Archive | August, 2013

Favorite Summer Destination: Paris, I Love You

30 Aug

How amazing can a summer vacation be? Pretty friggin’ spectacular, especially if the destination is Paris. It’s true what every one says about easy it is to love Paris and after spending some time there, the city can make us feel like it loves us too.

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In Paris, we can spend hours getting lost in the Louvre, one of the largest museums in the world and home to some of the most famous works of art. An experience that will guarantee moments that will take one’s breath away.

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A short walk, or in our case a short pedicab ride, away from the Louvre is the Pont des Arts or Passerelle des Arts bridge, a pedestrian bridge that crosses the Seine River. Couples come to this “Love Bridge” to memorialize their undying love by writing their names or initials on “love locks” (padlocks, which can be purchased on the bridge), attaching the lock to the railing or grate on the side of the bridge, and throwing the keys into the Seine. This romantic gesture is meant to represent committed love that can only be broken by unlocking the lock; impossible, as the keys are at the bottom of the river. Looks like it’s Sarah & Danny Forever!

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Before the Louvre, many of Paris’ historical paintings, like the Mona Lisa, covered the walls of the Palace of Versaille; however, I should say “unlike the Mona Lisa,” because I learned that this masterpiece was actually on an easel, not on the wall. We’ll notice that most of the paintings at the Louvre have no frames, and we’d have to go to the Palace of Versaille to see the frames that now house replicas of the real things. About a 40 minute drive from Paris, the Palace of Versaille is a must see destination. Renting a golf cart can save a ton of time when touring the gardens and property, especially if you’re like me and want to see it all. During busy seasons with heavy tourist traffic, or not, a private guided tour is also recommended. This guided tour gives tourists access to areas that aren’t permitted with the normal entrance fee, such as the library, music room, theater, etc. Plus, a knowledgable guide accompanies the tour’s guest(s), who can explain the history of the Palace (and it’s former residents) as well as answer any questions we can think of. Once I discovered what it was like in the general areas when walking to the exit to see the Hall of Mirrors (while still amazing, super crowded and unbearable at times), I realized what a life-savor being on private tour was.

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The Moulin Rouge was always a place I wanted to go, so I bought two tickets to it’s resident cabaret show and revue, Le Féerie. VIP tickets will avoid having to wait in the long entrance line and guarantees great designated seats, champagne, macrons, a program, and souvenirs. While the show is no “Cirque Du Soleil,” walking into Le Bal Du Moulin Rouge, so popular for it’s French can-can, makes it’s guests feel like we’re participating in it’s unique history and tradition.

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There are so many sights and monuments in Paris, like the Arc de Triomphe, which was a short walk from our hotel on the always lively Champs-Élysées. The history of the city is so rich and the architecture and design of it’s buildings and monuments are so beautiful and impressive.

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One of the sights that I got to see was the Notre Dame Cathedral. As I kid, this was a place I thought I could only dream about visiting. It was a humbling experience to finally see and realize that dreams are not too far from reality.

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During my vacation, where I indulged in some of the most incredible meals I’ve ever had, I realized that I absolutely loved Paris. Paris told me that it loved me too when I had the best crepe ever at Les Ecuries.

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The eiffel tower has got to be the most prominent symbol and icon of Paris and France. I was able to savor every sight and moment after ascending to the second level by walking the stairs. It was unreal!

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Going to the eiffel tower once in a lifetime is magical in and of itself, but going twice in one day is more than a girl who craves nearly everything could even ask for (the second time around, we took the elevator). We started the last day of our trip in Paris visiting the eiffel tower and ended the day there. Seeing the tower illuminated at night is stunning, but seeing the light show (where the tower twinkles) was amazing and incredibly romantic. In between these two visits (specifically at dinner), there was an engagement! In Paris, I savored some of the best times of my life, and came home with a fiancé (which may have contributed to this being my favorite Summer destination). Je t’aime Paris!

Craving Parisian Cuisine

18 Aug

Where does one go for some of the most incredible dining experiences ever? Paris has got to be a foodie’s paradise, and dining at four three Michelin starred restaurants while in Paris was like dying and going to food heaven. After the marathon dinner at Arpege (the first of the four restaurants with three Michelin stars), we knew that we had to pace ourselves and set aside at least three or more hours of our day to get the full experience of the Parisian restaurants that require some planning (or possible last resort pleading) to get a reservation to and multiple emails or phone calls for double or sometimes triple confirmations to assure our bookings. The term “Michelin Star” is a hallmark of fine dining quality, and since three stars is defined as “exceptional cuisine and worth a special journey”, we were looking forward to discover what all the hype was about, and what we found was those stars were given for very good reason, and them some.

Alain Ducasse Au Plaza Athenee

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A friend of our’s described a dinner at Alain Au Plaza Athenee as one of two of the best meals he’s ever had, and we found out why. As soon as you walk into the hotel and into the gorgeous restaurant with magnificent chandeliers hanging from the ceiling, we wondered if the Michelin stars came from the decor. I looked it up, and the reviewers are supposed to concentrate on the quality, mastery of technique, personality and consistency of the food, and not on quality of service, table setting, or ambiance. One we began eating, we agreed that the food was just as spectacular as everything else in the restaurant. We had the langoustines rafraichies with caviar, I ordered the Homard, Pommes de mer, and for Les Desserts, we shared the Baba au rhum and all of the other additions that came to the table, including the pre and post dessert desserts that we made sure to make room for.

Epicure
Le Bristol

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Men must not forget their dinner jackets at many fine dining Parisian restaurants. Contrary to what we think casual may mean in America, in Paris, causal means a suit jacket, preferably with a collared shirt and optional tie. While dining at Epicure in Le Bristol Hotel, I can see why people must dress up to dine there… the food looks just as fashionable. The food is presented so beautifully, it made me feel under-dressed. Just like the Paris runways are updated with new styles, Epicure’s menu was presented according to the season, and I ordered the seasonal tasting menu, which included the Mozzarella and Tomato souffléed with olive oil and salt, ox’s heart tomato, “green zebra: tomato, and pineapple tomato, Rock Pool Red Mullet with a roasted eggplant in a zucchini flower, and yellow pepper sauce perfumed with argan oil, and Carribean Chocolate with creamy, emulsion of spicy caramel, and roasted coffee ice cream. The palate cleansers between courses, fresh Madeleines, and dessert bar with marshmallows, caramels, candies, and macarons were great treats, but the fine seasonal cheeses offered before the desserts (as many and as much as one could handle) were incredible! In collaboration with two master cheese makers, Marie-Anne Cantin and Bernard Anthony, Epicure’s cheese board had a number of new selections of impeccable quality and taste that had me craving for cheese like never before.

Guy Savoy
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Guy Savoy was where we dined the last night of our trip in Paris. Like many of the other restaurants on our trip, I started with a coupe de champagne rose, and with extensive wine lists and breads at all of the restaurants we went to, it’s impossible not to notice how each place demonstrated attention to the perfect compliments of wine and bread to it’s food and cheeses. We took the recommendations from our server and ordered the Autour de la tomate, Bar en ecailles grillees, soupe d’artichaut, Selle, carre et epaule d’agneau, Poelee de girolles, fomage, and dessert. If I wasn’t already convinced, Guy Savoy completely sealed the deal on Paris being the city with the most crave-worthy restaurants on the planet. Im sure we could have probably spent another week in Paris and continued to be impressed by the quality of food and pure genius of the chefs. My taste buds were completed enchanted with Parisian cuisines and although I don’t know when I’ll return, I’ll forever be inclined to seek out the gastronomic delights of Paris.