Thursday, October 22, 2015

France Trip Part 3 - Paris!

Sorry this post has taken so long, but there is a lot to write about Paris!  I actually contemplated breaking it into two separate posts, but then I got in a groove and just started writing and it all managed to fit into one (barely...)  So after our driving tour of the Burgundy region, K and I drove over to Vernon, a small town about an hour west of Paris, to crash for the night.  The next morning we woke up and headed straight to Monet's Garden's at Giverny in hopes of beating the crowds.

We didn't really beat the crowds and spent a good chunk of our time weaving in and out of the many Asian tourists , but crowds aside it was a beautiful spot and I can see why Monet would find the area so inspiring.  Just outside of Giverny were beautiful rolling hills and picturesque trees and homes dotted the view.  On our drive to the Paris airport to return our rental car we also happened upon a random, quirky sculpture on the side of the road paying homage to the area's artists.
Returning the rental car was much more difficult than we expected because we drove into the airport on a non-standard road after stopping to get gas and there were NO signs for rental car return.  We drove around for at least half an hour before K ran into one of the many terminals we'd driven past multiple times to ask for help.  That plus the traffic going into the city made for a rather stressful afternoon.  So to ease our stress, we immediately set out after checking into our airbnb rental to explore the Montmartre area we were staying in!  We took a quick peek into the neighboring and expansive Montmartre Cemetery, swung by the Moulin Rouge, walked up to the Sacre Couer Basilica for an amazing view, and checked out the Salvador Dali Museum.

We got a quick dinner at a random restaurant we found and then spent the rest of the night at a movie theater watching a local (read: amateur) French film.  The next morning was perhaps the most enjoyable part of our trip.  K signed us up for a French cooking class!!!  We met up in the oldest open air market in Paris with the rest of our classmates (there were 12 of us) and our instructor where we decided real time what foods we would make based on what foods were seasonal and available at the market.  The class voted and settled on a melon and fennel salad appetizer topped with hard boiled quail eggs and a citrus vinaigrette, seared duck breasts in a fig sauce with roasted carrots and onions and a celery root mash, and a desert of fresh berries topped with a pistachio whipped cream and pistachio brittle.  We got to participate in all aspects of the cooking and yes, it most certainly was as delicious as it sounds!

I'm getting hungry just looking at those pictures again.  I made the dinner and desert portions for S after I returned from the trip and I'm planning on making them again for my family when I go home to Florida for the winter holidays, but I'm thinking I may have to sneak it in again sometime before then too...  After we left the class, completely and happily stuffed from our amazing lunch, we swung by a food shop the instructor had suggested to us to stock up on specialty French culinary supplies (I had to hold myself back.  Best purchase by far was the pistachio paste used to make the pistachio whipped cream.)  And then we headed over toward the Louvre.  We didn't go in as neither of us wanted to be crammed shoulder to shoulder with other tourists jostling to see the Mona Lisa and we didn't really have time to check out even a small portion of the rest of the art.  But I did want to see the famous pyramid outside of the museum and there also happened to be a fair going on at the time in the Tuileries Garden so we meandered through that area and also took a ferris wheel ride!

That night we were supposed to have yet another cooking event that K had discovered through a website called where a local with some sort of cooking chops will cook a dinner for guests in their own home.  It exists all over the world and we were so excited to try it out for the first time in Paris.  Unfortunately that wound up falling through because of a miscommunication in the date.  We were pretty bummed, so we tried to check out a hip Parisian restaurant that was recommended to us, which was of course completely booked.  So we tried one other place that also didn't work before resigning ourselves in extreme hunger to a local American-style cafe that we were passing by.  Oh well.  At least we had an amazing lunch!  We ended the night with some rose wine (from the bottle!) on the Pont Neuf bridge while we watched the Eiffel Tower light show!

We also made up for it the following day by hitting up another local fresh-air market and eating bread and cheese for brunch.  On our way to the river to eat it we walked through a huge garden with some of the most unique flowers I've ever seen!  Once we finally found our way through, we snagged a bench overlooking the Seine and dug into our haul from the market.  It was SOOO good...

From then on it was a day of exploring!  We wandered through the Jewish quarter, got some amazing ice cream, bought souveniers, had an afternoon cocktail at a cafe and people watched, and went on a boat tour of Paris!

 That evening we hunted down a cafe for dinner where K finally found her elusive Salad Nicoise, which we both ordered with a foie gras appetizer to share.  And we ended the evening with a hunt for some French wine.  We wound up finding a shop that offered wine tastings from these snazzy little machines and hung out there for about an hour, tasting to our hearts content, before leaving with a few bottles of wine and heading back to our apartment.
The next morning we caught a shuttle to the airport and started the journey back to the states.  As usual, it was an amazing vacation with K and I eagerly look forward to our next!