With my parents off to Frankfurt for a couple days, I wanted to go somewhere on my own. I looked into returning to a couple of previous favorites (Greece, Croatia or Italy) as well as branching out somewhere new (Bulgaria or Albania). But since I was meeting my parents in Portugal, the cost of travel and ease of connecting flights played a big part in my decision. I ended up picking Paris for a couple of reasons. I had been once before nearly 8 years ago and thought it would be a great place to chill for a couple of days. The city center is fairly familiar, so there would be less of a learning curve and as I researched new things to do/experience, I came up with the idea for a cooking class. Best. Choice. Ever.
It was great to get away for a few days and be on my own. So many people wonder about traveling solo and for me there is something so freeing about being on your own in a new place.
Although my time in Paris neared perfection, it wasn’t without a bit of drama. I booked a hotel back in March. It was near the city center, away from any religious buildings (my mom’s request after recent violence) and had an elevator as my mom would be joining me for two nights and with her knee problems, no elevator was a deal breaker.
The Friday before I was to fly to Paris I was double checking the price of the hotel. I tend to book through hotels.com and with the ‘best price guaranteed’ I keep an eye on the price in case the price drops. I searched my hotel and it said that the selected hotel was closed! I had been emailing back and forth with the hotel to confirm my stay and request a bathtub, so I shot off a quick email asking ‘whats up?’ and on Saturday I got an email from hotels.com saying my hotel was closed, please call. It turns out they had re-booked me elsewhere, but it was further away from the center, no elevator, etc. excusez–moi? So I cancelled the replacement hotel and booked one of my choice (for an extra $250* because 3 days before arrival, the pickins were slim).
The new hotel was absolutely perfect though. Across a quiet street from a metro station (with grocery shops, a starbucks, etc), had A/C (because Paris was #$%& hot), super friendly and helpful staff and of course an elevator. I would absolutely stay there again. They had breakfast available for a charge, but hello… you’re in Paris. Why would you have a standard breakfast when just down the street you can pop into a bakery with fresh pastries. Yum! My most favorite part of my stay in Paris was the Market tour/Cooking class at La Cuisine Paris. We met at 9am just out side of the Metro station Place Monge. Just outside is the Place Monge Market, a market open every Wednesday and Saturday. Diane was our chef/instructor and she took us around the market, talked about picking fresh fruit and veg as well as how to tell when fish is fresh and talked about various types of cheeses. Because she frequents the same stalls, they were vary generous, sending us with extra cheese to try, offering a free sample of cherries, etc. She then took us to a bakery where they make fresh bread twice a day. Once we had what we needed we hopped the metro and two stops later we got off and walked a few blocks to the kitchen.
There were ten of us in the class – the perfect size. Everyone had something to do, often pairing with someone else. That way, we weren’t super busy and had the chance to watch what others were doing, but there was no standing around wondering what to do next. We made a fantastic lunch of roast duck breast with roast fennel, red onion and garlic and fingerling potatoes. We made a delicious cream soy sauce gravy to drizzle over top and then sprinkled with crushed pistachios. We made a nectarine and goat cheese salad with a nectarine-lemon dressing with olive oil and chervil. Dessert was creme caramel, moelleux au chocolat (molten chocolate cake) and Tuile au Amandes.Once everything was done, we all sat down for a hearty lunch and a glass of wine. Worth every euro. If you’re headed to Paris, please be sure to check them out. They have a variety of classes to fit any schedule and budget.
One of my other favorite places to visit was the Shakespeare And Company, an old bookstore. To this day, they offer a free place for writers to stay in exchange for a few hours work in the bookstore (all English books). There is a resident cat named Kitty and can often be found curled up on a chair in the reading room. The original book store was opened in 1919 and was a popular hangout for famous writers such as Ezra Pound, Ernest Hemingway. The store closed in 1940 during the German occupation. The current store was opened in 1951 in a new location and named after the original. Such a joy to explore.
Another fascinating stop was Victor Hugo’s house. If you know me, you know I absolutely adore Les Miserables, so getting to tour his amazing home was a wonderful experience. Unfortunately, there was some sort of school field trip or something and it was packed with middle school/high school age kids who didn’t want to be there. It was loud and obnoxious and I was already hot,sweaty and cranky from however many miles in the hot sun (I was doing between 8-10 miles a day).
My mom arrived midday Friday and we made good use of the day and a half she had in Paris. I hauled her up and down all the stairs of the Paris metro, hopping all over town to see the Notre Dame, Sainte Chapelle, the Louvre (pretty much just the Mona Lisa), the Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe – any and all of the major attractions. We lucked out in that her crutches mean we were able to skip many of the lines (honestly, we saved so much time this way). We were both exhausted already from such a busy trip, but Paris just added to the exhaustion. The heat didn’t help and I feel like we hopped between cafe and tourist site and back to a cafe for a drink and to rest our feet.
But overall, Paris was lovely. I would love to return and be able to relax. While the summer crowds hadn’t truly arrived yet, it was busy as the weather warmed up.
*I contacted hotels.com to complain about what happened and they sent me a $250 credit to use on the site, so we’re headed to the Oregon coast in September for some beach time.