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12 Days in Paris: Day 12…Le Fin!

Monica and I started our last day at the botanical gardens.  The gardens were free, but underwhelming, so much so that I didn’t deem them photo-worthy.  I noticed a lot of joggers and I think it would be a lovely place to work out, but New York’s botanical gardens are far more impressive.  After strolling around, Monica and I went to the cafe at the Great Mosque, since I liked it so much when Véronique and Jacqueline took me and it was right down the block.  The courtyard was full, so we sat in the front garden, which was equally lovely.  I ordered the pink almond pastry again and of course mint tea.

We ordered pastries from this nice man and then waiters came around with trays of mint tea

Repeat pink almond pastry and sweet mint tea

Monica in the front garden

I visited a lot of stores during the trip, but I was waiting until the end to make most of my purchases because I wanted to make sure I had seen everything.  After tea, we walked to the very crowded Marais, since it was the only neighborhood where stores are open on Sundays (making up for the fact that many of them are closed on Saturday for Shabbat).  Place des Vosges was extra crowded because it was the day of Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s (DSK) first homecoming, which certainly dates this post…hehe.  DSK was expected momentarily so there were large crowds and media crews spilling into the street at the front entrance of his apartment.  Later we saw more paparazzis at the surprisingly plain back entrance.

Crowds outside DSK's apartment

Media crews

Paparazzi's at the back entrance

Monica and I met up with Véronique and Jacqueline and then shopped.  My favorite purchase was a pair of purple Bensimon sneakers, which are considered the French Converse.

Bensimon's = the French Converse

That night we had a lovely dinner at home with my family friends who hosted us.  One of our friends took us to the trendy Hôtel du Nord for a farewell drink, and though I didn’t take a photo, I enjoyed the company and the bar’s classic decor.  The next day I left early in the morning to return to NYC….

Packed and dressed in my travel uniform with only one bag more than I came with...I think I travel light.

Please check back tomorrow for an extra special Paris post!


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12 Days in Paris: Day 11

This is going to be a short post, since day 11 got off to a late start.  Upon waking, Monica and I headed to Port des Vanves to check out the marché aux puces (flea market), which is known for vintage clothing, dolls, and jewelry (all of my favorite things!).  In order to find good deals you are supposed to go early, but we were both more interested in browsing than shopping.  The only thing I liked was a 300-something Euro antique doll (too high, even if bargained down), so I left empty handed.

Shoppers at the Port de Vanves flea market

Table at the Port de Vanves flea market

After the flea market, Monica went to meet friends and I walked to Montparnasse, a neighborhood known for its intellectual and artistic heritage (Picasso, Léger, and Soutine were among the artists who moved there when the rents in Montmarte became too high).  I stopped in the Montparnasse cemetery and visited Marguerite Duras, who is one of my favorite writers.  It was a bit difficult finding her grave, since she is apparently less popular than Simone de Beauvoir, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Man Ray, who are also buried there.

Marguerite Duras' grave has a lot of shrubbery

Notice the canister of film appropriately placed on Man Ray's grave

Sartre and Beauvoir's joint grave is very popular

Following the cemetery I checked out boutiques along the Rue de Bac and then visited the Chapelle Notre Dame de la Medaille Miraculeuse (Chapel of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal), which is a pilgrimage site across from Le Bon Marché department store.  I finished my walk early around Saint-Sulpice, since I was going to have dinner with family friends in Neuilly and I wanted to change (Neuilly is a suburb of Paris that is a bit far out).

Delectable cakes in the window of Gérard Mulot Pâtisserie

Macaron Eiffel tower in the window of Gérard Mulot Pâtisserie

Later that night I met up with Monica, Véronique, and Jacqueline and though we had planned to hang out on the Canal Saint-Martin, it was raining, so instead we happened upon a dance party at the House of Architecture (I’m not sure how many architecture-related events actually take place there since I only saw the center used for lounging and partying, but it was a cool space nonetheless…hehe).

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12 Days in Paris: Day 10

BONJOUR MES AMIS!  It seems a bit absurd to still be posting about a trip from six months ago, but I blog slowly and some recent events necessitated a break.  I am back now and in the interest of completion, I will finish the last three days of the Paris trip series, with an extra special fun post at the end (think French fashion trend spotting!).

Day ten followed a relaxed schedule as I started the day at the Petit Palais.  The Petit Palais is a beautiful Beaux-Arts building that was built for the Universal Exhibition of 1900 and now houses the Paris Museum of Fine Arts.  Admission to the museum is free, although I paid extra to see a photo show.  I must have been really tired that day because I forgot to photograph the Petit Palais and instead photographed the Grand Palais (a grander Beaux-Arts building across the street that was also built for the Universal Exhibition of 1900 and also shows changing exhibits).

Grand Palais

After the exhibition, I walked along the fashionable Rue du Faubourg Saint Honore, which is the Paris equivalent of Madison Avenue (in addition to nearby Avenue Montaigne).  I read in my Timeout guide about Jean-Paul Hévin, an upscale chocolate store that specializes in cheese-filled chocolates, and I decided to go there to buy gifts for my family friends and my parents.  Although the chocolate-cheeses sounded a bit odd, I figured if they were the specialty, they had to be decent.  I was wrong about this…

Window of Jean-Paul Hévin

Weird cheese-filled chocolates (the fact that this box sat in my house for several months until being chucked following this photo says something about their popularity or lack thereof)

I walked from Saint Honore to the Madeline, a famous church surrounded by Paris’ most well known and upscale specialty food shops (Fauchon and Hediard).  I went into the church and then browsed some of the shops, which sold beautifully packaged luxury food products, exotic fruits, teas, etc…

Colorful fruit display at Hediard

From the Madeline, I took the subway to Notre-Dame-de-Lorette to pick up Moroccan glasses for my mother (this is a ritual that is done on every trip, since we are continually breaking glasses and only one store has the specific pattern we collect).  I was not very familiar with the area, but I knew I was near the original location of the Rose Bakery and since I liked the Marais location so much, I wanted to try it.  The minimalist decor and interesting people watching were similar.  I ordered a pizzette with side salads and once again the food was delicious!

Market fresh produce at the entrance of the Rose Bakery

Pizzette at the Rose Bakery

In the afternoon I went back to my friend’s apartment in the 10th arrondissement to drop off my purchases and then met up with Véronique and Jacqueline for a pick me up.  They took me to a lovely outdoor cafe in the nearby House of Architecture.  I ordered grapefruit juice because I wanted something different and had never had it before (I realize grapefruit juice is available in the US, it’s just not something I usually drink).  I may have also ordered it because pamplemousse (grapefruit) is the funniest French word to me…hehe.  The drink was a bit bitter for my taste, but the bobo (bourgeois bohemian) people watching was even better than that at the Rose Bakery.

Friends with Coke and pamplemousse (grapefruit) juice

House of Architecture Cafe

We spent the rest of the afternoon walking around the Canal St. Martin and had an informal dinner at a family friend’s apartment.  After dinner, Monica and I went to a nearby bar where we met some UNESCO interns and then hung out with them along the Canal St. Martin.  Unfortunately I did not take a photo, but after dusk the canal turned into the hottest spot in town.  Picture groups of friends camped out on picnic blankets with booze, refreshments, etc…

I am scared of American motorcycles, but for some reason Vespas are very appealing to me.

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12 Days in Paris: Day 9

On the ninth day my French friend Véronique offered to show me around.  I was curious to see the 19th arrondissement, which is a diverse residential neighborhood that has recently grown in popularity (or rather is gentrifying).   Our first stop was 104/Centquarte, a contemporary art center in the former building of Municipal Funeral Services. Over 200 artists work in the center’s studio spaces, which are open to the public. Unfortunately, we were there too early and most of the building was closed, but we saw some installations around the vast lobby.

Hills covered in CDs at 104/Centquatre

The coolest wire fence ever

After 104/Centquatre, we took the subway a few stops to the nearby Buttes-Chaumont park.  Buttes-Chaumont makes Central Park look like a flatland.  The park has a lake, waterfalls, bridges, cliffs, hills, etc.  It reminded me of the romantic-style settings of Watteau’s fête galante paintings (a genre of paintings typically depicting aristocrats frolicking outdoors).

On the suspension bridge in Buttes-Chaumont Park

Look at Véronique's t-shirt!

We went for a mini-hike in the park and then met up with our friend Jacqueline for lunch in the Marais. We went to one of the two locations of the Rose Bakery, which is my favorite non-French, non-Moroccan restaurant in Paris.  The restaurant is owned by a Franco-English couple and serves English-inspired food, specializing in market-fresh vegetable dishes and baked goods.  We ordered two vegetarian tarts and one tofu avocado salad to split.  The food was delicious and the trendy people-watching was equally interesting (my friends recognized a French actress, although I didn’t know her).  I found it was funny that the restaurant’s help wanted sign was only in English.

Excellent meal at the Rose Bakery

Following lunch Véronique and Jacqueline showed me their favorite boutiques in the Marais. We walked to the Bastille and then decided to go to the Great Mosque of Paris for tea. The Great Mosque is the largest mosque in France and it is stunning!  We selected several types of middle eastern pastries and then sat in the courtyard garden where waiters came around with trays of sweet mint tea.  The courtyard was pretty and relaxing, minus the occasional pigeon flying around.  We peeked into the indoor restaurant, which was also quite beautiful and took some photos there.

Courtyard at the Great Mosque of Paris

Marzipan-ish pink almond pastry and delicious sweet mint tea

Indoor restaurant at the Great Mosque

Jacqueline and I posing at the indoor restaurant

We took the bus back to my friend’s apartment to meet Monica.  It was my first and last time on a bus in Paris, since  similar to NY’s buses, it was scenic, but very very slow.  At night Monica and I went out for (an undocumented) dinner with a family friend at the historic Brasserie Wepler.  Picasso, Modigliani, Apollinaire, Henry Miller, and Truffaut all frequented the restaurant, so it was lovely to experience the grand brasserie and enjoy a meal with great company.


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12 Days in Paris: Day 8

Day eight was the only day I spent primarily alone.  Although I loved showing Monica and Charles around, it was nice to take a break from playing tour guide and do some random exploring, without feeling the pressure to hit as many sites as possible.  I directed Monica to the Louvre and headed to Montmartre, which is both the name of a hill and its surrounding arrondissement (neighborhood).  Montmartre is known for Sacré-Cœur Basilica, which sits atop the hill at the highest point in Paris.  The area is also famous for its bohemian and artistic heritage (Renoir, Toulouse-Lautrec, Modigliani, Van Gogh, and Picasso all worked around Montmartre at some point).  I had seen Sacré-Cœur’s facade on previous visits, but had never been inside.  I chose to walk up to the basilica, although there was also a funicular.

View from the top

Sacré-Cœur was packed!  The golden mosaic interiors were impressive, but my favorite part of reaching the top of the hill was seeing the spectacular panoramic views of Paris.  It was also fun to observe foreign couples having (mock?) wedding photos taken on the steps.  After touring the basilica, I wandered around Montmartre and visited boutiques.  I was a little disappointed to see some of the same stores that were in the neighborhood where I was staying.  It reminded me of NYC where we have the same chains everywhere, except the boutiques were smaller in size.


My next destination was La Pagode theater in the the 7th arrondissement.  La Pagode is an antique-style pagoda that was built by the owner of Le Bon Marché as a gift for his wife.  The structure was intended to serve as a ballroom for their home next door, but now houses a movie theater with a charming garden cafe.  I stopped by and enjoyed a lovely pot of green tea from Mariage Frères (the best french tea!).  After tea, I walked around the 7th arrondissement, which is a very upscale residential neighborhood that contains many government institutions and foreign embassies.  I passed the École Militaire (a prestigious military academy), Invalides (Napoleon’s burial site), and UNESCO’s headquarters, the latter of which I really wanted to tour, but requires a three-month advanced appointment.

La Pagode looked a lot more spectacular in person.

Tea at La Pagode

Tea and dragons

La Pagode's Japanese garden

In the evening I met up with Monica again and we had dinner at a family friend’s house.  Afterwards we went to Oberkampf, which is an area with a lot of bars and lively nightlife.  Oberkampf was a short walk from where we were staying, which was great because the Paris metro does not run all night (this and air conditioning are the only things the MTA has on Paris).  We had drinks at Ave Maria, which is a very kitschy and cute bar that was recommended by my Timeout guide.  We ordered kir royals and I was impressed that the drinks were reasonably priced and you could pick from a variety of fruit flavors (to be added to the sparkling wine).  I would definitely go back (if I was still in Paris)!  Thus concludes day 8.


Ave Maria Bar


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12 Days in Paris: Day 7

Similar to my first day in Paris, day seven was an epically long day.  The day heralded a changing of the guard, as Charles left and my friend Monica arrived within 20 minutes of each other.  It was Monica’s very first time in Paris, so I wanted to show her around, but I didn’t want to overwhelm her, as she hadn’t slept on the plane.  I decided to take her to the Marais, since it is my favorite neighborhood and not as crowded as the major sites (except on Sundays, but this wasn’t a Sunday).  We started at some of the oldest buildings in Paris.

Medieval architecture

We visited the oldest mansion in the Marais, which has a bullet hole on its façade.

Oldest mansion in the Marais

We also stopped at the (unpictured) Holocaust Memorial, which was appropriately somber.  It was additionally sad that the memorial had very intense security.  For lunch we got take out from L’As du Falafel, which is the most famous falafel place in Paris and Lenny Kravitz’ restaurant of choice.  The falafel was good, but not significantly better than Chez Marianne, where I ate the week before with Charles.

L'As du Falafel

Casher = Kosher

We walked to Place des Vosges, which as previously described is where I would want to live in Paris.  We toured Victor Hugo’s apartment, which overlooks the square and is now a free museum.  I definitely recommend stopping by as a quick and cultural visit, although the apartment is a bit dark.

Place des Vosges

Chinoiserie room at Victor Hugo's apartment = my favorite room!

The rest of Victor Hugo's apartment

We walked to the Institut du Monde Arab (Institute of the Arab World), which is housed in a very innovative building designed by Jean Nouvel.  The windows of the building have metal geometrical designs, which open and close based on the light exposure and in turn control the lighting in the building.  The Institute has changing exhibits, a large bookstore, a cafe, a restaurant, and a free rooftop deck with great views of the city.  We stopped at the cafe for a pick-me-up and I ordered mint tea.  It was super strong!

Institut du Monde Arab

Cool window

Mint tea service

We then walked to the nearby Memorial to the Martyrs of the Deportation, which memorializes the 160,000 people who were deported from France to concentration camps.  The design is supposed to evoke aspects of a concentration camp, with narrow passages and restricted views of the outside world.

Memorial to the Deportation

Memorial lights

The memorial is close to Notre Dame Cathedral, so that was our next stop.

Notre Dame from the back

I thought this gargoyle was so cute! Not exactly the desired reaction...hehe.

Our last stop was Shakespeare & Company, which is frequently mentioned in one of my favorite books, Ernest Hemingway’s “A Moveable Feast.”  Hemingway and other famous deceased writers used to hang out there and borrow money from the owner Sylvia Beech.  The shop was cute and I especially liked that there were a couple auditorium style seats where we could rest and flip through books.

Shakespeare and Co. (and Monica's backside)

After a very exhausting day, we went to my friend Véronique’s apartment for a welcome dinner party.  Véronique is of French tunisian descent and she is an expert couscous maker.  She cooked couscous merguez, which was the best I had in Paris.  This was also the last time I ate couscous merguez because by this time I had officially ODed on it.

Couscous merguez with peppers and melon

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12 Days in Paris: Day 6

Paris Boutique. Photo by Barbara J. Rosen

Monday was Charles’ last day in Paris, so we had a decidedly un-cultural day, spent walking around and shopping for gifts for his friends and family.  Our first stop was Le Bon Marché, which is my favorite department store.  Contrary to its name (“the good deal”), the store is anything but cheap.  It reminds me a lot of Barneys, which also started out as a discount store and features similarly trendy items.  We perused the clothes and then visited the beautiful gourmet store across the street (Le Bon Marché’s Grand Épicerie).  It makes Whole Foods look dumpy!  We bought a variety of foods (cheese, bread, raw cut vegetables) and had a picnic in a nearby park.

Le Bon Marché

Le Bon Marche's restaurant has a cool interior, but I remembered from my last trip that I liked the decor more than the food, so we didn't eat there.

After lunch, we stopped at A la Mère de Famille, which is the oldest candy store in Paris and has a charming old-fashioned interior.  We also visited the original Ladurée location, where Charles bought a box of macaroons for  his family (this was the week before Ladurée opened in NYC).

A la Mère de Famille

The oldest Ladurée in Paris has pretty frescoes. Not a high quality photo, but you get the idea.

We walked to Galeries Lafayette, which is the most famous department store in Paris and also my least favorite.  It is like a zoo!  The store is expensive and packed with people, which does not make for a pleasant shopping experience.  However, I thought Charles should see it because it is super famous and the large stained glass ceiling in the main building is beautiful.  I told Charles that the stained glass reminded me of a church and he remarked that it was like a church to capitalism.

Stained glass ceiling at Galeries Lafayette

Galeries Lafayette reminds me a little of an opera house.

The cosmetics floor at Galeries Lafayette

Cosmetics floor of GL

Our next stop was the Passage Jouffroy, which is one of my favorite sites in Paris.  The passages are 19th century shopping arcades, located throughout Paris (esp. near the Grand Boulevards), that were the forerunners to malls.  I am curious to know how the stores inside the passages manage to stay in business because they are not in the direct way of pedestrian traffic.  We visited a very cute doll house/minature store (my idea).  The Passage Jouffrey also houses the Musee Grevin, which is a historic wax museum that was one of my favorite places in Paris when I was a child.

Entrance to the Passage Jouffrey

Entering the passage is like stepping back in time! Photo by Barbara J. Rosen

Empty passage. Photo by Barbara J. Rosen

We headed back to the 10th arrondismont, continuing along the Grand Boulevards and then walking up the Rue du Faubourg St. Dennis, where we passed through an African neighborhood.  It was interesting to see how the neighborhood had changed and become more diverse since I was last there in ’05.  We also passed Passage Brady, which is a passage with all Indian restaurants that was around when I was in Paris.

Passage Brady (old photo, but I assure you it hasn't changed...my hair color on the other hand....)

For Charles’ last night we went with my friends to a Kosher Tunisian couscous restaurant in Belleville.  I didn’t take photos, but the food was great and it especially fun to try because there are no Kosher Tunisian restaurants in NYC…at least not that I know of.

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12 Days in Paris: Day 5

Sundays in Paris are very different from NYC.  Everything is closed!  Well, not exactly everything (some shops in the Marais are open), but elsewhere the supermarkets, department stores, and small shops are all shut.  In light of the rest day, Charles and I slept very late and then headed to the Catacombs.  I read about the Catacombs online and thought it would be cool to visit.

The tunnels reminded me of the border crossing scene in the movie "El Norte," but at least there were no rats.

The Catacombs are a series of underground tunnels, which house the bones of six million dead people, who were transferred in the late 1700’s, when the city’s public burial grounds became overcrowded.  My cousin tried to visit a few weeks earlier and said the line was over two hours.  Luckily, the line was only about an hour and fifteen minutes.  Before entering, a sign warned that the Catacombs are not for people with claustrophobia or nervous conditions.  We descended down the long twisting staircase and began the self-guided tour.

Monument in the Catacombs

Another monument

For the first 20 minutes of the tour, we walked through generic tunnels and saw a couple monuments to workers who died during the construction of the tunnel system.  Then we reached the ossuary.

Bones and skulls arranged in decorative patterns. Some of the skulls still had teeth!

Bones, bones, and more bones!

The ossuary was the creepiest thing I have ever seen.  You can’t tell from my photos, but the rows of bones go back hundreds, if not thousands of feet and there are rooms, after rooms of bones.  I have never visited a concentration camp, but the vast number of bones and the seemingly never ending rows reminded me of the Holocaust.  I found it particularly strange that the bones were arranged in patterns.  Although the tour was supposed to take forty-five minutes, we rushed through the oussary and finished ten minutes early.  A security guard at the exit checked our bags and I saw that he was sitting with three confiscated skulls.  I was completely disgusted that people would steal bones and skulls!  Across the street was a gift store with related memorabilia.

Skull and bones themed gift shop

The original plan was to make a picnic for lunch, but due to our late start and the fact that the supermarkets were all closed, we ended up buying cheese sandwiches from a truck and eating in a small park near the Catacombs.  After lunch we visited Saint-Germain-des-Prés, which is a lovely neighborhood with lots of upscale shops and famous cafes, formerly frequented by existentialist philosophers.  I was surprised to read in my guide book that the revered bakery, Pierre Herme was open on Sundays.  I tried to visit on my last stay, but the line was ridiculous.  Fortunately, this time it wasn’t too bad.  Charles and I bought rose, lemon, chocolate, and carmel macaroons.  We liked them all, but we both agreed that they weren’t better than Ladurée (and I prefer the interiors of the Ladurée salons).


We walked around Saint-Germain-des-Prés, but almost all of the shops were closed.  We did visit an impressive historic church and saw the cafe La Palette, where Ernest Hemingway, Jim Morrison, and Picasso used to drink (Charles made the very astute observation that it seemed like Ernest Hemingway drank in every bar in Paris).  I forgot to take a photo of the cafe, but I photographed the gorgeous mosaic facade of the fish restaurant, La Boissonnerie, which we passed along the way.

This photo would be prettier minus the cars.

We finished the day at the Luxembourg Gardens, which is one of the largest and most beautiful parks in Paris.  Marie de’ Medici built a palace there in the style of the Pitti Palace and it is now an art museum.  I just realized that we forgot to visit the Medici fountain, but I highly recommend it.  Definitely one of the most romantic places in Paris!

In front of the Luxembourg Palace

Luxembourg Gardens

Please stay tuned for day six!

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12 Days in Paris: Day 4

Charles and I started our fourth day at the Marche aux Puces de St-Ouen, which is Paris’ largest flea market.  The walk from the subway to the flea market reminded me of Chinatown, with street vendors aggressively pushing designer copies at pedestrians.  When we arrived at what we thought was the market, we saw stands selling fake American college t-shirts, Converse sneakers, and other products that you wouldn’t go to France to buy.  Unfortunately, we didn’t know that the main antique market lay beyond the junk market.

Junk market at Clignancort

We left quickly and headed to the Marais, which is my favorite neighborhood.  The Marais is Paris’ historically Jewish quarter and has lots of mansions, many of which are now museums.  While there is still a strong Jewish presence, the area has become very trendy, with hip boutiques and bars replacing the traditional Jewish stores.  It is also considered the epicenter of the city’s gay community.

Remaining signs of Jewish life in the Marais. Photo by Barbara J. Rosen

Jewish stores in the Marais

the new Marais. Photo by Barbara J. Rosen

The Rue de Rosiers is home to the neighborhood’s remaining Jewish stores and many falafel restaurants, the most famous of which is L’As du Falafel.  I thought the falafel restaurants were more cultural than religious, but apparently I was wrong because all but two were closed for Shabbat.  After a forty-five minute wait, we got take out at Chez Marianne.  Despite not being one of the recommended restaurants, the falafel was delicious!

Tourists eating falafel in front of Chez Marianne. I forgot to take a photo of mine, so this will have to do, but it didn't look much different than falafel in NYC anyway.

We bought dessert at Sacha Finkelsztajn across the street, which is a third generation run Jewish bakery.  In general, the pastries at the traditional Jewish bakeries in Paris fascinated me because the specialties were so different from traditional Jewish bakeries in the U.S.  The Jewish bakeries in Marais all had square cake slices in their windows, which came in the following flavors: cheesecake, apple cake, poppy seed cake, and date cake.

Famous Jewish Bakery

Chocolate banana cake and traditional date cake

After lunch we walked to Place des Vosges, which is the oldest planned square in Paris and stood as the model for planned squares all over the world (it inspired Covent Gardens and Bloomsbury Square in London, which in turn inspired Gramercy Square, Stuyvesant Square, Union Square, and Madison Square in NYC).  Victor Hugo had an apartment on the square and DSK currently resides there (more about that in later posts!).  If I could live anywhere in Paris, this would be it:

Place de Vosges

We walked through the park in the center of the square and then visited Musée Carnavelet, which is a free museum dedicated to the history of the Paris.  The museum is definitely one of the best free cultural sites in Paris.  The museum is housed in two neighboring mansions and has a lovely courtyard.  The main attractions at the museum are the painting collection and the fabulous period rooms, which include an art nouveau bar and Marcel Proust’s bedroom.

Musée Carnavalet

We covered the museum and then walked two blocks to the Musée Cognac-Jay, another interesting free museum.  The Cognac-Jay is also housed in a former mansion and features the eighteenth century art collection of the owners of the now closed Samaritaine department store.  The paintings are nice and the price is right, but I would more strongly recommend the Musée Nissim de Camondo if you are an affectionado of the eighteenth century (the Camondo home is better furnished).  The Cognac-Jay has a cute garden, but it was raining, so we skipped it.  I wanted to show Charles the free Atelier Brancusi at the Pompidou Center (the modern art museum AKA Beaubourg), but unfortunately it started pouring and was closed by the time we arrived.  We got tea in a café while waiting for the rain to subside and then headed home to change for dinner.

The exterior of the Pompidou Center is cool, but kind of ugly (the building's functional elements are on the outside). This is an old photo, taken on a day with less inclement weather.

Charles wanted to have a fancy night out, so we decided upon Brasserie Bofinger, which is one of my favorite restaurants in Paris.  Brasserie Bofinger specializes in seafood and has a historic art nouveau interior.  I ordered two appetizers instead of an entrée, escargot and salmon tartare.  I also got a kir (crème de cassis + white wine), which became the official drink of the trip, because “when in Rome, do as the Romans do.”  Everything was excellent and I felt very lucky that we were able to sit under the famous glass doomed ceiling in the central dining room, without even having a reservation.

Brasserie Bofinger


Salmon tartare

Please check back Friday for the next installment in my Paris series, which includes a tour of the super creepy catacombs and a visit to the beautiful Luxembourg Gardens.

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“Let Them Eat Cake!” – Day Trip to Versailles

For our third day in France, we ventured outside Paris to a destination a mere 35 minutes away: VERSAILLES!  This was my fourth time visiting Versailles, but it was still one of my favorite days of the trip and I saw several sites I hadn’t seen before.  We took the RER train and then walked about fifteen minutes through the cute town of Versailles to reach the chateau.  After waiting on a long line, we bought “passport” tickets, which gave us access to all of the buildings on the property for 18 Euros.

Versailles (notice the well camouflaged construction on the right)

We started at the main chateau.  The king and queen’s private apartments are only accessible by guided tour, but the passport ticket allowed us to walk through numerous staterooms and the king and queen’s magnificent bedrooms.  We opted against the guided tour because we wanted to visit other properties on the estate.

the King's Bedroom

the Queen's Bedroom

gold gilding galore!

the Hall of Mirrors

After touring the chateau, we had a nondescript lunch in the cafeteria and then bought tickets for the trolley to tour the rest of the estate.  It would have been nice to walk from building to building and enjoy the gardens, but the weather was rainy and cold at that point.

Gardens at Versailles

Gardens and ominous clouds

Our first stop was the Grand Trianon, which is a smaller chateau on the estate that was built by Louis XIV for his mistress.  This was one of my favorite stops, since there was a fashion exhibit in the space, co-sponsored by Versailles and the Musée Galliera (a fashion museum in Paris).  Throughout the beautifully decorated palace, mannequins wearing clothes by avant garde designers like Vivienne Westwood and Alexander McQueen were juxtaposed next to the 18th century wears that inspired them.  Unfortunately no photography was allowed inside, so I couldn’t capture the cool exhibit.

the (pink) Grand Trianon

After the Grand Trianon, we took the trolley to the Petit Trianon, which is another chateau on the property.  Louis XV built the Petit Trianon for his mistress, Madame de Pompadour.  Louis XVI later gave the Petit Trianon to Marie Antoinette, who went there to escape the “pressures” of court life.  The house was less ornate than the main chateau, but closer to how I would personally want to decorate my home.  We were excited to see an outpost of Angelina’s tea house and ordered two cups of the famous hot chocolate (there were also outposts of Laduree and Angelina’s at the main chateau, which I don’t remember seeing on past visits).  By that point it had stopped raining so we enjoyed the hot chocolate on the terrace outside.  It was a nice pick-me-up, but was a little too pudding-like to get my vote for best French hot chocolate.

Temple of Venus in the Petit Trianon's gardens

Following Angelina’s, we walked through the gardens adjacent to the Petit Trianon and reached the Hameau de la Reine (Queen’s Hamlet).  Despite having been to Versailles multiple times, I had never been to the Hameau before because it only opened to the public in the early 2000s and it’s a bit of a walk from the main chateau.  The Hameau is now my favorite part of the estate!  The Hameau consists of twelve farmhouses that were built for Marie Antoinette, who enjoyed dressing up and pretending to be a farmer in her leisure time (though a real farmer’s family maintained the working farm at that time).  Today the Hameau is an animal refuge and petting zoo.  It’s also the most bucolic and serene place I’ve ever seen!  The only thing that disappointed me was that the buildings weren’t open to the public.

Hameau de la Reine (the bell tower is so picturesque, it looks Disneyfied!)

One of many cute little farmhouses

the Queen's House


More animals and charming buildings

The last trolley stop was the canal, but we didn’t get off because we were tired and it was late.  When we arrived back in Paris, we selected Bistrot Victoires for dinner, aptly described in my Time Out guide as a traditional French brasserie with budget prices.  I ordered steak tartar, which came with the traditional accompaniment of French fries.  I don’t order fries a lot for health reasons, but they were delicious!

Steak tartare and condiments

After dinner we went for a nightcap at the Café de la Paix, which is a historic café (c. 1862) located across from the famous Palais Garnier Opera House.  I ordered kir, a traditional French aperitif consisting of crème de cassis(blackcurrant liqueur) and white wine.  The prices at Café de la Paix were dear, but well worth it for the opulent atmosphere (and one drink never broke the bank!).

Sitting outside the Palais Garnier Opera House, one of the most beautiful buildings in Paris!

Café de la Paix

Frescoes, stucco, and gold gilding decorate the interior of Café de la Paix

Please check back on Friday for day 4 of my Paris series, in which I visit my favorite neighborhood, the Marais!


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