I love the idea of travel. My first flight was to Italia at the age of 12, that month of summer in Italia solidified my love and passion for food and family. After art school, I was blessed with a design career where I traveled to many extraordinary places. There was, however, one city that eluded me and that is Paris.
Paris came true in November 2012; Dan and I celebrated our 3rd wedding anniversary and his romantic gift was a honeymoon trip to the City of Light. We are foodies, wine lovers and we share a passion for art, architecture, history and world cultures.
Arriving at Newark airport, we spotted a wine bar called Vino Volo, a great spot to drink wine and nosh before a long flight. We spoke of Paris, the food and wines and the places we knew we would see on this trip.
Day One: Arrival. Orly Airport on a very early, cold (40 degree fahrenheit) and rainy Sunday morning. The drive began and we began to see Paris unfold in the dark as we spotted the architecture of ancient buildings that only Europeans seem to have the luxury of inhabiting. We arrived at the BLC Design Hotel, an ultra modern out-of-the-way spot and one of Dan’s finds, that we instantly fell in love with. This hotel and staff is a best pick spot, one we would choose again. We were exhausted and hungry so we decided to explore the city to find food and coffee while we waited for our room.
Travel Tip: Make personal connections with your hotel staff and concierge; be sure to ask about their favorite local spots to avoid tourist traps and expensive eateries geared towards the typical traveler (I always make it a point to note our helpful staff’s names, so I can write reviews and thank-you notes later to the staff and management.)
The cold rain continued, and as we walked, we were getting progressively colder and hungrier. We found a café restaurant called Le Bistrot De Peintre, there was only one other guest who had arrived before us sitting at the bar. We ordered café’ au lait and warm croissants and we both started to feel human again. I smelled that rich coffee aroma and sipped its warmth, I felt revived as the heat warmed me through. The café was very quiet as our bartender readied for the day’s work. I watched the activity and let the city sink in, loving the feeling of sitting there with Dan, observing all that was taking place on a typical Sunday morning in Paris.
We left the café and located a shop keeper willing to open; purchased two umbrellas and continued exploring the streets of this city taking in all the shops, boutiques and markets that made up the area near our hotel.
NOTE: Dan is naturally good at directions, he always knows where he is and where he needs to go… thankfully for me, as I am the opposite.
We made our way to a second café and ordered a flat bread style sandwich (filled flatbread with tart goat cheese and tomatoes) along with some wine and sparkling water. We decided to rest for the afternoon to catch up on the time difference before going out for the evening.
Travel Tip: The key is to NOT fall asleep until it’s nighttime, but resting and catnapping is allowed.
We chose a favorite of Zanida’s called Chez Paul, in walking distance from our hotel. We ordered the chef’s entrée of entrecôte grillée with sauce béarnaise and pommes sautées. This was a grilled medium cut steak, one of the best I have ever tasted, served with delicious sautéed potatoes and the sauce on the side. The wine was a house red, a perfect foil for our first meal in Paris. The food tasted natural, fresh and of the earth. It was truly amazing.
Day Two through Day Four: The days and nights that followed gave us time to walk and explore this remarkable city. We visited the Musee de Louvre, Paris’s famous historical museum via taxi; a mandatory visit for Dan and I. My favorite spaces were the sculpture rooms, where rows and rows of beautiful stone figures stood bathed in natural light from the immense windows.
The detail and ability seen in the sculptures left me breathless. The extensive collection of well-known and little known paintings throughout history now displayed at the Louvre, is simply remarkable to see and worth the visit.
Travel Tip: You will never see all in one visit, so do yourself a favor and don’t try. We found our personal must-see pieces and still had plenty of time to meander through each space and view many unique collections before departing.
We ate at cafes, brasseries and restaurants all over the city, each spot offered simple food combinations that satisfied the foodie in us. We tasted many of the wines of the region including their current seasonal Beaujolais wine. We visited the famous Eiffel Tower and my second favorite spot, Pont des Arts Bridge, located near the Louvre. This bridge is well known for its collection of “lover’s locks” placed there by lovers from all over the world. Dan and I left our own lover’s lock in honor of our 3rd anniversary.
We walked by the Cathedrale Notre Dame De Paris, but did not visit due to the line of tourists wrapped around the building; so not our scene. We loved the area near the Eiffel Tour as we found amazing shops, patisseries, cheese shops and even a very small, almost fairytale-style bookstore called Shakespeare & Company. We found books of all kinds, stacked from floor to ceiling, indulging the most avid reader and the explorer spirits that Dan and I have in common.
We made personal connections with our local food and wine stops, one of our favorites was the café we found that very first cold morning called Le Bistrot De Peintre. At our first visit and the ones to follow, we were treated with kind respect and great food and wine. We enjoyed stopping there often, and when it came to near the end of our time in this city, we found ourselves at their door step… right where we began.
A wonderful thing happened as we found our same seat at the bar; the staff welcomed us in a more familiar way and asked us about our day’s adventures. Our bartender asked if we could find a really good radio station; he also spoke about a new wine he just ordered and proceeded to pour two glasses.
Dan found himself adjusting the radio dial, seeking what our bartender described as a “hip American station”, while I enjoyed my glass of seasonal Beaujolais wine. Dan and I quietly took in this moment of comfortable recognition as we had expressed great appreciation for their service, food, drink at every visit. We were served a delicious courtesy dish of local salumi and cheese while waiting for our table. I found myself feeling almost, dare I say, Parisian… Dan and I relished our last night and slowly came to terms with the concept of leaving this city behind.
Our last night in Paris we set out early as we had a 6am drive to Orly airport. We had our last dinner at a food spot close to our hotel; for dessert we shared the very best Paris has to offer, a traditional chocolat mousse with candied orange peel. They served it in a mini mason jar; we loved the deep, dark chocolate taste and slight sweetness complimented by the creamy texture and the added fresh bite of the candied orange peel. I am currently recreating this wonderful dessert and will share a recipe when it is tested and perfected.
Dan and I will hold this Paris trip in our hearts and memories forever, he brought a dream of ours to life and I can only hope to return the favor in kind (our next trip on the favorites list is Italia with our two girls.) This was my first trip to Paris but it is not the last, as Dan and I will walk in this City of Light again…
Nous vous aimons et nous vous remercions, ville de Paris, comme nous savons que nous allons vous revoir bientôt, belle dame voir
(We love you and thank you, City of Paris, we know we will see you again soon lovely lady.)
Note: Photography provided by Daniel J. Venditti & Annette L. Venditti