Postcards from France: Part I – Paris

13 November 2014

It’s been nearly a month since we’ve returned from our three-week trip to France yet I continue to find myself missing it greatly. I haven’t quite subscribed to Learning How to be a Parisian, but it is safe to say I am a full fledged Francophile.

Some may ask why we chose just France for nearly three weeks of our honeymoon. For starters, we wanted to spend enough time in each region to truly get a feel for the culture. I also have wild fits of cabin fever (even on beaches) so I can’t be stationary for too long. Having about 3-4 days in each city allowed us to immerse ourselves without the dreaded, “now what?”  France is roughly the size of Texas with vastly different terrains throughout the country, allowing us to feel total variety from city to city. We began in culturally rich and quintessential City of Lights – Paris, to the cliffs of northern France finishing it up with the sand dunes and piercing blue sea of the French Riviera. Not to mention trains and rented cars through Honfleur, The Loire Valley and Provence in between.

This will be Part 1 of a 5 part series beginning with Paris. Then Normandy/Honfleur, Loire Valley, Provence and The French Riviera.

Part 1: Paris

“You know, I sometimes think, how is anyone ever gonna come up with a book, or a painting, or a symphony, or a sculpture that can compete with a great city. You can’t. Because you look around + every street, every boulevard, is its own special art form and when you think that in the cold, violent, meaningless universe that Paris exists, these lights. I mean come on, there’s nothing happening on Jupiter or Neptune, but from way out in space you can see these lights, the cafés, people drinking and singing. For all we know, Paris is the hottest spot in the universe.” -Owen Wilson, Midnight in Paris.

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fitting

A few of my favorite shots with tips + observations:

Splurge: Our first big meal was at three Michelin starred restaurant, Le Muerice. The service, the food, the decor, the presentation; I was totally transfixed! For the rest of my life meals will pale in comparison, thank you Chef Alain Ducasse.  This is also where I’d first be introduced to the French dining tradition of the cheese course (after your main entrée, before dessert) that would be a recurring theme throughout the entire trip. If you’re going to splurge one night, do it here. Book well in advance.

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should have taken one of these “where I stand” selfies.

le muerice cheese cart

The cheese cart! “A meal without cheese is a like a beautiful woman with an eye missing.”  – Brillat-Savarin

Stroll the streets of my two favorite neighborhoods: Le Marais Saint Germain. I kicked jet lag’s ass with a cappuccino from cult favorite Cafe de Flore in Saint Germain and after more strolling a glass of rosé Café Les Deux Magots.

Shopping: This could be a post in itself.  Loft (no affiliation to Ann Taylor) and L’elaireur. Both have womenswear and menswear with multiple locations in Paris and none in the United States to further my obsession.  I preferred Le Marais neighborhood for shopping (less Fifth Avenue type shops and more independent + upcoming designers.) This TimeOut Paris listing of shopping in Le Marais is quite good.

Sweets: BEWARE! Someone is bound to recommend the overhyped + overpriced Angelina’s. Instead go to Pierre Herme (multiple locations) for macarons and Michel Chaudun for chocolates. (Thanks Becca for the recommendation!)

Upside: Great people watching. Downside: Terrible Service. Café de Flore

Upside: Great people watching, downside: terrible service – Café de Flore

Even the shops are works on art.  Kids store: Boinpoint.

Even the shops are works of art, the ceiling at children’s store, Boinpoint.

The original love lock bridge overlooking Notre Dame Cathedral.

The original “Love Lock Bridge” overlooking Notre Dame Cathedral.

Museums: We could have spent the three weeks in Paris visiting the museums alone! We knocked out The Louvre and Musée d’Orsay over two days. Get there early and buy your tickets in advance. Your hotel may even have tickets at the concierge, just ask!

Speaking of asking, if you really wanted to see Gustave Courbet’s “The Origin of the World”  at Musee d’Orsay, you may want to call ahead to see if it’s out on loan because all I got while asking to be pointed in its direction were giggles and smirks. Sheesh!

jessica at the lourve

Botticelli’s “Venus and the Three Graces Presenting Gifts to a Young Woman.” PS: always, always get the audio guide. Photo credit: pdanial

me + Mona + 10,000 mobile devices. Can soneone please tell me why someone would record artwork on their Ipads? No one is going to want to see that video when you get home Buddy, no one.

me + Mona + 10,000 mobile devices. Side note: can someone explain the reasoning behind video recording artwork on their ipads? No one is going to want to see that video when you get home Buddy, no one.

Our second best dinner in Paris: Cinq Mars  near the Eiffel Tower. It felt like a cozy New York City, West Village haunt. Lots of locals and mediocre service. Patience is certainly tested in France, but when the food arrives you quickly forget why you’re in such a hurry.

get the duck.

Get the duck.

Biggest surpriseThe Moulin Rouge. After we bought tickets, I was thinking, “How cheesy, this is like watching the ball drop on New Year’s Eve in Times Square?”  But! Au contraire mon ami! It was the total highlight of our time in Paris. The legendary Parisian cabaret continues to carry on the burlesque tradition since 1889. In the two-hour show we saw Shetland Ponies, a leggy blonde swimming with albino boas, a talking dog, two roller skating Acrobats and over 100 can-can dancers! It was totally bizarre, mesmerizing and magical! Understandably so, no photos are allowed inside the venue (the ladies and the men are for the most part, naked.)  Adults only.

Fun Facts: There are 1000 costumes of feathers, rhinestones and sequins. 160 Dancers, 14 different nationalities on stage (every woman on stage was BEYOND BEAUTIFUL.)

Fun Facts: There are 1000 costumes of feathers, rhinestones and sequins. 160 Dancers, 14 different nationalities on stage (every woman on stage was BEYOND BEAUTIFUL.)

Before you head to one of the many Parisian Gardens (Jardins) make your way through the Marais neighborhood and find the oldest outdoor market in Paris, Marche des Enfants Rouges, which dates back the 1600’s. You can pick up fresh vegetables, beautiful flowers and meat, but the food vendors make this baazar so special. Upon entering your senses are inundated with cuisines from all over the world: Indian, West-African, Sushi, Italian, all served fresh to order. I ended up choosing a Moroccan stall and had the most delicious tagine with apricots and chicken that literally melted in my mouth.

The Marché des Enfants Rouges.

The Marché des Enfants Rouges

The market is typically closed on Tuesdays, check the website to make sure it's open when you visit. Photo by Rue

The market is typically closed on Tuesdays, check the website to make sure it’s open when you visit. Photo by Rue Rodier 

The Jardins! My very favorite activity when travelling is to visit the area gardens. Pack a picnic, take a leisurely stroll, or just sit on a shaded bench and people watch! I loved The Tuileries which we’ve seen so many times from streetshots of Paris Fashion Week with its white gravel giving it a beach like effect. I also adored Jardin du Luxembourg which is a short walk to the Eiffel Tower.

Jardin du Luxembourg

Jardin du Luxembourg

Antony Gormley sculpture in the Jardin des Tuileries

Antony Gormley sculpture in the Jardin des Tuileries

The Garden of all Gardens and the Palace of all Palaces: The Palace of Versailles, home to King XVI and Marie Antoinette, among other royalty.  It defines extravagant.  “With its Hall of Mirrors, formal gardens and imposing works of art, the chateau of Versailles is a manly sort of place, the ultimate symbol of kingly power in France.”   If time permits, take the full day trip and set aside time to see The Queen’s Hamlet that Marie Antoinette had built at the end of the property “to get away from it all and pretend she was a simple country girl.” Given the rich history of the Palace, I highly recommend arranging a private tour.

Orange, lemon and pomegranate trees in The Orangerie at The Palace of Versailles

Orange, lemon and pomegranate trees in The Orangerie at The Palace of Versailles

I became fancinated by my surroudnings but also this gentleman who photograhed his Godzilla all over Versailles. I've been desperatley trying to see if these photos have surfaced but come up empty. If anyone sees them email me at jessarb@oceanviolet.com thank you. I need a copy.

I was totally fascinated  by my surroundings but also this gentleman who photographed his Godzilla all over Versailles. I’ve been desperately trying to see if these photos surface but have come up empty. If anyone comes across them in their “lizard goes to the garden” searches, please email me at jessarb@oceanviolet.com thank you. I need a copy.

In the last few years The Palace of Versailles (now a full fledged museum) has had some of the most well known contemporary artists display their works throughout grounds. During our trip, Korean artist, Lee Ufan, was exhibiting. including this arch that worked so harmoniously in the gardens. Past exhibitions included Koons + Murakami.

Editor’s note: I did not plan this trip on my own!

Sure, I did some research on where to eat but I was too busy getting married! Last on my list was arranging planes, trains + automobiles (all three modes of transportation were used!)  I would be remiss if I did not thank our travel agent, Lynn Coleman, from TLC Travel who meticulously planned our entire trip. Never having used a travel agent before I was reluctant, but I wanted this trip seamless and stress-free. Lynn understood our interests in culture, the arts and budget, then buttoned up the rest.  I can’t recommend her enough, if you have an upcoming trip and want someone who has been to every corner of the earth while taking the reins, talk to Lynn. You can e-mail her directly at lynnrcoleman@hotmail.com

 

 

 

 

 

Featured Image: Moi in Le Marais, my love of mylar is neverending. There are plenty more photos of the trip on instagram @theoceanviolet. Stay tuned for part II: Honfleur & the Beaches of Normandy.

  • Timothy

    Paris has always been a place for lovers, revolutionaries, thinkers, artists of all types and those seeking new beginnings. Seeing your blog clearly shows why. Oh… and why is the Mona Lisa so revered???