Friday we arrived in Paris after a very long journey. We met the owner of our vacation apartment and got the keys and the lay of the land from her. We had dinner at Le Sketch, a place we found next to a fountain called “Le Fontaine de Mars” on the corner of Rue Saint-Dominique and Rue de l’Exposition. Ash had the magret de canard au poivre (duck in pepper sauce). “C’est magnifique!” David had the veal. For dessert we shared an excellent tarte tatin. It was good because it was “just a little tart.” Then we walked to the base of the Eiffel Tower and looked at souvenirs.
Saturday we had pain au chocolat and café crème (which was trés bien) at Le Den on the corner of Rue de Grenelle and Rue Cler. Ash was able to get our train tickets for the week in French, and we went to Parc Disneyland for Halloween. It was crowded. We liked the architecture, the dragon lair, and the castle, but the only ride we went on was Phantom Manor. “Trés frighteningue!” (I don’t know how to say “scary” in French.) We saw Ash’s friends Erinn, Christina, Carlos, and Casey in the “Once Upon a Dream” parade. We also saw the “Fantillusion” parade, which David called “the electrical parade part deux.” We bought some souvenirs for the nieces before we left.
Sunday it rained, and David bought a $3 Chinatown umbrella for only €7. We went to the Musée d’Orsay, which had a long line because it was free museum day. We had breakfast at Les Deux Musées, a tourist trap. “Quel damage!” The museum was beautiful inside and had a lot of Degas and Renoir. We had tea and a platter of cheeses at the museum’s beautiful restaurant. Then we took a very long walk, across a bridge and through the entire Jardin des Tuileries in the rain, up the Champs-Élysées to the Arc de Triomphe. Even though it was free, there was no line! We had never seen so many stairs. We went home to rest after that, and then went to dinner at Café Constant. We shared a plate of deviled eggs recommended by Clotilde in her book, Edible Adventures. They were creamy and delicious. Ash ordered the duo of duck with roasted figs and waffle fries. David had the beef ribeye (which was really more like tri-tip) with creamy mashed potatoes. Both were great. Then we had profiteroles doused tableside with hot chocolate sauce, which were obviously also great.
Monday in Paris, everything was closed, including our favorite boulangerie. We had to settle for bitter café crème from a restaurant on Rue Cler (too much café, not enough crème). We took the metro to Gare du Nord, and boarded a train for London. The train ride through the countryside included pretty views of fall foliage and farms, followed by a very long tunnel. We got in line to buy tube tickets, and fifty minutes later we were on our way to Picadilly Circus. We walked down to St. James Park, which was very pretty, and we saw giant ducks (okay, geese) and old men feeding fat squirrels. We saw Buckingham Palace and then had fish and chips and cheese on toast at The Shakespeare (“named for landowner John Shakespeare–no relation to the writer”). We toured the Queen’s Gallery, which included paintings of the royal family from the 17th-19th century, as well as some royal bling. Then we walked to the Crowne Plaza Hotel for high tea. They gave us a lot of treats with our tea, so we didn’t need dinner that night. We walked over to see Westminster Abbey, where Ash bought a poppy to honor veterans. We walked past the Houses of Parliament, and Big Ben, and then across the river where we rode the London Eye Ferris Wheel. After that, we walked up to Trafalgar Square to see the National Gallery, and then we took the crowded tube back to King’s Cross/St. Pancras train station and took the train back to Paris.
Tuesday it rained. We went to Le Den to grab breakfast and then headed to Notre Dame. We loosely followed Rick Steves’ “Historic Paris Walk” audio guide on our iPods, but our favorite part was climbing into the bell towers with several other American families. The children kept asking, “Where’s Quasimodo?” The deportation memorial behind Notre Dame was closed due to the rain, and Berthillon (ice cream) on Île Saint-Louis was closed until Friday, but Ash found a scarf near there that she liked. We walked around the Latin Quarter and saw the oldest tree in Paris and a little church from the 13th century. We bought a book at Shakespeare & Company, and then we walked to the Saint-Germaine des Prés neighborhood to have a late lunch at L’Heure Gourmande. It was located on a cute pedestrian passageway, the Passage Dauphine. We had amazing quiche and amazingly thick hot chocolate. We went there for the quiche and were confused at first because the menu only had “tarte salée,” which it turned out was quiche. Then we went on an adventure to find the chocolatier Christian Constant, where we bought some chocolates. Back in the 7th arrondissement, we went up to the top of the Eiffel Tower, where it was very windy and still rainy. At the bottom of the tower, we walked across the Seine through sheets of rain, up the Trocadéro, and arrived very wet at Café de l’Homme at the Musée de l’Homme, where we had dinner with a view of the tower. It was our most expensive meal by far, and quite possibly the worst food in Paris.
Wednesday it was sunny, so we took pictures of the Eiffel Tower before boarding the train for Versailles. Our favorite area of Versailles was the Domaine de Marie-Antoinette, the “small” country estate that was a gift from the king. The Château Versailles was very large and had countless rooms. Ash’s favorite room there had green damask walls. Ladurée had a shop in Versailles, so we bought a box of macarons. When we returned to Paris, we went up the hill to Montmartre and had soupe a l’oignon at a little dive called Le Café Chappe. Then we took the Funiculaire up to Sacré-Cœur. It’s a relatively new church, but has a great view because it’s on Paris’s largest hill. After seeing that, we walked through Montmartre and saw the Moulin Rouge. Then we took the metro down to the Marais neighborhood and wandered through the shops for hours, stopping at Cacao et Chocolat for some chocolates and at Gerard Mulot for our first macarons. David had caramel, and Ash had framboise. They were trés sucrée! Ash found a coat she liked at Parfums et Couture Des Filles a la Vanille, and then we went to dinner at Chez Janou, which we’d seen on the Travel Channel. Ash had amazing risotto with scallops and a melon-caprese-prosciutto salad. David had duck. The mousse, their specialty, was decadent. They scoop it out of a giant bowl at your table, and it comes with limitless refills. We couldn’t imagine anyone being able to handle a refill.
Thursday we toured the old Paris Opera House (the Palais Garnier). It was Ash’s favorite because it was ornate and fabulous, and it’s “the Notre Dame of performance spaces.” We did not see the Phantom. As it started to rain, we went to the Louvre. We saw the Venus de Milo and the Mona Lisa and then left. For lunch, we went to A Priori Thé, a salon de thé in a quiet arcade nearby. We found a cute little toy shop there called Si Tu Veux, where we got a gift for Aurora. Afterward we shopped with every other Parisian at the huge department store, Galeries Lafayette. It reminded us of the big Macy’s on 34th Street. In France they very rarely have sales, but this week was one of them, and David found a very nice scarf for fifty percent off. “Trés marché!” Ash found some teas and spices in their gourmet shop. We went home to rest, and then set out to celebrate our anniversary as we always do: fondue! We had fondue at Pain Vin Fromage in the Marais. We were seated downstairs in a stone room that looked like an old wine cellar. The fondue was good (though not as good as Kashkaval in New York), followed by a caramelized apple tart with awesome vanilla ice cream.
Friday we had breakfast at Le Den and then walked through Rue Cler and found interesting confections at À La Mère des Familles. We took the train over to see two things we’d missed on the Île de la Cité: the Crypte Archeologique and Sainte-Chapelle. The crypt was fascinating, as it showed the unearthed ruins of the oldest settlement, as well as the Roman city, under the center of Paris. The security at Sainte-Chapelle was more strict than at the airport, because they built the Palais de Justice around (literally around) the church. We wished we had more time to see the stained glass, but we had to rush down to Place Saint-Michel to meet Erinn from Disney. She took us to lunch at Creposuk, a crêpe place in the Latin Quarter. Then she took a lot of pictures of us all around Notre Dame and the bridges nearby. We took her to Berthillon for ice cream. It was rich and delicious. We looked in a fun housewares shop on the Île Saint-Louis, and some Christmas shops on the Île de la Cité, where we got some ornaments. Erinn took us for dessert crêpes at La Boulangerie de Papa in Place Saint-Michel. We said goodbye to Erin and wandered around the shops in the Latin Quarter and Saint-Germaine des Prés, where we saw umbrellas that were €750! Back in our own neighborhood, we bought some loose leaf tea and a gift for the Wellses at Cafés Richard, a purveyor of gourmet teas and coffees. For dinner, we weighed our options and decided to return to one of our favorite bistros, Le Sketch, for dinner and creme brûlée. Finally, we took a sightseeing cruise on the Seine with Bateaux-Parisiens, featuring a tour guide who spoke French, English, Italian, German, Russian, and Japanese. Well, really she spoke French and Italian, and she memorized her spiel in the others, but it was still impressive. After the cruise we went back to the Eiffel Tower, where David got Ash an Eiffel Tower charm as an anniversary gift.
Saturday morning we woke up early, said “au revoir” to our apartment and Paris, and took the train(s) to the airport.