Saturday, May 11, 2013

An American Girl in Paris Part Trois

So, not only was my 10 days in Paris an amazing trip, but it forced me to unplug and truly enjoy some down time.  After my second blog post, I lost all internet connection. Wifi was sketchy, and I just couldn't connect long enough to write a post each day.

Drop a writer in Paris and then tell her she can't write? It was more than a little frustrating. Now that I am home, after a very long day of traveling yesterday, I can look back through my notes and pictures and give you a quick tour...

From Paris, we traveled to South to Lyon, Avignon, Arles, and several other towns - each with their own unique beauty. We made pastries with french chefs, drank espresso in street side cafes, sampled delicious chocolates and many varieties of red and white wines.  

Here - finally - are a few pictures...

Amphitheater in Arles, France. Built in 80AD
Did you know that the word salary comes from the word salt? Way back when, soldiers were paid in salt.  This is also where the term "worth his salt" comes from.
Aquaduct in Arles, France

The cafe to the left is the Cafe De Nuit - the very same that Van Gogh painted - in the famous painting at right. This is also the same cafe of the poem "Starry, Starry Night" fame.

Beautiful town of Chateauneuf De Pope

Pastry class in Paris! We made macaroons - delicious!

The Eiffel Tower at night - beautiful!

A winery in the South of France that has been in the same family since the early 17th century.

It was a fantastic trip, but not without its ups and downs, which I will share in a later post. Right now, I am going to spend some much needed time with my kids!

Friday, May 3, 2013

An American Girl in Paris... Part Deux

Before I begin: Blogger is behaving very badly and I am having a terribly difficult time importing pictures. So, unfortunately, I can't show you any of the beautiful things I write about here. Hopefully I will have it all sorted out once we arrive in Lyon, which we will be traveling to today, via the high-speed train.

Until then...

I believe I am finally on the Parisian time clock!  I woke up this morning and ran down to the hotel "spa" (gym) for a mini boot camp work out before our day began.  The hotel offers a complimentary breakfast buffet.  This is nothing like the breakfast buffets you are used to at a typical hotel.  The food was delicious, and the coffee is very strong - but so smooth.

Afterwards we headed out for a day of food tasting and sightseeing.  There was still some fog at 9:15am and this, accompanied by the unfamiliar cadence of parisien sirens only added to the ambiance.  We went to a French market where we tried zucchini topped with ice cream... an interesting flavor combination that started out cool and sweet, changed to smoky (think Gouda cheese) and then mildly crunchy.  It was ... interesting. Not bad, but not something I would purposefully order!  We also tried a violet tea drink with a piece of crystallized violet that tasted just like candy - delicious!

The market was a riot of gorgeous colors, fresh produce, and wonderful scents.

Here's something I love about Paris.  For 1 Euro you can rent a bike for half an hour (longer, of course, for more Euros) to make your way across the city. There are bike "lots" all over the city where you can simply swipe a credit card to unlock a bike.  When you lock the bike up at any "station" the time-clock automatically stops on your card.  Brilliant!
Same goes for cars, which they also offer in NYC and Chicago, but the bikes I'm not so sure they offer elsewhere (please do correct me if you know differently).

But I digress.  The highlight of our morning was a visit to a french chocolatier, where the owner educated us on the differences among various types of chocolate and offered several samples.  Again... delicious!

We were free to wander and find a restaurant for lunch.  We left our group and found a wonderful restaurant in the 6th arrondissment - near (or in? not sure) St. Germaine Square.  Let me digress for a moment to explain further about the 6th arron.  This is the most exclusive area to live in all of Paris. Apartments here sell for $12,000 per square meter.  Can you imagine?

St. Germaine Square is the place to see and be seen.  In his day, Hemingway used to write in the small establishments here, because a cup of coffee was just 10 Euros, and there was heat - a warm place for a starving writer to work all day.

We visited Le Procope which is the oldest restaurant in the city. This was a place where Le Voltaire and Bonaparte use to visit. Bonaparte once left his hat as payment because he did not have enough money to pay his bill.  His hat still resides in the restaurant today.

So... we sat outside a cafe for lunch of course, and people-watched, then rejoined our group to head back to the Champs Elysee where we took a pastry class with Chef Matthew.
He was very charming, and the desserts were outstanding.  He taught us how to make Macaroons, Chocolate Tarts and Tiramisu - Delicious!

Afterwards, we headed back to the hotel. My dad and I decided to walk to the Apple store here and received very simple directions from the conceirge at our hotel.  Simple my ass.  Paris is not as easy to navigate as NYC (their grid system, to me, is quite simple).  After a few wrong turns and two attempts to ask non-enlish speaking french people for directions, we finally found it. This Apple store is like a church! But of course, it's in Paris, what did we expect?

We did a little shopping then walked the mile or two back to the hotel, stopping once at a market for a bottle of wine, then again for a quick bite to eat before finally heading back to our hotel.

It has been a very long, but wonderful day.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

An American Girl in Paris, Part Une

What a day it has been... and what day is it, exactly? Now I know fully what it means to have jet lag.  Today was May Day in Paris so the shops were closed, which worked out for me, because I was desperate for a long nap.  Before I get ahead of myself, I have to back up a bit...

First/Business Class is just superb.  I don't think the international flight attendants were quite prepared for my Aunt Diane and me. We had one hell of a time trying out the seats - they reclined into several positions, all the way to flat for sleeping. We sipped Mimosas and wine, and dined on French cheese, etc. etc. After an Ambien-induced nap on the plane we woke up 7 hours ahead of our internal clock. Motion sickness hit pretty hard on the landing, which took me about an hour to overcome.

But I digress.

Paris is very much like you think it would be. The architecture is beautiful, the cars are small, the rain  is steady but very light.  Our hotel sits just down the street from the Arc De Triomphe and the Champs De Elysee.  And to my Parisien friends, I apologize for any spelling errors... I'm just that tired.

Our dinner lasted more than 3 hours - God only knows how many courses and glasses of wine, but it was all excellent.  After dinner, we went to see the Eiffel Tower.  Lit up at night, it was just beautiful.  Have you ever waited so long to see something that you think you might be disappointed to discover it's not as you had imagined in your dreams?  Not so for the Eiffel Tower. It is truly magnificent.  I'm looking forward to seeing it in the day time.

Of course, this is a tourist attraction, and the hawkers were out in full force trying to sell their plastic Eiffel Tower replicas for "just one Euro!"

In my library at home hangs a framed picture of the Champs De Elysee.  It is a beautiful painting of a tree-lined street, fresh and peaceful after a light rain.  The real thing is no less a sight to see, but it did seem much more commercial to me in real life, and not unlike Madison Avenue in Manhattan.  I'm not sure whether this was a disappointment or a relief to me. I do love Manhattan, but it did take away just a bit of the romance of this city of lights.

Tomorrow we leave the hotel at 9:15 am for several tours, the first of which will take us to a Patisserie where we'll learn how to make French Macaroons, and taste more amazing French wine.

I wanted to post a few pictures by blogger is giving me hell and I'm in no mood to fight, so... tomorrow.

Bonne nuit mes amis!