Unexpected Pleasures of Paris:
Lemons in every coke
French Onion soup (I despise onions)
Beautifully dressed Parisians – I knew the men and women of Paris were fashionable, but I didn’t realize how they dressed up so impeccably during the day. It made me feel very lame and sloppy in my shorts and thongs.
Unexpected Displeasures of Paris:
Parisians are very abrasive (maybe not so unexpected)
Cab drivers have no idea where anything is in Paris. Hmmmm.
Everything is way too expensive
In mine and Chris’s opinion, French food is not very good. I will give them the cheese, baguettes and sweets, but the meals themselves were not as tasty as home.
Our trip to Paris did not begin as I would’ve liked. We arrived to the airport in San Francisco three hours early and didn’t get our business class status upgrade on the leg from SF to Chicago (we had it confirmed from Chicago to Paris) which was disappointing but manageable. We boarded the plane that looked like it was built in 1920, an hour late and then the captain said there were mechanical issues and to stay tuned. An hour later, they sent us off the plane and told us they would let us know the status in a few hours. We just missed our connecting flight to Paris from Chicago. Chris, in Chris style, ran from the plane to the customer service desk where we were next in line. We had the United rep working furiously to find us a new flight. She got our ticket transferred over to Air France for a 3:30pm flight straight to Paris. She told us she know a guy down in baggage and is going to get him to pull some strings to go retrieve our bags from the hundreds of bags in the plane and move them over to Air France. She flirted and sweet talked him on the phone. I get the feeling there were some inappropriate comments and potential workplace sexual harassment directed toward our customer service lady, but ultimately, all was agreed. He would retrieve our bags and have them transferred. Or would he?
Day One: August 1st
When we arrived in Paris we waited for about an hour for each and every bag to come down that conveyer belt until there weren’t any bags left and we were the last men/women standing and waiting. We went to the lost bags area where a French man explained to us about ten different times what we should’ve done to possibly prevent this mess. At one point I snapped “where are our bags? How can you get our bags to us. We need our bags.” We filed a claim and walked out of the airport to find a very cute French lady holding a Takeda Cresset sign waiting to escort us to the Westin. She had been waiting for us since 6am. It was now 3pm. She was as happy to see us as we were to see her. We got into our car and silently (due to exhaustion) drive to our beautiful hotel in the ritzy Place Vendome. Place Vendome used to be the area filled with mansion back in the 1600s. Today, it is a place of fancy hotels (like the Ritz) and high priced shopping.
That night, on the recommendation of the snooty and unfriendly concierge staff, we headed to Barlotti for dinner. The food was delicious – it was the concierge’s second favorite Italian restaurant around, his first pick was closed for August vacation time. I have decided on this trip to document my food because food is such a memorable part of every trip and the details are usually left behind when you arrive home. So here is what we enjoyed at Barlotti’s:
Appetizer: Carpaccio Di Carcioti – thinly sliced artichoke with truffle oil, balsamic vinegar and shaved parmesan cheese
Dinner: Fusilla Al Gamderi – jumbo shrimp, sundried tomato, zucchini, smoked scampi and a touch of cream
Tagliolini Pomodoro E Basilico – pasta with fresh tomatoes and basil
1 limonade martini
3 glasses of red wine
Day Two: August 2nd
I told myself when I left for Paris that I would not bring my stresses from home with me on this glorious trip. When our luggage didn’t come for the second day in Paris, and we were forced to wear our dirty old airplane clothes yet again and miss the opening reception party thrown by Takeda, my stresses from home flew thousands of miles to meet me in Paris. Missing the opening reception party that Takeda throws which is always so much fun was so disappointing to me. Chris handled it better than me and it is his company and his people he knows so well. At past Cresset reward trips, I have found this opening reception parties to be very fancy and fun where you dress up and become acquainted with all the other people we know as well as new friends we may enjoy the city with.
I threw out some expletives and we headed out to dinner on our own in our grubby smelly clothes that we left home in. We dined at Bennett and it was only okay food, but very good wine. Here is our dining experience:
Appetizer: Bennett – mozzarella fritters with green salad
Chevre – goat cheese, lardoons, crusts salad
Entrée: Noix dest – Jacques au Curry, curry with scallops and basmati and Chris had a steak dish that was not very good
Wine: Bourgogne, BeaJolais Nuits-Saint George Frederick Maguien– 1 bottle
Day 3: August 3rd
On Monday morning at 2am our bags arrived at the hotel and they brought them right up to us. Our missing bags had become quite a saga around the hotel and everyone was on high alert for their arrival. A couple of Takeda women friends of ours had begun a campaign to collect clothes and shoes for me to wear if my bags did not arrive today. When the bags showed up at 2am, the thought of fresh and clean clothes for the next day made me feel giddy.
I woke up at 4:30am because my body is not adjusting well to the nine hour time change, and I decided I was sending my worries back home again. I ordered myself a nice French press coffee with real cream, a chocolate croissant and an egg from room service and at it while being serenaded by some French music I found on the television. Of course, when breakfast came I had a huge mound of chocolate croissants and baguettes, a mound of different toasts and two eggs instead of one that came to 90 euros. There is much that gets lost in translation here, and I will take responsibility since I have a total of three French words to my vocabulary.
While I was dining, Chris was running to the Eiffel Tower and back. That morning we had a tour of lle de la Cite, which is the island in the middle of the Seine River. This island is home to the famous Notre Dame as well as La Conciergerie, a royal palace later turned into a feared prison where Marie Antoinette, among others, were held in their cell before their beheading. I was so exhausted and the tour guide was so longwinded that I actually almost nodded off standing up a few times. The section of Paris was beautiful and the cathedral was a sight to see, but the tour guide was bland and I was tired. We headed back for a two-hour nap after that tour and were refreshed and ready for our evening.
We ended our evening in Paris with a dinner cruise on the Seine amidst the Paris lights. As we were boarded on the very elegant boat on a very beautiful warm late afternoon, we were greeted with champagne and hor de ourves. We went down and sat around tables and were served elegant courses of authentic French food while enjoying the sparkling Eiffel Tower as we floated by. I must say, the food was not very good this night. The John Dory fish preparation left little to be desired, but it didn’t matter because it was a special night.
Day 4: August 4, 2009
Today was the first day I was able to sleep past 4:30am. I felt like a new person when Chris came in the room and woke me up a little after 8am. We had a cooking class at
9am and I was so excited to experience that. I have to admit that compared to all the cuisines in the world, French food is not my favorite. I am particular about meat, and the French are not. They will eat any animal and they will eat any part of that animal, and that scares me a bit. Despite this, how fun it was to walk down this tiny Paris street and enter a courtyard where there are tall glass windows flanked in bright blue trim, no signage, and a very handsome French man greeting us and preparing us for our class. The mothership was pleased.
The cooking class was delightful. There were 20 of us prepared to get down and dirty in a kitchen surrounded by glass on all sides and filled with stainless steel tables and the mother of all stovetops. We chose a station with some friends and began chopping and dicing and peeling like the professionals. I discovered a new type of grater that does an excellent job of grating things like red pepper and tomatoes.
First we peeled and chopped vegetables for the Ratatouille, then we cooked them over the largest flame I had ever seen for the longest amount of time I have ever seen vegetables cook. We took cookie cutters to filo dough and created crisps. We whipped goat cheese for the top. It was beautiful Ratatouille. Next we de-boned sea bass fillets, covered them in tarragon leaves and folded them over to steam atop the stove. During this time, we brought crème and real vanilla beans to a boil for a custard and whipped egg whites and sugar for our floating island dessert.
Our menu at L’atelier des Chefs:
Ratatouille: Provencal vegetables topped with crisp, sesame seed filo pastry and goat’s cheese honey emulsion, served with tapenade toasts
Steamed sea bass with tarragon, mousseline potatoes with horseradish and a crisp salad of apple and fennel
Foating island, custard
At the end of our preparations we sat down at a very long wooden table set beautifully for all 12 and enjoyed our work. Our lunch was accompanied by red and white wine and finished off with teas and coffees. Afterward, of course, I had to buy some of the unique sauces and tools used for the recipes . . . I just couldn’t resist. I love a good kitchen tool. The added bonus is that every time I get it out to use it in my kitchen, I will think of Paris.
That night, after an evening at Willie’s Wine Bar, I got sick. I spent the whole rest of the night and the next day in bed with some sort of stomach virus. At least I could be sick in peace.
Day 6: August 6
Our last day in Paris was a good one. I was mixed with disappointment that our wonderful trip was over but I knew it was time to get back to the kids. From the daily updates we were receiving, all the kids were doing great under grandparent and nanny care. We missed them terribly.
We started off the day with a trip to Musee de Orsay, the best museum I have ever been to. I had been there before when I was 23 backpacking through Europe. This time we had a tour guide to give us some of the cool history behind the artists, the building itself and the art.
The really special part was that night, the last night of the trip, when we got all dressed up and headed out to our gala. Chris’s company rented out the Palace of Versailles and we walked from our bus to the entrance on a red carpet with tourists taking our pictures. They were sure we all had to be someone famous if we were dressed so fancy walking on a red carpet. It was really funny. We had cocktails and appetizers in the back of the palace which was spectacular (pictures in the slideshow above). Then we headed in for an elegant sit down dinner. It was a great way to end our trip in Paris. I feel fortunate to have been able to go on this trip. I would like to thank Dick and Sherri, my parents, my sister and my nannies for helping us with the kids – without you, no trip.
The slide show is above. There are some cool shots of Paris that Chris took. Now back to the real world.
Until next time, the mothership is signing off.