Sunday, May 20, 2012

Last of our luna de miel: Paris

When we were planning our honeymoon to heaven Mauritius (that we blogged about here and here), we noticed the flights that made the most sense to take went through Paris. That was a happy discovery because we both love Paris (Graham has been once before and Meghann twice, but we had never gone together) and it was on our list of "must visit while living in Spain". And because it is a city known for it's food, vino, and romance, it made even more sense to include it in our honeymoon. So we decided to stay for a few dias on our way back to Spain from Mauritius.

The morning that we left Spain, we drove to Sevilla, then hopped on a short flight to Paris that landed at Orly. The only problem was that our flight to Mauritius left from Charles de Gaulle...12 hours later. The thought of being in Paris for a day, but being stuck in an airport bummed us out. Luckily, the hotel that we had booked in Paris was happy to watch our bags, even though we weren't checking in with them until a week later. 

The Eiffel Tower is within walking distance of the hotel, so that's where we headed first - and because it just seems right to start any trip to Paris by seeing its most iconic monument. 

After that we walked down the Champs-Elysees and saw the Arc de Triomphe, then had lunch in a little café, complete with a cheese course (of course!)

We had time for one more stop before picking up our luggage and heading to the airport and decided to walk over the Pont d'Arcole to visit Notre Dame. The cathedral itself is stunning, but the gardens and the little park near it are lovely as well. There were lots of flowers in bloom (Paris! In the spring!) and it was nice to enjoy some time outside before getting on a 10-hour flight.

Then we were off to the airport. We bought some snacks, a bottle of vino, and macarons, and played some Scrabble (yes, we are nerds, and yes, we own a travel Scrabble set) before hopping on the plane.

A week later, after sunning and funning in Mauritius, we were back in Paris, this time for 3 nights. What was the first thing we did? Ordered a room service pizza. Yes, we realize that Paris has some of the best food and restaurants in the world, but it was late and we had just gotten off a crowded and long flight. Sometimes you just need a pizza and your pajamas. Plus, we knew we had some quality dining coming our way the next few nights. And that pizza was pretty dang bueno. 

The next day we took the train out to Versailles, since we were well-rested after our low-key night of pizza and French television (Sidenote: We have a strange love of watching television in different countries, especially music videos. Yes, they still have those in Europe. Maybe it's because we don't have Spanish television at our casa.)

We walked from the palace all the way down to Marie Antoinette's hamlet (a full size working village she had created on the grounds for her amusement), which took us nearly 6 hours, including a stop for lunch. It is enormous! Crazy to think that this much land exists so close to the enormous city of Paris and that it was once the private property of the royal family. The grounds are now open to the public (you have to pay for a ticket to see the inside of the palace and other buildings) and there were people running, biking, strolling, boating, and just generally enjoying themselves. 

After our pizza party lazy-fest the night before, we were even more excited for dinner. L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon! Which was named #12 in the world shortly after we returned from our honeymoon. It is known for its open kitchen, bar seating (there are no traditional tables), and amazing food. We were not disappointed - the food was delicious, the service was perfect, and the atmosphere was lively and fun.

We were offered a glass of champagne immediately after sitting down. Who can say "no" to champagne in Paris? Who?!

We splurged and did the full tasting menu with wine pairings. Our waitress/sommelier was incredibly knowledgeable, perfectly fluent in English (which we never expect since our foreign language skills are not that great, but it is a nice bonus) and she genuinely seemed to enjoy talking with us and explaining the different dishes and wines.

This picture shows one of the waiters perfectly deboning a fish filet (a signature dish) and also how much fun a group of diners next to us was having. It's always great to go out and be surrounded by people that are really enjoying themselves, it improves the whole experience. On the other hand, it can really ruin our noche when people around us are clearly not happy (and even worse if they are taking it out on their server). Is that the same for you or is that just us?

Note: We should really not wait until the end of the night (especially after a dinner with wine pairings) to ask someone to take our picture. Also, when we ask random people to take pictures of us with our big Nikon, we seem to not get great photos (like this), even if it's set to "auto". Because of this, we have started carrying around our point-and-shoot, which the average stranger seems to be better at handling.

At the end of the meal, you get little bags of their handmade caramels to take with you. So, so good.

Since we had already seen the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, the Champs-Elysees, Versailles, and the Arc de Triomphe, we felt like our next day was open. Meghann really wanted to go to a free exhibit of Doisneau, a famous French photographer, featuring his pictures of the old Paris market Les Halles.

Graham, being the awesome husband that he is, waited with Meghann in a crazy long line, in the rain. We were actually thisclose to giving up and doing something else, when a Parisian couple behind us offered to hold our spots in line so we could go sightsee. They explained that it was okay with them, because they live in Paris, and since we were just visiting we should go see more of the city. It was incredibly nice of them and just another reason why we're not sure how Parisians got such a bad reputation. We know they won't ever read this blog, but we can't thank them enough. The gesture is also something we want to remember to pass on, the next time we're waiting in line somewhere.

For our last night in Paris, we had reservations at Spring. It is owned by an American and the food is fresh and light, based on ingredients that are locally available and at their best. The outside is minimalist and the interior decor was simple and beautiful.

Sometimes food is so good, we forget to take a photo until it's all gone.

The cheese plate was amazing - Meghann was in heaven!

Our flight back to Sevilla wasn't until the afternoon, so we packed up and then headed out to walk around the Saint Germain neighborhood and get lunch. A blog that Meghann follows (Paris by Mouth, foodie news for English-speakers in Paris) recommends Fish (La Boissonnerie) for Sunday meals, since many restaurants are closed that day. We arrived right after they opened and snagged a table without a reservation, which was lucky, since it quickly filled up. The food was delicious (seems to be a regular occurrence in Paris) and the vibe is funky, cozy, and casual. It's the kind of place where we would be regulars, if we lived in Paris (we wish!).

On a ledge behind our table was a row of bottles, filled with scraps of paper with scribbled love notes. We decided to add our own pequeño note.

And then our honeymoon was almost over. One last picture with the Eiffel Tower and we were headed back to El Puerto.

Here a few more details about where we stayed, since the hotel was great and the staff was so helpful with things like holding our luggage (even when we weren't staying there yet!), assisting Graham with making reservations at a couple of Paris's top restaurants, calling taxis, and even printing us maps of where we were headed. We chose the Hotel Sezz and snagged a pretty good deal on Jetsetter. It is located in the 16th arrondisment, across the River Seine from the Eiffel Tower, and is a small, boutique design hotel. Meghann was smitten the moment they offered us complimentary glasses of champagne (Veuve Clicquot, our fave!) as we checked in.

The hotel is near a metro stop, which was great for getting around the city. And because it is so close to the famous tower, we ended up with many different photographs of it, since we walked by it several times a day.

As always, here is a round-up of some of Meghann's random shots:

We love Paris even more now and it was a great way to end our honeymoon. Despite the fact that we have each been there multiple times now, we couldn't help talking about planning another visit. We could definitely see ourselves living there, but that seems less than likely (at least any time soon), since there isn't a Navy base there. But one way or another, we will definitely return to Paris!

Do you have a favorite city that you could see yourself moving to?

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