16 July 2009

Paris, je t'aime

Our next stop was Paris. Sweet, lovely, amazing Paris.

First, I must plug a product - we never visit any city without an eat.shop guide book (unless it doesn't exist for that city). These books are full of local restaurants and shops - no chains, no tourist traps. Just good honest local business. When I grow up I might want to write for them. We booked a room at the Hotel Verneuil, per suggestion of eat.shop.paris. After booking, I also saw that Miss Martha Stewart (or at least her staff at the Weddings magazine) also recommended the hotel. We were very excited. It was charming and cozy. It was also located in the very lovely St. Germain neighborhood on the left bank; nestled into a side street between galleries and antique shops.

Upon our arrival, we were very hungry, and asked the concierge for a cafe suggestion. Much to my delight, her immediate suggestion was Laduree. That's right - Laduree, the Parisian institution that is famous for their French macarons, and other delightful pastries. You might remember me going on and on about them a year or so ago. Well, bucket list item #1 - eat macaron from Laduree in Paris - done and done. We also ate lunch there and it was absolutely amazing. And, after a nervous start at practicing my French, I did complete the macaron purchase solely in French. Tres bien!

The remainder of our first day consisted of a walk around the Louvre and the Jardin des Tuileries, the National Opera, & the Place Vendome. We covered quite a bit of ground. After a short rest at our hotel, we had dinner at a creperie and called it a night.

Day two consisted of some pilgrimages to a few shops in our eat.shop guide. E. Dehillerin has been the supplier to the professional chefs of Paris since 1820. The shop has absolutely everykitchen item you could ever want or need. It was heaven. We wanted to buy so many things, but had to limit ourselves as we are strict carry-on only travelers. Instead, we purchased a small lovely little copper sauce pot, and a few mini pastry pans. I have dreams of future purchases... rolling pins, giant wooden spoons, skillets of every size. A couple of sewing and millinery supply stores were also on the days' agenda. After a lovely little lunch, we headed to the Centre Pompidou - modern and contemporary art museum, famous for it's revolutionary design. It's sort of an inside-out building. We had fun riding the escalators in tubes up the side of the building and enjoyed the Calder exhibit. We also stormed the Bastille...or that's at least what I said while we were standing on the pavement that was once the foundation of the Bastille. On our way back to the hotel after dinner, we stumbled upon a concert in a courtyard next to the hotel. One of the shops repaired and sold antique instruments - antique as in Mozart era antiques. We enjoyed the sounds of a harpsichord and flute and ended the evening thoroughly charmed.

The third day was our tourist marathon - Notre Dame, Sainte-Chapelle, Eiffel Tower, the Musee du quai Branly & the Arc de Triomphe & Champs Elysees. We walked to all of them. It was quite the trek and a lot of fun. A lot of people make a big deal about Notre Dame, but we think Sainte-Chapelle, with it's bejeweled statues and rich colors might be one of the most beautiful churches in all of Europe. The Eiffel Tower really is impressively large, and the Champs Elysees makes Michigan Avenue look like a small-town main street. We also found some time for a bit of shopping - a French bikini for moi, some sandals for Don.

Paris is a city in every sense of the word. It seems as if the world is at your finger tips at every turn. The scale of the buildings and boulevards is so grand yet perfectly proportioned. The small streets and neighborhoods are so quaint and approachable. The people are very friendly. The food, the pastry (dear lord, the pastry), the coffee, the wine - they all live up to the hype. We found ourselves a new place to love. We'll let you know when we move there. That's how much we liked it. We plan to visit as often as possible.

08 July 2009

A European Honeymoon - Dublin

Before I blog about the wedding (which was, by the way, the most magical and delightful event I have ever attended!), I'm going to tell you about our great trip to that continent across the sea, Europe.

We started with two days in Dublin, Ireland. Aer Lingus offers cheap, cheap flights from Chicago to Dublin, so we thought we'd take advantage of the opportunity to see a wee bit o' Ireland. (Yes I did just say that with the accent of a leprechaun. Deal with it.

Our home in Dublin was the Bellgrove Bed & Breakfast, a lovely little cottage just outside the city. The first day we spent walking around Dublin. We saw the old Viking church, ate some fish and chips in Temple Bar, and spent a couple hours just lounging in one of Dublin's big, green parks. We topped off day 1 with some 'modern Irish cuisine'.

Day 2 started with a trip to the beach, where we learned that Irish people don't tan, they only sunburn. We got a bit of sun ourselves, as we didn't think to put on sunscreen. After a couple hours on the beach, we were thirsty, and headed back to the city for some of the black stuff. Guinness! The tour of the Guinness Store House ends in the Gravity Bar, with a free pint of Guinness and the highest views of Dublin. Then it was over to St. Stephen's Green for some more park time and dinner.

don't worry, it quickly turned to a tan!

We had a lovely couple of days in Dublin, and will definitely be back to enjoy and explore more of Ireland in the future. The Irish were so nice and the country was beautiful.