What an amazing adventure it was, never to be forgotten although it already seems long ago and far away. It’s been quite a year in the interim with events both good and bad filling the time, but when I stop and reflect on that magical, much-anticipated experience I recognize how lucky I was (and still am) to have had the opportunity. May I share some of it with you? We’ll start with Paris first, and the wine country experience will come in a follow-up post.
I’ll start with the Top Trois Takeaways from Paris and then work backwards into a more traditional travelogue. And photos … yes, there will be pix and plenty of them!
- Apartment rental vs hotel – totally worth it
- Don’t overschedule – allow time for people-watching and spur of the moment decisions
- Best food we had in Paris = deviled eggs. Yes. Quel surprise!
Ina is a world traveler who likes to get up and go while she still can. And boy oh boy, can she!
Despite some hip pain and a cane, she was always up for our daily adventures which were planned around access to Metro lines, a leisurely pace of walking, and plenty of rest breaks.
To that end, we rented a flat for the week instead of staying in a hotel. Being in a neighborhood and having a home base with a little room to stretch out and un petit kitchen for coffee, wine and cheese was tres magnifique.
We selected a lovely flat in the Lower Marais (4th arrondissement), close to the main tourist attractions but not too close.
Located in a courtyard building in the Village St. Paul neighborhood, it was perfect for our needs: two blocks from the Seine River; steps from a Metro station; tranquil and ‘Old European’ within the courtyard yet bustling and boisterous in the streets, shops and cafes outside the gates.
Without further ado I’ll share our itinerary, photos and a few must-do/don't-do recommendations.
Day 1: Arrival in Paris. Checked into the rental apartment and went exploring the neighborhood. Single-focus specialty shops are prevalent – the chocolatier, the cheese shop, the patisserie, the wine store, the foie gras shop. Yep, the foie gras shop. We bought provisions for what was to become a daily ritual – wine and cheese, bread and fruit at the flat while watching the late afternoon light change and preparing for the evening’s adventure. This was our morning ritual too, swapping coffee and juice for the wine.
That evening we went to the ballet -- opening night for a Balanchine/Millepied program at the Operá Bastille, a beautiful modern building designed by Carlos Ott and inaugurated in 1989. Ilise managed not to hear several announcements prohibiting photography and snapped a few shots during the curtain calls. I’m glad she did, because these provide a good reminder of how different the pieces were – one classical, flowy and refined, one modern and rich with saturated color. Both excellent. I highly recommend partaking of the local arts scene while on vacation.
So overall that’s a Not Recommended. Touring by boat can be delightful for sure, and Canal St.-Martin winds through some interesting neighborhoods that would be fun to explore on foot. But despite catching some cool photos, this was not a highlight of our trip.
But the real showstopper was the food. There’s a modest menu of bar snacks which changes seasonally, an odd assortment of small plates – pork tacos, hummus, something with anchovies, and the best deviled eggs the world has ever known. I’ve always thought of deviled eggs being American picnic food, but these guys have added a whole new level to the dish with distinctly French culinary flair in the form of fresh ginger, green onions, and deep-fried wild rice. It sounds nutty but OMG, so good! We had one of everything on the limited menu and, I think, three orders of the eggs. My mouth is watering even now. So yes – the very best food we had in Paris was at a bar, it was eggs, and did I mention, the chef does it all from a hot plate in the basement!