Day on the Right Bank

Paris, France

Paris is well known for its patisseries, those spots where Parisians start their days sipping espressos and nibbling on croissants. This morning, we set out to experience a new patisserie – one pushing the creative boundaries. What we found was La Patisserie des Reves, where delectable goods are showcased under futuristic bell jars.

Pick out what you’d like and a complex pulley system gives you access to some mind-blowingly delicious treats.

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Ready to start seeing the sights, we made our way over to Musee Rodin. The Thinker was understandably a mob scene but we did have other outdoor works, including Gates of Hell, to ourselves (at least for a few minutes).

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From there, it was onward to Les Arts Décoratifs for a crash course in French furniture and design. These chairs were my favorite.

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We had planned on getting lunch at Café Marly but the outdoor seating was without shade – and on this almost summer-like day, we didn’t feel like baking. Instead, we spotted a Paul vendor, grabbed sandwiches and a park bench. Much better.

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Taking advantage of our time on the Right Bank, we hit up the Champ Elysess and the Place Vosages. We poked our head into a few shops and Char spotted this awesome truck at Goyard (unfortunately, think it was like 14000 euros).

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We wanted to grab a drink at the Ritz but were running late so headed back to the hotel. After last night’s dinner fail, the stakes were high. But Itineraires, a place recently reviewed by the Times, came through. The best dish was this mushroom risotto – covered in paper-thin sliced shrooms.

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Whoa.

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Birthday in St. Germain

Paris, France

The buzzing alarm wasn’t the most pleasant wake up call this morning but at least we got a decent amount of sleep. It was still dark as we made our way to the St. Pancras train station for our 7:22 am Eurostar to Paris. We watched the countryside whiz by and figured out our game plan before arriving around 11 am.

From Paris Nord, we took the RER – essentially the Parisian commuter rail – to St. Germain, a leafy neighborhood on the Left Bank. Our hotel, Hotel le Petite Paris lived up its name. While adequately trendy and modern, the rooms were tiny. Not that we intended on spending much time in ours. Paris beckoned.

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We threw our bags down and made a beeline for the boulevard. Char had, of course, compiled a complete list of stores that necessitated a visit, including Diptyque for some wild scented candles. There were lots of distractions along the way, including a tea and pain au chocolate at the iconic Café du Flore.

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My only request was that we stop at Deyrolle, a shop dating to 1831 and stuffed (literally) with taxidermied animals and all sorts of other strange curiosities. Char vetoed the stuffed anteater but we did find a set of old French gardening prints that we decided were coming home with us.

Being the foodies we are, we knew that we couldn’t come to Paris without eating at St. Germain at Le Comptoir, the buzzing bistro that has drawn accolades since opening a few years ago. The locals know it simply as Le Comptoir. Whatever you want to call it, we had heard much about celebrated chef Yves Camdeborde and decided to try our luck at snagging a seat for a late lunch. (We were told dinner reservations, and even prime lunch times, booked up weeks in advance.)

As luck would have it, a table had just gotten up when we arrived. We were handed menus, promptly realized that they were only available in French and our waiter spoke no English. Here’s what happens when you order a dish solely based on how the name and description sound like.

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No, I’m still not really sure what it was. Thinly sliced beef salad, maybe? Was it delicious? Absolutely.

Our grand tour continued as we crossed the river for a visit to Saint Chapelle. There are hundreds of beautiful churches in Paris but Saint Chapelle was Char’s favorite – plus, I’d never been. The line snaked outside but the worth was wait it. On this sunny day, the stained glass windows of this church (built in 1248) exploded with color.

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On our way back, we made a quick stop at the granddaddy of churches, Notre Dame, which took nearly 200 years to be completed. I’ll spare the history lesson except to say that the scale of this immense structure is difficult to put in perspective.

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Our walk home conveniently took us through Jardin du Luxembourg, where we stopped for a couple minutes on those iconic loungers.

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Back at the hotel, we rested, showered and changed for a big night out to celebrate Charlotte’s birthday. I’d read about a new bespoke cocktail bar called Prescription which had amazingly creative (and delicious) drinks. From there, the plan had been to get dinner at Huitrerie Regis, a well-reviewed oyster place.

Unfortunately, when we arrived, the lights at Huitrerie were out. Sure enough, closed. Oops. We made a quick change of course and settled into an outdoor table at a neighboring French bistro. Char ordered some oysters and a salad with bucheron cheese – and my steak frites was excellent. Crisis averted, day saved.

Proper British brunch in London

London, England

It’s been about two years since our last trip to Europe, so in celebration of Charlotte’s birthday, we decided a visit was in order this month. Deciding on our destination was actually quite easy – France in the fall. But in researching airfare, we saw that tickets into London were a bit cheaper, plus, Char’s friend Michelle and boyfriend, Will, offered to put us up. So, that’s where we found ourselves on this crisp Sunday morning.

We took the Picadilly Line to Gloucester Road and then hopped into a black cab to Michelle’s apartment. After a short nap, we headed out to check out the Clapham Junction neighborhood, with stops for Chelsea buns at Jamie Oliver’s place and a few shops.

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We hopped in Will’s convertible, took photos along the Thames and then headed over to the Garrisonfor a traditional Sunday roast. This is the British brunch, with thick cuts of prime rib, Yorkshire pudding and seasonal vegetables.

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Properly fueled, we walked through Hyde Park and made our way to Buckingham Palace.

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We self audio-guided through the Palace – Char says the highlight was Kate’s dress, which was on display and surrounded by ogling women. By the time we had left the royal grounds, late afternoon was upon us and we were pretty beat.

We returned to Michelle and Will’s place and ordered some Asian takeout. The overnight flight and time difference had us in bed relatively early. Plus, tomorrow morning we’ve got an early curtain call.