Paris, France Day 2

Day 2 in Paris dawned clear and sunny, despite many dire forecasts. <!-more-> &nbsp

Our day began with a Secret Food Tour of the Montmartre area. Our guide, PJ, was a character. Clad in a leather biker vest, he was funny, a touch bawdy, and very knowledgeable about French food, wine, and culture. We began at a local boulangerie, watching the bread being put into the oven.  The tour structure was quite clever—mimic the Parisian buying habits (grab bread here, meat there, cheese here and then bring them back and sit down for a meal together).  The meal took place at a restaurant right near where Edith Piaf used to sing.


After our walk, we settled down to a hefty tasting meal. PJ purchased three kinds of baguettes—regular, whole wheat, and corn—and they served as handy vessels for the parade of meat and cheese to come. The corn was the real revelation—a little sweet, a little savory, and a whole lot delicious.


We began with a trippel creme cheese with truffles. Soft cheeses aren’t usually our jam, but the earthiness from the truffles really helped it go down a treat. It was followed by a goat cheese in ash and a hard goat cheese. The soft one was too funky for us, but the hard one was a favorite of Paul’s.


Next, we came the meats. Salame, meat from the neck that tasted like andouille, and actual andouille made from intestines and stomach that tasted like tiny ribbons of chewy fat (not my fav).


Up next were the terrines. Duck and rabbit, both delicious, and head cheese.


The strong cheeses rounded out the savory portion of the meal—Comte and Roquefort.


Finally, we rose and walked off some of the goodies we’d just consumed. We went to this amazing macaron and chocolate shop run by two Korean bakers/chocolatiers. We had honey, fig (only French bakery to have real fruit filling put in the macaron), chocolate, and coffee.


Paul’s life was changed by the sea salt and caramel chocolate. 

Next, we had some choupetts. Delicious light pastries with a tiny crunch stuffed with whipped cream. We both agreed we would have enjoyed it even more without the cream.


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The tour ended with crepes from a little hole-in-the-wall crepe shop. We chose the lemon, butter, and sugar which was good, but definitely not the best thing on the menu. That comes later…..

Stuffed full of decadent Parisian treats, we made our way to the Arc de Triomphe, Champs Elysee, and the Eiffel Tower. We had tried to see them the day prior, but I experienced one of my mini freak-outs at the subway map and spent so long staring at it, like it was in Greek, that we missed our window and had to hustle to the wine tasting.  I saw many beautiful things on this trip, but Arc de Triomphe monument really blew me away. Not sure why, but it made me a little teary.


Paul then suggested heading to the Place de Voge area for a glass of wine. We wandered around the area a bit, seeing Victor Hugo’s house and the Place de Bastille. The Place de Bastille was slightly spoiled by the Nokia advertisement wrapped around it (nothing says liberte, egalite, and fraternite like rampant commercialism)!


We wandered around the St. Paul/Marais district before making our way back to Montmartre and the Sacre Couer. We took the funicular up to the Sacre Couer and when we tried to get back down, some people had messed up the machines so they could sell illegal tickets. Not cool, folks, not cool.

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We had a kind of lackluster dinner of escargot (pretty solid), rump steak, croque madame, and a Cote du Provence rose. We remained hungry and went in search of the hole-in-the-wall crepe stand again. And, boy, are we so glad we did. Not only were the ham and cheese crepe and the nutella crepe the best bites we had in Paris, they were right up there with some of the best food of the entire trip.

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Look at those looks of pure joy, folks. Pure, crazy joy.

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Paris, France 

It’s been awhile since we checked in on here. Welcome back! Travel prep, work, and house guests kept us busy in the weeks leading up to our trip and then we were vacationing in France, Spain, and Italy for two weeks. Blogging updates were the last thing on our minds.  

But we are back home now and eager to document our trip. We have got a lot of territory to cover, so settle in for many forthcoming posts about our European adventure! Feast your eyes on these two fresh-faced innocents. Heck, they hadn’t even been to Europe yet. 

Our flight left Reagan National and headed to JFK. Not quite a red-eye, our 5 pm-ish departure from New York meant we never managed to sleep on the way to Paris. After making it through French customs (barely a cursory nod at our passports and an emphatic stamp), we faced our first challenge—Paris’s ultramodern restrooms.  It may have been the jet lag, but the rooms were labyrinthine, the fixtures unresponsive, and the lights kept cutting off when you peed unless you sort of jerk-danced your upper torso and arms the entire time you sat on the bowl.

With some trial and error we located our shuttle and were on our way to our hotel in Montmartre. We landed early in the morning Paris-time, and so were faced with a dilemma—stay up and power through on zero sleep or take a nap and face the jet lag consequences. We decided it would be best to acclimate to the new normal and proceeded to stay up for about 36 hours straight.

Hotel Le Squara where we stayed was an absolute delight. Located right near a metro and nestled in the charming streets of Montmartre, we couldn’t have asked for a better location. Granted, it’s right next to the red light/sex district, but if you don’t mind the occasional nudie bar, it’s really prime real estate for travelers and affordable.

In true Kathleen and Paul fashion, we started our travels with croissant, pan au chocolat and espresso in the art nouvea decorated Lux Bar. The coffee helped our addled brains orient enough to tentatively figure out the metro map and negotiate our way to some sights.

Our first stop was St. Chapelle. Paul read about this chapel in Rick Steves and its promise of the most beautiful stained glass in Europe did not disappoint. Located right near government buildings, I saw my first of many armed guards staring down tourists with semi-automatic machine guns.

After St. Chapelle, we walked to Notre Dame and took in its majestic beauty. Sadly, it was very short on hunchback sightings.


Hungry for more stereotypical Parisian delicacies, we walked to a cafe where we had the most deliciously molten croque madame and monsieur.


After lunch, we had one of what would be a handful of mini-freak-outs on my part. I had really, really, really wanted to do a boat ride down the Seine. I figured I’d picture myself as a character in Les Miserables and watch the sights go by. But the reality was negotiating about a zillion slippery moss covered steps and my already janky knee was balking. Never mind my fear of heights (and stairs without banisters—Europe, you’re a tricky mistress). My disappointment in my wimpiness, a pervasive sense of crippling exhaustion, and dreams dashed had me in quite a sore mood. But the view definitely helped me regain some equilibrium. After getting lost for a good 25 minutes navigating a few blocks, we managed to make it to the famous bookstore Shakespeare and Company and all was well again.

We had booked a wine tasting at O’Chateau and my dim recollections of it are positive. I was so tired I actually fell asleep at one point mid-lecture from our sommelier. The wines were very good—especially the champagne and the Languedoc—and the atmosphere was incredible, a sort of underground cellar/wine cave.


We finished the evening with a pretty average, over-rare steak frite and then some truly memorable aged Gruyere. Marvelous cheeses are a recurring theme on this trip and many, many Lactaids were consumed to help me cope with my intolerance to lactose. Quelle horreur being lactose intolerant in Europe!

Never Go To Europe

When we decided to name this blog That Annoying Couple, I wanted to come up with a post that would live up to the title. And behold, I have done it. Let’s talk about the planning of our trip to Europe! Continue reading “Never Go To Europe”