A Travellerspoint blog

September 2012

2012 Epicurean European Adventure

Eating our way through France and Italy


This trip has actually been in the works since before we headed off for China last year. My cousin Carolyn, her husband Tom and a few of their friends have significant birthdays this year, though Tom does have a year or two (or ten) on Carolyn. They wanted to celebrate in a special way. A trip to France and Italy?? Works for us!!! There will be about 13 friends and family (give or take) from all over, gathering on Monday the 17th in Provence for a week and then on to Tuscany for a week.

But first, Jim and I started the trip with a return visit to Paris. We were there back in 2005 and have wanted to return since the day we left.
I hadn’t planned on journaling this trip but with multiple requests how can I not??? So what will follow will again be our trip from the “Burke” point of view. There will be practical info for older folks (like us), photos and the daily ins and outs of traveling.

Read on as you follow us on our “2012 Epicurean European Adventure”

Wednesday -13 Sept 2012

After a lovely morning at the dentist, we were on our way to Phoenix. Our flight isn’t until tomorrow but it’s just easier to drive up, stay the night. We stayed at a hotel recommended by friends. The major plus is that we can leave our vehicle (no charge) and as we are staying there when we return, they will also transport to and from the airport. Hospitality Suites is on the older side but it’s clean and the staff was friendly.

Going up to Phoenix also enabled us to be able to meet with our friend Brenda (a fellow teacher from Wuhan) and her family. We were able to catch up over a lovely dinner. Thanks Ray, Brenda and Adam for a great night.

Thursday, 14 Sept 2012 – Friday, 15 Sept 2012

Up, breakfast (included) and off to the airport about 0930. Easy traffic, we checked in with United (we’re connecting with Air Lingus) and our bags are checked right through to Paris.

Our flight leaves on time and we’re onto Chicago on time, long walk to the international terminal, a short wait and we’re Europe bound. The aircraft was comfortable, watched the Hunter Games but could not get to sleep as hard as I tried.

Friday morning brings us into Dublin. Nice airport. Jim does a quick whiskey tasting with the lovely Mary….a little too early for me. We stopped for a coffee and to my surprise, I could get a Flat White (took me right back to NZ). Yum!!

Our flight is on time and we’re off to Paris. A little cat nap on the plane was really helpful. We were a little concerned about taking the train into the city as we had heard it was a bit confusing. It really was not. We had to take the tram from Terminal 1 to Terminal 3 (well marked), bought our tickets (18.50 Euro for both of us) and, as luck would have it, our train was waiting as we ran down the stairs and we were on our way.
From the airport, it’s about 20 minutes into the St. Michel station. At that point, we make a train change, heading towards the Jussieu station. Up to street level and we find ourselves looking right at #4 rue de la Boulanger. We find this location to really good….and really bad – I’ll explain a little later.

Our “home” in Paris will be a studio apartment that I found on VRBO. Having been in contact with the owner, she emailed me instructions with the door code and the code to the lock box to get the keys. Once inside the apartment, I gave her a call and she met with us to collect the security deposit.

By this time it was 5pm-ish and we were both in desperate need of a nap. It’s amazing what just an hour of sleep will accomplish.
The neighborhood around our apartment is right next to the university, so we had our choice of a few cafes. We opted for the Nepalese cafe up the small, winding, cobblestone street – which was a great choice. Similar to Indian food, we had momos (dumplings), wonderfully fragrant rice, chicken and an eggplant dish ….with our first bottle of wine in France. Great way to start our trip!
Nepalese Dining

Nepalese Dining

Saturday 16 Sept 2012

As the saying goes – we slept like dead people. We went to bed about 11 and woke up at the 1030am. A quick trip up to the grocery store for breakfast fare: yogurt and a quick stop at the boulangerie for pain au chocolate.

Jim’s only request for the whole trip is to have dinner at Le Soufflé. In my muddled French and, thankfully, the fact that the person who answered the phone spoke English, we got a reservation for tonight at 9pm.

During our visit to Paris back in 2005, we did all the major tourist attractions: the Louvre, d’Orsay, Rodin Musee, etc. For this trip, we wanted to wander off a bit, so today our destination was the market on Mouffatard. We had almost given up, thinking that we were lost, but “Voila”, we walked right into it. Strolling the pedestrian only street, we wandered a bit, eyeing the different shops selling cheese (fromagerie), meats (boucher), fruits (figs seem to be in season as we see them all over) and legumes. We also salivate as the odor from the creperies waft into the street.

From here we decided to check out the Jardin du Luxemburg (Luxemburg Gardens). It’s just a short walk from Mouffatard, past the Pantheon. The gardens are beautiful. They are replanted three times a year and we are greeted with a planting of yellow and white flowers that surround the large fountain area in the middle of the park. The Palais du Luxemburg (which houses the French Senate) is situated at the north end of the park and appears to stand guard on its beautiful gardens.
Jardin du Luxumburg

Jardin du Luxumburg

Back to our studio, another quick nap and it’s off to Le Soufflé.

My internal compass (which is usually pretty good) has been a little off since we’ve arrived Paris. I may be able to blame it on jet lag…but we arrive a bit late for our reservation. Not to worry, we escorted to our lovely corner table in the back room and began our leisurely dinner. The specialty of the house (hence the name) are soufflés. Entrée (appetizer) soufflés plat (entre) soufflés and dessert soufflés……soufflés everywhere. Our first courses (which in France are the entrée) were a smoked salmon soufflé and an epinard (spinach) and chevre (goat cheese)...very nice. Second courses: soufflé topped with a creamy chicken and mushroom sauce and asperges (asparagus). Now for dessert (which is actually one of the main reasons we first sought out this lovely little café), Jim had the Grand Marnier and, on the recommendation of our waiter, I had the Chocolate Soufflé….OMG. The Grand Marnier had always been my favorite but after trying the Chocolate – I’m not quite sure.

I think maybe I dreamt about soufflés that night.

Unfortunately, Jim’s dreams weren’t that great. He was kept up by college students singing (badly off key) Beatle and Beach Boy songs….that was the bad part. Our apartment was located right across the street from the University of Paris.

Sunday, 16 September 2012

One of the sights we did not see on our last trip was Montmartre and Sacre-Coeur (Sacred Heart) – which would become our destination du jour. I had heard it was very beautiful and not to be missed. Although, yes, it was very beautiful, personally, I’ll take a stroll along the Seine any day.
Sacre Coeur is a built up in Montmartre on the highest hill top in Paris (which is generally very flat) in 1875. The neighborhood around the Basilica has tons of shops and restaurants and on this Sunday they were filled with tourists as well as locals. The cobbled streets twist and turn as we meander down towards the metro station.

It’s time for a late lunch and Jim eyes a small Tapas café. With Paella on the menu, it didn’t take much convincing. Over a leisurely lunch (which would suffice for dinner) Jim and I shared his Paella, my mixed appetizer plate, and a jug of delicious sangria.
Tapas in Le Marais

Tapas in Le Marais

That evening was spent in my favorite way, walking along the Seine and thinking about when we might get back to Paris.

Posted by pjburke 08:09 Archived in France Comments (1)

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