Hello Again from Paris!
I've gotten behind on my blog posts because the internet here is so incredibly slow that it takes no less than 2 hours to upload the pictures for 1 day. So I figure why not wait a few days in between to stock up on good stories and good photos.
And let me tell ya, the past few days have been incredible. Lots of good food, great tales and some good photos as well (even though we didn't bring the big camera on all our trips...sorry, you'll have to suffer through the grainy glory of iPhone photos)
(The "seedy" district, HERO (Korean Fried Chicken), Hotel Du Nord & Canal St. Martin)
Rue Saint-Denis -- one of the oldest streets in Paris. It has these beautiful cobblestone streets, adorable cafes, and a mini "Arc de Triumph" type structure, that sits at the end of the street where a wall around the city once stood.
Michael and I both love Asian food so much, and we had found this adorable Korean Fried Chicken restaurant that we really wanted to go to. So even when he read the reviews that mentioned that this part of town was "seedy", we headed that way.
There were lots of adult stores and questionable looking folks, and Michael and I just kept looking at each other, laughing and saying "seedy". But really it wasn't a big deal, just a good laugh. Although I may not go back after dark...
HERO itself was incredible. We recommend the spicy (Michael's fave) or the sweet garlic (my favorite) chicken, as well as the pork steamed bun. We also ordered some delicious rice on the side to share.
The cocktails were the best we've had in Paris! I had a smoky, refreshing mezcal drink with aloe, and Michael had a pear-ginger whisky concoction that was amazing. Props to HERO.
I made the huge mistake of sporting my clogs for this outing, and by the time we left the restaurant I was hobbling. Somehow we made it over to Canal St. Martin (Which we've been dying to see! It's apparently the hot spot for all the locals). But I needed a place to sit pronto, so we popped in a super cute cafe called Hotel Du Nord.
At the time we didn't realize it was a relatively fancy place. You could eat a full coursed-out meal there and feel like a queen. But we ordered their cheese plate, a half bottle of wine, and ended the night with their Cafe Gourmand (coffee with a sampler of teeny desserts). Man, I love teeny things, so these mini desserts really made me happy. This place was so magical, such an incredible surprise. It's one of the few places that I'd really love to go back to and dig in a little deeper with their menu.
Michael and I left Hotel Du Nord after about 2 hours, and we walked (a little) along the canals before we started to contemplate how to get me home without destroying my feet. #UBER. Side note, uber is really easy to use here, and helps a LOT with the language barrier because they already know where you're going based on the map in your app.
Day 9, you were full of pleasant surprises. Note to self: every Paris restaurant is close quarters, and almost every dinner lasts at least 1.5-2 hours. I bumped into my neighbor at Hero and she gave me the evil eye, so I can only assume that we must try to be as graceful and elegant as possible.
(Avocado toast & iced coffee at Fragments, Long conversations, Taste of Paris Food Festival, and the Eiffel Tower at night)
SUCH A GOOD DAY.
I gotta brag on Michael here: dude is an amazing planner and finder of great things.
I really love to find cute cafes and interesting events too, but somehow Michael is just naturally gifted at these things. We had agreed at the beginning of the day that he would call all the shots. So he had us en route to Fragments (a coffee shop that has some killer avocado toast and baked goods) when he mentioned that he had seen advertisements for the "Taste of Paris" food festival later that evening.
One of our big Paris goals was to eat at a Michelin star restaurant. But the longer we've been here we've gotten a little intimidated by the level of class and FANCY that exists in those type of places. So we began reading about the festival and realized that several Michelin Star chefs were showcasing there! It was the last night of the festival, so we bought tickets right away and decided that this would indeed check "Michelin Star" off the list.
Fragments was incredible. We spent the day dreaming, chatting, and reading our books. The avocado toast was heavenly, and we may or may not have ordered a cinnamon bun later to share... (check out these photos)
We made our way to a cafe that I've been wanting to try (Le Fontaine Sully) in our neighborhood. The marble tables and the cheery faces have always drawn me in a little. So we sat down with a glass of white wine and people-watched for almost an hour. Then we headed home to clean up for the festival.
Taste of Paris was at the Grand Palais, which is a giant exhibition hall that seems to host lots of different events, but it is gorgeous--tall glass ceilings and intricate details. We walked in and were slightly shocked that NO ONE spoke English. For some reason I pictured it as an event that people would travel to Paris to attend, so I thought there may be some English-speakers there. But it seems that most of the people were French. So we grabbed a map and tackled the menu one item at a time. We both put stars by the chefs or the dishes that we wanted to check out, and then started making our way around the room.
It's hard to believe that we tasted 5 different Michelin Star chefs' cooking for a fraction of the price that it costs to eat in their restaurants. We were wandering around like kids in a candy shop. Some highlights were: (* = Michelin Star)
KEI ** - gnocchi with parmesan creme, black truffle and Spanish ham, & lobster ravioli with spicy bouillon
AGAPE * - ravioli filled with Morel mushrooms and foie gras in chicken consommé
MAISON ROSTANG ** - chicken glazed in yellow wine & Morel stuffed potato
MANDARIN ORIENTAL PARIS ** - confit veal shank, macaroni au gratin and truffle emulsion, & supreme of chicken with Morel mushrooms
LA TOUR D'ARGENT * - raspberry compote with a petit beurre biscuit, crème brûlée ice cream, topped with warm raspberry and geranium rosat jam
FRENCHIE (no stars, but very popular here in Paris) - lobster roll + lobster bisque with lemon verbena, and for dessert: banana, pecan nuts and caramelized milk
L'ÉCLAIR DU GÉNIE (most popular eclairs here in Paris) - éclair sandwich with vanilla ganache, caramelized pecan praline, and milk chocolate
honorable mention: THE BEST OYSTERS I'VE EVER TASTED IN MY LIFE. (Tarboureich was the name of the farm) OMG OMG OMG. Luckily we were operating on credit here or I would have seen the price tag and realized that these puppies for $3 PER OYSTER...they better be good for that price haha.
After Taste of Paris, we were already so close to the Eiffel Tower, so we walked out on our favorite bridge (Pont Alexandre III) just in time to snap a few photos and see it sparkle. It was so magical that we decided to take a night walk and end up at the tower. (The night walks are Michaels favorite thing we do in Paris, and they really are so lovely).
The Eiffel Tower is so touristy, but there's something freeing and wonderful about that. You can take 5 million selfies, lay on the grass and make out, or speak in silly French accents and there's no shame. You know there are people on the same lawn doing worse, more embarrassing things.
After we sat on the lawn for awhile we decided to take the long way home.
(songwriting day, baguette sandwich from our neighborhood baker, made THE LIST of Paris to do's, and Bateaux Parisiens dinner cruise)
My favorite day yet. It's a Monday, so the crowds have subsided a little, people are at work instead of filling the parks and museums. We slept in and worked on songs all morning. We have been bringing around a little hand recorder to capture the sounds and emotions of Paris.
We've seen an accordion fellow near Sacre Cœur, a violin lady & a harp guy at Notre Dame, a trio of fancy woodwind men on Île Saint-Louis, an opera singer at Place Des Vosges, a cello player in the metro, dinner sounds at our favorite restaurants, and the sounds coming from our windows in different parts of the apartment. It's been incredible.
So we pulled out the recordings and started listening to them, pulling inspiration for the new album. I can't wait to experiment with using these sounds and expounding on these moments.
It's a Paris MUST to get a baguette sandwich for lunch from a local bakery. You see every different type of person walking around Paris at lunchtime with these long, skinny sandwiches. Everything is the most fresh - tomatoes, cheese, fresh cooked bread, lettuce, ham. And they all just walk around eating this sandwich, just the top 3 bites sticking out of the paper wrapping. I've seen it and made a note to myself to find one.
So finally on day 11, we walked downstairs to the bakery on the corner and got a sandwich. Michael and I split it, and then ate some of our leftover groceries (salami, olives, cheese, extra baguette with butter). It was the most perfect lunch yet, and EVERYTHING for under $5.
Michael and I are working on an incredible list of all our favorite places in Paris (the baguette sandwich is most definitely on the list) for the blog. So maybe on your next trip you can pop into some of our favorite places.
By far, the highlight of the trip so far was our dinner cruise on the Seine.
Last time we were in Paris we hopped on the Batobus (which is so great!) at Notre Dame for the last ride, packed a baguette and some wine, and cruised up the river to the Eiffel Tower just in time for it to sparkle at 9. It was magical.
But this time we wanted to do a full dinner + evening on the boat. So Michael and I started researching the different options and landed on Bateaux Parisiens. There are lots of different amazing options (we also liked Calife, Marina de Paris) at all different prices. We splurged for a window seat and it was gorgeous.
The meal was coursed out, the live jazz band was playing, they were serving champagne, and the Eiffel Tower had just started to light up as we pulled away from the dock. I swear I was grinning ear to ear the whole night.
We had fancy courses and the big debate about which knife and fork (of the 3 options) was the proper choice.
We've actually had some trouble finding a wine that we love here in Paris. People hype the wine, but it's not like all the $5 glasses at all the cafés are fancy. So we were very pleasantly surprised when we realized a bottle of delicious red wine came with the meal. It was by far the best yet. We're hoping to find a bottle to bring home.
What a sweet, romantic night.
In fact, it was definitely the sweetest, and most romantic I can remember.
(explored the Marais, lunch at Miznon, our first real eclair, painting and reading by the Seine)
Today was wonderfully simple.
We wandered the cobblestone, winding streets of the Marais. It's the district right next to ours, only a 5 minute walk from our apartment. But we've spent most of our time exploring Bastille and other beautiful parts of town that we've mostly missed out on the Marais.
It's definitely a little touristy, but in a beautiful way. There's a walking street that cuts through the center of this crowded string of shops (no less than 10 Falafel shops, plus lots of cafés, boulangeries aka bakeries, and some well known stores like Addidas, JCrew, etc.)
We found our way to Miznon by lunch. It has come very highly recommended, and we were excited to try it. It's a very lively spot -- Middle Eastern dance music (is that a thing? I don't know how to describe it, but it was great) playing loudly in the background, a horn that they blew every time something awesome happened or a new customer came in the door, and our waiter was dancing the whole time he took our order. Such a friendly, awesome place.
It's a pita shop with lots of traditional options, but also typical french dishes like beef bourguignon in pitas. I tried the lamb gyro, Michael had the hamburger. This spot is definitely making the list. On our way out of the Marais, we passed the eclair shop from Taste of Paris and we had to walk in! Michael loooooves eclairs. I like them ok. But I gotta say, this salted caramel one that we split pretty much rocked both of our worlds. Bravo L'Éclair De Génie.
Then we started walking with 2 goals: find Michael a history book (preferable something WWII) and find me some watercolors and a little pocket notebook to paint in.
I've been wanting to paint by the Seine, and Michael has been wanting to read history. So we decided to combine our outing into one. We found Michael 2 awesome books at Shakespeare and Co. -- one about Stalingrad and one about Paris in the 1920s. We're pretty pumped for both.
I found an awesome art store and the perfect little pocket notebook & paints. We checked out & started the 30 minute trek back to our favorite spot on the water.
It was such a hot, perfect day today. From talking to Uber drivers, I think the Parisians love it when it's hot outside. It's typically pretty cold in Paris, so this weather is a treat. On the walk back to our spot on the Seine we were SO hot and thirsty, and stopped in a spot that was selling Berthillon sorbet. We got a scoop just to get the tap water that they usually bring to the table, and to our delight it had ICE in it.
This was our first ice since we arrived, and it was glorious. I still can't imagine why no one here drinks ice water. It just tastes better.
After the ice water and some pretty amazing strawberry sorbet, we made it over the bridge and to Les Nautes. it's an adorable little bar/restaurant near our house, right on the river. The restaurant is on the street level and the bar is on the river level.
People around our age were already spread out in everywhere around the river -- the place is always electric with activity, but somehow it's so peaceful. I guess the French get pretty accustomed to operating in close quarters. But we found a little table with a view of the Pont Marie bridge (the one that leads to Île Saint-Louis), and got some wine. I think this will go on the short list of my very favorite spots in Paris.
Michael began to read his history book, and I began to paint. I started with sketching what I saw, and slowly adding colors. I've never painted before, and this first one wasn't anywhere close to perfect. I wish I could convey with my paintbrush how truly magical the sight was. But I was actually pretty happy with how it turned out, and I can't wait to paint a few more spots in the city!
The best surprise is that Les Nautes serves incredible cheese and charcuterie boards! Ours as complete with fresh salami, delicious goat cheese, greek olives, a little arugula salad, figs, mini pickles, butter and bread.
My favorite kind of dinner (!!)
The diet begins again when we return from France! This stuff is too wonderful to turn down, although Michael and I are trying to take on the mentality of sharing and tasting rather than eating everything in sight.
I think we're doing pretty well.
Au Revoir for now!
p.s. If you made it to the bottom of this post you must either really love us, or really be considering a trip to France ;)