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Fantastique!  An Excuse to Return to Paris!

10/11/10 - Paris, France  (Shutterfly photo album - Paris, France)

With Caroline's cousin living in Paris for a year, we have a great reason to return to France.  First stop, Paris!

Last year, after learning that Caroline's cousin Amelia and her husband Graham would be living in Paris for a year so that Graham could work on his doctoral program, we could not resist making plans for a visit.  So last Thursday we left Albuquerque with plans for a 12-day visit with an itinerary including Paris, the wine country of Burgundy, a brief stint in the Loire Valley, and a list of things to eat and drink that would frighten most people.

We felt surprisingly good upon landing and making our way to Amelia and Graham's apartment on Friday morning, so we headed straight out for a walk and lunch of falafels at one of their favorite falafel places (Marianne's) in the Marais.  We couldn't have asked for better weather; Paris was experiencing summer-like weather in October, after weeks of cool, rainy days.  We spent the day strolling and catching up, having our first espressos and cafe cremes of the trip to keep the momentum going.  That afternoon, we checked into our hotel, the Hotel de La Paix on Rue du Gros Caillou near the Eiffel Tower.  Recently remodeled, we were quite pleased with the hotel and our room, even if the bathroom was a bit cramped (which of course we were expecting - this is Paris) and the rate was high.  After a dinner of baguette and cheese on the grass in front of the Eiffel Tower, we prepared to catch up on all of that sleep we missed out on during our overnight flight.

Waking up on the late side the next morning and looking for coffee on the Rue Cler market street (a recurring theme this trip), we met up with Amelia and Graham again and headed out to do some site-seeing.  We had wanted to walk through some of the historic shopping arcades, and as luck would have it, they happened to be right around the corner from A&G's centrally-located apartment! We enjoyed seeing these modern-day shopping mall prototypes, without feeling like we were likely to happen by a Gap.

Having recently seen Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations show where he visited all of the happening casual bistros in Paris, we used the episode to make some eating plans.  As we were getting a little hungry, we briskly walked from the arcades to one of Tony's recommendations, Frenchie.  We had tried to get dinner reservations, but were never able to reach anyone at the restaurant by phone in the weeks before our arrival (and were not sure what to say if we did reach anyone).  So we were looking forward to trying to get in for a reservation-free lunch.  Turns out, they're closed on Saturday!  Oh well, perhaps we'd get into one of the other restaurants on the list before leaving Paris.  Suddenly, the day was free, so we spent the afternoon leisurely wandering around Paris with Amelia and Graham; highlights included ice cream at Bertillon on Ile St. Louis (it was still hot out!), an extended respite in lovely Place des Vosges, and a happy hour stop on a crowded cafe patio for a pichet of wine. 

Parting ways for dinner (vegan A&G would not want to contemplate what we were about to do), we headed for a meal at Fils de la Ferme in the 14th arrondissement - a recommendation of our Albuquerque friend Christopher (courtesy of his friend & Paris resident, Philippe).  Oh, merci Philppe!  Our best restaurant meal to date in Paris, including lamb for Caroline and veal tongue for Scott.  Needing to walk off a bit of that meal afterward, we decided to bypass the metro and walk (nearly 3 miles) back to the hotel.

Christopher also recommended a visit to St. Sulpice, a church we'd never been inside.  So after services were over on Sunday morning, we went in and were lucky enough to hear the famous St. Sulpice organ playing away - an exhibition performance that happens weekly.  A great experience, which included getting to go up to the organ balcony to see the organist at his instrument.  The rest of the day was spent on a (very) loosely organized walk back to Amelia and Graham's, which included a picnic lunch of (surprisingly expensive) cheese & sausage on the banks of the Seine.  Wine and beer with Amelia and Graham in a hipster cafe in the Marais was followed by dinner at one of their favorite nearby vegan restaurants, Le Potager du Marais, where we had what we're confident was our only vegan meal of the trip.  It was tasty, and the chocolate mousse we sampled for dessert was downright delicious.  Dinner was followed by a walk to see the Louvre pyramid lit up at night, where we bid our fine hosts adieu... wish we could visit them more often, even if they aren't living in Paris.

Monday was our last full day in Paris, and a chance to see, do, and eat whatever we hadn't been able to as of yet - a trip to the Bon Marche Epicerie (grocery) - a favorite from last time, a visit to the Jardins du Luxembourg, a walk by the Pantheon.  The highlight, though, was an opportunity to lunch al fresco at an Anthony Bourdain recommendation, Le Comptoir, where we enjoyed a luxurious lunch and wine at one of the more sought after tables in town.  Frenchie may have been a bust, but our fois gras, pig's feet and fish pie at Le Comptoir made up for it.

It's always sad to leave Paris, but when you're heading to the wine country of Burgundy, it eases the sting quite a bit.  So Tuesday morning we packed up, picked up our little, red Chevy Spark from Hertz, and headed south to Chablis.  Au revoir, Paris!

Graham, Amelia, and Caroline pose for a photo on a summer-like October day in Place des Vosges


Frenchie, closed on Saturday!?


Ah, but at least Fils de la Ferme is open for dinner!


Large metal tower-like structure near our hotel