My weekend in Rouen

Panoramic view of Rouen

Hello everyone. I had a great time in Rouen, Normandy – the place where they make all that fantastic camembert cheese! I met up with a friend of mine who is currently doing his post doc at a nearby university and he showed me around downtown Rouen. He lives in the old part of town that holds a lot of history. He told me about the history of the town, showed me the square where Joan of Arc was burned at the stake, visited the local food markets and took me up to the lookout where you can view a panoramic view of the city.

Afterwards we were joined by a group of his friends and went out for dinner at a local place – La Petite Bouffe. I had a leek crumble with nuts and compté cheese, a grilled duck breast with carrots and potatoes followed by a wonderful salted caramel panna cotta for dessert. All for 19 euros! Oh, I also had an apertif of Kir (something that my friend recommended I try) which is blackcurrent syrup with white wine. Pas mal! (not bad). One major difference I noticed between the city of Rouen and Paris is that Paris feels international with the variety of people and ethnic backgrounds that live there. Not so much in the city of Rouen. However, the people of Rouen I found to be more friendly (which is usually the case in smaller cities).

I’ve used the phrase “Paris feels like a French New York City” (which people don’t find offensive – they love New York City). So here I was in the town of Rouen, asking the gentleman at the fromagerie and boucherie questions about their products and feeling quite comfortable. My french language skills are enough to get by but not good enough to have a full out conversation. But the vendors were more than happy to try to explain things to me. The town of Rouen is very pretty, with a lot of history, rolling hills, beautiful landscapes and the Seine River. We went up and took advantage of the sunny day (it rains all the time in Normandy apparently) and took in a panoramic view of the city. What a nice place! It was really nice to get away from the hustle and bustle of Paris and go somewhere more laid back.

Local market in Rouen

Having dinner with the locals was such a treat. Although I couldn’t follow the majority of the dinner conversation (as they spoke in French) there were parts that I did pick up or were able to contribute to thanks to a couple people who could speak English (another thing I noticed is that most people can speak basic-intermediate English in France. There are some other people who are a bit more advanced with their English – usually because they’ve had more opportunity to practice it). One thing that I noticed earlier in the day was that there are so many wonderful flower markets in Rouen (flowers are very affordable here too). My friend made a joke that it’s because everyone cheats in France so they have to buy flowers to say they’re sorry. He had me going for quite a bit because I had heard a rumour about open marriages in the past. I had always wondered if this was true or not because it is something that I had heard of (although I don’t know where I had originally heard this). So I took the opportunity to ask the local French people if having ‘open marriages’ was actually true in France or just a misconception. The answer…..

dinner in Rouen

Having dinner with the locals

…it is, in fact, a misconception! They said it can happen, but it’s not really approved of just like anywhere else. It might be talked about it in the open more but it’s still not approved, whereas in North America it is very taboo to do or even talk about. They think the rumour might have stemmed from a philosopher who was visiting France (can’t remember his name) and somehow the idea spread to North America and it was considered posh. But modern day France is not like that.

Now, I don’t think a trip is really complete without having one truly local experience. Having said that I really should be careful what I wish for. What followed after dinner was a house party consisting of 30 people who lived in the city of Rouen. My friend really wanted me to come because it would be “such a great experience for me while visiting France other than the museums and food”. My friend who has been living in Rouen for 6 months, first found accommodations by CouchSurfing. It just so happened, that the day I was visiting Rouen, that a couch surfer he knew was throwing a party within the couch surfing community at his place. So the group of us made our way after dinner to his house where the party was happening. I don’t think I have ever seen so much wine and booze at a party before! I tried several (all good – and cheap too!) You can buy wine at the grocery store, corner store or department store starting at 4 euros and it all tastes decent.

bunny drinking bourbon

Bourbon drinking bunny

I had a chance to talk to several people (most of whom could speak a bit of English) which was very nice of them. They didn’t mind speaking English to me at all. I asked them where they learned their English and most of them learned it in school or were born in other European countries where it was spoken. But there were others who also watched a lot of American television and sitcoms (How I Met Your Mother came into the conversation at one point). I had originally planned to catch the 7:05am train the next morning but that wasn’t going to happen. After several attempts to leave (the French are very hospitable) and a variety of phrases muttered by me – “Je veux couchez” which later became “Je veux dormir, Je doit dormir, Je veux allez maintenant” I finally left the party at 3am. They even explained the slight (but very important) difference between the verb coucher (to go to bed) and dormir (to sleep). Good information to know to avoid any possible misinterpretation! I didn’t get back to my friend’s apartment until 3am  – so much for catching the 7am train the next morning. That’s okay. Pas de problème. I can just catch the next one. But what a great experience it was! The people from Rouen know how to let loose and have fun (and they are all so friendly). What a great memory to have of France.

Heading up to Normandy

Bonjour mes amis!

Just sending a quick note to let you know that I’ll be MIA for a couple days since I’m heading up to Normandy for the weekend to visit a friend of mine who is living in Rouen. I’m going to check out Rouen and then stop by Giverny on my way back to see Monet’s gardens. I will be back on Monday and will update you all on my weekend adventure at that time.

À bientôt!

Eurostar train

Soufflé class

dessert souffleI had so much fun cooking at my Cordon Bleu classes that I really wanted to take another cooking class while in Paris – this time at a more casual institute called La Cuisine Paris. This is a boutique cooking school located in the Marais that offers English speaking classes (mostly to tourists) that focus on a traditional french food (eg. macarons, croissants, pain au chocolate, baguettes and breads, market tours and soufflés). At first I was interested in taking the boulangerie course (where you learn how to make croissants, pain au chocolate and brioche and which is very popular) but it was sold out and I noticed it was only 3 hours. Having made croissants from scratch before, I know that it doesn’t take 3 hours to make them (it takes the whole day) and the website even says that things are prepped before hand. So I decided to sign up for a the souffle course – something that I really haven’t had a lot of practice making. I tried making a chocolate soufflé once but not having eaten a lot of soufflés in my day, I wasn’t sure if it turned out right or not.

I could not have picked a better course! We learned how to make a carrot and cheese soufflé and a grande marnier soufflé. There were 9 of us in the class so we split up into two teams with one team making the savory soufflé and another team making the dessert soufflé. Turns out I would be cooking the Grande Marnier soufflés with a family visiting Paris for their first time for a week (a mom, her two daughters and their aunt) from the California Bay area. The whole class was American (except for me). The other people in the class were from New York, Washington, DC and Seattle.

I couldn’t have asked for a better team. I could instantly tell that these ladies knew their stuff, were comfortable with weighing ingredients, beating egg whites and folding. I can’t say the same for the other team (who stirred their mixture instead of folding and spent an hour pushing cooked carrots through a tamis (I am totally going to buy one of those when I get back – I thought it was only used for sifting but you can also use it to puree).

souffles in oven

Overall the class was a lot of fun but it was definitely geared towards the “hobby/home cook”. Also, it felt a little bit like a production line because the chef had to clear us out for another class that was scheduled later on in the afternoon. But I am still glad that I took it. I have to say that the soufflés turned out perfect – they were beautiful! Yay team!

Another great thing is that after the class they provided us with a map of food places in the neighbourhood and a coupon for 10% off at a kitchen supply store called E. Dehillerin (apparently Julia Child would purchase cooking equipment there). Of course because there were locals who worked there, I picked their brains about how the Velib bikes work (Bixi’s European cousin) and where they got the bread that was served in class (it was delicious). Turns out, they got the bread from the same bakery (Au Petite Versailles du Marais) that I frequent. I have been having nothing but good luck when it comes to food on this trip!

bakery around the corner

Chef Randall was fun. He was telling us all these stories about when he cooked at a Chateau for a countess and how there were ghosts in the castle. He also met Julie Child when he was cooking for an event. He’s even written a book called “Cooking for Joy” (the countess’s name was Joy) about his experiences. That’s the second chef I’ve come across who has cooked at a castle. It sounds like the cooking culture is indeed, a lot different than in North America.

Spring in Paris – the neo bistro

Jardin du Palais RoyalFinally – a sunny day in Paris! It’s been a mix of clouds and showers since I arrived so I was so happy to wake up to blue skies this morning. Today started off with a Paris Walks – Fashion Tour that I signed up for which, to be honest, ended up being a bit disappointing. I was expecting them to talk about the original house of Chanel, Prada and the Louis Vuitton museum but instead the tour was about the history of fashion during the time of King Louis XIV. Seriously?! I was expecting something more along the lines of The Devil Wears Prada and instead I got Marie Antoinette. Oh well. C’est la vie.

However, I did make it to the Rodin Museum, l’hôtel des Invalides, the army museum (which was actually quite cool) and Napoleon’s Tomb. But the real highlight of today, was going out to dinner with a couple of my friends from Toronto who were passing by through Paris on their way to Prague. I made a reservation (or rather, I asked my french speaking friend to call in a reservation a week ago from Toronto) at a neo bistro called Spring. Only offering one dinner seating at 8:30pm Tuesday-Saturday, there is no printed menu because the chef basically decides what the menu is going to be on that day (depending on which ingredients are in season and available).

Okay, I know a lot of my friends at home really want to know what the meal was like so I have provided a list of what we had (complete with pictures). I was fully living up to the Asian stereotype of taking pictures of food (which I don’t do very often) so I hope you guys enjoy it.

Deep fried/breaded blood sausage, trout, a white sauce with trout roe and horseradish (for dipping the trout),  asparagus with cream sauce and fresh turnips.

Apertifs

Mackeral prepared Japanese style (grilled – crispy skin while still raw in centre – similar to how you would prepare Ahi tuna steaks) with fois gros, veal jus and asparagas spear.

Mackerel

Breaded and fried lamb sweet breads with lobster mousse and mint (this was absolutely delicious!)

Sweetbreads

Duck with fois gros (also delicious!)

Duck with fois gros

Cheese plate – camembert, brie (I think), goat cheese and a blue cheese called Blue d’Auvergne. I don’t normally like blue cheese but I asked for the name of it because it tasted so good.

Cheese plate

Goat milk sorbet with hazelnuts, strawberries with chantilly cream and meringue crisps (so good!)

Strawberries with goat milk sorbet

Prailine gelato

Praline gelato

Coconut cookies and truffles

Coconut cookies and truffles

Sorry if the descriptions are a little uncreative but there is no printed menu so I’m going off what the waiter/waitress said (in their mixture of french/english) and by memory after a couple glasses of wine. This meal did not disappoint. It was sublime! Tasting menus are definitely special occasions because haute cuisine doesn’t come cheap. The 7 course tasting menu costs 70 euros (but I can appreciate how much work goes into each dish). We each had two glasses of wine and the small cheese plate (which we shared because we were so full) was an additional 12 euro. I insisted on the cheese plate because the cheeses in France are different than what we get in Canada (and of course I had to get another glass of wine to go with it).

WineOh ya, the wine was EXCELLENT! I also asked for the name of the wine I had and found out that it only costs 8 euro per bottle and they ship internationally. Woo hoo! All in all, the dinner came out to just under 110 euros. Yikes! But it was worth it (and still cheaper than what I paid at Lumiere in Vancouver with Chef Rob Feenie (before it closed down). This dinner wasn’t without a couple surprises, however. Blood sausage and sweet breads are both things that I don’t eat on the best of days but when you have a tasting menu you have no choice. But they were both delicious! I guess anything can taste good if you deep fry it!

Also, based on my Edible Adventures in Paris guidebook, it lists the tasting menu of consisting of 4 items and costing 36 euros (the tasting menu that night consisted of 6 plates and costed 70 euros). It also says that the restaurant is located in the 9th arr. (which is where they used to be located until they moved to the 1st arr. two years ago). Sadly, this is something that I found out that night after walking up the hill to the old location in Pigalle for my reservation which was at 8:30pm. That made for quite the adventure of trying to find the correct address, calling the restaurant (which has a pre-recorded message most of the time) and hailing a cab knowing full well that my friends were at the restaurant waiting for me. Thank goodness for my iPhone! I eventually made it to the new location and my friends, in the meantime, had befriended an American couple from Miami who were celebrating their sixth year anniversary. We all had a great evening of dinner conversation sitting around the family style table. Definitely a great evening despite the bumpy start!

April showers bring…busy days at the museum

Okay, so now that my Cordon Bleu classes are done, it’s time to really explore and enjoy Paris. I have a hit list of places that I want to go to while I’m here and the last two days consisted of going to the Notre Dame, Sainte-Chapelle, the flower market on Île de la Cité, Champs-Élysées, the Arc de Triomphe, the Louvre and Musée d’Orsay.

Of course while at the Louvre, I had to make the obligatory visit to the Mona Lisa. I’ve always heard that the Mona Lisa is tiny so I actually wasn’t that disappointed when I saw her (I was pretty much expecting her to be the size of a postage stamp by this point). To be honest, I’m not much of a museum person but it is the Louvre so I just can’t cannot go. However, I have to say that I liked the Musée D’Orsay even more. The Musée d’Orsay, Impressionist museum turned out to be a wonderful surprise (probably because I’m more familiar with Impressionist paintings). Thanks to the Museum Pass, I got to bypass the line (which was over an hour long and in the pouring rain – sucks to be them). I was in-and-out in less than an hour. Saw some Van Goghs, Reniors, Degas’ and Monets – I’m good!

Museum D'OrsayIs it bad to say that I thought the most interesting part of the museum is that it’s actually a converted train station? How cool is that?! Another thing that I found interesting is that there were signs everywhere saying no photography but people were taking pictures everywhere. The signs also said no eating. I saw people eating! But I really adored the space. The main floor actually felt like a public meeting place with people scattered about sitting among the statues. Or maybe it’s because there were so many tourists loitering. Either way, I thought Musée d’Orsay was great!

Okay, so a couple things I’ve noticed since being on the tourist circuit: All the tours start to come in at around 10:30am and there are ALOT of them. The scene can be totally calm and then within 15 minutes there are HUNDREDS of people rolling in. It pays to be a keener and beat the crowds by arriving early. The other thing I noticed is that it is totally worth it to buy a Museum Pass (if you plan on seeing several sights). This pass gets you into the Priority Line which is practically always empty and it gives you in and out privileges over several days. It’s turning out to be an extremely helpful tip that the tour guide told me about when I did the walking tour the other day. (although talking to other tourists while waiting in line ups can sometimes be fun. I got a recommendation the other day to visit Madrid, Toledo and Seville if I ever decide to go to Spain. They said Barcelona doesn’t count. Haha!)

The butter in Paris

Butter with sea saltI finally had a moment to purchase a baguette to go with the fancy handmade butter (made with raw milk and flecks of sea salt) that I had bought at the Fromagerie during the Market Tour Class that I took at Cordon Bleu. The butter did not disappoint. It had such a great creaminess to it and carried a lot of flavour! So it really is true what they say – the butter does taste better in France.

Why is this? I later found out that it’s because European butter has a higher fat content than North American butter (82% vs. 80%).

I used to think that butter was used mostly for texture and a carrier of flavours since the butter I’m used to has a very subtle taste. But the butter that I bought in Paris really tastes like butter – you can taste the buttery flavour. Mind you, the butter I bought at the market happened to be a handmade butter which isn’t typical of the regular butter that you would find at most grocery stores. But having said that, when it comes to spreading bread on a baguette, handmade butter is the way to go! It’s creamy and the flavour is smooth and pronounced (helped out even more by the sea salt). I figure that this specialty butter would be the equivalent of the various types of sea salts and olive oils that people are seeing on the market now. Not to be used in cooking, these ingredients are just meant to be used for a ‘finishing touch’. Otherwise, it really is a waste of money.

Butter aisle at Lafayette Gourmet

Butter aisle in Paris

But the fact that you can get all these different kinds of butters (half salted, soft, cultured, raw milk, with ‘crunchy’ sea salt, etc) in Paris had me floored. Is there such as thing as artisanal butter? I even tried a more standard butter called Echiré to try to make a more fair comparison to the butter I’m used to in Canada. Echiré tastes similar to the butter back in Canada but is a little smoother and the flavour is a little more obvious. Again probably due to the higher fat content (amazing what a difference an extra 2% can make). However, all the varieties with the butters probably also have to do with what the cows eat. Perhaps there’s something in the grass or maybe it’s the salt since France is close to the ocean. I can see why the French aren’t huge fans of margarine. Eating margarine in France must be such a huge insult to butter.

Does all this good food have to do with the fact the French culture resolves so much around food that would encourage the use of different types of butter and different types of salt based on what it’s being used for? Or does it have to do with the way that the produce their milk in Normandy? Or is it a cultural thing? Or the fact that so much of France’s food supply is tightly regulated (something that I really appreciate). Or perhaps butter is to France as olive oil is to Italy and soy sauce is to China. Is it really fair to compare it to what we have in Canada?

Update…

Okay, so I’m not crazy. David Lebovitz has a post on French butter! Sadly, I didn’t have a chance to try the one he recommended – le Beurre Bordier.

I’ll have to add this on my list of things to try the next time I’m in Paris.

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Being back in Canada for three weeks now I can attest to the fact the butter here does not taste the same. It tastes bland (some people even say plasticky) and it doesn’t taste as creamy.

However, I did manage to find “European style” butter at St Lawrence Market the other day that has a whopping 84% fat (similar to the butter in France). Woo hoo! I can’t wait to try it.

Easter chocolate sculptures

It’s Easter weekend in Paris which means that many chocolate shops have wonderful displays of chocolate sculptures in their store windows. Some are truly amazing and make me wonder if they taste as good as they look. Of course I decided that I would try one. The nicest ones that I’d seen were from a shop called Maison Georges Larnicol. There are a variety of sculptures to choose from and they range in price from 10 to 45 euro depending on size.

Lanicol chocolate sculptures

Le Maison du Chocolat also makes chocolate sculptures but I personally don’t find them to look as interesting as the ones by Maison Georges Larnicol. When I saw the chocolate sculptures at Maison Georges Larnicol on Thursday, I vowed to myself that I would take full advantage of the timing of it being Easter in Paris and buy my first ever chocolate sculpture from France. However, by the time I got to Maison Georges Larnicol after my Cordon Bleu classes, everything in the store was GONE!!! The store shelves were completely cleared out! It literally looked like someone had come in the middle of the night and taken everything. The store had been completely packed full of them just two days ago!

But as luck would have it, the bakery around the corner from my apartment happened to carry a few of his items and I managed to get my hands on a small Easter sculpture that consisted of a small flower pot with three eggs in it (every single part is made out of chocolate). Chocolate sculptures aren’t cheap though. My little flower pot costed 13 euro. Larger ones go for 25-35 euro and the ones at Le Maison du Chocolate start at 55 euro and go up to 590 euro. But you know what? It tastes even better than it looks!

mini chocolate sculpture

My mini flower pot chocolate sculpture. (I just ate the pink spotted egg and it was filled with caramel!)

The chocolate in Paris

One of the first things I was exposed to when I arrived in Paris was the amazing chocolate shops. It was Easter weekend and many of them had their Easter chocolate sculptures on display. I had never seen such amazing looking chocolate sculptures in all my life! They were all different shades of colors as if they had each been hand painted (perhaps that is the case, who knows)! I decided that I could not leave Paris without taking advantage of the timing and buy my own chocolate sculpture and was trying to decide which shop to buy one from. La Maison du Chocolate was a chocolate store that came  highly recommended from my “Edible Adventures in Paris” guidebook along with my newly acquired “Le Cordon Bleu – Welcome to Paris!” booklet. That afternoon, I set out to find La Maison du Chocolat. One of their main stores was located in the high-end shopping district, just a stones throw away from the Champs-Élysées and the Arc de Triomphe. I figured I would make a trip out of it.

Arc de Triomphe

Wow, the Champs-Élysées is what I call BIG Paris! Kinda like Fifth Avenue in New York City where there are huge avenues, lots of traffic, huge sidewalks full of people and high-end designer flagship stores with the Louis Vuitton flagship store taking up a very prominent corner.

Louis Vuitton flagship store

I arrived at le Maison du Chocolate and was actually intimidated to go in at first! It felt like I was walking into a high-end jewellery store with gorgeous sales associates behind the counters handling chocolates with special metal clamps so as not to melt them and placing them in distinguished gift boxes tied with ribbon. There were signs in french next to each of the chocolates but I was missing certain words in translation and when it comes to fancy chocolate, I don’t like to take chances. I asked the sales associate “Est-ce que vous parlez anglais?”, His reply – “Oui”. Yay! What a relief! I said that I would like to get some chocolate but I wasn’t sure what all the different types were. The sales associate patiently walked me through each chocolate and explained what was in each one (there were at least 15 different kinds). I must say, the service that I have experienced in Paris so far has just been fabulous!

La Maison du Chocolat

La Maison du Chocolat

I chose 5 chocolates to take home (mint, passionfruit, caramel mousse in dark and milk chocolate and a salty praline). He wrapped them up and then asked me “Would you like to try one?” (this seemed to be standard practice – people often get a sample of chocolate whenever they buy something). How nice! He recommended I try Dentelle – a milk chocolate praline which had slivers of crispy biscuit/waffle inside. He said it was a new flavour and that lots of people had liked it. I bit into it…..oh my goodness, it was amazing! It had the texture similar to a KitKat bar but the crispy texture was a lot more fine and delicate and the chocolate was AMAZING! I will definitely get that next time!

The chocolates were surprisingly affordable! When they rang up my order, the bill only came out to 5,50 euro for 5 chocolates (or around $1.50 Cdn each). They sell the chocolate by grams. However, when you purchase them in a box, the price goes up quite a bit (they smallest size box will fit around 21 euros worth of chocolate). But if you just want to try a couple at a time (like me), you can buy 4 or 5 pieces and they put them in a small bag and the price is very reasonable.

After the Paris walking tour

The Paris walking tour was fun but I think the highlight of my day was on my way home when I passed by Pozzetto (the gelato place that I bought ground espresso beans from on my first day here). It’s still unusually cold in Paris so I decided to pass on the gelato and just try their coffee instead (or I should I say ‘an espresso based drink’ since they don’t serve drip coffee – only Americanos. Here is where it gets fun/interesting. The menu was in french and although I could decipher about half of it, I really wanted to understand the type of coffee drinks that they offered. After asking the barista to explain the coffee menu to me, between my broken french and his half english I eventually decided on a caffe con panna (an espresso with whipped cream). The barista also explained that the two prices listed on the menu were for sitting at a table or sitting at the bar (emporter). I rarely drink espresso shots (I usually drink lattés) but I wanted to try it for the experience (besides, I’m sure I’ll be back for their gelato and will try another drink then). Boy, they really do know how to pull a good espresso. No wonder the place is so popular.

From the time that I stepped into the store, interacted with the barista and placed my order the place went from 3 people inside to over fifteen (standing room or to go only). I’m so glad I got the last spot at the bar before the mad rush. The Marais is quite multicultural in terms of the ethnic foods that’s available. I have seen Japanese places, Jewish delis, falafel stands and today I stumbled upon a Portuguese bakery! It is a tiny place but it caught my eye because as I looked in I saw a women bring out a basket of Portuguese egg tarts that had just come out of the oven! I ordered une pièce (1 piece which costed 2 euro) and the shopkeeper asked ‘naturale or cannelle’. Interesting…cinnamon on an egg tart? Why not? I automatically said ‘cinnamon’ (a reactionary English response when I really should be answering en français). The shopkeeper then replied in perfect english “Careful, the centre still might be soft”. Mmm…well that’s just music to my ears! There is nothing like a Portuguese egg tart that’s come right out of the oven. The pastry is delicate, light and flaky and the custard is soft and still warm. That was a magic food moment!

Pastéis de nata

Pastéis de nata

For me, it’s still hit and miss when I ask shopkeepers in the Marais if they speak English. Some speak very well and others say they only know a little bit. It’s definitely not the case in the more touristy areas like the area just north of the Louvre where I was today where everyone knows English (I find that I don’t even have to try when I’m in that area). However, Paris is different from Montreal (where practically everyone is bilingual) in that instead of people automatically switching to English when they hear my french, both parties make an equal effort (me with my broken French and them with their basic/intermediate English) to understand each other. J’aime ça !

Paris walking tour

I’m pretty sure that I still have jet lag because I woke up this morning at 5am Paris time and was wide awake. I was thinking that in Paris I might experience a nice change of waking up to birds chirping. I occasionally hear birds but today I also heard the bells from a cathedral sound at 8am. How lovely!

Notre Dame Cathedral

Notre Dame Cathedral

So today, I headed out for my first walking tour of Paris (one of many which will soon follow). My brother was in Paris last year and told me about a free 3-4 hour walking tour that takes you around all the main sites and you just tip at the end. Sounds like a good deal to me and what a better day to do it than Easter Sunday when practically everything is closed. I think alot of other people thought the same thing because when I got to the meeting place for the free tour, there were over a hundred people gathering. They split the crowd into groups of 15 and I had an energetic and friendly guide by the name of Filipa.

We covered a lot of sights on our tour and learned about the history of Paris with the monarchy and the revolutions. I read up a lot on Paris before my trip so I was asking Filipa specific questions about various museums and which ones were worth going to. There is nothing like having a local liason who knows the ins and outs of the city to answer all your questions. Ultimately, you can save a lot of time. For instance, she told me about a Museum Pass that I can buy that will allow me to go to over 60 museums in Paris (with in and out privileges over multiple days) and will let me bypass the line to purchase admission tickets each time.

Here is the list of things we saw/learned the history about: Latin Quarter, Notre Dame Cathedral, Point Neuf, the Seine, love padlocks, the Louvre, the Palais Royale, le Jardin Tuileries, the Grande Palais, the Petite Palais, Place de la Concorde, l’Hotel des Invalides and Napoleon’s tomb. We also caught views of the Arc de Triomphe and the Eiffel Tower.

love padlocks

Love padlocks on Pont de l’Archevêché

Although I am not a big fan of tours in general (I find it hard to manoeuver and it’s impossible to just blend in and be inconspicuous) I understand the necessity and I did a learn a lot. At the end of the tour, there was the option to have dinner at a nearby brasserie which gives a discounted rate to the group. It seemed like a pretty good deal – 13 euro for an entrée (duck, ravioli, steak or chicken) with fries, salad and a drink (wine, beer, pop) plus water. And the fact that the majority of restaurants are closed today because of Easter Sunday, it made it a very appealing deal. However, because there were so many people who had taken the tour today, the restaurant was at capacity by the time our group finished the tour. At first I thought it might be a good idea as I could continue to ask my guide specific questions about Paris. But after waiting about 10 minutes (but it was really when I saw the food start to come out) doubt started to settled in. I thought to myself – I still have that sea bream that I cooked at Cordon Bleu yesterday and it looks w-a-y better than the stuff that is coming out of this kitchen. (The food looked one step up from cafeteria food and two steps down from casual bistro food). Initially I had thought that steak frites with wine at 13 euro would be tough to beat but I didn’t want to chance it. I do not want to have a disappointing food experience in Paris. I decided to go home and have the fish that I fillet and spent 2 hours cooking! So I headed back to my apartment and had my sea bream with sautéed spinach and zucchini with saffron potatoes. Ah, bliss!

Sea bream

The instructor made this one. Mine looked slightly different.