The Eiffel Tower

Paris… City of Lights. I will never get tired of you.

It is a really beautiful city, and just about every inch of it is picture perfect. When I first visited Pairs two years ago, I didn’t get to see the Eiffel Tower up close – I was five months pregnant then and had a fever (yet nothing could stop me from traveling!) so I let the hubby and our friends go to the tower while I stayed behind sleeping in our hotel.

Last year though, I made sure to walk right up to it, bad weather be damned.

My friends and I took a cruise on the Seine river, which, in my opinion, is a must when visiting Paris. Unfortunately, it was raining quite hard and I didn’t really like how Bateaux Parisienne boats have these telephone-like gadgets you put to your ear to listen to an audio recording explaining the sights around you. I found it rather inconvenient that my hands were tied up holding the huge receiver and my umbrella, and that I couldn’t take photos because of it. I’d much prefer a live guide to talk me through it, similar to my first Seine cruise. Still, nothing can beat the beauty and magic of Paris.

Anyway, it was quite dark when we finished our cruise and dinner – perfect time to see the Eiffel Tower all lit up and sparkling. There’s just something magical about it. I wish I could show you the video but I haven’t figured out yet how to upgrade/post videos here yet (I know, such a lame excuse).

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Grey skies only made its beauty stand out more. I can’t believe the people almost tore it down a century ago.

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Our cruise included dinner at Le Notre, a quaint little restaurant on a boat anchored in the Seine river banks, quite near the Eiffel. I was famished so I got the tomato/ham salad – it looked so yummy when it was served, and I actually thought the tomato was meat coz it was almost as red as the ham!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI got some meat dish as my entree but I didn’t really enjoy it much… or maybe I was just bummed that it was our last night in Paris already.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFor dessert, I got the lemon cake coz I didn’t want a very sweet dessert. Talk about getting more than you ask for – the cake was so sour I felt like it was drizzled with fresh lemons! Seriously! Even my friends tried and couldn’t take one bite of it. I should have gotten the strawberry shortcake instead, which my friend willingly shared with me after seeing how disappointed I was with my lemon cake.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI’d stick with strawberries next time.

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This is the last of my Paris posts which makes me sad just thinking about it. Oh well, time to plan my next trip to Europe!

Food Trip: Le Florimond

Whenever my friends and I travel, we make it a point to try at least one nice local restaurant. All the restaurants we’ve been to so far have been really good so the bars were quite high when someone recommended  Le Florimond, a quaint little restaurant tucked in the 7th arrondissement.

This place almost feels like a secret among locals; it’s small – perhaps seating only 20 people or so at a time, and a reservation is a must. The reviews were very good so we dressed up for the occasion in our dainty dresses and heels, hired a van, and starved ourselves a bit to fully enjoy the meal.

You can order ala carte, but it is a better deal to order the set menu – it’s cheaper, plus you don’t have to think so hard. They have options for your entree, main dish, and dessert, and the manager himself will gladly explain each item on the menu, which is written on a pop-up blackboard, to help you make up your mind. Their offerings are limited and the set-menu is just a combination of the ala carte items.

Our cute menu on a blackboard.

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I forgot what my soup was – some sort of shrimp bisque if I remember correctly. What I do know is that it was very creamy and tasty. I wanted to ask for fresh bread to dip!

The manager ended up calling us the duck family that night because out of all the options for the main dish, we all opted for the duck, which was fried to perfection: not dry, no raw portions, soft, and savory. And it wasn’t gummy and didn’t have any pungent smell or weird aftertaste. It’s so easy to mess with duck meat but this was perhaps the best duck dish I’ve had.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA If I have one complaint, it would be that the dessert serving was too small. I mean, just two muffins hardly bigger than my thumb and a spoonful of ice cream? It was barely enough to satisfy my taste buds. Hahaha!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIf there’s one constant in our meals during this European vacation, it would be wine. How can we not? It was practically cheaper than water and definitely goes better with our meals! I normally don’t drink wine (it’s one of those habits my parents have that I never quite inherited) but I couldn’t say no to French wine.

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The Jardin Nelson Mandela and Saint Eustache

I’ve always wanted to go on a picnic but there are very few nice places here in Manila to do it – Luneta is too crowded, too hot and while the long stretch of beaches in our country can be very tempting, I can’t very well just hop on a plane every time I wanted to go on a picnic.

Lo and behold, the perfect opportunity presented itself while we are out and about in Paris. I mean, what with all the really good cheese and the even better and cheaper wine, how could we not give in? We even had a nice wicker basket all ready at the apartment and a couple of plastic, stackable wine glasses so really, there was no other choice.

Thankfully, our apartment was situated just ten minutes from one of the modern parks in Paris: the Jardin Nelson Mandela.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPreviously named Jardin des Halles after it location (and indeed, you can’t miss it as the metro/RER stations for Chatelet and Les Halles is right underneath, perhaps the busiest metro station in all of Paris), it was renamed a few days after Mandela died. The small bit of green serves as a sort of oasis amidst bustling construction in the area and the looming church of Saint Eustace a few steps away from it is the perfect backdrop.

The weather seemed to cooperate with us too as it was neither hot nor cold – it was downcast enough for us not to sweat buckets yet sunny enough that we didn’t feel threatened by rain. We took some time figuring out how to set our stuff on the comforter we’d brought (we didn’t have any of those red gingham patterned cloths, but you have to admit, our comforter looked perfect!), and going about cutting the cheese and ham, and taking photos (of course!) that by the time we’ve settled, a policeman had come to order us politely out of the park.

Baguettes, cheese, ham, and a bottle or two of red wine.

Baguettes, cheese, ham, and a bottle or two of red wine. That’s the Saint Eustache in the background.

Apparently, drinking wine was not allowed in the park. Boo! It’s not like we were gonna get drunk or anything but whatever; the good thing we were almost done with our little picnic and had finished off an entire bottle already. Plus, it was starting to rain anyway. 😀

Another good thing was that I had visited the church earlier in the day – all my companions were pretty much drained from all the walking but we had yet to visit any of the old structures in Paris so I woke up early and armed with the knowledge that the church was just a block away, I trudged happily in its direction. Two of my friends decided to join me since it was their first time in Paris so I happily played the pied piper. 😀

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe church, built sometime in the late 16th century, is considered a masterpiece of Gothic architecture and it’s easy to see why. Whenever I think of Gothic architecture, I always end up thinking of halls of Moria (Lord of the Rings). This is a perfect example.

I’m such a nerd, I know.

The church is pretty accessible too, and is located near Les Halles, once Paris’ fresh produce market. This perhaps explains a cute little display at the back of the church that shows how its market must have looked like hundreds of years ago.

A diorama of farmers peddling their goods in the market.

A diorama of farmers peddling their goods in the market.

The stained glass windows are also a sight to behold. They’re so vivid, almost like paintings. You know how it feels like a miracle is about to happen when you sit in one of the pews, and the sun’s rays slowly penetrate through the stained glass windows and you see dust particles floating around? I had many of those moments while touring the church that my skin was crawling with goosebumps.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAEurope is full of beautiful churches and since my first visit, I promised myself I would lit candles in all the churches I can visit and pray for my loved ones. And of course, world peace.

I always light a candle when I visit a church, especially when it's new. And I always wish for the same thing: happiness and health not just for me, but for all my loved ones, especially my two little boys.

I always light a candle when I visit a church, especially when it’s new. And I always wish for the same thing: happiness and health not just for me, but for all my loved ones, especially my two little boys.

I used to think we have the most beautiful churches in the Philippines; while I still think they’re beautiful, nothing prepared me for the grandeur of Europe’s churches. I can’t get enough of them!

They Say French Women Don’t Get Fat…

…but with all the delicious and seriously tasty food Paris has to offer, I can’t imagine how French women stay slim. It must be all that walking to get to and from train stations. I wouldn’t mind walking either if I have views of the Seine and old buildings to keep me company.

Our first meal in Paris kicked off a gastronomic feast that was to last almost three weeks. We arrived a little after two in the afternoon at our pretty little apartment at the Rue du Pont Neuf and were too hungry to venture too far. Luckily, there were rows of cafes and bistros nearby and we quickly settled at Le Mimosa.

I normally order ala carte since I don’t eat much, but I was so famished that I decided to order the set menu, which consisted of an appetizer, a main dish, and dessert. That translated to egg salad, steak and fries, and lychee panna cotta. The salad alone would have satisfied me: the eggs were perfectly boiled and the dressing was creamy, sweet, sour, and salty in equal degrees. My friends got some liver pate which was so rich we couldn’t stop gushing about it.

Egg Salad.

Egg Salad.

The steak was also great – I ordered it medium and it was a delight that the meat wasn’t rubbery or too thick, or hard to bite. Plus, it was spicy enough to satisfy my affinity for all things spicy, yet mild enough that I didn’t need to guzzle a liter of water. Oh, and did I mention the wine we ordered with it? The wine was so cheap! I think wine in Europe is cheaper than water which was why we ended up having wine with practically every meal while we were in Europe.

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Steak and fries, baby.

The French take their time eating food, and so, we did as the French did. We had a couple of hours to spare before the malls closed so we decided to rush to Galeries Lafayette for some retail therapy (yes, on our first day!). True enough, we were again hungry by the time we got home a couple of hours later and flopped straight into the waiting seats at La Creperie, at the corner of Rue de Pont Neuf and Rue Saint Honore.

It was a no-brainer what to order – I forgot the name of the crepe I got but it was big it filled my entire plate (which was twice as big as my face), and had ham and a big sunny side up in the middle. I loved every morsel of it!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe also met a wonderful and handsome French/Vietnamese guy at the restaurant who ended up serving our table for the day. It got me thinking – why are the French so good-looking? I guess that means the not so gorgeous people are the ones who stand out coz in a sea of gorgeous people, they’re not used to plain looks? Hahaha. That means I have a shot then. 😛

There are cafes just about everywhere in Paris which is one of the things I love most about the city of lights. I am a big breakfast person and my favorite meal consists of croissants with lots of butter and jelly, or a croque madame if I am hungry, a cup of hot chocolate, and a glass of orange juice which are quite standard fare in Paris.

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A typical cafe in Paris. People-watching is a serious sport here which is why tables and seats facing the street are always the first ones to be occupied.

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Carbo-loading in preparation for our Giverny/Orangerie tour.

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Happy me.Dining al fresco with a crisp, cool breeze from the Seine is hard to top.

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If not for that McCafe written on the mug, you would never have thought we were eating at McDonald’s, would you?

And well, for those of you in a tight budget, or are having anxiety attacks or homesickness, there’s always a friendly McDonald’s around the corner as well. But again, I am beyond amazed that even their McDonald’s looks so chic? Must be the air!

Again, I say… they say French women don’t get fat; why, oh why? Life can be unfair sometimes. 😛