Paris in December and Versailles

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Paris in December felt different again, even though I had just visited this city 3 months ago. I mean I recognized all the buildings, but the atmosphere just felt different! All the lights were up for the Christmas season and everyone was bundled up for the cold weather.

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They had even set up the Roue de Paris at Place de la Concorde. The Roue de Paris. The Roue de Paris is a transportable Ferris wheel and it was first set up in 2000 and has been transported to many other cities around the world. I guess it was back for 2013 during the winter, since it was just behind the Luxor Obelisk.

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If you want some fancy shopping, other than Champs Elysees, head over to Boulevard Haussmann. You’ll be able to catch the Paris Opera House, as well as the two famous department stores – Printemps and Galeries Lafayettes. When I visited Paris in September, the windows displays were already beautiful with top fashion and accessories, but December was a whole different story! Just look at this Prada window display at Printemps! Prada had basically transformed all of Printemps windows into a magical wonderland! These little bears with Prada handbags were moving! Galeries Lafayettes also captured all the tourists with their stunning displays, but I think Printemps definitely stole the show!

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At night, seeing the Eiffel Tower is a must. I suggest going day and night to get the most of this beautiful view, although the metro trip is a bit out of the way. What’s better is that at night, at every hour, the tower sparkles! You can see this blue beam of light shooting from afar, but when you get close to it, it actually sparkles on the tower! On the spot ever hour and it lasts for around 5 minutes. Quite a beautiful view to see!

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Obviously I also showed them around to the typical tourist spots, but I’ve already mentioned them in previous posts from my September visit. This time, we had a bit more time, and we decided to take a trip to Versailles. Versailles is a city in the region of Île-de-France and is accessible from Paris by just taking the RER C for around an hour. The city is famous for the Palace of Versailles, which housed the French Kings until the French Revolution, so is significant for absolute power. The area is huge, with a gigantic palace, garden, the Grand Trianon and Marie-Antoinette’s Estate.

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I highly recommend visiting Versailles, even if you’re not a history museum type of person. It’s a palace which will give you a wow factor and I think it tops the most luxurious palaces I’ve seen personally. I’ve actually been here back when I was in high school, but now that I’m older, everything makes so much more sense. You definitely get a different view, and if you’re under 18, it’s absolutely free! Also, if you’re under 26, and a resident of the EU, you can also get in for free! I was on exchange and had a Spanish Visa, so I got in for free! If not, adult admission is 18 euros for the passport, which gives you entry to every single building. Definitely not that bad since you could spend at least half your day here.

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At night, we found a bistro near the Royal Wagram Hotel , where we stayed. Unfortunately, I don’t remember the name, but it seemed to be a local bistro. We had the famous Parisian Steak et Frites. It came with mustard, which is quite common for the French. We had asked for well-done, so I found the meat to be a little too tough for my liking. I would’ve personally chosen to have it medium-rare.

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We also had the Smoked Salmon Fettuccine. This wasn’t too bad, although I wish there was more sauce to it. I found it a little dry, so I had to add a lot of cheese to it.

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And last but not least, we had to get some French Escargots. These were cooked with pesto and pretty good! You even get special tongs to get these snails out!

After dinner, we went back to our hotel to begin packing. An early flight the next morning lay ahead of us. To a sunny destination!

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Chez Leon (Les Halles) – Paris

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I was back in Paris again! This was sort of a last minute decision since my mom and aunt decided to come visit me and travel Europe. Tickets were extremely cheap with Ryanair, and I believe I got them for under 20 euros one way. They were flying in directly to Paris, so I would meet them at our hotel. It was sort of weird traveling alone, but luckily I had become more familiar with Paris after the previous visit. After showing them around Paris in the day, we settled at Chez Leon for dinner. C had told me that the one in Paris was really good and having previously tried it in Brussels, I was excited to go again! I did some Googling and realized that they had 5 different chains in Paris! We started walking towards the Les Halles/ Chatelat location, but soon realized it’s actually pretty far from where the shops are at Champs Elysees. We ended up taking a metro to Les Halles, and it was right outside the station. The restaurant was very quiet and empty on a weekend night. Service was also really lacking. There were basically no other diners, yet they took forever to come take our order.

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Shrimp Spring Roll Salad

They had a set menu going on for an appetizer and an entree for a discounted price. For the appetizer, we chose the Shrimp Spring Roll Salad. It ended up being two pieces of shrimp being battered and deep fried. The shrimp were pretty big and it actually tasted pretty good despite it looking very simple. It came with a simple green salad.

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Fresh Salmon Filet, pan fried

For the entree, we got the Fresh Salmon Filet. It was pan fried and came with rice and green beans. Everything was lightly seasoned with salt, which we liked so it wasn’t too overwhelming. The salmon was cooked perfectly with the top lightly crispy and the fish flaking inside.

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Seafood Mussels in a Plancha

And of course we got some mussels! My mom isn’t huge on creamy sauces, so we ended up choosing something different from the usual. We got the Seafood Mussels in a Plancha, which was basically a pan filled with seafood and sauteed with olive oil, tomato garlic and mixed herbs. Other than mussels, other seafood included wild king prawns and calamari rings. Although the mussels were small, they were again very fresh. The sautee style was a bit different yet quite flavourful, but I still preferred the ones steamed in white wine or a broth. Our mussels also came with fries and bread, so it was more than enough for the three of us.

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And that was our meal at Chez Leon! However, I heard that the chain at the Les Halles location is not as good as the rest. I’m not sure since I haven’t been to to the other ones, but I would agree that service was lacking. It wasn’t rude or anything, but weren’t really looked after. Next time, I will be visiting the other locations! Never a disappointment for moules et frites at Chez Leon!

Laduree – Printemps Paris

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The famous Laduree of Paris! You’ve probably seen these macarons in their little pastel green boxes. I’ve been dreading to try these because people say they are the absolute best! We had saw the Laduree store in Milan, but we knew we were going to Paris, so of course get it from it’s home city! There are several Ladurees in Paris, with the one on Champs Elysees being quite famous. That one has a sit down cafe and is always packed with tourists. We found a Laduree pop up shop inside Printemps, which is another department store situated right next to Lafayette. Other than the pop up store on the first floor, they also have a sit down cafe on the upper floor. They offered breakfast there and had a specific time for customers who wanted to just dine on desserts.

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Anyways, by the end of our shopping trip, we were kind of broke again… But i insisted we had to try these little macarons! I believe they are around 1.7 euros for each, which is decent if you think about the price of macarons in Vancouver.

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We ended up only getting two, since we didn’t want to carry them home. If you get less than 6, then they put them into a little bag.

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I got the Rose and Orange Blossom flavour. Okay, seriously, they are so delicious! When you bite into them, the outer layer is so airy! And the other thing is that I find macarons in Vancouver to be too sweet, but these ones have just a subtle sweetness. The orange blossom is a must try! I haven’t seen this flavour elsewhere before. It’s got a hint of orange flavour and is so fresh! Absolutely love it. These little guys are a bit smaller than the macarons back in Vancouver, but I understand why people go crazy over them now!

Patisserie Sadaharu Aoki – Lafayette Paris

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Galeries Lafayette is seriously one of the most beautiful department stores I have seen! It’s an upscale department store selling luxury brands like no other. I swear they have colours and styles that I’ve never seen in Vancouver, because…well you’re in Paris… Anyways, the cool thing about these luxury department stores is that most of them have a floor dedicated to food. And if you think it’s like a food court, think again. It’s like luxury food court! They have sections of food products like chocolate, candy, cookies, but they also have an area with luxury cooked food and pastries. Prices are quite expensive, but just imagine yourself at Thomas Haas or Thierry, and it’ll make you feel more like at home… Wandering through all the gourmet stalls, my eyes caught Patisserie Sadaharu Aoki!

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It was interesting because I didn’t expect to see a Japanese patisserie shop in Paris. You need to remember that I’ve been away from Vancouver for some time now, and my green tea craving was really kicking in… When I saw Patisserie Sadaharu Aoki serving all these Japanese flavours, I felt like I was home again! They specialize in macarons and cakes, but with a Japanese twist. Matcha flavoured macarons? YES! I’ve always wanted the Vancouver dessert shops to make that flavour… I chose the Matcha and Redbean Cake, which is a cake with alternating layers of green tea, cream, and red bean. It’s then topped with some matcha powder and a matcha flavoured macaron! I absolutely loved this! The layers gave the cake so much texture. Some of it was crunchy, as they used something similar to rice krispies, and the red bean also gave it another texture. This pastry stall is a must try! If you enjoy Asian flavours, this will be perfect for you. They also specialize in macarons and chocolates with very interesting flavours! If only they were less pricey, I would’ve tried so many others!

I believe they also have their own boutique in Paris, but Lafayette is great as you can try other gourmet restaurants while you are there!

Brulerie Caumartin Cafe – Paris

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The beautiful Notre Dame Cathedral! Anyways, after a day of exploring, we ended up at the shopping area on Blvd Haussmann. It was time to eat dinner, and we decided we should treat ourselves to a decent meal. We wandered into a street next to Le Printemps, which is a huge department store. The street had a few cafes, but Brulerie Caumartin Cafe caught our eyes as they featured a neon sign saying Moules et Frites for 11 euros. I’m a sucker for mussels or clams, so off we went!

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Moules et Frites

I think the cafe is quite tourist friendly, as the table next to us were an American couple. The waiters also speak English quite fluently, and are extremely friendly. They joke around and such, making the experience much better. The cafe itself is quite small, but we luckily found a seat. Of course, I ordered the Moules et Frites. This dish is supposed to be popular in Paris, so definitely try it out when you’re here. I still remember having one of the best Moules et Frites in Paris back when my teacher told us where to eat. I wish I remembered where that was now… Anyways, this was the biggest bowl of mussels I’ve ever had. The picture makes it look like there isn’t much, but trust me, the size was ridiculous. I had only finished half of it, and was already getting full… Even my sister questioned if there were any empty shells, because there was so much! Nope..not one empty shell in the pile. I wouldn’t say the sauce was the best I’ve had. It was quite watery, mostly of a celery and onion white sauce. It wasn’t bad though. A white wine sauce would’ve been perfect, but I couldn’t complain with so many mussels at only 11 euros. The mussels were slightly smaller, but they were extremely fresh. Fries were also not bad as they weren’t too oily. I was very pleased overall!

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Smoked Salmon Crepe

My sister said she had to have a crepe while in Paris! I mean, crepes originated from France right? It was dinner time, so she chose a Smoked Salmon Crepe. Savory crepes are always a good alternative to sweet ones if you’re not into sweets. The amount of Smoked Salmon was a little less than expected. She said it was only decent and had better before. Oh, and a funny note is that “iced tea” means “sprite” in Paris… We ordered an Iced Tea and ended up with a Sprite, and the American couple next to us laughed and said they wouldn’t have thought about that as well… Ah..love it when words have so many different meanings in different cultures!

Picnic by the Eiffel Tower!

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A trip to Paris is not the same without a picnic by the Eiffel Tower. For those of you who are traveling in Paris during the warmer months, this is a must! It’s just nice to take a break from intense traveling and get a feel of how the Parisians relax. And with a view so spectacular, this is the perfect place to do so. I would suggest bringing pastries and sandwiches from cafes near your hotel if you see them, since it can be quite difficult to look for food after you arrive at the Eiffel Tower. The park itself is huge and therefore requires a lot of walking to get to the other side. Anyways, we did not think of ahead, and ended up having to wander around looking for pastry shops. Luckily, we found Boulangerie Pâtisserie Felice Lapelosa. It is on Avenue Rapp, and offers a wide selection of pastries, sandwiches, and bread. There is always a constant in and out of customers, and most are locals. We ended up getting a chestnut eclair, which  was so fluffy and delicious! It wasn’t too sweet too! Then we got a quiche, which is pictured on the bottom right. This was alright as it wasn’t heated up enough. Lastly, we got a pineapple tart. This was quite good! The custard was smooth, and the hint of sweet and sour from the pineapple made it appetizing. We also wandered around and found a shop called Les Paris Gourmands. They have lots of chocolates, jams, and other sweets. We chose a mango macaron, which was a large size. This wasn’t the best macaron I’ve had, but the flavour was definitely interesting. My sister also picked up a jar of jam with rose petals. Unfortunately, this was confiscated in her carry on, and months later, I would have to head back here to purchase her jam again. Anyways, that happened, and now we currently have the jar in our fridge half full. It was definitely worth it as it surprisingly isn’t too sweet, and there are actually rose petals in it! The brand is called Favols, for those of you who enjoy jams, and apparently it can be found in many other stores that sell jam in Paris. Lastly, we picked up a bottle of rose in the grocery store. It was extremely cheap, and probably why it tasted pretty bad… Yea, maybe pick up a nice bottle of wine next time ; )

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Look at that view! We were lucky enough for it to be sunny that day, since it was rainy all the other days. After having a picnic, take a stroll in the park. Such a relaxing environment. Oh, but do beware that there are lots of people who are trying to scam you in this park. They ask if you would like to donate for some sort of cause, and they will ask you to sign a piece of paper. If you see these people around, just ignore them. They’ll ask if you speak English, so just pretend you don’t or else they will continue approaching you! Many are young adults or even children. I’m not sure exactly how they will scam you, but just beware! Better to be safe than sorry. Don’t let these people ruin your picnic! Enjoy 🙂

Coup d’Etat – Paris

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After a few days back in Barcelona, we were off again to our next destination: Paris! I’ve been to Paris when I was in high school for a penpal exchange, so it was great to be back after several years. I guess Paris didn’t change much, but it was weird that we were off to wander the streets ourselves this time. On my last trip to Paris, I had an Italian teacher who taught us French and knew Paris by heart. She was able to recommend us food at cheap prices, but of good quality. I found it to be a struggle this time without a local. Anyways, we had finished checking out the Louvre and we needed lunch so we wandered the area and ended up near the Rivoli metro stop. Many people were eating outside at Coup d’Etat, but we found it a little chilly and headed inside. The atmosphere is pretty hip and cool.

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French Onion Soup

We decided to share two appetizers and one entree. First, we got the French Onion Soup, since we were in France! This was so delicious and filling! Their appetizers are huge! The soup was really thick, with loads of onions, bread soaked in the soup and topped off with lots and lots of cheese. If you love cheesy food, this is the perfect item for you.

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Caprese Salad

My sister was still craving her Caprese Salads, so of course we ordered one. This was presented beautifully with tomatoes layered at the bottom. A few greens on top, and the buffalo mozzarella in the middle. It was topped with a chip that seemed to be a vegetable. Not quite sure what it was, but not bad! The mozzarella was fresh and another cheese dish meant we were completely filled up!

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 Croque Madame

Last but not least, when in France, order a Croque Madame (or Monsieur). It took us a while to figure out what the difference was between a madame and monsieur, but apparently a madame is the same as a monsieur but topped with a sunny side up egg. Both sandwiches have ham and cheese. There was so much cheese on this that we didn’t end up finishing it. Three dishes of cheese. Not exactly sure what we were thinking. However, it tasted wonderful and came with a side of salad to lighten things up.

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And here was our lunch! Overloaded with cheesiness! Also to note is that in Paris, tap water is quite drinkable. Therefore, when you ask for water, just let them know you want tap water. Finally a city where water is free again!

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And we’ll finish the post with a view of the Louvre!