Oui Paris

October 13, 2015 – October 15, 2015

I went from having never visited Paris in almost 27 years to visiting in 3 times in 6 months. It never ceases to amaze me and there’s always something new to do. It’s quickly moving up the list of my favorite European cities.

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We booked this trip at the beginning of the year to go see one of Tyler’s favorite bands, a French electronic duo called Justice. I can’t say I was very excited about the concert, but I am always excited about the prospect of traveling, so he didn’t have to twist my arm very hard.

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Paris is just a short 3 hour train ride from Amsterdam, and you can bring your own wine on the train. We left after work with some friends and a few bottles of wine. By the end of the train ride we had taught them our favorite card game – Euchre. Upon our arrival in Paris, we quickly dropped our stuff off at the hotel and raced to our dinner reservations at Maison Blanche, which promised spectacular food and views of the Eiffel Tower. Unfortunately we didn’t get to sit on the balcony overlooking the E.T. to enjoy our food, but nevertheless, the experience was fun. We did get to enjoy an after drink cocktail (or water in my case) while watching the tower glow.

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To cap the night off, we visited Prescription, a fun little cocktail bar with a DJ who let me play with the turntables.

Our Saturday morning did not start very early after our late night. We had planned to do a Hop on Hop off bus tour around the city to take in as many sights as possible, but ended up just kind of walking around instead (and hitting over 20k steps!). We hit up the main attractions such as Notre Dame, the Seine, Louvre, Jardin des Tuileries, Champs Elysees, and the Arc de Triomphe. Walking up the 200 stairs to the top of the Arc is something I would definitely recommend. The Arc is the center point where 11 road converge like spokes of a wheel and it offers great views of the city.

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The main attraction of Paris as previously mentioned was the Justice concert. Although I was skeptical, I had an absolute blast. We got off to a rocky start when there was a mob of a line for the bar, but I made some new friends and we were able to get our Heinekens. Justice was such a party. We spent the night dancing and singing and watching the light show. Thanks to Ty for making me go.

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Sunday morning we woke up feeling great and got the most delicious crepes for breakfast overlooking the Pantheon.

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After brunch we took a stroll through the Le Jardin du Luxembourg and watched some kids play with sailboats.

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We spent most of our time on Sunday enjoying wine, cheese, and baguette with the Eiffel Tower as our backdrop, making one last pit stop for macaroons before we hit the train back to Amsterdam.

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‘Til next time Paris!

Champagne in Champagne

August 3, 2017 – August 6, 2017

For my 28th birthday, I decided to be basic and spend the day drinking Champagne in Champagne #Louvre&Veuve. I figured this was one of the only birthdays where I could make a request like this and have it granted.

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Reims, the largest city in the Champagne region, is easily accessible by train from Paris so we decided to spend a night there to kick start our weekend. We arrived in Paris just in time for our 9:30 dinner reservations at Alliance, a Michelin star restaurant where we did a tasting menu accompanied by wine pairings. The food was intricate and delicious, and the wine was also spectacular. Happy birthday eve to me!

Since we had to be in Reims by 3pm the next day for our tour of Veuve Clicquot, we did not get to see very much of Paris. However, we did spend the morning at the Louvre. We got there early enough that the line for tickets wasn’t too bad, but the place was still super crowded. The first thing on my agenda to see was obviously the Mona Lisa, so we headed there first because I couldn’t focus on anything else. Our friend told us the day before we went to not expect much and that the portrait was about the size of an 8″ x 10″ photo. Well, I was impressed because it’s actually bigger than that! But there was a huge crowd pushing and shoving to get a better look, so we didn’t admire her for too long. Instead we made our way through the museum stopping to see paintings of the French, Italian, Spanish, Northern Europe and British. It’s amazing how many works of art are in the Louvre that are centuries old. I just kept wondering where they all came from. The painting section was probably my favorite, but we also saw the Egyptian, Greek and Roman antiques which included many artifacts and sculptures.

I recently read a fiction book about World War II called the Nightengale (HIGHLY recommend if you’re into that sort of thing) and it talks about how many works of art were hidden during WWII so that the Germans couldn’t steal them. I’m glad that happened because I really enjoyed looking at all of the beautiful pieces.

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We only had a few hours, but I could have easily spent a whole day wondering through the many halls. I expected to be bored and ready to go, but I was disappointed to leave. I guess we will have to make another trip back to the Louvre!

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Although I was sad to leave the Louvre, I was excited for our first Champagne tasting at Veuve Clicqout. Getting to Reims was easy from Paris, but getting to our AirBnB in Reims was more challenging, specifically because I navigated us the wrong way from the train station, and as a result we were late for our tour. But, it was my birthday so Tyler couldn’t get mad. Luckily we caught up with the tour before they went down into the caves. Our tour guide was very professional and he explained the history of Veuve and the Champagne making process. It was actually very interesting and I was intrigued that Madame Clicqout took over her husband’s business at the age of 27 after he passed away. She grew the business into a thriving one that has lasted for centuries. Hearing this story motivated me to start rethinking my career goals.

After we had finished the tour of the caves, it was time to taste the Champagne. We had a few glasses with the others on our tour and were surprised to learn that 6 of the 8 people on the tour lived in Amsterdam. What a small world! After all of this Champagne we needed some food, so we finished the evening at L’Alambic. The food was absolutely delicious and even rivaled that of the Michelin star restaurant of the night before. We then headed back to the AirBnB to greet our friends Shannon and Noah (or as I like to call them, Shannoah) who drove to Reims after work. They also brought along their 7 week old Corgi named Teddy who is the cutest pup I know.

On Saturday, we woke up bright and early to begin our day of Champagne tastings. Because we were bringing baby Ted with us, we last minute upgraded to a private tour, so our tour guide picked us up in an 8 person passenger van for just the 4 of us. She was very knowledgeable about the Reims area and the Champagne making process and told us very detailed accounts of the history. We were all still a little sleepy so many of the stories did not resonate with me.

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Our first stop on the tour was at Godme Sabine located in Verzenay, a Grand Cru village. This was a medium sized, family run winery. We learned about the Champagne making process and took a tour of the grounds. We learned that Grand Cru grapes are of a higher quality and thus make the bottle of Champagne more expensive. The views of the winery were really cool and we also liked the Champagne so we bought a few bottles.

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We then drove around the area through the scenic hills and listened to another history lesson.

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The next stop was at Dominique Foureur in Ambonnay, a very small winery where the owner made us lunch. The four course meal was incredible with melon & prosciutto, breads & olive oil, salmon & rice, strawberries & whipped cream. I especially enjoyed the dessert and we all had seconds. I also really liked the fact that she has several cats and one HUGE dog, named OB-1. We enjoyed a few Champagnes with our food and also a some still wine. When grapes that are produced in the Champagne region aren’t up to Champagne standards, they can sometimes be used in the production of still wine instead. Interesting stuff.

Our last stop of the day was at the huge and famously known Moët & Chandon. We took a tour down into the wine caves and learned for the last time of the day about the Champagne making process. Maybe it was the fact that we had already heard this spiel 3 times now or possibly the fact that the tour guide was talking in a fake accent, but we did not pay attention very well at this tour. However, our tour guide sprang for the deluxe tasting for us at this place so we enjoyed some really good, expensive Champagne. I think that drinking Champagne in Champagne was such a great way to spend my birthday, and I was very thankful that our friends were able to join us as well. And Teddy did so great for being a 7 week old pup. He went accident free the whole day and basically just let us hold him the whole time.

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For dinner that night we went to a terrible tourist trap that I left a bad review for on Trip Adviser. I don’t remember what it was called, but seriously I’ve never paid for more inedible food. Afterwards, we had heard that there was some type of light show going on at the Cathedral in town, so we headed to check it out. I was blown away with the show! The lights were projected onto the Cathedral in different patterns with different music to tell a story. It was a good little surprise to end our trip to Champagne. On Sunday we packed it up and drove the 5 hours back to Amsterdam.

 

 

We heart Paris

April 30, 2017 – May 2, 2017

When I heard that my good friends Hope and Raney were heading on a Euro Trip to Amsterdam -> Paris -> Barcelona -> Ibiza, I knew that I wanted to join them on at least one of those legs. Since Paris just a short 3 hour train ride from Amsterdam, I thought that would be the most convenient leg to join, and as Hope says, everyone should go to Paris before they are 30.

I was excited to see my friends, but I wasn’t so sure about Paris. I had heard that the city was dirty and I’ve seen a lot of news recently that made me a little afraid. In addition, after arriving we learned that we were there on May Day which is a national holiday and pretty much everything is closed (including the Louvre and all clothing stores). We also learned after leaving the next day that there had been violent protests and we had several friends texting to make sure we were okay. Despite all of the things going against us, my expectations were greatly exceeded during our short trip to the magical yet expensive city.

Having never been to Paris before, we were a little overwhelmed with the vast amount of lodging options, but ended up choosing the Hotel Muguet in the 7th Arrondissement not too far from the Eiffel Tower. Upon our arrival on Sunday midday, our first tourist attraction stop was a cafe overlooking the Eiffel Tower called Café de I’Homme. We had grand ideas of sipping Champagne on the terrace with views of the Eiffel Tower in the background. In reality, there was a storm coming in so no one was able to sit outside, and the restaurant was really expensive and too fancy for what we were looking for. We had one glass of EUR 18 Champagne and walked across the street to a row of other bars in the Trocadéro.

Though Café de I’Homme felt stuffy, we felt right at home at the Café Le Malakoff (so much so that we ended up going back the next day). The food, desserts, Champagne and wine here were really good and not too pricey. The staff at the restaurant was very friendly as well. After our early dinner we took a few more photos of the Eiffel Tower and headed back to the area around our hotel to hit up some bars. We gave ourselves an early curfew since we had a full day of sight seeing the next day and our adventures in Amsterdam really took a toll on us.

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We opted to do a hop-on-hop-off bus to get around the expansive city. I had never done one of these types of tours before, but I must say it worked really well in Paris. Since the sights are so spread out we would have had to take Uber/subway everywhere, but the bus transported us to all the major sights and also gave background on the places we were going to visit. The weather was a little blustery, but we still sat on the top of the bus to get better views and only decided to get off at the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, and the Notre Dame, but we also saw Opéra Garnier, Musée de Orsay, Champs-Elysées, Arc de Triomphe, and Grand Palais. During the stops we did some souvenir shopping and had some wine/snacks, and headed back to the Malakoff to get round two of french fries and Cafe Gourmand. I really enjoyed the concept and would definitely recommend Big Bus Paris.

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The coolest thing that we did though was a night cruise on the Seine to see the Eiffel Tower light show. The three of us were literally in awe of how beautiful it was when the lights were sparkling. Definitely breathtaking and cool to see from the water. The rest of the boat tour was kind of uneventful, but we entertained ourselves with the bottle of Champagne we had brought on board (because when in France, drink Champagne).

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My only regrets were that we did not get to go into the Louvre and that we did not see Moulin Rouge – but hey there’s always next time, and I am planning to go back to Paris later this fall.

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