Thursday, January 9, 2014

Bonjour Paris - Days One and Two

After dreaming about Paris forever, I finally made it.

We took it easy on our first day in Paris after taking the Eurorail from London.  Exploring the area around our hotel in the 2nd arrondissement was awe-inspiring.  I just loved walking around the streets and admiring the grand old buildings.  I can't believe the Parisians live and work in these structures every day.  Each corner you turn has a new piece of stunning architecture.

In the evening, we dined at Au Pied de Cochon - a legendary restaurant in Les Halles.  Au Pied de Cochon means foot of the pig.

I had made reservations through the internet for about half a dozen restaurants before we left to ensure we could eat at some of the best.

DH ordered the chocroute and I had scallops.

Some of the meat looked very...interesting, but DH said it was delicious.  Au Pied de Cochon specializes in using all of the pig.

I especially loved the little meringue pigs and the Creme Brulee.

Exploring the streets after dark was cold but a feast for the eyes.  That night we decided to get to bed early so we could start the next day at perhaps the most famous museum in the world.

The Louvre.  It was originally constructed as a fortress in the 12th century and over time and under various rulers, it transformed into a royal residence.  It has been a museum since 1793 (post revolution).  Louis XIV thought it was too cramped while he lived here.

We arrived at 9:30am, 30 minutes after it was supposed to open.  It didn't open until 9:45am.

Mona and me.  I have to admit that she's much smaller than I imagined, but looks pretty good for being over 500 years old.  We spent most of our time viewing the works of the Italian painters and Roman sculptors.  The pieces were so beautiful and the collections are massive. 

We spent about 2 hours here - we would have spent more time, but we were late in arriving, the Louvre was late in opening and we had lunch reservations.  It just wasn't enough time.  In fact, you could spend all day there and it wouldn't even be close to enough time.  The Louvre's art collection spans nearly 15 acres and has more than 35,000 pieces.

Lovely tiny street in Saint Germain des Pres.

One of the most famous cafes in Paris - Allard.  You must get reservations to dine here - it was hands down my favorite meal in Paris.

DH eating escargots.

Mmmmmm, DH's delicious pork belly with lentils.  I had turbot with bernaise sauce.  We both had red wine.

The most heavenly desserts - Creme Brulee and Il Flotante.  We finished the meal with cups of espresso.

With our tummies full and happy, we made our way to the Ile de la Cite to see Sainte Chapelle - commonly called a 'jewel box 'of a cathedral due to it's stunning stained glass windows.  It is a beautiful example of Gothic architecture.

The interior is incredibly ornate and truly breathtaking.

There are 15 tall stained glass windows that each depict stories from a book of the Bible.  You have to see it to appreciate it - the photos don't capture the exquisite artistry.

I just love a gilded gate.

Just one of the many bridges over the Seine. Sigh.

There she is - Notre Dame.  This cathedral had the most intricate carvings incorporated in the architecture, including saints, disciples, the Virgin Mary and more.

The interior was gorgeous with tall columns and romantic chandeliers.  The cathedral had many sections dedicated to different saints where you could light a candle and pray to your preferred one.  I am not Catholic, so this was all very interesting to me.  There were also ornately carved confessionals.

Construction on Notre Dame was initiated by Pope Alexander III in 1163.  As an American, it's amazing to see buildings of this age and beauty that are still in operation.

Shakespeare and Company book store in the Latin Quarter - an area that has been celebrated for many years as the intellectual heart of Paris.

Inside Shakespeare and Company - such a cool book store!  I bought nicely-bound copies of The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Romeo & Juliet and Les Miserables that the store stamped with their bookplate.  These are among my most treasured souvenirs.

And as the night fell, the Christmas tree in front of Notre Dame lit up in all its glory, celebrating the birth of Christ at an iconic place of worship.  Unforgettable.

We explored the streets of the Left Bank until it was time for dinner at Le Procope.  This restaurant was founded in 1686.  They've had over 300 years to perfect their cuisine.

Let me set the scene for you a bit.  After a gracious welcome, we are seated at the bar downstairs while our table is prepared.  I'm asked if I would like an aperitif.  Absolutely I do.  What would I like?  Champagne, if you please.  Tres bien, madame.
Then I drink the most delicious champagne.  How wonderful, I say.
It was only later that I discovered I had imbibed in a $30 glass of Ruinart champagne.
When in Paris?

Then, in their marvelous dining room, we enjoyed a lovely supper together.

Coq au vin.  DH says my execution of Julia Child's recipe is better, but this was also yummy.

What a perfect day in Paris! C'est magnifique!

1 comment:

  1. Bonjour! J'adore Paris!
    It looks like you had a great Paris experience. Love your choice of restaurants. C'est magnifique!