Sunday, September 7, 2014

J'Adore Paris, France

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhh, Paris!
A sweet sentiment that should pass everyone's lips at least once in their lifetime:)

I have been fortunate enough to visit France three times now, and it never looses its absolute luster!  This trip we stayed in Paris six nights and I was literally clinging to the city walls when we were on our way back to the airport:(  This post on Paris will follow the adventures we took and wanted to share, but there is so much more to offer, from world class shopping, delectable eating and drinking, to a superb, vibrant nightlife, to country Chateau and winery gallivanting, Paris will dazzle you from start to finish!!!!

Start your trip with a tour of and around The Eiffel Tower, or as the french say, La Tour Eiffel!  You'll be stunned when you actually stand before it, it's HUGE!!!!!!  Much, much larger than I had expected on my first visit.  As you approach it, take it in, it is quite a magnificent structure, sleek and strong, The Eiffel Tower should be the first stop on any trip to Paris!

Originally built in 1889 as the entrance gate to the 1889 World's Fair and named after it's designer Gustave Eiffel, The Eiffel Tower was criticized at first but quickly became a global icon of France!  The Eiffel Tower is the most visited monument in the world, reaching it's 250 millionth visitor in 2010!!!  It stands at 1,063 feet tall, the height of an 81-storey building and boasts some amazing views from any one of its three visitor levels.  The first two levels include shops and restaurants, and the tallest, third level puts you at a dizzying height of 906 feet!!!!  Views include an absolute, not to be missed view of the city and all it's beauty, not to mention the sky's above:)     

The Champ de Mars, where The Eiffel Tower resides is a beautiful park, a lot like The National Mall in DC, it's lined with tall, squarley manicured trees and rocky pathways.  A perfect spot to lay out on a blanket with a baguette and a bottle of wine, or a hot tea from a local coffee spot and a good book.  You'll see interesting people from all over the world, all around you taking selfies, group pictures, painting on stretched canvases, reading french books, and mingling with one another.  It's just as lively at 1am as it is at noon;) 

When your stomach starts rumbling for some fine, french faire, look just steps from the Champ de Mars and pop into this little gem we discovered, Le Suffren!!!  This place was amazing, we were greeted sweetly at the door and moments afterwards wisked away to a table of our choosing, we decided to dine in their lovely glassed in patio.  As Americans, of course we ordered burgers, because they are amazing in France!  We paired them with classic frites (fries) and a hearty glass of red wine, Ohhh Mon Dieu (OMG)!!!! 

The next day we met up with our Parisian friend and began with le petit dejeuner avec the nature et croissant (breakfast with tea and croissant) a Vive Le Printemps, just outside the train station!  We were going to need the caffeine for our hour long train ride outside of Paris to Giverny, to visit the very house of none other than, Claude Monet!!!!! :)

Since we had about an hour till the train was due to depart, we walked around the streets of Paris, and saw the Opera and the beautiful shops of the Printemps!!!

Shopping is as delectable as the sweet treats you'll find all around the city, therefore the french have come up with the best phrase, leche-vitrines (window-licking, literally).  How cute!  And it's true, you can't pass a single window display without pressing your nose to the glass, eyes wide open like a child, the clothing, the fabrics, the rich and decadent decor will entice you to take a taste;)

And oh, how quickly the hours pass, we barely made it on the train inside the Gare Saint Lazare and moments later, we began our journey to the country.

Once you arrive at your train depot, you'll hop aboard a bus that will take you to Giverny, you'll pass through several small towns and see the beautiful green views of the countryside.

When you finally arrive in this darling little village, you'll see why Monet loved living here so much!  Quaint stone houses line the sometimes cobblestone streets and the entire area is covered in wild flowers and large, billowing trees.  There are a couple of little bistros to pop into for a bite, there are ice cream trucks, many boutique's and art galleries and an antique shop!  Make this a day trip because you'll easily spend the entire day getting here, visiting, eating and shopping:)

Monet's home sits right up against the main road here, but is hidden behind a deep, tall stone wall fence.  You'll stand in line up against the wall waiting to gain entry for what can be up to about 30min give or take the season.  You'll enter through the Visitor Center's gate and into the garden, which then leads to the house!

Sadly, no photography is allowed within the house, so you have to take pictures with your mind!  You'll stand in another line to enter, get guided through the house and out back into the garden, this one moves a lot quicker, thankfully!  When I first came upon the house I was surprised, it was much bigger than what I had imagined, it seems to stretch in both directions for what seems like an eternity, being pulled by both ends.  It is so beautiful, inside and out!  We walked through the same hallways as Monet and his family and friends, we entered his amazing studio, tall walls, covered in paintings by himself and fellow artists.  Art work, sculpture, books and botanical's graced every surface.  I imagined him coming in from an afternoon of painting the water lilies at the lily pond near by on his land and sitting down with a cup of tea and a good book to relax.  Every hallway and room told the story of an artist living there, paintings continued to grace all the walls throughout the home, beautiful treasures graced the antique furniture and the large kitchen, tiled in a vibrant and happy blue and yellow was nothing short of an absolute dream home!

The sprawling gardens that stretch out from the home to what seems like as far as the eye can see are just as beautiful and glorious as the home!  Dressed in blooming peonies, roses, irises, and wildflowers the simple fragrance will set your heart a flutter.  Be sure to stop and smell the flowers, linger and take your time, it's a paradise that's not to be rushed through.

Walking to the water lily pond you're sure to be greeted by the songs of frogs, large and small, they are everywhere, springing from pad to pad, swimming in the water, lounging on the banks.  The sweet smell of floral surrounds you and you approach one of the two Japanese bridges and gently walk across, savoring the moment!  You look out and catch the sight of the other bridge, just across the way, and you can almost see Monet himself on the bank of the pond, canvas on easel, a paint brush in hand:)

As the afternoon begins to fade, make your way out into the village, grab a traditional french lunch, a glass of local wine and simply walk the streets to get lost for a while.

You know I had to visit the antique shop, and ohhhh what treasures were inside!!!

We also stumbled across this exquisite little gallery of miniatures, owned by artist Frederic Desessard.  The artist took vintage suitcases and turned them into shadow boxes with scenes inside.  Some were artist studios filled with teeny, tiny little paintings, books, and sculptures as well as bustling kitchens, cafes and serene living rooms complete with little lamps, leather sofas and roaring fires:)

Once we got back to Paris, we set out towards the Arc de Triomphe, my husband's favorite!!!  Under a bit of construction it still dazzled us.  Napoleon, the French Emperor ordered the construction of the Arc in 1806, built to be a symbol of triumph for the French Army, known then as the Grande Armee.  "You will return home through archs of triumph", said Napoleon, having conquered most of Europe at the time, the french army seemed invincible!  
It also doesn't hurt that it sits on the Champs Elysees , known for outstanding shopping, delectable cuisine, and tea and macaroon shops, like the lovely Laduree:)

Besides biking and walking around this stunning city, metro is the best way to travel.  Stations are literally, everywhere, so if time is against you, just jump on a train to sprint from place to place, like meeting a friend for dinner near the Notre Dame ;)

Le Barav, a local hot spot is an amazing spot for dinner and drinks!  Start with cheese and charcuterie, send one of you next door to buy wine by the bottle or try by the glass right at your table.  Then pick a main course and prepare to have your heart melt!  We enjoyed the roasted lamb topped with mashed golden potatoes and were licking our plates by the time we were finished.  We ended our meal with a warm, lava chocolate cake and of course, a sweet, dessert wine!

Apres boucoup de vin, nous sommes promenade a Paris et midnuit!  In English, After lots of wine, we walked the streets of Paris at Midnight, this city is amazingly vibrant at night!  Even more so after some french wine;)  We walked up to the Notre Dame Cathedral, walked across the Seine River bridges, and took in all the beauty of the Eiffel Tower as it sparkled and glittered against the night sky:)

A walk down through the Left Bank will take you to narrow streets filled with bistro's and bars and the adoring and iconic Shakespeare and Company Bookstore!  I came back the next afternoon to pick up a copy of Ernest Hemingway's A Moveable Feast, the novel he wrote about Paris:)  (How appropriate)  The sweet booksellers will even stamp your book with their seal to complete your take away treasure!

This delectable brasserie near our hotel in Duplex was a life saver in the morning as we headed out for the day, we stopped by every morning for our usual croissant, and I'd take some colorful macaroons with me to enjoy later!  No matter where you choose to stay, there will be a bakery nearby!  The french aren't too keen on breakfast, they eat light, so if you're looking for eggs, you won't find them until lunch starts, and they will usually be served as an omelette with fries or a salad on the side.  Very Tasty!!!!

Paris is also known for it's amazing antique markets, open on the weekends you'll find one in the north of the city and one in the south.  The Marche Aux Puces in the north at St-Ouen and The Marche Aux Puces de la Porte de Vanves in the south are not only home to hundreds of dealers and shops, but fun places to meet American friends for lunch, like this frilly bistro, Chez Louisette in St-Ouen! Not only is this place decked out in multi-medium art, but singers take the small, center stage and sing their hearts out for your enjoyment!  The eats are simple french faire, nothing too fancy, and really good!  A great spot to meet friends and have a good time:)

All the endless treasures here will keep you and yours entertained for hours!!!!  Be sure to bring your traveling totes, water and a few granola bars.....and some Euro's too because you'll be sure to find something interesting for everyone on your gift list, whether it be a porcelain, hand painted, vintage doll head or an antique brooch, scarf or other odd and end!

If you liked the vibe around the antique markets, you'll love walking around the neighborhood of Montmartre surrounding my all time favorite Parisian spot, The Sacre Coeur!  Be sure to duck into all the interesting shops, and stop for a bite or a glass of wine at one of the many bistros to sit, relax and people watch for a nice break during the day:)  Remember, with all the hustle and bustle, you need to drink plenty of fluids, stop and eat, and sit and take in your surroundings.  Don't burn yourself out, which is easy to do in the first couple of days, take care of yourself;)

The Sacre Coeur, sits atop the tallest hillside in Paris and can be seen from various places throughout the huge city!  The best view, walking up the long staircase beside it as it seems to float overhead, in the sky!!!!  Completed in 1914, this Roman Catholic Church and minor basilica was dedicated to the sacred heart of Jesus.  Both a political and cultural monument, the Sacre Coeur is wrapped in curious architecture, and the interior is filled with gold ceilings and colorful paintings.  Any may enter, just remember to be quiet and courteous.

Steps away sits the famous Moulin Rouge, a popular Paris nightclub!  No doubt you've heard of it...or seen the movie;)  It can be spotted by the twirling red windmill that graces the roof of the club and it's grand red facade.  Making it's mark on Paris in 1889, the Moulin Rouge was the birthplace of the modern can-can dance:)  Becoming a celebrated Cabaret, this wondrous place offered eats, drinks and merriment for all who walked through its doors!  

Don't forget to visit Paris' many, many museums!  On our last trip we visited the Louvre and were enchanted at every turn.  This time we visited the Musee d'Orsay and saw the amazing Van Gogh exhibit, afterwards we ventured through the narrow street of the Rue du Bac and found an incredible place to eat, Les Antiquaires!  Not only is this lovely restaurant covered in neat antiques, the eats are amazing! Just across the street we popped into an elegantly quirky gallery called Siecle, where I had to bring home a pair of delicate porcelain floral ear drops!!!

During your afternoon walks, stop and lounge in one of the many beautiful spots around the city, one of my favorites is the Jardin du Luxembourg. Built for Marie de' Medici in 1612 as a private residence, it now serves a the meeting place for the French Senate.  Around the big public garden/square, you can grab a bite to eat and sit and chat for a while, while the hustle and bustle of the city continues past it's surrounding trees.

 We also visited the Orangerie, to see Monet's collection of Water Lily murals, incredible!  Both museums do not allow photos, but they're worth every hour you spend walking through them taking in the priceless pieces of art that grace the walls before you!    
And if you just look down, while walking in the streets, you're sure to catch some priceless art, even on the's Paris!

A day trip out to Versailles, is also a Paris MUST!!!!  Just 20 Kilometers southwest of the city, a train will take you to the beautiful french suburb.  We took a trip there on our first trip over and were stunned by its magnificence.  Versailles was the center of political power in France from 1682 under Louis XIV to 1789 at the beginning of the French Revolution when the Royal family was forced to return to Paris.  A tour around Versailles will include the Chateau, some of the surrounding buildings, like Marie Antoinette's Hamlet and Petit Trianon, and acres and acres and acres of manicured gardens.  STUNNING!!!!

This trip we rented a car and drove south to Chambord to visit the Chateau!  Not only is Chambord the largest Chateau in the Loire Valley, it is one of the most beautiful!  Began in 1519 it took 28 years to complete, and was built as a hunting lodge for King Francis I.  We took a self-guided tour in and around the entire Chateau, the land around it seemed to stretch to the horizon!  A very cool day trip:)

 Ahhhhhh, Paris!!!  Grab your baret, your best clothes and shoes and book your trip:)

Bon Voyage mon amis!!!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thanks for leaving your comments!