postcard posts about my favorite places/experiences (one post will be dedicated to food), and then it will be back to business as usual. So without further ado, some of my favorite Paris memories:

Wandering the streets of Montmartre (after escaping the tourist-trap souvenir areas at the base of the Sacre Coeur). Gorgeous buildings like this were everywhere, all over the city. In fact, the default for Paris buildings is set on "Gorgeous."

Stopping in for a cafe noisette at Cafe des Deux Moulins. (Yes, where Amelie was filmed. When in Montmartre...)

The super efficient metro system (we never waited more than four minutes for a train), especially the stations with cool art deco signs.

The Louvre!

And the sunset view from the Louvre!

Gorgeous buildings, and gorgeous doors. Everywhere!

The Jardin des Tuileries. Iconic, and justly so.

Paris's covered shopping passages. Worth visiting even if you aren't shopping. Beautiful!

Free street concert!

The Rodin Museum. This was my favorite museum, after the Louvre. It's housed in the beautiful Hotel Biron, and has picturesque sculpture-dotted gardens. Like many Paris museums, the setting is almost as sumptuous as the art itself.

Walking along the Seine...

...especially when there are boats...

...and boats with resident cats!

Tomorrow...Paris food!

April 2, 2014

Greetings from RDville: And away we go!

Happy Wednesday! I started this week on an absent note, blogwise, because time simply got away from me...for very exciting reasons.

On a personal note, I'm leaving for Paris today. It's a trip I've been wanting to take for, oh, decades, so I'm finally being rewarded for my patience! On a professional note, all signs point to me being able to settle down into a new job shortly after my return. It's what I've been hoping for this last week and it looks like things are all coming together!

Between packing, planning, making arrangements with our house/dog/chicken sitter, writing a blog guest post, getting my first e-newsletter ready to send out and going on two job interviews, I've had a very busy two days.

I considered taking a full-fledged blog vacation while I'm in Paris, but instead I plan to do "Postcard from Paris" posts. They'll be light on the writing, but include some lovely photos (can you take an unlovely photo in Paris?). Among other things, I'm excited to experience the food of Paris, and I'd love to share some of those experiences with you.

Au revoir, for now!