It’s now time to leave Paris…. it’s been a great couple of days and the weather has been magnifique! I’m sitting at the airport writing this last entry for our trip because we got back from dinner too late last night.
Our last day…. what can I say. I stayed up late the other night with the blog and Faceboook and got many nice responses on the pictures from Tielt and Lokeren – in fact, I got responses as I was posting them. We really had a great time and enjoyed the entire time. As a result, we got up late this morning and didn’t hit the streets until 10:30. Anyway, it was a beautiful morning and I captured some great pictures as we went from the Champs-Élysées, to the Left Bank, and back to the 9th arrondissement. Here are a few:
We rested a bit and then got ready for dinner. We couldn’t do the special birthday dinner for Rich on Monday because most of the high end restaurants are closed on Monday. We had an outstanding dinner at Le Cinq which is in the Four Seasons George V Hotel – it was magnificent! The entire hotel is beautiful but the restaurant itself is a work of art – the service was superb and the food divine. We had the prix fixe and were there from 8pm until almost midnight! Wow – I think that’s a record for us. Here are a few pictures from the evening.
We had a wonderful vacation and it’s now time to get back to reality. This trip was very special in so many ways. We visited so many great places – Paris, London, St. Emilion, Mont St. Michel, Honfleur, the Normandy sites, Maastricht, Antwerp. We also had a memorable time with my family in Belgium. Monique and Eddy were outstanding hosts the entire time and attending the christening of Julie was also a highlight.
Monique, Eddy, Bart, Mariam, Sophie, Tom – heel erg bedankt voor een goede, goede tijd!
So now it’s the end of the story. There are many memories and some beautiful pictures. I hope that everyone who has followed the blog enjoyed the commentary and photos. I’ll end with a couple of night time shots of the Eiffel Tower – what a magnificent city Paris is. Adieu!
We left Maastricht early this morning after having our typical Dutch breakfast at one of the cafes. Those of you on Facebook already saw this picture but I wanted to include it in the blog.
When we left Maastricht, we had no problems getting out of the city and immediately into Belgium – it’s very close. Of course, the rain started as soon as we hit the main highway…. at times, extremely hard. We made a slight detour because I wanted to drive by Bobbejaanland – it’s now a major theme park like Knott’s Berry Farm but when I graduated from college, I worked here for several months. That was before it became a theme park. When I worked there, I waited on tables and had a great time.
We drove directly to our hotel in Antwerp – well, not necessarily directly because I missed the first cue that Marie gave me and as a result, we had to drive right through the middle of the city. It’s a tough city to drive in because of the numerous tram tracks and the number of one way streets. The hotel is wonderful. It’s a small boutique hotel right in the middle of Antwerp and it’s where we stayed 10 years ago. It’s called De Witte Lelie (the white lily). Here are a few pictures of the room and the hotel in general.
We spent the rest of the afternoon cafe hopping and enjoying the sites. We were lucky because the rain had stopped but the sky was gloomy most of the afternoon. Here are some of the sites:
I should tell you that even though we had a hearty breakfast this morning, we still had lunch when we arrived in Antwerp. I had mussels with french fries and Rich had a croque monsieur – a couple of beers with them naturally. You can see that we haven’t necessarily stayed on any healthy diets while on vacation. We’ll have to deal with that when we get home. Meanwhile, we went back to the hotel, rested, and got ready for dinner. Rich wanted Italian so the hotel recommended a great Italian restaurant that was extremely busy and noisy – a lot of fun. Again, the languages were all screwed up. For some reason, there was French mixed with Flemish mixed with Italian. I’m not really sure what language I ordered in but it was all part of the fun. We had to wait a long time to order, to get our food, and wait between courses. But, Faisal, you would have been happy because we had plenty of bread, olive oil, and red wine to keep us content. Here’s what we had:
After all that food it was time to take a little walk – we finished dinner at 10pm and then walked around the city and back to the hotel. Here are some nighttime shots of Antwerp:
That’s it for tonight. We had a great first day in Antwerp and are looking forward to our experiences tomorrow. Let’s hope we don’t eat as much as we did today!
We left Honfleur this morning and drove the 4 1/2 hours to Maastricht – most of it via the autoroute and a lot of it with tolls attached. All in all, it worked out great but still a lengthy drive. As we approached Maastricht, the rain came down in such torrents that I was forced to drive at about 20-30 miles per hour…. it was torrential. As we got into Maastricht, the rain stopped and Marie was able to get us right to the hotel – I finally figured out how to input not just a city but an address as well. Remember, Marie only understands French.
Maastricht is a very pretty city that sits on the banks of the Maas river. It’s a very old city and one filled with cobble stone streets. Here are a few pictures of the Town Hall and St. Stefaan Basilica:
The hotel is a very interesting hotel. It’s located in a previous monastery that dates back several centuries and was updated as a very trendy hotel. It’s a strange combination of ancient and ultra modern at the same time. It’s a very nice hotel with all of the necessary amenities but still has a very peculiar identify…. Rich and I really like it.
I hope the fresco is not visible at night…. it might scare me!
We wanted something different for dinner tonight so we went to an Italian restaurant called Il Giardino. The Italian owner served us and gave a very special treatment for some reason. We had a great meal and the ambience was intense and with a lot of good vibes – a very strange mixture of Dutch and Italian… who would have guessed….
Not sure what tomorrow will bring but that’s all for tonight.
Today was a rest day. We spent the entire day looking around Honfleur and enjoying the town by foot. Today was also market day and the streets were filled with vendors of all types – vegetables, meat, seafood, flowers, cheese, and other merchandise as well. We spent the morning walking through the various stands and examining the goods. Here’s a small selection:
I also took some more pictures of the harbor this morning…. this time without many of the boats there. Although it looked as though it were going to rain all morning, it didn’t and I think the light was good. What do you think?
We had lunch in town…. very simple, I had oysters to start with mussels and french fries and Rich had entrecôte steak with fries. We sat next to a British family that was vacationing in the area – mom and dad with two kids from London, his mother from Scotland and his great uncle from Australia. Turned out that his great uncle comes here all the time because he was part of the unit that liberated the first bridge – Pegasus Bridge – during the D Day invasion. It was fascinating to hear that. He’s always welcomed as a hero when he visits – it was great.
It started to rain so we walked back to the hotel. As it turned out, it would rain the rest of the day without much let up. Not too much of a problem today because we were intending to rest today anyway.
We had one of our last gourmet meals tonight at the hotel restaurant. It was great. I, of course, took a few pictures of the food and the restaurant itself:
We leave tomorrow morning for Maastricht in the Netherlands. We’ll back to France in another week or so. Our journey continues.
Saint Emilion is a very special place…. I’m so glad that we came here and that the weather was perfect throughout our stay. Rich mentioned the other day that Saint Emilion reminded him of the place where the movie Chocolat took place…. it has very much the same feel and magical quality. Today we spent most of the day relaxing and walking around the city. I did two strenuous activities in the morning…. climbing the stairs of the church steeple and then climbing the steps of the tower of the king. Both were extremely high with very narrow and dark steps that went in a circular pattern. I only encountered one person coming down while I was ascending and we had to rearrange our camera bags so that we could both squeeze by – very narrow. But the views from the top were incredible and it was such a beautiful day. So here are some of the steps along the way and the views from above.
On the way to the King’s Tower, there was a very beautiful street scene that I wanted to capture and kept getting frustrated because people would enter the picture. I finally got the shot I wanted when all of a sudden this man appeared from a doorway and entered the scene. He stepped back into the doorway because he could see me taking a picture. It’s funny because you can still see his stomach sticking out of the doorway. I have one without the stomach but I thought this one was unique.
Here are a few shots from the tower:
The dinner tonight was at the Hostellerie de Plaisance, the hotel we are staying at. Philippe Etchebest is a Grand Chef of France and presents an incredible meal for all of his guests. We started by sitting out on the terrace and selecting all of your meal selections. We went a la carte with only 3 courses – starter, main course, cheese and dessert… well I guess that’s really four. Anyway, you make all of your selections before you enter the dining room. The process is very formal and you have a glass of champagne while you’re selecting… of course. Once you enter the dining room, there are no longer any menus or choices to be made. And everything arrives like clock work. Our meal was outstanding beginning with several amuse bouches, a starter – Rich had an egg dish with Spanish ham along the side and I had the most humongous oyster I’ve ever seen. One oyster cooked in coconut milk that filled the plate – delicious but very strange looking. We both had Brittany lobster that was de-shelled table side.
There was a slight problem with the desserts. They mistakenly gave Rich the strawberry dessert although he had ordered the chocolate dessert. As a result, they gave him both. On top of that, they brought me another dessert for my birthday with fireworks and all – literally, there was a huge sparkler on the display. The chef came to the table and started applauding and everyone in the room applauded – it was great.
And then a picture with the chef….
It was a great ending to our stay in Saint Emilion. As I said, it’s a very special little village with a prestigious wine history and a very comfortable feel. I would definitely come back.
We head off tomorrow very early because we have a long drive from here to Dinard in the north of France. See you there.
We left London at 8:50 on the Eurostar from St. Pancras Train Station. Here are a couple of pics from the station – notice the Olympic rings:
We arrived in Paris and went back to our original hotel and enjoyed the bottle of champagne we’d gotten when we first arrived….. had to get ready for Joel Robuchon!
Our reservations at L’Atelier Joel Robuchon were for 6:30pm – a little early for us but that’s all that they offer on a reservation basis. It was on the other side of the Seine and traffic was horrific. I wanted to be there just a little bit late but not lose our reservation! Not to worry, everything worked out fine. This was to be my first birthday dinner…. there are many to follow, trust me!
Everything was outstanding. We ordered several small courses somewhat like tapas style. We were able to take some hints from those around us and everyone was fairly fluent in English…. although honestly sometimes it’s really hard to understand them because of the accent. Anyway, we sat next to a family of four from New York – lived in Connecticut. They had two small girls and a dog…. can you believe it? Taking small children (they were probably 4-6 years old) and a dog into a restaurant like this??? We loved it. They were a great couple – she spoke French fluently since she was born in Paris and he was of Belgian descendant… can’t get any better than that! Anette, I took their picture just to show you that even Raya could have a good time at Robuchon.
We had a variety of different plates – all were exquisite…. here they are:
The mashed potatoes are honestly magical… you’ve never had anything quite as delicate from a potato. Evidently everyone asks for them when they come here and I’m so glad that I knew to order them.
Last but not least – the desserts…..
It probably seems like a lot of food but it actually was just right. I first had my doubts about a counter offered French gourmet meal but it was an outstanding experience and actually a lot of fun. Not stuffy… not pretentious… excellent food…. and a good time. I won’t mention how many euros we offered to alleviate the European financial crisis – Angela Merkel would be proud!
I’m a little sorry to leave Paris in the morning but we’ll be back in another week or so. What a great city and one that always continues to shine from my perspective. We leave tomorrow early to board the train to Bordeaux. I can’t wait to see what lies ahead.
If you read my blog, please take a moment to share a comment…. if nothing else than to say that you were here. Hope you enjoy!
First full day in Paris and what a day! It started by raining just a little – just enough to get the streets wet and to muggy up the weather…. boy was it hot and muggy! The temperature was 85 degrees, it felt like 90 and the humidity was oppressive. But hey…. it’s Paris so it can’t be too bad, right?
We had 12:30 reservations at Jules Verne on the 2nd floor of the Eiffel Tower. We wore jackets so that we looked the part and took Metro to the nearest station – still a hefty 30 minute walk in the noon day sun. But what a treat! The experience was truly amazing and lived up to every expectation I had imagined. I’ve included a small gallery of everything we ate:
First a glass of champagne – bien sur!
A little Amuse Bouche 0f orange, salmon and a little asparagus
A starter of veal layers in an aspic sauce
John Dory over a bed of shaved fennel and tomatoes
A raspberry/chocolate square
A side order of macaroons a la Jules Verne
Here’s a picture of the place setting and the marvelous butter they serve with the logo on top:
A special note to Adrienne: Yes, we have eaten a lot but remember this blog is about food and other things as well – you’re going to see a lot of food.
Special note to Anette: here is the watercolor we found for you along the Seine…. oops, what no Eiffel Tower… c’est dommage!
And now just a few pics to capture the rest of the day. Gotta get some sleep because we’re catching an early train to London. A bientot!
We arrived without a hitch and had a wonderful flight on the Air France Airbus A380 – what a machine! We boarded the plane via several ramps that led us directly into Business Class which was the overhead portion of the plane. It took off like a rocket ship without a sound – it was truly amazing. And the seats were incredible! We were able to recline totally flat so that we were able to sleep fairly well. Here’s a small preview of our dinner meal:
Lobster salad with a mango chutney in center.
Chicken fricassee Beef Tornadoes
Notice the real silverware!!!
Here’s a picture of our little neighbor on board who was a champ throughout the flight and never sounded a peep:
We arrived on time and took a taxi to our hotel – it took a long time because of the traffic. The hotel, Hyatt Madeleine, is new and very comfortable – are we really in Paris??? Everyone is helpful and speaks English. There was a problem tonight with the drapes that we never noticed and they left a very nice bottle of champagne for us – mon dieu!
We had to have a couple of beers at the Cafe de la Paix – it’s a tradition for us and a landmark in Paris. It looks upon the old Opera Garnier so I couldn’t resist this wonderful view of the opera house with the cafe logo in the forefront:
After resting a bit, we had a very nice dinner at the Royal Madeleine bistro – very authentic French and not touristy at all.
Bienvenue en France and what a wonderful welcome it was….. this is just the first day so stay tuned!