Paris

Eight Days of Family

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My lovely family and I spent eight whole days together. Leave it to three months away to make you welcome a family visit. After all, running around Europe is fun, but nothing rivals time spent with family.

I am far from calling myself an expert, but I do know a little about Madrid, and I loved sharing. I kept my mom, dad and brother Andrew busy. When I wasn’t dragging them along to meals and activities, my dad took over to fill the schedule.

When they arrived on Saturday, I took them for a familiar American brunch at Carmencita Bar, where my mom and I enjoyed eggs bennedict, my dad French toast and eggs and Andrew, never one for brunch, a hamburger. I was a bit embarrassed to not have found something more Spanish for the first meal, but I miss breakfast food in Madrid, so I easily reconciled the choice.

Carmencita Bar

Calle de San Vincente Ferrer, 51
28015 Madrid, Spain

http://www.carmencitabar.com/

The next day we headed to Valencia, Spain. We saw the special Sunday market, the cathedral and a traditional dance festival. Then, of course, we ate paella for lunch.

Can you guess who ate which portions?

Can you guess who ate which portions?

We returned Monday and stayed in Madrid until Thursday. I brought my mom, an academic at heart, to university with me and to volunteer with me and the family visited the Prado, Reina Sofia and el Palacio Royal while I was in class.

We also fit in a flamenco show and lunch at my wonderful hosts’ home. They served a Spanish meal with some of my favorites, including salmorejo, paella and Spanish wine, making sure each food item came right from Spain.

This woman, the owner, chose my dad as her crush for the night. She always turned back and smiled at him.

This woman, the owner, chose my dad as her crush for the night. She always turned back and smiled at him.

Unfortunately, the Christmas lights in Madrid turned on the weekend of December 1, and my family left that Friday morning. Luckily, we happened to be in Plaza Mayor one evening when the lights illuminated the street for only a moment, just long enough for them to witness the magnificence. I’ve been enthusiastic about Christmas light tours my entire life, so yes, magnificent.

We ended our time together in Paris. We went to the top of the Eiffel Tower, visited Notre Dame and ate delicious food, including crepes on the street and Café Constant. While my parents viewed the art museums, Andrew and I headed to Disneyland. We are Disney fanatics, so we could not wait. With a giant tree, decorations all along Main Street and a special Christmas parade, we loved it all. We found the rides similar to those in Disney World in Florida. The big difference was the weather, since Paris was cold and Florida rarely is. Regardless, we loved it.

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My mom, dad and Andrew left for Minnesota from Paris Sunday morning, and I flew back to Madrid. I loved (almost) every minute of our time together. It wasn’t too sad to say goodbye, knowing I would be home in 19 days!

Oh, one more thing: my dad ate the largest paella portion, I ate middle one and my mom ate the little part.

A Paris Visit to Café Constant

I promised to post this two days ago. I know, I’m sorry. This week wifi stopped working at home, and my iPhone broke. Don’t worry, everything works now.

On to Café Constant. Christian Constant, a Michelin Start chef, set out to serve sophisticated food at reasonable prices. With three restaurants along Rue Saint-Dominique, or Rue Constant as some locals know it, Constant succeeded.

Visit the Eiffel Tower at dusk, and continue to Constant, two blocks away, for a late (European timed) dinner, 25 to 30 euros for three courses and a glass of wine.

Since Café Constant does not accept reservations, expect to wait. Just don’t let the wait turn you away. Put your name in, go down the street for a glass of wine and come back after your allotted wait time.

Once seated and perusing the menu, the multilingual staff will gladly answer questions. My vegetarian friend and I chose only seafood. We started with the tartare of oysters, seabass and salmon seasoned with ginger and lemon. The modest glaze added flavor without overpowering. Next, the poached cod with vegetables and garlic mayonnaise. Since the fish had pesto, I used the mayonnaise for the veggies.

Cod with vegetables

Cod with vegetables

Chocolate ‘quenelles’ with crème anglaise concluded the evening. For those unfamiliar with ‘quenelles’ (I was!), they are a form of chocolate ganache. I’m a dark chocolate freak, so this was the best dessert I’ve had  in Europe. The chocolate and cream with a few shaved almonds gives a rich taste.

Bliss! (chocolate

Pure bliss (chocolate ‘quenelles’)

Café Constant

139 Rue Saint-Dominique

75007 Paris, France

Weekend (and Midnight) in Paris

I confess, I have never seen Midnight in Paris. However, my traveling companion Alyssa has, and she often referenced the movie, so it kind of seems like I saw it.

I visited Paris, France this weekend. It was a short trip but one packed with many activities. After waking up at 4:45 to catch a taxi at 5:30 Alyssa and I boarded the plane and headed north. After two hours, we landed in Paris!

Friday’s agenda included a hearty English breakfast, admiring the city and a quick nap. We stayed close to the Gare du Nord train station, which is a large and well-connected station in the city. We knew we could get mostly anywhere from there, but the maps are pretty confusing. After the nap, we set off to navigate transportation. When we blankly stared at the map for 15 minutes, I knew we only had one option: ask for directions.  I had heard many times that the French hate Americans, so I tentatively asked a police officer, “Do you speak English?” He smiled, said that he did but that his friend knew more, and before I knew it four French police officers were giving us directions to the Louvre. They even walked us to the train.

We arrived at the Louvre and walked along the river. Which brings me to my first Eiffel Tower sighting! Soon it was time for the Louvre Museum. Like everyone says, the Mona Lisa is small. After spending Thursday evening at the Prado in Madrid and Friday evening at the Louvre, my head is sufficiently saturated with European art. Fortunately, appreciating the masterpieces is no difficult task. We walked through the Tuileries Garden on our way to dinner.

See it way back on the left?

See it way back on the left?

Walking across the Seine, we stopped to admire generations worth of love locks.

Walking across the Seine, we stopped to admire generations worth of love locks.

This week is fashion week in Paris. I expected to see more events, advertising or something, but we did run into one designer. Nina Ademar proudly displayed a “mobile fashion show” in a decorated delivery truck. Even though they turned away the woman in front of us, the guys let us come inside. A few dresses awed me, but I remained indifferent to some others. In other words, not preppy enough for this shopper. I miss you J. Crew!

Inside the truck

Inside the truck

We enjoyed Friday night dinner at Pinxo in the 1st arrondissement. We enjoyed curdle goat cheese with eggplant, steamed shrimps in garden herb broth, prawn tails and a glass of vin rosé in this Alain Dutournier establishment. I enjoyed all, but the prawns, served with coconut rice, emerged as my favorites.

Saturday brought a new set of recreation. When in France, a tourist must eat crepes, hence Saturday morning crepes and coffee. After crepes, off to Champs Elysees. Translation: shop ‘til you drop. After hours of shopping, a few minutes in the Luxembourg Gardens sounded magnificent. That was about the time I had to best crepe I have ever tasted. We met up with Alyssa’s friend who is studying in Paris, and he ordered a crepe from a stand on the street. There was a miscommunication, he got two crepes, and he shared. Tuna, mozzarella and magic seasoning (the man called it magic) for four euros. Anyway, we sat in the park while enjoying the crepe, and it felt surreal. It felt like we were in a movie, maybe Afternoon in Paris.

Bliss in crepe form

Bliss in crepe form

Luxembourg Gardens

Luxembourg Gardens

As soon as it got dark, Alyssa and I headed for the Eiffel Tower. Since it was our first time in Paris, we went all the way to the top.

Obligatory photo

Obligatory photo

We ended the night at Constant, which was so special it gets its own post tomorrow, or maybe later today if I don’t get distracted.

We concluded the weekend with mass at Notre Dame. Even though the service was in French, I felt engaged and happy to be there. The cathedrals in Europe are unlike anything in the United States. If you haven’t been, go.

Outside Notre Dame

Outside Notre Dame

That’s the trip. Although there are many more stories, these were the highlights. Even though my French spans from bonjour to merci, I managed well. Paris holds much more, but we feel good about our trip. When I go back, Disneyland Paris is first on the list!