Happy Bastille Day!

I miss Paris. I think I must go back soon.  Perhaps permanently. Voulez-vous?

 

Cafe Campagne: Classic French Bistro Cuisine

Bagna Cauda

Last year Jim and I were invited to our friends’ sister’s wedding in India.  We were also invited to stay with our friends’ parents in Delhi for the festivities. 

At a Mehendi Party in India

We quickly fell in love with them and can’t wait to catch up every time they come to town.  We also use their visits as an excuse to try to repay a tiny slice of the hospitality they showed us in India.  

This visit we decided to take them to Cafe Campagne in Post Alley.  Having just returned from Paris, I was craving classic French food and French wine.  I wasn’t disappointed. Between the 6 of us we sampled a good part of the menu, including the regional prix-fixe which featured a hot, salty Bagna Cauda starter (crudites served with a hot anchovy sauce), a creamy Brandade, and a palate-cleansing fruit sorbet with tasty Marseilles cookies subtly flavored with orange flower water.  (For complete restaurant and food details, check out my full review here.)  From the roasted chicken to the lamb burger everyone declared their meal worthy and tucked in with relish and our friends tempted us with tales of places in India we have not yet seen. 

Jim and I haven’t decided where our next adventure will take us, but Southern India is suddenly very tempting.

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My First Falafel Was At L’AS

L'As Du Fallafel in Paris

If you like food and you’re going to Paris there are two sources everyone will recommend, Hungry for Paris by Alec Lobrano and David Liebovitz‘s blog “living the sweet life in Paris.”  While in Paris, they were my form of a foodie bible and they both were adamant that if you were in the Marais, you had to try L’AS Fallafel.

Our first Sunday in the Marais I didn’t heed the advice.  Kate and I were on an exploration and shopping mission and didn’t have time to eat.  The second Sunday, I was determined to try L’AS.  So, dragging my mom and Kate along, we headed to Rue de Rosiers and L’AS. 

There was a long line snaking from the window of L’AS down the Rue de Rosiers.  Our order was quickly taken, however, and we waited in anticipation for our falafel.  My first ever.

Now, my French is only good enough to order what I want and then stare blankly at any response.  I watched while a pita was opened and stuffed with lightly pickled red cabbage, salted cucumbers, creamy hummus, crispy chickpea fritters and harissa.  Somehow, through head shaking I managed to order extra spicy harissa on my falafel  and no extra on my mom’s – lucky for her as she does not like it hot.  

Fallafel by L'AS

With falafel in hand we wandered to a slightly less crowded side street and dug in, spilling cabbage and cucumbers at a rapid pace.  How was it?  Crunchy, creamy, crispy, spicy. . . in a word, delectable.

Me and My Fallafel

I suspect, however, that  L’AS has spoiled me for all other falafel . . .  I guess I’ll just have to go back to Paris.  Sigh ;)

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A Few of My Favorite Pics From Paris

More Paris posts to come but work is CRAZY right now.  SO, for today, here are a few of my favorite pics from my Paris trip.  My favorite is the tank in front of Christian Dior – love the juxtaposition.

I.M. Pei's Pyramid at the Louvre

I.M. Pei's Pyramid at the Louvre

Bastille Day

St. Sulpice

St. Sulpice

L'Opera Garnier

L'Opera Garnier

The Eiffel Tower

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Bastille Day Where It All Went Down

Bastille Day Parade in Paris

Bastille Day has been a favorite holiday of mine for years even though I’m not French and I don’t live in France.  Nonetheless, growing up, Bastille Day meant amazing rowdy brunches at French Bistros.  Pain perdu anyone?

Once Jim and I met, Bastille Day took on a whole new meaning and became “Best Deal Day.”  You see, the 6-month anniversary of our first date was Bastille Day and Jim sent flowers to me on that year and every year thereafter – until this one actually, hmmm. . . . But I digress.  The second time he sent me flowers the florist wrote “Happy Best Deal Day” instead of Bastille on the card.  It’s been our “Best Deal Day” ever since.

This year, however, I got to be where it all happened – Paris.

I found out through friends that there was a parade, then most people opted for lunch in the park and fireworks that night.  Visions of the Rose Parade filled my head.  As it turns out, the parade is a military parade, complete with flyover.  Even though there were to be no floats, Kate and I decided we definitely needed to check that out.

We headed to the metro bright and early (aka 9:30 am), found our stop closed, got off on the next, and followed the crowd.  All the while, the sky was an ominous looking grey.

We hadn’t eaten yet and figured we would find someplace on the way to the parade – wrong.  We did, however, find a great spot to watch the parade, right along the barricade.  After about 1/2 hour we were treated to a series of serious military flyovers.

Bastille Day Flyovers

We learned that the parade route split a ways up from where we were so we would only see 1/2 of the parade and Kate’s hopes of seeing President Sarkozy – who was leading the parade – were dashed.  It didn’t matter though, because after the third regiment passed us, the sky opened up and a full-scale deluge was unleashed.

Raincoat and umbrellaless, we made a dash for shelter and found it 50 feet away in the famed French teahouse Laduree – the Royale location.  Established in 1862, Laduree has been keeping its clients in tea, pastries and world-famous macarons ever since.

Laduree

We hustled in for breakfast and tea.  As Laduree filled up with rain-drenched clients, Kate and I pondered our tea choices.  We each ordered the Champs Elysee Breakfast – eggs (we ordered ours scrambled), your choice of freshly squeezed orange or grapefruit juice, a basket of mini-pastries, a fresh fruit salad and your choice of coffee, hot chocolate or tea.  I ordered the The Melange Laduree and Kate ordered the The Marie Antoinette, a blend of china teas mixed with essential oils of citrus fruit, rose and jasmine, scattered with dried bits of honey and fruit. 

Kate Taking Tea at Laduree

Kate Taking Tea at Laduree

The juice and pastries arrived first – a sampling of mini chocolate croissants, brioche con sucre (brioche with sugar crystals on top), and the classic croissant.  They were delicious and a perfect complement to the tea that swiftly arrived.  The eggs were not quite what we had in mind as they were soup like in texture (and served with a spoon).  The taste was good but the texture, which was cream of wheat like, was off-putting.  The fruit salad completed the meal as a perfect palate cleanser.  As we waited out the rain and enjoyed our breakfast we saw more military men and even tanks roll by.  

When we spotted a break in the rain we paid our bill, purchased some tea and pastries to go and dashed to the metro.  It was pouring again when we reached our stop at St. Sulpice. 

The rain had stopped by 9:00 pm and at 10:00 pm it was time to head down to the Eiffel Tower and the Champs de Mars for a fireworks spectacular.  We ended up heading to the middle of the Pont de Alexander III and waiting for the festivities to begin.  The show got underway around 11 pm and all I can say is WOW!

Bastille Day Fireworks

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Now I Know What It’s Like To Be Shot Out Of A Cannon

Disneyland Paris Castle 

My Mom’s must-do on her birthday trip to Paris?  Disneyland Paris (EuroDisney for those not aware of the name change).  Seriously.  

Growing up in Southern California – the birthplace of  Disneyland, McDonald’s and the Crystal Cathedral (you’re jealous, I know) – I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve been to Disneyland.  Disneyland Paris is the same and yet worlds apart from its American cousins.  For starters, Mickey speaks French and English, sometimes in succession, sometimes in a weird Frenglish. 

And those Europeans must really love their “un 360 loop” – that’s upside down loops to us Americans – because they have been snuck into most every coaster in Disneyland Paris and its companion park, Walt Disney Studios.  Have I mentioned that Kate and I je n’aime pas les 360 loops?  In fact, we’re not big roller coaster fans to start with, so you can imagine our surprise when we hit the “Rock n’Roller Coaster avec Aerosmith” and we’re treated to not 1, but 3 upside down loop-de-loops. 

Walt Disney Studios Paris Rock n' Roller Coaster avec Aerosmith

Walt Disney Studios Paris Rock n' Roller Coaster avec Aerosmith

Yep, that’s us in the back; yes, that pretty much sums it up; and yes, people were pointing and laughing at our photo at the exit.  So imagine our surprise when we headed over to the Disneyland Paris park, waited in line for good ole Indiana Jones “and the Temple of Peril” and found this: 

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Peril 

This is not my Indiana Jones ride.  And guess what?  It features “un 360 loop” – a fact we once again didn’t discover until we were past the point of not return. 

Feeling a bit nervous, we headed to some old favorites to note the Paris spin.  The Haunted Mansion – Phantom Manor – was both familiar and different, a perfect combo.  The theme of the bride and her disappearing husbands was creepy and while the Manor wasn’t as elaborate as the one in California, it was still impressive.

Disneyland Paris also took Sleeping Beauty’s Castle up a notch with stain glass windows of the story and a full-on animatronic dragon in the basement.  

In Walt Disney Studios, we were treated to the newest Disney ride, the “Crush Coaster” based on “Finding Nemo.”  The ride, which mimics the turtles’ ride in the East Australian Current was full of dips and spins and luckily loop free. 

Crush's Coaster, Walt Disney Studios Paris

Crush's Coaster

Feeling pretty confident after Pirates of the Caribbean (California’s ride in reverse) and Phantom Manor, we ended our day at Space Mountain – Mission 2, and that’s when we discovered what it was like to be shot out of a cannon. 

Disneyland Paris Space Mountain

Being Shot Out of a Cannon

And yes, they snuck in “un 360 loop.”  Merde. 

If you’re planning on making a trip to Disney Paris yourself: 

  • Ask about Student and Senior discounts, they had them when were there but they were not posted on the prices next to the ticket counters.  These discounts = big savings.  Kate’s student rate was 43 euros – 24 less than the normal adult price of 67 euros for a 1 day park hopper (2 park) pass.  The Senior rate was 53.
  • Buy your tickets at Walt Disney Studios, the line is a fraction of that at Disneyland Paris. 
  • Avoid eating at the “Blue Lagoon” – seriously bad, amazed we didn’t get food poisoning from seafood that was no where near fresh. 
  • If you’ve ever been to Universal Studios or MGM Studios, avoid the “Studio Tour” tram – a disappointment if you’ve seen the others which are much longer and more elaborate.

Also, there are fewer rides at the parks than at the ones in the States.  For example, instead of an Alice in Wonderland ride (like in California) Disneyland Paris has a labyrinth.  Instead of Mr. Toad’s Wild ride there’s Toad Hall restaurant.  But, you can drink wine in the park ;) 

Disneyland Paris

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Italian in Paris? Bien Sur!

Our flight to Paris left LAX at 9:45 pm (about half an hour behind schedule). We arrived a little over 10 hours later at 5:00 pm Paris time (9 hours ahead of the West Coast). I was extremely thankful that I had “splurged” and used more miles to obtain business class seats - that 180 degree “bed” and the extra, extra space makes a world of difference and actually allowed us to catch a little sleep (plus, this trip is a birthday present for my Mom and she deserves a little luxury in her life).

After picking up our bags, we procured a taxi and headed to the apartment that we would call home for the next 10 days.  Did I mention that is was 86 degrees when we landed?  Our 40 min taxi ride took 2 hours – 2 really hot and sticky hours with no AC – due to la circulation (traffic).  We arrived at our apartment in the 6th arrondissement, hot, tired and hungry but excited to be in Paris.  

After locating the fans in the apartment and getting them going (like Seattle, most people don’t have AC in Paris because it is largely unnecessary), we quickly showered, changed and headed to my favorite Italian restaurant in the areaYes, I said Italian.    

Italian may seem an odd choice for the first night of a Parisian vacation, but I knew from my trip with Jim in 2008 that the food was good, the service was friendly, and the restaurant, which is at the corner of Rue de St. Sulpice and Rue de Conde is mere blocks from the apartment.  When travel weary, a guaranteed good meal is a must.  

Unlike when Jim and I visited in January, at nearly 9:00 pm in July, Marco Polo was jam-packed.  We secured the last table, which fortunately was outside.  Shortly, thereafter a line for tables started. 

Being in Paris, we ordered a bottle of Valpolicello and un carafe d’eau to start our meal.  Both were brought with a plate of bread and bread sticks. 

We then got down to business with the entree du jour (appetizer of the day) – a braesolo domed above a mound of lightly dressed arugula and garnished with a lemon.  The dish looked so good, that we dug in before I remembered to take a picture, which was a shame because the presentation was gorgeous.

We then moved onto the main course – otherwise known as a “plat.”  I went with the server’s suggestion and ordered the Spaghetti Bartagga – a Sicilian dish of spaghetti flavored with parmesan and “fish” – I’m pretty sure the “fish” was sardines, and it was delicious.  

Spaghetti Bartagga at Marco Polo in Paris

Spaghetti Bartagga

Kate chose a simple ravioli with a sauce of fresh grape tomatoes, topped with parmesan.  I stole a bite and it was basic at its best.  Simple and flavorful so you could enjoy the savory taste of the pasta, the freshness and sweetness of the tomatoes and the creaminess of the cheese.   

Ravioli with Tomato Sauce at Marco Polo

Ravioli with Tomato Sauce

My mom went with an unpictured tagliatelle aux fromage, basically, quarto fromaggio.  One word – yum.  Okay two – cheese heaven.  This dish was so universally appealing that Kate and I both stole several bites.   

We ended our meal with a shared dessert of citron sorbetto – an icey treat very welcome on such a warm night.

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