How did this month go by so quickly??
I can't believe I'm sitting at the Washington D.C. airport typing in retrospect about our trip on the layover. Just like that we're back in the U.S., and almost back to Athens. We can't wait to see Chumplins tonight & sleep in our own bed, but my heart is so sad to leave Paris. It really did start to feel like home.
Before I dive into stories from our last our last week, here's a little recap since Normandy and an update on the best crepe...
After the Normandy trip...
which we will remember and laugh about forever, we visited Marché Bastille twice. We saw the fishmongers, butchers, fromagers (fresh homemade butter and cheese!), wine sellers, all sorts of delicious produce. I read somewhere that it's very impolite to take pictures of the food, so I just snuck these quick iPhone pictures while they weren't looking. They aren't high quality, but you can get the idea of what this market was like -- busy, great deals, delicious options, a bit overwhelming, and yes that's a raw octopus. I had SO MUCH FUN here. This is my wheelhouse, and that booth below that is mostly olives is basically a dream for me. Michael, on the other hand, may not have loved it quite as much. Maybe because he was carrying the basket and I kept filling it up with stuff (hehe). In my defense, we did eat every last bit, and he really was a good sport.
One of my favorite things about the market was a little lady sitting cross legged on the ground playing a violin type thing. The instrument was propped straight up and down on the ground and she had the bow sawing away at one single note over and over again. It was so bad, but for some reason she made me smile.
We also planned a full day of more high class, Parisian activities. We started the day by going to high tea at Angelina's Tea Room. Michael ordered their famous hot chocolate and it did not disappoint! So delicious. But I think I prefer a full American breakfast to a French breakfast (they seem to only eat yogurt and lots of different breads...). As fancy as we felt, we couldn't help but notice that we are too tall for dainty activities like tea...
Afterwards we went walking at the Tuileries Garden and found a perfectly shady spot to read our books. It was one of the best moments we had in Paris, I think. The pigeons waddling by us looking for food, the privacy under the shade of the trees -- it was perfect. We had a 2:15 appointment for a guided tour of the L'Orangerie Museum, which was so fun! Maybe I'm getting old, because I've never described a tour as "fun" before... But because I don't know much about art, it was so entertaining to have a guide telling us the stories and history behind paintings. I particularly loved the stories of the dramatic competition and camaraderie between painters in Paris, and of course all their lovers who were the subjects of the paintings.
The most famous artwork in the L'Orangerie is Monet's Water Lilies. We learned that the large series of paintings was Monet's last work, and he donated them to France while he was still alive. It took him something like 7+ years to finish them. He designed the oval layout for the rooms they would be displayed in, requested sky lights in the building and even requested that specific museum (which is located inside the Tuileries Garden. But sadly he died a few months before he ever saw the paintings displayed. This one below is only one of the 8.
A few days later we booked a train (ahead of time, and made sure there was a hotel) for a trip to Provence. It's a food & wine region in the Alps in the south of France only about an hour away from the coast.
Michael found a breathtaking B&B called Chateau La Roque that we fell in love with. It was the perfect escape from the city, and our hosts Chantal & Jean could not have been more lovely and helpful! They booked us wine tastings at beautiful wineries during our stay there, and found us reservations at 2 of the best restaurants we've been to on our whole trip.
The Chateau itself was breathtaking. It's an old castle sitting high up on the hill, and the owners told us that it once was a fortress protecting the whole town. You can see for miles, and they have a sweet terrace with round tables overlooking this gorgeous view where we sat every morning for breakfast.
Our room was beautiful but simple. A small sitting area, a wardrobe to hang our clothes in, a big comfortable bed, 2 big windows, and a large bathroom with a soaking tub and a walk in shower. I had one of the most relaxing baths I've ever had in my life, complete with a bottle of Rosé and some pistachios from our picnic earlier in the day.
For the first time in our lives Michael and I signed up for the in-room massage. The lady could not have been sweeter, despite Michael and me awkwardly deciding in the bathroom with the door closed who would go first and how much clothing we're supposed to take off for a massage in France. Michael said I should go first so I threw on one of the two robes and went out there. We both decided to leave on our underwear and lets just say that the lady would've gotten quite a show if I hadn't. The sheet on top was more of a beach towel, and I'm not sure it covered everything. I'm laughing just thinking about it. But once she got started and I got comfortable it was the most relaxed I've ever been.
After my massage I got dressed and went down to the terrace to paint while Michael had his massage. The sun was starting to set and the sky was lit up with the most beautiful colors I've ever seen. This picture was taken after I had admired the view for about 45 minutes, so the sun had disappeared a bit. I tried to paint it and failed miserably, but it will definitely be one of my favorite memories from this trip. Our sweet hostess brought me some olives and a glass of wine, and I was in heaven.
Once Michael was finished with his massage we had a really good laugh, because I had accidentally taken the bigger of the two robes. His robe was much too small, and he couldn't even keep it closed in the front. So again, thankful for the decision to wear underwear...
Chantal had booked us a reservation at Jardin du Quai, and even though they close at 9, they were staying open a little late for us. When we arrived, both of us were it awe of the sweetness and elegance of the restaurant. We had a table outside in the garden, ivy growing on an arch overhead, candles lit on every table. The French have long meals, sometimes as long as 3 hours. So a lot of people were still there for our whole meal even though they were technically closed. This was probably my favorite meal of the whole trip. The courses were delicious, but also things that I would never order if I was given the choice. So the pre fixe menu was such a fun choice for us, trying brand new things with an open mind. Each one was some type of seafood, and luckily it was all great! I think there was a tartare, a scallop dish, and a fish. The dessert was a raspberry macaron. The whole night was like a dream. These grainy phone pictures don't even come close to showing how magical it was, but they'll have to do for memories.
Breakfast every morning could not have been more adorable. Chantal would set the table and bring down enough different breads for 4 people, plus some yogurts, jams, honeys, fresh butter, and beautifully arranged fruit. Oh, and of course coffee. As delicious as the food was, this view was the best part.
During our stay there, Chantal and Jean could not have been more helpful with finding delicious food, gorgeous views, and excellent wine. Provence is known for its simplicity, it's beautiful landscapes, and as a place where you can find quiet. I overheard a few conversations about how precious a quiet escape is, especially the challenge of getting away from the big cities that never sleep. The quiet settled into our souls in the best way, and with Chantal planning all of our day trips, there was this wave of relief and relaxation. As much as I love to plan fun trips, the fear of not doing enough, missing something, or (the worst yet), regretting our decisions weighed heavily on me all through the trip to Paris. So this short trip was a stress free few days. The hilltop villages in that area were our favorite for exploring. The ones below are Ménerbes, Séguret & Gigondas,
On the way home we stopped in Avignon (home to one of the original Pope's Palaces) and had a sweet lunch in a little Italian restaurant. We were the only ones in the shop, so the owner fixed us some special snacks--focaccia with burrata on top and an Italian meat and cheese plate, which was really fun because we had mostly had French cheese for the whole month. After lunch we headed back to the train station to catch our train home.
When we arrived back in Paris we were ready to have some normal food, preferably nothing raw, no more smelly cheese, and no more charcuterie. So we ordered pasta from UberEats (they delivered it to our door) and watched 'Oceans 12' on the pull-out couch. It was the perfect night, because after a month of fancy, we're ready to chill.
The trip to Provence was simple in a great way, especially in contrast with our time staying in Paris. We love the city, but life there is fast, busy, crowded. At most dinners, the tables are so close together that the you have to pull the table all the way out to get to your seat without sitting on your neighbors table. At nicer places the waiter will do it for you, but it took me awhile to figure that out. So I accidentally hit a few bread baskets with my butt early in the trip, and got weird looks from the people sitting next to us. But I've always wanted to know what it's like to live in a big city, so I'm getting my wish even if I'm laughing about it the whole way.
P.S. we found the best crepe in Paris.
Last time we were only there for 4 days. On the last night of our trip we realized we hadn't tasted a crepe yet, so we just found the closest stand and ordered one. In the moment I was thinking that it was pretty incredible, but I thought that was just because France is amazing at dessert. But NO, not all crepes are created equal. We've had several fancy people recommend fancy crepe stores. And don't get me wrong, those places are good. But Michael and I did some research and found the crepe stand near the metro station that we stopped at last year. And let me tell ya.
That is the best crepe ever. There's no way around it, you gotta order Speculoos, and adding a little bit of Nutella is acceptable as well. Plus side, it's cheaper than the fancy stuff, and will change your life.