Saturday, March 19, 2011

Catching Up

Here I am back visiting my sister, Nico and Zoee just two weeks after returning home from my last visit. I had the good fortune to be able to return with my Mom who had planned to visit this week.

I realized that I need to post about the few days I had in Paris during my last visit before I forget everything.

Nico's parents, sister and nephew were coming to visit while I was here so I thought it might be good to go exploring for a few days to give them time to visit and make the house a little less crowded. I originally had it in mind to go to Annecy, France, a town I have been told I would enjoy but one that somehow I never make it to when I'm here visiting. Hotels were pretty booked so I scratched that idea. I thought about heading home a few days early as I was missing Steve and home. Steve suggested that since I would have to pay a change fee for my flight I should think about visiting his cousins in Paris for a few days. I was at first a little reluctant; I didn't want to impose especially last minute. I emailed Steve's cousin Marie-Catherine to float the idea by her and her enthusiasm made me excited to go for a visit.

I took Easy Jet to Paris which was maybe $120 or $140 Euros which was considerably less than the cost of the train. The last few years I have been surprised by how expensive the train is and how much less it is to fly intra-Europe.

I arrived on Thursday around noon. Marie-Catherine kindly offered to pick me up from Orly instead of me taking the train. It was wonderful to see her when I got off the plane. We quickly grabbed my bag and made our way through a little traffic on the peripherique and got to her and Jean's new digs in the 10th. Marie-Catherine and Jean have been in their new place for about 5 or 6 months. They had renovation work done before they moved in that included a fab new kitchen and re-working some of the rooms. It is an amazing flat and totally them. I got to meet Mickael's girlfriend, Flora and the three of us, Marie-Catherine, Flora and I went to a neighborhood brasserie for lunch.

After lunch, Marie Catherine headed to the office for a while and I spent about an hour exploring their new neighborhood. When me met up back at the flat I got to say hi to Yoann who seems quite happy being back in Paris proper. I love Yoann. He is a a funny, smart teenager who is not afflicted with the teen syndrome that some kids go through. For dinner Marie-Catherine made a dish of pasta with creme fraiche, comte and sausages and it was the best meal I had that this trip. I love her cooking.

Friday Marie-Catherine, Yoann and I made our way to the 9th in search of A l’Etoile d’Or, the most wonderful confection shop I've ever been to. I learned about it via David Lebovitz's blog "Living the Sweet Life in Paris".

Here's a link to his posting-

The shop is everything he says and more. The proprietress selects what she sees as the "best of" various chocolates, candies and other sweets from around France. I was quite literally a kid in a candy store and it was most excellent.

I purchased several bars, or tablets of chocolate from the Lyonnais chocolate maker, Bernachon. The Bernachon family are not just chocolatiers but chocolate makers who make their chocolates directly from the bean not from someone else's couverture. The bars are wonderful and perhaps I will jot down my thoughts on them another time but what really thrilled me were the "chocolates" and truffles from Bernachon that one chooses by the piece from a precious and elegant glass display case in the center of the store. These chocolates were, well... extraordinary. The confections were perfect (I chose mostly nut pastes, nougats and whole nuts) and the chocolate itself was the "snappiest", most velvety richest chocolate I've had.

You can read more about Bernachon chocolates at their website-

The fairy tale experience at A l’Etoile d’Or was followed up by a quick lunch at a cafe across the street from the Moulin Rouge.

Dinner Friday night was with Steve's uncle, Jacques, and his friend, Fracoise, at a Corsican restaurant in Jacques neighborhood. We were joined by Jean and Marie- Catherine's oldest son Guillaume and his girlfriend Pricillia. I always enjoy getting to see Jacques and Francoise. Francoise and I have a fondness for one another despite our language barrier. She speaks no English and I have a hard time understanding her heavily Breton accented French but none the less we are sympatico. The last few times I've seen Francoise she has asked Steve and I to visit her home in Brittany and I hope that we are someday able to do that.

Saturday I joined Marie-Catherine and Jean for a quick shopping trip to Bercy Village where the olive oil shop that Marie-Catherine is fond of is located.

From there we headed to the Marche D'Aligre where there is a spice shop I wanted to visit in search of fresh vadouvin. Alas, the shop didn't have what I was looking for but I always enjoy a stroll through this market and its environs. We lunched at La Gazzetta, a place we stumbled upon which turned into a happy accident with a lovely three course fixed lunch that was quite good and quite reasonable.

I spent the rest of the afternoon doing a little more wandering around Marie- Catherine's neighborhood.

Saturday night we went for dinner to the home of a good friend of Marie-Catherine's. An enjoyable evening and an enjoyable meal was shared by all.

Sunday Yoann, Jean, Marie- Catherine, Guillame and Priscilla drove to a town in Lorraine to have Sunday dinner with Priscilla's parents. This was quite a meal. We were at the table for four hours and I said "uncle" several times. I was encouraged when after the meal someone suggested a walk around town! The three hour drive back to Paris caught some of us napping to be sure.

Monday I was on my own. I started out walking around the Marias in the neighborhood where the apartment Steve and I like to stay is located. I'm like a homing pigeon. I feel like this neighborhood is my home base in Paris. I enjoy visiting the familiar places and also discovering new things. As much time as I have spent in this area I still find many new things every trip.

I had a falafel lunch at Mi Va Mi which is across the street from the famous L’As du Falafel and is my choice over LDF. I also really like Chez Marriane which is just up the street from LDF.

After lunch I walked the area around Les Halles then over to the Musee de L'Orangerie for the Monday afternoon English guided tour.

After the museum visit I walked back to where I started in the Marais and then took the Metro home to MC's. Why did I walk back instead of taking the Metro from a spot closer to the museum? I was on the hunt for some chocolates that a friend asked me to pick up and there was one particular shop at about halfway there and two others pretty close to where I had started the day plus, it's Paris and who doesn't love walking around Paris? I struck out on all three as it was Monday and they were all closed but it was a wonderful time walking around.

Monday night for dinner we met Sophie and Stephane at a neighborhood place they, Marie- Catherine and Jean like. It was a great meal but more importantly great to see Sophie and Stephane. We had a lively political discussion and it was a great way to cap off my short time in Paris.

Tuesday morning I flew back to Switzerland and had one more night with Jenny, Nico and Zoee and enjoyed a quick visit with Nico's family. We all took a stroll in Montreux along the lake in the afternoon and Jenny made her amazing pot pie for me for dinner that night.

Wednesday morning I was on the train before the sun came up. A kind desk agent in Geneva took care of my seating assignment for the flight back to the states so I had a whole row of three to myself which meant I slept most of the way and had a good flight.

I was happy to have so much time with my sister and Zoee but I will say that three weeks is a long time to be away without one's partner. I was happy to get home to my husband and my own house.

Phew, I'm glad I got that all written down. I was already having a hard time remembering everything.