Sunday, February 17, 2013

A Parisian Valentine

For Valentine's Day this year, Kyle and I headed to Paris.  Now, before you roll your eyes and gag, I found a great deal on train tickets and it just so happens that Valentine's Day fit the best into Kyle's work schedule.  We headed to Paris on the 13th on the high speed train.  It only took about 3 and a half hours to get there from Stuttgart.  The train got up to 320 kph, which is 199 mph.  That's definitely the fastest we've ever traveled on the ground!  (No, we've never driven that fast on the autobahn.  Maybe after we've been here a little longer... or maybe not :-)

We arrived early in the afternoon, and it was beautiful and sunny, but it was cold!!  We checked into our hotel in the St. Germain des Pres neighborhood.  It's a wonderful area full of galleries, cafes, shops, and restaurants.  If I lived in Pairs, I would want to live in that neighborhood!   We had spent 10 days in Paris on our honeymoon about five and a half years ago and saw a lot, so we said that this time we were going to take it easy and enjoy the city.  We certainly enjoyed the city, but we did not take it easy like we said we would...we walked our feet off; very typical of us!
Church near our hotel
A smart way to keep your hands warm!
We started off with lunch at a cafe.  We had to have the classics.  I warmed up with delicious and oh so cheesy onion soup (they don't call it "French" onion soup) and Kyle had Quiche Lorraine.  Real men do eat quiche, especially in France! 
Kyle being the weatherman that he is, knew that the next day would be rainy, so we wanted to take advantage of the sun.  We decided to re-visit a few of our favorite sites from our honeymoon.  Obviously, Notre Dame was a highlight, so we headed there first.  It is so beautiful and impressive.  Construction began on Notre Dame in 1163, and this year they are celebrating 850 years.  It is considered one of the best examples of French Gothic Architecture and has been beautifully maintained. 
Notre Dame
Next we headed to my favorite cathedral in Paris, Sainte Chapelle.  It's one of those things I learned about a long time ago in art history, and have been taken with it ever since.  Some of the things I learned in class are actually somewhat disappointing in real life, but this is not one of those things.  It's a relatively small chapel built by King Louis IX in 1239.  The walls are mainly composed of impressive stained glass rather than stone like most Gothic cathedral and chapels, filling it with light and color.  Even after seeing so many churches and cathedrals in our travels, this is still one of my favorites.  It's a site not to be missed!
Sainte Chapelle
We were chilled to the bone at that point, and warmed up in a very French cafe with coffee and Nutella crepes.  I just love eating my way through a city!
 That evening we definitely wanted to visit the Eiffel Tower while it was all lit up at night.  You can't go to Paris and not visit the Eiffel Tower, I don't care how many times you've been!  I guess we forgot how far away the Eiffel Tower is, because we decided to walk there.  The map was also very deceiving!  In Rome, things were closer than they seemed on the map, so I guess we were still in that mindset.  However long our walk was, it was still a wonderful walk, and a great way to get as much out of being in the city as we could in a short amount of time.  And the Eiffel Tower did not disappoint! 
After Kyle got some great shots of the Eiffel Tower, we were so cold that our fingers hurt, so we caught a Taxi back to our neighborhood.  We found an awesome little family run type restaurant to have dinner.  It was a really warm, cozy little place that had excellent food.  For an appetizer, I had an avacado salad, and Kyle had onion soup.  For our main course, I had Chateaubriand, which is a very flavorful steak, with Bearnaise sauce and Kyle had chicken breast with a creamy mushroom sauce.  For dessert Kyle had his signature chocolate mousse and I had creme caramel.  I'm getting hungry just writing about it!  Contrary to the stereotypes of the French, our server was incredibly nice and funny; we thought he seemed like he should be Italian! 

Kyle would make a good was very rainy on Valentine's Day, but we still had a wonderful day!  We started off with omelets and cappuccino for breakfast at a nice little cafe.  From there we headed to see the extremely opulent Opéra Garnier.  Construction began in 1861 and it is one of the most elaborate, luxurious, grandiose, and over the top buildings I have ever seen!  It was incredible!  The Opéra Garnier was the inspiration for Gaston Leroux's book, The Phantom of the Opera.  The opera house even has an underground lake, like in Phantom.  I would LOVE to see a ballet there!  Would it bankrupt us?  Probably.  Maybe we could volunteer to be ushers. 
Mmmmm cappuccino! 
Beautiful venue, with the dome painted by Chagall
The Opéra Garnier is very close to the famous Galeries Lafayette, a famous department store.  When I say department store, do not picture Macy's, or even Saks.  Think more the size of a HUGE mall.  But it's even so much more than that!  The center of the store has an amazing stained glass dome.  It is full of couture and exclusive boutiques and shops.  My favorite part was the food emporium which had restaurants, cheese counters, patisseries, chocolate shops, spice shops, etc.  Kyle and I managed to find a casual cafe were we had really good soup and tiramisu for lunch.  Perfect for a rainy day! 
Galeries Lafayette
At the food emporium, and whole aisle of mustard
The French don't mess around with their Nutella
Some Valentine Treats, almost too pretty to eat
From there, Kyle and I wondered a bit, checking out markets or whatever looked interesting.  We took the metro back to our neighborhood and stopped to see Saint Sulpice, a unique cathedral with beautiful frescoes by the French artist Delacroix.  By that time, it was like a new day.  The sun was shining and it wasn't so cold!  
A cool window display selling 1300 euro perfume..can't you tell it's for perfume?
Saint Sulpice
For our Valetine's dinner, we had reservations at our favorite restaurant that we ate at on our honeymoon.  It was a ways away, so we took a taxi.  It's funny how time changes things in your mind.  When we first went in, we thought it was a different restaurant!  As we sat down, it started to come back to was the right place!  It's a wonderful little restaurant, and the people that work there are so friendly and treat you like family.  Our dinner was absolutely amazing!  Since it was Valentine's Day, throughout the evening they brought out samples of food like salami and a wonderful creamy soup.  For our appetizer we had creamy, warm goat cheese on toast.  My main course was a delicious and tender duck with honey glaze and roasted potatoes.  Kyle's main course was a plat du jour and very appropriate; truffle mac and cheese (as in truffle mushrooms).  I think you could add truffles to anything and it would make it taste heavenly!  He enjoyed every last bite!  For dessert we had the same thing we had eaten the previous night to compare, chocolate mousse and creme caramel.  It's so good!  We finished off the meal the way a lot of Europeans do, with espresso!  For some reason it doesn't keep me awake after a big meal...maybe because I'm in a food coma?  I think Kyle and I will visit this place every time we visit Paris!

Our train left at 11:30 the next day.  While at the train station, we speculated at how many more weird people we see in Paris than we do in Germany.  Anyways, our ticket deal was so good, that we got first class on the way home.  The seats were very comfortable and spacious.  It's a comfortable way to travel! 

Paris was a wonderful way to spend a short Valentine's trip.  Just for fun, here are a few pics from our honeymoon in May 2007. 
Getting ready to see the Louvre
Seeing Sainte Chapelle the first time

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