WHOA lansi

francophile, oenophile, logophile, turophile

Tag: Honeymoon

Honeymoon 008 \ Genoa

When I first started planning our honeymoon, I figured we’d fly from Lyon to Genoa for the start of our cruise. As I did more research, however, I was pleased to discover that the train would actually be quicker. I am a big proponent of train travel. I originally assumed we could hop on a flight to Genoa pretty easily, but all routes required a stopover in Zurich or Frankfurt, forcing a major detour. So instead we opted to spend the day on the train. Not only would it be cheaper, we’d arrive earlier & the train station would be a few metro stops away from our airbnb rental in the historic district. Our train would leave Lyon a little bit earlier, but since we wouldn’t have to travel out to the airport, we’d actually leave our rental later. Perfect!

View from the train

Our train made a couple of stops along the way, first in Chambéry & then in Turin. We had a couple hours in Turin & when we arrived at Turin Porta Susa, I thought we were in for a pretty boring stopover. There weren’t a whole lot of amenities going on. I pulled out our tickets to double check the time we were leaving at & quickly realized we were supposed to leave from Turin Porta Nuova. They’d sold us tickets that had a different departure station than the one we’d arrived in. I swear Italian train travel is always an adventure! We quickly purchased tickets from a surly ticket agent & ran to catch our new train, only to get kicked off due to technically difficulties. A friendly university student pointed us towards the metro – it turns out we could have done this all along. Thanks, Mr Ticket Agent.

Our host in Genoa had given us very simple instructions to his apartment in the centre. We had arranged to meet him when he got off work, but arrived a bit early so we grabbed a drink in the shadow of the cathedral around the corner from his place.

Drinks in the square by the Cathedrale

Maurizio welcomed us into his beautiful attic apartment & gave us suggestions for how to spend our evening. He pointed out the important sights, his favourite restaurants, & the best gelato on a map. We didn’t have long so he made sure to give us a manageable list, which we definitely appreciated. This kind of hospitality is what truly makes airbnb my new favourite service.

We set out for the old quarter, map in hand. Luckily, this historic area is quite compact & it only took us about 10 minutes to get there. The buildings here are so different from those in France. With mostly flat facades, they’ve painted columns & art to mimic different types of architecture. We both found it quite beautiful. Maurizio had suggested a gelato shop up the hill. He told us it was his favourite place to get get granita. We opted for gelato & happened to accidentally time it perfectly for the sunset. The little shop is located on the spianata Castelletto, overlooking the port city. You can take the funicular up from the old district or find your way up the maze of stairs, like we did.

We decided to have dinner in another spot recommended by our host. Conveniently located around the corner from our apartment, Cantine Squarafico is a romantic little spot with a great menu, helpful & friendly staff, & a wonderful atmosphere in an underground setting. Our server spoke perfect english & recommended a beautiful local wine. It was exactly what we were looking for & started things off on the right foot. It doubles as a wine store, so if you’re not looking for dinner, I’d recommend stopping in to take a look at their wine selection. If you do decide to eat here, go for the lobster taglioni. It was by far our favourite part of the meal – we’d decided to share our appetizers & found ourselves fighting for more lobster. We could have ordered one each.

We capped off the evening with a wander through the summer market in the Porto Antico and a beer on our spectacular rooftop terrace. They had built a little terrace right into the tile rooftop. Our host brought us some lanterns & we sat at the little table, enjoying our beer & the impressive view. Most of the buildings are quite short so we had an unobstructed view of our surroundings, including the nearby port & Cathedral next door. It was gorgeous.

Evening Light
Interesting restaurant in the Old Port
Our terrace in daylight
& the view at night

I didn’t have any expectations for Genoa so it was a pleasant surprise to find we enjoyed our short time there so much. The friendly people, beautiful sights, & incredible food make it a very worthwhile destination. I wouldn’t hesitate to book another few days to explore a little further.

Honeymoon 007 \ A bientot, Lyon

On our final day in Lyon, we majorly slept in. As a seasoned traveller, I likely should have realized we weren’t on European time yet, but I guess wine clouded my judgement & I didn’t set an alarm. I still had a few things I wanted to show N, so it was a bit disappointing to realize we’d missed so much of the day.

I’d promised my coworker I’d stop by Starbucks again so that was our first stop once we got moving. He was in a meeting, but snuck out for a quick chat. My old store manager was also there, so it was fun to say hi to her as well. Soufien & I made tentative plans for later on as the clock was ticking for N & I to get a real lunch.

Unfortunately, one of our maps placed the restaurant in the wrong location, so we wasted precious time on a wild goose chase. When we finally arrived at the correct location, they had stopped serving lunch. Instead, we made a dinner reservation & headed to a more touristy spot in Vieux Lyon for a traditional style bouchon lunch.

This is the type of meal you tend to waddle away from. Traditional Lyonnais food is heavy. It’s full of the type of things you’d find at Grandma’s, if your Grandma is a French woman who enjoys butter & offal. My starter salad was mostly bacon with a side of greens & a hard boiled egg. We managed to find back to Place des Terreaux for a tour of L’Atelier de la Soierie by one of the artists. She was taking a break from the free-hand floral designs she creates. The shop was also in the middle of filling a large order of beautiful silk scarves so we saw a bit of that process. I highly recommend a visit if you’re passing through Lyon. The shopkeepers are friendly, helpful, & always willing to explain a bit of the historic process they continue to use. They’re one of the last shops to still use this method, so it’s a pretty unique experience.

The square was getting busy so we decided to join some of the locals for a few beers at Café Leffe. Place des Terreaux was one of my favourite squares to grab a drink & people watch. There’s always so much going on as it’s a major thoroughfare for locals & the site of many events. It also gave us a chance to use free wifi to make plans with some of my friends for later that evening – the joys of being without cell reception.

Our dinner that evening was another very traditional Lyonnais meal. Café Comptoir Abel is said to be the oldest & most authentic bouchon in the city. We went for some very traditional dishes including veal, kidney, andouillette, & paté. If you want to be adventurous, this is the place to do it. & while many of those foods probably aren’t in your regular dinner rotation, I highly recommend giving them a try in Lyon. These dishes are typical of what was cooked regionally by the 19th century middle class, when many women began working as cooks. (You can read more about the Lyonnais “mothers” & this simple style of cooking here.)

It was a beautiful evening to sit outside on the patio. In typical A&N fashion, we ordered way more food than necessary, especially considering these dishes are on the heavier site & we’d had a big lunch. This is a definite theme when we travel.

If you ever ask N to take your photo, he’ll take about 15. By the end, I always look like this.

After dinner, we met two coworkers from my Starbucks days at a little pub on the Presqu’île. It was fun to catch up with them & properly introduce N. We reminisced over how much had changed in the last six years (& how much really hadn’t). I can’t imagine a better way to wrap up our time in Lyon then with great company, a few drinks, & a beautiful night on a patio.

The next morning we boarded an early train for Italy. It was bittersweet to be moving on from France, but exciting to prepare for new adventures in Italy. Genoa was next on the list & the beginning of our weeklong cruise.

Honeymoon 006 \ Trabouling in Lyon

I’ve mentioned many times that I don’t usually enjoy tours. That hasn’t changed. I still prefer to explore on my own, but even I’m willing to make exceptions. Traboules require a bit of explanation & it can be nice to let someone else take the reigns (plus I’m a huge nerd for history). & there’s so much history in Lyon. This may actually explain why I first gravitated to it. I also fell in love with these weird little passageways on my first visit.

The latest version of this tour included fancy headphones. Not only did they make us look super cool, but they also made it easier to hear our soft-spoken French tour guide as we wandered the narrow streets & used the traboules to weave between streets & buildings. I especially liked the guide’s description of a traboule as “a public passage in a private space”.

Traboules are unique to Lyon so it can be tough to explain them to someone who’s never experienced them. I know N didn’t quite get it until we were actually trabouling.

 

The residents of these buildings have agreed to allow access to the public. They ask that we respect the tranquility of the spaces by passing in silence. The streets outside can be noisy, which makes the quiet traboules feel especially tranquil. If you decide to explore the area on your own, ask for a map at the Tourist Office: each traboule is marked on the map to make route-planning simple.

Rue St Jean, the main street of Vieux Lyon, can be crowded, but as you make your way through these passageways, you’ll often find yourself alone. You’ll also get to experience beautiful architecture that would otherwise remain hidden if the residents of this neighbourhood hadn’t agreed it was worth allowing tourists & locals alike to explore.

La Tour Rose is one of the most well-known traboules

After the tour, we had some time to kill before our late dinner reservation. On the hunt for wine & a good picnic spot, we headed over to Les Berges du Rhône. Les Berges is a park along the banks of the Rhône, & a premier spot for picnicking. There’s always something going on! This time we stumbled upon a board game event: hundreds of people playing all different kind of games & enjoying the beautiful day. Unfortunately, being Sunday, most stores were closed & we struck out in our wine search at every tabac on that side of town. Instead, we grabbed a drink on one of the patios along the river. It wasn’t exactly the picnic we had in mind, but no real complaints there.

Enjoying the sun on our way to Les Berges
A game of Carcassonne in the park

Our balade eventually led us to one of the newer Starbucks along Rue de la Ré. I wanted to see if one of my friends was working. Turns out he had transferred back to the store we’d worked together at in France, so we made our way up there. Of course, I had to take a photo outside. There she is, the first Starbucks of many! Although, Soufien wasn’t working when we visited, we did run into another of my coworkers & made plans to come back to following day to see S.

On our way back to our apartment, I remembered that épiceries often carry wine so we grabbed a bottle. Success! Who would have thought it could be so difficult to find wine in France?! Back at our place, we threw open the giant windows, laid our feast out on the kitchen counter, & relaxed for the rest of the afternoon.
It’s hard to deny that Lyon is gorgeous with it’s old buildings on the hill & Fourvière in the distance. I could have hung out in that apartment for another week enjoying that view & visiting the market in Croix Rousse daily. While there’s so much of the world I want to see, I think I’ll always want to go back to Lyon.

That night, we got a bit dressed up & headed out for a late dinner at Brasserie de L’Est – one of Paul Bocuse’s brasseries. Located in the old Brotteaux Train Station, the menu & decor are meant to take you on a Round The World trip. A miniature train circles the dining room above your head, paying homage to the buildings’ past.

I’d been to another of Bocuse’s Brasseries, Le Sud, when I lived in Lyon & it was a wonderful experience so I was really looking forward to this dinner. It certainly did not disappoint. Paul Bocuse is such an icon in this region, & in the culinary community. A visit to one of his restaurants should definitely be on your To Do list.

As for our meals, N & I shared Salmon Gravlax & Foie Gras Mousse to start. Then N went for the cod while I had beef. Both were delicious & cooked perfectly. My beef came with a side of  thick-cut fries, which were kept warm over a candle. I thought it was pretty cute. To cap things off, we shared an excessively large crème brulée – a desert I can never resist.

We wrapped up our meal just in time to catch the last metro home & tucked ourselves into bed satisfied with our wonderful day.

Honeymoon 005 \ Lyon: Croix Rousse & the market

One of my favourite things about my life in Lyon was my neighbourhood. I lived on a quiet little street, just off the Boulevard de la Croix Rousse. This street separates the 4th arrondissement (the plateau) from the 1st (the pentes or hill). Although my apartment was actually right at the top of the hill, it was just at the end of the 1st. This quarter, Croix Rousse, is nicknamed la colline qui travaille (opposite the hill that prays, which we explored the previous day) because of the numerous silk workshops that were relocated from Vieux Lyon in the 18th Century.

These workshops are the reason for the unique architecture in the area, including the beautiful tall ceilings in most buildings. The ceilings had to be tall to accommodate the very large Jacquard looms, making for beautiful, light-filled apartments now. Things weren’t so great for these silk workers (canuts) back then though – their working conditions were horrible. The subsequent revolts are a big part of Lyon’s history.

In many ways, this neighbourhood reminds me of the Plateau in Montreal. The area & its people have a reputation as being different from the rest of the city & in many ways it feels more like a village than part of a large city. So, on our second day in Lyon, we set out for Croix-Rousse first thing. This was one of the things I was most looking forward to in Lyon: giving N a glimpse of my life here in 2008. 

Silly Memories from 2008 in Croix Rousse

We were staying near Place Sathonay, which I had often frequented while living in Lyon, so I took us up my regular route. Most people would take the montee de la grande cote, as it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, but my tour would take us back that way on our way home. This way I could show N the stairs at montee de vauzelles too. My parents wound up taking them when they were looking for my apartment on their last visit so he’d heard of them before. I even made him take a picture of me at the bottom before we started our climb. (I’m sure he thought I was a little odd getting excited about a set of stairs, but memories, friends.)

The top of the stairs connects with the end of Rue de Vauzelles, & my former building is pretty much right in front of you at 13. Not much had changed from when I lived there, besides a little extra graffiti. Even the view of the Basilique de Fourvière was just as I’d remembered it.




Giddy to show N the rest of my neighbourhood & hit the market, we only stayed long enough to take a picture in front of my building. The Croix Rousse market is by far my favourite. Located less than a block from my apartment, I spent many a morning browsing everything from fruits & vegetables to fresh cheeses & charcuterie. There was even a fish monger on the corner of my street. I was happy to discover that not much had changed. The fish monger is still there & most of the market’s stalls seemed to be in the exact same places. The market runs from Tuesday to Sunday, giving you ample opportunity to check it out if you’re ever in Lyon (& I highly recommend that you do.)

The fish monger on the corner

We’d hoped to grab a croissant or something quick before making the climb to the boulevard, but it being Sunday, everything was closed. We probably should have grabbed something the night before, but six years makes you forget how quiet things can be on a Sunday. It always takes me a few days to get back into the rhythm. Being one of the most popular days for brunch at home, it’s easy to forget that’s not the case in Europe. 

We found a little café serving breakfast & had a very French start: tartine, fresh pressed orange juice, & coffee. It won’t keep you full for long, but I knew we’d be picking up an assortment of delicious things at the market so I wasn’t worried.

Satiated, we strolled back through the market, picking up cheese, meat, & a baguette from different vendors. My favourite is always the cheese. Cheese is plentiful & relatively cheap (compared to the prices we’re used to) in France. We had no trouble finding three to try. 

L’Arome de Lyon was one of my picks. I’ve never seen it anywhere else so, when I spotted it, I knew I wanted N to try it. From what I’ve read, it is a goat cheese soaked in brandy & then covered in grape skins, stems, & seeds. If you’re up for something different, I highly recommend giving it a try. (I’ve mostly learned all of this from google, but Lucy’s Kitchen Notebook has a good review also.)

N was enamoured (bordering on obsessed) with all the saucisson sec. He wanted to buy it all. We were a bit limited by our lack of utensils so we chose a chorizo. If he’d had his way, I’m sure we would have bought four or five others. We’re both suckers for good quality charcuterie.

This abundance of incredible saucisson sec spurred the first of many discussions about how we could possibly move to France. His plan is to learn to make saucisson sec & start our own business. Once we figure it all out, we’ll import cheeses too. It sounds quite delicious. I’m totally game!

There’s a little park at the end of the boulevard so we headed that way with our finds: 3 cheeses, spicy cured sausage, prosciutto, & baguette. It doesn’t look like a lot, but we barely made a dent in our lunch before we were full. I love this kind of lunch in Europe though. It’s so easy to save for later & perfect when you’re on a budget. (Not that we were on much of a budget. We just love this type of fresh cheese & charcuterie & it doesn’t get fresher than this!) When we finally called it, we just wrapped it all back up & stashed it in my purse.

For some reason I can never remember exactly where Le Mur des Canuts (the silk weaving neighbourhood mural) is, so we wandered around in the general area for a while before stumbling upon it. It’s always a little further east than I expect.

Lyon is quite well-known for its murals all over the city. This one honours the silk workers in the area. Every so often, the murals around the city are updated & you can see the older versions of this one on the wall beside it. The version I was most familiar with before this trip, was done in 1997, but when we arrived I realized that it looked a bit different. They’d added some greenery to the building on the right & the people looked different. I thought it was just my memory, until we read the plaques & realized this version was from 2013. I think the coolest part of the updates is that they age the people in the murals, so that was why they looked different to me. The people in the version from 2013 are 15 years older than the original & those in the 1997 version are 10 years older. 

in 2008
This year

The streets on this hill wind back & forth, like switchbacks on a mountain, which explains the need for the famous traboules in this neighbourhood. Traboules are famous all over Lyon & we’d be seeing more of them on our tour of Vieux Lyon later, but the ones in Croix-Rousse were built at a different point in history so they are unique. I showed N one of my favourites as well as Passage Thiaffait, the lookout above the montee de la grande cote, & a much quieter montee than the previous night. (Here‘s a little more information about these traboules. I’ve done this tour before as well.)

 
We showed up for our tour in Vieux Lyon a bit early, so we had time to grab a drink at a funny little café in front of the Cathedral. The owner kept coming out to tease us, which is pretty amusing to translate to your english-speaking husband.

I’ll talk a bit more about the traboules in my next post. In an attempt to split up our day in Lyon & keep my post shorter, I managed to still ramble on for far too long. One day I’ll figure out how to concisely write about travel. Maybe. (Doubtful).

Honeymoon 004 \ Lyon

The first time I arrived at Lyon Part-Dieu was in February 2006. My train was two hours late, having hit a car enroute, & I was worried about my hostel reservation. Another girl on the train noticed & set my mind at ease, offering to let me stay with her if worse came to worse. As soon as the train stopped, she put me on the quickest bus towards the hostel, her contact info saved in my phone in case my reservation had been cancelled.

I didn’t wind up needing to take her up on her kind offer, but it was nice to have made a friend & experience such kindness from a total stranger. It was the beginning of my love affair with Lyon & when I decided to move to France in 2008, it was the first city that came to mind. It turned out to be the best choice. If you’ve never been, I highly recommend a visit. It’s big enough to keep you occupied, while still being walkable & friendly. Three days is plenty of time to see the city, eat at a few fabulous restaurants, & get a feel for daily life.

During my seven months abroad, I had three visitors for whom I gladly played tour guide. It’s so satisfying to show people close to you your home. I’ve told N so many stories of this place & when we started planning our honeymoon, I hoped he’d be game for a visit. This place is such a huge part of my identity that I couldn’t wait to share it with my new husband.

I’ve taken to referring to Lyon as my French hometown & it felt like that from the moment we stepped off the train. I know the city & that was apparent as we navigated it with ease. I excitedly pointed out landmarks & shared memories from my séjour around every corner. There’s something so special to me about this level of ease in a place. It goes beyond comfort. I’m struggling to explain what I mean, so I can only suggest you live abroad yourself. I’ve talked about how life changing I think this experience is before & I’m sure I will continue to do so for a long time because I really & truly believe it. (You can read those posts here.)

We had rented an apartment on AirBnB again & (again) it did not disappoint. Around the corner from Place Sathonay (a square I passed daily when I lived here), our apartment featured two large windows that framed the beautiful Fourvière Hill. It doesn’t get a whole lot better than that. The living room was perfect for relaxing with a bottle of wine & some cheese & charcuterie from the market up the hill (which we did, of course) & we were just down the hill from my old apartment. Thank you, AirBnB!

Our temporary Lyonnaise home

It was a bit of an odd time of day by the time we got settled – too early for dinner & too late for lunch.  We’d eaten on the train but I knew we needed some fuel for our climb up to Fourvière. We settled on moules & frites to share at a Léon de B just off the pedestrian street, rue Mercière. It’s a bit of a touristy spot, but they serve great Belgian beer, unlimited fries, & large servings of moules. I can’t argue with that.

Rejuvenated, we headed out for our hike. We made a quick stop at Bellecour & the statue of le Petit Prince & Antoine de St Exupéry. If you attended our wedding, you know that I translated a passage from this famous book. My favourite quote is inscribed on the side of this statue. The fact that Exupéry is from Lyon had a lot to do with my choosing this particular passage. Ah the symbolism.

On ne voit bien qu’avec le coeur. L’essentiel est invisible pour les yeux.

Fourvière is known as la colline qui prie (the hill that prays) because of the iconic white basilica atop this hill. It also features the remains of a roman amphitheatre & smaller odeon. You’re rewarded with these incredible, & slightly unexpected, roman ruins as you near the top. You can see the basilica up a little further, but I can rarely resist a visit of the ruins first. We explored the site a bit before continuing our climb.

attractive

The view of Lyon from the basilica is gorgeous. You can see the whole of Vieux Lyon & the Presqu’île as well as both rivers. I’ve always loved this basilica, perched up on the hill above the city. Walking down the street to my little apartment when I lived in Lyon, I would drink in the sight of it, all lit up on that hill, a beacon for the city below. I can’t imagine I’ll ever tire of it.

We wound our way back down through the gardens & stairways back to View Lyon to grab a beer on one of the cobblestoned terraces in the old town.

Impressive doors
We picked a cafe on the edge of the old town. In some cities, it’s only tourists all the time in this type of area. Here I found it to be a good mix of locals, exchange students, & tourists if you stick to the outer edges. It probably helps that people actually live in Vieux Lyon.
It was getting dark as we wandered home to change for dinner & I snapped some pretty photos in the fading light. We also caught some Russians jumping off bridge. My photos are quite blurry, but it’s a funny memory.
Jumper 1 in the water, Jumper 2 on the bridge
A pile of clothes on the bridge
We had planned to get dinner in Croix Rousse that night but we let time get away from us & by the time we arrived, they said they were full. We wandered around disappointed for a while (a few of the other places in the area were closed due to the August vacation thing) until finally settling on dinner on the main boulevard. It was nothing special sadly, aside from the location.

After dinner we wandered through Croix Rousse & stumbled upon a festival of some kind. It mostly consisted of salsa dancing so we sat & watched for a bit before continuing down the montée de la grande côte. This pedestrian route is lined with shops, restaurants, & bars. It was Saturday night so we found ourselves a lively terrace across from a couple bars & ordered a few beers amongst the locals. It was busy which made for some great people watching & eavesdropping.

We enjoyed a couple drinks there before I decided to show N the club we used to go to when I lived in Lyon: Ayers Rock. We lasted about 30 seconds before we realized I was 6 years younger when I last went to Ayers on a regular basis & it’s not quite our scene anymore. It was good for nostalgia though.

Outside Ayers

We finished off the night at a pub next to Place Sathonay before packing it in for the night. We had a big day planned for Sunday so we thought we should get a good nights sleep.

Honeymoon 003 \ Paris

When I left you we were heading back to our little apartment in the third after our first full day in the beautiful city of Paris. We had plans to go for dinner & we desperately needed to freshen up (we also had some macarons to eat & half a bottle of wine to work on, so maybe it was more about that!). Normally, I don’t travel with many nice clothes when I’m in Europe, but this was our honeymoon & we decided to step things up a little for our first real date as husband & wife. (Thank you, Rennes, for teaching me how to wear heels on cobblestones. Valuable life lessons, guys.)

There are so many incredible restaurants in Paris so it was hard to choose just one. After many hours of research, we finally settled on Le Mary Celeste for that evening. The fact that we’d accidentally stumbled upon it the previous night & it was only a 15 minute walk were contributing factors in the decision. But, I’d also read about it online & their constantly changing sharing menu sounded right up our alley. It turns out the vast majority of my favourite restaurants have sharing menus, tapas, or small plates. (Are those just three ways of saying essentially the same thing?)

In front of our apartment before dinner

We arrived to a bit of a line outside. Since we’d anticipated this (it is Paris, after all & we had no reservations anywhere), we weren’t put off. We sought out one of the servers to put our name on the waiting list, but they had space for two right away though so we didn’t have to wait at all. Perfect!

Le Mary Celeste is known for fun cocktails so we figured we should start the night out there & ordered a couple that sounded fun. Mine was girly & sweet, without being overbearing. I couldn’t tell you the exact components of it now, but there was some cucumber & raspberry. N’s turned out a little bit more on the bitter side (can you tell we don’t frequently order cocktails?), but he enjoyed it as he muddled the mint & it released its flavour.

We ordered an assortment of things from the day’s menu. I’d read about the smoked The devilled eggs so I knew I had to try them – they had an asian twist to them with fried rice, green onion, & fresh ginger. Honestly, they were amazing & I’d highly recommend you try them if they’re on the menu. We also tried the foie gras tostada & the grilled aubergines at the recommendation of the couple beside us. Both were great. My favourite dish, though, was the braised pork tacos. Although they didn’t really look like typical tacos, they delivered in the flavour department. I almost asked N if he wanted to order a second plate – I was that happy with them.

Instead, we finished off the wine & beer we’d ordered with dinner, enjoying the lively atmosphere in the restaurant. We watched diners wrapping up their meals so the next wave could snag a table. It’s a really cool (see: Hipster) spot & I thoroughly enjoyed the entire experience. Everything we saw come out of the kitchen looked delicious, the cocktails were creative, & they had a concise beer & wine list. Nailed it. (I’m confident that the dessert would have been great if we’d had room.)

iPhone Photos don’t do these deviled eggs justice.
Foie Gras Tostada
Best Tacos
Friday Night Menu

Our waitress had been great all night, speaking perfect English for N while letting me speak French. At the end of the night, she noticed our RBC credit card & told us she was Canadian as well. She had moved to Paris four years ago. I always love hearing about Canadians living abroad since I’ve done the same. Although mine was a much shorter timeframe, I have such fond memories.

Great little restaurant

Anyway, we thanked her for her contribution to our wonderful evening & headed out in search of a pub for a drink – we weren’t quite ready to pack it in.

It was beautiful evening so we grabbed a demi on a terrace so we could enjoy the perfect late summer weather. There’s something great about a bustling night in Paris. I love the cobblestones & the hustle & the people enjoying a drink. In summer, the bars spread out into the streets to accommodate a little extra carousing. I love this about France (& Montreal). It just goes to show that our lack of patios has more to do with regulations than lack of space.

After our drinks we headed back to our lovely little apartment to enjoy the bottle of Champagne from our host with the last of the macarons. Not a bad nightcap.

As I was planning our trip, I’d been anxious to try some of the new coffee shops & breakfast places that have recently popped up in Paris. Unfortunately, August isn’t the best time for testing out restaurants as most of Paris takes the month for vacation. A little bit of Twitter research revealed that Fondation Café was open so we headed there for some great coffee & carrot cake (I can’t vouch for this as I don’t truly like carrot cake, but N enjoyed it).

Afterwards, we jumped back on the métro & headed to the train station. It took us less than 15 minutes to get to the Gare where grabbed some lunch for the ride & boarded our train. Train travel in France so simple; You really can’t go wrong. I know it’s not like this everywhere, but France has it figured out. I can’t recommend it enough. Most stations are significantly more convenient to access than the airport too. You’ll likely leave from the city center & arrive in the city center – a big selling feature for me, personally.

Off to Lyon

Thanks for the wonderful couple days, Paris! Next stop: Lyon.

Honeymoon 002 \ Paris

On our second day in Paris we had planned to do a free walking tour. I’ve previously talked about the New Europe Free Walking tours as I’ve now done them in numerous cities & think they are great. At the end of the day it doesn’t actually wind up being free since they ask for tips if you think it was worth it, but it let’s you decide how much you want to pay. If you didn’t like the tour – leave nothing. If you thought it was great – leave what you think is reasonable. I’ve always found the tours are great since they won’t be getting paid if they aren’t.

Unfortunately, we got a little turned around in the morning & missed the first tour, so we decided to try our luck at touring the catacombs. This was my first trip to Europe during anything close to peak time, so I had no idea what to expect in terms of lines. That’s one of the nice things about travelling outside of busy season – you rarely wait long in a line. We arrived at the entrance to the catacombs & the queue snacked all the way around the square. I think we laughed out loud – we certainly didn’t have time to waste hours in a line up, so instead we walked back towards Place St Michel & the Jardin du Luxembourg.

This is one of my favourite things to do in a city like Paris. Just wander. Take in the neighbourhoods & the buildings & enjoy a walk. You miss so much taking the metro from sight to sight. The Jardin du Luxembourg is one of my favourite parks in Paris. It’s huge, for one. It’s also got some great people watching & a pond in the centre where kids run around pushing these little rented boats. It’s a cool spot.

Always a sucker for these kinds of buildings
Gas Station, Central Paris

We hung out there for a bit before continuing on back to Place St Michel for the tour. We arrived just in time to start the tour with a British girl named Harriet (or Harry as she preferred to be called). That day there were actually two English-speaking tours running, another reminder of what season we were travelling in. Both tours took off at the same time but we almost never crossed paths with one another. (Another perk of these free walking tours – they’re always different.) So although I’d done this Paris tour before, it wouldn’t be the same as last time. It wasn’t exactly a recent experience either (as I’d already proven by getting lost earlier).

From Place St Michel we headed over the Notre-Dame de Paris. This church is such an iconic sight for many when they visit Paris that it’s shocking to think it was almost demolished. Luckily for us, Victor Hugo was interested in saving much of Paris’ gothic architecture & began writing a book to raise awareness of its importance. In 1831, he penned Notre-Dame de Paris (or as you probably know it better – The Hunchback of Notre-Dame).

Next, we walked along the banks of the Seine to Pont Neuf – the oldest bridge in Paris. The many amusing faces mounted on this bridge are said to be King Henry’s friends at the end of a particularly unruly night of partying. I’m not sure if this story is actually true, but it certainly makes these faces even more entertaining. Up the stairs & around the corner stands a statue of Henri-Quatre (Good King Henry), who was murdered. Apparently, you can tell because one of his horse’s front legs & one of his hind legs are raised.

We wandered further along the banks of the Seine towards Pont des Arts (another bridge filled with lover’s padlocks) for an incredible view of Île de la Cité. Pont des Arts also joins the Institut de France (home of the Académie Française) to the Louvre, which was our next stop. We stopped in the Cour Carré, one third of the whole Louvre Museum & originally the King’s Palace, before crossing over into the iconic square with the glass pyramid.

Institut de France
Île de la Cité & Pont Neuf

We took a quick bathroom & snack break just off Rue du Rivoli (where you’ll find great shopping if you’re ever in Paris) before continuing on to the Jardin des Tuileries. This was originally the Queen’s garden as their Palace once stood there. Our final stop was one of the largest square’s in Europe – Place de la Concorde. From here you can see the Eiffel Tower & the start of the Champs-Elysées.

We decided to walk the Champs-Elysées to the Arc de Triomphe, with a little stop in at Ladurée for some macarons. I know Ladurée is one of the more touristy spots for macarons, but they are still truly delicious. We picked up a little box of six & continued on to the Arc.

In 2005, I had met my parents in Paris for a weekend & we had stayed at the beautiful Hôtel Prince de Galles on Avenue George V. The afternoon they arrived, we ventured out for a glass of wine at a little bar around the corner. Before moving to France, I strictly drank cocktails & coolers. I quickly found out that’s a very expensive way to drink in France & within my first month in Rennes, learned how great wine could be.

We all cherish the memory of that afternoon in Paris very much so I convinced N to see if we could find the little bar again. We did (it’s called Rival) & proceeded to enjoy a glass of wine, & nibble our macarons as I told him about that very first trip to Paris, nine years prior.

Rival
Pretty little box of colourful macarons

It had been a long day of walking so we jumped on the metro back to our apartment to change for dinner. I’ll talk about that next time though. This post is starting to remind me of my long winded emails home while I was living in France,so it’s time for a break (& some wine & dinner).

Bon appétit!

Honeymoon 001 \ Paris

The de Boers are off to Europe!
When we first started talking about our honeymoon, I knew I wanted to show N the city I lived in for seven months (& the reason this blog exists): Lyon. Lucky for us, that would mean flying in to Paris first, giving us the opportunity to spend a few days in the city of lights.

Not everyone loves Paris. I’m not one of those people. I find Paris beautiful & exciting & I can’t visit enough. This trip would be my fourth trip to the French capital (Paris is always a good idea, non?), & I can still see myself going back in the future.

Planning started early. We booked our accommodations with AirBnB. After this trip, I can’t recommend enough this site enough as we had nothing but great experiences. You have to do your research, but that’s always something I’ve enjoyed. Looking at photos of apartments & reading reviews never really feels like work to me. Making a decision though – that’s another story.

I picked a great apartment in Paris’ fourth arrondissement – one of my favourites! Notre Dame, City Hall, Ile de la Cite, & the Marais district are all within walking distance. I was quite excited to have scored such a great location after having stayed much further out on my last two visits. (My first time I was spoiled & stayed with my parents, right off the Champs Elysees. Tough luck, eh?)

The living room & kitchen of our apartment

Our flight arrived early &, after a delay in the sweaty baggage claim room due to an unattended bag at the McCafe, we made our way into the city on the RER. Our host, Paco, told us we could drop our bags at the apartment while they finished cleaning up. We grabbed lunch near the Centre Pompidou (typical brasserie fare with a couple beers) while we waited.

The crowd waiting to exit baggage claim
Affligem on a terrace

By 1:00 pm, the apartment was ready for us. Paco welcomed us to Paris, gave us a few instructions, & left us to freshen up. We hadn’t slept much on the plane, but had decided to make the most the day anyway.

Our first stop was Pont de l’Archevêché, or Lovelock Bridge. It’s said to be the first of this kind in Paris. Who knows if that’s really true, but we added our lock to the bridge & kissed the key goodbye (literally) before throwing it into La Seine. If you find yourself in Paris, look for our lock. Hopefully they won’t have cut it off – I hear that’s bad luck.

Les Bouquinistes along the Seine

 

Notre Dame de Paris
Lovelock Bridge
 
Goodbye Key!

Personally, I see travelling as an opportunity to experience different cultures through food, so our next stop was a wine bar in the sixth. I’d heard about it while watching one of the many shows featuring Anthony Bourdain in Paris. (He’s not for everyone, but that man knows food & gives good advice. Check his stuff out. I like No Reservations.)

L’Avant Comptoir is a standing-room-only tapas & wine bar near the Odeon metro. It serves up an assortment of small plates alongside a beautiful selection of wines (for those who can’t afford Le Comptoir du Relais next door or can’t get a reservation). The space is narrow. You walk through a plastic curtain to find people standing around a zinc bar, ordering from a friendly barman. The open kitchen allows you to watch staff scurry back & forth with different orders.

We started with the ham croquettes filled with iberico ham – not to be missed if you pay a visit – & a glass of red wine. I can’t tell you which as I just asked him to surprise us. I’m assuming this was Eric, who I read knows exactly what you need. We were not disappointed.

Sleepy N

The menu hangs from the ceiling on cards. After much back & forth about what we should order next (everything sounded delicious), we settled on a charcuterie board. We enjoyed the added bonus of watching them prepare it, using a beautiful, red meat slicer. They were more than generous with the assortment of meat they provided & it was likely more than we needed, but we thoroughly enjoyed every bite.

a slicer made in heaven
The most incredible Charcuterie

A selection of cornichons, mustards, hand-churned butter, & fresh bread sit out on the bar, to be shared with other patrons. As we enjoyed our wine & charcuterie, the barman would come by to suggest combinations of cornichons & charcuterie or mustard & bread – it was my favourite part of the whole experience. All of his suggestions were enthusiastically devoured by us both.

We visited at an off-peak hour, but by the time we left people were starting to filter in. I’ve heard it gets packed later on, but that could make for a fun experience. If you’re in Paris, I can’t recommend it enough. Eric took a picture for us before we left & I made sure to sign the wall.

nerd
incredibly happy

Our next stop was the Eiffel Tower. N hadn’t been up last time he was in Paris so we thought it was worth going. As we arrived, it looked like it might rain, so we ducked into a little brasserie to wait it out & have a drink.

Hello, Jet Lag! Our lack of sleep on the plane had caught up with us & we took turns accidentally nodding off at the table. We must have looked ridiculous to passersby. Fortunately, the rain seemed to hold off so we decided it was best if we got moving & made our climb to the top. I’ve been up a few times now & it really is a spectacular view. Paris appears neverending.

Post Nap. Ready to Climb

Weary & hungry, we made our way back to the Marais for dinner. We attempted to go to Breizh Cafe for an authentic Breton dinner (crepes & fresh seafood were a staple when I lived in Rennes!), but it’s not the type of place you can just walk into without a reservation (before 10 pm at least).

I had my heart set on crepes (or galettes, if we’re talking the savoury Breton variety) though. Wandering around the Marais, we found La Droguerie du Marais on Rue des Rosiers. The crepe-man makes your crepes right in front of you, taking orders & making jokes from a window that opens onto the street. I was sold. I ordered a jambon-oeuf-fromage, a staple in Brittany, while N went for a slight variation on that combination. (I don’t remember exactly what his was because I was too distracted by my own.)

We’d planned to enjoy our crepes with a glass of wine, but they were pretty much finished before we got back so it wasn’t long before we called it a night. We had a lot more exploring ahead still, so it was time for some much needed sleep. I’ll leave day two for my next post.

a moveable feast

I follow a lot of blogs – fashion blogs, lifestyle blogs, design blogs, cooking blogs… I love them all for different reasons. I’ve been following Megan Gilger of The Frensh Exchange for a while now  and her post today got me thinking about a lot of things. One of those things is Paris.

It’s funny because Paris is both the reason I first found Megan’s blog and part of the reason I’m blogging today. Her post struck a chord with me for a few reasons. I love her and her husbands work and the way she talks about creating always inspires me to be better creatively. Following through on that is a work in progress, but it’s the kind of work in progress I’m happy to be doing. I’m learning it’s important to me to create things as well as tell my story and I think she hit the nail on the head today. It isn’t all business and we are definitely more than just our work. That’s what I want this blog to be about. My story. And my story should definitely include Paris.

So back to that. As Megan said in her post,

The biggest thing, if anything you should take from this whole chat, is that you never should say no to Paris….ever. Paris is always a yes no matter what. Never say no. (Megan Gilger)

I couldn’t agree more. We’re in the process of planning our wedding and, as a result, our honeymoon next year. While Paris was never my home, I adore it. J’adore Paris! I know there are many people who would disagree that this city is great, but I am not one of them. I don’t know what it is about Paris and I’m not sure I can properly put it into words. It’s just a feeling. And maybe you just have to feel it. Maybe you just have to find your Paris, your France, your place that will always feel special to you.

France in general makes me feel so many things. It’s such an inspriring place for me. I can wander around Paris or Lyon for hours, people watching and taking in every detail. I can’t imagine ever feeling differently about either one. Even after living in Lyon for 7 months, walking down the same streets everyday, catching a glimpse of the Basilica on Fourviere at the end of my street every night, I was still taken away by the humble beauty daily in that country.

I want to share this with N. I want to show him my Lyon, show him all of the amazing things I love about Paris, Lyon, France. Share this feeling I get while I’m there.

I hope he’s as excited as I am.

If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast. (Ernest Hemingway)

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