A Travellerspoint blog

Final Day, Final thoughts

there's no place like home!

sunny 26 °C

Our last morning arrived more quickly than we wanted. We got ourselves up & dressed and Alena hailed an Uber to take us to the train station - Gare Lyon - where we could catch the 'Bus Direct' that would take us to Aeroport Charles de Gaulle. Smooth getting there but the driver didn't know where the bus stopped and neither did it seem did many of the people working in the bus terminal. But after trekking through the train station and back to outside, we found it. Alena went in search of coffee & croissants, our final breakfast pastry. Mmmm
Getting to the airport and to our boarding gate without hassle, we boarded for our Air Canada return flight. Scheduled to depart at 11am, we were informed that we on the plane were ready, the flight crew and ground crews were ready but the air traffic controllers of Air France were not ready. We suspect more job action. Definitely strike-happy! An hour & 20 min late leaving, we headed home on a rather uneventful flight.
It's really lovely to be home but we've got tonnes of wonderful memories now from our 8 1/2 days in France. Thanks so much for reading along! I do this mostly for me - it's nice to go back and re-live my trips.
Someone asked me what was the most surprising part of our trip. I honestly can't say that there was too much - most everything was as I expected and read about. I suppose that's a reflection of our wired & connected world. Saint-Emilion was beautiful and OLD - such history that we don't have here in Canada. The TGV high-speed train was efficient and enabled us to visit 2 parts of France. Paris, although wet & cool was quite lovely and we found the people in shops, and bistros to be quite lovely. E. Dehillerin & Jacques Genin were both as wonderful as I'd read about. None of the pictures I'm posting today really match our day but they're part of our memories.

I guess really, the most surprising were the Irish!! LOL
And I hope you didn't get too hungry as you read through the posts. A food-lover's trip in a food-loving country, but...It truly is great to be home!

Mary Ann & Alena

Posted by otisandma 16:44 Archived in France Tagged travel bus flight airport irish memories uber Comments (0)

La dernière Jour, Part 2

After the pastries...

sunny 25 °C

Continuing our last day in Paris, we left Jacques Genin {sigh}, and walked back to the apartment, travelling again across the small Ile Saint-Louis. Such cute shops. You know, that's a really nice bit about Paris. You can have a pastry but use that energy right after by walking! We rested a little, started packing for the trip home, then headed out for our final dinner in Paris.

We hadn't quite ticked off all the sites, notably the Eiffel Tower. Oh we saw bits of it here & there, saw it lit up and twinkling during Fete de la Musique.
But not the WHOLE THING. Not actually interested in climbing it or walking around under it, we took a trip on the Batobus.
These boats travel on the Seine, stopping at 8 or 9 of the best attractions in the city. We started at the Notre Dame dock, closest to our apartment. We had to wait a little so we explored the walkways alongside the river. Here we came across another bride & groom having wedding photos taken. We saw that up at Sacre Coeur and in a few other spots in the city. All the couples we saw were of Oriental descent - not sure if they actually live in Paris or were just visiting to have some amazing photos taken. IMG_0763.jpg270_IMG_0777.jpg

Once the boatbus arrived and we boarded, we made the trip upriver to Jardins des Plantes, the main botanical garden in France. Next stop was the Louvre, but then they had to skip Hotel de Ville. The river was still pretty high (remember it actually flooded a couple weeks ago) and today was in fact the first day the tourist boats were travelling.
Across the river we went to Musee d'Orsay where we transferred to another batobus to resume the travel. 270_IMG_0772.jpgIMG_0774.jpg
The Louvre stop was next then the Arche de Triomphe. We got off at that stop, which actually was pretty far from the Arche but we walked a little on the Champs-Élysées and then down a side street to find a bistro or restaurant. A dinner of salads and some wine finished off our gastronomic visit. Although, gotta say, this restaurant used lousy tomatoes. After having had fresh from markets the whole time to this point, the waxy, January-winter like tomatoes were a bit of a let down. Alas.

Back to the bus, the next station was the Eiffel Tower. It truly is impressive.
Another cool thing about Paris that we had noted earlier but was really apparent this evening was the people hanging out along the riverbanks. Little groups all along, usually with wine &/or beer, just enjoying their lovely city.
We really don't take full advantage and enjoy our rivers & lakes, do we? (tho I suppose if we could bring a bottle of wine, more people would be out more often ;) )

By the time we made it back to Musee d'Orsay stop, the bus was finished running for the day. We made our way back to the Metro and back to our apartment. Finished packing, we decided to visit the little bar 2 doors away. This place was steady-busy each night we were in Paris. They do infusions!!! Rum packed with fruits in big jars sit for a few weeks then served to patrons. IMG_0304.jpg
I know that a number of bars in North America are doing this - nice way to add flavours and fun to a regular drink. We sampled the Strawberry-lime flavour. I thought it would have benefitted from a little ice however the taste was refreshing.
The bartender pulled down one of the large jars to test - Pineapple & Passionfruit with vanilla bean. Looked lovely but he said it really wasn't ready yet. The rum was too strong still. Interesting for sure. With all the fresh fruits starting to burst on the scene at home, it could be fun to try some infusions.

Time for bed. Our flight home is at 11:00am so we need to be up early. Ah Paris!

A bientôt
Mary Ann & Alena

Posted by otisandma 17:19 Archived in France Tagged boat wedding tower paris walking photo eiffel dinner packing bride Comments (0)

La dernière Jour

Getting the last few stops in!

sunny 27 °C

Morning of our last full day in Paris - sigh.
Mary Ann takes the short walk again to the piscine for a swim. Piscine Pontoise is a beautiful art deco pool with two mezzanine levels. Constructed in the early 1930's, it's famous for featuring in Krzysztof Kieslowski’s film ‘Trois Couleurs: Bleu’ (Juliette Binoche). Registered as a historical monument since 1981, the site features individual changing cabins installed on two walkways bordered by metal railings, which you access when the 'Cabinier' comes to open the door for you. Your clothes stay in the cabin while you go swim, then you wait to have it opened again when you're ready to get dressed & leave. Maybe not the most efficient, but it's a lovely pool. Water temperatures were perfect!
We made our way to the one museum for this trip - Musee d'Orsay. Housed in a gorgeous former train station, this museum features many works of the Impressionist and post-Modern movements. IMG_0751.jpg90_IMG_0285.jpg

Bonnard, Renoir, Monet, van Gogh and many other artists works were a treat to behold. Lots of sculpture throughout as well gives one something to appreciate everywhere. In keeping with the very 'foodie' nature of this trip, here's a portion from a Renoir picnic:90_IMG_0288.jpg
The effect of sunlight through trees is really beautiful.

Today was Day 1 of the semi-annual 'Soldes' - six-week sales in all the stores. We hit up a few places and snagged some bargains. BHV was about a 20 minute walk from the museum and Alena found a few gifts to bring home.

Sales done, it was time for one of the most luscious stops of the entire trip - Jacques Genin. This man is a master of both pastry and chocolate, meticulous with the details of ingredients, recipes and presentation. Discovered via David Lebovitz's blog, the shop was a cool and elegant break on the only hot, non-rainy day we had on the trip.
Cyril too at our cooking class yesterday mentioned to the group that M. Genin is the best in Paris. (if you Google his name, you'll find some Youtube videos of his shop and pastries - I dare you not to drool!)

We sat in the tea-shop section of the store and ordered tea/coffee and two pastries: Mille-Feuille and Tarte au Citron. OMG! Mille-feuille is 3 layers of flakey puff pastry with praline pastry cream between then dusted with icing sugar. IMG_0291.jpgIMG_0292.jpg
The Tarte had a crispy, thin crust with a zesty lemon curd filling infused with Basil. We each started with a few bites of one then traded plates, had a few bites and traded back again. Bite after bite of beautiful flavours, textures and aromas.
Our pastries finished, we headed to the candy counters - caramels, pates de fruit (fruit jelly candies, covered in sugar) and chocolates. We purchased caramels to bring home - buttery, these are the smoothest, creamiest caramels ever. Ah, such a lovely afternoon.

A bientôt
Mary Ann & Alena

Posted by otisandma 18:03 Archived in France Tagged chocolate paintings train department store patisserie sales caramel orsay impressionists luscious chocolatier Comments (0)

Fete de la Musique

How we spent the rest of the first day of Summer!


The next highlight of Tuesday was a trek to E. Dehillerin, a kitchen supply store that’s been operating in the same location in Paris for 200+ years! Mary Ann really wanted to experience it as it’s been frequented by many famous chefs for their restaurant purchases and by Julia Child who apparently bought a lot of her well-known copper collection there. It’s also been described as “Olivander’s for cooks”. It certainly looks like that - you find an item you might want and check the price by looking up the code number on one of the books at the end of aisles. Pretty easy system, actually. Mary Ann bought a beautiful new 20cm (8”) wand - uh - chef’s knife to replace the one at home that’s showing wear on the handle after 30 or so years. Alena got a couple of gifts for friends and we lusted after many of the pieces of equipment - copper pots & pans, bakeware, Le Cruset & Staub cast iron but alas, airplane travel limits the amount one can bring back. And that's a good thing too ;)

I didn't take any photos in/at the shop but there are many online that you can Google - truly an excellent place.

We walked around the exterior of the Louvre museum (not ion our list of sites to actually experience but whoa - the building is Massive)
and then the Jardin des Tuileries. Beautiful green space, mostly sculptures. Interestingly, many parks/gardens in Paris don’t actually let you walk on the grass! But there are lots of chairs about for relaxing. IMG_0750.jpg 270_IMG_0748.jpg

And this poor guy - Looks like he's got something bothering him! LOL 270_IMG_0746.jpg

As we made our way back to the apartment, we passed by a shop with delightful little (and very large) cakes in the window. Aux Merveilleux de Fred is a shop that does only one thing and does it really well - meringue cakes. These light cakes are exquisite - the are a base layer, covered with Chantilly cream, another layer of meringue then the whole is covered with more creme and then chocolate shavings. We bought 2 of the tiny ones for dessert - so beautiful! If you want to read a little more, check this post from David Leibovitz: http://www.davidlebovitz.com/2011/05/aux-merveilleux-de-fred/
Here's the chocolate one - 90_IMG_0273.jpg

Tuesday was the first full day of summer and in many cities around the world, there is a celebration called Fete de la Musique (Festival of Music). All over Paris, music was to be played - at stages, churches and street corners! We rested a little back at the apartment, had a light dinner and then planned our evening. (the Merveilleux was a lovely, light bite of heavenly yum!)

Heading first to the esplanade at Les Invalides (old hospital), there was a stage set for ‘Nuit Boreal’ featuring Canadian acts. We listened to 2 sets - Busty and the Bass and then Half Moon Run. Both bands are out of Montreal, both very different styles. Busty is a huge band with a brass section, a pretty decent rapper and a terrific lead singer. IMG_0278.jpg

Half Moon had harmonies that were amazing. And from the esplanade, we could see the Eiffel Tower - sparkling with it's many lights.90_IMG_0277.jpg
We checked out a couple other stages in the area and headed back closer to our neighbourhood. There was a stage at the Pantheon but there didn’t seem to be a Metro stop close enough so we didn’t actually make it. We ended up a little turned around in the area and probably walked a couple extra kms. One can walk a LOT in Paris!

That was a slightly sad ending (but only slightly) to an otherwise wonderful day. Cooking with such fresh ingredients, learning a few new kitchen techniques and experiencing some of the Fete was great!

A bientôt

Mary Ann & Alena

Posted by otisandma 03:44 Archived in France Tagged statues montreal pots garden music bands louvre copper cookware dehillerin merveilleux tulleries Comments (0)

La Cuisine Paris

Cooking class!


Today was a day most anticipated. Mary Ann booked a morning cooking class in Paris. The company ‘La Cuisine Paris’ is owned by American ex-pats who have set up a group of local chefs to do cooking classes with tourists, using French ingredients and recipes.

Our class began at a small producers/farmers market close by. We met our class and our chef, Cyril. Cyril is a chef at heart, having studied for 3 years in Paris. He is also a food and culture journalist. We walked through the market and he was able to tell us about the fresh products. We were offered three options for an appetizer course and democratically, we chose.
We went to a boucherie (butcher) and a fish seller. Our choices for main ‘plat’ included sole, pork tenderloin, duck breast ‘magret’ and chicken leg. Our group chose the pork as Cyril made it sound very enticing - stuffed with pine nuts, onions, garlic, fresh herbs and parmesan. Dessert options were also voted upon - creme brûler, creme caramel with salted caramel sauce and fresh passion fruit, apricot or cherry clafoutis. The choice was the creme caramel!
Cyril’s lovely assistant, Molly, purchased the required foods at each stand and we all carried in tote bags to bring back to the school.

Across the street from the market was a boulanger called La Parisienne who bake the best baguettes in all of Paris. Truly! There is an annual competition for the best traditional baguette and this shop for a year has the honour. AND the responsibility of providing baguettes for the president of France - daily meals and state dinners. Three breads were purchased for our meal. IMG_0734.jpg

We made our way through Ile Saint-Louis to the right bank of the Seine and arrived at the school. Those of us participating in the class (10 of us all-together - 4 mother-daughter pairs and one pair of friends) enjoyed coffee & tea while Cyril went up to the kitchen to set up and do some pre-prep.

Once upstairs, we all had an apron and a cutting board station at a big prep table. We began with the dessert - creme caramel - with the caramel and the egg custard. Cyril showed us how to properly check the caramel for colour & flavour and once dessert was in the oven, we turned our attention to chopping, chopping, some stirring and some more chopping.
We sliced the tenderloins open slightly to accommodate the filling. Once stuffed, we added some thinly sliced French country ham and then wrapped the meat in ‘Caul’ fat. This is a net-like structure of fat from around organs in the animal. This serves to hold the dish together - the meat is browned on all sides, during which time the caul melts away and then the dish is finished in the oven. 270_IMG_0731.jpg

The appetizer dish was an old recipe from the South of France called ‘Artichauts Barigoule’ which uses tiny artichokes - still on their stems, they’re sold like a little bouquet. To these were added carrots, onions, garlic and bacon. We also prepared roast celeriac and garlic; but LOOK at these cute herb roasted fingerling potatoes!270_IMG_0733.jpg
Cyril slicing the tenderloin - IMG_0737.jpg
We sat down as a group to enjoy the fruits of our labour - it was so delightful. 270_IMG_0736.jpgIMG_0738.jpg
The side veg was roasted celeriac - celery root. Simple but so sweet and delicious roasted. All the dishes tasted great and paired with the president’s bread and some Sauvignon Blanc, we ate it all up! Oh - an didja know that you’re not supposed to buy passion fruits that are smooth, round and shiny? The best look old & wrinkly - they’re much sweeter & juicier.

Lots learned - a great experience. Lots of different classes from which to choose - If you go to Paris, something worthwhile!

A bientôt

Mary Ann & Alena

Posted by otisandma 18:03 Archived in France Tagged france market school cooking seafood vegetables delicious pork cheeses fresh Comments (0)

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