Whereas our trip to Paris two years ago was all play and no work (with the exception of the London meeting) this trip to Paris was for business. Meetings, meetings, meetings. I mostly worked from our hotel room at the Intercontinental Avenue Marceau. The hotel is small, boutique, with a very nice restaurant and included a full breakfast buffet (so European). The room was small (the bathroom teeny), which was to be expected, but we had a very nice large patio with two chairs and a table and some lovely plants. I ended up working on the balcony on two of the three afternoons as the mid March weather was really quite nice.
Above: Our Balcony. Below: Details of the building.
If we stay at this hotel again, I would request the other balcony room as that balcony has a view of the Eiffel Tower. For a longer stay, I would choose an apartment rental as there are some really fabulous apartments available in all shapes, sizes, neighborhoods, and price ranges. The location of this hotel is good, near the Arc de Triomphe, Champs Élysées, walking distance to the Eiffel Tower and some museums, lots of shopping. We would have preferred the larger Intercontinental, closer to the Opéra Garnier and the Louvre, Jardins des Tuileries, etc…, but it was booked solid.
We had arrived Paris from Amsterdam late in the evening on Monday and due to jet lag, we finally got to sleep around 2:00am. Tuesday morning Blue Eyes and our sales associate had an 8:00am meet up time and then they were off. They had a mid morning appointment and a lunch meeting as well. Blue Eyes showed up late afternoon just for a quick stop in before their dinner meeting. This is when I had my break down and expressed my anxiety and unhappiness about the trip schedule and the fact that we were only going to get a few short hours together enjoying the city as a couple. Thankfully, after my tantrum, their dinner meeting was postponed to the next day (by the client) and we ended up setting out on a nice walk in 60 degree weather, which helped my mood tremendously. We had intended to walk to the Bon Marché and visit the Grand Épicerie (as recommended by a blogger friend and which turned out to ironically be on my original list from two years ago), however, by the time we started out–and got lost a couple times, we realized that once we got to the store, we would only have about 20 minutes before they closed and deemed it not worth the effort. At that point we were far from our hotel, but we had passed many wonderful Paris landmarks including the Palais de Tokyo, the Paris Museum of Modern Art, Eiffel Tower, and Place des Invalides. We sat down in front of the Canadian Embassy to discuss our options. We were not disappointed with our walk. We were, however, cold and hungry as the sun had gone down and it was dinner time. I quickly texted my brother in Tokyo and asked him for a favorite restaurant near our hotel (Arc de Triomphe area). He got back to us right away (thank you 21st century technology) and recommended Le Relais de Venise on Boulevard Pereire for Steak Frites.
We jumped in a taxi and had the driver take us straight to the restaurant where we waited approximately 15 minutes for a table. The restaurant does not take reservations and the line starts forming as soon as they open. The restaurant is larger than it looks from the outside with upstairs seating as well. They really pack in the people. My brother had said, if you feel like Steak Frites, this is the place to go. I did not realize that Steak Frites is the ONLY thing they offer. It was amazing. Here is the description of their offerings from their website:
For over fifty years at our Parisian restaurant we have offered a unique dining experience where customers come to enjoy just one dish – a green salad with walnuts dressed with mustard vinaigrette followed by steak frites, served with a secret recipe sauce, in buzzy, convivial surroundings.
When you dine with us, there is no menu – simply tell your waitress how you would like your steak cooked. After your salad starter, two thirds of your steak is brought to you, with one third held back to keep warm, so you can enjoy it at its best and is accompanied with more freshly prepared frites.
Not exactly a fancy picture, but the way they serve you at the table, is not so fancy either. What it is, is delicious. I would guess their secret sauce is a combination of olive oil/butter, fresh herbs (most likely parsley), and mustard in just the right combination. Although the only choice we had, at this point, was whether we wanted our meat medium or well, medium was closer to medium rare and perfect, they do provide lots of dessert choices. They have an amazing dessert selection and the most popular by far, is their chocolate eclairs smothered in chocolate sauce. Although I am a fan of chocolate desserts, I am not such a big fan of eclairs. We splurged and shared TWO desserts, which there was no way we could ever finish (bad us, I don’t think this is acceptable French etiquette, leaving food on the plate). We shared the chocolate cake doused in chocolate sauce with homemade vanilla bean ice cream and whipped cream, and the apple strudel.
Everything was amazing. How lucky am I that I have a brother (GQ) who loves fine food and travels to Paris all the time for business and offers up the most amazing recommendations… have I mentioned my brother is 5’7″ and 135 pounds. How does he do it?
Day two started out much the same as day one although the meet up time was a more respectable 10:00am and I was able to get myself out of bed and have breakfast with Blue Eyes in the restaurant. Day two’s meetings included a lunch away and a dinner at the hotel with some time in between for us. Blue Eyes returned to the hotel at about 3:00pm and strangely enough, even though his meeting was over lunch, he was famished. We headed out to Ladurée for a snack. As I mentioned in my last post, Ladurée is a famous Parisian bakery (with many locations) known for it’s lavish pastries and French macarons.
Above: exterior of Champs Élysées location. Below: interior of sweets counter.
Above: close up of sweets. Below: close up of macarons.
Above and below: our snack included mini boeuf burgers (Blue Eyes’ favorite), chocolat chaud, and the most amazing apple & caramel tarte tatin (I have a wicked sweet tooth) with slightly sour fresh cream to balance out the buttery crust and super sweet caramel apples. AMAZING!!!
After our “snack,” we walked about a block to the Louis Vuitton store. I looked at the purses and thought briefly about purchasing a traditional brown one, but then decided I did not want to take the time at the airport to fiddle with the tax refund paperwork/lines and so, next time… pretty sure the store isn’t going anywhere.
We did some window shopping on our way back to the hotel and stopped in at one of my brother’s favorite chocolate shops to purchase some treats for the boys.
We returned back to the hotel with about an hour to spare before Blue Eyes’ dinner meeting at the onsite restaurant. I’m pretty sure he was not hungry enough to eat much dinner, but the burgers and tart were SO WORTH IT!
Day three, our final day in Paris, started like the other two, with a morning meeting, another early one. After their morning meeting, they were supposed to have a dinner meeting, however it was canceled and so… freedom. That meant we had the entire afternoon and evening to ourselves. Blue Eyes and I headed straight away to our old neighborhood, Le Marais! The day was beautiful, warm and sunny, especially for early March.
Above: a photo of our apartment from two years ago on the Rue des Francs-Bourgeois. Those five gorgeous french windows on the middle floor were all ours. I miss it.
Our destination for the day, however, was the newly renovated Musée Picasso on Rue de Thorigny.
Above: exterior of the museum.
Below: interiors of the museum. The architecture of the interior is so beautiful and provides a lovely venue for so much of Picasso’s work, which includes sculptures (including many garden sculptures), photos, ceramics, paintings, sketches, prints & engravings. The man was prolific. Picasso also had an amazing art collection of his own including pieces from Cézanne, Degas, Rousseau, Seurat, de Chirico, and Matisse, which are beautifully displayed on the top floors of the museum.
Above: the top floor beam work architecture is beautiful and a great complement to the gorgeous works of Picasso’s contemporaries including Henri Matisse.
Above: view from a top floor window of the museum to a park below. On such a beautiful day, you could hear the sounds of the children playing.
Below: from the museum, we headed straight to our favorite place to eat in Le Marais, L’As du Fallafel. I had almost forgotten how amazing the falafel really is.
Below: and the picture of Blue Eyes’ shawarma sandwich is making me so hungry right now. What I wouldn’t give for one of those. After our trip two years ago, I dug up recipes for all the components of the Parisian style shawarma sandwich and have made them a few times. I would have to say that the homemade Harissa and sautéed eggplant make the sandwich for me.
Below: Rue des Rosiers (street) in the Marais district offers so many wonderful culinary treats (including L’As du Fallafel).
Below: we opted for the Nutella and Banana Crepe from the little blue crepe stand (above) for dessert.
Below: I know this is not a great picture, but it is the best I could do with an iPhone from a taxi cab on the way home at dusk.
And that ends the recap of our most recent whirlwind trip to Paris. We only knocked a couple more spots off of my “must see” list, and I am quite amazed we did not gain an ounce on this trip. Just looking at that food, I feel like I need to go work out!
Back to reality… for now.