Monthly Archives: September 2011

12 Days in Paris: Day 2

For our second day in Paris, we only had one cultural activity on the agenda, the Louvre.  Since we had both seen the great art trifecta on previous visits (the Mona Lisa, Winged Victory, and Venus de Milo), our only objectives were to visit the newly renovated Greek rooms (Charles’ pick) and Napoleon’s apartment (my pick).  We got very lost trying to find both, but we didn’t mind because exploring the museum was the main idea.  All of the rooms were magnificent!

The Louvre. Photo by Barbara J. Rosen

Downstairs at the Louvre. Photo by Barbara J. Rosen

After several hours of wandering around, we were very ready for lunch.  We settled upon the Louvre’s international food court for a fast and semi-reasonably priced meal.  I ordered from the French station, since we were in France and French food is one of my favorite cuisines.

This meal was not super exciting, but it served its purpose and the mini bottle of olive oil/vinegar dressing was adorable.

Following our late lunch, we visited the mall under the Louvre, stopping at the Mac store to check an address online, and of course visiting the museum gift store.  We left the Louvre and walked along the parallel Rue de Rivoli, where I showed Charles Angelina’s tea salon and the Philippe Starck renovated Maurice Hotel.  We then switched over to the Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré, which has very fashionable shops and great people watching.  Our first stop was Colette, the original concept store and the coolest shop I’ve ever seen (concept stores are trendy lifestyle stores that sell everything from clothing to music, books, perfume, candles, the latest high tech gadgets, etc…).

I was excited to see the new Beirut album among the selection of highly curated CDs. Colette buyers have good taste.

Our next stop was the Hermes flagship store.  I looked at scarfs and sampled some perfumes, but I didn’t buy anything because the Euro was killing me and the NY stores have the same selection (this was an ongoing theme on our shopping excursions as I realized that almost all of my favorite French products are now available in NY for practically the same prices).

(Old) Hermes Window. Photo by Barbara J. Rosen

After Hermes we walked over to the Place Vendome, which is a big square known for the famous jewelry stores.  It is also the location of the Ritz Hotel, where Princess Diana had her last meal.  I wanted to visit the Hemingway Bar, but it didn’t open until cocktail hour.  Although the bar was closed, I enjoyed walking through the ground floor sitting rooms, which were quiet/empty and a relaxing change from the Louvre and Rue de Rivoli.  We tried to visit the nearby famous toyshop Au Nain Bleau, but it was closed for renovation (Time Out Guide DOUBLE FAIL).

Place Vendome. Photo by Barbara J. Rosen

Relaxing at the Ritz

By dusk we were tired of walking and decided it was a good time for a bateaux mouche cruise/tour of the Seine.  Bateaux mouche is both a name for a type of boat tour and the oldest company that operates such tours.  I was a bit confused about the launch point for Bateaux Mouche, so we walked in the opposite direction and eventually settled for a Vedettes de Pont-Neuf boat instead.  At 13 Euros, the tour was slightly more than Bateaux Mouche, but the boat was festively decorated with flower garlands and old fashion streetlights (a little hokey, but pretty).  This was my third time taking a Seine boat cruise, but it was the first time I’ve actually listened to the guide and I learned a lot about the history of the buildings and bridges of Paris.  The tour also helped me get a bearing on the geography of the city.

Bateaux Mouche in the Seine. Photo by Barbara J. Rosen

When the boat tour ended, it was dinnertime and we decided upon Chez Omar, my favorite couscous restaurant in Paris.  Chez Omar is a little inauthentic because the décor resembles a traditional French brasserie, but the food is delicious and very well priced.  I ordered merguez (spicy lamb sausage), which came with couscous, vegetable stew, and spicy harissa sauce.  The restaurant offers free refills of the couscous and vegetable stew, but I didn’t get it because the portions were more than generous.

Chez Omar

I assure you, this meal tasted better than it looks.

After dinner we headed back to my friend’s apartment in the 10th arrondissemont (= neighborhood) and went for a nightcap at the local hangout Chez Prune.  The star attraction of the 10th is the Canal St. Martin and Chez Prune was one of the first bars to open facing it.  The neighborhood is now very trendy and the bar is considered the bobos (bourgeois bohemians) headquarters, so sitting and people watching made for a relaxing and entertaining way to end the day.

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Happy New Year!

Shana tova (a good year) to all of my Jewish readers and anyone else who may be celebrating this week!  May 5772 be the best and sweetest year to come!

Columbian desserts

French desserts

p.s. I deleted my stock photos of apples and honey (traditional Rosh Hashanah foods), so these Latin American and French pastries will have to do.

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12 Days in Paris: Day 1

Bonjour!  I recently came back from a twelve-day trip to Paris and I thought I would share some of the highlights with you.  The purpose is really for me to have a journal of what I did, but I also thought it might be interesting for my many blog readers (joking…there are hardly any).  The first six days I was with my now ex-boyfriend Charles and the last six days I was with one of my best friends.  I should mention that I’ve spent a lot of time in Paris (both on family vacations and study abroad), so I had done most of the famous touristy things already.  Charles and my friend were not as familiar with Paris, so I went with them to some of the “must see” sites, but very selectively, as you shall see below.

DAY 1:

Charles and I arrived at Charles de Gaulle airport in the early morning.  We went to my family friend’s apartment to drop off our luggage.  We were quite tired, but we didn’t want to nap for fear of messing up our sleep schedules.  My family friends took us out to lunch at a very cute restaurant whose name I unfortunately cannot recall (the tables had olive oil and balsamic vinegar in adorable spray containers).  I ordered steak tartare, because it’s one of my favorite foods and something I’m very wary of ordering in the U.S.

Steak tartare et moi

After lunch, we walked over to the gardens at the Palais-Royale.  The Palais-Royale is a palace that was originally built for a cardinal and then became the property of the king (hence the name).  The building now houses some government offices and a library, but has lovely gardens that are open to the public.  There is also a very famous modern sculpture installation by the artist Daniel Buren.  The sculptures resemble black and white striped columns and in my opinion do not blend well with the gorgeous historic architecture around them (but many Parisians and art critics would probably differ).

Unfortunately I don't have a photo of the beautiful gardens, but here are the columns with some construction in the background.

After the Palais Royal, my friends dropped us off at the Musee Bourdelle, which is a museum dedicated to the sculptor Antoine Bourdelle and has a nice collection of his larger than life statutes.  I visited Musee Bourdelle on a past trip, but I was very excited to go back to see the Madame Gres fashion exhibit.  The exhibit was well done, with Greek-style dresses juxtaposed next to Greek-style statutes, but unfortunately it closed Aug. 28th, so I can’t really recommend it to you.

Musee Bourdelle. Photo by Barbara J. Rosen

After the museum, we took the metro to Trocadero, which is a look out point with the best view of the Eiffel Tower.  I have gone there every trip to Paris since I was a child and have always taken a photo lying on the large ledge.  The funny thing is that when I was younger I was scared of lying on the ledge and hated it, but my mother insisted.  This time I was actually looking forward to the photo shoot, but the ledge was roped off!  I considered climbing up anyway, but there were police patrolling the area, so I decided against getting a ticket on the first day.  We took photos standing up instead:

View of the Eiffel Tower from Trocadero

After Trocadero, we walked down the Champs-Élysées to my favorite Laduree location.  Generally, I find the Champs-Élysées to be an overrated touristy area, but it has the most beautiful Ladurée location (Ladurée is the oldest tea salon in Paris and has multiple locations…there’s one in NYC now too!).  It’s most famous for the macaroons and hot chocolate, so naturally we ordered both to split.

Photo by Barbara J. Rosen

Macaroons (rose, salted caramel, chocolate, vanilla), hot chocolate, and necessary water!

After Ladurée we continued walking down the Champs-Élysées and through the Tuileries gardens.  We saw the Louvre from outside (we were saving it for the next day) and then walked along the Seine to Notre Dame Cathedral.  This was a long walk, so unfortunately it was closed when we arrived, but we rested in the lovely small garden behind it.  We tried to visit the Memorial to the Deportation, but it was also closed (more on that in a later post).  We walked through the adjacent Île Saint-Louis, which is a small island in the Seine that has some of the city’s most expensive real estate.  There isn’t much of interest on the Île Saint-Louis (other than the overrated Bertillon ice cream parlor), but it’s considered very desirable because there are a lot of medieval mansions and the lack of a metro makes it quieter than the rest of Paris.  At this point it was dinnertime and we were exhausted, so we took the metro back to my friend’s home for a family meal.  END OF DAY 1.

Champs-Élysées, with a peak at the Arc de Triomphe. Photo by Barbara J. Rosen

The line at Abercrombie & Finch on the Champs-Élysées was hilarious. You can't see the whole crowd, but there was quite a mob. YUCK.

Fountain at Place de la Concorde along our walk. Photo by Barbara J. Rosen

Tuileries Gardens. Photo by Barbara J. Rosen

Notre Dame Cathedral

Please check back next Friday for Paris Day 2.

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South American Sunday

I know I promised a Paris recap and I will write that up shortly, but I’m going to start with something more immediate.  Today I went on a full family outing to the Red Hook Soccer Fields.  On the weekends, the Red Hook Soccer Fields are known for the Latin American food trucks that are parked around the fields.  There are trucks from different South and Central American countries, each featuring specialties such as tacos, pupusas, and ceviche.  A couple trucks only sell drinks, the most popular being fresh fruit juice and horchata (rice milk w/ vanilla and cinnamon).

Upon arrival I did a walk around with my mother and bought a horchata at one of the drink trucks.  The horchata was $2.50 and delicious!

My cousin had been before and recommended the Salvadorian pupusa truck, which not so coincidentally had the longest line.  For those not in the know (I’ll admit, I wasn’t), pupusas are handmade corn tortillas that are fried and stuffed with cheese and other fillings.  I ordered the pupusa platter, which came with two pupusas and pickeled cabbage, covered in a mysterious (but tasty) white sauce.  From a long list of fillings, I selected spinach/cheese and zucchini/cheese.

I was impressed that the pupusas were made fresh right in front of us.  There was also a decent amount of vegetables inside and the platter was rather large for only $5.  However, the pupusas were too fried/cheesy for my liking.   The pickled cabbage and horchata were by far the best parts of the meal.

Once again, I forgot to take the photo pre-tasting...oops.

Overall, the experience of sitting at the picnic tables next to the fields with my family was so lovely that it made up for the fact that I wasn’t crazy about the main part of my meal.  Red Hook isn’t exactly scenic, but I felt like I went somewhere different, which is always nice on the weekends.  I would recommend the Red Hook food trucks, but probably not the pupusas.

Girls playing on the fields

p.s. Check back Friday for Paris post 1!

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