“Instructions for living a life: Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it.” ― Mary Oliver
We planned our trip to Paris many months ago, and we almost rescheduled it back in the winter when we learned about my mom’s cancer and related surgery. I was nervous to leave so soon after, but my parents insisted we go and we were relieved when everything went smoothly with my mom’s recovery and prognosis. So, by May we got to the point where we felt comfortable taking our trip across the Atlantic.
After a very hectic spring, when we finally boarded our flight for our six-day trip I could not have been more ready to relax and just zone out with a movie. We landed at 9:30 a.m., took the RER train into Paris, and checked in and dropped our bags at our hotel, the lovely Marriott Champs-Elyseés, on the bustling boulevard of the same name in the 8th Arrondissement. We were using hotel points collected from husby’s business trips over the years and liked this central location and the hotel reviews I read on TripAdvisor. What the hotel lacked in local charm or quaintness it made up for in much more spacious-than-usual-for-Europe rooms, amenities, and uber-friendly staff who were not only helpful, but gracious as well.
We didn’t have much time to settle in as I’d booked us a lunch reservation in the Latin Quarter at the much-lauded French-Japanese Michelin-starred Sola. I had read about it and wanted to squeeze it in during our short trip. Austere and beautifully modern, the dining room was a small and not too busy when we entered. However, as our menu of six courses came out, the room began to fill and was bustling by the time we left. In Paris many of the restaurants offer only “Les Menus” which means a prix fixe set menu which the chef would choose each day – we prefer tasting menus anyway, but especially appreciated it in Paris given our French is a bit rusty! Our lunch consisted of an amuse bouche (some type of savory napoleon topped with a caramelized foie gras, two appetizers, two entrees (the lamb was outstanding), and dessert that was insanely good – balanced between sweet, sour, and creamy.
Following lunch we walked over to the Notre Dame and to Sainte-Chapelle for a look, but didn’t go inside either place. We agreed before the trip that this vacation was to explore, relax, and enjoy the city, not necessarily to “sight see”. We had both been before and run around the city to museum and attraction after attraction. While they were all worth seeing, that agenda almost takes away from the Paris experience — walking the quiet side streets, eating in the cafés, and escaping all of the other tourists to pop into small boutiques and food markets.
In the early evening we wandered around Champs-Elyseés to the Arc de Triomphe, and stopped at the Publicis drugstore – very cool spot, with a champagne bar, Pierre Hermé outpost (known for their delectable macarons in a rainbow of colors and flavors), upscale book and souvenir shop, and gourmet deli all housed in one hip location.
I know there are Ladureés in Soho and the Upper East Side of New York now, but I was still excited to visit the flagship right across from our hotel in the 8th. The shop is so pretty and feminine, and the macarons, yes, as delicious as promised. I especially loved the seasonal flavor they had called “Strawberry candy”.
Once we’d had a good look around the jet lag was settling in and it was time for a quick dinner and back to the hotel for a rest. We still weren’t very hungry after our big lunch, so we stopped and had a jambon & fromage crepe from a stand as we walked by the Grand Palais. Why can’t crepes here be as amazing as the street fare in Paris? What is their secret?
The whole vacation turned out even better than I could’ve imagined, but I will need a series of posts to do it justice, so stay tuned!