As promised and without further ado, it’s show-and-tell time! Here are some wonderful things I saw/ate/drank on my recent travels.
I didn’t realize how much I loved this particular photo until I pulled it up on my computer. It’s just the most perfectly Parisian street corner in the universe, no?
First, let me introduce my travel buddy: meet , one of my favorite people ever and a great friend since high school. I think I’m getting to that age where being friends with someone “since high school” is impressive. Where did the time go?
Our stay in Paris begins in the neighborhood of Montmarte, where the beautiful Sacre-Coeur basilica is located. Of all the sights in Paris, this is one we kept returning to over and over. See all those people lounging on the grass? They know exactly what’s up.
Montmarte, in fact, became “our” neighborhood. It’s absolutely perfect: both lively and quaint, with character, fun shops, great restaurants and bars brimming with locals, and best of all, a very friendly vibe. Every other neighborhood we went to–and there are many great ones in Paris–got compared to Montmartre and just couldn’t compete.
Of course, we did all the requisite things.
Here is the Pantheon (and a crane, ugh).
Notre Dame, of course.
…And the Louvre, which we actually skipped going into. This is probably blasphemy, but time was limited, and there were many other museums we were more interested in. Between D’Orsay, L’Orangerie and the Pompidou (the latter being my absolute favorite), we were definitely not deprived of incredible art.
The Arc de Triomphe.
The Seine… And graffiti.
We took some time outside of Paris as well–a day trip to Versailles was in order… The chateau, of course, was beautiful. But there were SO. MANY. PEOPLE. Look at all these noggins.
The gardens, though? Much-appreciated breath of fresh air. Literally and figuratively–look at this quirky-ass tree sculpture!
We were itching to see more of France–particularly the countryside. And so, a rental car it was!
The French drive fast… But not aggressively. So at least there’s that.
We went up to Normandy, to be exact. It was idyllic and beautiful and everything we had hoped it would be.
Lamberville is tiny. Doesn’t-appear-on-most-maps tiny. In other words, perfect.
We stayed at a beautiful bed-and-breakfast there, called . I can’t rave about it enough–Dean and Susan are the warmest, kindest hosts you could ask for, and the place is beautiful: charming and serene. I could have stayed forever, really.
This is the view we woke up to.
A rustic dinner just felt appropriate… Complete with cider (a Norman specialty).
We also drove up to Omaha Beach, which was poignant and humbling. Trying to piece together D-Day events with this gorgeous, quiet beach… It’s overwhelming to think about.
The American memorial and cemetery are located there. You can see a number of casualties on paper, but nothing quite puts things into perspective like white crosses, as far as the eye can see.
Many of these names are female, by the way–nurses who bravely sacrificed their lives alongside the soldiers.
Our other Normandy detour took us to Honfleur, a tiny seaside town. Everything in it, everywhere you look, looks like a postcard.
Calvados, the apple brandy, is a Normandy specialty.
…Sometimes they put it in ice cream. Best idea ever.
Only one restaurant was open for lunch at the time (many restaurants in France shutter between 2-6). I really enjoyed my skate wing, and Chrissy was fond of her mussels and frites, but I later found out that we were dining at the worst-reviewed restaurant in all of Honfleur. I don’t know what that says about us, or the restaurant, or Honfleur in general… But I definitely know I need to come back.
That about wraps up the sightseeing portions of the trip–however, I have more food to show you! Of course, right?
This is a picnic lunch we enjoyed–where else?–in front of the Sacre-Coeur. The best baguette I have ever had, with a mild, gooey cheese and strawberries. Small, soft, ruby red and flavorful strawberries–the way nature intended. I’m used to my strawberries being ‘roided up, large and easy to ship… These were none of the above.
The picnic is a close second to my absolute favorite meal from the trip: escargot appetizer, followed by warm, rich, comforting cassoulet on a rainy afternoon. Creme brulee for dessert–because we knew we were having a perfect meal, and when you’re having a perfect meal, dessert is a must.
That dinner was so great that we came back to the restaurant–La Marmite–a second time. This is a salad, believe it or not–a Gesiers salad, covered with gizzards and fried potatoes.
Black currant sorbet at the Tuilleries gardens. Black currant is a quintessential European flavor–it took me straight back to my childhood.
Oh, the beauty. I had a hard time trying not to stare at every sidewalk produce stall.
I realize this looks hideous, but it’s one of the best things I had: a tomato tatin with eggplant.
…And this… This is what happens when your French is awful and you try to order a beer called “Grimbergen.” When the waiter repeated my order back to me, I strongly suspected that he said “cheeseburger,” but we decided he had indeed understood. We were wrong.
I think my body language says a lot here.
The typical French breakfast temporarily made me into a breakfast person. That croissant is so flaky it’ll fall apart if you so much as think about touching it. It was divine.
I made it a point to try a canele (OMG)…
…and a palmier.
Croque madame. Simple, cheesy and wonderful.
This was a routine: walk around until a break is required. Sit down, order espresso…
…Or a beer. Preferably a beer the size of my head.
Oh look, a pistachio madeleine.
This is a galette of buckwheat crepe, spinach, and egg. Look at that yolk!
Sometimes you need to-go macarons.
This was another wonderful and memorable meal: the duck dinner. Confit for Chrissy…
…And magret for me. Both were fantastic.
There was also an appetizer of rilletes (a really rich meat pate of sorts).
And finally, we ended our time in Paris pretty much the way it began. The Sacre-Coeur is a popular hangout spot at night, too, except there’s more beer and pop music blasting from car windows. It was perfect.
Up next: I can’t wait to show you Belgium!