Paris

I was seeing a TV serial, and they were talking about Paris. Their affair is about to bloom, but not yet! Just loads of chemistry flying around!

She is about to go to Paris with a very rich man! And He tells her that, she should get lost in magical Paris. One should wake up in the morning, and go out and walk and get lost. And when one is tired and hungry, stop at one of the many cafes and eat the amazing Parisian food, and then get up and walk some more and get lost again.

And repeat it the next day.

We did just that. Except we were so forewarned and feverishly and fervently told “ we must eat and so and so restaurant” – that we booked our lunches and dinners way in advance.

Of course once we reached Paris, and once we spoke with the concierge + receptionist + porter + accountant, we changed our mind and went with some of her suggestions.

Stay

We stayed at the Signature St. Germaine Des Pres. It’s a small cute and quaint hotel, in the St. Germaine Area, off Boulevard Raspail. Very close to a lot of good café, shopping and charming chocolate shops.

The breakfast was very average, so after the first day we went to Le Pain Quotidien, which was close by.

Ask for their biggest room, but stay there. It was a great experience.

Food

Yes, yes!! Lets come to the most important part!! (I’m rubbing my hands in glee!)

We ate and ate and ate. And every meal was a delight to the palate, the heart and the soul! (Especially after the terrible food at Epernay!)

Le Grande Da Venise. Was suggested by my very close friend. Her, normally quiet husband was also ready to start dancing, when she started singing praises about this restaurant. And good lord of mine!! Was it praise worthy!!

Recommend – The anti pasti. Do not over do the bread before that, even though the salted butter and fabulous olive oil will over power your will. The anti pasti is huge. And I really do mean gigantic. The portions as well as the number of dishes. And if you are non vegetarian, you can expect a few more dishes added to the mix.

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The ever – on – the – move lady will come and take your main course order. Trust me I thought we could not eat much of the main course, but we ended up making good use of our forks and knives.

YOU MUST HAVE THEIR CARAMEL ICECREAM.

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Cutting slabs from the Tower of Caramel Icecream
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Decorating with more caramel

 

 

 

 

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your caramel icecream served with love and loads of extra calories

 

Trust me – every table I looked, people were busy eating. No one seemed bothered about calories, or conversation.

Aperge. Words cannot describe the experience. It belongs to one of the best chefs ever. A three Michelin Star restaurant. And retains it’s status, year after delicious year.

Chef Allain Pasard, grows his own greens, and the reds and blues and every color of vegetable that adorned our table. He went rogue and took all red meat out of the menu 2 years ago. Very recently has he reintroduced it again. A vegetariains dream come true – This restaurant.

We had a 14 course meal, — (Yes! Its not a misprint and you do not have schizophrenia!)

The wine list – Muah! Muah!!

WARNING – Please confirm reservations way in advance. You will be charged if you do not show up / cancel before 48 hours. ‘

Do confirm the prices per head – it was expensive. But a life times experience.

Café Marley. Over looks the Louvre. Its set in the galleries which over look the glass pyramid. Great place for people watching.

And food which sets your senses on fire. We had the Gazpacho Soup. If its still on the menu – go for it! And the thin Apple Tart too!

Book in advance and sit outside if it’s a nice day. Inside is nice – but very warm!

Laduree An institution in Paris. And OH MY – WHY NOT !! We sat on the outside café, and had amazing food. Try the cheese cake salad, their desserts and macaroons.

Les Souffles. Fluffy, well risen, great taste, phenomenal flavours. One thinks of stomach feeling like a pot of stones, after a three cheese soufflé – not so! Do not miss, what I have rated as the best soufflés I have ever eaten!

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Buddha Bar – frankly food was very so so! But the music post 11 pm was brilliant!

Other restaurants:- These were suggested by the same friends who suggested the above restaurants, so they are definitely worth checking out!

Precope.

Bistrot Paul Bert.

Motor Village.

Ralph Lauren restaurant.

La Cinq.

Frenchie.

Septime.

 

Places to see

Frankly, we are not Museum nuts! There are all the obvious museums one must see, but if you want to escape the madness of Louvre, and Notre Dam, there are lesser known museums worth going to.

(Many of Paris’s smaller museums contain equally important and beautiful art—and are often more pleasant, since you won’t be elbowed out of the way by a photo-snapping swarm. You’ll find Monet’s famous Nymphéas (water lily) murals in the Musée de l’Orangerie, at the far end of the Tuileries Gardens. The Musée Marmottan is home to the world’s largest collection of Monets. And the Musée Rodin, housed in a luminous villa with a lovely garden, is one of the most romantic places in all of Paris.)

Luxembourg Gardens – for the sheer beauty, expanse and people watching.

Champs Elysees for all the fabulous stores and the experience

Hermes : the store. Even if you don’t want to buy anything! Its one of the best stores I have ever seen.

Latin Quarters Go straight to Rue St. Michael. And then turn into the busy lanes. Full of cafes, restaurants and a few shops. Have a meal or a glass of wine.

Chocolate Crawl at St Germain. The entire area is filled with small and petit chocolate shops. Truffles, macaroons, fudges, bars, rocks, barks — you name it. Even if chocolate is not your thing – you cannot leave Paris without entering atleast two shops, and savouring a few of those yummy things!

Gourmet food shopping  If not in Paris then where? The two most famous shops are in Galleries Lafayette and Bon Marche. I went to Bon Marche and then I went to heaven. I was like a kid who was allowed to roll in the mud and then eat without washing them hands! Like a dog with unlimited forbidden treats! Like a geek with three new- latest gadgets! You get the picture ??

SHOPPING

Alas! I did not do much of shopping. Bought my self some boots! And some basic stuff – This trip was all about eating!

Next one  -(for there are many more restaurants we need to try!)  I’ll shop – I Promise!

 (the below excerpts are taken from the internet)

Window Shopping, on RUE SAINT-HONORÉ.

(FROM THE NET)   If designer shopping and elite French brand names set your heart all aflutter, get thee to the rue Saint-Honoré. The favorite haunt of fashionistas the world over, here you’ll rub elbows with everyone from Japanese DJs to Saudi Princesses. Whether it’s the ultra-hip (Colette, Damir Doma, Comme des Garçons), French status labels (Goyard, Hermès, Chanel), or something a bit less pricy but every bit as stylish as the big boys (Zara, & Other Stories) you’re sure to find it here. Beginning at the Palais Royal and ending at the Elysée Palace, it’s an afternoon prowl to satisfy the most indefatigable shopper.

AFTERNOON IN THE MARAIS

(FROM THE NET) Hands down the best shopping neighborhood in Paris, the Marais is all that and so much more. Located in the historic 3rd and 4tharrondissements, the Marais’s ancient hôtel particuliers (private mansions), superb museums (Musée Carnavalet, Cognacq-Jay Museum, and the soon-to-reopen Musée Picasso), great restaurants, cafés, Paris’s famous old Jewish quarter, and the lovely Place des Vosges make it an absolute must-see. Wander up the rues Vieille du Temple and Franc Bourgeois, two of the neighborhood’s central spines, and discover the charming side streets and the quartier‘s many hidden delights.

Walk, Walk, and Walk in Paris! You might find yourself somewhere! VOILA!

 

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Epernay – Champagne.

We drove down to the Champagne region, from Frankfurt. It was an easy, comfortable and FAST (180 km per hour average!) drive.

As we neared Epernay, we saw lush and perfect fields. So perfect – that they looked cloned. Huge rolling lands of green and yellow. Small thatched roof homes, stashed at the corner of these fields, flanked by what were definitely light forests.

I took in mighty breaths and have stored it inside me for times to come, when I faced my polluted smoky city once more.

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We stayed in the Jean Moet hotel. Very central, and bang on the Avenue De Champagne, where all the action was to take place the next day.

Epernay is one of the major towns of Champagne. There are three more. Reims, being the second most famous and the Capital. I think people flock to Epernay, because it has Moet and Chandon and Dom Perignon, which are perhaps the most famous of them all.

Epernay has, what is called Caves (pronounced as CAAVES) and that is where all the champagne is stored, after the first and second bottling. No producer shows the crushing and bottling process. All that takes place in the fields, which were close by but not open to public.

 

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Champagne stored one over the other in caves.

 

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28 km – 30 feet deep, 90 % humidity – MERCIER caves

 

The caves, have bottles of champagne – the ones which are first bottles. And the final bottles lot too. The first bottles are juice of various blends of grapes, and infused with yeast. These are then stored like this.

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Stored at an angle, and quater turn twisted intermittenly!
Stored at an angle, and quater turn twisted intermittenly!

Then they are twisted a quarter turn intermittently and also tilted to a certain angle. After the deemed period, when the yeast settles at the side of the bottle, the cap is opened. Approximately 6 kg of pressure has developed inside the bottle by now. The bottle is now fully upturned so the yeast settles on the neck and the bottle is frozen, just around the neck. When the crown is opened, 3 kgs of pressure expels the yeast mixture out. The bottle is then quickly and firmly corked before the precious champagne is oozed out.

The three varieties of grapes used are – the best – Chardonnay, the Second best Pinot Noir and the one used in least quantity – Pinot Meunier. While Chardonnay is white grape with white juice, the other two are black grapes with white juice.

Vintages and non vintages are defined, by the quality of grapes, seasons, fermenting process!

It’s a hugely complicated, scientific and intriguing process. Lot of delicate balances, and defined palates go on to make a good champagne.

Ofcourse you know that Champagne comes only from the Champagne region. The rest are NOT CHAMPAGNE as we were very fiercely told by the producers.

BTW Champagne was first produced by Dom Perignon – a monk!

The Caves we visited were – George Cartier. And Mercier.

 

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Please see it in that order. George Cartier is a small (if 3 million bottles is small) producer. The tour was very, very informative. Small and personal, and all the knowledge I gained, was from there. Do reserve through your hotel or tourism office.

Mercier all show. How great Mercier was, all that he did. Its like a drum which goes Mercier, Hail Mercier!! Jai Ho Mercier!! But having said that, its also very interesting. Their caves are way huger, and they have a train running through it.

The massive Mercier Barrel
The massive Mercier Barrel

 

But you cannot stop and take pictures, ask questions, peer at the bottles, feel the moisture on the walks of the cave, jump through water puddles, and basically inhale the entire history that cave has made, during the second world war and when men actually did by hand, for days, what machines now accomplish within seconds.

FOOD

Ever so often, I get an order, which moves me to anguish. When a customer wants a dish, known and relished for its high potency in garlic, to be made Jain – aka – no onion, no garlic, sometimes no ginger!! At these times I go completely silent on the phone. My brain leaks out and I break out into sweat. Sometimes I even start blubbering and tear out clutches of my hair!!

THIS IS EXACTLY WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU ORDER VEGETARIAN IN EPERNAY!!!

So unless you all are non-vegetarians, I recommend only one day in Epernay.

Its enough actually.

DRINKING Each tour, offers you tastings. Its awesome. And there are lots of Champagne Bars around.

The silly grin and crooked smile is a result of drinking champagne - 11 am to 11 pm!
The silly grin and crooked smile is a result of drinking champagne – 11 am to 11 pm!

We went to Jannison Baradon, close to the hotel. It was Excellent. The George Cartier cave also has a bar with small eats.

And that’s Champagne for you!!

Hail them grapes!!

Limburg – Whisky Fest

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Limburg is a small village in Germany. Picturesque as villages go.

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The Mad Drinking Fest
The Mad Drinking Fest

The two-day whisky fair, takes place every year.

We headed there at 11 am. And I was drunk by 11.30 am.

It’s complete and utter madness.

so much daaru
so much daaru

One is handed a glass, which you have to hold on to. Then you make your way to the various stalls. Some of them have the normal 18 year olds, but some stalls have fantastic older bottles, (and at a good wholesome, pocket breaking cost, I might add!) and every sip penetrates your skin and blood.

One day is enough. Actually for me one hour was enough!!

Daru!!??
Daru!!??

Cons

It’s very, very crowded as it’s held in a building. Though the weather was nippy, it quickly got very claustrophobic and uncomfortable. Proper food and water was not available. Well it was – but no one knew where!

So go with a huge bottle of water and after a even huger breakfast! Ummm! Taking a party smart is also a good idea!

Places to stay are not great. Very average!

Food for a vegetarians = bull shit!

One day is enough!

But definitely an experience. Must do it once. Whats not to like about one day of extreme drinking!

 

Vancouver

One of those places where you sit back, watch your heart rate drop, your shoulders de stress and your breath go into deep meditation phase.

The minute we landed we saw this…

Take a deep breath, when hit by this kind of beauty!
Take a deep breath, when hit by this kind of beauty!

This was a very short trip and the hub and me are a bit laid back. We don’t wake up, have a shower and breakfast and hit the city by 8 am. So the short trip made it even more tight and Vancouver will have to be done once more.

Places to go to.

Stanley Park. Near the park are cycle hire shops, with great variety to choose from. Before that, pick up some food and water. Head to the park. Its massive, Huge. We cycled around for a good two hours, but I think one can spend the day there.

English Bay Beach. We went there for a view of the Sunset. But what we saw was the mist take over the city. A cloud of mist, over a deeply rich setting sun, with sea gulls and eagles flying all over the place. I think my hub wanted to propose once more. I know I wanted him to.

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The mist taking over the city
The mist taking over the city
gathering mist, then scattering all over the city
gathering mist, then scattering all over the city

We did not end up going but Granville Park is also well recommended.

There are many other places in and around Vancouver. Victoria, is across the bridge. Banff is close by. As is Jasper.

Shopping

We stayed in Grenville area, so mostly shopped around there.

Yale town has great reviews, but I was not much awed by it.

Vancouver is full of local designers. Mac (the make up thingy) and some other products are local. So expect great prices on them.

Food

Vancouver has surprisingly a big foodie population. Again, a place of high sustainability and locally grown produce.

Some fabulous places we ate in :-

The Whiskey Kitchen. Sure it’s about whiskey. Every dish has a dash of it (or more!). And its tasty and different and perfectly amazing.

Lupo. Forage and The Grill and Casa Nova were some of the restaurants we ate in. I recommend them all very fervently!

http://blogs.vancouversun.com/2011/08/15/top-20-vancouver-restaurants/

Carmel By the Sea and Big Sur

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The most charming, pretty coast you can cast your eyes on.

It starts in San Francisco and goes all the way to Los Angeles – this coast. Carmel is south of San Jose.

Blue Sea
Blue Sea

 

Things to do

Drive around the 19 mile drive.

This is a residential area, but set in a huge huge biological eco conserving forest and coast area. One has to pay a 10$ per car.

Just drive around, stopping at various points. You will get a brochure of the points of interest.

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Bonfire – If you catch good weather – and for this experience you must try and go when it’s a wee bit chilly.

Go to the super market. Pick up glasses, and poison of your choice.

Pick up a fire making kit – which includes a huge box of wood, 2 pieces of fire starter and matches and some old paper to start the fire.

Good food from the many, many fabulous delis and restaurants in Carmel, and head to SCENIC and 13th. (Please tell the Taxi driver to take you there – you cannot drive – u will be drinking!)

Do not head to any other beach. This is dedicated for bonfires.

Dive in make a bonfire and enjoy your evening.

Try and make it a little before sunset. I can guarantee you an evening very well spent.

sunset in carmel
sunset in carmel

If in Carmel / San Francisco / San Jose do not miss this one.

Stay

We stayed in Carmel at the Quail Lodge and Golf Course. It was fabulous. But it’s not on the coast. It’s in Carmel Valley.

Some of other places, which I was looking up, to stay, was the Tickle Pink Inn. It’s set high on a cliff. Comes highly recommended.

Restaurants in Carmel – are a plenty and fantastic.

BIG SUR

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That’s off Carmel, towards touching Highway No 1, going to LA. The view from Big Sur – is well for a lack of better word – BIG.

It’s all crashing waves, frothy blue sea, rocks, waves, and mesmerizing beauty.

We went for a meal at the bakery – Big Sur Bakery and Restaurant.  Quite a place. Bang in the middle of a highway, and good hearty food.

Another meal we had with stunning views was – Sierra Mar at the Post Ranch Inn, in Big Sur. It’s also a place worth staying. Just unbelievable amazing views from each room.

View from Sierra Mar
View from Sierra Mar

Do book way in advance.

 

Restaurants

There are many restaurants all over Carmel and Big Sur. Each, better than the other. This area is big on locally foraged food. And even bigger, on sustainability.

Just ask around, look around or look up the internet. You cannot go wrong with food here.